We've all felt it. That twinge of regret, that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach, that pain in our wallet after buying a gun that was all wrong. Whether it happens as we leave the gun store or after years of use, eventually we all realize that the dream gun that was the apple of our eye just a short time ago turned out to be a real lemon. So what went wrong? Why did we buy the wrong gun, and how can we avoid doing it again in the future?
First off, beware the impulse buy. This is a big deal for me, because when it comes to buying guns, I have all the impulse control of a four-year-old with a sweet tooth inside a candy store. I’ve learned, through trial and expensive error, that collecting guns is not my thing. When I buy a gun, it’s either to close a hole in my defensive armory or to compete in a specific type of competition.
Secondly, how reliable is the gun? We are living in a golden age of handguns, where just about every gun out there is more reliable than in decades past, but there are still a few lemons out there. I tend to shy away from the anecdotal evidence about firearms reliability that’s handed out across gun-store counters and internet forums by people whose standards of reliability might be different than my own. Do your research: If the consensus is that the gun you’re looking at buying is a turkey that’s prone to jamming, chances are, it probably is.
While on the subject of reliability, make sure the gun you’re looking at isn’t subject to any safety recalls, and if it is, send it in for service the minute you buy it. There are some chances I’m willing to take, and some I’m not, and shooting an unsafe gun definitely falls into “not” territory.
Thirdly, everyone, even top-level competitive shooters and elite special units, needs more practice with their guns, and if you’re not going to practice with the gun you’re thinking of buying, you’re buying a collector’s item or a safe queen, not a working firearm.
For instance, a few years ago, I bought a tiny .380 ACP semi-automatic pistol to use as concealed-carry pistol in situations when the need to be discreet trumped the need for firepower. You would think that a small, little gun in a marginal caliber would be easy to shoot and easy to practice with, and you’d be wrong. The pistol was uncomfortable to hold onto, which made recoil even more pronounced, and it had a nasty trigger bite to it, which made putting even 50 rounds through it an exercise in unpleasantness. That gun is gone now, replaced with a similar gun from another manufacturer that I practice with more often because it is much easier to shoot.
Lastly, will the gun you’re looking at buying grow and adapt to your changing needs? For an AR-15, the answer to this question is pretty much “yes,” but not so much for other guns. I’m a big fan of some of the more obscure 9 mm brands out there, and that means I wind up scouring the internet looking for holsters and accessories for my guns, while other people who own more popular guns have a wide variety of gear they can choose from for their gun. Before I buy another gun from my favorite gun maker, I accept the fact that some choices will be limited for me, and I work around those limitations. This lack of options can come as a surprise to someone who’s not looked around at what’s available for their gun before they bought it, leading them to think that maybe they bought the wrong gun for their needs.
Maybe you ended up buying a gun that wasn't right for you, and maybe you didn’t. I’ve bought guns that I thought were a mistake at the time, but with a little ingenuity, I repurposed them for other uses than what I first intended to use them for, and they’ve turned out just fine. On the other hand, I’ve bought guns like that little .380 I mentioned earlier that just didn’t work for me, and I sold them and moved on to something else. What makes a gun right for you is your personal choices and needs, so make sure to do your research and come up with a list of your wants and needs before you make a choice you might regret.