Buyers Guide

10 Hidden First Gun Costs

Gun ownership goes beyond simply buying a gun. In order to practice and maintain a firearm, a prospective gun buyer should consider the necessary ongoing costs to properly employ, maintain, and secure their firearm purchase.

Understanding these costs ahead of time will enable a prospective firearm owner to plan ahead and ultimately minimizes overall costs in the months and years that follow a purchase.

1. Gun Safe for Secure Storage at Home

To provide thorough and effective safety for your children and to bar unauthorized access to intruders, a dedicated gun safe should be promptly purchased after buying your first gun. Ideally, this safe will be waiting at your home to store your first gun purchase.

Many handguns and rifles are sold with a lockable case and often include a cable lock to secure the trigger or operating action of a firearm. These measures offer some level of security, but they are less-than-ideal as long-term storage and security solutions. These options also provide no provisions for quick access of a firearm in case a firearm is needed for an exigent home defense scenario.

For handguns, a small portable gun safe can cost as little as $20 – 50 while a heavy-duty quick-access lockbox can cost anywhere from $150 – 300. These options usually store 1-2 handguns along with extra magazines and ammunition.

For rifles and shotguns, expect to pay at least $275 – $350 due to increased size and storage. While costlier than a handgun safe, the overall increase in capacity often allows for additional storage beyond a single full-sized rifle or shotgun.

2. Safety Gear: Eye and Ear Protection

Both hearing and eye protection will be required when visiting both indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. Even if your regular shooting range rents or provides ear and eye protection, spending $30 for basic eye & ear protection will save money in the long-run.

To illustrate the intensity of gunfire, the sound of gunfire can be compared to different sounds using the decibel (dB) scale. A nearby thunderclap will often measure 120 dB on the decibel scale; outdoor gunfire often generates 140 dB.

Using these measurements, the sound of gunfire is 100 times louder than thunder. To an unprotected ear, this can cause immediate hearing damage, and the scale of the intensity and damage will be even higher with indoor gunfire.

A set of molded earplugs or over-ear earmuffs (I wear both at the same time) will cost as low as $10 – 15 (each). Hearing can be further protected with the use of noise-canceling electronic earplugs; these will often cost $150-200. The use of a suppressor will further protect hearing, but it is always advisable to wear ear protection.

Eye protection is equally important as hot gases, dirt, and small metallic fragments are often violently ejected from a firearm while shooting. While a rare occurrence, a spent shell casings can damage an eye when swiftly ejected from a firearm.

A pair of fashionable safety goggles will cost as low as $10 – 15. A pair of shatter-resistant eyeglasses or sunglasses will serve as adequate eye protection, but it is advisable to wear a nerd-strap if one intends to wear corrective glasses in a combat or competition scenario.

3. Firearms Training

The experience of buying a new firearm can often be overwhelming with many better practices not detailed by the buying process or an owner’s manual. Self-administered learning, text resources, and video resources are all great, but there is no substitute for training with a qualified firearms instructor.

With firearms training, a new shooter will become more accurate, handle their firearm in a superior manner, and will expose themselves to fewer mistakes and mishaps. They will accomplish their goals at a faster rate and at lower overall costs by using proven learning structures structures for to build and practice proper fundamentals and form.

Firearms training is often overlooked but the ability to train and practice under the guidance of a qualified instructor will be essential to overcoming poor habits and training plateaus. This will apply to new shooters and those with years of self-taught shooting experience.

Just one training session can make a marked difference. Much like learning how to swing a golf club or the correct technique for pitching a baseball, training builds a solid foundation for practice and drills. Expect a quality instruction session to cost $100 – $150 with many instructors offering discounts for first-time shooters, package sessions, families, and youths.

4. Range Time

When buying a firearm, it is important to make a commitment to build familiarity and proficiency. A person has no obligation to become an expert, top competitor, or professional gunslinger, but a new gun buyer should make an obligation to understand how their firearm through regular practice and maintenance.

Different firing ranges have different rules and each range allows different kinds of practice and training. Do some research to find a firing range that suits your needs and budget. This includes rates, types of ammunition allowed, and whether or not training such as holster work is permitted.

Range fees can vary from $15 – 20 for one-time visits, but costs can be brought down if an annual membership is purchased. With an annual membership, expect to pay to $20 – 25 per month for unlimited visits ($300-400 annual membership fees).

5. Ammunition

Purchasing ammunition at a box store or at the range can get expensive. Avoid overpaying for ammunition and get the most bang for your buck (literally) by buying ammunition in bulk online, from a gun show, or at store that specializes in ammunition sales.

Different calibers and different types of ammunition will incur different rates and costs, but it is advisable to make an initial invest toward 1000 rounds of ammunition when buying your first firearm. For 9x19mm (the most popular ammunition used in America), a good deal for quality practice ammunition will cost $175 – 200 with many opportunities to save even more money with just a little bit of research and shopping.

I personally hate junk mail but I actually sign up for mailers from my local big box store (IE Brownell’s, Cabela’s, etc.), and they will regularly announce competitive ammo prices that can be purchased in-store at nearly bulk-level prices (save on shipping).

A person can expect to fire at least 100-150 rounds for a productive hour of practice at the range. As mentioned above, hiring a qualified trainer will help focus practice efforts to gain as much proficiency and skill while using considerably less ammunition than a self-taught trial-and-error approach.

6. Extra Magazines

Most firearms are sold with several magazines from the factory; a Glock 19 ships with 3 OEM magazines which is a great start. Unfortunately, plenty of new firearms are sold with 1 lonely magazine in order advertise a lower sticker price for the firearm.

It is advisable to always have spare magazines, especially if your firearm ships with a single magazine. These are necessary to perform drills to clear malfunctions, practice speed and tactical reloads, and to reduce the amount of time spent dealing with ammunition while practicing.

Spare magazines are also a surefire investment for long-term use of a firearm as you will need to service and/or replace magazines the same way tires on a car need to be replaced.

Spare magazines can sometimes be the difference between life and death in an exigent scenario when a malfunction or misfeed occurs and an emergency reload is required to put one’s firearm back into proper function.

Magazines will vary in price and quality, and it is advisable to do some serious consumer research before purchasing the cheapest options available. OEM magazines are typically the best guarantee for function and reliability, but plenty of third-party manufacturers sell equal or superior quality magazines at competitive prices.

7. Range Bag or Case

While most newly purchased firearms will ship from the factory with a quality carrying case, some firearms simply ship in a minimalist cardboard box.

Seek out a case or range bag or case that makes trips to the range easy and convenient. This means having a single solution for safely and legally packing a firearm, ammunition, targets, and any other relevant tools or supplies needed for a trip to the range.

Simply walking with a firearm in hand, openly or concealed, is most likely illegal in your jurisdiction without a case or holster. A firearm should be transported in accordance with your local laws, and this usually requires a soft or hard carrying case.

A good range bag or case can cost as low as $20, and it will ultimately save you time. These can take the form of soft or hard cases with some having the ability to secure their contents with an external lock.

8. Holster

While the need for a holster might seem esoteric to some, new shooters should consider buying a holster as a training and safety tool.

A holster is a critical piece of kit for self-defense training, and proper use of a holster will eventually be part of an instructor’s curriculum. If a person’s range allows holster work, it is highly advisable to take advantage of that capability.

If a person plans to carry their firearm, either with a Concealed Carry Weapons permit or Open Carry, a holster is a universal requirement for legally carrying a handgun on one’s person without a case or range bag.

Beyond its primary purpose, a holster serves as an additional layer of safety by blocking access to the trigger. Many gun owners keep their firearms secured in their holster even when stored in a safe.

Holster will vary in construction, materials and cost, but a quality kydex holster can be purchased for as little as $40. In the long-run, the price of a holster is much less important than its suitability for its user; it would benefit any firearm owner to try and buy a variety of holsters until the “the one” is found.

9. Cleaning Kit and Supplies

You will need to disassemble and clean your firearm on a regular basis. As you practice with a firearm, dirt and fouling will build up, and without regular cleaning and maintenance, these can compromise the performance and reliability of your firearm.

Before disassembling a firearm for maintenance and cleaning, be sure to thoroughly review instructions and warnings detailed in the user manual. There is also a wealth of internet video tutorials that walk through the process step by step for just about any firearm one might own.

Important: A firearm is always loaded so always check and double-check to ensure your firearm is actually unloaded before attempting any disassembly and maintenance. If a firearm displays any visible damage, be sure to present the firearm to a professional gunsmith.

A proper cleaning kit will include:

  • Flannel/Cotton patches for swabbing dirt and fouling from internal and external parts: $10
  • Bore brush or bore snake to scrub the inside of the barrel: $10.
  • Cleaning and lubrication solvent such as CLP (Cleaner, Lubricant, Preservative): $10.
  • Lube (use only when directed): $10.

10. Excise Tax

The Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET) is currently administered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau (TTB) and was formerly administered by the ATF.

The Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax incurs a 10% excise tax on all newly sold handguns, and an 11% excise tax on all other newly sold firearms and ammunition purchases. This cost is reflected in the sale price of your firearm; other additional excise taxes might be levied by your jurisdictions.

This tax is levied at point of sale, and it is the reason why a new Glock 19 retails at $599 instead of $540. Until this cryptic tax is repealed through legislative means, this cost is unfortunately unavoidable and is included in the price of most newly sold firearms.

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