My first time ever handling a gun


January 25, 2010, 08:11 PM
So, I thought I'd report in. :neener:

I wasn't raised in a gun friendly environment. My guardians weren't especially 'against' guns, but I live in one of the country's biggest cities and no one in my family hunts or is in the military or owns 'open' property, etc. So, no one in my family is comfortable with guns and thus I was never exposed to them.

Fast forward a while and I'm 22 and I'm suddenly interested. I've been doing research online for a good while and I've decided that I want a semi-automatic pistol, and eventually when I feel comfortable and safe enough with it (probably not for a good while), I'd like to carry it on my person. With all of that considered, today I went to the shop...

The model I'm most interested in (based solely on things like reputation, feature list, aesthetics, price, et cetera- obviously 'how natural it feels in my hand' is something important but something I haven't tested yet, either) is the Springfield XDm, 9mm. I handed over my identification and I got to fiddle with one.

My impressions, as a first time gun toucher!...

this thing is heavy!

this thing is mechanical and powerful!

this thing does not 'ease' in any direction!

The magazine release buttons easily popped out the magazines, but two things in particular that I found surprising: actuating the slide, and flipping up the disassembly lever. Intellectually, I'm glad that they don't move at a feather's touch, but I guess that growing up as someone who thought that guns fired when you looked at them... I didn't expect the resistance.

I'm healthy and able of body, and so I wasn't actually 'unable' to work the slide or anything, but I was definitely surprised by the resistance (and yes, I know to depress the grip safety). Just in general I thought "man, I'd be astonished if any little kid could easily rack the slide on this weapon".

I'd read the entire manual for the XDm so I was easily able to field strip it and reassemble it (I asked the worker at the counter if that was okay, not knowing the etiquette... he said that was fine). Everything is so heavy duty and solidly built!... something ya'll might find amusing: after freezing the slide with the slide stop, I let it slam back home for the first time and it did so with such quickness and power that I jumped a little bit and almost dropped the weapon. The guy at the counter was cracking up.

This post isn't about the XDm- just semi-auto pistols in general. I imagine any of the big polymer, striker-based semi-autos would leave similar impressions upon me as a newcomer.

From here, my next step is signing up for a class (nomenclature, safety rules, actual shooting, etc.) with a few of the ranges in my area. I'm going to take the total 'intro' class at both, just in case either instructor handles a topic the other neglects. I'm also a member of a regional forum for guns in my state... and a few of those guys are very friendly and I think will volunteer to show me some things. I'm excited about the entire process and I'm very aware that versus some people (especially people who grew up plinking cans and hunting and such) I'm a decade+ behind on fundamental safety awareness and everything, and I don't plan to rush the process. I am very eager to learn, though.


I don't know how many of you are like me (complete newbies to guns), but I thought those of you who grew up with them would find this interesting.

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January 25, 2010, 08:19 PM
Good for you. I'm glad to see that you are signing up for classes.
I've got an XDM (9mm) and it's been a very good gun. A friend was impressed enough with mine that she went out and bought her own last year. I've got no complaints about the XDM but I do wish they had included a leather or nylon holster in the kit. If you plan on using the holster that they supply then I suggest that you get the stainless XDM. The plastic holster will wear the blueing (or whatever Springfield is calling it) off of your slide.

January 25, 2010, 08:20 PM
You might find it easier to pick a different gun. The first one I ever shot was a magnum in college on a lark I went with my roommate who did not know much bout guns. We Went to the range; I basically just put bullets in the magnum revolver and shot it. Ah how I miss gun friendly AZ (if I only knew how well I had it given their laws)

fireman 9731
January 25, 2010, 08:40 PM
something ya'll might find amusing: after freezing the slide with the slide stop, I let it slam back home for the first time and it did so with such quickness and power that I jumped a little bit and almost dropped the weapon. The guy at the counter was cracking up.

Just wait til you get to actually shoot one for the first time:D!

January 25, 2010, 08:43 PM
I think I speak for everyone when I say, welcome, both to the forum and (soon enough anyway) to the gun-owning community! I started out in your position not too long ago: I'm 23 now and from CT, a fairly gun-hostile state, family is by no means anti- but nobody really owned guns or shot, so I had to pretty much figure everything out on my own. The thing that struck me has been the overwhelmingly positive and inviting attitude of other gun owners. There's a certain amount of elitism and looking down noses at new people in any hobby, and shooting is no exception, but it's MUCH less frequent and much less pervasive.

Secondly, it sounds like you have an absolutely fantastic attitude. From you post it sounds like you have a great balance of respect vs. comfort with pistols, you know your limits and aren't going to get rushed into anything you're not comfortable with, but also not too timid. You seem prepared- I've never heard of anyone who read the entire manual and showed up knowing how to field strip the firearm the first time they just handled one in a shop! And seeking training is absolutely your next move- in fact, most would urge you to never stop seeking training. There's always the next level of proficiency to strive for and professional training is not only the best way to improve your skills but is also an absolute blast!

If you have any questions, at any point and about anything, their's a wealth of knowledge on this forum and if all else fails- don't hesitate to shoot me a PM. I may not be able to answer you, but I'll definitely point you in the right direction.

It's always an absolute joy to welcome somebody new to something you love, so I'll say it again: welcome, welcome welcome! You're in for a major lifestyle improvement and tons of fun!

January 25, 2010, 08:45 PM
I grew up in a similar environment. My mom finally acquiesced to my getting my hands on my stepdad's .22 rifle when it became clear I was dead set on becoming a cop one day (I was 18.) He sold me the gun, which I then gave to his son a year later when my stepdad died. I bought another pretty quickly, and had also acquired a single-shot shotgun.
My first handgun was a .357 Magnum revolver, bought the day after I turned 21 (in 1987.) It didn't take me long to learn that this thing was going to be both tricky and expensive to shoot, even with .38 Special ammunition. So, about three weeks after I bought it, I was back in the sporting goods store to pick up a .22 Ruger Mk-II pistol..
Welcome aboard.

January 25, 2010, 08:48 PM

I didn't like the XD myself & never got to try the XDM because it was a larger pistol then I was looking for so I ended up with a Taurus 24/7 sub compact which is back to the company being "adjusted". I am glad you found one you like. I have been through several in my life & still haven't found the perfect one.

As you start enjoying your new hobby you might find that your taste change for comfort & convince. At that time you might think about something smaller framed or even different angle of frame. For now though I would suggest shoot often & get very good with the one you have chosen.

I still shoot better with my first gun(or others of the same frame P89, P90, & so on) then any of the others I have ever had.


January 25, 2010, 09:03 PM
Congrats, bravo for signing up for classes.
Don't let the slide slam on an empty chamber.

Enjoy yourself, let others know about your new hobby, and be safe.

January 25, 2010, 09:07 PM
Thanks for the warm reception, everyone.

Don't let the slide slam on an empty chamber.

So when I do a visual inspection to guarantee my chamber is empty (or as a first step in disassembly) I should 'ease' the slide back with my hand?

January 25, 2010, 09:55 PM
Great job in educating yourself about firearms and in not being afraid to ask questions. You will be glad you found "TheHighRoad", the amount of collective knowledge here is astounding.

What state are you in by the way? I'm sure some if some fellow Highroaders were near you they would be more than happy to take you out and let you try some different weapons

January 25, 2010, 09:59 PM
Thanks U-235.

I live in Philadelphia.

January 25, 2010, 10:10 PM
I sell guns for a living and I would love to meet newbie with such a fantastic attitude and having done all the research you've done... at the shops where I work it usually falls to me to start to teach a new gun owner prospect. Good luck and be safe, you've really done your homework.

Tim the student
January 25, 2010, 10:28 PM
Dude - awesome. I love reading posts like this.

So what are you going to get for your 2nd gun?

January 25, 2010, 10:32 PM
Thanks. :)

Woah now- I still haven't decided on the XDm. :D

I need to actually shoot some rounds before I'm comfortable saying either way. Also, it seems a little unfair to only fire a gun with a 4.5" barrel and make my decision... since I would like to carry at some point (hopefully soon! dropping off my application in the next few days, so it'll be ready and waiting), so I want to look at shorter, lighter guns, too- and ones with shorter grips.

At this point, though, I think I'm pretty well settled on one of the polymer, striker pistols... so for my second gun, maybe change it up a bit. Who knows... 1911? :D Something totally different, I think. That's a ways off.

January 25, 2010, 10:47 PM
my next step is signing up for a class

Bravo. Exactly what you should do. There's a reason so many people here are giving you kudos. Even if you know everything you have to know, passing the course will certify your knowledge.

January 25, 2010, 10:55 PM
Welcome. Sounds like you're approaching everything in exactly the right way. Be sure to keep us updated and good luck!

ETA: Wait until you discover revolvers! :)

January 25, 2010, 10:58 PM
Welcome to the wonderful world of (soon to be) gun ownership!

The XD is a good choice for a first handgun. If you plan on using it for self-defense I would suggest shooting both the 9mm and the .40 versions. I think you will find not much difference in controllability.

You should definitely go back to your local gun shop and fondle a full-sized steel-framed 1911. Talk about a hefty piece of machinery. I started out with a 1911 as my first handgun, and have been spoiled by them. I keep almost buying a XD(m) in .40, but I can't get over the fact that its not a 1911. I guess I'll keep saving up until I can afford a STI double-stack .40 1911.

January 25, 2010, 11:02 PM
Welcome to the club, runningfast! I was in your place a little more than two years ago. I waited until I was 50 years old to do it, but I've done a decent job of making up for lost time: I now own five handguns, two .22LR rifles and I reload 9mm and .45ACP. My son just bought a Glock 19, and we go to the range every weekend. Be careful, or you might catch it this bad. :D

January 25, 2010, 11:05 PM
+1 on the .40s&w. Not to mention it is a little easier to find right now. I am glad to see you are getting into firearms. I did not start really getting into firearms until I was 21. Except, unlike you, I grew up around guns but they did not really interest me until later in life. Now I am addicted to them.

Shadow Man
January 25, 2010, 11:09 PM
Great attitude, you are approaching this in a fantastic way. Remember, you can always keep learning; the moment you think you know it all is the moment you make mistakes. Keep up the good work!

January 25, 2010, 11:19 PM
The XD 9mm should make a fine first pistol, and it sounds like you are going about it the right way like everyone has said.

Some consider slamming the slide home with no round in to be bad etiquette, but there is no physical reason not to... just one of those mystery things. I've been buying guns and shooting regularly for about 8 years or so now and am yet to find the motivation/source on that one.

When you *are* putting a round in the chamber, definitely do not ride the slide home; let it snap closed... if you ride it, it might stop before the cartridge gets all the way into the chamber.

I grew up in a family that was fairly firearm neutral; my dad owned one 30/30 and one .22 rifle, and we'd go out and shoot them about once every couple years, so I had only very limited experience when I started and am essentially self taught as a result. It can be done. I started buying guns and shooting frequently at about 20 years old I believe.

Just make sure to concentrate hard on the four cardinal rules every time you handle a gun until they become second nature, and you will grow into a safe gun handler, which is always, of course, the most important thing.

January 25, 2010, 11:31 PM
Hi, welcome to the forum and shooting!
I didn't notice any posting on where you are. I hope it's in a friendly area with a few nice ranges and gun shops.
XDm is nice, also check on Sig, FN P, Bersa, STI GP6, and Stoeger for a variety.
You've already gotten the beginner advice, so go forth shoot and enjoy.

January 25, 2010, 11:38 PM
Welcome to the forum and guns at large. As mentioned already, good for educating yourself first and getting training. While it may not seem it because your in Philly, but PA has some very good laws compared to some others. At least compared to NYC where I moved from.

Check around and you should easily be able to find some ranges that will let you rent guns and shoot a variety before making your final decision. It allows you to prevent any regret and at least for me amass what I wanted quicker than if I was buying a gun I was not 100% on. You will find that you will quickly want another and another.

If you ever find yourself going to Northeast PA send me a message and we can bring out a bunch of toys to the range. Let you get a variety of pistols and rifles, shotguns as well.

Cranky CJ
January 25, 2010, 11:54 PM
Cool for you, hope you enjoy whatever new pistol you choose. sounds like you enjoy doing your research, just don't over think it too much. I have an XD9 and it shoots pretty smooth, also have a 1911 and well, its a real blast. Be safe and have fun.

January 26, 2010, 01:57 AM
Runningfast, the XD is a great gun. It was my first pistol.
Now repeat after me ""I shall never buy a Glock." :P

January 26, 2010, 02:03 AM
Good for you. It's great to see someone that curious and excited.

I know I'm not the first to say this, but always remember the rules of gun safety. And remeber this: The most dangerous gun is and "empty" gun.

Yeah, don't drop the slide (let it go forward) on an empty chamber/magazine without guiding it home. If the action is locked open and there's an empty magazine in the weapon, retract the slide the 1/4" or so back, hold the slide stop down with your thumb, and guide the slide all the way forward.

The XD or XDM is a good choice for a first pistol. However, it may spoil you in two different ways -- first, there's a good chance you'll never see that thing jam. Your second pistol (and there will be a second pistol) may be a little more finnicky. And two, depending on where you go after your Springfield, the XDM's simple takedown may spoil you. Especially if you go to something like, say, a 4" or 3" barrel 1911. But don't avoid 1911s.

So anyway, it seems like you have a great attitude. Welcome to the forum.

January 26, 2010, 02:04 AM
Thanks, everyone.


Mark- what is the problem with Glocks? Other than the odd grip angle which bothers a lot of people, they seem pretty favored. Is your disdain for them a result of their fanbase?

January 26, 2010, 02:42 AM
runningfast, you catch on fast!

Great start on your new hobby: trying different guns, taking instruction are good first steps.

January 26, 2010, 03:51 AM
For your first semi-auto handgun I think a 9mm is perfect. It has a suprising amount of power and the Beretta 92 or a Taurus P92 is a an awesome gun! I am also looking at getting a 1911 as my next pistol and have already decided on the Colt 1991 Series 80. Single action pistols are also a lot of fun to shoot and any Ruger would be a fine choice for that.

January 26, 2010, 04:29 AM
Runningfast....Welcome to THR and the shooting sports.

Mark is just jesting the Glock guys as the XD and Glocks are competitors. Ford vs Chevy.

As you possible choice for the XDm, its a great one. They are excellent pistols with a good track record, and Im a Glock guy.

I would suggest buying the full size gun as your first. They handle better and are much easier to shoot, both in terms of aiming and recoil. A gun thats easier to shoot will improve your fundamental skills. Get a smaller gun later when you decide its time to carry.

As for a second gun, I strongly recommend looking into a good .22. They tend to be fairly inexpensive. The Ruger and Browning are probably the most popular and are both around 350 bucks new. Plus the .22s tend to be really accurate. My best 5 round group at 10 yards with my Ruger MkIII is the size of my thumb nail.

Also .22 is way cheaper than 9mm. 500 rounds for under 20 bucks. Cant beat that.

Good luck and have fun. Its addicting.

Arkansas Paul
January 26, 2010, 10:55 AM
You are going about this the right way, getting all the information you can and signing up for the classes. You mentioned safety a few times in you original post and thats good. You have to crawl before you walk and you seem to have that idea down. Welcome to THR and shooting. If you thought it was awesome handling them, just wait until your nostrils are filled with the acrid smell of gunsmoke. It's addictive and it only takes once.

I second the opinion of having a .22 pistol. They're cheap to shoot and you'll learn good techniques without flinching. You can pick them up very reasonably priced too, as already mentioned in the above post. Handle as many as you can and make sure you get the one that you prefer, not someone else. Now go forth shoot.

January 26, 2010, 11:17 AM
ETA: Wait until you discover revolvers! :)
Nah, wait till he discovers rifles! :)

January 26, 2010, 11:27 AM
Wait till he discovers shotguns!

January 26, 2010, 11:59 AM
Runningfast: Plenty of people, myself included, will recommend getting a .22 pistol to start/as well. My first handgun was a Ruger Mk. III 22/45, and it's great. I bought it new for about $239, and it's so much fun. Plus, I can shoot 10X more for my money than I can with center-fire calibers. It's obviously not designed as a defensive gun, but as someone else said "There will be a second..." Just something to think about. Welcome aboard.


January 26, 2010, 12:06 PM
Wait till he discovers shotguns!

Wait till he discovers BB Guns!

Just kidding :D Welcome to THR, lots of knowledge here. Glad to have another (potential) shooter on board.

BP Hunter
January 26, 2010, 12:13 PM
Welcome! It's always refreshing to see a fresh mind who learns the RIGHT way. I have heard of owners who learn from the supposed experts of handgun owners. Reading the manual and actually memorizing the method of disasembly tells me you are easy to teach and very willing to learn. Signing up for a gun course is the right and best way to learn the basics of guns ownership and safety. GOOD JOB!!

January 26, 2010, 01:25 PM

Some consider slamming the slide home with no round in to be bad etiquette, but there is no physical reason not to... just one of those mystery things. I've been buying guns and shooting regularly for about 8 years or so now and am yet to find the motivation/source on that one.

Many guns are designed so that the brass of a loaded round cushions the impact of the bolt face on the rear of the chamber. When there is no loaded round those guns, the bolt face will impact the rear of the chamber, and this steel on steel impact can cause accelerated wear.

Its considered bad etiquette because if every customer in a gun store racks the slide and lets it slam home a few times, it can quickly add up and cause undue wear on a "new" gun.

The same principle applies to cap-and-ball revolvers. Dry firing can mushroom the nipples and mar the hammer and rear of the cylinder.

January 26, 2010, 01:36 PM
I've heard that before. But much like some other statements that some take as fact (example: "Wolf wears out your extractor", or "The M16 is not supposed to kill people"), actual evidence of such seems to be in very short supply.

January 26, 2010, 01:57 PM
Welcome aboard. Follow the four safety rules and enjoy the hobby.

January 26, 2010, 07:25 PM
Welcome aboard. Follow the four safety rules and enjoy the hobby.

There are some different versions of the Four Rules, but whichever version you learn, they go a long way to preventing accidents. Here's a sample list:

Rule I: All Guns Are Always Loaded
Rule II: Never Let The Muzzle Cover Anything You Are Not Willing To Destroy
Rule III: Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target
Rule IV: Be Sure Of Your Target

Sometimes you'll see Rule I worded, "treat all guns as if they are loaded" or similar, but the stronger wording captures my sense of the meaning. Ensuring that a gun is safe to handle is the owner's responsibility.

Rule II is often expressed: "don't point the gun at anything you are unwilling to shoot," which is another way of saying "don't point the gun at anything except your target." This generally applies to loaded firearms, but following from Rule I, you don't point the gun at someone even if you know it's empty. Theoretically, if you're in a gun store where people are handling weapons, and each gun accidentally went off, nobody would be hit.

Rule III is intended to avoid accidental discharges. Following it prevents things like shooting yourself in the foot while drawing from a holster, for example. I've seen lists of Three Rules so this one may not be universally observed.

Rule IV is also expressed as "be sure of your backstop," and that's how I learned it. The idea is to be certain that your bullet will not injure anyone even if you miss your target - in home defense you would be mindful of not shooting your neighbors.

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