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I copied this from a "Sticky" I made back when I was an Admin at Handgun Forum:
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Thought I would throw this together for new people to read when they want to buy a handgun, but have no idea where to start....

First off, people usually want to know about their state laws - every state is different when it comes to rules and regulations governing handguns. Two excellent on-line resources are:

http://www.packing.org and http://www.handgunlaw.us/

Of course, there is no substitute for getting it from the horse's mouth. I would do some research on that web site, talk to some employees at your local gun stores (go to a few, in case you get mixed messages), and also take a local NRA class (or some other type of gun education class). Be aware that many local law enforcement officials don't know the gun laws themselves - if you asked 5 policemen, you'd probably get 5 different answers. So, while this may make sense, be prepared to get mixed messages.

As for guns - I promise you that you will get different answers and suggestions from everyone. You will get advice stating that you should start with a revolver first, and some people will also say to start with a .22, or to buy a certain brand/model, etc, etc, etc.

The truth is, you should find a place that will rent various guns (I have a local range that rents them for $5 each, but of course you must buy the ammo from the range if you use a range gun). Find out what you like the most. Grip the various guns - see what is most comfortable. Then, try shooting them. A gun might be comfortable to hold, but not necessarily to shoot. If you have a friend who owns guns, this may also be a way to go, and it will save you the rental fees.

I don't necessarily buy into the "you have to start w/ a .22 argument" that some may tell you. Personally, I think I would have found that boring when I was first getting into shooting. I have recently taken my 67 year old mother out to the range for her 1st time shooting a gun ever. And, the same for my wife. Both shot a 9mm just fine.

Any of the brand names are good - Springfield, Beretta, Glock, Walther, Ruger, CZ, and HK, just to name a few. But, by renting and trying the guns, you will see the style you want - a gun with a safety/without one. A gun with an external hammer/a gun without one. A metal gun/a polymer gun. A double action/single action gun, or a gun that is consistent on every shot.

I have my favorite (which has changed a few times, over the years), but if you really are that new and have no one to show you, then you should seek instruction locally, and also find out what works best for you. Me telling you what to buy won't do you much good.

By having someone teach you, you will also learn how to hold a gun. The trick of SQUEEZING the trigger right to the breaking point before you actually fire the gun (not jerking it), how to stand, etc. I had an old range master give me some tips years ago, and that really gave me the skills to be a better shooter!
 

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Plus 1 on taking a certified safety course.

The Four Rules of Firearms Handling
by Jeff Cooper

Rule 1:
ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED

The only exception to this occurs when you have a firearm in your hands and you have personally unloaded it for checking. As soon as you put it down, Rule 1 applies again.

Rule 2:
NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY

You may not wish to destroy it, but you must be clear in your mind that you are quite ready to if you let that muzzle cover the target. To allow a firearm to point at another human being is a deadly threat, and should always be treated as such.

Rule 3:
KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET

This we call the Golden Rule because its violation is responsible for about 80 percent of the firearms disasters we read about.

Rule 4:
BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT

You never shoot at anything until you have positively identified it. You never fire at a shadow, or a sound, or a suspected presence. You shoot only when you know absolutely what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.


Note: Rule number 3 is more important in my opinion and could prevent the majority of accidents.


Plus 1 also on learning the basic bullseye marksmanship first then after that learning self defense/ combat shooting would be a smoother transition.

Trigger control in my opinion is the most important part of accuracy followed by proper grip hold of the pistol, this could be practiced in a class or a shooting range with help from someone using for example, an unloaded semi auto pistol, your helper would cock the slide after each practice shot so the shooter don't loose the shooting position and grip.

Pick the pistol that have a proper fit with your hand or change the grip that would fit your hand better.

I started out as a teenage pistol shooter and learned my basic safety from my father who was a WW2 Army Airborne veteran.

My first experience on a pistol was with my dad's Ruger .22 bull barrel auto, I already have skills in air and .22 rifles before I started pistols.

Pistols are harder to shoot because they're not as stable to hold like a rifle, your sights would wander off the target more and you have to learn the timing of when to squeeze the trigger when the sights are lined up with the target.

Next I used a .38 Special revolver, and then 9mm Walther P38, then moved up to the .45 ACP 1911.

When I could already group my shots at the center half of the target at 16 y/o (after I completed a certified safety class) I joined a NRA .22 pistol summer league competition at my shooting club, shot once a week for ten weeks.

Then way back in the 80s at work I joined my company's combat shooting club, we practiced every couple of weeks or month when we are off work at a local police shooting range and we competed with other shooting clubs, local police and when USPSA had a match in our area we usually joined and had a lot of fun doing it.

The more practice you do will help your shooting skills so practice a lot as much as you could.


My pistol stash:
1911 X 4
Browning BDA-Sig .45
HK USP F .40
Sig P226 9mm
Glock 19
CZ-75 clone 9mm
S&W 686 4" revolver
Walther GSP .32 with .22 conversion
Unique .22 (French made) X 2 target pistols
 

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For you 1st time owners of semi autos there is one safety tip I cannot stress enough. Just because you have dropped the magazine free of the mag well, the weapon is not necessarily unloaded. You would be surprised how many accidental discharges occur with no magazine in the weapon. Your semi is not unloaded until you have racked back the action far enough that you can visually assure there is no round chambered. And this may sound stupid, but believe me it happens, don't unload the gun by cycling the action until after you have removed the magazine.
 

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1. For the love of God, turn your brain on before handling a weapon so the paramedics don’t have put yours or some one else’s back in!
2. Don’t buy a gun if you don’t plan on using it.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
4. Practice some more.
5. Learn to maintain it so it will work reliably.
 

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Here is one thing I was told by a friend of my fathers who owns a gun shop. He told me, I have thought of this everytime I buy a new gun, to never buy a gun because it was cheaper than another one, he then followed up with " yes that one is a little more expensive, but its simple, how much is your life worth ?" Think about this and spend a little extra for a carry gun if need be, this will almost certainly save your life one day. Also, if at all possible, go to a range where they rent guns and shoot the gun you want to buy. This act will save you time and money, along with frustration. Last but not least, do not be like the constant flow of idiots I have seen lately at the gun range and wave your weapon all around, always keep it pointed down range in a safe direction. Just remember it only takes a split second to change your entire life or some one elses for that matter !
 

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if youve never handeled a pistol, deffinetly take some course of instruction. people can be rediculously and unintentionaly unsafe with firearms, especialy pistols because of thier inherant size. a .22 in not a bad way to learn safety and fundamentals on but a nice cz75 9mm or clone would be good starter too. both calibers are relitively cheap and easy to control. i am not personaly a fan but thats another story. deffinetly take the time to do the research. remember, its not just fun and games, its a very serious responsibility
 

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Great subject.
A young Navy Nurse contacted me recently with this question. "I want a hand gun, what should I buy?"

My first Question is always the same. Have you been trained on how to handel a handgun? She said "Yes". My second question. What is the intended use for this handgun. She said, Target practice and self defence. My third question. Are you prepared to kill someone to protect yourself? She said. "No I would just shoot them in the leg, thats why I want to target practice.

My answer: Buy a BB gun for target practice and get a big mean dog for self defence.
 

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My advice for beginners:

Fist off, safety, remember rule # 3 as stated above.

"Rule 3:
KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET"

And keep that muzzle away from EVERYTHING. Loaded or unload, hold the weapon as if it could fire at any moment. This is good manners, for good reason.

As for actually shooting I would strongly recommend shooting at paper targets, and changing the target after one clip. Save, date, and score your targets. This makes practice more fun, because you are always trying to beat your high score. You can see the progress you're making. And when you experiment with a new grip or teqnique you have instant qualitative proof that tells you if you are on the right track or building bad habits.

Also note on your target the kind of ammo you were using, and you will soon discover your pistol's favorite ammo. That's a good thing to know if you ever get into competition, even backyard, informal, showing-off your hard earned skills, type of competition.
 

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1. For the love of God, turn your brain on before handling a weapon so the paramedics don’t have put yours or some one else’s back in!
2. Don’t buy a gun if you don’t plan on using it.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
4. Practice some more.
5. Learn to maintain it so it will work reliably.
+1meg. I really like these five rules added to the basic four.
 

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Shipwreck and others are giving good advice. Been shooting for 60+ years and learn something new many times. Tips: Like Ship said, find a range that allows you to try out different guns. For the new shooter, and a lot of us who know what to look for, get a weapon that is Reliable, Accurate out of the box, Simple to disassemble, clean/lube, and reassemble. Join the NRA, get your CW permit(if you can), take training from well qualified instructors, invest in good instructional DVDs, and practice, always with safety paramount. You are investing in real life insurance, IMHO. :grin:
 

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Phelan said:
Try several guns before deciding on your first one.
No the 9mm vs .45ACP debate will never end. Both are good rounds and serve their purpose.
Learn how to clear jams safely.
Russian/Eastern Bloc ammo works best in Russian/Easter Bloc designed guns.
Not all polymer guns are created equal, don't mind the haters who have no experience since the first generation polymer frames came to market.
Practice (at least occasionally) with the ammo you plan to use for self defense.
Those are really good points.
 

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wlcohen said:
#1 before you even think about buying a gun

TAKE AN NRA CERTIFED SAFETY COURSE!
I find most NRA instructors barely know which end the bullets come out of. Also if you are a woman most are condescending and keep pushing revolvers due to a misguided belief that semi-autos are too complicated for women to use. When properly trained women can use semi-autos much better then DA revolvers with long heavy pull, which is why I never recommend them for women. But, I digress. I agree take a safety course, preferably from a major academy in your locale. There are excellent private training academies in most states that allow CCW. I suggest these over the bargain basement NRA classes if you can afford them.

BUT DO TAKE A SAFETY CLASS BEFORE GOING TO A RANGE. It will make you safer and less likely to raise the ire of those around you. Remember, it is not like in the movies or your favorite video game.
 

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AR-15SP1 said:
Plus 1 on taking a certified safety course.

The Four Rules of Firearms Handling
by Jeff Cooper

Rule 1:
ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED

The only exception to this occurs when you have a firearm in your hands and you have personally unloaded it for checking. As soon as you put it down, Rule 1 applies again.
There is no exception to this rule. The moment you make an exception is the day your world caves in around you. Not speaking from personal experience just from all the examples one hears of and sees in the media. The moment you forget this rule you are on the road to a ND.
 

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#1 before you even think about buying a gun

TAKE AN NRA CERTIFED SAFETY COURSE!
If I wasn't in the military, I surely would take a course. All these safety rules listed are embedded into our heads, let alone range officers will snatch your A$$ right up with the slightest foul up with gun safety violations. I will someday pass gun training to my children at theappropriate age and maturity level, I cant wait to do so either.
 

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IMO after you are comfortable with the weapon you chose, and get used to ALWAYS treating it as if it were loaded, mu biggest suggestion is PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!

The damn thing ain't no good to you if you can't hit the broad side of a barn with it. Hell, I was a noob (and still pretty much am) and thought I was a bad ass when I bought my FNX, until I realized that I was not consistent at all. Then my Maryland State Police friend (who is a pistol marksman for our state) brought that point up.
 
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