5 Tips for Purchasing Your First Handgun
Updated: Jun 27
My first experience with a handgun was firing dad’s Smith & Wesson .45 caliber M1917 U.S. Army service revolver. I was a young girl in a sporting family growing up on a hobby farm in Central Minnesota. Even so, when I decided to purchase my first handgun I was intimidated. Not only can the legal process of purchasing be daunting, so can winnowing through the colossal assortment of styles and calibers to find the perfect fit.
As a child of the 1960s and 1970s I grew up watching shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, F-Troop, and The Wild, Wild, West, perched on the arm of my grandfather’s chair as smoke swirled round our heads from his Prince Albert stuffed meerschaum pipe. His fiddle and bow were cozied behind. So, this past year when I decided to purchase my first handgun, I knew from the get-go I wanted a Western-style, single-action revolver. After buying one, I quickly bought another. I am now the owner of a Ruger Single Six Convertible, and a Ruger Bearcat; both .22 caliber rimfire.
As a first-time buyer, I followed a few steps that helped demystify the process and the purchases.
One: Connect with the Pros
First and foremost, I connected with a local full-service gun shop & range, and with my local police department for a list of state requirements. Those two resources alone made the process less scary and helped me through my state’s paperwork.
Two: Define your Need
The first question to ask is, “What’s my intended purpose of the firearm?” Are you looking for self-defense? Concealed carry? There are many options out there: manufacturers, calibers, styles, etc…so, zeroing in on intended use is important. In my case, I own wilderness property in northern Minnesota and wanted a western-style revolver for plinking and varmints, so I had already drawn a bead.
Three: Find your Fit
Do some online homework. Research styles and manufacturers and connect with your local gun shop to find the right fit. Handle some firearms to see how they feel in your hand. I have a small hand, so while I love my Ruger Single Six Convertible, (and purchased it more as a long-term investment), the Bearcat fits me perfectly! Being able to shoot a firearm of the same make and model in advance of purchasing is helpful, too, but not essential. While you’re at it, try a couple different guns and calibers if possible.
Four: Listen to Opinions. (But remember, everybody has one.)
Ask family and friends about their own choices. What did they buy? Which gun shop did they use? Why did they choose a particular gun? Along the way, you’ll likely encounter brand loyalists, caliber or design devotees, and die-hards who will argue for their favorite firearm above all others. Ultimately, the best handgun is the one you are most comfortable handling and firing. Period.
Getting comfortable with your new firearm is important. Visit an indoor or outdoor range and practice loading and discharging your gun. Feel how much pressure is needed on the trigger? How does the hammer cock, or cylinder spin? The more you do it, the more at ease you’ll feel.