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Insights with Sticky Holsters: 15 Do’s and Don’ts When Purchasing Your First Handgun

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Purchasing First Handgun

I have spent my entire life around firearms. I started shooting rifles in kindergarten, and was the top shooter on my collegiate pistol team that placed 3rd at the NCAA National Championships.  I have carried a handgun for the majority of my adult life, both professionally and personally. Before working at Sticky Holsters, I managed one of the largest retail firearms stores in the Southeastern United States.  I have sold firearms, helped people purchase firearms or given advice to thousands of new handgun owners over the years. Below are some of my observations and advice I have given. These are my opinions and are in no way intended to taken as gospel.  My hope is that readers will use this guide as one of several resources to help ease the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of purchasing their first handgun so they can enjoy the overall experience.


  • Listen to the experiences of others and the firearms they have used and purchased.
  • Ask for FACTS about the guns. “Glock 19 is the best and they never jam.” Is NOT a fact, it is an opinion. An example of a fact is: Glock has a 22 degree grip angle (vs. typical grip angle of 18 degrees) and combined with a low bore axis creates less felt recoil for the average shooter.
  • Go into the experience with an open mind.
  • Decide what features are important to you and stick to those.(For example, manual thumb safety, polymer frame, barrel under 4”, under $500 are some examples).
  • Do your research before visiting a gun store and make a list of guns you want to see based on the features you research. (For example, Sig P365 because it is a 9mm, has a large magazine capacity in relation to its size; Ruger LCP because of its small size and concealability; Glock 43x because of its 9mm magazine capacity and low bore axis).
  • Rent and try as many different guns as possible BEFORE you purchase.
  • Budget enough money for the accessories (cleaning supplies, range and defense ammo, holster, range bag, etc.)
  • Go to different gun stores and ask the same questions. You may be surprised at the wide variety of answers you get. Find the gun store that provides you with the gun that YOU want based on YOUR criteria, not the gun THEY want to sell you. Remember, FACTS over OPINIONS.
  • Have fun. This is an exciting time and you’ll never buy your “first” handgun again.


  • Treat the advice or experiences of others as gospel, but use them to help form your own opinions. Ask what features they like or dislike about a gun and why.
  • Purchase solely on a YouTube review or the recommendation of a social media “influencer” or anyone else. There are however, a lot of good reviewers on social media that will point out many features you may have otherwise overlooked.
  • Assume you must have a .45ACP or a .380ACP or a revolver based on unproven stereotypical notions or because of any “condition” you may have. I can’t tell you how many times person X came in to my store and said they need Gun Y because person Z told them. The most infuriating one is, “I was told I need a snub nose revolver/ .380ACP because I am a woman.”
  • Believe caliber is the end all be all. I would rather you own a .22LR that you are comfortable with and can accurately and quickly engage targets with, than own a .45ACP and not have the ability to hit the broadside of a barn because you were led to believe one caliber is more deadly or has more “stopping power”.
  • Be afraid to ask lots of questions. If you are being rushed or a salesman is impatient find a new store. That said, don’t expect to go shopping on Black Friday and monopolize a salesman’s time on the busiest day of the year. The salesman should know they are building trust and a relationship with a potential lifelong customer.
  • Overlook used handguns, especially if you are on a budget. Many stores will allow you to test fire used handguns if they have a range on site. The guns have already been fired and are being sold as “used” anyways. A few extra rounds down the barrel isn’t going to hurt the value. Just explain that since it is used, you would like to fire a few rounds to make sure it works. Many used firearms you can find for significantly cheaper than new.  For example, we used to list Glock 19 Gen 3 for $499. We would put $479 on a used Glock 19 Gen 3 but under normal circumstances someone could negotiate that down to around $459 or even cheaper if they were buying ammo, holster, cleaning kit, etc. *Disclaimer: Only ask to test fire the specific gun you want to buy e.g.  Glock 42. This is not the time to try the gun to see if you like it. The range will probably give you less than 5 rounds to test fire the gun. *

Other Tips:

  • The way a gun “feels” in your hand is often a good indicator. I often tell people as a default, if they can’t choose between a few, go with what feels the best. That includes how it feels to shoot it. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you can only learn by experience. Your first handgun, like many other firsts, is your first. By that I mean, you learn as you get more experience. You may originally go in thinking you like the Sig P238 because it has a manual thumb safety, chambered in .380ACP, is small and concealable and has a metal frame. It feels good and shoots nicely, so you purchase it. As you shoot and train more, your preferences may change. You might shoot another gun and realize you now want the Springfield Hellcat because you love the way it shoots, is chambered in 9mm, has a larger magazine capacity and is striker fired vs. hammer fired. Congratulations, you just bought your second handgun.
  • Don’t get wrapped around colors or sights or other “features” that can easily be changed.
  • You don’t need a laser to help you shoot or be more accurate. Learn the basics and build a solid shooting foundation first. Lasers typically will hurt the learning process of new handgun shooters. I will touch on lasers in more detail in a later segment.

Closing Thoughts:

There is a reason there are hundreds of different handguns. We are all different. We all have different hand size, body types, muscular skeletal structures, and different things feel different for everyone. When in doubt, go with your gut instinct and what “feels” good to you. In the end it is your purchase, your hard earned money you are spending. You have to be happy with your purchase. With your new purchase you are now part of fairly close knit community. You will make new friends, learn new things and make many fond memories.

Carry on and be safe.

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