Getting Started

By Jim Gilliland

One person watching another shoot a handgun at an indoor gun range

Why do you want a firearm? This question has implications that far exceed the simplicity of its six words. Most will answer simply “for protection” without understanding that the mere ownership of a firearm has never nor will ever protect you from anything. Even worse, it gives the uninformed a false sense of security. The truth is that owning a firearm for protection brings a responsibility to understand the its functions well enough to be able to load, unload, fire and correct simple malfunctions under normal range shooting as well as stressful situations.

Owning a firearm for protection means you are not only taking your own self-defense into account but also that of every other person that might be around you. Quality professional training is a must. For perspective, the first time you parallel parked was not while taking your driver’s license test. You practiced it countless times before, probably starting with cones in an empty parking lot, then on the street without cars, and eventually on a street with cars. Even after mastering the method, many of us still pick and choose the spots we’re comfortable pulling off the maneuver.

Well, you will likely never have the opportunity to pick and choose a threat situation where you might have to perform. Taking the time to train, prepare and practice for many different situations should be on your to-do list.

How Do You Intend To Use It?

How you intend to carry and use the firearm will directly influence the size, shape, type and caliber of you should be interested in. If you only wish to shoot targets on a standard range, there is no reason to pick a small profile, large caliber handgun designed for concealable self-defense. But if you do want a gun to carry or for home protection, there are some guidelines that should be followed.

  1. Pick a suitable caliber: Choose a cartridge powerful enough to stop a human target yet small enough in terms of gun size and recoil for you to shoot it accurately. With modern bullet technology there is no reason to “over-gun” yourself with a magnum caliber, nor is there reason to select a “mouse gun” that could be too small to comfortably hold and use. Learn the difference between practice ammo and the loads you use for protection.
  2. Make sure the handgun fits you: You should be able to comfortably hold the gun with your firing hand, finger properly on the trigger, and sights naturally aligned along your forearm. A properly fitting handgun will be much easier to handle and fire accurately.
  3. Make sure you understand and can use the firearm: There are several types of handguns, including revolvers, semi-autos, single shots and variants. Make sure you can manipulate the action, but don’t let the “counter guy” tell you that you should or should not buy something because you are new.
    One person watching another shoot a handgun at an indoor gun range
    I have heard the comment, “Ma’am, you need this hammerless 5-shot because you can’t handle this other one.” There is nothing wrong with a hammerless 5-shot revolver and I carry one myself sometimes. However, to tell someone they should choose it over something else due to lack of training implies the customer is too stupid to learn or unwilling to train themselves in the correct use of another selection. Either way, it is a cop out from someone unwilling to take the time to inform the customer on what it takes to become proficient with whatever they would rather choose.
  4. Try several selections before you make a final choice: You would not purchase a new car without a short test drive—you should not invest in your new firearm without having handled it on an actual firing range to see how well it feels in your hand and how naturally you are able to fire it. There might be more than one firearm you are happy with and comfortable shooting and this is where smaller things like control locations, pricing, sights or even color come into the decision. No matter the selection, make sure your firearm fits you and your needs, and that you can properly utilize all operations needed to successfully shoot it.
  5. Seek training and practice employment: At this point, you are an empowered firearms owner and should be seeking to develop skills not only in accuracy and handling, but in the employment of your personal protection tool in scenario-based training. While you are learning to shoot your firearm and maintain it, inquire about training for carrying your handgun the way you intend, retrieving it from its carry position and firing it accurately at a given target.
    A person talking to others at an indoor gunrange
    The first time you draw your firearm and present it to a target should never be when you need to protect your life. Start slowly with the firearm unloaded and work on building a good grip, drawing and acquiring the target quickly and smoothly, and firing accurately. Practicing this with repetition will train the mind and body to know what needs to be done to accomplish this task. With training by a qualified professional and many repetitions, you should be able to draw, fire and hit your target within a few seconds. After you can do this consistently, continue practicing at the range so if you ever need to use your firearm in defense, you will be confident and competent.

Making The Choice

Becoming the empowered armed citizen you were imagining when you first had the interest in owning a firearm for protection takes time and dedication, but the rewards give you a lifetime of returns you otherwise might not be afforded. Follow these steps and stay the course to enjoy confidence and self sufficiency you’ve never known.

Person putting handgun in holster

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