Buying your first gun can be an exciting purchase, and at Pennsylvania’s Largest Gun Show, we want that purchase to be a fun, safe experience that leaves you satisfied you gout the right gun for your needs. While you may know some avid firearms collectors who are more than ready to offer their advice about the best gun you can buy, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a “perfect” gun for every person or situation. As a first-time gun buyer, it’s important to understand how you see the weapon you buy improving and enriching your life before you put down your hard-earned money.
The Myth of the Must-Have Gun
The gun community is like the automotive community in that everyone who gets bitten by the bug has strong opinions, and too often, that limits them from looking at things from outside their own box. Just as a diehard Toyota owner might look down on someone driving a Ford, you’ll encounter plenty of pushback from some experienced gun owners anytime someone suggests buying a first gun outside their preferred brand or style of firearm. While their personal choice bears listening to, it’s important to listen more to their reasoning and compare that with the feedback you get from other gun-owning friends.
Understanding Yourself As A Gun Owner
While experienced feedback can be valuable insight, the most important questions you can ask before buying your first gun are the questions you will ask yourself before you visit a gun show to start browsing vendor tables as a first-time gun buyer.
- How do I see myself using a firearm? – This is one of the most important questions, as form follows function when choosing a weapon. Are you interested in hunting? Will this be a gun kept at your home for self-defense? Are you ready to dip your toe into shooting sports? There are many different guns, and understanding what you expect to get out of gun ownership is important to making sure you’re buying a first gun that is specialized to meet your needs.
- Would a handgun, shotgun, or rifle better suit this purpose? – While you can break down the categories of firearms even further, this trio of designations is broad-enough to start you on your journey. Handguns are small, compact, and great for self-defense at short ranges. Rifles are larger, often offering improved accuracy with more powerful cartridges, making them popular for hunting, marksmanship, and tactical sport shooting. Shotguns are long guns with a smooth bore inside the barrel, usually used for firing many smaller projectiles all at once–perfect for hunting small game up close, larger game at moderate ranges, and self-defense when you’re worried about solid bullets over-penetrating.
- Is there a secondary reason I want to own a gun? – While you may have a single, overriding reason, such as self-defense, for buying your first gun, it’s not uncommon to look for a weapon that can do double duty, such as hunting or sporting as a hobby.
- Do I know how to be a legal gun owner? – Take the time to familiarize yourself with state laws on buying, owning, and using a firearm. Understand when and how to transport your weapon, the best way to handle yourself with authorities around your weapon, and the responsibilities you have under the law as a gun owner.
- Where can I use or train with this gun? – You should learn how to use and become familiar with any weapon you purchase. Check your local area for gun ranges that may offer safety classes or give you the opportunity to practice. Many first-time gun buyers are unaware that some local ranges even offer rental guns that let them try a particular firearm before buying, either with live ammunition or in a high-tech simulated shooting environment.
- Where will I store the firearm? – Part of being a responsible gun owner is storing it safely. This includes keeping it out of the hands of children as well as keeping it secured from criminals. Firearms can be both expensive and easily transportable, like jewelry, making them popular with thieves.
- What’s my budget? – Understand how much you’re willing to spend buying your first gun. Some first-time gun buyers are in a position to go big, dropping $1000 or more on a new, name-brand firearm. Others have a more modest budget but need a self-defense weapon, confining them to no more than a few hundred for a cost-effective but reliable option. The last thing you want to do is buy a gun you have to sell to make rent, so make sure you have money set aside and stick within that budget.
Other Questions You May Need To Ask
You should be developing a general idea of what you’re looking for from a firearm. Armed with this information, buying your first gun at a gun show should be fairly successful, but to make the experience better, you can take it a few steps further.
- How will I carry my firearm? – If you intend to get a concealed carry permit, it’s important to get a holster that secures your weapon, wears easily and allows you access when you need it. Even if you don’t intend to carry concealed, holsters are hand at the range for handguns and slings on long guns can make your hunting trip more comfortable.
- What accessories will I need? – Buying a first gun may seem simple, but any gun owner will tell you there’s a lot more to owning and enjoying your firearm than just buy and bang! You need ammunition, cleaning supplies, cases, and a few extra magazines never hurt anyone. A lot of gun owners may immediately look at aftermarket sights that make acquiring the target quicker, flashlights for night shooting, or rapid-fire pull-release triggers that increase their rate of fire. While you’re at the show, you’ll have a chance to see vendors selling all types of accessories meant to enhance your shooting experience.
- Will I consider used, or do I prefer a new firearm? – Buying your first gun doesn’t have to mean you’re the gun’s first owner. Purchasing from a used-firearms vendor can save you money while still giving you a reliable weapon, and we’ll even help you make sure you know what to ask about the used gun before you buy. Even if you decide against used, you can still find a great deal at the show on a brand new firearm, fresh out of the box.
What To Ask The Seller
Most vendors want to make buying your first gun an enjoyable experience. After all, they’ll be back with the next show, and many first-time gun buyers become second-time gun buyers eventually. We always suggest making a full circuit of the floor, taking a look at what everyone has to offer and getting a feel for the vendors themselves, before moving in to deal with someone who has the gun you want. As a first-time gun buyer, here are a few tips on talking to them.
- May I see the ________, please? – Your mom was right: manners matter. Always ask before handling a weapon. While unloaded, firearms are not toys, they are expensive, and until they’re purchased, they are the vendor’s property they’ve invested their money in. Starting this exchange on the right foot also opens the door for you to have a positive conversation about the weapon.
- I’m looking for a gun for _____. – Gun sellers have specialized knowledge about their wares, and they’ll happily talk about them. They may also point you toward a similar firearm that may be a better fit or price for what you need. Remember that they’re trying to make a profit, so don’t chalk every suggestion up to altruism, but it doesn’t hurt to listen and consider.
- Do you offer any accessories or combo with this? – Many vendors sell both firearms and accessories. While they may not be willing to throw in a holster on a gun with an already good price, they may offer a discount–either standardly or when asked–to help them make a sale and give you a better deal.
First-Time Gun Buyers Are Always Welcome
There’s something for everyone at our gun shows, whether you’re buying your first gun, tenth gun, or no gun at all. Our local gun shows are regional events, bringing in vendors from across the country and visitors from miles around to enjoy a unique retail experience centered on our American freedoms and Second Amendment rights. Have a great experience buying your first gun at the next Eagle Shows Gun Show near you.