So you're thinking you might be ready to purchase a new gun? Whether it's your first or hundredth, you'll likely have questions.
The types of gun styles and calibers can seem as numerous as fish in the sea, so it's important to take the steps necessary to ensure you're getting the right firearm for you.
It's easy to get caught up in, and even overwhelmed by, the many choices available when selecting a handgun.
Do you want a hammer or striker fired? Revolver or semi automatic? Polymer framed or steel framed? Full size or compact?
You can see that there are tons of options, and that's not even getting into the manufacturer or dreaded caliber wars.
Trying to decide which gun is the right one for you based on those questions can lead down too many rabbit holes and become frustrating very quickly.
Instead of chasing your tail and getting caught in the weeds of the surface questions, consider answering underlying questions that can help you know what the right gun is for you.
1. What is My Purpose?
The first and most important question is, "Why?" Why am I buying a gun?
Once you know for sure the main reason for which you intend to purchase this gun, you've eliminated a bunch of firearms that aren't ideal options.
There's nothing saying you can't competitively shoot with your primary home defense gun; however, you wouldn't necessarily want to use a competition gun for home defense.
These are two different purposes, and it's crucial that you identify how you plan to use your gun to ensure you pick the right gun for the job.
2. What is My Budget?
As sad as it may be, the answer to this question will also answer a lot of the other questions.
While we all may want the most tricked out handgun that will be the envy of our friends, the simple fact is that we can't always afford that. Knowing what we can afford saves us some heartbreak in the long run.
But, more importantly, it can also help to narrow down the field of contenders and options.
One thing to keep in mind is that your budget does not only include the gun. It's important when budgeting to factor in things such as ammo and accessories.
Holsters for everyday carry guns, extra magazines, or even speed loaders for revolvers are all considerations that must be factored into your budget.
It doesn't matter if you got a gun that fit your price range if you can never afford to carry or shoot it.
While knowing the purpose of your purchase can help eliminate some peripherals, a gun is never a solitary purchase, so budget for the additional expenses as well.
3. Am I Comfortable With It?
The answer to this question may seem at first to be simply personal preference, and to a large degree it is. But this can also be used to eliminate certain styles and calibers of guns.
Some guns may only come in a caliber that you don't like or that doesn't feel good in that particular gun.
For example, .45 caliber feels totally different out of a steel-framed gun than it does coming out of a polymer gun. Similarly, .40 caliber may not feel great to you in striker-fired but feel totally fine in hammer-fired.
You may even like a gun in one caliber that you don't like in another caliber.
Never be afraid to say, "that gun isn't for me," because chances are if you don't like it from the beginning, it won't grow on you.
If you aren't comfortable with the gun, you won't carry it. You won't practice with it. You won't compete with it.
No matter what you purchased it for, you won't do it.
If it feels too big or small for your hands, it's too powerful, or you simply don't like the ergonomics, pass it up.
No matter how well the gun is regarded, how many people use it, or what celebrity shooter endorses it, if it isn't for you, then it isn't for you.
4. Can I Shoot It?
This question actually works in conjunction with the previous question.
While you need to be comfortable shooting your new gun in terms of the previously mentioned factors, you also need to be able to shoot it effectively.
This applies to guns you're otherwise comfortable with. It doesn't matter how good the gun feels to you, if you're more accurate with a different gun, this one might not be the right option for you.
All guns have natural tendencies and points of aim and impact.
When all other factors are eliminated, which gun you're naturally a better shot with is the better choice. Some guns are more natural to hold and manipulate for certain people than for others.
While this isn't necessarily a huge point of differentiation, if you find you shoot better with certain gun models, it's a good idea to narrow it down to those options.
This is especially true if you're a novice.
New shooters need to ensure that they're getting the most out of their shooting time, and if you're naturally a better shot with a particular type of gun, that can help you improve.
If you're constantly shooting slightly off, this can lead to frustrations and, over time, that can turn into a problem.
If every time you go to the range, you get frustrated, it becomes a negative activity rather than a fun one. Your desire to continue eventually falls to zero.
5. What is My Skill Level?
Regardless of the intended purpose for the gun, a new shooter will have vastly different needs than an experienced one.
Take, for example, barrel length. A novice shooter may need a longer barrel than an experienced shooter would.
Even novice shooters that are fairly accurate might have small bad habits that would be exaggerated by a smaller barrel.
When the distance between the sights is shortened, the nuances of grip and sight alignment are much more important than they are on a longer barrel.
On the flip side, an experienced shooter may have more need for modularity and accessories than a novice shooter.
Adding items to the gun that fit specific needs can also add weight to the firearm, which a more skilled shooter may be more adept at managing.
Advanced shooters may also choose to add weight or accessories to specific places to help them with certain things, such as faster draw or target acquisition, but these might cause a novice to develop bad habits.
You never want to have your gun compensate for things you might not be doing correctly, and some additions can mask bad fundamentals.
Learn those first, then add the accessories.
This skill level question applies to all aspects of gun ownership. It isn't a question of eliminating novices from advanced guns — it's an attempt to pinpoint which gun suits your needs.
Just because you're a novice doesn't mean you couldn't be a competitor; competition shooting has newcomers entering the circuit all the time.
Also, just because you've only ever shot competition doesn't mean you need to buy a novice-level defensive weapon.
Factoring in where your skill level is simply helps fine tune your selection.
If you've answered everything else and are trying to determine between certain firearms, you can make your final choices by eliminating guns not relevant to your skill level.
While these questions aren't the only considerations you should be making, they can help you narrow down your focus.
Remember, there's no such thing as the perfect gun. But there can be a perfect gun for you.
No matter what you get, remember to train with it, stay safe and have fun.