There are thousands of different styles, models, and sizes of guns out there, and choosing the right one for you and your needs can be incredibly confusing, even for experienced shooters. However, finding the right firearm for you can actually be pretty simple with the right guidance.
Here’s how to choose the best gun to buy:
- Determine how you want to use the gun.
- Choose the right caliber.
- Pick the right size.
- Find a weight that feels natural.
- Opt for a new gun.
- Test many guns.
- Consider the gun’s maintenance needs.
- Check prices for parts and bullets.
The rest of the article will walk you through the steps to finding the perfect weapon and give you some tips that will help you find the ideal piece for both your hand and your needs.
1. Determine How You Want To Use the Gun
One of the most crucial factors in choosing a gun is how you plan to use it. Every firearm is designed for a different purpose. Think of them like cars – just like how certain cars are best for specific functions, firearms should be chosen based on their function.
For example, if you wanted to save money on gas, you probably wouldn’t buy a tow truck, would you? And you certainly wouldn’t use a compact car to tow a mobile home. Well, the same idea goes for guns. You want your weapon to match you and how you want to use it.
Otherwise, you could hurt yourself or someone else, sacrifice accuracy for power, get a gun that’s too large, or cause unnecessary harm to game animals.
Some of the most common uses for guns are:
- Concealed carrying. Concealed carry guns should be easy to tuck into a holster, and they should be small and thin enough to stay hidden under light clothes such as t-shirts. These guns should have reliable safety features and a lightweight design to make carrying them simple.
- Self-defense. When you buy a gun for self-defense, you probably won’t want something like a shotgun, which could obliterate offenders or intruders. Instead, you probably want to opt for something small and easy to keep in a safe or drawer with a smaller chamber size that’ll be easier to aim.
- Large game hunting. When hunting large games, you’ll probably want a large shotgun or rifle that maintains accuracy at a more extended range.
- Small game hunting. Small game hunting requires a precise, powerful shot from a long-range with a small-caliber chamber so that you don’t destroy your game.
- Target and range shooting. A small, lightweight, accurate handgun should be your go-to for target shooting. Usually, a smaller caliber is better since it increases accuracy and gives you a straight shot. Still, for accuracy, some people prefer smaller rifles for their ability to shoot straight from the chamber.
- Collecting. If you’re a collector interested in guns of historical importance, the sky’s the limit. That said, if you plan on using a gun you initially bought for your collection, it’s crucial to ensure that you have all legal documentation about the piece. Additionally, if you suspect you’ll use a piece for any reason, you’ll need to make sure it has been professionally cleaned and restored for everyone’s safety.
2. Choose the Right Caliber
The caliber, or the diameter of your bullet and chamber, has a lot to do with your shot’s penetrating power. Generally, when considering caliber, you’ll need to think about the relationship between speed and blowback.
Lower caliber guns with narrower chambers have less blowback than other guns, which can make them comfortable to work with. However, they aren’t suited for uses such as hunting since they don’t often inflict a lethal shot at a long range. For example, some smaller guns, such as pistols, don’t often have the power and speed to penetrate animal tissues, making them less lethal than other guns.
Higher caliber guns usually have more blowback since it takes more power to shoot a heavier bullet. These guns are powerful enough to shoot game animals from long ranges, and they have much more power, allowing you to ensure that you kill your game with one cruelty-free shot.
If necessary, you can also increase the power of a lower caliber pistol by increasing the chamber diameter and bullet caliber. Doing so will inflict a larger wound, but with that increase, the blowback of your shot will also be more powerful.
If you’re sticking with an unmodified piece, pistols with a chamber of less than 0.451 are generally better for casual target shooting and pleasure shooting. They’re also ideal for self-defense since they aren’t as lethal as long as you don’t aim for sensitive spots, but they do enough damage to incapacitate offenders and intruders.
The same blowback-to-caliber ratio goes for any gun. So, keep in mind what you want to shoot and how comfortable you are with powerful guns to find the perfect balance for you.
Usually, when I work with beginners, I recommend starting with a minimal caliber – this allows them to get used to shooting and the experience of limited blowback, after which they can build to higher caliber guns.
3. Pick the Right Size
When you consider the ideal size of your gun, you need to think about how it’ll fit in your hand.
Everyone’s body is different, which is one reason why there are so many similar guns with varying styles of grip and trigger locations on the market. Holding a gun before you purchase it will help you determine how comfortable it’ll be when you have it in your hand.
Your gun should feel natural in your hand when you hold it with a loose grip, and your fingers should fit around it comfortably without any strain. You should also be able to rest your hand on the handle completely so that your wrist can minimize recoil impacts and keep your aim accurate.
Often, larger guns give you more room to maneuver your hand, and the larger size will also increase the power and accuracy of the weapon, making bulkier guns easier to shoot comfortably.
Beyond comfort, size can also affect how easy it is to carry and store your gun. For example, if you plan to carry your gun with you when you leave the house or want an emergency gun for home protection, you probably want something small, lightweight, and compact with reliable safety features.
When you’re carrying, you likely don’t want anyone to know that you have a gun, so choosing a smaller model will ensure that your clothes hang loosely around your piece, regardless of whether you’re wearing a tight tank top or an oversized coat. So, a small handgun is usually the best option for concealed carrying.
Small handguns are also ideal for self-defense since they’re easy to hide from family members and intruders in your home. It’s easy to lock smaller guns up, and it’s also easier to conceal them when dealing with potentially dangerous offenders.
On the other hand, while larger guns aren’t easy to hide, they’re much more powerful, making them ideal for hunting and competitions. That said, keep in mind that when you’re not using your gun, you should always keep it locked up in a safe location.
This means that you will need to have a secure space in your home for your gun before you get it. Depending on the size of your home, this may play a factor in determining what size gun is right for you.
4. Find a Weight That Feels Natural
Like size, the weight of a gun can alter the hand-feel, which will, in turn, affect how easy it is to shoot.
Depending on your arm strength and size, certain gun weights might be better for you. That’s because the weight will affect how high or low your aim is.
Here is the test I like to use to test the weight of a gun:
- Set up a practice target.
- Stand 5 yards (4.57 m) away from the target.
- Close your eyes and keep them shut.
- Try to aim your gun at the center of the target with your finger next to the trigger.
- Open your eyes.
Once you open your eyes, notice whether your gun was too high to too low. If your weapon was pointing more than 5 inches (12.7 cm) too high, you might want a heavier gun. If your firearm was pointing more than 5 inches (12.7 cm) too low, you might want a lighter gun.
However, if the chamber was pretty close to the target’s center, your gun is likely the ideal weight for you.
This test isn’t foolproof, especially if you’re still learning to aim your gun correctly, but you’ll usually be able to tell when your weapon is too heavy – your hand will get sore quickly when you hold the piece.
Likewise, if the blowback sends your gun flying upwards when you shoot, you should probably get a weightier model.
5. Opt for a New Gun
Buying a new gun is always safer and smarter than buying a used gun. That’s because used firearms could have corrosion or defects left by the previous owner, or they could’ve been stolen or used in a crime.
You never know what has happened to a used gun. Sometimes, a low price means that the weapon is broken, and the repair costs could be higher than the original price of the piece. Sometimes, it means that the gun has a bad history, which you’ll want to steer clear of altogether.
In addition, most brand-new guns come with a warranty, which can come in handy if your gun breaks. When you buy a new weapon, you might also be able to return it if it doesn’t work the way you want it to.
That said, there are a couple of cases where purchasing a used gun might be a good idea. For example, if you’re a collector of antiques or vintage guns, purchasing the firearms used is the only way.
However, it would be best if you only used these guns for ornamental purposes unless you have them cleaned and restored by a professional. You never know the level of damage going on inside the weapon, and using an untested antique can be extremely dangerous. You should also procure documentation of the gun’s sale history to ensure that it hasn’t been stolen. If it has been, it’ll likely be confiscated by the police.
Research Guns and Sellers Beforehand
Don’t be in haste to make a decision. To have a good idea of the types of guns available on the market and their prices, you can browse “gun for sale” listings. This helps you to know if your budget is enough to buy the kind of gun you want.
Take some time to read gun reviews online. This will help provide comprehensive information on a particular model. You can go on YouTube to watch videos on how to choose the right gun to buy. Don’t hesitate to browse through the manufacturer’s website for more information on the model of the particular firearm you intend to buy.
Pro Tip: If you are on the lookout for a used gun, check with your friends first. If you have a trustworthy friend with a relatively new gun, purchasing it from them could be a fantastic idea. When buying from someone you already trust and know, you’ll be able to learn the gun’s detailed history, and you’ll likely be able to test it out under your friend’s supervision.
There’s no crime in wanting to know more about what you want to pay for. Don’t feel shy about asking the gun seller any question on your mind. Make sure you know about any licensing fees and permits. And if this is your first gun, you definitely should ask about local shooting ranges and handgun safety classes.
No matter what you do, you should always draft out a bill of sale and ask your local law enforcement department to scan the serial number before you purchase the used gun. That way, you can ensure that everything is squared away and that the weapon has never been reported as stolen.
So, overall, choosing to get a brand new gun is usually the most reliable option since you’ll be able to know how clean the gun is – physically and legally.
6. Test Many Guns
Whether you’re purchasing your firearm new or used, taking your gun for a test run can help you ensure that it works well and has the right feel for how you want to use it.
You won’t be able to tell how a gun fits in your hand just by looking at it on a shelf, so you should always try to give new guns a test run.
Some ranges will allow you to test new guns or rent specific models, so check with your local range to see what they offer. You may also be able to borrow guns from friends, family, or other people at your local gun retailer to see how each model fits in your hand and how you feel when shooting it.
You can also ask gun retailers or shooting instructors for guidance when looking for a new gun. It would be best to tell them about your experience, the types of firearms you have tried and liked, and what you want to use the gun for.
They should give you some recommendations using that information, especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re a beginner looking for your first gun, don’t worry – we’ve all been there, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
7. Consider the Gun’s Maintenance Needs
Keeping your gun clean and lubed is crucial if you want it to last a long time and consistently shoot well. So, when you choose your type of gun, be sure to look for models that only need the amount of maintenance you can provide.
If you are a beginner shooter, you may need to look for a gun that’s easy to disassemble and reassemble. These guns are made just for easy care, and, unlike more advanced guns, they usually have fewer pieces and parts that need to come apart during cleaning.
Pistols from brands like Glock, Sig Sauer, and Heckler & Koch are usually the easiest to take apart and put back together, so you may want to opt for one of their guns if you’re concerned about maintaining your gun.
For an example of what cleaning one of these more straightforward guns looks like, check out this Glock 26 cleaning tutorial on Youtube:
8. Check Prices for Parts and Bullets
Buying a gun is similar to buying a car when it comes to additional costs. Just like how imported and luxury vehicles have higher repair costs and expensive parts, some guns can cost a lot to maintain and supply with ammunition. However, popular gun models usually have cheaper parts and ammo since they’re always in high demand.
When you buy a gun, you commit to purchasing the correct replacement parts, upgrades, cartridges, and bullets, which can be very costly if you don’t get the right gun. If you can’t afford these costs, you might have to limit your shooting time, which isn’t ideal if you need to practice.
Generally, older, rarer firearms cost a lot to maintain and buy appropriate ammunition for.
That’s why you don’t often see people shooting off musket balls, even if they have antique muskets lying around their home. That may be an extreme example, but even guns that are only around 20 years old may have high ammo and repair costs.
For some people, expensive parts and bullets are a worthy investment, but if you want an economical option, try to price things out before pulling the trigger.
Choosing a modern gun is usually the best option if you want to keep things low-cost after purchasing the piece. That’s because modern firearms typically use more common parts and ammo types, and the company that manufactured the gun probably still makes replacement parts and ammo for it.
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a gun. Above all, you should keep your needs in mind when choosing a weapon to ensure that you get the ideal size and caliber. You’ll also need to consider how the gun feels in your hand, which usually means that you should test it before purchasing it.
You’ll also need to consider ammo and repair costs, the gun’s history, and its maintenance needs to ensure that you truly know what you’re signing up for.
- How Much Does a Typical Gun Cost? | With Examples
- What Is the Difference Between a BB Gun and a Pellet Gun?
- How Heavy Is a Gun? | Typical Weights of Rifles and Pistols
- What Is the Cheapest Way to Buy a Gun? | 5 Vendors Compared
- What Is the Most Reliable Gun? | Ranked by Dependability
- Is There a Difference Between a Carry Permit and a Concealed Permit?
- What Is the Best Barrel Length for Accuracy? | Optimal Guide
- How To Identify a Gun Model | Complete Guide
- What is the Best One Gun? (If You Could Only Have One)
- Can You Buy a Gun in a State You Don’t Live In?
- Is Concealed Carry Insurance Worth It? (Pros and Cons)
- 12 Best Quality Handgun Manufacturers
- The Best Muzzle Crown for Accuracy | What You Need to Know
- Can You Own an RPG in the US? (Is It Legal?)
- The Best Way To Pull the Trigger for an Accurate Shot
- Concealed Carry Insurance Comparison Chart
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!