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The huntress’s guide to buying guns via The Writing Huntress

Dear Writing Huntress,

Last year, I shot my first deer with my uncle’s shotgun. I liked the gun and appreciate him for letting me to borrow it, but I wasn’t in love with it, so it’s time to buy my own. I don’t even know what questions to ask the salespeople and I don’t want to look silly by not knowing anything about guns. So, my question is this: what does a gun novice need to know about buying or even browsing for guns at a gun store? Do you have a guide to buying guns? 

Unarmed in Union Station




Dear Unarmed,

Welcome to the firearms family! Shopping for guns can be intimidating, especially when you’re just starting out. When I first started shooting, I used whatever gun I could borrow, but, like you, quickly realized I needed my own gun to expand my hunting horizons.

Early in my firearm-purchasing excursions, I would go to a store, get shy around the salesmen and leave. However, I soon understood I had to put in a little work, so I could stop counting on my hunting buddies’ extra shotguns. Luckily for you, Unarmed, I’ve amassed my experiences here in “The huntress’s guide to buying guns.”


writing huntress burris


What am I looking for?

Firstly, you have to decide what type of activity you are anticipating using the firearm for. The selection process is different for home defense, personal defense, concealed carry, recreational or target shooting and hunting. For the purposes of this column, we’ll focus on the latter.


Am I totally (and legally) able?

You may have to take a class or complete forms to buy a firearm, depending on where you live. Look into your state regulations concerning photo identification and documents necessary so you’re legally ready to go.


ask writing huntress gun shopping


What do I need to know before walking into the shop?

The process will be made exponentially easier if you possess at least rudimentary knowledge of the firearm you intend to purchase. Below are a few terms you’ll need to know:

1. Caliber and gauge

Caliber refers to the internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel. That means if the diameter of a rifle barrel is 22/100 inch, it’s a .22-caliber rifle.

Gauge also refers to the measurement of the inside diameter of a shotgun barrel, but it is derived from the weight of a solid sphere of lead that will fit the bore of the shotgun. Shot size is denoted as the multiplicative inverse of each ball of shot’s weight as a fraction of a pound. A 1/12-pound ball will fit into a 12-gauge bore.

Don’t worry about bringing a tape measure to the store; measurements will be clearly labeled on the tag as well as on the gun. ammo and ammo box.

2. Shotgun vs. Rifle

This decision will be based upon your target. You may be more comfortable buying a shotgun since you’ve already hunted with one, especially if you’re interested in hunting waterfowl or turkeys. However, if you’re concentrating on big game, a rifle may be the way to go. Do keep in mind; some states prohibit the use of a rifle during season, and use of a slugged shotgun may be your best option. Research the area you hunt prior to making a gun purchase.


My GPS is giving me 10 gun stores in the area — how do I choose?

I prefer buying from locally-owned stores, because they generally employ knowledgeable, passionate staff. If you’re able, find a store with its own range. In the case of a newbie such as yourself, this allows you to test before you buy. Finally, some stores offer free shooting classes with the purchase of a gun. This is a great perk if you’re new to the sport.


ask writing huntress gun buying


I’ve found a great store that I’m standing in now — what do I do?

Safety first. Gun shopping is fun but remember, you’re handling firearms, so treat every gun as if it’s loaded. When you pick up a gun, always point it in a safe direction. If the staff covers you with a muzzle of a gun during a transaction, make sure to make your voice known that you don’t appreciate it and insist that whoever is pointing a gun at you stop immediately.

Ask questions! The staff at the store is there to help. If you feel lost, flag a worker down, tell him or her why you’re there and absorb knowledge like a sponge.

Embrace the secondhand wall. Chances are, at first, you won’t fully know what kind of gun you’re going to like best. Therefore, investing in a secondhand gun may be a good option. You’ll save money, learn what you prefer in a firearm, and, if you’ve taken good care of it, you may have the option to sell it and put the money toward a new model. You can always insist on having a gunsmith check out the gun first, and I highly recommend this move.

Unarmed, purchasing your first firearm can be challenging, but if you arm yourself with a little knowledge, your quest will be successful. Be sure to visit The WON at our Facebook or Twitter connections, and let us know which gun you chose.


Happy Hunting,

The Conversation

One Comment
  • Jennie Alice Lillard says: April 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Great article! There’s something to be said for hunting with borrowed guns–you get real field experience and find out your likes and dislikes. I knew I didn’t like how heavy every borrowed shotgun was for me, so when I went to purchase my own, weight was quality at the top of my list. I ended up buying a Browning Citori 625 Feather in 12 gauge and love it; it’s just a little over 5.5 pounds and feels great in the hand, as well as to shoot. I also purchased my gun at a small local shop where I get my birds cleaned–they already knew me, so shopping was far less intimidating. Hope Unarmed finds the gun she loves.