There is a flood of new gun owners coming into the fold in the face of this pandemic. Panic buying of guns and ammunition has stripped the shelves in most areas of the country. The silver lining, maybe, is potentially hundreds of thousands of new gun owners that might consider supporting the 2nd Amendment in their voting habits. That is, of course, debatable. The obvious downside is a current lack of inventory for anything firearms related.
Another potential downside to the current situation is that many thousands of people with absolutely no training are arming themselves for the first time. Due to the situation, the training that would normally be available is not. Many of you probably know people who are arming themselves for the first time. And if they know you are knowledgeable about firearms, they will likely reach out to you for advice. Here I offer some things for your consideration to provide the best possible advisement for these new gun owners.
The Most Likely Question Will Be, “What Gun Should I Get?”
This is the most likely question you are going to hear from any of these newly awakened folks who know that you are knowledgeable about firearms. As you probably know well, there is an abundance of information on this subject, coming from many places, much of which is bad advice. I am not going to suggest that you recommend any particular gun, but I will offer several follow-up questions you can use to pull more information out of the individual asking this question so that you can provide the best possible guidance. Most likely the individual will be interested in a handgun, so our discussion will pertain to that in particular:
Ask the inquirer, “do you plan to carry, or just keep the gun for home defense?”
This, obviously, clarifies the intention and can steer you towards recommending something suitable. Size is an issue for those who want to carry. If the gun will only be a home defense weapon, steering people towards full-size pistols is probably the best option.
We will be limited in our assessment of the individual if we have not had the opportunity to take them shooting, but consider the person: are they elderly and perhaps physically frail? Will recoil be a factor? Will even being able to rack the slide be a factor? This must be considered in our recommendation.
I would also ask for an honest response to this: “Do you plan on training and practicing regularly, or do you want something to just put in the closet and forget about unless it is needed?”
I think people do themselves a favor if they answer this sincerely, and ask them to be honest, with no judgment. If a person will invest time and resources into training then a full-size or compact autoloading pistol is probably in order. If, however, an individual admits that they will shoot it once, then leave it forgotten in a drawer (which is what most of these new gun owners will do) I would, in all honesty, suggest a full-size, all-steel, revolver.
Many firearms trainers get hung up on the fact that revolvers are more difficult to shoot than full-size autos, but if a person plans to not train at all, safety is the primary concern. A revolver is a gun that is simpler to use and safer to manipulate for the untrained. It is also less fallible due to user error. If the gun is not going to be carried, and only used for home defense, a full-size, all-steel, revolver makes good sense. It is the ideal gun to be left, endlessly, in a hand safe.
I would, however, again consider the age and physical limitations of the individual, as the heavy and long trigger pull of a revolver can be a challenge for those with limited hand strength.
Encourage Safe Storage as a Top Priority
When someone tells me that they wish to get their first gun for home defense I tell them that when they buy that gun they need to leave the store with a quick-access hand safe to go along with it, or don’t bother getting the gun. A new gun owner does more harm than good leaving a loaded gun unsecured around the house, especially if there are children present in the home. There are many great quick-access hand safes on the market for very reasonable prices. If someone maintains a handgun for home defense, this item is necessary. Be sure you stress the importance of safe storage.
To emphasize the necessity of safe storage I liken a loaded handgun to a chainsaw that is turned on and running, awaiting only the press of the trigger to activate the rotation of that exceedingly dangerous chain. Ask the person, would they leave a running chainsaw on their coffee table? How about unsecured on their closet shelf? A dangerous tool does not belong in an accessible location, be it a chainsaw or a handgun.
Urge Safe Handling
While limited at the moment, we should encourage new gun owners to seek out training as soon as possible. If you are experienced in coaching new shooters, offer to take the new person shooting as soon as this emergency situation is lifted. If you don’t coach new shooters yourself, suggest that they seek out professional training as soon as possible.
The absolute priority for new gun owners is safe handling. Explain to them the four rules of gun safety. Maybe provide some links to videos that discuss the four rules, and safely doing administrative tasks, such as loading and unloading the handgun. Hands-on instruction with a good firearms instructor is preferable, but this approach might be our best option at the moment. While we would like to see all new gun owners pursue further training, the most pressing concern is safety, and we should do our best to at least impart that.
Under the current circumstances we are limited in what guidance and training we can provide, but in the meantime consider these points so that you can maximize the value of your advice to all of these first-time gun owners.