Regardless of your reason, it’s great that you have the right to own a firearm. That seems to be more important today than in recent times given all that’s going on. While there is great responsibility that comes with owning a firearm there is also a peace of mind that you can protect yourself, your family and your property. Until the police can get to you, you’re on your own and it’s best to put the odds in your favor. If you’ve completed your purchase and transfer, you also know that “not just anyone” can legally get a gun. You’ve experienced first hand the process, the paperwork, the background check. Please share that bit of information with those who think there are no safeguards to buying a legal firearm. Firearms ordered from websites don’t just show up on the buyer’s doorsteps across America.
With that said, as a first time gun owner you probably have a lot of questions and a lot to think about. We’re here to answer your questions so feel free to ask. In the next few paragraphs I’ll try to pass along some information that may answer some of them and/or lead to additional more personalized questions.
I have my firearm – What else do I need? Let’s start here…
Gun Case: To begin with you’ll want to make sure you have some kind of a case for your firearm. Most firearms come in a cardboard box and while you can certainly use that to transport your firearm to the range, you’ll quickly find out why that’s only a short term solution. At the very least it’s not convenient and it doesn’t protect your investment. You also don’t want to discard the box and carry the firearm openly as you walk in and out of the range, that’s just a bad idea for a lot of reasons and most ranges have a rule that prohibits this. You should get yourself a case.
Most are quite inexpensive so it comes down to preference. Some like hard cases, while some like soft, and others like cases where you can keep all of your accessories in the case with the firearm. These are all options available to you but let me give you a few things to consider. A case that ‘holds everything’ ensures you won’t forget anything when going to the range. However it also weighs more. If you’re like me, you’ll also end up getting more firearms and that means having to transfer your necessities from case to case depending on what you are taking to the range. So for me, I like a light, simple case to hold my firearm and then I have a separate ‘range bag’ with all of my accessories. Doing so gives me two rather light things to carry and I can simply grab the firearm I want to use along with the range bag and always know that I have everything I need for a day at the range.
Eye Protection: Don’t underestimate the importance of good eye protection. I’ll say right up front for those of you who wear prescription glasses, they DO NOT replace the need for shooters eye protection. It’s a requirement for the range and frankly it’s just good common sense to protect your eyes. While not common, it does happen that fragments, splinters or blowback gasses will eventually hit you from your gun or others at the range near you. It’s best to protect from accidents. Eye protection offers some additional benefits beyond this. For instance when shooting outdoors, eye protection with a yellow tint can significantly reduce glare. That’s just an example but it’s worth thinking about. If you wear prescription eyeglasses you may want to consider eye protection that goes over your glasses like goggles. If you don’t wear prescription eye glasses there are some nice wrap-around options that protect you from glare and debris not only from directly in front of you but also from the sides. Regardless of what you select, eye protection isn’t an option, it’s important.
Hearing Protection: Most people don’t realize how loud a gunshot is. They think it’s like a firework on the 4th of July but once you’re at the range you’ll quickly learn it’s much louder and sharper. Simply put, you need hearing protection and like eye protection, it’s a requirement at the range. Also like eye protection there are several options and styles to pick from. Some are designed to go over and around the ear, others go in the ear. In general I’ve found the ones that go over and around the ear provide the best protection and isolation. I use this style personally but will also note that you have to get used to them. In some cases they will be annoying when shooting rifles with scopes because you put your cheek on the cheek rest the headset will often also hit, but you quickly get used to that. As noted an option, not preferred by me are the ones that go in the ear. They are typically foam or silicone jell. You roll them between your fingers to compress them, insert them in your ear, and then they expand to block most of the ‘bang’. For me, I still find these don’t block enough noise but many people like them. You can find these where they come mounted on a headband, or individually provided in pairs. Some are reusable and others are disposable. For both styles they are rated in decibels (Db). The Db rating indicates their ability to block noise. Knowing this will help you understand the effectiveness of each style. Lastly there are additional options for the ‘over the ear’ ones. For instance electronic “active” ones that allow you to have conversations with others while keeping the hearing protection on, but when a shot is detected it will instantly block out the bang. These are quite nice and work well especially when at the range with friends. They also have ones with Bluetooth so you can take calls from your cell phone, listen to music, or maybe monitor a radio being used with others in your hunting party. In short you have options and now know a little more about what to look for when it comes to hearing protection.
Other accessories: So now we’ve covered the basics but there are a few other things you will probably want or need. For the range, you’ll want to have some targets and as simple as that sounds there are even options here. Of course you can get simple paper targets with various patterns on them and they work just fine, but you can also get some that are more highly reflective or show ‘hits’ more clearly. They do this by having an underlying bright color like yellow under the black target and when hit the yellow is exposed around the hole formed. This makes hits highly visible and at distances greater then 50 feet can be quite helpful.
When you come home from the range you’re going to have a smile on your face and a dirty firearm in your hands that needs to be cleaned. You’re going to need a cleaning kit. While there are many options, the good news here is you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Just make sure you get a kit that’s made for your caliber and style of firearm. To be clear, if you have a rifle//shotgun, make sure you get one that has a cleaning rod that’s long enough for your barrel. As to caliber, make sure you buy the one that matches your firearm. If you’re shooting 12Ga (twelve gauge), you’ll need 12Ga tips, brushes, etc. If you’re shooting 5.56, you’ll need the 5.56 tips, etc. Typically you can buy one kit with all the rods, etc. and then just buy whatever ‘tips’ you need to match your caliber. These are only a few dollars each. I’d recommend thinking about a kit that has an integrated stand as it does make cleaning easier and is a better option than putting the firearm on the table where it can scratch the table or the firearm. You’ll also need cleaning solvent and I recommend Hoppe’s 9, as well as a lubricant/protectant and for that I like Ballistol CLP (cleans, lubricates, preserves). The cleaning process is pretty simple. You use the brushes, then the solvents, and then the CLP. There are a ton of YouTube videos on cleaning so I won’t detail the process here, but you’ll need the supplies to do it. Lastly, a little goes a long way so don’t buy big bottles. A few ounces will last a year or more for the average shooter.
Storage: When you’re not at the range having fun, you need to think about where and how to store your firearm. Part of this requires you to think about how you are using it. If you’re just using it at the range or to hunt, then you can lock it up in a safe, a gun case, or something similar. If you’re using it for home defense then you need to think about both how to secure access to it from kids, thieves, and others but also how you can get at it in case of an emergency, and how quickly you can be ready to use it. This is where you have lots to think about and consider. One of the most secure ways to store your firearm is certainly in a safe but in an emergency situation you have to ask yourself how quickly can I get at it.
Likewise you have to decide do I keep it loaded? If I do keep it loaded do I keep “one in the chamber”? **By the way, if you decide to get a safe, you really need to think about getting it into place in your house. Quality safes can be several hundred pounds and some companies will only drop them to your curb. It may be on you to get it in the house, up the stairs and to the place where you want it. If you think you and a friend can carry a good safe up the stairs, you should think again. It can be back breaking and dangerous. There are certainly enough stories of them getting away from the person carrying them and damaging steps, floors and people.
Back to the matter at hand, all of these decisions have implications both good and bad. For instance to get to the firearm quickly you may opt to keep it by your bedside, but then it’s easy for kids to get at. You can put a lock on it, perhaps a trigger lock, but then you need to be able to quickly get the lock off in an emergency. Perhaps you leave it unlocked and just keep it unloaded with the ammunition in a separate and secure place. Then you need to practice getting it and safely loading it quickly. **By the way, for this I’d recommend buying “snap caps”. These are essentially fake ammunition that allow you to practice loading, unloading, firing all with imitation inert rounds that can’t hurt anyone. **.
As you can see, this all requires careful thought as the implications are big. Things that go ‘bump in the night’ can be jarring and scary! You should think about your state of mind, the fact that it will be dark and you don’t know if what’s making the sound is the family pet or a stranger. You need your mind clear, your actions known and practiced. A loaded firearm under the bed with one in the chamber is certainly ‘at the ready’ and at the same time an accident waiting to happen. So think long and hard, do your research, and most of all PRACTICE over and over with whatever you decide.
This article isn’t going to answer all of your questions and may raise some new ones for you, but hopefully it does answer some and get your pointed in the right direction. Do your homework, read other articles, watch some YouTube videos, and ask lots of questions. Being informed is key to being safe and protecting your firearm investment. Since you’re new at this, I’d recommend you consider taking some training. We offer an option on our website for a personalized session where you will be taken to a private room at the range, taught the basics of firearms safety, handling, range etiquette and use, and of course can ask all the questions you want. It’s highly recommended. Firearms require respect, knowledge, and practice. It’s not something you want to do by trial and error.
Safe shooting and welcome to the club. It’s fun and it just may save your life!
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