How To Choose Your First Firearm - Part 1

Learn more about first firearms topics
Part 2:Personal Protection, Women & Handguns, Home Protection, Shotguns
Part 3:Hunting, Skeet, Trap and Target Shooting, Assault Rifles

Firearms Buying Basics

On the following pages we cover the most common reasons people want to buy their first firearm - personal protection, home protection, hunting, skeet shooting, target shooting, or as a first firearm for a younger family member. Once you start your search, you'll likely end up needing / wanting more than one firearm. This is normal as most gun owners have several different firearms for different uses. Our suggestions include popular or common firearms for the intended use suitable for the beginning shooter. (Click photos to enlarge.)

Remember, overall performance of a gun for your needs - size, comfort, handling - is a personal choice which can't be made by holding a gun in a store. You have to fire a few on a range to appreciate the differences.

Step one is always to know and follow your state's laws and licensing requirements. In some states (like New Jersey) you may need to obtain your firearms permit before you can even hold a gun in the store . Which means a mom cannot buy her child a BB gun without both the mother and child first getting a firearms permit.


In addition to the cost of the firearm, keep in mind the cost of ammunition. On a typical day at the range, expect to fire about 50 rounds of smaller caliber or perhaps 20 rounds or larger caliber. Here's a quick comparison of some current local prices for standard loads.
Ammunition / Caliber Cost per round (US dollar)
.22 LR $ 0.03 - 0.05
9 mm, .40, .357 (pistol ammo) $ 0.25 -0.60
shot gun (game shot) $ 0.25 - 0.50
shot gun (slug) $ 0.75 - 1.00
.30 - 06 (rifle ammo) $ 0.75 - 2.00

Learn more about hand gun and rifle ammunition and shot gun ammunition.

Used guns

Used Guns can also be a good way to get started cheaply, but it does take a bit more work to become knowledgeable and make a good purchase.  Most local shops handle new and used firearms and will be willing to work with you, but you'll need to have idea of what you want to do, understand the basic terminology and what to look for as far as wear and use. Repairs can easily drive the cost into the range of new gun and your time and money are better spent on the range than at the gun smith. Unless you have a trusted friend or relative with firearms experience to assist you, we don't recommend purchasing a used gun for your first firearm.


Finally, a firearm is a tool in the same sense as a power tool or a car and all are dangerous if mishandled.  Just as you would never operate a car or a power tool without understanding how to do so safely , you should not operate a firearm solo until you have received instructions on safe handling and fired one under supervision.

Youth Firearms

You can start with an air rifle or BB gun, both of which are excellent choices to learn fundamentals of firearms safety and basic marksmanship skills. While air rifles and BB guns poses very little knock down power, without proper supervision and safe operation both can cause serious injury, and yes you can "shoot your eye out kid". (See Children and Firearms Safety )

The most typical youth firearm is a .22 long rifle which allows young and novice shooters to practice inexpensively with minimal recoil. Several manufacturer's offer youth sized versions of their standard rifles. The Ruger 10/22 is available as a carbine (shorter barrel) which is a good fit for youths. The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most reliable and accurate semi-automatic .22's available. boy shooting gn It is used by adults for target practice and can be modified for competitive target shooting. A .22 without a scope will range from $125 to $400. A typical starter scope will cost about $25 to $75, plus mounting.

In addition, Keystone Sporting Arms makes the Cricket (see picture) and Chipmunk. Both of these models based on a .22 caliber single shot bolt action gun with the added safety feature that the hammer needs to be manually set prior to each round by using a plunger at the rear of the barrel. Both models cost about $125 to $175.

Learn more about first firearms topics
Part 2:Personal Protection, Women & Handguns, Home Protection, Shotguns
Part 3:Hunting, Skeet, Trap and Target Shooting, Assault Rifles
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