First firearm -- must I try before I buy?

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Jun 25, 2011
Hello! First time, long time, etc. I'm looking to purchase my first firearm soon -- a handgun autoloader. I've shot about a dozen at my local firing range in Northern Virginia, in a number of calibers, and I'm confident that I want my first firearm to be a 1911 in .45 caliber. Problem is, the make/model I'm most interested in -- the RIA Tactical -- isn't available as a rental at my LGS / range. I don't have any local friends who shoot, and I'm unlikely to happen across someone at the range shooting the exact specimen I'm looking at.

SO my question for you fine, knowledgeable folks: Have you ever bought a firearm without test-firing first? Would you do so as your first purchase? There's a big variance in the fit and finish of the selections I've shot; as a first-time owner, should I hold the weapon in my hands before pulling the trigger, so to speak?

Thanks for reading -- I look forward to your responses!
I've bought guns I've never fired before -- many times.

Get something with a good warantee, from a shop you trust to help you out if there's a problem, and go for it.

We all have to start somewhere. The gun you start with isn't likely to be the gun you still prefer 10 years from now. Don't sweat it. Buy it, shoot it (A LOT), learn all you can, and move on when you can -- if you think you need to when the time comes.
I have never test-fired a gun I have bought, actually.

If you have fired a 1911 .45 before, you are comfortable with how it shoots, and the controls, you should be fine.

The only thing I would recommend is to hold one at the store and dry-fire it. RIA is considered a pretty solid budget brand for 1911's, but if your only experience with 1911's has been higher-end brands, the fit and finish of the RIA and the trigger may disappoint you.
I've never "pre-fired" before, either. I did rent a SIG 1911 that had some tuning done, and it was a good shooter, of course. I just wanted to see if I could shoot one well, as I am left-handed and do not yet own a 1911. Later, I checked out some RIA guns at the local showroom (I call this particular LGS that because it's so big, rivaling the firearm section of a Gander Mountain store.) I have heard nothing but good about the RIA units, and they actually had one with an ambidextrous setup. I liked it, but have not bought it (yet.)
I don't think you can go wrong with one.
With a new gun made by a manufacturer with a good reputation, you will "probably" be okay.

I have owned one Filipino 1911 (same manufacturer, different name on the slide) and it was a POS. I bought it used, and the manufacturer/distributor had no interest in talking to me, let alone fixing it.

I took it from about 50% function to about 95% function...still unacceptable for a carry gun.

I sold it with full disclosure...and predictably, took a beating.

No more Filipino 1911s for me.

I've never fired a gun before purchase; not once. I've never had a purchaser want to fire before buying either. It's just not very common.
I've never pre-fired a gun I bought either, nor have I ever rented a gun at a range as this doesn't seem to be available in upstate N.Y. Where I live. My suggestion would be take a chance on it, most 1911s are similar in feel and function. If you don't like it you can always trade for something else.
Have you fired a full size 1911? If so you pretty much know how it'll feel. If you decide you don't like it you can usually sell it without taking a huge loss. It's not like a new car where the value drops like a rock when you drive off the lot.
I too have never fired the exact gun I've bought before purchasing.
I haven't shot a RIA tactical but have shot several 1911s and have heard lots of good things about RIA from a price/value standpoint.
The only one I didn't really like was a .compact .40s&w glock (never fired a .40 before). I did own a g19 but since .40 seemed all the rage at the time I went for a used g23. It was a bit snappy for my tastes and couldn't fire it as fast and accurately as I could a 9mm or .45acp. However I sold it (several years later) for $25 less than I paid for it so I figured about $5 a year isn't bad for a "rental fee". Never had a negative experience with a .45acp, especially a 1911. Over the last 100 years most of the kinks have been worked out :)
You rarely get the opportunity to fire the gun you buy, but you can handle and dry fire it to make certain that it works to the fullest extent possible for putting your money in the seller's hand.

If you can, purchase it where you you can walk right out on the range to shoot it before leaving. Make sure that it is clean and well oiled so it works properly and feed it good quality jacketed ammunition. If it doesn't behave properly you can turn it over to the gunsmith before it goes home with you.
most of the guns you will buy in your life will be bought before you fire them. That being said if you have the chance go for it.
Ike otherrs I have never rented a gun or fired before I purchased. Would not recommend buying a handgun without holding it(ie ordering)
I looked at the same gun a few weeks ago and the only thing I could tell different from any of my 1911's is weight. It was heavier than any of my 1911's. I still like it and may purchase one later.
I would suggest hold it, dry fire after asking and if it feels good, BUY IT.
Don't sweat it. The good thing about buying guns is if you buy one. Shoot it for a while, and realize you don't like it, is that you can sell it and buy a different one. The market is always there. Sure, you may lose few bucks, but think of that as a rental fee. In the big picture it's really not so big a deal.
All the guns I own have been bought unfired by me, most sight unseen, online.
I've bought a number of guns without ever SEEING one before - and getting one to actually try is pretty rare

3 of those unseen guns were RIA, by the way - custom almost-a-CCO / xt22 / TCM
RIA makes great guns for the pricepoint, competitive with guns a few steps up the $$ ladder.

I don't have any local friends who shoot,
well, where are you located?
and a 1911 is pretty much a 1911, if this is your first gun don't worry about the little things, beyond:
a grip that fits (all 1911s)
controls you can reach (RIA does not have unusual controls)
a slide that will not run your hand over (RIA tac models have the extended grip safety, you're covered)
I don't think I've ever fired a gun before I bought it. The first gun I actually bought was my Glock, and I just walked into the store, saw it, and bought it. I had never even handled or shot a Glock before.

Like others have said, if you buy it and don't like it, you can always sell/trade for something else.
Signed my life to the dotted line. They gave me a rifle and said, "Stand on that line!!!". Paid the price for that rifle of mine. When I signed my life to the dotted line.
So yes I bought long before I got a chance to test-fire. Spent many, many hours cleaning it too, long before I got to shoot.
Only twice have I had a chance to fire a gun before the purchase. They were not new.
Semper Fi,
I've found it tough to know for sure until I get it in hand and spend time shooting it. But you can always sell it on the used market if it doesn't work well for you. I had to buy three pistols before I really knew what I wanted, and I've settled on a Walther PPS. I ended up selling the other two for a small loss, but it's worth it to have that "just right" pistol.

I also know more about what I like about pistols now, so that may help in future purchases.

Maybe you should check to see how the model you are looking at compares to the ones you've already tried? Check to see if the features it has are similar, check the weight, check the dimensions, go pick one up in hand at a local shop. All of these things will help you know if the gun you're looking to get will be a good one for you.
I have tried many guns. Some I thought I would love because of how they handled turned out differently when shooting them. Some I was ho hum about, but I learned to love. Usually, it you like the way it handles, you'll be OK, but not always. If you can shoot it first, that's always a plus. My most recent purchase was one where a friend let me shoot his. I loved it, bought my own, and still love it.
The only thing I would recommend is to hold one at the store and dry-fire it.

Agreed. And I also agree about asking first, although any store that won't let you dryfire a centerfire gun that you're seriously considering purchasing might not get my repeat business (but to each his own).

As long as you've shot a similar model (full size .45 1911) you should be pretty well familiar with what the gun will do, with the possible exception of a crunchy trigger. Once you've owned / shot a bunch of guns, you'll have a better base to make future purchases on, but I've still been surprised with how well / poorly different guns have handled for me. On the plus side, if you don't like one, just sell it, or if you abhor selling guns, keep it as a "loaner" for your friends when they visit.
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