Monday, April 12, 2010

A Gal's Guide to Gun Shopping

You know, The Shirelles posted a very valid argument in their song "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" For those of you who live under a rock, it's an age old question: you find the perfect person and life is like you're in Heaven, but will it be that way forever? I love 60's girl groups because they had style, both musically and fashionably, but they also had great songs that range from fun poppy danceable tunes to songs that made you go, "Hmm..." On that note, I would like to touch base on a subject every woman should take into account when gun shopping. The gun you love today may not be the gun you love tomorrow.

If you are new to the world of guns, it is like being new to the world of dating. I'm speaking to the ladies right now, so guys, you can feel free to step away or eaves drop to hear the perverse world of girl talk. There is only one of you. There are a LOT of men in the world. You may see one guy one day, or hear your friends talk about how another guy is such a catch, and then when you date him, you realize he is a total douchebag. Maybe you have a short relationship. Maybe you're like me and date a guy for 5 years because you've been told that you will never find anyone better and you stay with that guy until you wind up hating him so much you wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire. Whatever the case may be, very rarely in life do we find Mr. Right right off the bat. I say rarely because I know there are maybe a few people in the world who do find their true love the first go at it, and that could apply to guns.

Chances are, if you have ever gone gun shopping, you will go up to a gun counter, hopefully knowing whether you want your gun for: protection at home or for concealed carry, but chances are, you will have a salesman hand you a little .38 special revolver, probably a Lady Smith because it says "Lady" on it and is made for women, even though some of the features that make it "Lady" friendly (like smaller grips) actually make it harder to shoot, or maybe they'll tell you a little Ruger LCP would be great because it's small enough to conceal. Or you will have a man tell you that you need to carry a Glock because that's what cops carry and you shouldn't buy any other gun for protection and you'll look at the thing and go, "What the hell?" at how huge it is and hopefully make a variation of the, "Are you out of your mind?" face to the salesman.

Granted, all three guns are great guns, but are they the right gun for YOU?

There's a lot you need to take into consideration. If you have never shot a gun in your life, first off, I highly advise you take a lesson to learn how to shoot. If you are in the greater Northern Nevada area, I highly recommend The Women's Shooting Academy. Their Ladies Intro to Handguns class is taught solely for women BY women. So you won't have anyone laughing at you if you need someone to show you how to load a magazine or wonder if there is a .38 regular since there is a .38 special. Trust me when I say no question is considered dumb when you're learning. In fact, questions are welcomed because that means you're curious and want to know more and that's what they like. Here in Nevada, you can go to a gun store, pass the background check, pay cash for your gun and walk out of the store with it in as little as 15 minutes on a good day. No one ever questions whether or not you know how to use it and while I love my gun rights, I also find it a little scary to think there are a lot of people who own guns and don't have the slightest clue what they are doing with them. After all, ignorance is one of the leading causes of gun related accidents.

So you've learned how to shoot. You know the basics of pistol safety and operation, you got the terminology down and you are ready to go out and buy a gun. Now what? Do you know what you want your gun to do for you? I think if you've taken a class or had a form of education, you probably know what you want. In fact, you probably have a pretty specific idea of what you want. I'll use one of my friends as an example. She likes little .38 revolvers. We've looked at guns before. She's fondled some of them, but she says that they don't feel comfortable. I'll use myself as an example. Something might feel good, but other aspects don't look good. Guess what? If you're not totally in love with a gun, it's probably not the right one for you! You wouldn't buy a dress if it didn't fit right. You wouldn't buy a purse you thought was ugly. Why would you buy a gun if it didn't meet your expectations?

You find a gun that feels good. You like the way it looks. Then you realize it's way out of your budget. Guess what? You know how you can find a dress that is super cute at Macy's for $150 and then go to Target and find one similar for $30? The same thing exists in the gun world! Like the Walther PPK? Don't feel like chucking out $500? Try the Bersa Thunder .380. Pretty much the same gun except with a slide release (bonus feature!) and it comes in a variety of finishes! My point is, if you find one gun you like and the price is a little steep, ask your gun dealer if another manufacturer makes a similar gun at a cheaper price. Another great option is buying a used gun. Just like you can buy a pair of designer jeans super cheap from a consignment shop, you can buy a high dollar gun at a cheaper price used. If you go this route, make sure you know what the ballpark range of that gun is used. I'll discuss this more later on. If you buy a used gun, it may be a wise idea to contact a gunsmith and ask them to take a look at it for you to see if everything is good and functioning before you take it out shooting. For the most part, you can get a great deal on a used gun in working condition and if it does have an issue with it, gun dealers will let you know up front.

OK, so back to gun dating. You finally bought your first gun. Maybe you have it for a few months or years, but more than likely, the more you start to shoot, the more you'll realize what you really want in a gun. I was like most women. I wanted something easy to use, easy to shoot, and that seemed familiar. Semi's seemed a little scary. My first real gun was a S&W 65-5 .357 magnum. It was a full sized revolver that was an ex-cop gun. I thought it was so cool. But the reality of it was, the only time I would shoot it was if I were taking photos of it. He was a very photogenic gun, but I found him to be clumsy and for lack of a better explanation, dull. He just didn't turn me on after a few months like he did when I bought him. My husband bought a 9mm Sig P226 and I thought he was way more interesting.

So, I did what any girl would do and broke up with my Smith, throwing him in a little gun bag in the safe and spent more time with some of the other guns I thought were more interesting. I flirted with what I thought was the Walther P-38 until I found out he was a liar and was actually a Walther P-1. I still liked him, but didn't understand why he had to pretend to be someone else. I liked him for how he shot, not what he was. But still, it was a hard to learn truth, like finding out you're adopted or something. It still doesn't sit quite well with me, but I don't hate him for it.

I always really liked the look of my husband's Makarov, but the first time I tried to shoot it, I could barely get the slide back to get a round in the chamber and when I finally did, the thing felt so snappy I didn't like it much. But I loved the size. A few years later, as I shot more and started developing better skills and abilities, I tried it again and liked it. A lot. After shooting and wanting a Walther PPK, I wound up going with a Bersa and we got married and have had a nice life for the past few years.

The sad thing is, I feel I may be growing bored of the Bersa and the nice thing about guns is while you might date several guns before finding Mr. Right Gun, even if you do marry a gun, I have learned that guns believe in polygamy and polyandry. They're totally OK with it if you want to have several guns. My husband, however, has taught me that if you do not shoot a gun enough, it gets mad at you and will not shoot right. While I think it his absolutely hilarious to hear him talk about a gun that way, I believe him, and not only because he is a gunsmith.

So here is another thing to take into consideration when you are out and about looking for a gun: the gun you love today may not be the gun you love tomorrow; and that is perfectly alright. But what do you do if you have a gun and you no longer like it after a few times shooting it, or a few months, or years? Just like picking out your original gun, you have as many options when it comes to upgrading (and I say upgrading because in reality, whenever you leave one man, you always wind up upgrading when you realize your last one was a total shmuck. Very rarely do you leave one loser for a bigger loser.)

Some gun stores will do trade ins for guns or flat out buy it from you. If you are unsure of your gun's worth you can look up it's value in the Blue Book of Gun Values. Face it, we're not all car geniuses and yet we've been able to take a little bit of info we know about a car to get it's Kelly Blue Book value. The Blue Book of Gun Values is the same way. You can buy the book or call a gun shop and give them a little info on your gun and they can give you a ballpark range of fair to mint values for trade in and private party sales. It's genius and they put one out every year. Be sure to know the price range of what your gun is worth when you plan on selling or trading it.

If you trade it, you'll probably get so much credit for it and have to add a little extra for your new purchase. If you do a private party sale, you can get more money from your gun and the easiest way is to go to a gun show and just walk around with a little sign on you with what you have and what you're asking for. My advice is to treat this like a car sale. Know your asking price and add about $50 to that and the Or Best Offer (OBO) listing. That way, if someone tries to go down on your price, you'll wind up with what your real asking price is or close to it. And make sure to have a set amount you will not go lower than. Know your gun. Take it for an appraisal at a gun store or with a gunsmith so if someone tries to tell you there's all these problems with it to low ball your price, you can turn around and tell them to quit being a cheapskate trying to rip you off and you wouldn't do business with them anyway! Most importantly, know your state's laws on private party sales. Here in Nevada (the northern part, not sure about Clark County), if it is a pistol you are selling, it has to be to someone 21 years old or older (that's a federal law), and they must be a Nevada resident. Be sure to check your laws on private party sales before going out and doing one if you are unsure.

And of course you can always keep your old gun and get another. There's nothing wrong with having extras. The way I see it, the more guns you have, the better. Variety is the spice of life. You don't just have one pair of shoes you wear every day with everything, you have choices. Why shouldn't your gun selection be that way? "What should I wear today? A dress or pants? Heels or flats? Kel-Tec P3-AT or XD 9 Sub Compact?" Of course you may wind up like me and have several pairs of shoes and guns but really only one pair and one pistol you wear regularly and that's OK.

That's the beauty of guns. They are something you will fall in love with once you get into them. You will go through many guns in your lifetime. You may have several at once or one at a time. Know your guns. Practice shooting them. Clean them regularly. Love them. Treat them well and they will treat you well. And if you decide you don't like one, you can always get another. But never by any means ever let anyone tell you what the right gun for you is. That's just as bad as your friends trying to set you up with a guy they know is totally wrong for you just for the sake of you being able to have a boyfriend. In that case, it's probably better to just not date at all until you find someone you like. Guns are the same way. Remember: never settle and you can always upgrade or add for more choices.

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