Hold Your Fire: 10 Gun Safety Rules Every Gun Owner Should Observe

Whether you have your gun for self-defense or for sporting, there are certain gun safety rules you should always observe. Learn more here.

The gasps of horror from your friends who find out you want to buy a gun, or are planning to build one starting with an 80 lower receiver (or worse, you already have) may make you roll your eyes. But they could be warranted if you have no idea what you’re doing.

The only way to be a responsible gun owner is to get educated about your gun and how to use it. Safety is the number one priority for you as a gun owner, and your friends know that accidents can happen. Show them how to avoid misuse and tragedy by setting an example. 

Here are 10 gun safety rules to follow if you want to keep yourself and others safe around guns and show how a responsible person handles firearms.

1. Always Point the Barrel Away From People

With the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S., gun owners need to be even more careful to set an example of gun safety. This means always knowing where the barrel of the gun is pointing. With a rifle’s long barrel, it’s easier to pay attention to where it’s pointing, but because a handgun is so small, you can get distracted.

Pay attention and never wave it around in the air. If you’re on the ground, that means point it at the ground. If you’re on the second floor of a building, that means point it up (unless there are floors above you).

You should also hold your gun with your finger along the barrel, not clutching the trigger. Any surprises could make you twitch and fire the gun if your finger is around the trigger, but if you keep it along the barrel, there’s no chance of accidentally firing the gun.

The same is true when you set the gun down. Make sure the muzzle is pointing away from anything you wouldn’t want to shoot. Whether you’re setting it down to check your accuracy at the range or cleaning it, keep the muzzle of the gun pointed away from anything important.

2. Unload It

Whenever you’re putting your gun away, make sure to unload it. You should never store your gun with any ammunition in it. Keep track of how many rounds you put in it, and count as you unload to make sure they’re all there.

Double-check that the chamber is empty, too. It’s easy to forget the last round, and storing the gun with a round in the chamber makes it easy for untrained people to accidentally fire the weapon if they come across the gun.

Regardless of whether you know it’s unloaded, you should always treat it like it’s hot. Whenever someone hands you a gun, the first thing you should do is check to see if it’s loaded. Even if it’s not, follow the first rule and point it away from people.

Always treat it like it’s loaded to help avoid accidents.

3. Get a Gun Safe

Put a gun lock on your gun when it’s not in use. Make sure that you store it in a place where no one can stumble across it, or at least if they do, they can’t open it. You should never keep a gun under your pillow or mattress, or in a bedside table.

Invest in a gun safe or lockbox. You need to be able to lock up your guns at home so that kids can’t get ahold of them.

4. Take a Safety Class

Even if you grew up around guns and learned how to shoot at an early age, taking a class is a good idea. The formal setting means you might pay a little more attention than you did to your family. You may learn something your family members didn’t know.

It’s important if you’re going to own firearms to make sure you know the parts of a gun and how they work. Each gun works a little differently, so you’ll want to understand the minor differences and what they mean for you as you fire the gun.

You also need to know how to keep all your firearms clean. A clean gun is less likely to jam or misfire. You need to know how to take it apart for cleaning, which they’ll teach you in a safety class. 

They’ll also show you how to hold a gun. The kick from handguns and long-barreled guns may surprise you, and the instructors can help you hold them the right way to avoid jams and absorb the impact. They’ll also help you find the right kind of ammunition for your weapon.

5. Clean Your Gun

Once you learn how to clean each of your guns, make sure you have all the proper equipment. After you’re well-supplied, make sure you do the work to clean it often.

Taking care of your gun means you’ll be less likely to have misfires. A dirty gun isn’t safe to fire. You need to examine any weapon you haven’t fired in a while, so you know it’s clean and free of blockages.

6. Customize Your Gun

Your ultimate goal is safety. There are many upgrades you can make to your gun to help fine-tune its operation. Once you know your gun, you can get help to make the changes you want.

For example, if you have an AR-15, an adjustable gas block from Superlative Arms helps it run cooler and cleaner. There’s less chance of misfire. Other upgrades include different barrels, swapping springs, and even ergonomic changes.

Make sure that any modifications you want to do are legal. Do your research so that you don’t make any changes that regulatory bodies consider too dangerous.

7. Educate Your Friends

People are afraid of things they don’t know anything about. If you can help your friends understand more about guns, they may begin to feel differently about them than they did before. You want to help others understand how to use guns safely and why it’s important to take care of your guns.

You can set an example for others by being a responsible gun owner so that people can see that not everyone who owns a gun is a raging maniac. While there are many irresponsible people out there, demonstrating proper technique and helping others learn how to handle guns safely means you’re making a difference.

8. Practice

If you want to be safe with your gun, you need to be able to hit the target you’re aiming at. This means spending lots of time practicing so you know how to fire it accurately. Then you won’t shoot something you didn’t mean to.

It can be an expensive hobby. Be prepared for the expense of purchasing ammunition, hearing and eye protection, and other tools to help you stay safe and shoot the right way. Consider a membership at a gun club or shooting range, so that you don’t rack up fees every time you go to get in some target practice.

If you’re not improving on your own, think about getting some shooting instruction. Whether you find a professional who is teaching a formal class or you ask a respected member of the club, getting some pointers from a more advanced shooter than yourself can help increase your accuracy.

Don’t let your ego get in the way: safety is more important than any embarrassment you may feel. Chances are they’ll be happy to help and view you with more respect, rather than thinking less of you.

9. Know Your Terminology

Make sure you do some reading from reputable sources or watch educational videos to help you identify the parts of a gun and their accessories. If you call a magazine a clip, no one will give you any credit. A rifle is not a shotgun, and there are many types of each kind of gun, which means you have a lot to learn if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about.

You can’t have a debate or make any point that people will take seriously if you aren’t well informed. Whether your purpose is to educate others or defend your right to bear arms doesn’t matter; they will ignore you if you make ignorant statements using the wrong terms.

10. Most Important of All Gun Safety Rules

The most important rule of gun safety is to know your target and what’s behind it. At the shooting range, if you can’t tell what the target is (it’s too far away, or you can’t see it), don’t fire. Make sure you can tell what you’re supposed to be shooting at before you shoot.

You also need to know what’s behind the target. A berm of dirt often backs up the target area at the range, but at your house or someone else’s, know whether there are farmers or homes behind the target. Shoot away from dangers like that so no one gets hurt.

Rifles have a long-range, and the bullet can travel through more than you expect. Don’t assume the bullet will stop unless you make sure it’s backed by something strong.

Being Smart and Staying Safe

Firearms are so often misunderstood. If you want to be a responsible gun owner who demonstrates safe handling, then make sure you observe these 10 gun safety rules.

From knowing your target and what’s behind it, to keeping a clean gun and pointing the barrel away from people, you’ll be much safer when you follow these tips to protect yourself and others. 

For more on firearms and other hobbies, check out the rest of our website.

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