So you’ve decided to purchase a handgun. Hopefully you also made a few other decisions before the big purchase, as there are things you need to help you use, carry, and store your new gun safely and responsibly. For a detailed list of what should be in anyone’s first handgun starter kit, I asked Matt Canovi, a firearms trainer with a law enforcement and military background, for his advice. Canovi runs 4- to 10-day training courses at Canovi and Associates, based in Springfield, Mo. Here’s what he told me:
“You’d never buy a car without learning how to drive it first,” says Canovi, “so you shouldn’t make the decision to own a handgun without some training.” You can get training through group courses or via one-on-one instruction at a reputable range.
Courses differ, so decide (if you haven’t already) for what you’ll use the gun. Will it be for home defense? Do you intend to carry it for personal defense? Or are you buying it only for sport? If you’re not sure, some introductory courses can help you answer these questions. The National Shooting Sports Foundation can help you find shooting ranges that might offer training.
Remember, as you learn, that you’ll have to teach the four rules of safe gun handling to your family, roommates, and anyone who lives with you:
Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.
Invest in a cleaning kit and learn how to disassemble and reassemble your model of firearm, according to the manufacturer’s directions. If you didn’t get a manual with your gun, you can download one online. YouTube has some videos that show how to take certain guns apart, clean them, and reassemble.
There are a lot of great cleaning kits on the market. Hoppe’s 1.2.3. Done! cleaning kits have everything you need in three simple steps. Make sure you get a kit that’s appropriate for the caliber of your gun.
Even if you’re going to use the gun for personal defense, you’ll need a place to store it when you won’t be carrying it. Storage options range from small safes that you can carry or fit in a nightstand drawer to walk-in gun safes. Do you want to store it in the “ready position” for home defense? If so, Canovi recommends the safes from GunVault.
Another good option is the Browning PV1000 Pistol Vault, which has a four-button touch pad that enables you to open the gun safe in the dark without a key. There are also many locker-type gun safes, such as the RedHead 10 Gun Safe.
Canovi warns that biometric safes, which read fingerprints or other physical characteristics, can be sensitive to scratches and changes to fingerprints as we age. Canovi prefers a gun safe that allows for finger-pad access, and recommends that you always buy a safe with a backup key.