If you’ve never bought a gun before, there can be a lot of confusing information out there. If you’re buying a gun for the very first time from a federally licensed dealer, here’s what you can expect.
What You Can Expect at the Gun Store
In addition to the money you need to purchase your firearm, you’ll need to bring a photo ID. You can also expect the dealer to run a federal NICS background check. There may also be additional paperwork based on your state. After you’ve filled out your Form 4473, there might be a waiting period. Some places will have you come back in three to 10 days. Again, you’ll have to check your local listings. If there’s not a waiting period and you’ve passed your background check, you’ll be able to walk out of the store with your new firearm.
The national background system — NICS — works as well as is intended. You’ll turn over a lot of personal information. There are many questions, so read that Form 4473 carefully. Don’t just run down the paperwork and check the boxes. Some dealers will have this available to you digitally, but some will have it in the paper form that needs to be filled out in black ink. And the dealer will make a copy because gun sellers need to keep that information handy for 20 years after they close. This information will hang around.
Buying a Gun Online
Buying online looks pretty similar. There are a number of websites where you can buy a firearm online. Whether you’ve won an auction or clicked buy now and added it to a cart, the next step will be to get in touch with a local federal firearms licensee (FFL). The FFL’s license level will need to match that of whatever you’re buying. For most, that’s a simple Class I.
There are databases where you can find this information, but most gun-selling websites will have a “Find a local FFL” button right on the page. You’ll reach out to your local FFL to negotiate a price. There will be a fee for transferring the firearm, so shop around. Then that dealer will need to get his or her license to the seller. The method to do so will often be determined by the FFL from which you’ve purchased your gun.
So as a reminder, the gun you buy online is not coming to you. That’s a felony. The firearm you bought and paid for will be shipped to a dealer. When it comes in, you’ll go to the dealer and that’s when the method will start from above, with you running through your background check process.
After you buy the gun, there’s more you need to do. Certainly, if you live with others, especially children, you need to safely store your gun. But even if you’re an adult living alone, best practice is to secure your gun.
As well, every gun comes with instructions. Read the manual. You should know how your gun functions and how to take care of it. It is also recommended that you clean your gun after you get it so you know how to take it apart. Then, make sure you get the right ammunition.
Other Advice for Starting Out With a Gun
Keep your intended use in mind and train and prepare for that purpose. Firearms are not something you can “just do.” If you’re purchasing a firearm for concealed carry, wear your setup. Test your belt and your holster. Sit down, stand up, walk around, reach for things and bend down. Know how everything is going to move and if it’s going to be comfortable for you.
Finally, get good information. Sign up for some training and know your local laws. Don’t just take the advice of your uncle or neighbor. Take multiple classes and learn different things. Never stop preparing.