Firearms Safety

The three basic general rules of safe gun handling.

  1. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction; never point a firearm at anyone or anything you don't want to shoot.
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
  3. Keep the action open and the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.  

Safety Rules Related to the Shooter and His Behavior.

  1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  2. Never pass a firearm to another person, or accept a firearm from another person, until the cylinder or action is open and you've personally checked that the weapon is completely unloaded.
  3. Before handling any firearm, understand its operation.
  4. Never rely on any mechanical device for safety.
  5. Think before shooting: once you pull the trigger you can't take back the shot you've just fired!
  6. Never joke around or engage in horseplay while handling or using firearms.
  7. Be alert at all times; never shoot if you're tired, cold or impaired in any way. Don't mix alcohol or drugs with shooting.
  8. Don't sleep with a loaded firearm in your bedroom if you sleepwalk, have nightmares, sleep restlessly or have other sleep problems.
  9. Safeguard your sight, hearing and health. Always wear eye and ear protection.
  10. If you see unsafe behavior any time when firearms are being handled or used, speak up and take action to correct the unsafe behavior at once.
  11. Receive competent instruction from a qualified person before beginning to shoot.

Safety Rules Related to Your Target.

  1. Positively identify your target before firing at it.
  2. What's behind your target? Always make sure that a stray shot, or a bullet which penetrates its intended target through and through, will be safely stopped.
  3. Never shoot at a hard surface, or at water -- your shot may glance off, ricochet and injure someone.
  4. Never shoot at glass bottles, living trees, or inappropriate targets which would create a hazard for other persons or damage the environment.
  5. Never shoot a rifle or handgun directly upwards, or at a high angle of elevation. Even a rimfire .22 bullet fired at an angle into the air can have enough energy a mile and a half away to accidentally kill someone!
  6. Never shoot across a highway or other roadway.
  7. Never vandalize a road sign (or other public or private property) by using it as a target.
  8. Never poach a game animal out of season, or shoot any game animal you don't intend to eat.

Safety Rules Related to Your Firearm.

  1. Make sure your firearm is in good mechanical condition before firing it. Periodically have your firearm checked for signs of erosion, cracking, or wear by the factory, by a qualified armorer, or by a factory certified gunsmith.
  2. Never try to fire a gun which may have a plugged or partially obstructed barrel.
  3. Insure that any modifications made to a firearm are made by a qualified individual, and that those modifications don't interfere with your firearm's safety features.
  4. Be sure all accessories, such as holsters and grips, are compatible with the firearm and won't interfere with its safe operation.
  5. It is your responsibility to insure that your firearm is always either about your person and under your personal control, or positively secured from access by children or other unauthorized parties. Prevent tragedy: lock down your firearms when they aren't in use.
  6. When storing a firearm for a long period of time, consider storing the slide, bolt, or other critical components of the firearm separately under separate lock and key.
  7. Never carry a pistol with a round in the chamber.
  8. Generally avoid carrying or storing an external hammer-type firearm with its hammer cocked. Exercise extreme care in decocking any external hammer firearm: it is very easy to experience an accidental discharge while doing so if your thumb slips off the hammer.
  9. Generally avoid unloading a firearm by working the cartridges through the action one-at-a-time; drop the magazine and then eject the round which may be left in the chamber, instead, if possible.
  10. Never use a scope mounted on a firearm as a general purpose spotting scope: while observing an area you may end up accidentally aiming your firearm at fellow hunters, or other non-targets.
  11. Avoid trying to catch a live round by cupping your hand around the ejection port while retracting the slide; doing so may result in an accidental discharge.

Safety Rules Related to Ammunition.

  1. Be sure your gun and ammunition are compatible. Shooting incorrect ammunition in a firearm may cause it to be damaged or even make it blow up.
  2. Relying on ammunition which doesn't feed reliably in your particular firearm may make your firearm malfunction: get experience with a particular lot of ammunition in your firearm before relying on it.
  3. Use only ammunition recommended for your firearm by its manufacturer.
  4. Use reloaded ammunition judiciously. Be aware that many firearms manufacturers specifically forbid the use of reloaded ammunition in their products, and will void their product's warranty if you elect to use reloaded ammunition in contravention of their instructions.
  5. Store ammunition that isn't being used under lock and key, inaccessible to unauthorized parties and children.
  6. Dispose of unwanted ammunition safely.

Miscellaneous Safety Rules.

  1. Be careful of hot gases and metal shavings ejected at the forcing cone of a revolver.
  2. Keep your fingers and other parts of your body away from the muzzle, the rear of the slide, and the ejection area of a semiautomatic pistol.
  3. In the event of a misfire, keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, remove your finger from the trigger, wait ten seconds, then eject the cartridge and dispose of it properly.
  4. If you hear an unusual sound upon squeezing the trigger or feel an unusual recoil, stop shooting and investigate. You may have experienced a ``squib'' load (or under-powered cartridge), and it may have caused a bore obstruction. Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, remove your finger from the trigger, wait ten seconds, then unload the firearm and safely examine the barrel, checking carefully for any possible obstructions before reloading and resuming shooting.
  5. Never ---
    • Climb a tree with a loaded firearm,
    • Cross a fence with a loaded firearm,
    • Jump a ditch or ford a stream with a loaded firearm,
    • Scale or descend a steep incline or hill with a loaded firearm,
    • Climb a tree, or climb into a hunting stand with a loaded firearm,
    • Prop or lean a loaded firearm against a tree or other surface which may allow it to slide, or
    • Transport a cased loaded firearm.
  6. Always carry your firearms in a way which will allow you to control where the muzzle is pointing, should you stumble or fall.
  7. Always wear the required number of square inches or more of blaze orange while in the field during hunting season.
  8. Blackpowder (and replica blackpowder) firearms require additional safety precautions not discussed here. Obtain qualified instruction in the safe operation of blackpowder firearms before attempting to load or fire any such firearm.
  9. Circumstances may require additional safety rules unique to a particular situation.
  10. When you are not using your firearm, you should insure that it is stored safely.

Also note that:

  1. Gun security devices which rely solely on physical strength to secure firearms from unauthorized use are generally undesirable since ingenious children can potentially employ leverage or tools to overcome those devices.
  2. "Hiding" a firearm won't secure it from discovery and possible misuse by curious children or intruders.
  3. Metal gun cabinets or gun safes can be used to safeguard firearms from unauthorized access or theft in many circumstances and metal gun cabinets or gun safes are generally preferable to open racks or glass-front cabinets.
  4. Firearms should be stored unloaded and separate from ammunition when the firearm isn't needed.
  5. You may want to store critical components of a firearm (such as the gun's bolt or slide) separately from the rest of the firearm when the gun won't be used in the immediate future.
  6. Consider maintaining a list of your firearms makes, models, calibers, and serial numbers in a computer or locked container that is stored in a location away from your firearms and ammunition.
  7. Explore "gun-proofing" your child by proper training, and by controlled and closely supervised access to firearms to reduce your child's natural unsatisfied curiosity about firearms.