Beginners Guide to Guns: Gun Basics You Should Know

If you suddenly realized you are very much interested in guns, and you would like to know more about the firearm world than an average person, we suggest you stay right here and just keep on reading. There is nothing wrong in wanting to get a bit deeper in this subject, or wanting to own a gun for the security reasons, as long as you are approaching it rationally, and with nothing but safety on your mind. A pretty popular belief is that everyone should learn more about guns in order to avoid having all those established prejudices. So here is a quite basic, but interesting guide to something you may call guns for dummies.

First and Most Important – Gun Safety Rules

Before we even start, there are a couple of rules you need to set as a must in your behavior around guns, to make sure you and everyone around you will remain safe all the time. First of all, you always have to assume that your firearm is loaded. Only that way you will avoid tragedy happening by accident. Then, you should only point your gun to the target you are willing to shoot. You should not wave around with it, and start pointing it to people just for fun because there’s always a possibility it can trigger.

The third rule is – put your finger on the trigger just a second before you are ready to fire, not before. People tend to become nervous with a weapon in their hands, so if their finger is on this place for a while, it may happen they accidentally press the trigger too early. And the last rule applies to your target – you need to always be sure who or what is your target, as well what is behind it.

Owning a weapon has its benefits for sure, but there are some serious shortcomings too. For instance, if you have a gun and you live with children in the same household, you need to make sure to have appropriate weapon storage that’s under a lock all the time, to prevent little ones from getting it in their hands. Tragic accidents occurred, not once, because the gun owner didn’t have a suitable storage place, or forgot to place the weapon in it properly.

Basic Firearm Terms

We are now presenting you with a handgun basic. First, you need to know what parts form the gun. There is a grip – a part that you hold in your hand’s palm, the trigger – movable piece you need to put your finger on when you are ready to shoot, then the barrel – a tube through which the bullet goes (the longest the barrel is the more stable will the bullet be when shot out), the magazine, which is a container that holds the ammunition, and a hammer – piece of mechanism that will trigger the process of firing the bullet out of the barrel.  Now, sometimes the magazine fits inside of the gun, and sometimes it is attached outside of the weapon.

If we are talking about a shotgun, there is an additional piece that’s called stock or buttstock – that’s the part that you put on your shoulder when you want to fire. And, at last, it is essential to know that weapons can sometimes have a piece that’s called safety – that’s a mechanical lever that blocks the gun from firing.

When it comes to ammunition, people often use the term bullet wrongly. When we say bullet, we actually refer to a cartridge, or as it’s also called the round (it’s the body of the “bullet”). The actual bullet is the part of the cartridge that will fly down towards the target when you pull the trigger. It’s essential to know the structure of the thing you called the bullet, so you can understand better the whole firing process.

There are other parts of the round. The casing can be made of steel, plastic, or brass, and it is the “package “that holds everything together. It is a structure that contains gunpowder, primer, and bullet until the weapon is fired, and the exploding gunpowder makes the bullet separate from the casing. If you need the visual – the gunpowder is located inside of the casing, and the primer is on its back. It looks like a little dot, and it has a capacity to ignite the gunpowder inside the casing. The ammunition for a shotgun is called the shell, and it works the same way as the one for guns.

Types of Guns

That’s pretty much everything you need to know about guns. Now it is time to talk about types of guns. This is the most common weapon categorization.

  • Handguns

As you can conclude by the name itself, this weapon is designed so it can be used with a single hand, even though the experts suggest you use both of them for better stability and more precise shooting. There are two subtypes of handguns – pistols and revolvers. According to the official definition, the pistol is created in a way that allows a projectile to be fired from one or more barrels while held in one hand. It has an integrated chamber that’s permanently aligned with a bore and a short stock that can be gripped with one hand. The most common examples include Glock, SIG Sauer P320, and Smith & Wesson M&P. A revolver is a bit different because it doesn’t have a permanently integrated chamber that’s in line with the barrel. Their cartridges are placed in chambers that are bored into a cylinder. They are rotated into alignment with the barrel as needed.

  • Shotguns

Shotguns have a specific design that demands both hands on board when being used. They need to be placed in the shoulder for stability, and they have long barrels that can fire multiple projectiles at once, with only one press on the trigger. But they are nothing like machine guns that can fire projectiles sequentially with one trigger movement. Real and legal shotguns need to have a barrel longer than 18 inches.

  • Rifles

Another weapon that needs to be held with both hands, despite what you have seen in the action movies, is a rifle. Again, your shoulder has to be included as the stability and support point for the rifle. We are talking about large, long-barreled guns that come in many different shapes. They are usually used for targets that are 100-500 meters away, while a handgun, for instance, is useful only if it’s being used in a very closed range (1-20 feet away). By the BATFE definition, the rifle can fire only one projectile with a press of the trigger. Their barrel length needs to be at least 16 inches.

Ways Firearms Can Operate

Under the categorization of weapon types, we need to point out that there are different types of actions guns can provide. We are talking about the ways firearms can operate.

  • Pump-action firearms

This type of action is characteristic of shotguns and some rifles. The whole process includes a sliding mechanism that needs to be operated by the user manually. The person needs to take out spent shells or cases, to re-cock the hammer, and to load a new shell every time he wants to fire. It is crucial to repeat this procedure completely each time so that the action of shooting can happen.

  • Bolt-action firearms

Just like with pump-action, bolt-action firearms demand from operators to get involved. The person who is using this type of weapon needs to cycle the bolt handle before each shot. When they retract it, they will pull the empty or unused cartridge out of the chamber, and if they want to put the new cartridge into place, they just have to push the bolt forward. People usually picture hunting rifles when they think about bolt-action, even though hunting firearms come in all action types.

  • Break-action firearms

The typical example of a break-action firearm is definitely the double-barrel shotgun. We have all seen in the movies when the old rancher “breaks “its shotgun in half while placing new rounds inside of the barrels. There is the lever on the receiver that will allow the barrels, or barrel, depending on the gun, to tilt forward, so that operator can load and unload the exposed chambers. In order to be able to shoot, you need to put a new shell or cartridge directly down the barrel, then close the action by returning the gun into the original position and press the trigger.

  • Semi-automatic firearm

The semi-automatic gun is often confused with a machine gun, but these two are not the same. The semi-automatic weapon can shoot only one projectile at once, with a single press on the trigger, and the whole process of reloading and preparing the weapon for the next action is done by the built-in mechanism. So you can fire once, and right after that the gun will be ready for the next shoot, you don’t have to do anything but to press the trigger once more. According to the number of sold weapons in the world, this is the most popular one, for sure. Pistols, shotguns, and rifles can all be semi-automatic, and you can wire from 50 to 100 rounds per minute, depending on what weapon you use and how skilled you are.

  • Fully-automatic firearms

The fully-automatic firearm is pretty much similar to semi-automatic pieces, but the main difference is that you can press the trigger only once and hold it while the gun keeps firing the rounds one after another until you release the trigger or lose all the ammunition. The speed projectiles are going to come out can be different, and there is the space on the side, where the empty cartridges will come out during the extended shooting.

Bullet Identification Basics (Types of Ammunition)

Besides the fact we classify guns by the type they belong to, it is important to know that each weapon uses a different caliber of ammunition. When we talk about caliber, we actually refer to the size of the round. But it all can be quite confusing given that in the US calibers are sometimes measured in millimeters, sometimes in metric, and sometimes in imperial.

But with time, if you are familiar with this subject, you will learn to recognize the equivalent matches of the calibers. So you will learn to know that .223 inch in imperial measurement is actually the same as the 5.56 mm in metric measurement. In the rest of the western world, people use only the metric measurement, so it is a bit easy to get everything right.

Also, you will see how there is a certain name after the number of calibers, like “.223 Remington”. That means that some company designed a specific round. Even though every gun uses only one caliber, that doesn’t imply you can only use that particular Remington round for a Remington gun, for example. You can put .223 round any other company made in your Remington gun.

The different sizes of rounds behave differently in the matter of performance. They are distinctive by their speed, force, distance, loudness, etc. Some projectiles can make small holes, other big holes, and some are designed to shard into little fragments when fired. Now, we are going to talk about the most common calibers used for pistols, shotguns, and rifles, so that you can get a better idea on how to choose a weapon, and what to expect from it.

  • Pistols

Even though around 200 different pistol calibers exist, there are only a few that are popular. The most common are 9mm, .22 Long Rifle, .380 ACP, .45 ACP, and .40 S&W. The experts suggest beginners use only a 9mm caliber. It is usually used by the militaries and police forces all around the world, and the FBI as well decided to standardize their entire arsenal to this round, after thorough research.

There are several reasons you, as a new gun owner should decide on this caliber, and one of them is the fact that it is easily handled, and that you can easily find it almost anywhere, given its popularity. People with experience describe it as a good round to use because it packs power while it doesn’t feel heavy in your hand. It is an excellent choice since it will teach you to have control faster than any other caliber.

Another advantage of 9mm is that it’s smaller than other popular rounds, which means few more pieces can fit into the universal magazine. This is one of the reasons the FBI chose it as their number one caliber, even though it has less power than some other rounds. They believe that its way more important to have more rounds of a bullet with 90% stopping power than fewer rounds with 95% stopping power. So it’s all about bigger chances to hit the target.

If, on the other hand, you need something weaker in order to learn how to shoot, or you are quite intimidated by having a firearm in your hands in the first place, you should go with a .22 Long Rifle. It really has little power, but for starters, you won’t feel a twitch in your hand when you pull the trigger.

  • Rifles

Ammunition for rifles is even more diverse. There are around 300 different calibers. But most common are .22 Long Rifle, .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and 30-30 Winchester. The first one we mentioned is the same one used for pistols, and in both cases, it is a recommended round for beginner’s target practice. However, .223 and .308 are definitely most popular among rifle lovers (.223 is used for very common rifle AR-15s, and .308 is a perfect round for AR-10s, which is equally used).

The .223 for rifles is equivalent to 9mm for pistols because it is smaller, and more rounds can fit into the magazine. This caliber is usually used by the soldiers since it has more than one benefit. It can travel with great speed, and it can create quite an impact on the target. In the perfect situation, it should be used for shooting in 100 to 300 meters distance.

The .308 round is a bigger caliber, and it packs more punch over a long distance. If you are experienced, and you use the rifle that is based on this type of caliber, you can tell how the rifle is way heavier and bigger, but that it has a capacity to shoot targets that are up to 600 meters away, with great precision and power.

There is a much wider choice for rifle calibers, as we previously mentioned, but these two are the commercial ones, perfect for situations where you need to make sure to survive the attack. Some others are good for hunting, for example, or for precision competition shooting.

  • Shotgun

The ammunition for shotgun looks very much different than the one for rifles and pistols because it is designed in a way to spray multiple smaller pellets in a wider range, unlike the ammo for other two gun types that just sends one projectile through the air. The shotgun ammo is being used for bird hunting and close-quarters self-defense because there is a bigger chance you will get your target with a cone of sprayed shot.

Another difference, besides the look and the function of these “bullets “, lies in the fact that they are measured not as caliber, but as “gauge”. The shotgun sprays “shot” instead of a bullet, and besides the number, there is always a word that describes the number and the size of the pellets that are being shot.

Only eight shotguns calibers exist, and the most popular are 12 gauge and 20 gauge. The first one is mostly used, and it’s the most popular in the US. There is quite a wide range of options when it comes to this caliber. They can shoot small little pellets, a “dragon’s breath”, or two big ball bearings with a steel cable that connects them.

Securing Your Gun With Gun Safe

It is of great importance to store your weapon properly if you decide you want to own it. You really don’t want to allow your gun to end up in the wrong hands, especially the hands of children. So, it is crucial to think about buying suitable security storage where you can keep your firearm and the ammunition under a lock. Even though the law doesn’t require you to have a gun safe per se, it is recommended you do. There is a huge selection of home gun safes you can find on the market and choose from, you just need to take some time and figure out what will be the perfect one for your particular needs.

Gun safes can be portable, or you can attach them to the floor. There are those that are hidden beside some pieces of furniture, or mounted in the wall. When it comes to the security locks, you can decide on having the modern one based on the fingerprint recognition, the one with an electrical locking system that includes entering the code in the keypad, or the more traditional one that can be opened with a manual key. You should choose the gun safe that’s sturdy, durable, high-quality made with multiple locking mechanisms.

How to Use a Gun

Everything you needed to learn about guns is in the lines above. So it’s time for the last step – we are going to teach you how to use it properly. Shooting a gun may seem easy and natural, but it actually needs some practice, good balance, and excellent technique. We give you 17 steps on how to fire a gun safely and correctly.

1. Choose the right gun and ammunition

First things first. You need to pick the right handgun for you, as well as the ammo you are going to use. When making this decision, you should have in mind your body and hand size, but also the purpose of your firearm. Beginners should avoid purchasing large-caliber guns, because they need more control, and instead choose smaller and more reliable ones like .22.

2. Protect yourself with safety gear

When learning to shoot in a gun range, you need to have adequate safety gear. That includes headphone-shaped ear protectors and earplugs, which will keep you safe from the noise. Also, it is recommended to put on safety goggles, so your eyes can be protected against flying empty shells. You should put them on even if you already wear glasses.

3. Handle a gun safely

You cannot just take a gun and wave with it all around. The rule is – always keep it pointed downrange until you are ready to shoot a target. Way too many accidents happened because a person who was holding a gun was reckless.

4. Check if the gun is loaded

Another rule says – every time you pick up a handgun, you need to check if it’s loaded. Every time! Even if you haven’t used it for years, or you just unloaded it, check it again. That especially applies to situations where you are just about to use someone else’s weapon. If you do that, without exceptions, you will avoid a tragedy of hurting other people or yourself by accident.

5. Pick up your gun carefully

Whenever you pick up your gun, you need to be very careful and to keep a finger outside of the trigger guard. The gun needs to be pointed downrange, always, and you never get to point it at someone as a joke, even if it is unloaded, because first, it can happen that you believe that it’s unloaded, but it actually isn’t, and second, in some states, it is considered to be a crime.

6. Be in a finger-ready position

Now open your dominant hand and stretch the area between your thumb and index finger. Take a handgun with your other hand, and place the handle into the middle of the dominant hand. The thumb needs to be on one side of the grip, and the middle and last two fingers on the other curled up below the trigger guard. The grip needs to be sturdy, but not too hard because you won’t be able to control your weapon well enough.

7. Steady the gun

In order to make it steady, use the other hand, non-dominant, and keep it underneath the gun so it can have good support. After that, you can place your index finger under the trigger guard, or in front of it, whatever you find to be the best option.

8. Check if your fingers are off the hammer or slide

9. Stand in a proper position

This part is also crucial. Put your feet in shoulder-width length, so that the foot that’s the opposite of your dominant hand is a step in front of the other one. You should lean slightly forward and keep your knees bent, so you can have a good balance. Make sure the elbow of your dominant hand is almost straight, while the other one is relaxed and flexed.

10. Align the front sight with the rear sight

The top of the front sight needs to be in level with the top of the rear sight. When aiming, most people will use their dominant eye and keep the other one closed. But you should practice doing this with them both wide open, so you can aim properly even in situations when depth perception is crucial.

11. Develop your sight picture

Most people are confused about where to focus when they are ready to shoot – on the target or on sight? The suggestion is that after you level your handgun and make sure it is aimed correctly, you focus on the target because otherwise, you can miss it.

12. Fix the gun on the target

Now you need to keep the gun fixated on the target. You should probably see how the sharply focused front sight touches the bottom of the unfocused, blurry bulls-eye. When that happens, you can put your index finger on the trigger.

13. Load the gun

After you practiced aiming and keeping your arm steady, and you are ready to shoot, you have to load the gun. If your weapon has safety, keep it on while loading, and remove it right before you are going to shoot. The barrel of the gun needs to be pointed downrange throughout the entire time you are loading. And be very careful, the statistic showed that most accidents happen while loading and unloading the gun.

14. Control your breathing

Right before you are about to fire, and after you aimed the weapon perfectly, you will need to take one long breath and to hold it. That way, you will calm your body and make it steady. Don’t hurry and press the trigger when you feel ready. But don’t hold your breath for too long because you may start being a bit dizzy.

15. Pull the trigger

When you believe you are absolutely ready, pull the trigger with one calm and slow motion. And don’t think about the recoil, let it “surprise “you, because otherwise, if you are focused on that part and you try to anticipate it, you may have an inaccurate shot.

16. Follow-through

After your gun has fired, don’t let the trigger quickly and keep your posture for a bit longer. Breathe and make sure you are calm. Then release the trigger and put down your weapon, or take another shot.

17. Unload your weapon and recheck if it is unloaded

The last step includes unloading your weapon, and then rechecking it, making sure you did the job right. Don’t forget to be careful while doing this part, and to keep the barrel pointed downrange, for the safety matters.

How to Buy a Gun?

Before you go and try buying a gun, check what the law of your state says about it. In general, you need to be over 21 years of age, it’s necessary you have not been declared mentally incompetent or convicted for a felony, and that you are not using any drugs or medication that can impair your ability. If you are doing everything legally, as you should, your background will be most likely checked.

The recommendation, especially if we are talking about new shooters, is to buy a weapon in your local gun store. That way, you can get answers to as many questions you may have from an expert and try a few of the items to get a sense of how they feel in your hand. Bear in mind that every firearm has a unique serial number and that you will have to register it in the government database.

It would be good to avoid purchasing a gun online. It is familiar how firearms can be quite abused if the person used it in the field and cleaned it with strong chemicals, and you, as a beginner, most certainly won’t be able to tell if the item is in good shape or not. It’s okay to buy a used gun, but it would be better to purchase it again from the store. And, at last, see if your store or shooting range allows renting a gun for a while because it would be good to see if it fits you before spending quite an amount of money on it.

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