When talking about gun safety, you’ll hear a lot about rules. The NRA has three rules, Cornered Cat talks about four rules, some places even go so far as having ten rules. The number of rules isn’t as important as the content of the rules. They all come down to this: Guns, when handled improperly, cause injury, property damage, even death; don’t handle them improperly. Pay attention, keep your common sense about you, when it doubt ask for help. To make sure you are informed about gun safety, I’ll talk about a few safety points here that detail out how to handle a firearm properly.
1. It’s loaded. ALWAYS.
Treat a gun as if you know it’s loaded even when you know it’s not. If you do this, you will never have an “accidental” discharge. Accidental discharges don’t just happen. Unless your gun is suffering from some sort of super-rare odds are worse than winning the lottery odds surprise catastrophic failure, someone loaded it and someone (maybe even someone else) pulled that trigger. The best way to avoid any “accidents” is not to set yourself up for one by giving each firearm you come across the respect you would if it were loaded.
2. Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction. ALWAYS.
When handling your firearm keep the business end, or the muzzle, pointed somewhere safe. Safe directions include downrange when at a shooting facility, straight down into the dirt (NOT at your toes!), up in the air (not as preferable as the first two). If you’re handling a firearm at home, you may think the wall is a safe direction, or the floor or the ceiling, but it’s not. Bullets can pass through walls. Is someone upstairs, downstairs or on the other side of the wall from you? Then it’s not a safe direction.
“Accidental” shootings require someone loading the gun and someone firing it. If a gun is somehow “accidentally” fired, but it was kept in a safe direction, the damage will be minimal. You do not want that gun, even for a second, pointed at someone or something you are not completely willing to absolutely destroy.
3. Keep your finger off of the trigger!
The only time your trigger finger should be inside of the trigger guard, near the trigger or on the trigger is when you have your sights on your target and you are ready to fire. This is an important safety rule because “accidental” shootings happen as a result of the trigger being pulled when one is not ready to fire. To eliminate that possibility, keep your finger as far away as you can from that trigger!
If something happens, your grip on the gun starts to feel loose, someone bumps into you, your hands get sweaty and slippery and you feel like you are about to drop that gun, your fingers will tense up. The fingers holding onto the handle of the gun will tense to keep that gun in your grasp. This is a good thing. But fingers like to bend as a group. As you tighten your grip on the handle of the firearm, your trigger finger will have a natural desire to bend too. This is a sympathetic response. If your finger is inside that trigger guard, it will tighten on and even pull that trigger. Accidents are preventable! Be safe. Keep your finger away from the trigger until you have your sight picture on your target and you are ready and able to fire.
4. Know what you are shooting at and what’s in every direction from it.
It’s important you know your target. Be sure that you’re not mistaken or confused or just a teeny bit unsure before you pull your trigger. If you think you’re sure, double check. There’s no shame in being safe. But not only should you know what your target is, it’s also important to know what’s around your target. If your aim isn’t perfect (and it never is, we’re all human and cannot be perfect) and a bullet strays to the left, right, top or bottom of your target; where will it hit? Bullets can travel for MILES. Be sure that what you’re shooting at has around it in all directions a good back stop, or something capable of stopping bullets that pass through or around your target.