Searching for the Perfect First Gun?

By Rob Morse

Slow Facts
Slow Facts

Louisiana- (  We have a million new gun owners each month, and I’ve a word of advice for them.  Ignore a lot of the advice you’re given.

You see, gun owners are like everyone else. We want a contradiction. That can be embarrassing the first time you go shopping, particularly if you’re trying to buy a handgun. I’ve seen it time after time.

 Let’s be honest with new gun buyers.

We not only want a contradiction; we want the perfect contradiction.

Handguns Pistols Revolvers
Handguns Pistols Revolvers
  • We quickly find out that we want a heavy gun because it is more comfortable to shoot. The weight of the firearm helps reduce the felt recoil as the gun fires.
  • We want a light gun because it is easier to hold at arm’s length as we shoot. It is also easier to carry a light gun rather than carry a heavy lump that constantly tries to pull your pants down.
  • We want a large gun because we can shoot more accurately when the sights are farther apart. A large gun also wobbles less as we try to hold it steady.
  • We want a small gun because it is easier to carry concealed.
  • We want a trigger that is easy to press and has a short motion. That is a target trigger that we can shoot accurately.
  • We want a trigger that is heavy and requires a moderate amount of motion so we won’t fire the gun by accident. That is a trigger designed for a gun that is carried concealed.
  • We want a simple firearm that doesn’t have a manual safety. That means we have to train to use that simple firearm safely.
  • We want a gun with a manual safety so we won’t fire the gun by accident, but that means we have to train ourselves to deactivate the safety as we draw the gun from the holster.
  • We want an inexpensive gun so we can have more money left in our budget for training and practice.
  • We want a finely crafted gun so the shooting experience is more enjoyable, but that costs money.
  • We want a gun that is tailored to fit our hands rather than fit the average shooter.
  • We want an extremely reliable firearm, but that usually means leaving the gun the way the factory built it.
  • We want a gun that fires small bullets because that ammunition is less expensive and more comfortable to shoot.
  • We want a gun that shoots large bullets because they are better for self-defense.
  • We want a gun that only holds a few cartridges because that is lighter, smaller, and more reliable.
  • We want a gun that holds many cartridges because that gives us more fun between reloads, and more cartridges are better for self-defense.
  • We haven’t even described how we want the gun to look. Do your tastes run to chrome, or camo, or colors?

There are other examples, but let’s compromise and stop here.

We are the problem. We want all these things. We want one tool for many uses, and I’m as guilty as the next person. Part of our problem is in the language we use. We really need more words than “gun” to describe the many tasks a firearm can fulfill.  Is your “gun” for instruction, for practice, for competition or for self-defense?  There are too many applications for a single tool to fulfill them all.  We need more words to describe what we want to accomplish.

“Oh! You mean that kind of gun.”

We were smart enough to have different names for different breeds of dogs. We don’t confuse a beagle with a husky.   Then again, we’ve lived with dogs for thousands of years.  Maybe it is too soon in our history with gunpowder to know what guns should be called.  Maybe we’ll develop new names for these different breeds of firearms given enough time.

We can’t blame new gun owners for being confused. It isn’t their fault. Beginners don’t know what they don’t know. They want one gun to do everything. I do too, and I know better. All I can say is it gets better with experience. It isn’t that we become more realistic over time, though I wish that were the case. I’ve simply grown more accepting of my contradictions as I continue to want the grand compromize.

At least we keep salesmen busy as we search for that perfect compromise that gives us everything we want. I wish were were more honest with new gun owners.

You are buying your first gun.. rather than your only gun.

We must drive sales people crazy as we sort out our wants across their counter.  Go ahead and share this with a new gun owner.

  • Image from

Rob Morse: Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily and on his SlowFacts blog. He co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. He is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

First gun? Easy. Buy a milsurp bolt. Cheap, reliable, work just fine as a hunting rifle, and you can probably still get cheap ammo for it. They also double as good project rifles for people that like to fiddle. .22lr ain’t so cheap anymore so a 10/22 makes a lot less sense than it used to. First handgun? I would say a Glock 19 but that complete lack of a manual safety is beginning to take a toll on the shooting community. Ask the trainers and they will tell you that they are starting to see people fumble with the… Read more »


My suggestion for first time buyers is don’t listen to friends, family or other relatives. Instead go to a reputable shop and tell them it’s your first gun and then ask questions til the cows come home. If they have an indoor range that’s a big plus most will let you fire a few for a small fee and then make your decision. This is assuming of course…THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW GENERAL GUN SAFETY!


For first time buyers I suggest a .380 or 9mm that fits their hand good and lessens recoil. Some people I know have wanted their first handgun to be a revolver (which I don’t suggest as a first firearm) start with the basics,learn safety,and proficiency. Then move to larger calibers if you want. That said,.380 and 9mm are fine calibers and some fine handguns are made for each. In the firearm world bigger isn’t always better. Consistent shot placement is so critical !

Don Bailey

I agree with everything you said, but I would also add that you might want to go to ranges where you can rent those firearms to see how well they shoot for you. It is funny though, for me anyway, how some 380’s have a significant more flip than most 9mm’s. Of course that depends on the type pistol, polymer as opposed to metal frame and barrel length. But you are right on about learning the basics first. Finding a good instructor is a good start, and is actually a good habit for long time shooters to continue using instructors.


I want the shiny one. LOL