Suppose you’re a new gun owner or looking to enter this world, welcome! Becoming an arm bearing citizen is an exciting time and can come with a lot of baggage (no pun intended). Many of us, myself included, have fallen victim to getting a bit overzealous with procuring what one may or may not need as a gun owner. Like holsters, accessories can pile up and eventually end up in a storage bin of stuff that was presumed needed. I think a few things are essential and others that will only enhance your life. The point is, identifying the things you need out the gate.
The “buy once, cry once” concept needs to be adopted here to an extent. I say that because there are so many lines of thinking when it comes to firearms, firearm accessories, and holsters. You’re going to get as many opinions as there are people!
The big obstacle here is knowing what is going to make you cry or not. Previously, there was a post about what you should take to the range with you: RANGE BAG CHECKLIST. There is a lot of good advice in this article, so be sure to check it out. Many items that are NEEDED are covered but in the context of going to the range.
Barebones minimum, what do you NEED as a brandy new gun owner?
- A firearm. This should be a given. Hopefully, you went through the paces of selecting a high quality, reliable gun that works for you.
- Storage solution. When you have your firearm at home, you’re inevitably going to have to store it in one manner or another. From ”EVERY FIRST-TIME GUN OWNER SHOULD IMMEDIATELY DO THESE THINGS,” a good tip is given to help overcome this obstacle when you’ve arrived home with your new pistol: “If you haven’t bought your safe yet, consider locking it in the manufacturer's case and using the included cable lock until you find a storage solution.”
- A system to transport your gun to the range. AKA a range bag. This is where things can start to get out of control. The rhetoric is almost par for the course with so many people, for example, my own experience: Tooling around a sporting goods store or gun shop and then there it is, the awesomeist range bag! This is what I’m going to use with my new gun, and it’s going to be great! And then, sure, I’d use the system or bag for a while to eventually abandon it for another awesomeist range bag I run into at another store. If you can, use what you already have until you figure out what your needs will be. An old backpack or abandoned gym bag that you’re willing to surrender to the cause might do the trick when you are just starting.
- A gun cleaning kit. There are so many commercially available gun cleaning kits that are one-stop shops, and you can go mad trying to pick one. My recommendation here is twofold. Buy a small kit that will accommodate only the one caliber or gauge of firearm you have. The kit should include a solvent, lubricating oil, rod, rod attachments, and some patches. Don’t go crazy with the biggest badest cleaning kit that will cover every single caliber and gauge known to man. Get what you need—bare bones. The one place to not skimp is a quality one-piece rod. That is an item you can always go back for once you figure out how deep into this world you are going. If you get another caliber down the line, all you need to get are the attachments for that particular size. Or, then you can consider getting a smaller accessory kit that has multiple jag and brush sizes. Given that, get what you need at the time, some solvents and oil, caliber-specific patches, and some lint-free soft rags. Set yourself up to build on the system, so there is not much crying down the line.
- Gun rugs, cases, etc., are items that you may or may not need. When you put your firearm into your range bag, it’s going to have to be in some sort of container to protect it. The majority of commercially available guns come with a hard, lockable, plastic case. You can always resort to using that. If you’re worried about messing up the box because of resale intentions down the line, then get a comparable hard or soft case. You decide on what you think will work best. Like a range bag, gun cases can pile up quickly.
- Personal protective equipment. You need to have quality protection for your eyes and ears when engaged in shooting activities. Make sure you get impact-resistant glasses and hearing protection with a good noise reduction rating (NRR).
- Ammunition. Whether you need training and target ammunition or ammunition for self-defense, you’re going to have to make some decisions. Ammunition selection is a whole other topic entirely. No matter what you’re looking for, quality, name brand, factory loads, with a good reputation should be what you use. All the other criteria take trial and error as well as research.
Those are a few ideas of what I’d consider the bare minimum for a new gun owner. Figuring out storage solutions early on is essential, so think about what you need at the time and what you may need going forward. A big safe might be what you need or want. Or perhaps a smaller quick-access lockbox. As for range bags, gun socks, gun cases, cleaning kits, and the countless other accessories out there to get, first dip your toes into this world before buying everything you see. Get acclimated and understand what a need versus extra stuff is, then commit to buying the quality item to meet your needs. Things like screwdrivers, mag loaders, specialty targets, desiccants, etc., will fall into place. Pair this list with what you need to bring to the range, put in some thought, talk to some friends and shooting buddies, and figure this out, so you buy once, cry once. It’ll minimize the size of your storage container!
Stay safe out there and think before you do!
John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of “Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use” and USCCA certified instructor, NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com on Twitter at @johnpetrolino, and on Instagram @jpetrolinoiii