Close Look: New Shooters’ Guns and Gear Guide


Are you a new shooter? If you’re already experienced, how about getting busy and recruiting a beginner? Adding more to the ranks benefits us all by guaranteeing a healthy industry and a steady stream of safe and responsible armed citizens. To help grease the skids and cut the learning curve, we’ve assembled a list of guns and gear to help them get started.

Versacarry Compound Gen II Essential Holster

The best things about one-size-fits-many IWB holsters include cost effectiveness and fit for multiple similar guns. Traditional drawbacks, especially for those fabric models, are poor gun security and inability to re-holster with one hand.

You know what fixes these problems? A polymer sandwich. The Versacarry Compound Gen II Essential Holster creates a non-collapsible gun pocket using layers of buffalo leather surrounding a polymer shell. The newest iteration is near indestructible and adds an adjustable retention feature. Try turning it upside down and shaking — your gun won’t come out. As a former anti-one-size-fits-many snob, this model made me a convert. Oh, and a forward cant eases the draw and helps concealment.

MSRP is just $45.

Lyman Essential Gun Maintenance Mat

Even if you don’t plan to launch a second career as a home gunsmith, you’ll need to take apart your handguns once in a while. No matter what the GLOCK fan boys say, all guns should be cleaned and oiled when they get dirty.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need a gun cleaning and maintenance mat but having one will sure save you a lot of grief. Springs, screws, pins and other small parts are sure to roll right off smooth counter surfaces. The Lyman Essential Gun Maintenance Mat is made from synthetic rubber. It offers a padded surface sure to be gentle on your valuable guns. Molded compartments are perfect for storing, and keeping in place, pieces and parts. The mat is chemical resistant; you can clean it with soap and water. Lyman offers a rifle-sized mat too.
MSRP $16.98.

XS DXT2 Big Dot Sights

Traditional post and notch handgun sights have served handgun shooters with distinction for more than a century. And they’ll continue to perform for another hundred years. That doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives.

The XS DXT2 Big Dot sights offer a novel approach. Good shooting requires focus on the front sight, even though the rear sight and target may be blurry. XS embraced the concept, making the front a giant dot to seize your point of focus. The rear is a shallow “V.” Just center the dot on the target and it will naturally rest in the “V.” It’s an easy and intuitive sight alignment system. If you have a brass or polymer punch and some emery cloth, you can even install them yourself.

MSRP is $132.

CCI Clean-22 Ammunition

Who needs more exposed lead in their lives? No one, that’s who. Here’s the problem. Lead is the perfect material for bullets thanks to its density and ease of manufacture. The folks at Federal Ammunition have “led” the charge with synthetic jacketed lead bullets for centerfire handguns with their Syntech line. Now they’re doing the same with affordable rimfire ammunition.

The CCI Clean-22 lineup uses lead bullets with a twist. The company applies a high-tech polymer coating to each bullet to cover each lead projectile. It runs through barrels cleaner and dramatically reduces the amount of lead residue. Better yet, you’re not handling exposed lead when loading your firearms. You’ll find variants of Clean-22 for high velocity, subsonic and competition applications.

MSRP is in the $9.95 range.

Streamlight Macrostream USB Everyday Carry Flashlight

If you’re a new shooter, then you need a … flashlight? Yes, you do! In fact, if you’re a grizzled, high-mileage shooter, then you may need a new flashlight too. Even if you already have one, new models are improving at the speed of light so maybe it’s time to upgrade.

If you have an inkling to use a handgun for defensive purposes, either in the home or out and about, then you need to think about adding a quality flashlight to your toolkit. The Streamlight Macrostream blasts out up to 500 lumens — enough to see almost the length of a football field. In the high-power mode, you get about two hours of continuous use. In the 50-lumen low mode, you can run for eight hours. The best part is this pocket wonder is rechargeable with a standard USB cable — no more batteries to change. The clip works in both directions so you can even stick it on the bill of a hat to see what’s in front of you.

You can pick one up for about 50 bucks.

Real Avid Smart Mag Tool for GLOCK

GLOCKs are everywhere and if you’re a new shooter, you might think about getting one too. There is one cleaning chore that’s, let’s just say, challenging for GLOCKs — taking apart the magazine.

With all five of your Incredible Hulk-strength hands, you need to depress the lock button in the base while simultaneously applying inward pressure on both sides of the magazine body to release the side pressure latches. Then you need to slide the baseplate off without letting the button go or releasing pressure. It’s difficult, and until you learn the tricks, you’ll likely butch up a few magazines trying to do the job with screwdrivers, hammers, and a hydraulic log splitter. The Real Avid Smart Mag Tool for GLOCK solves these challenges. It’s a clever and portable tool that removes all excuses to clean those mags once in a while.

MSRP: $14.99.

Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact

My favorite semi-automatic for new shooter acclimation sessions is the smaller cousin of the S&W M&P pistol. The M&P 22 Compact is scaled at about 75 percent of the full-size model, so it fits everyone.

As a rimfire flinger, it has virtually no recoil. The compact size means standard .22 slugs leave the fiery end in the 900-fps range so it’s not particularly loud either. If you pick one up with a manual safety, it’s a great training aid to learn the ins and outs of safe semi-automatic shooting. Most models can accept a suppressor adapter for extra fun and ear safety.

The best part is, while great for beginners, it’s a gun you’ll love to shoot forever.

MSRP: $389.

Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff

I can’t for the life of me figure out the common perception that electronic earmuffs are only for “experienced” shooters. The cost of quality electronics isn’t much more than a couple of boxes of ammo depending on the model. Electronic muffs not only block dangerous sound levels from reaching your ears, they also allow you to converse freely and hear instruction or range commands. They’re safe in more than one way.

My standard go-to is the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff. They’re slim yet effective, with a noise reduction rating of 22dB. If shooting outside, they work fine on their own. In a crowded indoor range, it’s always a good idea to “double up” and use some foam plugs too. Even when using foam plugs too, the electronics will still help you hear conversational-level sound.

Two AAA batteries will run this set about 350 hours in part thanks to the automatic cutoff after four hours of “on” status.

MSRP: $54.

OTIS Technology Tactical Cleaning Kit

Everyone who owns a gun needs a cleaning kit. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to the “buy once, cry once” method. Sure, you can buy a cheaper general-purpose cleaning kit at the big box store where all the funny online photos originate, but you won’t be doing your guns any favors.

This portable kit from OTIS isn’t much bigger than a box of ammo yet has the gear you need to clean almost any handgun, rifle or shotgun. What makes it special is the clever “pull through” design. Using cables instead of rods, you drag the brushes, patches and dirty gunk out of the muzzle, not towards the action. The design also prevents damage to the sensitive crown area of your barrels.

I’m still using my first OTIS kit from 15+ years ago. Sure, I replace some brushes now and then, but that’s it.

MSRP: $49.99.

Real Avid Gun Tool AMP — Pistol Tool

One day it’ll make sense to get a set of gunsmith screwdrivers and other firearm-specific tools, but a specialized tool set investment can be tough to swallow when you’re just getting started.

A suitable alternative for your range bag is a quality, gun-specific multi-tool. The Gun Tool AMP packs a lot of shooting session-saving functionality into a compact package. Screwdriver bits are hollow-ground to not butch up firearm screw heads, an assortment of hex keys is sized for tasks like laser and optics adjustments, and picks and scrapers help with cleaning tasks. The tool also includes a knife blade for target and tape use and a pin punch for gun disassembly. The AMP even packs four wrench “heads” into one of the fold-out blades.

It’s a lot of handiness in a pocket-sized package.

MSRP: $69.99.

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