Before Shooting a New Gun for the First Time

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If you were lucky enough to come into a new piece of hardware this holiday season, you may want to consider a few things before you load up. The last thing you want to do is turn a gift into a nightmare.

Step 1. Calm Down

Don't just run out, jam some rounds into the firearm, and take some pot shots at an improvised back yard range. Breathe here buddy, it will be OK. Resist that urge to field strip this gun you haven't seen before to inspect its inner workings to the most minor degree. We need to do some research first.

Step 2. Read the Manual

A great man once said that the first thing you should do with a manual is throw it away. The second thing is to remember where you threw it. While this is funny when you are talking about blenders, treadmills, or other household gadgets, firearms are absolutely tied to their manuals, which make the above statement true to its core.

When getting a new (or new to you) firearm, in a safe location and without any ammunition in the firearm or even in the same room, unbox it and find the manual. Then sit back and read it cover to cover. Now manufacturers have never made those things very lively reading, but bear with us and do this. Most are simple 15-20 page pamphlets that cover loading, unloading, safety features, manipulation, cleaning, and nomenclature.

Here's a tip, if you don't have one with your gun, search the internet, and see if it's out there. Most large US manufacturers will have online versions of new and current catalog guns available on their website for instant viewing free. Calls to their customer service will usually get you a paper copy sent out for the cost of postage. True gun lover Stephen Ricciardelli has hundreds of them up for free to download in pdf format for older guns. Vintage Gun Leather also mirrors many of these if Steve ever goes offline.

You really shouldn't even take the gun out of the box until you read that manual.

Step 3 Get in touch with the community

Odds are your gun will have some tips and tricks to its operation that aren't covered in that really nice manual. This is where you go online and check in on your various forums (um, we know of one in particular... ) and read up on your gun. Usually, unless it's a very new gun or a custom job that you have the first 100 of, there will be a collection of You Tube videos up by armchair firearms enthusiasts reviewing what they like and don't like, how to break it down, and their overall thoughts on the gun. *Take these all with a huge grain of salt* However they usually will be informative enough to give you a tip of two not mentioned in the manual that may save you a headache.

Who needs more of those?

(hint, you may have that light on a little wrong here big guy...)

Step 4 Log your gun

In a safe place known to you, write down the gun's vitals. This should include the maker, model, caliber, serial number, and when you got it. Then take a few pictures of the gun for your records. This is just for your information if something was to happen such as the gun becoming lost, destroyed, or stolen. Of course follow your local laws (CA, NJ, CT, etc.) if you have to register this new addition to the family as well.

Step 5 Get your warranty stuff taken care of

(Top right hand corner, warranty card, use it!)

I can't tell you how many used guns I have bought that were ten years old and still had the warranty card in its virgin condition in the back of the box. The maker to establish a database for repair work recalls, and warrant work uses these. Hint: if they don't know you have the gun, they aren't going to send you a letter if there is a recall, which could be bad. How many brand new to the market guns have been recalled right out of the box in recent years? Think about it.

Yes, we know, all of this sounds like a huge bummer on a happy day, but look before you leap, and do it by the numbers.

Nobody wants to be that guy who can't figure out how to load his gun on the range, can't remember what type of gun he had to begin with if it went missing, and then sells the empty box with the unfilled warranty card on eBay for $10.

That's just embarrassing.

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