Being a New Gun Owner – What I Wish I Knew When I Started

Below the Radar: The Multiple Firearm Sales Reporting Modernization Act of 2019
Below the Radar: The Multiple Firearm Sales Reporting Modernization Act of 2019

U.S.A.– -( These are strange times. Few of us thought we’d ever be here. This year, 8 million new gun owners joined the more than a hundred million existing firearms owners. We’ve all been that new guy at one time or another. Fortunately, there is a place for everyone in the gun culture. Here are some of the things I wish I knew when I chose a firearm and started learning self-defense.

Some of these steps are optional and some are mandatory. Rather than trying to tell you what to do and how to do it, I want to sketch out a broad map so you can find what you’re looking for.

If I had one suggestion for new gun owners, it would be to not rush. Take it one step at a time.

Go slowly and learn great habits from the beginning. You don’t need to know everything perfectly at each step, but it helps to avoid big mistakes that you have to unlearn later. Fortunately, each new step usually includes a review of the earlier material.

    • The first steps have to start with the four rules of firearms safety. We’ll return to these rules time after time.
    • Practice safe gun handling and muzzle awareness. Gun handling is a skill, not a theory. Your instructor tells you what to do and then shows you the drill. You repeat the exercise and are corrected until you have it right. Now, you practice perfect performance on your own.
    • Learn to load and unload your firearm. Yes, there are easy ways and hard ways, dangerous ways and safe ways. Learn how to tell if your gun is loaded.
    • Here is another aspect of gun safety. Your gun belongs in your hand, in a holster, or stored safely. Learn about safe storage and the safe techniques to put your gun away. Is that gun in your safe empty and in storage, or loaded and “in use?”
    • There are safe ways to move your empty gun between your range bag and the shooting bench at the firing line. Pros will notice and appreciate when you do it right.
    • Learn how to hold a gun. Details matter. Even after decades of training and practice, I continue to receive suggestions from my instructors on how to refine my grip. Think of it this way. Most of the shoes in the shoe store won’t fit you. Most guns in the gun store won’t fit you either. Find the guns that fit you and learn how to hold them.
    • Learn how to shoot. That is built on grip, sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger press. Please listen to your instructor and forget what you saw on TV.
    • Try some holsters and learn to carry a gun on your body. What I use might not fit you. What fits with one set of clothes might not work as you change the way you dress. Gun belts are cool. Did you know there are concealed carry fashion shows?
    • Learn to present your firearm from an exposed holster. We call it an openly carried holster because it isn’t concealed.
    • The next thing you learn is how to put your gun back into your holster. You’ll learn that with an empty gun, and then relearn it with a loaded gun.
    • This is where you want a partner. Learn how to be a safety spotter for your shooting buddy. You want them to do the same for you.
    • Learn the safe ways to practice with an empty gun. That is called dry practice.
    • Guns are heavy. Learn the compressed ready, low ready, and sul positions.
    • Learn how to pick up a gun one-handed. Now, do it one-handed with your other hand.
    • I know you think you’re looking at the sights. Learn to call your shots and diagnose your mistakes. Where was the gun pointed when it went bang?
    • Learn the legal use of lethal force.
    • Study how to defend your family at home. This includes locking your doors, installing motion lights, hurricane glass near your doors, alarms, and camera doorbells.
    • Learn how to carry concealed and to present your firearm from a concealed holster.
    • Learn how to get a concealed carry permit if your state allows it. This probably includes where you may and may not carry your firearm in public.
    • Learn how to defend yourself. How will you present your concealed firearm in close quarters?
    • Learn how to defend your family in public. You win every fight you avoid. An ounce of prevention is worth much more than an ounce of lead.
    • Learn how to shoot one-handed, to move with a gun, and to shoot on the move.
    • Engage multiple targets in one string of fire. Learn to reload, though that is mostly a training exercise.
    • Learn to use cover and concealment to keep from getting shot.
    • Learn more than one gun. Shoot other models of firearms, like revolvers, rifles, and shotguns.
    • Learn to shoot from unusual positions like kneeling, sitting, on your back, on your side, and rice paddy prone.
    • How will you protect your gun, hang onto it, and get it back if someone grabs it? Learn close-quarters combat and weapons retention.
    • Learn kinematic shooting at close quarters. This is also called point shooting or shooting by feel.
    • Learn to hit a target that is 50 to 75 feet away. How much time does that take for each shot?
    • Since we want to save a life, learn first aid, and carry some basic supplies with you.

Why don’t you start your education with the Guns 101 videos by the Polite Society Podcast. Watch another episode every week.

You don’t have to take every step in order. The point is to know that there are next steps. You wouldn’t learn to fly by watching some videos and getting into an airplane. Get real training on how to use your gun. Youtube and Instagram videos can be brilliant.. or garbage. Neither will look at what you’re doing and correct your mistakes. That is exactly what instructors do every day and they get good at it. Give yourself a fair chance at success by taking good instruction.

About Rob Morse

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

Rob Morse

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“You win every fight you avoid.”

Most profound statement that I have heard in years!


Field strip and clean that brand new gun before you shoot it! No, it doesn’t come from the factory clean and pre lubed.


Bozz, GREAT point!


One should learn basic maintenance, assembly, disassembly, and how to deal with common malfunctions before carrying any weapon. That is safe handling.

Happy Everafter

This! Most guns can be disassembled and cleaned with a few simple tools. A gun full of guck that doesn’t shoot is just a paperweight.
Also, some semi-auto handguns are just finicky about your ammo selection, particularly self-defense ammo, no matter how clean it is. Find a brand that works for your gun.


My first rifle, a Daniel Defense DDM4V7 had a problem with the gas port so it didn’t cycle correctly. DD fixed it but not before I agonized over it for a month wondering what I was doing wrong.

Charlie Foxtrot

It looks like Daniel Defense has some quality control problems. The castle nut wasn’t staked on mine.


Avoid shooting/practice alone. Partner up with an experienced friend, not just for the safety, but to help watch for flaws in technique. It helps avoid bad habits before they begin to develop.
If time and resources allow, take a Range Safety Officer class. Even if you never fulfill the role at a range, there’s valuable skills and knowledge you gain.


What ever new and old gun owner should know. Have a 28 gauge cause that seems to be the only ammo on the shelf and there is only 4 or 5 boxes of number 7!


Bonus: they are a lot of fun to use to hunt quail.