Handgun Essentials

Basic Safety

Stay safe at the range, in the field or at home by following these guidelines.

  • Gun Handling 10 easy-to-follow rules to keep yourself and loved ones safe.
  • Transportation Rules regarding the proper transportation of firearms differs greatly by jurisdiction. Always consult local laws when you hit the road.
  • Eyes and Ears Whenever you shoot, it's critical to protect your eyesight and hearing. Fortunately, there's protective gear to fit any style, personal preference and shooting need. Visit championtarget.com to learn more
  • Range Etiquette For an inexperienced shooter, a busy range can be a confusing and intimidating place. It doesn't need to be. Learn how to have fun, fit in and stay safe at your local shooting range in this video.
  • Access Control With rights come responsibility. It's critical that firearm owners secure their firearms to prevent unauthorized people from accessing and using them by locking them in an approved safe. Champion shooter Julie Golob explains how all gun owners can become safer and more responsible through the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project ChildSafe.

Shooting Style

Handguns fill a variety of roles. In the right caliber and loaded with the right ammunition, they can serve roles in personal defense, target/competitive shooting ad hunting.

Defense Although a wide array of calibers can be used for personal defense, 40 S&W, 45 Auto and 9mm Luger are among the most popular. Ammunition itself should be specially designed to perform without over-penetrating through surrounding walls and endangering bystanders.

Recreation Target shooting is a great way to have fun with family and friends. Target ammunition usually features a full metal jacket design and is more affordably priced than hunting or personal defense ammunition, but with the same point of impact.

Hunting Handguns generally lack the long-range capability of rifles, making them appealing choices for hunters who want the challenge of getting close to game before taking a shot. Hunting handguns are typically chambered for cartridges ranging from the 357 Magnum to the 500 S&W. Loads feature heavy bullets designed to expand on impact.

Ammunition Construction

Ammunition falls into a few general categories. The broadest are rimfire and centerfire. Rimfire loads' priming mixture is placed around the inside of the case rim where the gun's firing pin strikes. Rimfire calibers include the 22 Long Rifle, 17 HMR and the 22 WMR, and are used for target shooting and small game hunting.

Most handgun rounds fall into the centerfire category. These cartridges have a separately-made primer placed in the center of the head of the case.

Bullet designs are another important distinction in handgun ammunition, as bullets fall into two main groups: expanding and non-expanding. Expanding bullets are used for hunting and personal defense, while non-expanding bullets are used for target shooting and military purposes. The Ammo Insiders explain the differences between bullet types and purposes in this video.


Handguns and ammunition need to be stored and maintained correctly to be safe and perform at their peak. Here's how to do it.

  • Ammunition If stored properly, ammunition can last many years. Keep it in a cool, dry place protected from direct sunlight. Also be sure to keep it locked and secure to prevent unauthorized access. If stored properly, loaded ammunition has a 10-year shelf life. Ammunition FAQ.

  • Firearms A wide array of kits takes the guesswork out of the cleaning and maintenance process for new shooters. Learn more at gunslickpro.com or outers-guncare.com. All firearms should be stored in a dry place and secured to prevent unauthorized people from accessing and using them.


Whether you've just bought a new handgun or are about to, it's important to understand the hands-on resources available. They'll let you choose the best firearm and teach you about safe, effective shooting.

  • Try Before You Buy All handguns do essentially the same thing, but minute differences in designs, actions, sizes and other factors can make a huge difference in how a given firearm will work for any individual shooter. Good dealers realize this and offer opportunities for customers to actually shoot different models of handgun before making a purchase. Look into this when shopping for your next firearm.

  • Training Options Most new handgun shooters are interested in handguns for personal defense. If you're among them, check out one of the many conceal and carry classes available. To find a class near you, or a class geared toward hunting, check out one of Federal Premium's education partners.