Not So Obvious Lessons from My First Firearm

Every gun has a story and is a chapter in the life of its owner, especially the first firearm. With a little reflection we can discover a number of lessons learned from or with that first firearm. Here are some of mine.

A little over three years ago, a few months after I started this blog, I published a brief post indicating I had made the decision to let go of my very first firearm and carry pistol, a Springfield Armory XD-S chambered in .45 ACP. While that decision was made about a thousand moons ago, it wasn’t until very recently that the pistol permanently left my collection. There are many reasons and excuses as to why it took so much time, some of which I will explore in this post as I share some of the things I learned from my first pistol with the hope that others find some of my takeaways insightful. This post isn’t intended to be a review of my first firearm, the now discontinued XD-S pistol.

Lesson 1: The First Purchase Gamble

Anytime somebody gets into something new there is a given constant: we don’t know what we don’t know. We can attempt to mitigate the unknowns by doing copious amounts of research. While research may help one identify unknowns and provide some advice for consideration, it comes with another set of problems. How experienced and qualified was the person who produced information researched and the time the information was created? Even if the sources are experienced and qualified there is no guarantee that the experience bias didn’t place the information provided in a context that is not directly aligned with the context of the research. Don’t get me wrong, research is important, but it’s also important to recognize that it’s not perfect. Eventually, the analysis paralysis will end and purchase will be made. That first purchase is a gamble where the research effort attempts to shift the odds in our favor.

The gamble is that one may end up with a firearm that will suit the owner well beyond the foreseeable future or, like me, end up with a firearm that serves as an aid to help identify the characteristics of a firearm that will serve the owner and the owner’s needs better.

One other thing a person can do to tip the odds of a good purchase in their favor is to attend an introduction to firearms course and some sort of firearm selection event from a qualified instructor or firearms academy. As an example, take a look at the Basic Pistol 1 course and Gun Selection Clinic offered by KR Training. The introductory course will help folks who have never shot a firearm, who have never owned a firearm, or are not confident in operating/cleaning a firearm get familiar with that process which may dispel some biases or lessen some fears that could influence firearm feature preferences. A selection clinic would help with the identification of a smaller firearm candidate pool that are very likely to work for the owner and the owner’s needs.

Lesson 2: Buy Once, Cry Once is a Myth

There are a couple of adages that I hear often regarding purchases in general and which I’ve also said plenty of times myself. The first is, “You get what you pay for.” The second is, “Buy once, cry once”. Both of these adages speak to the value of investing in quality which is, generally speaking, true. This certainly holds true when the investment is in a firearm that a person may one day rely on to survive the gravest of circumstances. However, there is a point as we look at similar equipment with increasing price tags where the law of diminishing returns comes into play. For example, one could spend north of $3,000 on a Staccato P or somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 on a VP9 and end up with a very capable and reliable defensive pistol with sufficient quality to rely and depend on. Either option may serve a person for many years if not indefinitely with proper care and maintenance. However, this doesn’t guarantee that it will be a “buy once, cry once” type of purchase.

Even with good odds on a first purchase that results in a fantastic first gun that meets one’s needs exactly. As life happens, needs evolve and perspectives change. As such, new equipment may be acquired. I’ve shared one or two posts on my experience with this before as well. My point is it may not be prudent to over invest in a single item that it becomes difficult to put money into training, replace consumables (like magazines, ammunition, or maintenance supplies), or into other equipment that may better fit future needs.

Lesson 3: Shipping a Firearm Can be a Pain in the Rear

There were so many things I was trying to figure out as a new gun owner. What’s the process of buying a pistol? How do I go about getting a license to carry? What do I need to know about storage and transportation of firearms? What training should I seek? The questions seemed endless and there was something new to learn. As all of that was going on, I received a notice about a voluntary safety recall that had been issued for the XD-S. Which, in turn, added one more thing to learn about: what are the shipping laws and regulations?

After learning the basics about shipping laws and regulations, things got even more complicated when I learned about the shipping carriers’ policies. At the time, the carrier required that the firearm be dropped off and declared at a distribution center. When I attempted to follow the policy, I learned that the employees, nor the manager, at the distribution center were aware of the policies and completely freaked out when I walked up to the counter and announced that I was shipping a firearm. I was informed that they didn’t accept packages at the center and needed to go to a drop off location. After I informed them of their policies and they confirmed them, they took quite a while to figure out how to accept a package since that isn’t something they did there.

That experience wasn’t singular. I’ve had other interesting interactions in a handful of other occasions. The bottom line here is that shipping a firearm isn’t always a straight forward process and the responsibility of ensuring compliance with laws and regulations falls on the shipper.

Lesson 4: Believing Something is Good Enough is Both a Trap and Virtue

The power of positive thinking is a thing. Many consider positive thinking to be an important skill and tactic that allows us to perform at the limit of our capabilities. In this respect, positive thinking is a virtue.

At the same time, I’ve also come to believe thinking something, whether it’s gear, skill, tactic, or mindset, is good enough can also be a trap or even a fallacy when it’s applied incorrectly. This is usually manifests itself out of a false sense of confidence that may come from unconscious incompetence, the psychology of a previous investment, and even plain old hubris. Sometimes recognizing the confidence is false is difficult and its effect can prevent us from growing. It closes off our mind to considering different perspectives, new technology, modern methodologies, or alternate approaches.

In retrospect, I can identify several occasions where I experienced this trap with my first firearm. Some of those traps held my growth back for fairly long periods of time. For example, I recall getting into heated discussions where I would argue that .45 ACP was the ultimate pistol cartridge for a defensive pistol and would refuse to consider the benefits of 9mm because in my mind .45 ACP was good enough and everything else was simply inferior. I also remember investing in a hybrid leather and kydex holster and refusing to admit that a full kydex holster might be a safer option. I remember thinking, after having passed the qualification exam for a license to carry, that my skill was good enough to handle a self defense scenario which prevented me from considering additional training for several years.

While not related to my first firearm, I find it amusing that not so long ago having a deep set belief that thinking something was good enough could only be a fallacy. It wasn’t until recently that I was reminded that belief can be used to help push the limits of our capabilities and develop them further. The point is this was a lesson that took a long time to learn and the experiences I had with my first firearm have helped me learn it.

I’m certain that there are plenty more things I learned with my first firearm and takeaways that I could share here if I reflect long enough at my experiences with it, but it’s getting late and this post is getting long. So instead, I’ll wrap this post up here with one last thought.

The first firearm is a significant milestone as it marks the start of a journey and a transition into the gun owner lifestyle. The journey may be different for each of us, but the responsibility is the same. While a Springfield Armory XD-S chambered in .45 ACP, or another similar firearm isn’t a firearm I would consider picking up today, I don’t regret purchasing it as it played an important role in my journey.

1 comment

  1. Great post! Tracks many of my own thoughts and experience with my 1st (that I still have – a G19.5 that I still have and shoot well … but I’m looking, for a smaller EDC and maybe something else “full size” for HD that is pre-cut for a RDS).

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