Buying your first handgun can be an intimidating experience, especially when you get home and you’re not sure what comes next.
Many people understand the idea of how to handle a gun, and are comfortable with that idea. But there is difference between an idea and the corresponding practical skill that goes with that idea. Ask anyone on the street whether it’s ok to point a gun at someone that you don’t intend to shoot, and just about everyone will easily answer, “No”. But put a gun in the hands of someone who hasn’t been taught how to safely handle it, and there is a very good chance they will unintentionally point it at themselves or someone else. The keyword is “unintentionally”. They don’t even realize they are doing it, or how serious of a mistake it is.
The next step after you bring your first handgun home is to start looking for a training class. Having a professional standing with you helping you through each of the steps you need to take to safely handle, load, shoot and unload your gun is extremely important for many reasons.
The first reason is safety. When you are learning to handle an item that can injure or kill you, it’s important that you enlist the help of a professional who will safely supervise you. It shouldn’t take long for you to begin to grasp the knowledge and skills to handle the gun safely. But each mistake needs to be caught and called out, so that you will not develop unsafe habits, as well as to prevent any accidents from happening.
The second reason builds on the first, which is building habits that lead to proficiency. If you remember the steps you took to learn how to drive, most people had an experienced person in the passenger seat who pointed out all the things inside and outside the car that must be paid attention to. The first few times it probably seemed overwhelming. But over time as practice helped to solidify the safe habits that you learned, operating the car began to seem like second nature. This allowed you to operate the car efficiently and safely with minimal attention and effort. Handling a gun is very similar. Building safe handling skills with an instructor and then practicing daily or weekly will solidify the habits you need to confidently and safely handle your gun.
The third reason is that if the intention of buying the gun is for self defense, there is an endless body of knowledge that can be learned in order to give yourself the skills that you need to be successful with your goal. Hopefully the moment will never come where you need to use that gun against someone else, but should the moment come the last things you want to rely on for your success are luck and the goofy tactics you learned from watching movies. The reality of using a gun in real life is complex and dangerous. The more serious you make your commitment to learning, the better prepared you will be in case that day ever comes.
The final reason I will discuss here is that training helps build an understanding of the seriousness of the responsibility that you are taking on by being a gun owner. Part of the job of an instructor is to instill in the student the weight of the decision to own, carry and use a gun. While many people think that a gun makes them safe, real safety comes from taking responsibility for your actions and your preparation. A gun is simply a tool. In the hands of an untrained person, any tool will be clumsy and ineffective. Good firearms training will emphasize your responsibility to yourself and to all the people around you.
While guns are inherently dangerous objects, with good training and regular practice, you can learn to handle it safely and effectively just like a car or a kitchen knife. The key is that you must make learning to use it a priority.
Bio: Isaac Chase is an NRA Certified firearms instructor, Co-Owner of Firearms Training Central, Co-Owner of Guns For Everyone, and Co-Founder of Know Your Gun. Through these various projects, he has helped to bring the message of the importance of firearms training to tens of thousands of guns owners.