If you've walked through a mall, you've seen the signs: "free ear piercing with the purchase of earrings”. Retail locations offering that incentive use piercing guns to get the job done, and although the guns have been around for a very long time, there are good reasons to avoid them.
The piercing areas of older guns (with 100-percent reusable parts) were hopefully disinfected after each use, but plastic components make it impossible to insert the guns into an autoclave. This is the process that's required for sterilization, offering the highest level of decontamination. Contemporary guns have disposable piercing inserts, but even one-use pods don't allow for full sterilized procedures.
Guns force the studs through the tissue of your ears, a painful process that can cause damage. A professional piercer will use tri-bevel needles that pierce through areas quickly without damaging the surrounding tissue.
Piercing guns should never be used on the harder cartilage of the ear. Ear cartilage can be shattered by guns. Many states have enacted laws to prevent inappropriate use of piercing guns, but be alert: if you opt for a gun piercing, and the operator says it's okay to pierce other areas, run out the door.
Most ear piercing retailers will probably use studs that are either surgical steel or surgical steel plated with nickel-free 14K gold. But gun supplies are sold cheaply all over the internet to anyone who wants to buy them, and not all ear stud contents are labeled. There is also no formal definition on what constitutes a "surgical stainless steel", so product manufacturers and distributors apply the term to refer to any grade of corrosion resistant steel. There is no way for a consumer to know if the steel used for the earrings is fit for implantation in the body.
Butterfly backed earrings are usually the standard jewelry used with piercing guns. Their many crevices and folds are perfect spots for fluids to accumulate and dry to a crusty mess -- keeping them clean can be an extremely difficult endeavor.
"Free" piercings can quickly become an expensive if the site becomes infected. A professional's procedure may cost you a little more, but there's really no price on safety.