Congrats – You Bought a Gun, Part 2

Okay, you got it home. Now what?

Last time we looked at documenting the guns you purchase from private sellers, and, alternately, that you sell to private buyers.

I admit, that is the most boring part of gun ownership.

Today we’re going to look at what you do with that new gun. Trust me – this is a lot more fun.

First, we will assume you have already chosen your gun. That process is a much longer post for another time.

Now, I like to follow the same process with each gun, so I don’t forget anything. This makes things a lot safer and easier to understand, and helps me know where I am with each gun.

Get in line, bud

If you bought it new from a gun dealer, then a lot of what we will do is taken care of. It will arrive with all the factory accessories, like cleaning kits, manuals, spare magazines, and the like. And, if it’s a gun you’ve never owned before, and you bought it from a good gun dealer, the dealer can and should show you how to take it down, clean it, maintain it, and operate it.

If you bought it from a private seller, then some or all of this may be missing. Sometimes, all you get is a gun. For someone like me, who loves the thrill of the chase, this can be just as enjoyable.

So, for every new gun, here is my process:


I make sure I have all the documentation, that it’s correct, and it’s recorded. We talked about the sales documentation last time, but this will also include registration (of required by your state or locality), owners manual, warranty, and any other papers that may come with it.

If it’s a used gun, there may be no manual, and certainly no warranty. Don’t worry, though, there is help. A fellow named Stephen Ricciardelli has made it kind of a mission to accumulate owners manuals for just about any gun. Take a look at his site and get the manual, and print a paper copy if you can. It helps to have something you can hold and make notes on.

Now, in the days before the interwebz, this wasn’t so easy. Back when the earth was still cooling, I bought a used shotgun from a truck driver who delivered product from our plant. He had no manual, and in fact, the shotgun didn’t even have a brand name on it, just the name of the store that sold it, Western Auto. I gave him the money and took the gun home, and spent a half hour in the middle of the living room floor trying to disassemble it for cleaning. I had no luck.

The next day, though, my monthly copy of the NRA magazine American Rifleman arrived. Each month, this magazine features an assembly drawing and history of a firearm, and as God’s sense of humor would have it, the gun featured that month was the gun I had just bought, the Mossberg 500.


Once you have the documentation squared away, take an inventory of what you have. It may be just a gun, or it may include a case, spare magazines, cleaning kit, brushes, trigger locks, manuals, and other accessories. If it’s a new gun and you’re missing something you should have received, now is the time to make it right.


At this point, I get the gun in an area away from distractions, and field strip it. Now, if you’ve already owned a gun like this, or gotten good instruction from someone, this can be easy. But if it’s new, take your time, refer to manuals or the interwebz, and make sure you keep all the parts organized.


Before I shoot a gun for the first time, I make sure it’s clean. Sometimes this is easier than other times. My Mosin Nagant had last been cleaned by a Finnish peasant woman in the winter of 1920, from what I could tell. On the other hand, my new Glocks were spotless, save the copper colored lubricant that I have since learned NOT to remove. (This is where a manual or other source of information come in handy.)

Clean as much as you need to. For new guns this usually just means the barrel and other critical parts. For some, the cleaning will get deeper. My Mosin Nagant still had cosmoline in it.

Now, if this is your first gun, here’s a starting point for acquiring a cleaning kit. First, if you plan to get more guns, and can justify the expense, buy a gun cleaning kit. There are several out there, from reputable names like Hoppe’s and DAC. As a minimum, it needs to contain cleaning rods, bore brushes, cleaning jags (which hold cleaning swabs), and some lubricating oil. You will also need some cleaning brushes (get several in nylon, brass, and stainless steel) and, if you can, a bore snake.

For the first time, run the bore brush through the barrel, and brush out the trigger mechanism and rails.

Do not over lube. Seriously.

Then, lubricate the gun according to the manufacturer’s instructions. DO NOT OVER LUBRICATE. If you do, the extra oil will just accumulate dirt, dust, and crud, and make the gun fail. Trust me on this. Too much oil can be as bad as not enough. And then, Chris Edwards of Glock will chew your ass out in front of all his armorers. And mean it. But I digress.


Not comes the test. Put the gun back together. If you have parts left over, you’ve done it wrong. Take it apart and do it again.


At this point, make sure all ammunition for the gun is put away. Then, recheck that all the ammunition is put away.

Now, test the action. Does the slide on a semi-auto pistol operate smoothly, without any binding? Does the cylinder on a revolver turn the way it’s supposed to, and lock up well when the chamber is in line? Does a rifle or shotgun operate smoothly?

If any part of the gun is not operating smoothly, now is the time to correct it. This could mean more cleaning, or a little more lubrication. But, be careful with lubrication – most of the time your are looking for a light film, not a large clump or mass.


At this point, unless you own dummy rounds or snap caps in the caliber of the new gun, we must make a calculated safety allowance, and let a few rounds of ammunition into the area. With your finger well off the trigger and the gun on safe and pointed in a safe direction, load up a magazine or cylinder or other feed device with 3 or 4 rounds, and chamber it. Make sure it chambered correctly. Then, work the action and eject the round as applicable, and feed another round. If it’s a revolver, make sure the ejectors work, and make sure the cylinder rotates correctly as the trigger is pulled.


Now comes the moment you bought the gun for – taking it to the range.

And, sadly, that will wait for the next installment . . . .