COCKED & READY
Important Considerations for First-Time Gun Buyers
How to buy a gun. How to store it. How to clean it. Training. In this primer, you'll find out everything you need to know about becoming a gun owner for the first time.
Even with many channels on a 24-hour news cycle and the Internet a never-ending pipeline of information, the American public only hears of a scant sliver of the many domestic crimes—robberies, burglaries, home invasions—that happen around the country. According to the FBI, there are around 1.8 million burglaries reported in the United States each year, with financial losses related to these crimes estimated at around $4 billon. The average dollar loss per burglary is calculated to be $2,251. Add to that the personal injury sustained by victims who have the misfortune to be home during those robberies, and the risks associated with these crimes escalates.
More people are taking an interest in protecting themselves by purchasing a record number of firearms so far in 2017, but there are many consider-
“WOULD YOU HAVE BOTH THE PSYCHOLOGICAL COMPOSURE AND SHOOTING SKILL TO HANDLE A POTENTIALLY DEADLY ENCOUNTER ...”
ations one should contemplate before heading to your local firearms store. The man with the answers is Simon Cruz Jr., the director of operations at Double Tap Training Center in Granada Hills, Calif., a facility that teaches not only firearms safety and maintenance classes, but tactical shooting courses, close-quarter battle tactics, and security/first responder courses.
ARE YOU A GUN PERSON?
The idea of protecting yourself and your family at all costs is a noble endeavor that no man would shrink from, but are you a gun person?
Are you prepared to take a life if necessary? Do you feel that by owning a firearm, you have the confidence and wherewithal to operate it quickly and safely, under massive amounts of stress if the reason should call for it? Would you have both the psychological composure and shooting skill to handle a potentially deadly encounter with only seconds to make a life-ordeath decision?
If you answer no to any of these, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a gun. It just means that you might not be ready for one yet. It also means you might lack the experience you need to be confident with a firearm, which is common for many first-time gun buyers. This can change with ample amounts of training.
DO YOU NEED A GUN FOR SELF-DEFENSE?
So, you live in a great neighborhood with a very low crime rate. You know all your neighbors, and you have no problem walking the streets at night.
Why do you need a gun?
Is there any likelihood you’ll need a firearm to defend yourself from an armed home invasion, a car-jacking or any other number of assaults? Access the real risk potential of your current situation. What are the crime stats in your area? Women and the elderly are more likely to be victims of crimes.
Regardless of need versus want, odds are good you own a fire extinguisher (but has your house ever caught fire?). It is important to be prepared for the worst situation you can imagine because when that situation confronts you, it is better to be prepared than to be a victim. Despite the actual crime-risk level in your area, don’t take unnecessary chances or voluntarily surrender to become a victim without putting up a fight.
WHERE TO START?
The best place to start is to find out
“I RECOMMEND TRYING DIFFERENT BRANDS AND CALIBERS TO SEE WHAT FITS THE BEST. IT’S JUST LIKE BUYING A CAR.”
— SIMON CRUZ
what kind of firearm you may think you’ll need … a handgun, shotgun or AR-15.
An 1853 Enfield musket won’t do very well for home defense, but would look great in your collection, while a .45 caliber Glock 37 can pack a powerful punch for self-defense, but it might not make a good home defense weapon if you live in a thinwalled apartment.
Visit your local gun store and ask as many questions as you can … and you’ll likely to get a lot of different answers. However, in choosing a gun, consider your personal characteristics. What is your body stature and hand size? Do you have any experience with firearms at all? How likely will you use it regularly (or at all)?
Pick up and handle several guns in your price, interest and size range. How do they feel in your hand? Too heavy? Too long? Too thick? Simon suggests that, “The buyer has to fit the handgun he/she is buying. I recommend trying different brands and calibers to see what fits the best. It’s just like buying a car. Test drive first.” See our sidebar “Factors to Consider” for more information.
BUYING A GUN
The actual process of buying a gun can be quite complex, but any competent gun shop owner will be able to guide you through the process. Still, it is an excellent idea to know what you’re in for, because, as the owner of a firearm, it is your responsibility to understand and comply with all federal, state and local laws regarding firearms ownership.
In California, for example, one of the strictest states in which to buy a gun, you must be 18-years old to buy a rifle or shotgun and 21 to buy a handgun. You also need a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID.
If you’re not sure if you can legally own a firearm, you can always fill out a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check, pay the $20 filing fee and wait the 60 days for the results. Barring that, you’ll need a Firearms Safety Certificate showing that you have passed a written safety test (either online or in person at a firearms training center). That will cost you $25. When passed, you can legally purchase a firearm in the state of California. Other states may differ.
Once in the gun shop, you’ll need to fill out an ATF Form 4473 and a Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) form, which will cost an additional $25. And you’ll need to provide your right thumb print.
There is a mandatory 10-day waiting period before the dealer can deliver your gun. During this time, the Department of Justice conducts a “firearms eligibility background check,” the purpose of which is to ensure you are not prohibited from owning a firearm. In California, there are several ways in which you may be ineligible to purchase a gun, including, but not limited to, conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 29805, conviction of a felony, narcotics addiction, mental incompetence and other reasons.
You will also have to prove you own a safe or have purchased a gun lock. You will be given a safe handling demonstration, and sign a form saying you completed it.
It isn’t easy to buy a gun—at least in California—so the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. In other states, there are no waiting periods, or the waiting periods are less. And, most states use a NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check) system.
Where will you keep it? In a safe in the garage? In your nightstand? This may determine how readily you can reach it in an emergency and how quickly you’ll need to get it. If you are concerned about break-ins and personal assaults because you live in a bad neighborhood, you’ll want to keep it close (consider a handgun safe with a quick combo), whereas if you are worried about less frequent dangers (perhaps you live near a prison), keeping a rifle or shotgun in a safe will suffice.
“There are different types of pistol safes nowadays that are discreet and can be secured and opened using the owner’s biometrics (fingerprints) or combination codes,” reminds Simon. “Any locked cabinet or drawer would also do. Placing the secured firearm in a higher storage area also keeps children from reaching it.”
GET THE PROPER TRAINING
Training cannot be neglected. Once you have your gun, it’s critical to get the hands-on time at a range.
“It is very important to get the specific training for the gun you have, or the one you are about to purchase,” says Simon. “I highly recommend training with NRA-certified training counselors and pistol instructors. NRA-certified trainers adhere to national standards of teaching pistol owners how to own and operate a pistol safely.” Remember that firearm training classes are more than just about how to shoot. You will learn how to avoid potentially dangerous encounters, and you’ll learn home and outdoor defense tactics.
Cruz, who has been a firearms trainer and range master for over 25 years, suggests: “First, take a formal pistol course that includes proper disassembly/assembly and cleaning the gun. Second, have quality cleaning supplies. And third, learn to function check the gun after cleaning and before live-firing.”
In essence, your goal is to become a safe firearm owner who knows gun safety rules, and have a thorough understanding of the complete operation and safe handling of your gun. The actual shooting portion of your training isn’t meant to make you Annie Oakley, but instead instill you with the confidence to operate a firearm in a potentially stressful situation properly and safely. HD
When you begin your search for the right gun, do a thorough search before making a final decision. The AR-15 is a solid choice for a home defense weapon.
Photo: Terrill Hoffman If you opt for a shotgun as your home defense
xwxexapon, consider that experts point out their reliability, simplicity and tactical usefulness.
Bottom: Training is critical. To maintain your skills, get to the range on a regular basis.
Top: Get a feel for a gun before you buy it. Simon Cruz says try different brands and calibers. “It’s just like buying a car,” he says.
When you purchase a firearm, make sure you know, understand and comply with all federal, state and local laws.