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Guide to Buying Your First Handgun

So you’ve got determined to purchase a handgun. However what’s next? Opposite to what some people declare, you may’t just walk into a store and buy a gun as simply as you may get bread or milk — however even should you might, there are still good reasons to take your time and think carefully throughout the process.

The first query you must answer is “Why do I need a handgun?” Most people have one in all three answers: for self-protection, for leisure shooting or for hunting. Most handguns are designed primarily for one in all these uses, and for those who buy one ill-suited to your needs, you’ll likely have a disappointing experience.

Self-defense handguns typically have good stopping power (more on calibers a bit later), streamlined controls and either a high capacity or good concealability. Sporting handguns are often small-caliber, affordable and mechanically simple, although organized shooting sport leagues can require all manner of handguns. Hunting handguns are generally heavy, giant-caliber revolvers that require confidence and expertise to deal with correctly.

Should you take some time to get really clear on why you need a handgun and what you need it to do for you, the research and shopping phases will be more productive and enjoyable, and you will be more glad with your purchase within the lengthy run.

For those who live within the U.S., you’ll want to know and abide by federal, state and county firearm laws. In cases where laws from completely different jurisdictions contradict one another, the stricter law applies.

The first step in changing into a responsible handgun owner is to become totally acquainted with these laws. Internet research is a good place to start, however it’s best to cross-reference everything you find towards a number of other sources to make sure the information is accurate. Finally, we advocate checking with your native police department or sheriff’s office. They might help you make sure that you understand the law, and most will provide concise pamphlets or web pages that you can reference later.

Certain federal laws are pretty fundamental and apply to all gun owners in all states. As a way to buy a handgun legally, it’s essential to:

Not have a criminal report, with certain limited exceptions

Pass a strict background check (when you’re buying a gun from a licensed firearm vendor; private sellers will not be required to conduct background checks on consumers, however most do anyway)

Not suffer from sure mental illnesses which will impair your judgment

Not have undergone treatment for drug or alcohol addiction within the last five years

Be a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant

Be not less than 18 if buying from a private seller or 21 if buying from a licensed vendor (note that in most (if not all) states, the minimum age to hold a handgun in public is 21. Additionally, there is no such thing as a federal age restriction concerning rifle or shotgun ownership.)

Federal firearm laws don’t mandate any particular licensing or training, although many state laws do. Few states require licensing or training in order merely to own a handgun, although most require some form of license or permit with the intention to carry one in public. Some state laws additional distinguish between open and concealed carry, and should require licensing for one but not the other.

A small number of states (notably New York and California) will not concern permits to hold a handgun in public unless you may show proof of a credible threat against your life or property. Though it is authorized to carry a handgun in such places in very limited circumstances, for most individuals, it’s successfully illegal.

For those who plan to buy a handgun for hid carry, know that there are just a few completely different sets of laws that adjust by state. Also, remember to read our guide on how to choose a hid carry handgun for more information.

Constitutional Carry (or Unrestricted)

This is probably the most permissive concealed carry paradigm. In the event you can legally own the handgun, you can legally conceal it in public, no license or permit required. However, acquiring a license may confer additional privileges. For example, in Arizona, it’s possible you’ll carry anywhere without a permit, except in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol. Acquiring a CCW license allows you to carry in these places as well, with the owner’s consent. Note that a CCW permit doesn’t override property rights; business owners are free to prohibit weapons on their property for any reason, in the event that they so choose.


“Shall-problem” jurisdictions are those in which the sheriff or other relevant creatority will situation CCW permits to anybody who applies for one, barring those that fail to fulfill basic eligibility criteria.


In these places, you might or may not receive a permit if you happen to apply for one. The government company that makes these choices does so on a case-by-case foundation and will or may not use objective criteria.


The most restrictive states successfully don’t enable civilians to carry at all. Native sheriffs might difficulty a very small number of permits (often to their friends and allies), but average citizens shouldn’t depend on getting one.

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