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Novice shooter: Is it better to start with a rifle or a handgun?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Cole Dedhand, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Cole Dedhand

    Cole Dedhand Member

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    Howdy. Just joined the forum from Nevada.

    So, I am looking to get my first firearm, as a young adult.

    I have very minor gun experience from my childhood and a couple of times I have been shooting with someone else, very briefly here and there (to the point that I don't have any fears about firearms born out of ignorance, and I am already familiar with the safety stuff) but not enough that I have anything approaching a "skill-set". For all intents and purposes I'd be learning to shoot from scratch.

    With that in mind, I'm trying to decide whether my first firearm should be a rifle or a handgun. I'm sure like everyone else I will immediately get the itch to make more purchases, but I'm going to keep this as my only gun for a little while, shoot the snot out of it, and really learn the ins-and-outs. I am hoping to use it to develop a good base of practical general shooting skills, and good habits that will be transferable to a wide range of other guns (that I'm sure I will acquire in good time, despite the moaning of my bank account). Also, my interests are mostly focused on self-defense/contingency shooting, and possibly competition, if I try that out and like it.

    So do either of those platforms have an advantage in building core skills like this? Differences between them that make one easier to learn, or less likely to build bad habits? Does it even make a difference? ( price / availability, isn't really a factor in this decision - either way it's going to be something fairly low power, in the .22-9mm range).

    Not really looking for a specific "gun to buy" recommendation or anything like that, just some general guidance. Any advice is appreciated.

    EDIT: Thanks for the good advice and the warm reception. You gents have been mighty helpful - seems like the common consensus is a 22 rifle, either a good bolt action or maybe a 10/22 (though it seems I probably couldn't do too much harm getting a pistol instead). After a little bit of perusing, I've taken something of an unnatural liking to the Marlin 39A. A lever action seems like a good combination between a bolt gun and a semi-auto, plus it looks nice, like something I might want to hand down to my kids as their "first" as well. I'll have to see if any of the places near me rent one, just so I can make sure I dont hate it first .

    Some people have mentioned reloading. I'm sure that could be something far down the road, and I know it has its advantages, but I just don't have the time or inclination presently. But after getting a little bit acquainted through some YouTube videos and articles, I think if every time I wanted to go to the range I had to break out the press and powder scoop, I wouldn't be going very often...
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  2. George P

    George P Member

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    I started my kids with a .22 rifle - cheap practice ammo, low recoil and can easily help with your basics. Handguns are harder to become as proficient with; besides .22lr rifles are just fun to shoot.
     
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  3. toivo

    toivo Member

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    I'm kind of old-school in that regard. I have always felt that the best "first gun" is a bolt-action .22 rifle. You can learn the basics of firearms handling, maintenance, etc. Then, no matter what other gun you get, you'll keep that .22 forever.
     
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  4. Havok7416
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    Havok7416 Member

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    A rifle, preferably in .22, is what I started on and what I have started well over 100 others on. You have a third point of contact with the rifle in addition to a longer sight radius which makes for better accuracy (all other things being equal). The recoil is also much less for a given caliber when shooting a rifle.

    On the other hand, if someone has no interest in long guns, then there really isn't any need for them to shoot one.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  5. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    First off, welcome!
    I think that I and a whole lot of others on THR started with a .22 LR. Pick a bolt action, semi-auto, whatever. They're less expensive to purchase and to feed. my .22 ammo is like 10% of the cost of my .44 mag ammo. Plus, they are more comfortable to shoot. And shooting it is a lot of fun! Whether you're trying to get groups of holes as close to the center of that paper target as possible or plinking at steel targets that will go DING when you hit them, it's all fun.
     
  6. Obturation
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    Obturation Contributing Member

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    Im with the others, .22 rifle is ideal. Its easy for a new shooter to become dicouraged with a handgun if accuracy is in question, also its easier to accidentally make an error as far as safety is concerned with a handgun. Rifles generally have better triggers, less (if any) recoil impulse and are easier to shoot well. Bolt, pump or lever action would be my choice as a wide variety of ammo will work well and you will have less trouble clearing malfunctions that may happen. Last reason, everyone needs a .22 rifle. Everyone- young or old , new shooter to experts. The only people who look down on the venerable .22 rimfire are tacticool armchair commandos who bought a desert eagle yesterday and are saving up to buy their first box of ammo.
     
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  7. Reloadron
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    Reloadron Contributing Member

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    My suggestion is start with whatever you are comfortable with. Mine was an old Remington Model 510P which was a hand me down in 1958 when I was 8 years old. While the years have led to no shortage of handguns my real love is rifle so my bias will show up. I would look for a nice condition used rifle in 22 caliber. I would also look towards a good reliable bolt action flavor. Then start practicing with it. I doubt in Nevada you will be hard pressed to find areas to shoot.

    As to any skill sets? Rifle or handgun require developing good shooting skills and habits. Even the same is true of a shotgun on a trap & skeet range. The guys who are exceptionally good all share a high standard of self discipline. Look to your local clubs and organizations for friendly matches with a focus on "Appleseed Shoots" where the basic skills are taught. It's not about caliber as much as developing skills and learning to shoot properly.

    Whatever your choice welcome to the sport and world of guns. Just enjoy.

    Ron
     
  8. readyeddy

    readyeddy Member

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    As an adult you can handle both. They’re very different so you’ll need trigger time behind both to make progress. So if you have the money and time, I would dive in and start shooting.
     
  9. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    Dumb as it sounds to say it out loud, that's the best advice. Seems self evident, but a lot of people start with some gun that is often too much gun for them at first and it can turn someone off from shooting altogether.

    You've got me by two years, Ron.

    Living in very un-rural Florida I am jealous of those on here who have wide open spaces to plink at will. (Poor Will....)

    A sight picture is the same if it's close up with a rifle or at arms length with a handgun so yeah, shoot with what you're comfortable shooting.

    Hear hear! Indeed!
     
  10. Palolosj

    Palolosj member

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    I would join sporting clays club and start with a shotgun. Most common guns used are Browning Citori variant of Beretta series 6xx.
     
  11. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I'm much more of a handgun shooter than a real rifle shooter, but I would tend to start on a .22lr rifle. That's what I'm starting my daughter on. Handguns add some significant marksmanship challenges that are either not present or greatly reduced with a long gun.

    I would also put a red-dot sight on it. You can learn to shoot irons later if you want, but you will learn faster and easier with a dot of some sort.
     
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  12. Odd Job

    Odd Job Moderator Staff Member

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    Another vote for a .22 rifle, it is what I started with in South Africa.
     
  13. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    Seems that was the universal answer so I started a poll on it. So far, yup, double deuce rifle.
     
  14. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I dissent with the .22LR suggestions. They're filthy, toxic, and have little practical use at least with respect to being the best tool for a job. While you're not a child, they also rarely fit children properly because they're usually not adjustable. But for that matter, many of them do not fit most adults either.

    One thing you'll want to have a good idea of is how much you'll actually shoot. If you're only going to shoot a box a month, which is a lot more than most gun owners shoot, the cost of ammo isn't something to consider. If you're serious about shooting and have a particular discipline in mind, you might shoot more than 10,000 rounds a year. Then, and only then, would I consider a .22LR like a S&W 617, Ruger Mark V or a S&W Mdl. 41 as one of your guns. If your volume is under 5000, you could be just as well off choosing an inexpensive cartridge like 9x19mm or reloading.

    Good beginners rifles are the AR-15 or bolt-action guns in .223/5.56. Right now, the AR's are the better value because of huge supply and low prices.

    Handguns? Take your pick. It's hard to argue with 9mm unless you're interested in revolvers.

    As for rifle versus handgun, if you don 't know what you want to do, consider what training is readily available, affordable, and the quality thereof.
     
  15. Flintshooter

    Flintshooter Member

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    I have a real affection for Ruger 10/22s but for a first rifle I go along with a bolt action. The reason is that I have seen too many beginners with a semi-auto empty a clip in short order without properly aiming any of the shots. If one is all you have you will learn to concentrate more and be a better shooter.
    Unlike a previous poster, I would NOT recommend beginning with a firearm that takes a center fire cartridge because round for round costs will be higher.
    At any ranges a beginner will be shooting a .22 is plenty good enough.
     
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  16. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    Skipping 22lr is a big mistake. It gives you the ability to completely focus on sight alignment, trigger control and follow through.
    The total lack of recoil and muzzle blast are the reason for people suggesting it.
    AR-15s and semi auto 22s lend to shooting too fast and not focusing on discipline. This is why a bolt action is usually recommended for a starter.
     
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  17. bullseye308

    bullseye308 Member

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    What I generally recommend is either a Ruger 10/22 or a Marlin Mod 60 for a rifle, and either a ~4” 38/357 revolver or a Glock 17/19 for a handgun. All are moderately priced, easily maintained, and have good track records for reliability.
     
  18. patmccoy

    patmccoy Member

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    I must disagree, with this statement. 22s are not "filthy", and many folks clean them seldom, if ever. Most clean after 500 or more rounds fired. Try that with a centerfire (rifle or pistol) to see "filthy". Toxicity is primarily from the lead gasses from the primer, much greater volume with centerfires. And in the case of the Op, learning to shoot, a rimfire or airgun is the best tool for this particular job (as has been repeatedly stated above).

    From the OP
    The BASICS of shooting rifles and pistols are the same: Line up the sights, the target, and your eye; operate the firearm without disturbing that alignment; follow through so you can identify where the shot landed on the target. The particular actions needed to accomplish this are slightly easier to learn with a rifle because of greater stability using both and and a shoulder. The basics are easily transferred to other the other firearm once learned (I can't comment on shotgun, as that is outside my area of expertise).

    Look for a competitive club in you area, and you should be able to find folks to guide you.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2019
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  19. IJ1981

    IJ1981 Member

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    I go along with the majority. Start with a ,22LR. I did a lifetime ago. It is a fine training ground.

    Best wishes for now and your firearms future!
     
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  20. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Normally I'd recommend a 22 rifle for a 1st time shooter to learn HOW to shoot. But if there is a pressing NEED for a gun for personal protection I'd not be opposed to going straight to either a 38/357 mag revolver with 38 loads only to start with. Or a decent quality 9mm pistol. Neither of those rounds have excessive recoil and ammo is pretty cheap for practice. Almost all of the center fire guns can be dry fired for "free" practice, whereas many 22's cannot.

    If there is no pressing need for something serious right now and you just want to learn how to shoot well then by all means start with a 22 and I'd go rifle 1st. Then you can figure out which direction is the best to go. You'll have to decide if you want to work at formal or informal competition, hunting, personal defense, or a combination of all. That will determine where you go next.
     
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  21. toivo

    toivo Member

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    So who do they fit? Giraffes?

    Your statements are unsupportable. There are child-sized .22 rifles, and there are adult-sized .22 rifles. There are also adjustable .22 rifles, including AR-style ones. There are also several jobs for which they are the "best tool," including target shooting, pest control, and ... wait for it ... learning the basics of shooting.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  22. Harriw

    Harriw Member

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    I'm far from an expert, but I got into shooting later in life as well (sometime in my early 30's I'd say) and went through a similar process. As somebody above suggested, I first bought a 12 gauge shotgun and joined a local trap/skeet club. My thinking at the time was 2-fold: First, it's hard to argue with the versatility of a 12 gauge. I bought a combo Mossberg 500 and immediately had a deer and field barrel, and later on bought a short HD barrel for it. I'm not really a hunter, but that one gun checks off a lot of boxes.

    Second, I was thinking that since trap/skeet involves shooting at moving targets, moving in 3 dimensions, that if I started there, learning stationary target shooting later on would seem easy in comparison. Turns out I was a bit off base there: Aerial shotgun shooting requires more of a "get close enough quickly" approach, where as stationary target shooting is a much more deliberate, "take your time and do it right" discipline. They're both obviously shooting sports, but they're very different.

    That said, I have no regrets getting into clay busting first. It's tons of fun, and I found I quickly got the hang of it - I'd say its still my strongest discipline. I did branch out to rifles and pistols a few years later. In hindsight it might have made more sense to start with the rifles and pistols, but I wouldn't say it's the "right way to do it" or anything. Hard to say when you add up all the equipment expenditures, but offhand I'd say the shotgun sports are a bit more expensive on an outing-by-outing basis, mainly because you usually pay a price per round to cover the cost of the clay birds you're shooting at (and shotshells cost a lot more than .22lr). For target shooting, you can print your own targets on your printer and have at it.

    I think I would agree with the suggestions to start with rifle before pistol though, and to start rifle shooting with a .22lr. Everybody should have one, they're cheap to buy, and cheap to shoot. Even if you "outgrow" it and want to move on to something with more kick, they're great to have around to bring your GF, wife, kids, friends, etc., etc. My first pistol was a 9mm and although I love it, it did take some getting used to. Recoil seems a bit more noticeable when you can't use your shoulder to absorb it all. I wound up with a nice flinch starting with 9mm that I suppose I might have avoided if I'd started with a .22lr handgun (I've got it more-or-less under control now, but it does still rear its ugly head if I try to go too fast)... But I don't think I'd try to talk you out of starting with 9mm in handguns if that's what you wanted.

    Just my $0.02
     
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  23. Meeks36

    Meeks36 Member

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    Find a hunters education course. It was free when I took mine 20 years ago. That will teach you safety and the basics. Then get a .22 and have fun and shoot safely.
     
  24. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    You can load a centerfire rifle cartridge with Trail Boss and get no more recoil or muzzle blast than a .22LR.
    You can also load one cartridge in the magazine at a time, or practice self-control with a semi-automatic. Since we're talking about an adult here, the expecting the latter is reasonable. But I'm not biased against bolt-actions at all.
     
  25. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    Centerfire cartridges can be loaded with non-toxic bismuth/aluminum-oxide primers. It's all I shoot in rifle and handgun. Federal has announced their intent to produce nothing else in the near future. But there are no rimfire cartridges available without lead-styphnate priming compound.

    I disagree that rimfire or airgun is the best tool for learning to shoot. It doesn't produce any meaningful recoil, so all the shooter will learn to shoot is rimfire and airgun.
     
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