I’m going to share with you the same experiences, tips, and advice that I share with everyone interested in learning more about gun ownership in America. Over the years, I’ve answered lots of questions from all kinds of folks who are trying to figure out if owning a firearm is right for them.

And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll help them find the answer. I always enjoy doing a little research, talking to experts who are smarter than me, and sharing what I learn with others. To that end, let’s quickly run through 9 of the most common questions I get from folks interested in learning more about firearms.

Why Would I Consider Gun Ownership?

There are tons of reasons why someone would want to buy a gun, both good and bad. I’m going to cover the top 5 I hear from firearm owners I speak with. Read this article from Pew Research to learn more about America’s views on gun ownership, according to their 2023 survey.

Collage of images showing different reasons for gun ownership
Common reasons people choose to purchase a firearm

1.   Home Defense

2.   Self Defense/Concealed Carry

3.   Hunting

4.   Recreational Shooting

5.   Competitive/Sport Shooting

What Kind of Gun Should I Buy?

There are no one-size-fits-most answers for potential gun owners. I typically end up asking a ton of questions here, like “What do you want to use it for?”, “What’s your budget?”, and “Where do you plan on storing it?” Here are my top 5 suggestions, based on the categories above.

Collage of various types of firearms
Common types of firearms
Home DefenseFull Size Semi-Auto Pistol
Self-Defense/Concealed CarryCompact or Subcompact Pistol
HuntingBolt-Action – Medium Size Game Caliber
Recreational ShootingCompact Pistol, AR-15 Rifle
Competitive/Sport ShootingSame as Recreation to Get Started

Where Do I Buy a Gun?

Many places provide a safe and comfortable environment to shop for a gun. All firearm dealers must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), in addition to any required state licenses. Some states prohibit or restrict transactions between private individuals and others allow it without any restrictions. Here are some of my top recommendations for places to shop for your gun ownership needs:

Picture of a gun store employee explaining guns to a potential customer
Gun Shops & Sporting Goods Retailers offer a comfortable experience to shop and learn more

1.   Gun Dealer: Any FFL retailer that is focused primarily on the sale of firearms.

2.   Sporting Goods Stores: Most have a gun section with knowledgeable employees.

3.   Shooting Range: Some shooting ranges also have retail stores.

4.   Local Gun Shows: Tons of options and everyone there loves guns too!

5.   Online: Yes, you can buy online from many reputable dealers.

6.   Pawn Shop: Some are better than others, avoid the shady ones 💀.

7.   Individual FFL: Someone with a home-based FFL gun dealership.

8.   Private Individual: Some states allow us to sell or transfer used guns.

What Should I Expect When Buying My First Gun?

Picture of a handgun on top of ATF required paperwork
Expect to complete some paperwork to validate your eligibility to purchase and own a firearm

The first time you buy a gun, expect it to take a little while. You’ll want to handle lots of different guns, get a feel for the size and weight, and ask tons of questions. You’ll want to make sure you have a government-issued ID and be prepared to fill out some paperwork.

Be prepared to complete ATF Form 4473 and a background check through NICS, among other things. ATF Form 4473 will help ensure you meet all of the federal requirements to own a gun. The background check will ensure you do not have a criminal background or restraining orders that automatically prevent you from owning a firearm.

Typically, the paperwork takes about 5 minutes while the background check takes about an hour. Assuming you clear the background check, the paperwork normally must be double-checked by a second store employee. If you get put on the “Delay” or “Hold” list it can take a week or so to clear up, depending on the issue(s).

Do I Need a License to Buy a Gun?

Picture of a sample license to purchase and own a handgun
NJ Example License to Purchase a Handgun

Short answer: Maybe? It depends on where you live. Some states require you to have a license or permit to purchase or own a gun. Others allow anyone who can pass the Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) background check and screening process to purchase a gun.

You should always check the laws, rules, and regulations in your state when it comes to gun ownership. A quick Google search normally does the trick. You can always head into your local gun shop or sporting goods store, consult with an attorney, or call the local or state police.

Can I Buy a Gun as a Gift?

Picture of a handgun and some accessories on a table
Depending on your state, gifting firearms may be perfectly legal. Always check your local laws to be sure.

The short answer here is Yes. Technically, you should declare that you intend to purchase the gun as a gift for someone else. And if it’s not a surprise, they should be present with you and register the gun in their name. Some states may have restrictions in place that prevent you from registering the gun and then transferring it to another person.

It’s always best to check with employees at an FFL firearms dealer or consult an attorney. They are often intimately familiar with the laws and regulations in your home state and can provide you with the best advice and guidance.

Are Guns Safe?

Guns are mechanical devices and require an operator for them to function, just like vehicles, machinery, or power tools. While modern guns come equipped with many safety features, they are only as safe as the operator who controls them. For example, all modern vehicles come with tons of standard safety features, but that doesn’t prevent driver-caused accidents and fatalities.

At the end of the day, YOU are the best safety feature a gun can have. Start by memorizing the legendary Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper’s 4 Rules of Gun Safety and practice them every time you handle a firearm. Then learn how guns function and how to properly control and manipulate your firearm. You can never be too safe and should never stop training.

What Are Some of the Safety Features?

Common Safety Mechanisms on Rifles
Common Safety Mechanisms on Defensive Handguns

Modern guns incorporate a variety of safety features to prevent accidental discharges and promote safe handling. Here are some of the most common:

·        Manual Safety Locks: Prevent the trigger from engaging the firing mechanism.

·        Internal Safety Locks: Prevent the firing mechanism from engaging without the trigger being pulled.

·        Trigger Safety: Requires a tab or button to be pressed before the trigger will engage.

·        Drop Safety: Prevents the firing mechanism from engaging due to impact from a drop.

·        Loaded Chamber Indicator: Alerts the operator that a cartridge is loaded in the chamber.

How Can I Learn More About Guns?

Picture of 4 students learning about handgun safety from an instructor
Students learn pistol basics from a licensed instructor.

There are numerous ways to expand your education and knowledge base regarding firearms. I could talk about this subject for hours, but for your sake, I’ll boil it down to just a few key recommendations for responsible gun ownership.

1.   Take a basic pistol, rifle, and/or shotgun class at your local shooting range

2.   Read firearm blogs, like this one

3.   Join a shooting club at your local shooting range or an online community.

4.   Sign up for other educational courses from providers like USCCA or US Law Shield

5.   Browse YouTube for helpful videos regarding how guns function, how to use them safely, or detailed reviews of federal, state, and local laws. 

Picture of the Blog Post Author
Joe is a dedicated husband, father of 5, volunteer, and avid outdoorsman. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, learning new things, and teaching and empowering others to do the same.

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