The Ultimate Resource To Getting Started & Learning The Basics Of Firearms
If you’re here it can mean only one thing. You’re interested in owning and operating a new firearm.
Let me be the first to say that if you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s perfectly fine.
Guns are an inherently intimidating and complex subject. Even if you have a passion for hunting or shooting, there’s still a lot to learn about the different types of guns, their safety features, their history, and how to shoot them properly.
It’s no wonder that many people who aren’t familiar with guns might feel scared or confused about these weapons.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way! The more you know about guns and how they work, the less scary they will be.
There’s no need to feel shy or worried that you won’t be welcomed by the gun community.
Trust me when I say that the community will welcome you with open arms so long as you treat your firearm, and the handling of your firearm, with the respect it deserves.
If you want to get started learning about and using firearms in your everyday life – whether that’s as a professional hunter or shooting enthusiast – this ultimate guide will give you everything you need to know.
So sit down, grab a drink…
… And, let’s get started!
Introduction To Firearms
Okay, I’m sure you’re ready to jump right in and start going to the range to pop off a couple rounds.
Before you do though, it’s vital you understand the basics to firearms and firearm safety.
With that said, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room…
The safeguarding of your firearm is one of the most critical things you can do.
It is a full-time obligation and responsibility.
When you own a firearm you must always keep situational awareness. Your safety, along with the safety of your loved ones, depend on your correctly securing and storing your firearm so that it cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals.
It is crucial that you store your firearms and ammunition separately so that they are not accessible to children or other non-permitted people.
You must always keep your firearm unloaded and locked when not in use.
Never leave a firearm unattended unless it is unloaded, locked, and secured.
Here are the 5 pillars of firearm safety you need to follow:
1. Treat Every Firearm As If It’s Loaded
In our opinion, this is the most important rule, and if you only take away 1 rule from this article I hope this is the one you remember.
It doesn’t matter if you’re home alone and you absolutely know the firearm doesn’t have a round in the chamber.
Stay vigilant and conduct perfect practice.
Because a firearm is a mechanical device. And mechanical devices are prone to failure – which means an accidental discharge, although this is very rare.
You should never rely only on your gun’s safety to prevent accidents.
Like we said earlier, treat your firearm with the respect it deserves.
2. Trigger Finger Stays Off The Trigger Until You’re Ready To Shoot
A firearm will discharge once the trigger is pulled.
So one of the best ways to prevent an accidental shooting is to keep your finger off the trigger until you’re absolutely certain you’re ready to shoot.
Why is this rule so important to practice?
Because it prevents random events like muscle spasms, tripping, and even getting spooked by something to cause you to clench down with your hand. If your finger is off the trigger then that clenching won’t cause an accidental discharge.
3. Never Point Your Muzzle At Anything You’re Unwilling To Kill
Have you ever seen a gunshot wound?
It’s not pretty, but hopefully it gives you a quick glimpse of the power of a firearm.
Now, your muzzle is the portion of the gun where the bullet exits.
Going from the 1st rule, you have to assume that your firearm is loaded and anywhere your muzzle points at will get killed or destroyed.
There’s a great piece of advice I learned which can be helpful in visualizing this…
Think of your muzzle as having a laser, and anywhere that laser touches will instantly die.
If you keep that in mind you’ll stay out of trouble!
4. Be Certain Of Your Target, Your Line Of Fire, & What Lies Beyond Your Target
When a bullet leaves your firearm, it is your responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t harm anyone. You can never retrieve a bullet once it has been fired.
Always ensure that you have an adequate backstop and consider the ramifications if you miss your target.
If you are unsure, discontinue what you are doing and verify that your shooting location is safe.
5. Maintain Your Firearm & Body
Most instructors will usually stop at the top 4 rules and move on, but we believe this rule is equally important for long term success.
It’s important to regularly clean and maintain your gun. When you discharge ammunition there’s going to be a lot of gunk that will cause jamming in your firearm unless cleaned out regularly.
There’s nothing worse than a jammed gun.
Also, make sure to maintain your body. This means using proper eye and ear protection.
Fun fact – did you know that most gunshots will register in the 150-170 decibel range? That’s enough to rupture your eardrums if exposed for too long.
Now that you have these handy rules, let’s move onto the first piece of the puzzle.
For more safety tips when handling firearms, check out our in-depth article below:
Basics Of Bullets
Before you can start getting into the details of the firearms you need to ask yourself, what’s the purpose of my gun in the first place?
It’s to propel a projectile (at a high speed) towards a target!
So how many different projectiles are there?
There are 2 basic types of projectiles:
- Cartridges (a.k.a. bullets)
- Shotshells (used for shotguns)
Most new entrants into the firearm space typically confuse the cartridge and the bullet.
There are actually 4 different components of a cartridges:
Let’s quickly dive into each…
This is a brass or steel cylinder that holds everything together.
The primer is the piece that is struck by the firing pin and ignites the propellant.
The cartridges contain smokeless gun powder. This is an explosive chemical mixture with the only intent on propelling the bullet.
This is the actual projectile that travels to the target. It comes in a wide variety of types.
You might have guessed by now, but shotguns don’t play by the same rules as handgun or rifle rounds.
They use either a shot or a slug.
- Shot – several lead pellets (which range is size based on your intended use).
- Slug – single solid projectile fired out of a shotgun barrel.
The shot or slug sits next to a wad, gunpowder, and a primer. All these separate items are covered with a shell case.
If you would like to learn more about the different types of bullets, check out our article below:
Now that the basics are covered, let’s get right into the firearm types
Types Of Firearms
There are a lot of firearm types and sub-types.
However for the purpose of knowing the basics we can bucket the different firearm types into 3 primary buckets:
Starting from the top…
Handguns are firearms which usually have a barrel length of 3-8 inches, and are normally discharged (fired) with one hand.
There are 2 primary types of handguns:
- Semi-Automatic Pistols – these are handguns which use a magazine to hold ammunition that get fed into the chamber after initial discharge.
- Revolvers – these handguns rotate a cylinder, which holds the ammunition, in preparation for getting struck by the firing hammer. These are the kind of handguns used in old western movies.
A rifle is a firearm with an average barrel length of 20-26 inches. It gets the name rifle because of the special spiraled grooves within the barrel that spin the bullet upon ejection.
This spinning helps improve accuracy, flight stability, and distance.
Almost all rifles have buttstocks which are placed on the inner portion of your shoulder (actually the pit between your chest and shoulder) and are fired with 2 hands.
There are 2 primary types of rifles:
Single Shot (or Bolt-Action) Rifles – You must pull a bolt after every discharge to reload a new round.
Repeating Rifles (either Semi-Automatic or Fully Automatic) – These are rifles which automatically feed a new bullet into the change upon discharge. Semi-Automatic rifles will require a new trigger pull to discharge a bullet, where fully automatic rifles can discharge with 1 continuous trigger pull.
A shotgun is a shoulder-fired firearm with a smooth barrel. These firearms shoot what are called “shot” or “slugs” which are cylindrical casings that contain small metallic balls or pellets.
There are 2 primary types of shotguns:
- Break Open Shotguns – this type is where you break open the shotgun to insert new shells into the chamber to fire.
- Pump Action Shotguns – this type requires a pump to occur in order for a new load to enter into the chamber.
If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the different types of firearms, check out our article below:
How Do Firearms Work?
Guns are devices that shoot objects at high speed. The first guns were simply tubes filled with explosives and ammunition.
Just like people – every gun is different. As in they have different ways of igniting the primer to burn the gunpowder, and ultimately send that bullet to its target.
Even among these differences, every gun needs a “firing pin”, or a round metal object with the only goal of striking the primer and kick-starting the process.
Once the cartridge has been discharged and the bullet has been ejected, 2 things need to occur.
The empty cartridge has to exit the chamber…
And a new cartridge needs to enter the chamber.
Each type of firearm has a different loading mechanism, and we go into it in much further detail in our other articles.
Gun Laws & Important Legal Info For New Firearm Purchases
There are many regulations and laws governing the purchase of firearms, and, regrettably, there are so many that we will only focus on federal laws and requirements here (for now).
However, there are some key aspects you should know going in.
Before we get started… If you’re ever uncertain, check your state’s specific codes or call a lawyer!
Second Amendment And What It Means To You
If you grew up in the U.S. I’m sure you’re aware of what the second amendment is. For those of you who might now be in the states, it’s this rule which affords the right to own a firearm.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In theory, this means you’re guaranteed the right to own firearms.
Don’t get it twisted though. There are still rules we need to follow, both federally and on the state level.
Like we mentioned earlier, owning a firearm is a responsibility you can’t take lightly.
Key Federal Rules You Need To Know For Purchasing Firearms
To sell firearms commercially you need an FFL (federal firearm license). Your local gun shop will have an FFL.
This gives you 2 options for purchasing a firearm.
- Go to your local dealer and get what they have on stock.
- Buy your gun online and have it transferred to your local dealer.
Going through the FFL route requires you complete the background checks to take ownership of the gun. Then the gun club will “transfer” the firearm to you.
You do have an option to go through a private transaction (as in the seller is offering a used firearm privately, not commercially). There’s no background checks, but the selling party must have no reason to believe you’re prohibited from owning a firearm.
Remember, we’re speaking about only the federal regulations. Always double check with your state rules.
Concealed carrying is keeping a firearm on your person in a concealed manner, while in a public setting.
You’ll typically keep it in a holster or purse (if you’re smart).
The option for concealed carry is determined on the state level which varies from unrestricted to highly restrictive.
Make sure to check out our detailed articles below!
Open carrying is defined as carrying your firearm in a visible manner. Either your firearm is partially or fully visible to others.
Partially is a key word here too. Make sure you know your state’s laws regarding open carry and what “partially” means to them.
This has been an interesting law, especially in the past couple years.
Constitutional carry is defined technically as the state’s law doesn’t specifically prohibit their citizens from carrying handguns or rifles in an open or concealed way. These states don’t have a form of a permit.
There are some states with conditions to this rule, so we highly recommend you go to our state levels.
This doctrine sets out that your legally occupied area (vehicle, house, etc) provides you with certain immunities and protections for the use of deadly force in defense of your living space.
Like anything in law, there’s a lot of gray area here. For example, some states require you to try and retreat to avoid violence if possible.
But when you’re in your home, you’ve pretty much retreated as well as possible. Thus giving you some protection for defensive homicide.
Make sure to read more below and check out our other articles on gun laws.
- Federal Gun Laws
- Gun Laws By State
- States with the Strictest Gun Laws
- Cities with the Strictest Gun Laws
- States with the Weakest Gun Laws
- Common Sense Gun Laws
- Black Powder Gun Laws
- Private Gun Sale Laws
- Red Flag Gun Laws
Handling Your Firearm & Shooting Fundamentals
There’s a lot that can be said about proper firearm handling. For the purpose of this article we’re going to walk through the basics.
No matter how good your sight alignment, breath control, and other shooting skills are, your shot accuracy will suffer if your stance does not provide a stable shooting platform.
Here are the 2 primary options to try:
Personally, this is our preferred stance. It’s now the standard taught for most new shooters.
To stabilize the weapon, you put your firing side foot back and turn your supporting side towards the target, keeping his support arm bent.
Your strong, or firing arm, is extended, and your support arm is bent at the elbow. The push-pull technique is utilized to stabilize the weapon. You push with your firing arm and pull with your support arm to keep it stable.
Shoulders square to the target with feet shoulder width apart. Your knees are slightly bent and you’re slightly leaning forward.
Have you ever watched Bourne Identity?
You know. This guy.
Matt DamonJason Bourne.
Don’t hold your gun like that. Ever.
That’s called the teacup method and if you hold your handgun like that. You get this.
Instead, you want your grip to be like this…
See the difference?
There’s much more to be said, so make sure to check out our grip articles!
Have you ever closed one of your eyes, and noticed that the field of vision looks slightly different?
What you were experiencing was the difference between your dominant and non-dominant eyes.
Almost all people have a dominant eye – as always there are some exceptions to the rule here – and if you want to shoot well, you need to figure out which eye is the dominant one for you.
Here’s a quick test to determine your eye dominance:
- Find a distant object. Look for something about 15-30 feet away from you.
- Create a triangle using your hands (connect your thumbs and fingers to form the triangle) and then extend your arms out so the object is in the center of your triangle. Make sure to do this with both eyes open.
- Close one of your eyes.
- If your object stays centered with the eye open, then that’s your dominant eye. If it moves out of the frame, then that’s your non-dominant eye.
Trigger pull is a bit of a heated topic in the firearm community.
The high level of trigger pull follows along these lines: “Pull the trigger slowly with the last portion of your index finger until it releases. You want to be surprised when your round goes off.”
Now, there’s a school of thought that this is impractical to learn because during a fight or flight situation you won’t have the mental capacity to pull the trigger slowly. Instead you’ll be slapping the trigger.
We think there’s some truth to this.
However, if you’re just starting out we highly recommend you pull your trigger slowly and methodically.
Get your groupings tight first before changing things up.
Important Gear, Tools, & Other Accessories
So, you’ve got the basics down, and you’ve got your new firearm.
Now it’s time to stock up on some important gear.
You’re going to need ammo for the range. We highly recommend buying online so you avoid a 20%+ mark up by the shooting range.
Feel free to check out our shop and recommendations!
When you’re not using your firearm, you need to keep it stored in a safe place.
Consider using these firearm safe recommendations!
Holsters, range bags, optics, and so much more!
Check out our articles for the best accessories to keep your firearms clean and shooting straight for a long time.