So you did it: you finally bought that shiny new gun you meticulously researched. A hundred YouTube videos and enough advice from gunslinging friends and family to fill an encyclopedia.
If it is just another gun in the safe or you are finally one step closer to taking responsibility for your own safety. Yay for you! Except, now you are faced with an even bigger question…
What are you supposed to do now? For the novice shooter and fledgling gun owner, purchasing their first pistol or long gun is often an even bigger step than pulling their first trigger.
Loading and shooting is one thing, but what do you do with a brand new (or new to you) gun after you toss it in the trunk and head for home?
To us seasoned gunhands, this seems like a quaint notion but there are always things to do to complete your purchase.
Everyone started somewhere, so in today’s article I’ll be offering my list of next steps for brand-new and veteran gun owners alike.
Get in Line, Stay in Line
For new gun owners, especially ones with little experience, that first purchase can be nerve-wracking enough on its own without the sometimes sobering realization that keeping a gun at home and making it a part of your life is an entirely different skillset from shooting.
For old pros and experienced enthusiasts, it hardly requires that much thought but for both types of owners, there are a few things you should take care to do when you haul your new purchase home.
The following items on this list run the gamut from the esoteric to the plainly practical, but all are important boxes on the Post-Purchase Checklist.
A new shooter who fails to do so can find themselves blundering around wasting time, effort and energy thanks to their lack of experience and foresight.
A seasoned pro who plunks his new purchase into the rack or in the safe with nary a second thought will see his hubris come back to bite him in the soft parts after his perfect, pristine, infallibly awesome new gun takes a crap the first time he pulls the trigger on a loaded chamber.
When you buy a new car, new boat, or new airplane, there is always a list of Required Secondary Tasks and Purchases that accompany it.
Everyone’s list looks a little different, but failure to abide by The List is a fast track to frustration, mishap and misadventure.
If only someone who has seen it all could furnish us with this mysterious and all-inclusive list, life would be so much easier!
Ahem… Mild megalomania aside, I have a great deal of experience outfitting professional and civilian users with guns and their related miscellany, and have seen time and time again the same missteps and mistakes surface for well-intentioned owners post-purchase.
That experience has led me to assemble my list of seven things you should do after your new gun purchase. It is my hope that this list will save you some time, grief, and frustration the next time you head into your friendly local gun store.
Newbie or pro, give these a gander.
1 – Make Sure You Have a Secure Storage Solution
Keeping your gun out of the wrong hands is your responsibility, and it is a big one. Full stop. The End.
Even if you don’t have children, family, friends, and visitors should not have to “stumble across” your firearms, loaded or not.
Keep them safely and securely out of sight and give yourself more peace of mind with any variety of lockbox or safe.
But we cannot just worry about keeping honest people honest; thieves love guns since they can be fenced on normal or black markets for quick cash and demand for them never dries up.
Consider the idea that your pistol or long gun might get stolen and be used wrongfully.
You don’t want that on your conscience. For asset protection, you must invest in a proper safe, something that, when secured to a mounting point appropriately, is too heavy to cart off, and too time-consuming to break into.
That being said, there is no such thing as impenetrable- nicer units will only buy you more time, time enough that, hopefully, the crooks will not want to spend on gaining access.
2 – Perform Initial Cleaning, Inspection, and Function Check
Guns don’t come from the factory in clean condition. In fact, they typically don’t even come lubricated. After guns are test fired at their factory they will usually be shipped shortly thereafter with a heavy coating of preservative grease inside.
No, that copper goo on your brand-new Glock is decidedly not an Austrian super-lube that never wears out that you should never remove. They are preservatives, not lubes, typically.
Take the time to disassemble your firearm and give it a usual cleaning after you verify it is unloaded.
Pay extra attention to the bore to ensure it is free of extraneous grease or other obstructions. While you have the gun broken down, pay careful attention to the components: does everything appear normal?
Can you see any obvious defects like cracks, chips, or peening? Do you see any bulges, cavities, or irregularities in polymer or cast metal parts? If it looks odd or incorrect, it may very well be.
Consult the manual and if you have any doubt at all call the manufacturer’s helpline. Once you give everything the green light and reassemble, function check the unloaded gun.
Run the action, operate all controls, and focus on how everything feels and sounds.
New shooters might not have the frame of reference for really sensing the moans and groans of their new blaster but experienced shooters will.
No matter who you are, any obvious hitches, hiccups, grinding, freezing or lack of function is an immediately detectable red flag. Better you find out now than on the firing line or, worse, in a fight.
3 – Buy Magazines, Speedloaders, and Other Ammo Solutions
No matter what kind of gun you have, it won’t do much good if you cannot keep it loaded and firing. That process can be made drastically easier with the right stuff, namely magazines for your semi-autos of all kinds, speedloaders and speed strips for your revolvers, shell caddies for shotguns, and so forth.
Even if you aren’t going to the deep end of the Prepper Pool, you’ll want several ammunition-feeding devices to speed up practice, perform reload drills and serve as a hedge against loss or breakage.
Magazines and other ammo-feeding devices and aids often face shortages according to the whims of the market, so buying cheap and stacking deep is prudent no matter where you are in your shooter lifecycle.
As a general rule, I want at least five full-capacity magazines for any semi-auto gun, a half dozen speedloaders or speed strips for a revolver, and two caddies or more for any shotgun.
More will be all but mandatory for conducting high-volume training or surviving the zombie apocalypse so consider those the absolute bare minimum.
4 – Buy Holsters, Slings, and Support Gear
Using your gun anywhere outside your home, to say nothing of a “real world” context means you’ll need specialized equipment to help you carry it and deploy it efficiently.
For a handgun of any stripe, this means one or more holsters depending on how and where you want to carry it. For any long gun, this means a sling of some type.
Any holster to be worn inside or outside the waistband will require a good gunbelt as a necessary piece of additional equipment.
Forget using your JC Penny dress belt for hauling a big autoloader and spare mag. That way lies tears. If using a pocket or ankle holster you can get by without a belt, but those are about the only exceptions.
Long guns will need slings, of which the most universally useful and practical type are quick-adjustable two-point slings.
You can get by with a regular old “strap” sling in a pinch, but for defensive use or maximum flexibility in the field a properly set up two-point is the bee’s knees.
Avoid entirely three-point slings and reserve single-point slings for only the lightest and shortest of rifles or shotguns.
While you are nabbing these items, grab at least one spare magazine or speed loader pouch for your handgun, even if it is a simple clip arrangement to help keep it oriented in your pocket.
You can scoot by dumping your spare ammo in a pocket sometimes (depending on the garment) but this is rarely ideal.
5 – Test Fire It
And I don’t mean 10 rounds of the cheapest lead, FMJ or birdshot you can find.
I don’t care what you do with a gun you bought just for fun, but relying on a defensive gun, no matter how top-of-the-line, how expensive or how great its reputation is foolhardy in the extreme.
You won’t know it is good to go until you know!
At the absolute bare minimum you should rattle off 100 trouble-free rounds before considering your new gun “in working order.” I prefer 1,000 trouble-free rounds before I’ll declare it good to go.
Even then, especially for daily carry handguns, you should endeavor to perform your testing with the actual defensive ammunition you plan to load it with.
I know, I know, some of you just picked your jaws up off the floor contemplating even a lean test using premo-expensive top-shelf ammo. But, I urge you, you must consider it.
Ammo is not created equal, and neither are guns. Gun “A” may show a preference for a certain brand of ammunition that Gun “B” will not stomach reliably.
This is about reducing variables at the end of the day. At the very, very least you should expend a couple of magazines worth of your chosen defense loads (or a handful of cylinders worth).
Also keep in mind that different weights and styles of bullets can show markedly different POI compared to similar loads…
6 – Personalize It
I’m not talking about bedazzling your new Glock or blinging out your factory-fresh Colt, although I guess you could (don’t, or I am hauling you into Prepper Court for egregious misuse of resources).
I am talking about taking care of the little things that hinder or annoy you when shooting or handling your new piece.
Grip’s too thick or too slippery? Change ‘em. Edge of a lever or some other control, or perhaps the bottom of the trigger guard rubbing your finger raw? Break out the Dremel or the wet/dry sandpaper.
Having a tough time acquiring your sights? Consider an upgrade, perhaps an optic, or go low-fi tech and brighten them up with high-contrast paint. The sky is the limit, and the ceiling is set by your ingenuity and your wallet.
Some people get hung up on keeping their guns in bone-stock factory spec. I get that, and I’ll admit most of my guns are very conservatively upgraded compared to the popular trends of today.
Even so, my personal EDC pistol has a pair of ultra-thin, super-aggressive grips, a shortened and smoothed trigger, and lots of additional grip tape. Ultimately your firearm is a tool, one that you must interface with to achieve good results.
Don’t let a bad connection hold you back. You’d be surprised at what improvement can be gained with just a few seemingly small enhancements and fixes.
7 – Get Trained!
Brand new shooters and gun owners should obviously (I hope) sign up for professional training ASAP after their purchase to ensure they are giving themselves the best opportunity to grow quickly as well as minimizing the chances of an accident, but veteran shooters should also consider getting training to accompany a new purchase.
What is my reasoning? Simple: no matter how you slice it, you should be keeping your edge sharp.
Assuming you are Mr. or Ms. High-Speed Low-Drag, you will still benefit from professional tutelage, especially with the goal of keeping your highest-level skills honed to a razor edge.
If you just so happen to be an ace badass with a pistol and pick up a new shotgun, you could be forgiven for assuming your general competence and fluency with your handgun will carry you with the gauge. You could be forgiven, but you’d also be dead wrong.
Lots of general gun handling and safety skills do indeed transfer from one weapon system to another, but the devil is in the details, and blundering your way to proficiency or some facsimile thereof is a much rockier and harder road than getting back in the schoolhouse.
A new gun or just new-to-you platform, make it a point to get professional instruction to go along with your new purchase.
Even if you are one of the few, truly expert and well-rounded shooters out here, you will never, ever go wrong with seeking to refine your education. The return on your investment when you invest in yourself is infinite. You cannot lose!
For new gun owners, the realization that you don’t know what to do next can be anxiety-inducing. For seasoned owners of a newly bought gun, there is always more to do to integrate your new acquisition into your armory and general plan.
No matter who you are or where you reside on your journey to proficiency, you can make your life easier and get the most out of your purchase by following the recommendations above.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.