Over the last year, since I started getting into shooting (initially for sport, and now for protection as well), I've received some bad advice. Scratch that. I've received some horrifically EXPENSIVE and even DANGEROUS advice. I'm hoping that other folks here can chime in with some of the worst advice they've been given (or heard given) and hopefully spare some other newcomers the pain as well.
Here are some of the worst pieces of advice I've been given in the last year, and what my experience and learning since then has turned out to be:
* "You need to be able to release a slide lock with the hand holding the gun." This is the main reason why my first pistol was an XD and not a Glock, because I couldn't reach the Glock slide release with my strong hand thumb. My current understanding (correct me if I am wrong) is that a strong hand thumb release isn't necessary at all, you can do a "slingshot", an overhand release, or a weak hand thumb release and they are all just as valid.
* "The grip safety on a pistol adds an important measure of safety." This played a lesser role in that first pistol decision. I now know that while the grip safety may add some protection for a gun that is stored with the trigger exposed (tossed in the glove box comes to mind), you should never be storing a gun like that anyways. A grip safety may help protect a child too small to get their hands properly on the gun. But for an adult, almost all of the manipulations of the gun that could result in an accidental discharge happen to involve having the gun in a position that the grip safety is depressed anyways (reholstering, chambering a round, disassembling for cleaning, etc.).
* "1911's are a rock solid, idiot-proof design." I'm not saying that it's impossible to have a great 1911, or even a good one, but for all of you who've been raised on an endless diet of action films, let the message be clear: the 1911 has inherent traits which mean that even a really well-built one will need periodic maintenance that you may not care to perform to ensure proper functioning. Oh, and every tweak or fix you make can cost you a small fortune in ammunition to make sure that it's working right. I burned through $100 in ammo just twiddling an extractor that I didn't need to replace in the first place...
* "A low-end 1911 can be a great gun." Probably not likely, until you've poured enough money into it that you could have bought a good or great 1911. Or something else entirely. For the cost of a really good 1911, you can often get two or three other pistols in .45 which will be just as good for your needs. Again, not knocking the 1911, I truly enjoy shooting mine, but it's not a good choice for a novice. I've got a low-end 1911 with almost as much money in after-market parts in it and a few hundred bucks in ammo just testing those after market parts.
* "ARs are cleaning queens." I've since learned (not personally verified, but the information I've been given is based on experience much deeper than I'll ever have) that ARs do like to be lubricated... but that they do not need meticulous cleaning for reliable operation.
* "The AK design is insanely reliable." I've learned that there are lots of AK variations that are *not* "insanely reliable". My Saiga 12, like many others of the breed, took a bit of work to cycle low velocity rounds (especially birdshot) reliably. My PSL/FPK has failures to feed, caused by a combination of ugly feed lips and the rimmed cartridges. Some AK builds are junky enough to overcome the inherent reliability of the AK platform.
* "The Saiga 12 is the best shotgun ever." You know what? I like my Saiga 12, a lot. But its advantages aren't quite as brilliant as one would think. Magazines sound great, until you combine the lack of a last-round bolt hold-open, the difficulty of inserting a full magazine on a closed bolt, the sheer bulk/weight of those magazine, and the difficulty in the AK "rock 'n lock" magazine design. For me, I thought a Saiga 12 unloaded with magazines in a gun safe would be a good, kid-proof way of having a quickly loaded shotgun around. Now, I feel that the Saiga 12 with anything less than an 6 round magazine has no advantages over any other short semi-auto shotgun, and those 8+ round magazines are too big to big into most nightstand safes. So I'm back to the idea of having a loaded shotgun in the closet... for what I spent on a Saiga 12 (just up-front price, at that), I could have gotten a short, home defense shotgun and a decent shotgun for the skeet range, and that's before I started pouring money into improving reliability and the whole host of other upgrades.
* "7.62x54R is a great, inexpensive alternative to .308 or 7.62x51." In terms of ballistic they are about the same. But the choices of 7.62x54R in a high quality round are very limited. Right now, there are mountains of mil surp stuff from Eastern bloc countries all over the place (I suspect the supply is starting to dry up) and you can get the stuff for $0.19/round or so after S/H. It's a great deal if you want to do high powered plinking, but the accuracy leaves much to be desired.
* "Hornady Critical Defense is the best ammunition around for personal protection." HCD may be good ammunition, but when I asked the folks here, I found out that there really aren't many independent tests of the stuff. Some of it is gimmicky (you don't need nickel plated shells for reliable feeding, and if you do, you need a new gun) as anything. Buy the well known LE rounds like Federal HST or Winchester Ranger Talon, and save a ton of money in the process.
* Just about anything involving holding a pistol and shooting stance. It turns out, that most of what I'd been told was absolute junk. Thankfully, some of what I learned in the world of powerlifting about grip and stability carried over here, and I promptly realized that I was being given a lot of bad information. While my grip and stance isn't great, and it's something I've started putting a lot of work into with reading and videos from competent sources, the stuff I had experimented with on my own was certainly an improvement from the bad information I had been given.
Every single piece of advice on this list came from someone who I had hoped knew what they were talking about, mainly due to professional status or being around firearms long term. My buddy who hunts 1 - 3 days a week during deer season *doesn't know what a 1911 is*. Why should I take pistol advice from him? I've got a friend who has a really nice AR (LMT) that he never shoots because he is of the opinion that it's not worth shooting with anything less than an ACOG on it, and he would prefer a Nightforce, but he can't afford them. So how much hands-on experience does he have with his AR? Almost none of the people I solicited advice and information from have taken any kind of training courses, read any books, or have anything better than what they learned from their dad or drill sergeant or boss. Too many pieces of advice were motivated by what's in stock or what has the best profit line. On the other hand, information I've found on this forum has been superb. The folks here have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and training. Many are professional instructors or have served in combat zone in military or law enforcement capacities where their lives depended on having the right information, tools, and training. I wish I had found this site a year ago, I would have saved a lot of money and time.
Any and all contributions to this thread would be great to hopefully serve as a resource for other newcomers.