Choosing The Best Gun For Beginners

Since March of 2020, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in armed self-defense. Gun sales are reaching unprecedented heights as more and more people are realizing that they themselves are in charge of guarding against the threat of lethal force. Millions of people are buying guns, many for the first time in their lives. This can be a daunting task for people who have little to no experience with guns. Finding what’s right for those people, in other words, finding the best gun for beginners, is what we’re going to talk about today.  First off, let’s define what we mean by a beginner. For our purposes, we’re going to assume you’re the person who wants to own a gun, and you’re an adult who can legally purchase a firearm. You’ve already decided that you want to own a gun, and now the question becomes what is the best gun for beginners like you. Let’s look at some of the things you need to consider when buying a gun. 

The First Question To Ask Is…

The biggest question to answer is “Why do you want to own a gun?” For many people, “Because I can” is the right answer to that question, and that’s a very valid reason to purchase a firearm. My safe is full of guns that serve no specific function, I just own them because I like them. This is probably not the case for first time gun owners, so figuring out what might be the best gun for beginners means figuring out why you’re buying a gun in the first place.  Let’s assume that the reasons why you’re looking for a gun are the same reasons why most people are buying guns these days. You’re concerned about your personal safety, and you want to do something about it. Great, that’s exactly why I bought a gun, so welcome to the club, we’re glad you’re here. 

Before we talk about what gun is best for beginners, let’s look at safety. If you live in a state that mandates secure storage for your firearms, buy a safe or storage locker that meets those requirements. That is non-negotiable. In addition to this, learning the rules of gun safety is a good idea for everyone, not just gun owners. Putting the rules into practice before you buy your first gun will keep you safe long before you fire your first shot. 

Don’t Break The Bank To Buy A Gun

Next, let’s look at your budget. The good news is, we’re in a golden age of guns right now. The vast majority of guns on the market today are safe, reliable and have enough accuracy to do the job. Buying a gun should not put you in the poorhouse. If you can’t afford to buy a gun and ammo these days, that’s okay, you can still stay safe. Practice situational awareness, carry a bright flashlight and look into what less lethal defense option might be right for you.  Owning a gun means using a gun, and ammo costs money. How much ammo is enough? Well, at an absolute bare minimum, you’ll need at least 50 rounds of defensive ammo (more about that later) and 100 rounds (or more… lots more) of practice ammunition. This will get you at least familiar with how your gun operates. That is not sufficient ammo for regular practice and training, though, so plan on buying more as you progress in your skills. 

Things To Look For

Now that we have some idea of the costs involved, let’s look at ways to maximize your investment. There are many different ways to enjoy the shooting sports, so the best gun for beginners should do a number of things well, but not be specialized in one particular area. Aslo, you probably want something that’s easily upgradable if you’re just starting out. No one likes to find out they bought a gun that will serve only a limited set of roles. Lastly, you’ll probably want something with a smooth and gentle learning curve. The best gun for beginners is probably not something that requires an inch-wide owners manual. Life is confusing enough, and if you have to consult an instruction book in the midst of a life or death encounter, you probably bought the wrong gun.  Now let’s look at some hardware, shall we? 

Best Gun For Beginners, Option #1: The Ruger 10/22 

Guns for Beginners

Thousands, if not millions, of people have started their journey by shooting a Ruger 10/22.

There are good reasons why this gun seems to be on everybody’s list as the best gun for people starting out. It’s cheap to buy and shoots inexpensive 22 Long Rifle ammunition. A 10/22 is quite accurate, has very manageable recoil and holds 10 rounds in a standard capacity magazine. This means you can put a lot of little 22 caliber rounds on target in a short amount of time. Not a bad thing to have when you’re looking to stop a threat to your life.  The 10/22 is an excellent practice gun as well. You can learn the basics of stance, grip, aiming and trigger control on a 10/22 and apply them to just about any rifle on planet Earth. On top of all this, a Ruger 10/22 is probably the most fun gun you can own. It can easily push around tin cans on the range or punch holes in paper, two activities that can bring a smile to even the dourest of faces. 

The drawbacks to a 10/22 are that it’s a rifle, so if you’re looking for something to carry around with you on a day-in, day-out basis, this is not the gun for you. Also, the 22 Long Rifle round is not considered optimal for self-defense against people. Finally, the maximum effective range of a 10/22 is about 100 yards (give or take), so if you’re looking to get into the long range game, you’re probably looking at another gun. On the plus side, though, there is a very large and very healthy ecosystem of parts and accessories for the 10/22, so the sky is the limit for upgrades for this gun.

Best Gun For Beginners, Option #2: The Glock 19 

Glocks for beginners

The Glock 19 is pretty much the standard in small, easy to shoot 9mm pistols

The first Glock pistol was designed in the early 1980’s to fulfill an Austrian Army requirement for a new service pistol. Since then, Glocks have become one of the most popular guns on the planet. This means that you can probably find accessories for your Glock, such as spare magazines and other parts, in every gun store in the country. The Glock 19 is a compact 9mm version of the original Glock 17. The Glock 19 is easy to conceal and has a magazine that holds 15 rounds (10 rounds in some states). 9mm is a very good defensive caliber that is trusted by military and law enforcement around the world, as well as millions of American gun owners. 

The operation of a Glock is both very simple and very safe. There are three safeties built into the gun to help guard against negligent discharges, one of which is built right into the trigger. The recoil of the Glock 19 is definitely more than guns that shoot lower-powered rounds. However, the pistol is big enough to allow for a firm grip which can tame any troubles you might have with recoil. Best of all, because it’s a pistol and because it has a wide range of available accessories, there are many different holsters and other ways to have your Glock 19 with you when you might really need it. Having a fire extinguisher in your home does you little good if you’re out on the road, and the same idea applies to guns as well. A gun has to be near you if you want it to help defend your life against a lethal threat. 

Every Upside Has A Downside

What are some of the downsides to owning a Glock 19? For starters, the 9mm round it shoots is more powerful than the .22LR round of a 10/22, but 9mm is still probably going to require more than 1 round to stop a threat. Finally, the effective range of a pistol is even less than a 10/22. 50 yards is the maximum effective range for a pistol like the Glock 19. Reaching that distance is beyond the skill of most new gun owners; 10 or 15 yards is a more realistic distance for newer gun owners. However, if you look around your home or consider how you interact with people during the day, you’ll soon see that 15 yards is about the maximum distance you’ll face in any defensive encounter. 

Best Gun For Beginners Option #3: An AR-15 

Ar-15 for beginners

One of the author’s AR-15s. This is not how the rifle appeared when he first bought it.

Okay, I’ll admit this pick might not be everybody’s cup of tea. AR-15’s can be hard to find when there’s a gun-buying panic going on. They’re also much more powerful and louder than the other two guns we’ve talked about. Finally, just like the 10/22, they’re a rifle, which means that you’re not going to be carrying this gun through your local Walmart without attracting a lot of attention from your local law enforcement agency.  However, an AR-15 does have a lot of advantages as a first gun for beginners.

The AR-15’s biggest strength is its flexibility. You can mix and match stocks and optics and accessories and even change the caliber to shoot 22 Long Rifle, all without the aid of a gunsmith. The 5.56mm round that an AR-15 shoots will end most defensive encounters a lot quicker than even the most powerful of pistol rounds. A large percentage of the world’s armies use rifles that are chambered in 5.56mm, which means that ammo for this gun is usually available, even in the worst of ammo shortages. 

Make It Whatever You Want It To Be

The flexibility of the AR-15 means that whatever gun you buy know may look completely different a year from now. As a starting point, though, I like the M&P 15 Sport II series from Smith & Wesson. They’re built very well, and don’t use any proprietary parts or accessories that might limit their future growth. An AR-15 is relatively easy to shoot compared to If you’re looking for something that will end the fight quickly but doesn’t weigh very much. The 5.56mm round it shoots has very little recoil compared to other rifle rounds. It’s a military rifle, so it was designed to be easy to use by just about anyone. An AR-15 might be a bit hard to handle at the very start, but the sky’s the limit to what you can do with one. 

Buy A Gun That Will Get Used 

These are just three choices out there for a first gun for a beginning shooter, and they represent three very different types of firearms. There are many different guns that are very similar to each of these guns, and I urge you to go to your local range and rent a few to see what particular gun works best for your particular needs.  Whichever gun you choose, I strongly urge you to shoot it on the range on a regular basis. I own a few “safe queens,” guns that I store away and don’t shoot all that often.

However, the guns that I rely on to protect myself and my family are not safe queens. Those get taken to the range for practice sessions. I know what I can do with them because I’ve practiced and taken numerous training classes with them. I do this because I know that just owning a gun is not enough to keep me safe. A gun, by itself, does nothing. It only becomes effective when it is in the hands of a trained, confident and prepared gun owner. The sooner you become that type of gun owner, the safer you will be. I think this is pretty strong overall. I’d recommend some sort of link near the top to your firearm suggestions for those readers who just want a listicle — I think the way you’re approaching the article itself has more value than just a listicle though.