According to reports, shoppers in 2017 set a record for Black Friday gun sales. No doubt, some of those guns purchased were intended for Christmas gifts. There’s usually a rise in requests for training classes after the first of the year from people who have made a resolution to learn how to shoot or want to get to know their new gun. But in addition to learning how to shoot, handgun owners should spend a little time learning about the gun they own.
It's important to know the caliber of the firearm you own. Ammunition is sold by caliber so in order to purchase the correct ammunition, you must know the caliber. This is especially true if there are multiple guns (and ammunition) in the household. Grabbing a box of ammunition that is not right for your handgun can have catastrophic results if you actually load it and pull the trigger.
A striker or firing pin is the part of the gun that impacts the primer in the round, with the purpose of igniting the gunpowder. The average gun owner might not need to FULLY understand the differences in operation of these two different parts, but you should know which one your particular gun uses. The manufacturer website or a reputable YouTube channel can offer good information. Although not the gospel, a good rule of thumb to indicate which part your gun has is whether or not it has a hammer. Generally, a gun that has a hammer (Sig Sauer, HK or revolver for example) also uses a firing pin, while a pistol without a hammer (Smith & Wesson M&P for example) utilizes a striker. Why is this information important? The gun that has a hammer/firing pin arrangement will generally have a heavier trigger pull than the pistol with the striker. The individual with arthritis in the hands may want a pistol with a lighter trigger pull for ease of operation. Either way, the choice is a personal one and should be made by the individual gun owner.
The handbook that comes with a handgun usually has written instructions for basic disassembly as well as for cleaning and lubrication. If you are more of a visual learner, check out YouTube. A word of caution here is to look for videos from the manufacturer or reputable instructor. Some of the less than professional videos on YouTube will make you shudder. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, check with your local gun range. Many offer classes in gun cleaning at an affordable price.
Most firearms have parts that can be changed out to customize the fit or shooting experience for your firearm. For example, some, such and the Smith and Wesson M&P Pro, Full Size and Compact have different size palms swells or backstraps so you can select the one that best fits your hand. The backstraps are very easy to change out. There are many additional ways to customize your firearm, such as sights, triggers or extended magazines, but you must know what type of gun you own so you are sure to purchase the correct parts.
If you got a new firearm for a Christmas present, you probably can't wait to get to the range. But whether you need to learn how to clean it or want to buy something to personalize it, it’s important to get to know your gun! Happy New Year and Happy Shooting!
Tracy Hughes is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter and the owner of Brilliant Backstraps.