The Basics of What You Need When You Purchase a Firearm


“The BASICS of What You Need When You Purchase a Firearm
(There’s more than just the firearm to remember)”

Published – ©2014 Research Solutions, Inc. (all rights reserved)

When looking for a rifle, pistol or shotgun, typically the casual consumer has some kind of idea of what they are looking for and most likely will want it for a combination of light hunting (e.g. varmint) or just plinking (target shooting).

The other side of the coin is the more active shooter may want a specific caliber or a firearm that is truly designed for competitive shooting, hunting game or varmints, for protection, or just plain plinking.

I could spend pages on caliber options and ballistics, scopes and all kinds of goodies, but that is not what this topic is about. That is a whole different group of written works.

Let’s focus on all the “other” items that when most buyers enter a gun or sporting goods store don’t really have on their minds. What is on their mind is the firearm they want to purchase. The accessories and required items to keep your firearm and “you” in good working order always seem to come second and require multiple trips to your local gun or sporting goods store. Consider this a shopping list of the “basics”:

    1. A gun case. Most rifles, shotguns and pistols come either in a box, or a plastic case (of questionable strength and durability). The real purpose of the case is to keep the firearm in an “enclosed” condition; protect it from scratches, dents, etc.; and to protect it from the element

However, are you planning to travel (e.g. fly) from one state to another with your firearm? Then you should be aware that there are very specific regulations on the “type” of case that is required by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which falls under the United States Department of Homeland Security as a specific agency the oversees the traveling public in the United States.

For trivia purposes, the TSA was created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in 2001. Not to digress…

The actual case must meet the TSA requirements for transporting Rifles, Pistols or Shotguns, so one of the things you need to take into account is you may need more than ONE case. Perhaps a case for traveling by plane will be required as well as just a case to go to the range or out hunting. Cases, on the whole, for range and hunting can be “soft” style and do not require an approved locking device that the TSA can open. Whereas, if you ARE going to fly to a different state with your rifle, pistol or shotgun, the TSA requires the following:

      • That the case meets or exceeds the TSA standards for use to store the firearm when flying
      •  That the case has the ability to be locked (e.g. combination lock) that has the bypass feature allowing the TSA to automatically open it for inspection
      •  That the firearm is “unloaded”
      •  There is no ammunition IN the case or any of the magazines (if applicable)
      •  That the case is marked that it contains a firearm (usually a RED tag that the airline will supply and is mandatory
      • You also have the ability to pack a firearm (if it fits) in your checked luggage, but it too, must meet the requirements established by the TSA and also have the visible RED tag that reflects a firearm is IN the checked luggage
      •  Soft cases or other hard cases that would be used for going to the range, going out plinking or hunting vary from state-to-state, but the regulations still apply with specific conditions as if you were flying
      •  That the firearm is UNLOADED
      •  That the firearm does not contain any magazines (if applicable) that are loaded with the firearm
      • That you meet your state, or the states you will be passing through, the requirements for transporting firearms as well as ammunition

We recommend two (2) cases. One for general use, and one (with the appropriate locks) for flying. Regardless of what you choose, remember to check with your airline for any specific requirements that may vary.

Ok. Now we’ve dealt with the first accessory (and an important one), but what about the ammunition and all the other goodies that you will be carrying?

2. A Range Box. We recommend a range box that all boils down to a carrying case for ammunition, tools, cleaning kit, spare parts and other items.

Range boxes vary from plastic to wood, cheap to extremely expensive models with locks and many options from a sighting scope mount to more exotic extras.

This, again, is a matter of preference and applications.

You don’t want to drag a range box about when hunting, but you will need one when you are done.

 Most decent range boxes start at about $29.95 and go up based upon quality, materials used, lock-ability, extra storage capacities, and so-on.

Some people use an old 50 Caliber Metal Box for their range box, but we would recommend one that can hold not only ammunition, but all the cleaning components and other accessories that you will need where you are planning to use your firearm.

As an example, my Range Box allows me to store ammunition, a complete set of cleaning supplies, my hearing protectors, my eye protectors and some spare parts and tools. It also allows me to store two extra handguns.

Some Range Boxes are designed just for supplies and others are designed to carry multiple handguns, range scope and mount and has a ton of room. There is really no Range Box designed for a rifle or shotgun.

It is a matter of just having the right sized Range Box for rifles and shotguns that can carry ammunition, cleaning supplies and possibly room for your hearing protectors and protective glasses.

Handgun Range Boxes can be more elaborate and can be designed to “carry” one or more handguns inside it as well.

Some people don’t like to carry their ammunition in a Range Box, so they acquire a Ammunition Carrier. They can be as simple as a cloth bag, or go all the way to a leather-designed bag to hold special ammunition (e.g. shotgun shells, etc.). It is all a matter of choice.

For me, I keep my protective glasses and hearing protectors out and wear the hearing protectors around my neck, and the glasses in my shirt pocket. Saves room.

3.Hearing Protectors. Hearing protectors come in a gazillion different styles and types. There are plugs that fit into the ear canal, to hearing protector muffs, which are electronic, that fit over the head and cover the ears; however these allow you to hear a person talking and are designed to filter out dangerous frequency sounds.

The sound levels are measured by a term called “decibel” (dB). It is a unit of measurement that defines power and intensity.

The definition is very complex, but to put it into simple terms there is a range that decibels can do permanent damage to your hearing if you do not use the proper hearing protector.

Some people say you don’t need hearing protection for using .22 caliber firearms, and that is the “worst” advice that you could take. The .22 caliber round has one of the loudest frequency intensities of most ammunition and WILL effect hearing of a person who is NOT using hearing protection. That is fact.

Hearing protectors for people that use firearms are specially made JUST for firearm use of most ANY calibers and the manufacturer of the hearing protect should state on their packaging what ranges (dB) it will protect up to.

Hearing protector muffs are the easiest to use since you slip them on just like a headset (like what people wear to listen to music).

However, if you wear glasses (which you should so as to protect your eyes), it is critical the that “seal” that goes around the total ear on both sides properly seals with the FRAME LEGS of the glasses that will fit under that seal.

A properly-designed set of hearing protector muffs will properly seal around the glasses frame legs; however you should try on several different types (different manufacturer brands) until you find one that is comfortable, properly seals around the glasses frame legs.

If you choose to use ear plugs, it is critical that they fit properly in each ear canal and that they are designed for those who are using firearms.

There are many hearing protectors out there for construction and even music, but you want a set of hearing protector (whether they be muff style or ear plug style) that are designed specifically for firearm use.

Another note to remember for those who are using the “muff” style (that fits over the entire ear) is that head band and the ear cups are “adjustable”. This way you can adjust them to fit perfectly and as comfortable as possible.

Also remember that they will need to be cleaned on a regular basis and that means following the manufacturer’s directions to the letter.

The last thing you want to do is damage them and find out, the hard way, they are not working any more. Finally, it is wise to REPLACE hearing protectors (especially ear plugs) with new ones at least once a year (on the ear plugs) and with the hearing protector muffs (when the cushions (usually a rubber-like material) starts to degrade.

The cost of most hearing protectors that are designed for firearm sportspeople range from $6.95 to $100.00 or more. It all depends upon quality, fit, extras (e.g. electronic capabilities) and the like. Your ears are worth every penny that you will spend to protect them.

Remember that.

You cannot “restore” hearing that is lost

4. Eye Protection. What can we say that would stress the importance of protection of a firearm user?

We’ve covered the basics of hearing protection, but protection of your eyes is just as important.

Eye protection is actually a matter of finding a manufacturer of eye protection wear that is designed for firearm users.

When using ANY kind of firearm, there is always the possibility of debris, spent power, lead and even metal fragments that the firearm can produce when you fire it.

Also when you use semi-automatic firearms, they will “eject” the spent shell which could possibly fly back and strike the head or eye.

Eye protection comes in many different styles and types just like regular glasses so it is a matter of style AND that they are approved (designed) for firearm protection by the manufacturer.

People that normally wear glasses just need to find out if their glasses can be used for protection when using a firearm (that the lens material will not shatter if hit).

If there is any question, there is a set of glass protectors that are designed to go over prescription glasses. They use an elastic band that fits behind the head and will first directly over your glasses. They should be approved for use by firearm enthusiasts by the manufacturer.

5. A Hat. A hat is not a mandatory item to use, but it is nice to have, especially if you are using a semi-automatic firearm where the spent shell flies backwards. It can deflect it to where you would take a light knock on the head. Another benefit is that can provide “shade” when outdoors which helps on sunny days when acquiring targets to shoot at. This is a matter of preference. I myself, have a cap with a short bill that I have used for years. Nothing special.

6. A Cleaning Kit. This is a matter of whether you desire to clean your firearm after you use it at the range, after hunting, or at home. Regardless of “where” you do it, it MUST BE DONE after using your firearm. Never skip cleaning it!

Typical kits cost from $7.99 up, and come with many accessories, cleaners and lubricants.

The first item in the kit that we recommend is a flexible snake rod. Metal rods that run though the barrel work perfectly fine, but it you nick the muzzle of your firearm will inserting a metal rod, you potentially can cause damage to where it will affect the bullet’s true direction. In other words, it can cause a micro-deflection. If you do get a kit with a metal cleaning rod (typically aluminum), take care when you insert it into the barrel.

There is a rule here: NEVER start to clean your firearm until YOU make sure that it is NOT loaded and the magazine (if applicable) is empty and removed (if it is removable).

The flexible snake-style rod is easier to use and be stored in a very small pouch.

Next is the various tips that you will need. You will need a minimum of three (3) different types.

The first is a wire brush tip type. It is designed to take off the spent lead and copper that will build up firing ammunition through your firearm. It is usually made of metal and looks like a miniature bristle brush. You use a “cleaning agent” that is made for breaking-down the metal and carbon build-up in the barrel.

There are many, many brands of cleaning agents and it is a matter of choice.

The next tip has an open notch (hole) in it so you can put a “cleaning patch” through it. A cleaning patch is nothing more than a little piece of cloth that runs through the hole (notch) in the tip that you use to swab out the inside of the barrel of the firearm. It can also be used to apply the cleaning agent as well, and then swab out the tip for the wire tip to work out the spent residue and metal build-up. This tip with the notched hole is also used to run cleaning patches through the barrel to make sure it comes up clean.

Now for the final tip, and that is the oiling or lubricant tip. It is roughly the same inside diameter of the barrel and is shaped as a cloth tube. It soaks up the lubricant and allows you to apply it to the inside of the barrel of the firearm.

You also don’t need to get this specific tip since you can do the same thing with the notched tip with the hole in it; however this tube roll tip applies a better coating of lubricant than just a cleaning patch.

Finally you should get extra cleaning patches (or even small rags) to clean the inside of the firearm receiver as well as the outside.

Some people use Q-Tips to do cleaning of the inside of the receiver and the bolt (and other components), but remember that they will sometimes leave behind cotton or fiber material that could gum-up your firearm. Not a smart idea. Use only approved cleaning devices and chemicals MADE for firearms for your firearm. Again, there are many out there to choose from.

Stay away from home remedies and ideas that you really don’t know could possibly hurt, damage or even make your firearm dangerous to use the next time out.

Learning how to field strip and clean your gun, as per the manufacturer’s instructions is a must. You do not want to end up with a dripping over-oiled gun, nor do you want to take something apart and NOT know how to put it back together correctly.

Don’t field embarrassed if you cannot field strip your firearm. Ask the dealer who you purchase it from to show you SLOWLY how to do it. Take notes. If the dealer who sold you the firearm doesn’t know how, get you money back and go to one that does know how to do it correctly.

7. Ammunition. There are several types of ammunition, but the most important thing is to use factory ammunition that is BRAND NEW if you are not proficient in reloading (which is a totally different subject).

Buying reloads is a risk unless you know the company has a reputation of making qualified and approved reloads that have a track record of safety and a reputation of “no problems”.

Staying with brand new ammunition is the best route to go.

Yes, there are a ton of brands, but it is best to stay with those that are well-known. Military surplus and off-brands sometimes are as old as 35-40 years or more, and ammunition DOES degrade. IT CAN BE DANGEROUS

Some ammunition is “corrosive” which can produce more wear on your firearm requiring you to clean it more often and much more carefully.

Some ammunition, especially for rifles and pistols, uses a “steel” core in the bullet which can produce a great amount of wear inside the barrel.

It is best to stay with well-known brands that are Factory New.

Now the types of ammunition come in three flavors:

The first are target loads. These are excellent for general range use and target practice. These are also the lowest price ammunition

The second are for hunting and protection. These are made under stringent manufacturing conditions and designed for hunting or home protection. They are more expensive the target loads, but less than “match” ammunition

The third are for match use (which are manufacture red under very strict conditions and used for competition). These are the most expensive.For shotguns, there is just specific types of rounds depending upon the application, such as for clay target shooting (trap or skeet); rounds for hunting birds or other game; and finally for home protection (e.g. double-odd-buckshot or other types of home defense loads).This is all a matter of choice

NOTE: With .22 caliber ammunition, you want to make sure the brand you get can properly cycle through a semi-automatic pistol or rifle. Some manufacturers .22 ammunition just won’t work, or will jam every time a round is fired as the firearm starts to cycle a new round in. Stay with reputable, known brands.

8. Targets and a Target Holder. You have to shoot at something if you’re not hunting, so we use paper targets. These come in every style and shape imaginable.

The simplest is just the square target with multiple rings that get smaller going toward the inside where there is the well-known black circle (e.g. bulls’ eye).

It is the simplest and most common target available.

However it has to “fit” on the back of something, so it is common to use cardboard backings to place the target on.

But now you need to place these two items on something that will hold it. Making a target stand is easy and only requires a couple of pieces of wood (such as 1”x2” or 2”x”4) pine with a wooden base to keep it stable.

Putting a couple of holes through the base and use a piece of rebar that is bent like an “L” at the top can be mounted and hammered down through each of the holes to keep the stand from moving in the wind, or there are even posts made to do the job.

Then all you need is a commercial staple gun to mount the cardboard to the two wooden vertical posts (and the target if you wish). It is that easy.

You can staple or tape the target on the cardboard backing. It is your choice.

Now there is a neat item that comes in rolls of 50 or more that are colored squares or dots that can be peeled off and used to cover holes made by shooting the target. It saves money and allows you to re-use the target quite a few times over.

There are metal swinging targets that when you hit them they make a distinct sound and swing around, but it is important to make sure that if you get one, it is designed to handle the caliber that you are using.

9. Appropriate Clothing. Remember, what you wear can make your experience enjoyable or miserable. It comes down to weather.

Be sure not to assume it is going to be nice and clear. Not having weather gear can make a trip a disaster.


The worst thing is that you will be taking something you will not need to wear.

Extra socks and T-Shirts are always good to have. For cold weather, a windbreaker, at a minimum, should be taken.

Gloves as well for those cold weather outings.

Now when it comes to hunting, that’s a whole different ball game to be discussed at a later date since we are getting into trips that may last more than a day, etc.

That means camping gear, water, food, and the knowledge of your area.

Some use GPS devices, compasses, and other equipment, but again, we are digressing from the basics.

10. A Basic First Aid Kit. To have this is just common sense. We are talking about the basics.

11. Other Items. Even though I don’t like them, they are a necessity, especially in an emergency, and that is a Cellular Phone (as long as you can get reception).

For those who are going target practice NOT at a range, or for all those who are going to HUNT (regardless of what you are hunting) this is “another” RULE:

Always wear a hunter identification vest

They are usually neon orange or yellow with BIG stripes

They are designed to be SEEN by others so you don’t end up being a trophy

Wearing camouflage suites without one of these vests is just inviting trouble

There are those out there who think the thing rustling in the bushes about 30 yards away is a 6 point “Jackalope” and want to take it as a trophy

Let’s make sure they can tell it is a “person” – specifically you

Bug repellent. Enough said on this subject.

I am sure that many of you out there are coming upon with dozens of things that could be added to this list, but as I stated in the beginning, these are items which people usually don’t’ think about when purchasing a firearm. Items 1-8 (and the VEST) are truly all needed and should be considered PART of the overall purchase when you buy a firearm.

Yes, there are scopes, scope rings or mounts, lasers, range finders, binoculars, calls, scents, blinds, decoys and so on, and so on, but now we are getting into specialty items. Each can be, and will be a separate paper, especially when it comes to equipment. This is a BASIC list for the beginner as well as a REMINDER list for the seasoned shooter.

What I have listed are the BASICS to be able to go out and perform basic target shooting and light varmint hunting (e.g. Prairie Dogs say for instance).

More important to have a day without injuries or problems.

Research Solutions, Inc.


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