Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Your First Gun: A Complete Guide

Buying your first gunAre you thinking of buying your first gun?

If that's the case then you're probably going to need some help.

There's always the gun to take into account, of course, but you'll also need to have some other things in order before making the purchase.

Read on and we'll discuss the ins-and-outs of adding a firearm to your home for the very first time.

Know Your Local Laws

Federal regulation on firearms is pretty clear. The purchase of any firearm through a licensed dealer require you to pass a criminal background check. This is done by the dealer at the time of purchase using the National Instant Check System (NICS).  Anyone who meets any of the following conditions is prohibited from purchasing a firearm of any kind:

  • who was convicted, or currently indicted, in any court of a felony, or any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  • who is a fugitive from justice;

  • who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);

  • who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
  • who is an illegal alien;

  • who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;

  • who has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
  • who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or

  • who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Federally, there are restrictions on certain types of weapons which are regulated under the National Firearms Act. Machine guns produced before 1986, short barrel rifles (<14"), short barrel shotguns (<16"), and silencers are legal to own, but the process is more involved. Read our <a hfref="https://secure.arnzenarms.com/silencers-suppressors-faq-how-to-buy-a-suppressor">FAQ on NFA items</a>  if interested.

Most semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns are legal under Federal Law. It's when we get to the state level that things get tricky.

In California, for instance, you can only own specific handguns that are on an approved list. Permit to carry licenses are issued quite rarely and only at the discretion of the county's sheriff office. Magazines can only hold a maximum of 10 rounds of ammunition.

Arizona, on the other hand, has no restrictions on make, model, or capacity. They don't even require a permit to carry provided that you're legally able to purchase a firearm.

In Minnesota, you need a valid permit to purchase in order buy a handgun. A carry permit can be obtained after taking an educational class. Minnesota also prohibits transfer of handguns failing a melt temperature limit.

Most states are somewhere in the middle with permits being available to those who qualify on a "shall issue" basis rather than being at the sole discretion of local officials.

Reviewing the laws in your state before making a purchase is a must. Some firearms and accessories may not be available to you and waiting times after a purchase vary widely.

What to Expect When Buying Your First Gun

Purchasing a gun is generally a straightforward process. The most common issue is with providing valid identification. You must present a valid government issued photo ID with your current address on it. If your address is not current, addional identification is required. You should contact your dealer before making the drive if you are unsure of your identification.

You'll be subjected to a NICS background check which brings up any criminal history that bars you from holding a firearm. This process typically takes a couple of minutes and the dealer receives a result that is either PROCEED, DELAY, or DENIED. In Minnesota, a proceed means you'll be able to take the gun home immediately. In other states, you may be forced to wait between 3 and 14 days. If you receive a DELAY, it means the FBI needs longer to validate your background check. Federally, this must be completed within 3 government business days after which the firearms can be transfered with no answer. Ultimately, it depends on state and local laws if and when the gun can be released. In Minnesota, it is up to the dealer to decide if the gun can be released with a DELAY status.

Above all else, relax. It's a bit more complicated than picking up groceries but it's not a horrendous mess of red tape either.

Find a Safety Course

The most important part of owning a firearm is safety.

In most states, you'll also need to go through a basic course in order to get a hunting license.

In any case, it's recommended that you find safety courses tailored to what you're planning on doing with your firearm. There are courses tailored for concealed permit holders, hunters, and target shooters.

In any case, you need to memorize the basic rules of gun safety:

  1. Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  2. The firearm is always to be treated as though it was loaded.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
  4. Visually identify your target and know what's beyond it before firing.

Any time there is a negligent discharge it only occurred because one of these rules was violated.

Formal training keeps you and those around you safe while you're operating a gun and not finding the appropriate course for your use is just asking for trouble.

Deciding On Your Gun

What type of gun you're planning on purchasing will change things.

The three main things that people purchase firearms for are target use, hunting, and self-defense.

Target Shooting

If you don't have much experience with firearms and target shooting is your primary goal then you may wish to go with a lighter rifle or pistol than you'd use for hunting or self-defense.

In many cases, target shooters will find themselves purchasing a firearm chambered in .22LR.

For distances over 300 yards, something heavier will be needed, with .223 or .308 being great, common calibers that are accurate at longer distances and won't strain your wallet.

For ultra-long-range shooting, a good skill base is needed, with the current "gold standard" round being the .338 Lapua.

That particular round is a bit much for someone who's just getting started, however, and it's better to start with something cheaper.


Self-defense use of a firearm requires more thought. Since a gun used for self-defense must be reliable, stop the threat, and easy to operate the bar is set differently.

The endless arguments about stopping power, especially in online formats, is enough to drive you mad while you're trying to figure things out.

Ideally, you'll have a local range to rent various calibers of pistols. You should try out at least the common calibers before you commit to a purchase. These include .380ACP, 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP.

You should also consider whether you want to conceal the weapon or go with open carry. Compact pistols are much more comfortable to wear although they often sacrifice barrel length and magazine capacity.

Self-defense is about getting shots on target and determining how much recoil you can handle with ease is a big factor in picking a defensive pistol.

For home defense, many choose to use rifles or shotguns. In any case, you'll need range time and a thorough understanding of your new firearm before you can safely rely on it. Other factors such as apartment living, closeness of neighboring properties, and building materials may also factor in to your decision.


Hunting firearms are almost always bolt action rifles or shotguns.

The prey you're going after will determine your needs here. While a .22LR is perfectly adequate for small game, for instance, it's usually illegal to shoot larger game with one. It's also unethical, as the chances of a clean kill go far down.

For hunting birds, the firearm of choice is a shotgun, usually 12g or 20g. You'll need to learn a little bit about different types of shot if you choose to go down this road.

Larger bolt action rifles like .30-06 and .308 are great for deer and other larger game.

In any case, if you're new to hunting then choosing the right firearm may take some guidance. Be sure to ask your dealer what you're looking for and you'll be on the right course to getting the perfect firearm for the next hunting season.

Ready to Buy Your Gun?

If you think that you're ready to go about buying your first gun you came to the right place.

We offer a wide variety of firearms and accessories suitable for any use and are based out of Minnesota although we sell firearms online.

There's nothing to be worried about, why not check out our catalog today and see if we've got what you're looking for!