It's been a number of weeks waiting, checking the post every night or waiting for a knock at your door from your FEO. Finally, that golden ticket has arrived, that crisp sheet of paper with your picture on granting you permission to own your very own Shotgun...
When I received my shotgun certificate I was over the moon! And I have to say, North Yorkshire Police Firearms Department were so helpful and supportive throughout my application. It didn't take too long for it too come through either. As soon as I had finished my conversation with my local FEO (my certificate was hand delivered) I was immediately thinking about where, when and how to go about purchasing my first shotgun. It wasn't too difficult as I was at the Northern Shooting Show when I was granted my certificate so I was surrounded by lots of great gun shops such as Swillington, Cheshire Gun Room, Premier Guns + many more.
But how do you go about buying your first gun? I would firstly urge you not to take the route I did. I rushed over to Cheshire Gun Room stand at the Northern Shooting Show and immediately paid out money for a 12 Gauge Franchi Alcione One without a second thought. Did the gun fit? Was it the best deal? I had no idea. The Northern Shooting Show is great for picking up a deal - if you know what you are looking for. When it comes to buying your first gun it is far too busy, the sales assistants don't have time to properly consult with you on your purchase and you will likely end up, as I did, with a gun that doesn't fit and one you end up selling six months later.
Gun fit - My advice is to get yourself to an established, reputable gun shop and speak with them. Tell them it is your first purchase and that you would like help with getting sized for the right gun fit. This is the most crucial aspect. A cheap gun that fits will work a lot better than an expensive one that doesn't. You will also have a good selection of brands to have a go with to see which feel more comfortable. It is very much like the scene from Harry Potter when he goes to buy his first wand. The right gun will find you, and you it. But to start with, forget brand, forget budget (to an extent) and find out what fits you best.
New or Second Hand - You don't need to buy a new gun. There are some great new guns out there from as little as a few hundred pounds which may fall in to your budget. However, you may be able to pick up a great gun such as a Browning on the second hand market. You will probably pay around the same price but end up with a superior gun, better build and a better investment. Guns like Browning hold their money a lot better than the entry level budget guns such as ATA arms or Yildiz. Of course budget will be a big deciding factor for you,, but buy smart and buy once. It is better to wait and get the right gun than rush with a limited budget and buy a gun you will want to replace in 6-12 months. ATA Arms do however manufacture some great starter guns at a reasonable price around £600 which are proving really popular but it is worth looking at what that £600 could get you on the second hand market.
Browning or Beretta? I see this question all the time on shooting forums, magazines, YouTube etc. I am a huge Browning fan no doubt. But when I first started shooting I asked the same question. It is only once you have been shooting a while you realise what an insignificant question this is. Go and have a look at both brands, pick them up, check them for fit and you will immediately know which feels better. There is no substitute (no matter how much research you do) for going and having a look at the guns first hand and getting a gun that fits.
There really is no right or wrong answer to choosing your first gun and certainly no pressure. Everybody has a different preference and as long as you are happy with it, enjoy shooting it and it fits you, then you have done well.
One thing to consider when buying your first gun is to invest in the below, I would class these as essential accessories to go with your gun purchase:
- Browning Legia Spray
- Bore snake
- Gun slip
- Bisley Gun cleaning kit
- Choke key (if one is not provided with the gun)
- Ear defenders and shooting glasses
You may also want a shooting vest, although not essential you will no doubt end up buying one anyway. A great starter vest is the Percussion Traditional shooting vest which retails at around £39, you can pick these up online or from Balnecroft Country at the below website:
Once you have selected the gun you want to buy all you need to do is provide your Shotgun certificate to the Sales man at the shop. They will sort out all the paperwork inside of 5 minutes and have your new trusty gun packaged and ready for you to take home!
In short, get yourself to a local gun shop and ask for some help and advice from the sales team. They will advise and help guide you through the process of making the best decision.