Whether you’re an experienced shooter with a brand new Glock or you just got your first shotgun with an optic and want to take it to the range, everyone plays on the same field when it comes to safety. Correct handling of firearms boils down to 4 main points that will help keep you and everyone else alive.
1. Guns are Loaded
The first thing to understand is that guns aren’t toys. Too many times, the news has told stories of children, or even adults, “playing” with a firearm. The story almost always ends in tragedy that could have been avoided.
That’s why this comes first: Always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded. Before you turn the barrel to clean your weapon, check and double check that the magazine is ejected and the chamber is clear and locked back.
To go one step further, when not in use you might want to store your firearms in a safe or lock box. This is especially important to consider if you have children in the house, whether they’ve been educated on firearm safety or not.
2. Finger Off the Trigger
Another rule to live by is to keep your finger away from the trigger until you’re shooting. Firearms are just tools without someone to pull the trigger.
If your gun has a safety, keep it on when not being used, but the best safety is your index finger. Even at the range or in a live-fire situation, your finger should be behind or above the trigger unless you’re actively taking a shot.
3. Know Your Surroundings
This is another rule that you have to consciously be aware of when handling firearms. Pay attention to your target and everything behind it.
Most hollow point rounds are designed to impact and flatten out, but full-metal jacket (FMJ) bullets tend to go through a target. That means that anything or anyone behind your target is in danger.
Even at the range, be aware of the backstop. Some ranges don’t realize that the backstop they choose can ricochet bullets, so just keep it in mind before you pull that trigger.
This is an especially important rule to follow when using long-range firearms, since rifles tend to use higher calibers. Military and police snipers are trained to look past their target for exactly that reason.
4. Never Aim at Anything You Don’t Want to Lose
Treating guns as live was first because it should come before the weapon is ever pulled, but the single most important rule when it comes to firearms is this: Do not, under any circumstance, aim your gun at anyone or anything without the intention of destroying that target.
There was an incident on Youtube years ago where a woman shot and killed her boyfriend thinking a dictionary would stop the bullet. Many comments were what could have done differently, but the point was missed.
Whether he was wearing a tank top or a Kevlar vest, that gun should have never been aimed in his direction to begin with. Again, they’re not toys and they’re not designed to get views.
Firearms serve a single purpose: To destroy. They can be used for self-defense or warfare, but a fired bullet is meant to kill anything it touches.
If that sounds serious, it’s because firearms should be taken seriously. That’s why most trainings teach not to even draw your weapon without the intention to fire.
Everyone learns things differently, so there are several other teachings on firearm safety that could save your life, or the lives of others. Stay vigilant and follow these rules at all times when dealing with guns.
Richard Douglas is a long-time shooter, outdoor enthusiast and technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, Cheaper Than Dirt, Daily Caller and other publications.