Beginning Gun Advice?
September 10, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in getting into shooting guns (targets, not hunting). Looking for advice on where to start.

So although I've always been interested in guns (and have played plenty of Airsoft over the years), I got the chance to actually shoot some real firearms last weekend, and I think I'm hooked. It's even more impressive that it took this long because I live in Texas...

So I'm looking for some advice on where to start. I've shot a shotgun, rifle and pistol and enjoyed them all, but I think I liked the rifle best and the shotgun least. I'm open to any of the three though, so if one would be better to start with then I'd like to know that.

I'm also not sure what caliber I should start with, I was thinking a .22 since the guns and ammo are cheap and they don't have as much recoil, but would I be better off getting a larger-caliber weapon to get used to recoil from the start? I just really don't know what the best way to go is.

I look forward to hearing your advice. This is something I'd like to get a start with so I can be doing it for the rest of my life, but I want to be smart about my choices now so as to build a strong foundation in skill. Thanks all!
posted by DMan to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Take the NRA's Basic Pistol Shooting Course (or the same for Rifles, if that interests you more). You'll learn all the basics, a good bit of law applicable to your area, spend about half the time on the range handling a variety of guns (including about half that time actually firing them), and at the end you'll at least know what you need to know. :)

It takes eight hours, and expect to pay $70-100.
posted by pla at 11:30 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest you start with a .22 and move up once you get the feel of things. Take pla's advice and take a shooting course. Have fun!
posted by itsamonkeytree at 11:40 AM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: I think Gunnit is one of the better online firearms discussion groups these days. They're pretty noob-frendly and don't mind answering questions from beginning shooters. I posted a question there about my old rusty rifle and got some great suggestions for what to do to it and one user sent me some polishing material in the mail for free. I also got some realtime pointers in their irc channel when putting new sights on same. They maintain a bit of a FAQ that has some great information for beginners as well, which would be useful even if you don't care much for the subreddit as far as daily reading material.
posted by Edogy at 11:46 AM on September 10, 2011

I would also start with a .22 -- in my experience, working with the .22 initially allowed me to develop a sense of confidence, so that when I went up to heavier firepower (9 mm pistol and .357 revolver) I wasn't as intimidated or have that vague fear of being out of control of the weapon.
posted by scody at 12:04 PM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: I'll second taking the NRA beginners courses. Believe it or not, there are a lot of rules and etiquette that go along with firearms. Knowing these rules, and the correct way to behave, will keep yourself and everyone else at the range safe, It will also keep you from looking like an idiot or doing something dumb. You should also look into joining a local range or gun club. It will give you a place to shoot, friends to shoot with and people to learn from. Many ranges also offer different courses to learn handling and shooting techniques, as well as competitions.

The two biggest factors in deciding which weapon you want to own and shoot are cost and where you'll be shooting. There is no point in owning a high powered rifle if your local range doesn't allow them, or if they don't have long enough ranges to make them worth shooting. Shooting .22's are a good place to start. They are easy to handle and learn with, plus the ammo is really cheap. Shooting large calibers can get expensive really fast. It's simple to burn through a few hundred rounds in an afternoon, and if you're shooting 7.62's or .380's it starts to add up. That being said, shooting large caliber weapons is a blast.

I really enjoy clay shooting. If you live near a clay shooting course, you might look into getting a .14 gauge shotgun. Clays are challenging, and there is a competitive, sporting element that is really enjoyable.

Whatever you do, be safe, be reasonable and enjoy yourself!
posted by EvilPRGuy at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could also attend some gun shows in your area (looks like there is one in Lubbock, TX on October 22-23 at the Civic Center). At many of these shows, local collectors, gun shops, gun and hunting clubs, and even shooting ranges in your area will exhibit, and for a small admission fee, you get to survey most of the resources for the shooting hobby in one place, at one time. You'll learn a lot, and get a chance to make good contacts to help you get started and progress safely in shooting sports.
posted by paulsc at 1:01 PM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: I agree that .22 is the place to start. It's much easier to establish good habits and then learn how to maintain them despite recoil than it is to start heavy and then un-learn some of the things recoil (may have) taught you, like flinching or poor trigger control. Besides, shooting .22 is dirt-cheap (the Savage Mk. II FV is a nice bull-barrel target rifle with adjustable trigger that's often less than $250 brand new, and a box of 500 rounds will cost you less than $25) and a ton of fun.

I think it's a great idea to take a shooting course. If there's a competitive .22 shooting group at your gun range, you should also check that out -- I shoot .22 silhouette, and it's a fun & laid-back way to practice, meet other shooters, and get feedback on your offhand shooting skills. You can compete with either a .22 rifle or pistol (with almost any kind of non-laser scope or sight), so shooting silhouette is a great way to get good with both. Smallbore rifle competition (shooting paper targets from standing, sitting, kneeling, and prone positions) is also great, and will teach you to become very, very accurate with iron sights if you stick with it; once you start shooting larger calibers you can move from this to shooting high power rifle matches.
posted by vorfeed at 1:22 PM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Came in to second vorfeed. Smallbore is loads of fun, it's cheap and everything you learn is transferrable.
posted by jet_silver at 2:30 PM on September 10, 2011

Does your area have feral animals that act as agricultural or environmental pests? Eg. pigs, rabbits, goats, cats, foxes, donkeys, camels, introduced species of deer, introduced birds, even some types of rats and mice. Or do you have native animals that are plague breeders in circumstances where introduced farming or pastoral practices have altered the local environment. Here the classic case would be some types of kangaroos (and occasionally emus) in wheat country.

If so, may I suggest you think about hunting? By all means learn to handle your gun and shoot safely, then hone your skills during a course (or two) and during practice on the range. But then consider the fact that small caliber guns aren't just playthings or sports equipment.

They're useful tools that were developed for a range of purposes. The most useful and socially acceptable of those purposes is getting rid of animals that are eating your food before it leaves the farm, or eating/out-competing your cute and environmentally important native wildlife.

Learning to use your gun to deal with those situations (assuming they exist where you are), offers a range of benefits. Firstly, you and your gun (and the skills you have with it) are doing something genuinely useful. You're contributing to a situation in which farming costs less, or native animals survive, and that's a good thing even for people who don't live in farming communities or enjoy watching native fauna. Secondly, you develop a very real and immediate sense of what your gun is for, what it can do, and how it should be used and respected. That's something you don't necessarily get from courses and targets, and it's something I wish more gun owners had. Thirdly, you get some serious skills out it. Shooting a moving rabbit at a couple of hundred yards versus shooting a stationary target at any distance.. they're different things. Fourthly, despite the primary goal being eradicating agricultural or environmental pests, there's a level at which killing an animal (and - depending on what it is - maybe processing it for skin and meat), is rather intensely grounding. It reminds you that humans are at the top of the food chain, it reminds you that your food is the flesh of dead animals, it reminds you that killing is part of life. I don't want to make a big fuss about that stuff, because it's silly when it's overdone (all warpaint and camo and streak of blood on your forehead type thing), but those are things that are more important than many people think.

Anyway. Nthing start with a .22 during courses, with a club, on the range. Then.. the internet tells me your area has a problem with pigs. Something with more weight and propellant than .22 LR or WMR is wise for pigs. They can get real feisty if you don't knock em down quick. Whatever you choose, it doesn't have to be large caliber but it does want a bit of punch. .22 Hornet works for me, but sometimes takes two or three shots. And then, get in touch with hunting clubs, farmers groups or local professional hunters, and see whether they're willing to let you tag along.

Finally, if you do end up taking wild pig home for food, cook it well.
posted by Ahab at 10:32 PM on September 10, 2011

@EvilPRGuy: Agree about clays, but surely you mean .12 gauge. There are .14 gauge shotguns, but they're pretty much curiosities at this point, and rare.
posted by kjs3 at 8:09 AM on September 12, 2011

Best answer: I agree with what everyone is saying about small bore. I started on .22 handguns and rifles and I think it allowed me to feel comfortable about gun handling and safety. I shoot .40 handgun now and have consistent aim even though I haven't shot much in the past 20 years.

I also wanted to jump in to suggest revisiting the shotgun. I shot once 5 years ago and 1 time this year and decided to buy a gun because I enjoy it so much. I have found, however, that most people who try it and don't enjoy it are having problems because they are shooting a gun that doesn't suit them. There's nothing wrong with shooting a 20ga if you shoot better with it. Also, I was getting really bad cheek slap (bruising on my cheek) because the guns I shot just didn't fit me. I found a stock that has a lower comb (where the cheek meets) and extended the length of the butt I shoot much better and haven't bruised my face.
posted by kookywon at 10:08 AM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice, I think my course of action is going to be to go shooting a few more times before I buy anything, and possibly take some of those classes although I'm not sure if they're offered with any frequency in my area.

Glad to hear that smallbore is a decent way to go, I'm not getting into it to be "cool" or anything but I was a bit concerned that .22's were considered more of a toy than anything else. Good to see that serious shooters use them as well.

Re: the shotgun, when I ranked those originally it was a pretty close race, I was referring more to what I'd like to get first. I imagine if I get into the sport at all, I'll end up with more weapons that I can count before long. The two I shot last weekend were both 20ga's, one was a Winchester Defender (pump action with a short barrel) and it was a ton of fun, so I think that's definitely in the cards at some point.
posted by DMan at 12:33 PM on September 12, 2011

Glad to hear that smallbore is a decent way to go, I'm not getting into it to be "cool" or anything but I was a bit concerned that .22's were considered more of a toy than anything else. Good to see that serious shooters use them as well.

Not to worry! IMHO there are few guns which are less of a toy than a .22 rifle. If you get good with it a .22 will net you dinner in a pinch almost anywhere, all without endangering others or attracting too much attention. The same cannot be said for most non-"toy" handguns or uber-tacticool rifles. It's a lot cheaper and easier to shoot the hell out of a .22, also, and one of the differences between a toy and a practical object lies in how often it gets used...
posted by vorfeed at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

My step-dad taught me on a .22. A good .22?or 12 gauge are either one, decent fire-arms.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:50 PM on October 3, 2011

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