Month: April 2018

Your First Firearm-Now What?

Your First Firearm-Now What?

Your First Firearm

You just purchased your first firearm. After you get home and open the box, you may ask yourself, “Now what?” Whether that firearm is a long gun or a handgun, there are common actions you can take to ensure you handle the firearm safely. First among them is read the manual.

Read the Manual

Since this is your first firearm it is most important, for your safety and those around you, that you read the manual that came with it, first! Most manuals include sections on safety, safe storage, identifying ammunition, feature identification, operation, field stripping, and maintenance, as well as warranty information. The second thing to do is read the manual, again, especially the sections on operation, field stripping, and maintenance.


Virtually all manufacturer’s manuals include safety and responsibility statements. As a firearm owner and handler, safety is your responsibility. The first safety rule stated in nearly all owner’s manuals is “Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.” Other safety rules follow, including how to safely store your firearm when it is not in use.


Depending on the manufacturer, emphasis on identifying proper ammunition may be part of the operation section, or it may be separate. Regardless of where it is located in the manual, knowing the cartridge type required by your firearm is vital to its safe operation. Use only the proper caliber and cartridge type that is marked on your firearm. The manual shows where the markings are, but use only the ammunition type marked on the firearm itself. This is especially important when .223/5.56×45 and .308/7.62×51 calibers are involved, for example. Typically, firearms marked .223 or 7.62×51 can use the caliber specified only, whereas firearms marked 5.56×45 or .308 can use both. Read the manual!

Features and Operation

Typically, the next section of owners’ manuals identify the features and operation of your firearm. Virtually all manuals have an illustration that identifies each feature. Take the time to become familiar with all of them. After identifying the features of your firearm, most manuals identify how to inspect and manipulate its safety features, and its action. Once again, take the time to make yourself familiar with manipulating both the safety features, and the firearm’s action. Many manuals also include a section that outlines the action required by the operator (you) if malfunctions occur–become familiar with those operations as well.

Field Stripping and Maintenance

“Field stripping” is the disassembly of the firearm to its major components so that it may be cleaned, inspected, and lubricated. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction most carefully. Most firearms have springs that are under tension. Failing to follow the manufacturer’s disassembly instructions fully can result in injury to yourself, or others around you, or launching a spring into space, never to be found. Never disassemble a firearm further than the disassembly instructions. Among the manual’s instructions for disassembly and maintenance are instructions for lubrication. Follow them carefully, then reassemble your firearm as shown in your manual.

Training and Practice

If you have never fired a firearm, it is important that you get competent training in order to be introduced, and become familiar with the fundamentals of shooting your firearm. Training is learning things that were previously unknown–practice is applying that which was learned previously.

Competitive Shooting

Once you are familiar with shooting your firearm safely, consider participating on a competitive shooting sport, such as the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), or the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). The people in these sports are welcoming and knowledgeable, and more than willing to help you learn, and enjoy, the discipline.

Support the Right to Bear Arms

The constitutional right to bear arms is under assault. There are many in the United States who want to completely and totally ban firearms, both handguns and long guns. One of the ways in which we, as firearm owners, can get a greater voice is by joining national associations that fight to protect and preserve our constitutional right. Consider joining and contributing to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Gun Owners of America (GOA), or the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).