Total newbie to gun ownership


February 5, 2011, 05:11 PM
Hey there.....I'm interested in learning how to use a handgun and buy one for my personal protection. I am a small woman and I've never owned or shot a gun before. How do I go about learning to shoot? Should I go to a rifle range or take lessons? I would like to get the feel for different types of handguns before I just go someplace and buy one. Where and how do I begin? I am in the middle TN area and any recommendations of local resources would be greatly appreciated.

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February 5, 2011, 06:03 PM
Taking lessons from a knowledgeable instructor is essential.

Not sure about local resources but has lots of info for beginners .

Going to a local range that rents guns would be ideal.

Good luck and welcome to THR!

February 5, 2011, 06:20 PM
I agree you need professional instruction. Try to find a range that has an instructor where you can rent and try an assortment of calibers, makes and models. It will likely be a gun shop with a range. From there the instructor can guide you. I would call around and if a gun shop does not have what you're looking for ask if they know where to go. You may find an instructor who has guns he is will to let you use under his or her supervision. I would add, once you get your inital instruction practice practice practice is the key.

February 5, 2011, 06:28 PM
When I got my concealed carry permit I needed to take a Basic Handgun Safety course, I knew most of the info already but it was pretty good info for a beginner. Maybe there is something similar in your area.

My course talked about; safety (obviously), different types of handguns, different actions, basic info on ammunition and some other goodies.

When you do finally decide on what to get, try to do as much shooting with it as you can. The more shooting you do the more comfortable you'll be with it, same with carrying.

Also if money is a factor and you can't afford a professional instructor there a lot of reading material/videos on the internet that can start you off, as well as the great members of The High Road. Good luck!

February 5, 2011, 06:28 PM
I just did a quick Google search and found the range/training facility below located about 50 miles east of Nashville.

Do a Google search on firearms training middle tennessee and you'll find plenty of places to take a basic firearms training course.

February 5, 2011, 06:42 PM is a GREAT resource and a fantastic place to start learning! Recommend taking a course if you can. My wife took an introduction to handguns course (taught by a woman) on her own and she not only learned a lot (safety, handling, etc), but enjoyed the experience. She got to handle and shoot a variety of handguns. She learned that she personally does not care for revolvers and glocks, but liked the walther p99 and 1911s.

February 5, 2011, 07:09 PM
I forgot to mention that Tom Givens is an excellent instructor. He runs rangemaster and is based in Tennessee, if I'm not mistaken.

February 5, 2011, 07:23 PM
the nra has a website for women's instructional shooting: also a contact number: 703 267 1398 a diane danielson. info is from the american rifleman magazine. welcome to shooting and the thr.


February 5, 2011, 07:28 PM
It's great to read from a prospective firearm owner that has their priorities straight. I hope it works out to be a satisfying experience for you.

Sorrowful Jones
February 5, 2011, 07:36 PM
I am a newby on this forum as well. Welcome to the shooting world. Prepare to be overwhelmed. There are dozens of choices to make regarding brand of firearm, type of firearm, caliber, etc. If you ask opinions of 100 people, you will get 100 different answers. Prepare to come across the "hey-little-girl-let-me-show-you-how-to-do-it" types.
I would strongly agree with some of the other posters about taking a shooting class, or even private shooting lessons. If your state has a concealed handgun license, then take the course for that. Learn the applicable laws in your area.

Educate yourself as to the different types of handguns, ie. semi-auto vs. revolver, single action vs. double action. Learn the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Learn the different calibers (sizes of bullet). You will want one with enough "ummmph" to stop an assailant, but not too much where it is not pleasurable to shoot. (If you don't enjoy shooting it, you will not practice enough).


There are a number of shooting/gun forums like this. I am on several. I have always found people friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to share info.

Good luck, stay safe.


February 5, 2011, 07:42 PM
You are getting some good advice.

A good instructor is essential. Try lots of guns. Practice.

All are important.

You are on the way to becoming a great gun owner.


Enjoy the journey.

And welcome to the High Road

February 5, 2011, 07:48 PM
Always a pleasure to welcome a new shooter to the community.

In addition to what everyone else has said, I'll add the three most important things your instructor had better drill into you:

1) Safety.
2) Safety.
3) Safety.

Shooting can provide a lifetime of fun, but one silly mistake can ruin or end a life.

Please practice safety; safe handling, safe shooting, and the safest storage possible commensurate with your need to have "ready access" to your firearm, if it's for personal/home defense.

February 5, 2011, 07:48 PM

Check these two places out. Both are good places to learn. Don

February 5, 2011, 07:57 PM
Hey there.....I'm interested in learning how to use a handgun and buy one for my personal protection. I am a small woman and I've never owned or shot a gun before. How do I go about learning to shoot? Should I go to a rifle range or take lessons? I would like to get the feel for different types of handguns before I just go someplace and buy one. Where and how do I begin? I am in the middle TN area and any recommendations of local resources would be greatly appreciated.
fundamental safety, yes
check with local law enforcement, fairly likely they will have that sort of thing scheduled from time to time, no bank account required
(you will need a gun of course, but any 22 rimfire pistol or revolver will do for the 1st few sessions at least), yes, good advice (better than mine), do that

rifle range, no (not unless it's a combination handgun/rifle range)... not if your prime interest is -
interested in learning how to use a handgun

ask friends and friends of friends, look for common sense honest folk who shoot safely (not that hard to find in middle Tennessee), and might well let you fire a few rounds in a safe and practical manner, and maybe go along to a rental range where you could do a few rounds of this or that

beware of even the best intentioned advice of gun forum folks who pitch make/model/ caliber XYZ for personal protection
extreme few people actually need paid-for-professional training, until they have at least shot some rounds downrange
(time enough to win the Steel Challenge later on)
and until you have fired some rounds downrange yourself, no way can our words tell you what it feels like, or what will best suit you, so don't leap to conclusions based on what we "experts" think about it
it's your hand, not ours, and that counts for an enormous lot in handguns
step #1 is to shoot a gun, safely, and supervised (yes), by a safe and experienced shooter, tactical not yet required
professional training is obviously not evil, anything but, but only about a few 100 million American shooters learned to shoot without need of hiring a pro
(some millions have benefited greatly by doing so a bit later, of course)

if have a public range available, hang out (bring hearing protection), but hang back, watch the people, not the targets, look for ladies who can shoot handguns, ladies that you might strike up a friendly conversation with. I think you might be surprised at how many there are; bring a friend of your own along just for company, if that makes you uncomfortable

aforementioned law enforcement sponsored and supervised events are a real good bet, even if you just go to observe and ask questions
(it's not about going from ground zero to a CCW permit in one day, it's about getting comfortable about shooting, and learning safety basics)

February 5, 2011, 09:30 PM
Welcome to THR :)

I was in a similar boat 6 months ago, with the difference being I bought a gun first. I really like what I bought and have no regrets, but if you get a chance to try different guns before buying you should take advantage of that opportunity. Different guns will feel different in your hand, and there is quite a bit of personal preference involved in choosing.

I found a basic handgun instructor by researching concealed handgun permit classes in my area. My instructor does scheduled classes, but I arranged for private instruction due to somewhat unpredictable work demands. There was no shooting involved in my first lesson, and I think that was good. The focus was on learning about safe handling and being comfortable with the gun. The first time I went shooting there was a definite adrenaline rush when loading the gun, and it was great to have my instructor watching me like a hawk and correcting me when needed. As has been mentioned, safety must always be your #1 priority.

After safety it's all about practice. I bought a .22 version of my gun for practice to keep ammunition costs down, and I shoot once or twice a week. My practice is very purposeful, for each session I have a goal that I want to meet and repeat at least once, and I "allow" myself a certain number of rounds to get to the goal. My practice sessions usually last 1/2 hour. I went shooting today with guys from work for the first time and was a little nervous about how I would do in front of them, but I can safely say my practice has definitely paid off.

The biggest challenge I've had is finding a holster that works for me and grips that feel right in my hand. So far every holster I've tried (except an ankle holster) positions the gun so it is digging into my ribs. I suspect this issue is completely height-related; there just isn't that much room between your belt and your ribs when you're 5'5". was mentioned earlier and it is an excellent source of information. I think I've read through the entire site at least three times. This board is also a great source, and I've found most posters to be friendly and helpful. Note, like with mine, your username does not immediately identify that you're female, so unless you mention it in every post others will probably assume you are a guy. There grammar a good number of gals who post, but the majority are guys.

The only thing I will warn you of is the addictive nature of shooting and how easy it is to spend a lot of money on it!

February 5, 2011, 09:55 PM
There are a number locations in the Middle Tennessee area where you can "rent" handguns for use on an on-site range and obtain carry permit classes. There are also opportunities for private instruction and coaching.

If you care to be a little more specific on your area, you can do this by private message if you desire; I can tell you which are closer to you. There are several good alternatives.

February 6, 2011, 11:08 AM
Chigg and Sorrowful Jones,

Welcome to the forum! :)

Chigg, You've got some excellent advice here! :)

I massively agree with the emphasis on safety, good training, and lots of practice.

Learn The Four Rules, and be able to recite them when awakened in the middle of the night. Practice physically handling a toy gun with these in mind.

I would add is that you should trust your own gut instincts about people and your choice of guns. See what kind of "vibe" you get at a gun store before you do business with them.

Also, avoid the "big box" places. The advice I've heard in those kind of places ranges from outstanding to awful, and a newbie can't tell the difference. Stick to a specialty shop. The prices are not really any higher. If you can get a store that also holds NRA classes, then it should be a good place.

Also, good call on the "revolver" forum choice! Many folks will push you towards the latest semi-auto... don't be moved. Choose what YOU like. A revolver is a fantastic choice for a first gun. It's much simpler to learn and just as effective. I'm a huge fan of the Smith and Wesson 642 or 442, especially with a laser sight. This is a great first gun for self defense, but YOU should feel it and make the decision. See if you can test-fire one before you buy.


Colt Smith
February 6, 2011, 12:19 PM
Chigg, Sorrowful Jones and other newbies,

Welcome. You will find some excellent advice here. Plenty has already been mentioned and I won't reiterate that. I will touch upon a couple of points that have yet to be mentioned.

1) Please get a membership with the NRA and with your state's Rifle and Pistol Association. These organizations fight against the constant assault on our Constitutional rights everyday. They are also good resources for education, legal advice, places to shoot, competitions and many other things. Every person who owns a firearm, whether it is for hunting or target shooting or self-defense, should have a membership with these organizations. Our strength and power to affect positive changes in legislation comes in our numbers.

2) All gun owners are ambassadors. Our actions and words have power. The power to lose or to gain the support of others. We have a responsibility to present ourselves and our right to firearms in a positive light. So, be a good good example to others. Be knowledgeable. There are some minds you will never change. Some are on the fence. Being a safe and responsible person and well-informed speaks well not only for yourself but for us all. You are doing the right things already and I know you will be a good ambassador.

Be safe. Have fun.

Hondo 60
February 6, 2011, 08:19 PM
Chigg & Sorrowful Jones
Welcome to THR!

Sounds like great advise so far.
Learn from a pro & then practice, practice & practice some more.

I wish I could meet a woman like you here in WI. :D

February 6, 2011, 09:19 PM
The advice to seek instruction from a certified instructor is right on the money. Forget everything you have seen about gun handling in movies and tv. Learn how to do it correctly.

February 6, 2011, 09:53 PM
Welcome! Don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't let anyone tell you what you should get.

Being a woman doesn't mean you're going to like a snub nose .38 Special. Being a "small woman" doesn't mean you can't shoot a gun that "kicks" or you can't shoot a semi-automatic. More depends on your attitude and determination to learn a new skill. And it will come. Quickly.

As an instructor I've taught the NRA Basic Pistol or FIRST Steps Pistol to probably a hundred women or more. I've taught women from 5' tall to 6' tall, from under 100 pounds to over 200 pounds, and from teenagers to septegenarians. The one thing they have in common after trying out various handguns at the class is that they all have different preferences, and the size of the woman has little to do with their preference.

The gun that you shoot well and are comfortable using, and fits your hand is the best one for you, and there isn't anyone who can know what that will be ahead of time.

Yes, find and instructor. Focus on safety first. Focus on learning the correct manupulation (loading and unloading, etc.) and basic marksmanship skills. Learn the laws in your state and city for ownership, carry, and self defense. Then when you are ready, go the next level and take a defensive pistol class. You will learn many things you may have never though of before.

February 7, 2011, 12:05 AM
Welcome! Don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't let anyone tell you what you should get.

Being a woman doesn't mean you're going to like a snub nose .38 Special...
Yes! I agree with kludge and the other excellent advice you've been given here.

When I suggest the S&W 642, it is only a suggestion. YOU need to try many models and make up your own mind (with competent advice)!

The reason I suggest a revolver is because of how easy it is to understand. There is an extra level of complexity with a semi-automatic... the whole issue of whether a round is in the chamber, even though the magazine has been removed. Not an issue for folks who are really into guns, but it is one extra thing for a new shooter to keep track of along with what can be overwhelming new information. However, if you decide you like a semi better, then you should study how to use it safely, and then use that. (Again, as kludge pointed out, training is the key!)

NOW, as to training, here are some links to find courses: for woman-focused courses, or
search for the NRA FIRST steps Pistol Orientation in your area.

That should help get you connected with good, competent professionals.

February 7, 2011, 02:42 PM

I hope that both of you come to the table with great confidence. Sure, there is the occasional jerk but mostly women are warmly welcomed to the world of guns.

Also note that in my experience women are generally better handgunners than men.

Is it because they come to it with less ego and therefore are more willing to listen? Is it better dexterity or eye hand coordination? I do not know.

I do know that of the dozens of people that I have taught to shoot the quickest learners have been women. Some have loved "mouse guns" and others gravitate to the big boomers. Heck, my current wife always grins when putting lead downrange with her 3 inch 357 686. She says that "it feels like you are shooting something".

And remember everyone loves a well armed woman.

February 7, 2011, 11:56 PM
We're very proud to have y'all aboard!
I'd absolutely say that a class taught my an NRA certified instructor would be a great place to start, even if you're not in persuit of a concealed license. Maybe you have friend/family member who'd enjoy taking the class with you just for kicks, and may have a variety of handguns for you to try out?
I've found that ladies make the best new shooters. No pre-conceived notions, and hard-wired with great fine motor skills. You'll do great!

February 8, 2011, 01:28 AM
Welcome to THR and to taking responsibility for your protection.
Lots of great advice was already given.

Here are three women handgun champions who are revered by men and women alike:

- Jessie Abbate
- Kay Miculek
- Julie Goloski-Golob

If you google or youtube their names, you will see what a lady can do with a handgun !

Shooting is a big diverse world. There are lots of variations involving handguns, rifles, shotguns. With handguns, the action shooting games such as IDPA, USPSA and IPSC are a safe fun way to build/maintain skills and to stay motivated.

If you enjoyed reading about "Total newbie to gun ownership" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!