First Gun: Rifle or Handgun? | Beginner Guides | USCCA Blog

As more and more Americans look to become responsibly armed (5 million new gun owners in 2020!), the question of what kind of first gun to get has become more frequent. Those who grew up around guns likely started shooting with a .22 caliber rifle. But those looking for a firearm right now are probably seeking something for home defense or personal protection. And many will immediately jump to think they need a 9mm. The humble .22, however, has been used in quite a few home-defense situations. While everyone’s first gun won’t be the same, the considerations when purchasing should be.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Wow, I don’t really recall which way I got started. I remember my uncle letting me shoot his .45 out in the woods, but I think he was secretly hoping I’d punch myself in the face from the recoil. I also remember various small caliber rifles. I don’t think I truly became comfortable with any firearms until I camped on an M16 range for a week, but I had owned a semi-automatic pistol and a rifle before that. Looking back, I doubt my ability to defend my home with either because I lacked the training.

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I started at 5 years old and it was a .22 bolt action, very heavy for me back then. My daughter, on the other hand, didn’t start until her 20s and it was a Rem 870 12 gauge, primarily for home defense. I did have a 10/22 with a bx-25 for home defense for a number of years, so I agree that a .22 can be useful. However, I’d recommend lower velocity if doing so, so the penetration through walls and outside the house is reduced.


My first gun was a Rugar Mark 2. And I got it because I didn’t know if I could handle the recoil of larger caliber guns. But a friend let me shoot his 1911 to see if I could handle it. And I was able to. And now I have guns in several larger calibers than just .22lr.

I remember when I recently first started, there was much to enjoy learning.

Although this booklet (linked below) focuses on California, if you’re new to firearms, this webpage offers a free downloadable booklet on “safe use” of firearms.

Video copied below discusses handgun accuracy, emphasizing trying not to jerk the gun when pulling the trigger, and needing to please use a very firm grip. My favorite segment was on how he suggests practice dry fire at the range first, watching if you moved the gun when pulling the trigger. I think he conveyed it’s that jerking movement which will unfortunately make your shots be too far from the bullseye. Heads up, I like him, but I think he had a lot of coffee that day.

Have fun at your next range session.

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