Disclaimers: Some of the information in this article may be specific to the U.S. I am not a lawyer. You are responsible for knowing your national, state, and local laws.
I’ve been reading Return of Kings for a while now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. However, there aren’t many articles on shooting. It’s one of my favorite hobbies, and just a manly thing in general, so I’ve decided to put the basics of what I know into an article.
This article is meant to help men who are new to the gun world to gain a better understanding of firearms and ammunition. There’s a lot of misinformation and just plain ignorance that can be confusing to someone who’s new to guns. Let’s start with some commonly used (and misused) terms.
Bore: The inside of the barrel; the part which the bullet passes through.
Bullet: The projectile component of a cartridge (not to be confused with the whole cartridge.)
Cartridge: A complete unit of ammunition consisting of a primer, powder, casing, and bullet.
Casing (or case): The outer shell of a cartridge, typically made out of brass.
Chamber: Where the cartridge is seated before firing.
Clip: A small, bent piece of sheet metal designed to hold cartridges together.
FMJ: (Full Metal Jacket) refers to a type of bullet whose core is completely jacketed, typically by copper, and is not designed to expand.
Powder: Propellant component of a cartridge, modern ammo using smokeless powder.
Primer: Small component on the bottom of the cartridge. When struck by the gun’s firing pin, it ignites the powder.
Magazine: The part of a gun that holds ammunition. Many weapons today have detachable magazines. These are not to be confused with clips. A good rule of thumb to remember is that magazines, or “mags,” have springs, while clips do not.
Assault rifle: A select-fire rifle using an intermediate rifle cartridge and detachable magazine. Contrary to what the media tells you, 99.9% of AR-15’s and AK-47’s in the U.S. are semi-auto only and therefore NOT assault rifles.
Receiver: The body of a gun. In the U.S. it legally is the gun. Usually called a frame when applied to handguns.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
When it comes to buying a gun, the first thing you need to consider is what you are using it for. Everyone needs guns for different things. Hunting, concealed carry, plinking, home defense, and even defending from a tyrannical government all tend to use very different weapons. Some of these however, can be used in more than one setting.
For example, if you buy a pump-action shotgun, be sure to get a short barrel for home defense, and longer barrel for bird hunting. Additionally, some handguns, like the Glock 19, are viable for both home defense and concealed carry. So know of what type of gun and caliber you want, read up on the different guns of that type, and make your choice.
Where to buy is another matter. You can buy online, at a brick-and-mortar business, or buy from another person directly. Buying at a store is probably the most common, and if you buy from a gun range, you may get to try before you buy. Buying online (like on Gunbroker) gives you an incredibly wide selection, but the transfer must be completed through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder.
This is more complicated – you must send payment, call and ask an FFL-holding business to handle the transfer, send their info to the buyer, and then wait for the firearm to be shipped to the FFL holder. Buying from an individual gives you a pretty limited selection, but is very simple and in many states does not require any paperwork.
When the great Finnish sniper Simo Hayha was asked how he got to be such a fine shot with his rifle he said only one word: “Practice.” There’s not much point in having a gun if you’re no good with it. I’m sure some of us know a guy who has two safes with 27 different guns, but has no training, very little practice, and three boxes of dusty ammo.
Don’t be that guy. After you get your gun, don’t forget to practice with it. And then practice some more. Don’t be afraid to take some shooting classes, too. These can help you a lot with your form and technique, and therefore accuracy. They are most commonly offered for pistols, but may also be available for rifles and shotguns.
When it comes to ammo, pick a good round for hunting or home defense. Shoot a box or two of that, but then choose an inexpensive FMJ round with similar bullet weight and muzzle velocity that you can practice with. This will allow you to get good and stay good without breaking the bank.
You can go even cheaper with steel-cased ammunition, but I would only recommend that for guns designed for it – namely AK-type rifles and some other Russian- designed guns. Another way to save money over the long term (if you shoot a lot) is to reload the brass casings using new components and a reloading press. This is a bit complicated for beginners, but I may write a separate article on it in the future.
Storing and Owning
Be sure to store your gun in a good environment. If you haven’t shot a gun in a long time, check up on it every few months to make sure it’s free of corrosion, and maybe put a thin layer of oil on the bore. Make sure that it’s in a cool, dry place, and stored where someone can’t easily get to it when you’re not around. Store your ammo in a similar environment.
Next, have some emergency ammo stored away, separate from whatever cases of ammo you’re currently shooting through. You never know if there will be a long-term situation where you can’t just drive five minutes to a store and pick up a case of ammo – some new draconian law may get passed, a natural disaster may occur, or there may be massive civil unrest.
You don’t need 10,000 rounds of ammo per gun, but having enough to reload your main defensive weapon 25 times, and any others 15 times, is probably a good idea. Also, assuming your gun uses detachable mags, have an ample supply of these as well.
Owning guns and shooting guns are two of the most fun things I can think of doing. Knowing the right way to go about them can make them even more fun. Know your laws and do your homework on the best guns for your situation. Then pick out a gun and have some fun.