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So You Got A Gun For The Holidays, Now What? The Basics.

You got a gun for the holidays, now what?

I’m hoping the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays have proven warm and fruitful for my small readership. Time spent in the company of family and loved ones is worth it. And maybe, just maybe, you received something that goes “bang”!

You got a gun for the holidays - now what?

The Care And Feeding Of Your New Gun

So, there was a gun under the tree (figuratively) or handed out after the candles were lit with your name on it. Whether it was a shiny new GLOCK 45, an AR of some sort, or a vintage Mosin, you’ve received quite the gift. Sure, any modern firearm will go “bang” out of the box, but there’s a little more to it from a setup perspective.

A Heckler & Koch VP9 in it's component pieces

Safety note: Before anything, learn the four rules of firearms safety.

Break Down Your Gun, Clean It, And Lube It

Your new acquistion will most likely ship ready to go. It’s already assembled. You could just add ammo and get to shooting. But, that’s not recommended. You’ll want to break it down and check the working components for obvious defects and issues. It’s also a great learning experience, seeing the inner workings of your new tool. You’ll also be forced to “read the f— manual” - RTFM.

Whether it’s a rifle, pistol, or shotgun, there’s common elements to check. Examine the barrel, bolt carrier/slide, trigger group, receiver/frame, and any springs for obvious cracks and defects. Clear any packing material. Also you’ll be doubly sure no live ammo somehow made it’s way into your new gun. Remember, they usually test-fire the piece at the factory. It’s entirely possible a round could be in there.

Now, the firearm may appear to be lubricated already. Technically it is. But that lube is more of a basic grease compound designed to keep the gun fresh for shipping and storage. It’s not a true working compound. So, grab a bottle of quality lubricant (I recommend Breakthrough Clean Battle Born), and apply a decent amount to the working surfaces of the firearm. By working surfaces I mean any component of the gun that moves across another component. You want to decrease friction and protect those metallic components. Read the manual that came with your gun for specifics.

Now, reassemble it, work the slide/bolt. This builds good habits to check the firearm’s status and function. You should always know the status of your firearm. Is it loaded? Unloaded? Safe? Ready to fire? Dry fire to make sure everything is just so, but only once you are absolutely sure the firearm is clear of any live ammo. You could load a snap cap (dummy round) if you’d like to simulate loading.

Safety note: Don’t have any live ammo around at this point. Be safe.

Learn the manual of arms and dry fire target=”_blank”

Your new firearm is lubricated and hopefully free of obvious defects. Now it’s time to learn a little about it, aka the manual of arms. In days of old, the manual of arms was, well, a manual that dictated procedures for the use and servicing of a firearm. It even covered stances and parade drills with a specific gun. In our Regular parlance, it’s basically just going through the operation of the firearm.

Safety note: You shouldn’t have live ammo around at this point. Again, snap caps come in handy if you’re looking to practice loading.

Dry fire your gun a few times to get a feel for the trigger, it’s break, reset, and so on. Take those snap caps and practice loading the magazine, and chambering rounds. Pointing in a safe direction, get a feel for the gun and the sights. Rinse and repeat. Adjust anything that can be adjusted so the gun fits your better. A lot of pistols come with interchangeable grip panels and backstraps, and an AR will most likely have an adjustable stock.

Feed your gun!

Feed your gun

Your gun isn’t going to magically create ammo out of thin air and fire it. You’ll need ammunition, and some spare magazines of course to hold those freedom pills. In the pistol world, I’ve noticed most pistols ship with 2 or even 3 spare magazines, which is great to start. As of late I’ve noticed rifle makers only including one magazine, or none at all. Stock up with my friends at The Mag Shack, of course.

What ammo should I get?

To start, you’ll need range/training ammo. Range and training ammunition is usually ball/full metal jacket (FMJ), which basically means the projectile is solid and in the shape of what most people think of when they think “bullet”. There’s thousands of manufacturers of range/training ammo out there, but generally you can’t go wrong with the manufacturers that supply professional users. For FMJ ammo stick with Hornady, Speer, Federal, and Winchester. Be wary of gun show specials from reloaders. Some of them are quite good and amazingly affordable. Some are just plain bad. You don’t want to risk a bad round ruining your gun, or yourself. Do your research if you go the reload route.

Safety note: Most gun manufacturers won’t perform warranty service on a gun if reloaded ammo is used.

Safety note: Triple check your ammo is the same caliber as your firearm. In some cases it can be easy to confuse ammunition. For example, some surplus .380 ammo from Europe may be labeled “9mm Short” or “9mm Kurz”, which is different from the ubiquitous 9mm Luger.

After you get your range ammo, you’ll need to pick up some defensive/duty ammo. Usually in the famous hollow-point configuration, defensive ammo is meant for real-world defensive use. The hollow shape is designed to incapacitate and neutralize a threat. Defensive ammo is usually more expensive than training ammo. In terms of what one should get, stick with the known manufacturers. Hornady, Speer, Federal, Black Hills, Winchester, and Barnes come to mind.

Once you acquire your ammo, it is recommended to practice loading your magazines and firearm with live ammuntion. Yes, this can be done at home. But you must observe all the tenets of safe gun handling in the process. A negligent discharge in the home can produce tragic results.

You’ll get a feel for the weight of the loaded firearm, as well as a feel for the spring in the magazine. In some cases, the spring is quite stout and can make the magazine initially difficult to load. A loader is recommended.

If the gun isn’t to be used or carried, unload it and store it safely away.

Gotta tote it around safely.

Carry your gun

More applicable for pistols of course. If you are going to carry your gun, you need to have a quality holster for it.

What should a quality holster have in terms of features?

In summary, a proper holster should:

  • be fitted to the specific gun for maximum retention. “Universal” holsters should be avoided.

  • Be made of kydex. Kydex stands up to abuse and will never lose shape over the lifetime of the holster under even hard use.

While there’s plenty of holster companies out there that do an amazing job, there’s a few to avoid. Off the bat, avoid Blackhawk Serpa holsters. The retention system may seem effective and intuitive, but due to it’s placement, it has contributed to negligent discharge incidents in a few cases. A lot of instructors will not even allow them in their classes. Also the retention mechanism can pick up grit or dirt and jam, and will not release your firearm without mechanical (i.e. tools) intervention.

If possible, try some holsters on before committing to one. Also, consider multiple holsters for different occasions. For some of my pistols, I have an outside-the-waistband (OWB) and inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster depending on the use case.

Also consider holsters for spare magazines. You’ll probably want to carry a spare magazine or two.

Store your gun

One of the tenets of effective self-defense with a firearm is to have one on you whenever possible. Yes, home carry is a thing and should be done. But, let’s face it, sleeping with a holstered firearm is uncomfortable and potentially unsafe. And it’s just plain weird if you’re sleeping with an AR. Don’t play into the anti-gun population’s accusations, ha ha. So, you’ll need a safe place to store your firearms.

The first thing you’ll need to know is that most gun storage solutions that call themselves “gun safes” really aren’t safes. They are “Residential Security Containers” and really only meant to deter casual curious people (children) and opportunistic thieves. The Gun Safe Review Guy covers this in detail, so I’m not going to rewrite the Bible.

However, I will recommend two gun storage solution types. The first thing you should have is a small bedside storage unit. V-Line makes a great line of affordable units for bedside use. The idea is to prevent casual interlopers from gaining access to your guns.

The second storage unit you should have is a full-size unit to store long guns and guns you don’t use a lot. Now, here’s the kicker. A “true safe” often costs thousands of dollars and can easily weigh thousands of pounds. You’re not only paying for the safe, but for someone to move it for you. On a true safe you can often get a deal though if you seek out used safes at your local safe dealer (yes, they exist!) who will often have safes from closing jewelry shops and the like. A jewelry safe will have shelving, but that can be removed.

Regardless of what you pick, you will need a safe storage solution.

Part 2 - Training

Part 3 - The Philosophy

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