I recently became the first time owner of a handgun. And, if you don’t know, I live in California so getting to the point of purchase can be a quest here. In the events leading up to my proud and manly moment, there was woven a tapestry of new learnings and purchases which I think anyone out there considering becoming a first time gun owner might want to know. So, here’s a Letterman style top 10 to jumpstart you into getting your first gun:

#10 Be not afraid

To dispel fear, I did three things. I learned about gun safety, researched the mechanics of the gun I wanted to purchase, and got familiar with handling a gun. If you want to cast out fear of something that isn’t intrinsically evil, get familiar with it.

#9 Don’t listen to the media and to those who are afraid

Regardless of what anti gun people tell you, guns are safe when properly stored and handled. People that say otherwise haven’t seen a real life gun before most likely, and are scared silly of them. New gun technology is such that guns don’t just go boom without you wanting them to, and the gun safe market has tons of solid safety options to choose from in order to help you feel more secure. In addition to this finding, I was surprised at how safe “gun people” are. They aren’t a bunch of slack-jawed yokels wanting to revive the wild west. They are the first to tell you that guns can be dangerous if you don’t treat them with respect, and will recommend to you the safest path possible.

#8 Research gun shop etiquette

Don’t just hop over to your nearest gun shop and start asking to see and hold different guns. You will likely end up being asked to leave, or just plain laughed at. Instead, get online and google “gun shop etiquette.” Look at one gun at a time, and have an idea of which guns they have and the ones you want to look at. Check to see if its loaded as soon as they hand it to you (and research before you set foot in the store on how to safety check your gun of choice). Keep your finger off the trigger. Always treat a gun as if it were loaded, even after you’ve verified that it is unloaded. Ask before you dry fire. Don’t point at anyone or in a direction that might hurt someone. etc.

#7 Shop for utility first, then for sport

There are a ton of cool guns out there. And, depending on your style, you might be naturally drawn to the fully loaded thousand-dollar 9mm with fiber optics and mother of pearl grips. I recommend avoiding this as it will delay your purchase (trying to find a shop that has that in stock or can order it) and there might not be as many reviews/youtube videos out there showing how to handle it because its a rare gun. Instead, go for a market staple, maybe even a military/police issue that is safe, easy to field strip (disassemble), and accurate. I chose to get a Beretta 92fs (pictured at the top of the article), which has been the military and police issue for a while in the US. (Gun snobs, feel free to make your own recommendations in the comments section below!). It’s a full size 9mm and is super accurate…plus it has a classic military design.

#6 Don’t bulk shop ammo just yet

I made this mistake. Being an internet native, I looked up reviews for the highest rated 9mm luger ammo and added to cart. What came back was “Blazer Brass” which a lot of people seem to like. It seems to fire nicely, but I bought 1000 rounds right away before trying them with my gun. In retrospect, I would’ve felt more comfortable sampling several different brands before making a bulk order.

#5 Find a good safe, but don’t rush it

There are a ton of great safes out there with every kind of locking mechanism you can imagine (key, key code, biometric, etc.). Don’t be afraid to get recommendations from the gun sellers you are working with. I went with a two shelf, four pin, handgun safe by Gunvault. I went with two shelves because I plan on buying a concealed carry gun eventually. I like the safe, but recently this safe by Liberty has caught my eye….

#4 When you budget for your first gun purchase, budget beyond the price of the gun

You will need a safe, ammo, ammo storage, a holster that fits your gun, safety glasses, ear protection, a range bag, and probably extra mags. It will start creeping up on you real quick, so get budgeting!

#3 Have clear goals for why you want to buy a gun

Mine are simple. I am a father of 3 and own a house. I live in Southern California where there is a high crime rate and a lot of people per sq. mile. My goal is to protect the ones I love and the life I work so hard to maintain. While there already is a lively discussion on this article about what weapon you should use for home defense, I chose this one because there are a lot of tight corners in my house and I need to be mobile if there is an intruder. If you find holes in that logic, oh well. Just be please to know that I am buying a shotgun next, haha.

#2 If you have kids, strategize their safety

I am of the opinion that if you have a gun in the house your kids should know about it. If you hide it from them, the minute you accidentally leave it out of the safe and on your workbench is the minute they pick it up and treat it like a toy because they don’t know what it is. Then, God forbid. They shouldn’t be able to access it, but they should be aware of it and respectful. My oldest is 4 and I taught her these three common safety rules: If you see daddy’s gun outside its safe what should you do? 1) Don’t touch it!; 2) Leave the room!; 3) Tell mommy and daddy! I’ve also heard stories of dads having there kids learn how to handle, field strip, and clean a gun as soon as they reach the dexterous age of 7 or 8. I’ll need to work my way up to that rule of thumb, but people that do it have great success ensuring their family’s safety.

AND #1! If you have a wife, find a gun that she could handle

The Beretta I went with is really easy to load, rack, and has two safety mechanisms (double action and thumb). My wife isn’t as strong as me, so I chose a gun that was easy to handle for her and one that she would feel safe using. Now, she’s not the first to get the gun out and drool over it as soon as the kids are asleep (like me), but as soon as she gets more comfortable and less intimidated the learning curve won’t be steepened by difficulty of use. And I like that because if I am not home, nothing should hold her back from brandishing it if there is an intruder.

In closing, as an American I’ve always heard that we need to protect our rights, especially our right to bear arms. I read something recently, however, which has given me a whole new outlook on that right as well as the context from which it stemmed:

The true meaning of the word “populus,” from which we get the word “people,” was in the time of Ancient Rome the “armed body.” The pure blooded Roman in the days of the republic could not conceive of a citizen who was not a warrior. It was the arms which a Roman’s possession of land enabled him to get that qualified him to participate in the affairs of state. ..Nor is this concept alien to the ideals on which the Founding Fathers built the American system, since they stated it as the right and duty of every able-bodied citizen to bear arms. (The Armed Forces Officer, 1950 ed., page 6)

Its not just a right, its a duty. If—and yes this is a stretch of the imagination I know—there was an invasion and the military couldn’t mobilize, I’d feel a lot more confident with a gun in my house and if I could shoot the wings off a gnat.

So there you have it. I hope you found this helpful. If you have anymore tips or gun recommendations, please comment below!