Unpopular Opinion: Your First Gun Doesn’t Matter

In my series of unpopular opinions is this: Most people spend far too much time choosing the “best” gun to purchase as their first gun.

Entering the world of gun ownership is intimidating and if your primary objective is self-defense then it is extra intimidating as each decision feels like life and death. Nobody wants to screw it up.

So it seems just natural to ponder and struggle over the decision of what gun to buy. To further complicate matters, everyone has an opinion, and most of those opinions seem to contradict one another.

The Prevailing Advice

I have at different points in my life been guilty of providing all the following advice:

You should start with a simple revolver. “Just point and shoot,” what could be easier? No complicated mechanics and you can tell if it's loaded just by looking at it.

Or at different points, I've endorsed very specific guns. If you have small hands buy gun x for example.

I've also been guilty of telling people to hold as many guns as they can and then rent/borrow all the ones that seem to fit their hand well and shoot them. Narrow it down to the 3-10 that you seem to shoot the best or like the best while shooting and then narrow it down based on price or availability of holster etc.

Technically good advice but is it really the best advice or does it put the person at risk by emphasizing the wrong thing?

Why It Doesn't Really Matter

It all sounds overly complex and painful from my perspective. I've evolved to basically providing the following advice:

Buy something from any big-name gun manufacturer.

Too vague to be helpful. Ok, just buy a Glock 19.

To specific to sound like it could be good advice? Ok, buy the lowest-cost Glock, Sig, or S&W that seems to roughly fit in your hands.

Here are reasons why I think too much time and energy is being spent choosing the gun:

First, you don't yet possess the skill to have any idea what is going to work well for you. In my opinion, only a very refined and skilled shooter really can note the difference in how one gun performs or shoots in your hands vs a different gun. As a new gun owner, you lack that refined skill.

Second, if we are being really honest, a good shooter can shoot any gun just about as good as any other gun. Now you are a newbie, probably not a “good shooter” but the point is that any gun you buy has equal potential to serve your needs assuming it roughly fits in your hands.

Third, while guns aren't inexpensive, they do retain their value very well. If you end up not loving the gun you can probably sell it used and get your money back. Wait a few years and you might even turn a profit.

Fourth, we live in an “enlightened era” in which almost all mainstream guns are highly reliable and well-made. It's pretty hard to go wrong frankly.

Fifth, putting so much emphasis on the tool creates a bad mindset in which one might come to believe that the gun is more important than the skill. The skill is WAY more important. Spend way less time being worried about buying the wrong gun and just commit to buying any gun and taking it to the range once a week for the next 6 weeks. Those range trips will be a significantly more valuable use of your time.

Sixth, no matter what gun you buy, as your knowledge and awareness increases and you spend more time around guns and gun owners you will inevitably end up wanting or feeling like you need to buy another gun in the very near future. After all, most of us find that the best gun for home defense isn't the best gun for concealed carry and even for concealed carry you might want 2 different guns depending on what you are wearing or other factors. That 2nd gun purchase will be much more informed.

Things that perhaps do matter when buying your first gun

If you do want to research, study, and feel it all out might I suggest the following as a simplified and more relevant checklist:

  1. Buy a gun that fits in your hands. If you are an average size person then about any gun will do but if you have unusually small or unusually large hands you may want to narrow down your options based on that factor.
  2. Buy a mainstream gun. I suggest Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Sig Sauer. Primarily this is because you are going to have need to buy a holster, and other potential accessories and these guns are the most widely supported in the aftermarket accessory marketplace.
  3. Buy a 9mm. In the handgun world, 9mm is by far the most popular but more relevantly it is the lowest-cost ammunition to buy that is deemed widely acceptable for defensive use. Lower-cost ammo means you will practice and train more often and as previously mentioned skill is the important thing you should be thinking about right now instead of what gun to buy.

Ok, there is an unpopular opinion. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of ConcealedCarry.com. ConcealedCarry.com provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Dave Neidhardt on April 17, 2024 at 8:47 pm

    Sound advice.

  2. Sean on April 17, 2024 at 9:45 pm

    Very good info,wish I had this info 40yrs ago as a Young cadet in the Sheriff’s academy. Started with the SnW model 15 in 38 cal. Now I have several semi automatics n one revolver….Almost got kicked out of the academy for not being able to.shoot qualification..Learned alot since then.

  3. Randal Totten on April 17, 2024 at 10:48 pm

    Makes sense to me … I rented 5-6 guns at a range, my criteria was fit in my hand and how accurate my shots were with each gun. I ended up purchasing a S&W 9mm Shield. Then the Sig 365 came out. I bought the Sig 365 and traded the Shield.

  4. Mel on April 17, 2024 at 11:03 pm

    Very good advice. I would add as a deciding factor for choosing a 1st gun the adage “more meat on the metal”. In general, I think the semi-auto is usually a better first choice than the revolver because the beginner can get a better grip on a semi-auto than a revolver. If they try to get the same kind of 2-handed grip on a revolver as a semi-auto, they risk serious injury from the very high pressures coming from the cylinder gap, easily exceeding 50,000 psi for the larger magnum revolvers, so all beginners should be made aware of this. Also, in double action, the trigger pull on a revolver is usually double the trigger pull for a striker-fired semi-auto pistol. All of this adds up to less control over the gun for the beginner using a revolver compared to a semi-auto. Less control usually means decreased shooting accuracy, decreased enjoyment, and less practice. Of course, in single action the trigger pull is usually a little less than for a striker-fired gun, but I have read from multiple sites that 90% of revolver practice should be shooting double action rather than single action.

    • Clark Kent on April 27, 2024 at 11:32 pm

      Buddy, the thumbs up grip you described while using a revolver is just as inappropriate as when shooting a pistol. Get those thumbs DOWN and you won’t inadvertently move the slide stop up when you shoot.

  5. Stephanie on April 18, 2024 at 12:57 am

    Great advice. I researched endlessly for my first gun! It turned out that the gun’s grip is too big for my small hands, but I shoot it well. I’ve learned a lot after buying it though. (And although the grip is too big, I love it!)

    Found out guns are like potato chips…I bought a few more and love each one. Have my eye on one now! I’m addicted.

  6. Bryan Berg on April 18, 2024 at 11:21 am

    Good thoughts, Jacob.

    I especially like your fifth point: skill contributes vastly more to the likelihood of a positive outcome than gear. We live in a world with lots of “solutions” for sale, and we’re enamored with the idea of swiping a card to fix everything, but no amount of money can substitute for the time and discipline required to learn to manage a gun. And virtually any gun will do nowadays, given manufacturing technology and internet gossip that tend to set the bar for quality expectation pretty high within the marketplace.

    Increasingly, I tend to steer people away from buying a tiny gun first. Their goal may be concealed carry, but if their gun is difficult to manipulate, loud, harsh in recoil, difficult to shoot accurately because of short sight radius, and requires them to stuff magazines constantly because of low capacity, I don’t think they will enjoy the experience enough to stick with it long enough to reach concealed-carry competence. To the extent that that supposition may be true, I tend to nudge people with the idea that everything they learn on a bigger gun will translate well to a smaller gun in time, but if they start on a tiny gun, they won’t care after their first class because “shooting isn’t for me.” That gun, I think, will wind up in their sock drawer, and the thought of shooting in general will be relegated to a dark corner of their mind.

    Or so it seems to me. Thanks for the article!

  7. Bonnie Henry on April 19, 2024 at 2:20 pm

    I got my concealed handgun license after taking an intro and advanced class. Spent a year renting different firearms and meeting friends at the range to try theirs. I was 53 with severe arthritis in my shoulder and was not strong enough to rack the slide on most guns. I tried the S&W .380 EZ and found it perfect for me. Bought the 9mm EZ a year later. I’m so glad I tried so many and took my time. I have since had complete shoulder replacement and am even better at the range. Got my NRA RSO and joined Armed Women of America and train twice a month.

  8. Benard Campomanes on April 27, 2024 at 12:48 pm

    Reason #6, by far is the catch-all and reason that your first gun doesnt matter–

    “you will inevitably end up wanting or feeling like you need to buy another gun in the very near future.”

    Trust me, guns are like the Pringles jingle. . you can’t just have one!

    If you think you only need one and want to get rind of your others call me 😉

  9. Clark Kent on April 27, 2024 at 11:37 pm

    Your first handgun should be chambered for 22 long rifle. Cheaper to shoot than 9mm thus allows more practice for less buck$. Allows shooting basics to be learned faster with less recoil and report. You have to crawl before you can walk.

  10. Steven on May 16, 2024 at 8:19 am

    My first firearm was a pellet rifle. I was 12 and practicing shooting then I got my grandads 22 pump rifle a Winchester made in 1921 and worth money today priced one. Great little rifle any buyers out there??

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