New to guns/shooting, with questions


January 18, 2003, 03:24 AM
Well, I’m new to the board... having found it after a net search turned up The Firing Line. Hope you all don’t mind if I jump right in with a question.

I'm interested in shooting, and learning a little about guns in general. I’d like to pick it up as a hobby, and also for the sake of keeping a defensive gun at home. In addition, I’m also an EMT, and would like to gain some understanding of the different types of firearms, to help me better understand the types of gunshot injuries.

Now, let me complicate things a little further. I’m 19, and recently moved out of state (to Albuquerque, NM, if that makes any difference) to go to college. I have a one bedroom, with no roomates, and would have no problems safely/securing storing a firearm, and keeping it out of irresponsible hands.

Given my age, and the fact I don’t have older family nearby to purchase the gun for me, am I correct in believing that I can only purchase a rifle or shotgun, rather than a handgun?

The people I’ve spoken to all indicate that a shotgun would be appropriate for home defense, and could be ‘practiced’ with at an outdoor range about 20 minutes away. Models mentioned have included the 870, Express, and a few others I can’t recall.

Ideally, I’d like to spend less than about $350 for the gun, a sufficient amount of ammunition to get comfortable with it, and whatever basic maintenance supplies I’d need.

So, given all that information, what do you all think? Also, I’m near a few independent gun shops, as well as a WalMart. Where would you recommend as a place to look?

Many thanks, in advance, for any advice, tips, or links you can offer.


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January 18, 2003, 05:08 AM
Hey Dave it is true that you can't personally purchase a handgun from a dealer or handgun ammo until you are 21. I dont think there are any laws against you posessing one. I lived in NM for a year and its my understanding that you can purcase a handgun from a private individual.

I hope your one bedroom isnt in a dorm because they usually prohibit guns. If you live in an apartment there are many serchable threads that are specifically about apartment defense on TFL. Its different defending an apartment than a home due to people living on the other side of most walls and overpenatration.

My first gun was and 870 and my experience with it has been good. It is fun to shoot trap with if you have a trap field near you. It should be a decent apt defense gun with the right shells although there are shotguns better designed for defense like Mossbergs 590 sp (~$300). There are also cool aftermarket parts for 870's that make them more defense specialized.

My 870 was $ 210 at a sporting goods store but that was about 5 years ago. You would have plenty of cash left over to buy a case of shells and cleaning supplies. Walmart has them on sale from time to time but if you plan on making a hobbie out of shooting and you have a nearby "friendly" dealer that would be willing to educate you it might be worth it to give him your business even if it costs you a few more dollars. Although when i bought my 870 i went to my dealer and he said that he didnt normally keep them in stock and that i should just go to wallmart because there was no way he could come close their price.

I'm not an expert on anything but i'd say an 870 isn't fancy but its pretty simple and reliable and should keep you safe. Thats whats important right? There are other inexpensive 12ga like Mossbergs 500 but the Remington 870 is the only one i have personal experience with.

Not to brag but I just turned 21 and after sobering up I bought a nice 1911 and some ammo.

Good to have you aboard,

January 18, 2003, 05:43 AM
For specifics on state laws, try I know that N.M. passed a concealed carry law but something happened to hold it up. You can do a search here or TFL as it was discussed at length. There are also N.M. members here who can help you.

There was a N.M. firearms board but I don`t have the URL. A search should turn up something.

Welcome. :D

January 18, 2003, 05:53 AM

Click on this link

New Mexico Gun Laws (

January 18, 2003, 06:19 AM
Welcome friend! Yes, you would have to consult the state laws for your specific issue. In case you are interested in Concealed carry, is an excellent site to use.

January 18, 2003, 06:30 AM
Wow.. Thanks for the replies so far.. really helpful info, especially since I made my post around two in the morning. ;)

Owning a handgun would interest me, but, I think for at least my first gun, I think I’d like to be able to buy from a dealer, and not an individual. And, since I’m not 21, it seems I wouldn’t be able to buy handgun ammunition on my own. And, the mention of trap shooting sounded really interesting. Seems like a good way to have some fun while getting to know my new ‘toy.’

Although the idea of CCW is something I might consider in the future, right now, my age, and the prohibition of carrying on campus, where I spend most of my time, means I can’t consider it now. And, as was mentioned, it looks like New Mexico’s concealed carry provisions are somewhat ‘messed up’ at the moment.

Also, thanks for the link to New Mexico laws. Looks like I might want to do some research on what New Mexico considers justifiable use of force in home defense. I doesn’t look like I’d have any trouble buying a shotgun, except for possibly that I’ve been a resident for less than a month so far.

Coincidentally, I live in a condo, that I’m renting from my dad. So I don’t have to worry about the gun policy of a dorm or landlord. Because of the location and layout of my unit, I would almost always have a minimum of two walls between any neighbors and myself. I’m guessing a gun shop would be able to recommend ammunition that minimized the chance of penetrating more than it needed to?

Thanks again, and keep this good stuff coming!

Baba Louie
January 18, 2003, 07:16 AM

Start with a .22

Just about everyone makes an affordable .22 rifle and the ammo is quite inexpensive as well. Zip recoil, makes for good practice.

4 rules of gun-safety need to be hammered into your brain:

1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle at anything you don't want destroyed.
3. Keep your finger off of the trigger (and out of the triggerguard) until your sights are on the target.
4. Know where your bullets are going (beyond the target).
Read everything you can.

Different calibers that are useful to beginners start with the .22 and then get larger.

In hanguns... .22, .38/.357, 9mm, .40, .45 are favorites. Revolvers or semi-automatic.

Rifles... .22, .223/5.56, 7.62(.30 caliber covers a wide variety of cartridges) with lots (and I mean lots) of others available. Single shot, pump, lever action or semi-auto.

Shotguns... 20 ga., and 12 ga. (since you're a beginner) different types of shot sells abound... size of shot pellets (00 thru 8, large to small respectively) size of charge, type of shot (lead, steel, bismuth) Again as with the rifles, single shot, pump and semi-auto. Also double barrel.

Manufacturers... where to begin? Ruger seems to make one of everything. Remington, Browning, Winchester, Colt, Marlin, etc., just to name a few.

Then there's the historical point of view. Old Cowboy guns, military surplus, antique black powder.

It's an interesting life-long hobby.

Then... there's the politics involved. I won't go there now, look into the legal and political forums. Might open your eyes a bit to see how the fight is occuring (Them vs US).

Glad to have you on board. Remember the 4 rules always, till you don't have to think about them, they become a natural instinct.

Have fun, be serious, enjoy your freedom while you can.


Lone Star
January 18, 2003, 07:35 AM

You're unusually articulate for a 19-year-old. If you devote the care to gun handling that you apparently do to other disciplines, I suspect that you'll avoid accidents and find much to enjoy as you gain experience with firearms.

If you decide on a pump shotgun, the ones that I'd favor are the Remington M870 (but not in the cheap Express grade) and the Ithaca M37.

If you can manage to own a handgun legally, your best choice is probably a medium-framed .357 Magnum revolver with a four-inch barrel. Shoot .38 Special ammo in it until you gain confidence and have mastered the arts of markmanship and safe, instinctive gun handling. I'd choose a Smith & Wesson M66 or, if you know that you'll want to shoot a lot of .357 ammo in it, their M686. The stainless steel is a maintenance advantage, especially in daily carry. I'd avoid autos until you're familiar with revolvers and with handguns generally.

I got my first gun at age six (a single-barrel .410) and my first handgun at 13. (Webley Mk. VI revolver.) I wish you well as you seek to acquire the guns that will provide security and joy afield for a lifetime.

Lone Star

January 18, 2003, 07:57 AM
there is no "right" answer. Lots of ways to start, and none is "right or wrong"...still

Kinda depends also on your size and tolerance for recoil. I have rather extensive experience with shotguns, rifles, and pistols as does most everyone else here.

If I were starting with just one firearm, I'd go with a Ruger 10/22 semi-auto 22 caliber. 22's are very, very cheap to shoot, and IMO the most important thing for a new and untrained shooter is trigger time. Would a 12 ga pump make a better HD firearm??? Well, yeah, but you're trying to learn shooting techniques and safety while handling the recoil.

I'd try to find a good full service gun shop in your area. I piddle around our local shop and help run the counter sometimes. Shooters tend to be very helpful (sometimes overly so). We have an indoor range. I remember one time we had a new guy that was totally confused on a handgun. I took him into the range and let him try 2 different 45's (one Long colt revolver and a 45 auto) and a 22. We were able to cover safety items, then go to loading and proper technique. He was hooked from the start.

Now, if the budget is $350, you could might squeeze in a 10/22 for about $140 and an 870 for a little over $200

January 18, 2003, 10:00 AM
I think you're getting some good responses here, but if you want to be able to shoot trap, a "home-defense"-style shotgun isn't really the way you want to go, unless you get, say, an 870 with multiple barrels. Open chokes and shorter barrels are fine in a game like skeet, but trap is a game that needs longer barrels and TIGHT chokes. Most home-defense uses are likely to be at a range of 20 feet or less, so you're really just "pointing" at your target. If I was starting out again, I'd probably go with an 870 with two barrels, a 10/22 for rifle practice, and later on, a Mark II or .38 revolver for a first handgun.

January 18, 2003, 10:15 AM
And, since I’m not 21, it seems I wouldn’t be able to buy handgun ammunition on my own.
*wicked grin*
Case + bullet + primer + powder = loaded cartridge. Don't have to be 21 for components.

Plus, it's cheaper and you can fine-tune loads for specific guns, if you so desire.

Dan Morris
January 18, 2003, 10:21 AM
Welcome to the group. If Sandia Gub Club is still in operation, you can probably get some local support there.

Art Eatman
January 18, 2003, 10:39 AM
In your free time, assuming you have much, I suggest you wander through any gunshow nearby. Gun stores as well. There you can look at all the different "Stuff" available. You can do some "feel and fondle" to get a notion of what fits your hand and your body.

For instance, when you mount a rifle or shotgun to your shoulder, keep your eyes closed. When you open them, you should be looking right through the sights, without having to shift your head around to attain alignment.

This sort of doings will save you a ton of money, on down the line.

I've never worried about buying used guns, nor from individuals with tables at gunshows. In my many years of having a gunshow table, I never was offered a "hot check", nor had somebody try to sell me a stolen gun. When you regularly see some particular guy with a table at show after show, you can get a pretty good notion of his honesty and/or fair pricing.


:), Art

Bob Locke
January 18, 2003, 11:41 AM
Hard to beat a good pump shotgun for multiple uses, but a bolt-action .22 LR is where almost everyone on this board probably got started.

If you're looking to spend $350 or so, I would think you could get both if you don't mind buying used. Check the local papers; my bet is that there are a number of guns for sale that would fill the bill. Grab the ads and make a couple of posts here asking for opinions. You'll get 'em!

And welcome to the club!

January 18, 2003, 12:06 PM
One thing that I haven't seen mentioned is the possiblity that you might be able to get some experience right at scholl. Many colleges still have shooting clubs and teams. They are very often low visibility since football and basketball carry most of the attention. Check and see if there is one available at your school.

Another suggestion is to check for shooting clubs in Alberquerque. There were several last time I was there. They will have programs that will let you experience a broad range of shooting sports.

January 18, 2003, 12:21 PM
Nobody has touched your question on cleaning supplies. If you go with a shotgun, it has been my experience that a boresnake and a spray cleaner/lube (CLP or Remingtons brand) work well. If you go with a .22cal rifle, then you'll need a cleaning rod (one piece prefered) and a jag/patches. Also, Hoppe's #9 works well on my .22s for lead and powder.

I will second ppls suggestion of a rifle over a shotgun for learning to shoot well. I started off in wing-gunning and it has slightly hampered my rifle/pistol skills (almost got it fixed :D ). Shotguns work on a snap to the sholder, a quick look down the barrel, and sweep and fire. Whereas rifles/pistols need to be lined up. I started off in rifle shooting not acquiring a good target, and sholdering the rifle "funny". The good news is that I can easily go back to shotguns now, but I think it is better to start into the discipline of shooting with a rifle. YMMV

GoodLuck and Shoot Straight


January 18, 2003, 02:15 PM
Hmm... A lot I hadn’t considered... I think I was primarily interested in the shotgun because I figured it would be good to practice or shoot trap with, while at the same time being able to serve for defense. I hadn’t considered that starting with a shotgun might not be the best way to learn the basics, and wasn’t aware of the recoil issues that might make things more difficult.

I guess right now, my choices have been widened :rolleyes: to an 870, with a choice of barrels; a .22 rifle, or possibly a medium sized revolver. It looks like I’ll be checking out some of the gun shops this weekend, and maybe visiting a range.

It seems that I missed a big gunshow about a week before I moved here, but I’ll keep an eye out for more. I’ll also check out the Sandia Gun Club, and see if I can find any others. I flipped through the University Directory, and the listing of organizations, but didn’t see anything shooting related, but I’ll know better once the semester starts in a few days.

Generally speaking, what should I be looking for in a used gun? Is it similar to looking at used cars, in terms of checking that it was properly maintained, and seems to work smoothly? Any particular areas of concern?

Thanks again.

BTW, Lone Star - Thanks for the compliment; Art - Free time? I didn’t see that in the dictionary, explain.. ;)

January 18, 2003, 02:29 PM
Welcome Presguy. :cool:

You've already gotten some good info on hardware, but as an EMT you might want to check out this link.

It'll give you some info on the terminal effects of bullets.

Also, Plus P has a photo gallery of gunshot wounds. Not pretty, but as an EMT you're likely to see worse. For some reason the gallery is closed for the moment, so keep the link as a reference.

4v50 Gary
January 18, 2003, 02:36 PM
Better a shotgun than a handgun for home defense. Bigger is better.

BTW, the only difference between the Remington Express and the fancier Wingmaster is the finish & the furniture. The Express isn't polished & along the labor savings (and lower priced stock/foreend) is passed on to the consumer. Go Express & save your money for range time and ammo.

Art Eatman
January 18, 2003, 03:10 PM
I generally advocate a magazine-fed bolt-action .22 with iron sights for a novice, just because of safety and simplicity. Plus, it teaches fire discipline rather than a "See how fast this semi-auto sprays!" behavior. Adult-sized, used guns are fairly inexpensive.

As for what to look for in a used rifle: First, the bore. It should be shiny, without dark spots or rings/shadows. The edges of the rifling should be sharp. The throat area, in the first couple of inches of barrel in front of the chamber should also be shiny, and not show signs of erosion from thousands of shot. The crown of the muzzle should not have any marks or "dings". (This last is an inexpensive repair by a gunsmith.) The exterior appearance can be a bit rough, if the bore is good; extended carrying and handling doesn't mean a lack of cleaning or a lot of shooting.

A scope can be checked by looking wrong-end-to. This will show any chips or flaws from rough handling.

A good tool for checking the bore of any gun is a "Bore-Lite" or equivalent name. One AA battery, and a curbed fiber-optic to direct the light into a chamber. They cost a buck or two at most gunshows.

Hope this helps,


January 18, 2003, 05:32 PM
According to people who know what's best for you, a handgun is too dangerous for you until you turn 21.

IMO a carbine and pistol are a good place to start.

.22LRs are a good place to start, fun and dirt cheap, but reasonably cheap .308 or 7.62 Russian can be had.

.308 rifles are beyond your price range, have you looked into a Commie SKS?

January 18, 2003, 07:16 PM

I'll wander off in a different direction from previous posts

--Brand the 4 rule of safety onto your brain.

--Regardless of what you purchase or shoot, spend money up front on ballistic grade shooting glasses and hearing protection. Use both plugs and muffs. Start out using them and you'll not have to break bad habits.

--Spend money on NRA safety courses then move on to rifle or pistol couses as necessary. Since HD is an issue with you, check out the NRA Home defense course. You have the opportunity to do it right the first time.

--Find a shooting buddy AKA a shooting mentor.

--Practice does not make perfect! Perfect practice makes perfect.

--Finally, practice enought to be confident in handling a firearm. I didn't say "good with a firearm". Confidence enhances safety assuming the basics are known and practiced.

Shoot 'til you grin!

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