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A Refresher in Safe Gun Handling

As we have reported recently, the United States is experiencing a surge in new gun owners. Although there are many reasons for the spike, the fact remains that there are a lot of people who are new to firearms. For this reason, I thought it would be a good idea to review the basic rules of firearm safety.

Basic Rules of Firearm Safety

I recently purchased the new Springfield Hellcat Pro from my local gun store and intended to buy a holster online. Unfortunately, the Hellcat Pro was still so new that it was hard to determine which holster was going to fit properly. So, I decided to go back to the gun store to see what they had in stock and check the fitment there.

After selecting a few holsters I liked, I went to the counter to ask if I could borrow their display Hellcat Pro to test the fit. The salesman behind the counter got the display model, checked that it was clear (unloaded), and handed it to me. I then removed the empty magazine, checked to ensure it was clear, and then started trying out the different holsters.

After I finished checking it, the salesman said, “You are the first person today to check a firearm. Thank you.”

At first, I was more than just a little surprised because this was at the end of the day. That is one of the four cardinal rules of firearm safety, and he had not seen it all day. Then, it occurred to me that there are a lot of people who are new to handling firearms. So, I decided that maybe a review of safe gun handling was in order for the new shooters out there.

Following these simple rules will help prevent many common firearm-related accidents.

1. Always Keep Your Firearm Pointed in a Safe Direction

It is important to remember that a gun is very dangerous. For this reason, never point a gun at anything you do not intend to shoot and destroy. This includes inadvertently pointing it at someone. Always be aware of where the muzzle is pointing.

This holds true whether you are loading/unloading, dry firing, or even just checking out the sights. Always keep the muzzle pointed away from anything you don’t want to destroy. This way, if it does go off unintentionally, the damages will be less traumatic.

2. Treat All Guns as Though They Are Loaded

Even if the person handing you the gun checks it, you still treat it as if it’s loaded until you check it. Once a firearm is in your hands, whatever happens with that firearm is your responsibility. Even staunch gun control supporter Alec Baldwin is learning that lesson the hard way.

Whenever you pick up or are handed a firearm, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and check it. “I thought it was unloaded” or “I thought they checked it” are not legitimate legal arguments.

3. Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until You are Ready to Shoot

If you’ve spent any time on gun forums or Facebook pages, you have heard of good trigger discipline. What this means is that the shooter is keeping their finger off the trigger until they are ready to shoot. Maintaining good trigger discipline by keeping your finger off the trigger will prevent accidental reflexive engagement, resulting in unexpected discharge.

The best rule of thumb is to keep your trigger finger pointing down the frame, just above the trigger. This keeps it away from the trigger but ready to be placed on the trigger quickly when necessary.

4. Always Be Sure of Your Target and What’s Beyond It

There is a reason that gun ranges are set up in front of large piles of dirt—called berms. Projectiles from firearms can travel great distances (miles, depending on the caliber) with no impedance. So, it’s important, when setting up your own range, to have a backstop of some kind to stop the bullet.

Likewise, when considering a firearm for home defense, be mindful of who or what is on the other side of the wall. Identify shooting positions in your home that orient the firearm away from neighboring homes and bedrooms within the house, where possible. You are responsible for that bullet—and wherever it ends up—once it leaves the gun.

5. Additional Safety Considerations

When you are not carrying or shooting your firearm, make sure that it is secured from unauthorized persons. If you do not have a proper safe, consider purchasing one that provides quick, authorized access for home defense. However, if you cannot afford a safe, store your firearm using the provided gun lock. Additionally, in that case, store your firearms and ammunition separately.

Finally, always wear protection when shooting recreationally (defensive shooting will likely not provide the opportunity). Likewise, when you wear eye and ear protection, make sure it is designed specifically for shooting. Ballistic glasses not only protect against errant projectiles but also protect against flying particulates, like powder. Similarly, look for hearing protection that has a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of at least 30 dB.

Although there are other considerations for handling a gun safely, I didn’t want to throw too much at you in one article. But if you adhere to the safe shooting practices above, you will prevent most accidents. However, if you are new to shooting, I highly recommend taking a gun safety course.

There are NRA instructors in just about every town, and they are not that expensive. Check your local gun store for recommendations. Even if you do not want a CCW/CPL, the instruction will help you to further understand your firearm and additional rules of firearm safety.

Also, if you are new to shooting, we have a Gun Primer for new shooters with links and first-time shooter content, entirely free.

Stay safe and happy shooting.

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