5 Things to do Before Firing Your New Gun
So you got a new gun for Christmas (or your birthday, or [fill in the gift giving event]). You are understandably excited; can hardly wait to go put some rounds through it. Well, rein it in just a tad and wait long enough to do these five things first.
1) Read the Manual
Let's be real here. Misusing guns, even accidentally or through ignorance, could cause property damage, injury, or even death. The manual contains all the details of how to maintain and operate the gun. There are tips and tricks specific to your gun which may differ from other guns, including specific recommendations for periods of maintenance and replacing parts. The manual is the go-to source which will tell you how to do all of the following 4 things.
If your gun is factory new, then there should have been a manual included. If it's used you may have to do some additional work to find a manual. Established gun companies will usually offer an electronic download from the internet or even send you a physical copy for free. Surplus and discontinued guns are more challenging to find manuals for but even those are almost always available online with a simple web search.
I know it's not cool to read manuals, but do it this time.
2) Inspect the firearm.
Give your gun a good visual once over. Look at it closely. Are all the parts there? Does it operate as the manual says it is supposed to? Is it clear of obstructions or contaminants? Are all of the parts tight and all of the screws snugged down? Stuff in the barrel and action can, at best, cause failures and, at worst, cause a catastrophic failure of your gun. Loose parts (that aren't supposed to) can rattle off or cause malfunctions. Believe me, losing a part off of your brand new gun while shooting is no fun. It is almost as little fun as finding that parts and accessories which you thought were supposed to be with your gun, aren't.
3) Clean and Lube
Most guns come from the manufacturer coated with a preservative. It works great for keeping a gun from rusting during transit from the manufacturer to the seller and then while setting on the shelves of the seller. But it is usually not a very good lubricant. Even if it is a decent lubricant, over time lubricants can migrate, which leaves important areas which should be lubricated to be unlubricated. Further, over time, lubricants can capture dust, dirt, and contaminants which reduces the lubricant efficiency or can even cause malfunctions. Cleaning also gives your the opportunity to check for dangerous obstructions in the barrel and action.
4) Have the right ammo (and know how to load and unload)
Make sure you have the ammunition your gun was designed to shoot.
The first place to look is on your gun. The ammunition specifics will usually be stamped somewhere quite visible, often either on the slide, on the barrel where exposed by the ejection port, or on the frame (particularly for revolvers).
Another place to look is in your manual. The manual will typically state which calibers your gun was manufactured to use. Very often the model will have specific designations for different calibers. For instance Model ABC9 might indicate a 9mm chambering whereas Model ABC40 might indicate it is chambered for .40S&W. Always read your Owner's Manual prior to buying ammunition or attempting shooting the gun for the first time.
To make sure that ammunition you purchase matches what your firearm was designed to use, you can look on the box which the ammunition comes in. It should be printed clearly on the box and follow accepted naming conventions for that cartridge. You can also look at the base of the metallic cartridge itself. Usually there will be the same cartridge designation stamped on the bottom of the metallic case.
5) Have a safe place to shoot (and follow the safety rules)
Make sure that you shoot your gun in a safe place which is intended for that purpose. There must be a safe backstop to absorb the bullets and make sure they do not leave the shooting venue and injure someone or damage property. In many cases a commercial or public shooting range is a great option. While some ranges are inexpensive, or even free, some may cost more than others. Commercial ranges often charge by the half-hour or hour.
When you go to the range be sure you are familiar with the operation of the gun, including loading and unloading. This should include how to lock the action open for visual inspection. Some ranges require this as a safety rule. Which brings us to making sure you are familiar with the rules of the range. Not all ranges have exactly the same rules but all of them are intended to maintain a safe and comfortable environment. Obey the range rules to the letter. Some ranges may require a new person to take a brief orientation which will explain the rules of operation and safety for their specific range. Beyond that, always observe the four safety rules first coined by Jeff Cooper. ALWAYS treat every gun as if it were loaded. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. ALWAYS keep your finger off of the trigger. ALWAYS be certain of your target and what is behind it.