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5 Steps That Can Change Your Life

Over the past few months I have been encouraged to submit these 5 steps in the spirit of “Educating” the new-comers into the area of concealed carry. Since becoming a Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor well over a year ago, I have submerged myself, for the most part, into the “world of firearms” for the sake of those who have taken and will take the CCW course under my instruction. What has developed is an effective method of “How to buy a gun correctly.” This method applies not only for those who are new to the industry/sport, but also to those who want to make sure they are equipped with the right formula that will assist them in purchasing a hand gun which works for them and their needs.

During this time of instruction I am often asked by students, “Which gun should I buy?” While attempting to answer their question and reflecting on my own experiences, I organized a 5 step process that anyone can use to purchase the correct gun the first time. For those who already have handguns, it is something to consider when evaluating what they currently own or for assistance with their next handgun purchase.

First let me mention an article I read in American Handgunner in June 2009. It stated that the “old timers” make it hard to learn more about the sport because they do not treat the “newbies” the correct way in the process of teaching and educating. They are not passing their knowledge and experience on as they should; to not only keep the sport moving forward, but to encourage growth and overall success. I have been very fortunate considering that my personal experience with the “old-timers” has been very positive. When just beginning, for just about anything, I like to ask a lot of questions. I do some research online, and then pester those whom I trust and who have experience in the field. When I go to a gun show or run into more experienced shooters, I then have some knowledge and industry terms and some (even if only a limited amount) tangible knowledge about what I want to know from them. Even a limited knowledge helps tremendously and is the reason I believe that the 5 steps listed below will be useful. I mention my method of learning because it has helped me learn very quickly about anything I desire to know…especially in the “gun world.”
After reading quite a few “industry” books and learning more with every article, I am convinced that the 5 steps came from these many sources. These sources include; Chris Bird, Masaad Ayoob, Steven Beckstead, Utah BCI, Gabe Suares, Dutch Alexander and others. Although not listed as 5 steps per se, the 5 steps are mentioned in the material, and I have just “brought them out” to make it easier and faster for everyone else. Let’s get to it:

The Essential 5 Steps on, “How to Buy a Gun Correctly.”

One must first understand that the two most important things to consider are: 1. Reliability, and 2. Comfort. Realizing that both of these are the major points and that the 5 steps will answer both points throughout the process; for that is what the steps are centered on.

Step 1: What is the purpose of use for the gun? What are you going to use it for? Home defense, concealed carry, hunting, etc. It is important to answer this question, because the caliber you choose to buy is affected by your purpose. For example; home security purposes generally will use a larger round than concealed carry. One may want a 1911 model or Taurus’s “Judge” due to its unique capabilities. Whereas, concealed carry may only prefer a 9mm or .380 for control and concealment. Hunting is another ball game and I will not address it at this time.

Step 2: What caliber are you going to want? You don’t have to land on just one caliber either, perhaps you should decide on at least two, until you get a better feel of exactly what you want. If you have not figured that part out yet, do not worry. The caliber should be determined somewhat by the purpose for which the handgun will be used. For Example; women tend to carry the .380/short 9, more than the 9mm or even the .40 cal. I recommend that men should not carry anything less than a 9mm, unless it is for a backup or reserve protection, such as a Ruger LCP or Micro Desert Eagle on the ankle or some other place. Some books say that one should carry the largest caliber they can reasonably handle, however I find that may depend on some other points of use as well. I will cover that issue in the summary.

Step 3: Make a list of at least six manufacturers that have a great reputation for quality and reliability. For example, Ruger, S&W, Glock, Springfield, Kimber, Colt, SigSauer, H&K, Taurus, Walther, etc. (not in any specific order of favor here); all are very capable and have great reviews. This step will eliminate the stress of buying a gun that will be “problematic” during a heightened situation. Cost may determine your ability to buy certain ones, but rest assured that any of the products from these companies will work fine as long as they are maintained as any gun should be. This step will answer the “reliability” point mentioned previously.

Step 4: Put your hand on each gun. Grip each, one after the other. This step is KEY to purchasing the right way. You will find that each one has a very specific feel, and only when you have handled each one, will your hand be able to distinguish the differences quickly and reliably. There is no rush to buy a gun, but let the salesperson know that you are only looking and want to feel all of the different kinds of guns; take your time and get to where you know what feels good consistently. NOTE: DO NOT get “talked into” certain brands. No offense, but I find that “Glock” guys are pretty hard core, and many times I have seen a “newbie” choose a Glock simply because the salesperson “said so” only to find that the Springfield XD was a better choice for comfort, and unfortunately, that person had to sell the Glock and buy another gun later (True Story). Glocks are great and have a great reputation, but so do others and perhaps that is not the gun for you after all. (Hopefully no hurt feelings there) Remember the list you have made, any one of the brands listed above will be reliable in a time of crisis. This step answers the “comfort” point previously mentioned.

Step 5: Now that you have a pretty good feel for what you want, or at least you should by this point, go find a good price (if that is possible). I have found that some stores are pricier than others, and sometimes looking online locally, you can find a great deal as well. If you are buying used, then make sure the gun is clean and well oiled. Take the slide off and look for wear marks. Ask the owner how many rounds have been through the gun. If they say only about 100 rounds, but you see pretty good wear marks on the barrel and inside the gun, that person is lying, so be careful. When I bought my XD9 sub-compact, the gentleman said that his wife carried it and it only had about 200 rounds through it. Once I took it apart and looked for myself, I found his words to be true, plus I know that women do not shoot as much as men, so I figured that was true to begin with. I got a great deal and I love the gun as well. I knew as soon as I put my hand around it. It just felt “right” as they say. So for me, the XD is what I prefer. Now read the manual and break it down and shoot it. That is the best way to get to know your gun and safety first as always.

Here are a couple of summary notes: If you can find a place that rents guns so you can shoot them first before you buy, then that is ideal. It can be pretty costly, but it is a great way to get to know the overall feel of a gun before you actually buy one. The only problem with doing this is that I find gun shops do not maintain their “rental guns” very well, and you may get a jaded opinion of a certain kind of gun simply because it was not cleaned as it should have been. If you can find a friend with a good collection who will let you buy the ammunition and go shoot with you…that is a perfect way to decide before you buy as well. Along with the 5 steps, you cannot go wrong doing this.

Consider, when deciding which caliber to buy, the following. I am not a skinny guy, I am pretty stout and I can handle a larger caliber than the one I actually carry. Remember that the bigger the caliber and the smaller and lighter the gun, your arms have to absorb the recoil of the gun. This means that while carrying a larger caliber, you may shoot slower and your accuracy may be worse as well as your comfort level during a heightened situation. You can never tell what will happen, or how your reaction will be during such. Going to the range and obtaining that “muscle memory” will certainly help out, but you still never know for sure what will take place. For example; shooting a 2” MOA at 15 feet makes you feel great, but in a gun fight, force on force training is more likely to save your life. I like to believe Chris Bird in his book, The Concealed Handgun Manual when he states that “shot placement” is really the most important aspect, and not knock-down power. Now that does not mean I am going to carry a .22 just because it won’t kick at all on a good day and that I could hit a fly in mid air, but maybe scaling down on caliber will give you a more comfortable level of security. Perhaps carrying a 9mm instead of a .40 cal may give you more accuracy, more comfort, less recoil, quicker response etc. That may make all the difference in the world when confronted some “no good SOB” in the middle of the street or at a restaurant somewhere. Not to mention that a 9mm is the most popular caliber in the world for law enforcement and military. Which, to me, means it is a good round despite what others have told me about it being a round for wimps.

I have had many students use these 5 steps when purchasing a gun for the first time; the feedback has been tremendously positive. I hope you will find the same positive experiences in your pursuits…especially the “new-comers”.

Good luck and remember “P4”; Purchase a gun, Practice center mass, Protect yourself, family, others, PRAY you never have to use it!


Damon Thueson

Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor

NRA Certified

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