The 4 Rules of Gun Safety to Live By
Shooting your favorite gun is fun, challenging, and rewarding (as long as you hit your mark, of course). But, as a responsible gun owner, safety must come above all else. You don’t want to be the person responsible for accidentally damaging property or harming an innocent bystander. As such, it’s important to understand some of the basic rules that surround gun safety, whether you’re on the range, in competition, or hunting big game.
Let’s take a look at the 4 rules of gun safety and how you can ensure a fun, safe shooting experience.
Rule #1: Always Treat a Firearm as if it’s Loaded
This rule is often the first safety tip you’ll learn in any introductory gun training class. The easiest way to avoid accidents is to maintain a constant mentality that your firearm is always loaded. This rule requires 100 percent of your attention whenever you’re around firearms, but it’s easy to remember and ensures safe gun handling practices.
Why It’s Important
This rule is all about forming good habits and abandoning bad ones. While mis-hits occasionally happen, it’s the responsibility of the handler to ensure that they’re always using the gun in the safest manner possible. This means inspecting the firearm thoroughly before ever putting your finger on the trigger.
Even if you’re at the range, and a friend casually hands you a firearm, don’t assume that it’s unloaded—particularly if you’re unfamiliar with that type of gun. One wrong move could lead to unintentional discharge. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from range experts and others knowledgeable with loading and unloading a gun if you’re not certain how to do so.
Rule #2: Never Point The Muzzle At Something You Aren’t Willing to Destroy
The most important lesson to glean from this step is that you should always have a plan of action. Prior to picking up your firearm, first, scope out the surrounding landscape and identify any obstacles, people, or other potential hazards nearby.
Why It’s Important
Having awareness of your surroundings helps you determine the correct direction to aim your gun so you don’t accidentally point the muzzle at something you could damage or destroy. A bullet’s ability to ricochet off almost any hard surface that’s accidentally struck can put you and others in the way of danger when you don’t keep this rule in mind.
Even if your gun is unloaded, pointing it at the wrong person or object can be terrifying on the receiving end, and may even get you banned from the shooting range. It doesn’t matter at what step you are in the shooting process — loading, adjusting your rifle scope, or taking aim — a properly pointed gun muzzle is ultimately a safer one.
Rule #3: Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until You’re Prepared to Shoot
Rule three is something that all gun users should practice: keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re prepared to shoot. This means showing a high level of trigger discipline. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard and hold it rigidly against the gun frame, rather than resting on the trigger itself.
Why It’s Important
If you’re new to owning a firearm, then you’ll probably need to practice this movement to develop the required muscle memory. As soon as you pick up your gun, keep your finger stiff to prevent it from entering the trigger guard.
This action is important because the slightest scare, trip or jerking motion may cause you to accidentally engage the trigger. Triggers are extremely easy to pull accidentally. One twitch, misstep, or lapse in attention can result in an accidental discharge.
Rule #4: Be Sure of Your Target and Aware of What Lies Behind It
You’re responsible for every round that you shoot, and because of this, you need to be sure of your target and know exactly what lies beyond it. If you’re able to strike something besides a protective berm or designated safe area behind the target, then it’s your duty to show restraint and refrain from shooting.
Why It’s Important
This rule is important because even seemingly safe shots can present problems if you’re not aware of your surroundings. Before you shoot, consider target height, shooting angle, and environment, whether indoor or outdoor. This prevents you from striking something should your aim stray, or if your bullet ricochets or runs straight through the target.
More Useful Gun Safety Rules
While the above rules are the “big four” that need to be memorized, there are even more useful safety tips that you should be ready to deploy in various shooting scenarios:
Unload your gun after every use and keep it unloaded until you’re ready to use it again.
Even though it’s rare, safety buttons can fail, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket and always handle the firearm according to the four rules of gun safety above.
Keep your internal gun mechanisms clear of debris and build-up with regular cleanings.
If your gun fails to shoot after you pull the trigger, keep your shooting position steady for several seconds until you can be sure the bullet won’t dangerously eject. Keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction and unload your firearm, to stay safe from “hangfire”, a noticeable delay in the bullet firing.
When in doubt — don’t take the shot. Having restraint is part and parcel of being a responsible gun owner.
Why Hearing Protection is Critical to Gun Safety
A final and essential gun safety rule is to protect your hearing. Almost all firearms create noises over 140-dB, which is equivalent to standing just 100’ from a jet engine. In other words, sounds emitted from guns can cause severe and permanent hearing problems if you don’t take the proper precautions. Not only that but by blocking out distractions from the gun as well as your surrounding environment, you can focus harder on hitting the target.
A good pair of ear mufflers are an affordable solution to ensure proper hearing protection while at the range or a competitive event, like pigeon clay or three-gun. If you’re looking for a more serious and versatile safety tool, a silencer suppresses ear-damaging noise, while increasing shot accuracy due to lower recoil. This gives you more confidence every time you draw a bead.
Take a Step Towards Safer Shooting
Overall, safety is an essential part of gun ownership and should be taken seriously whenever you’re around firearms. Regardless of whether you’re a hunter, competitive shooter, or you just like hanging out at the range, follow the above steps to make sure you and everyone in your party have an enjoyable outing.
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