10 Rules to Follow while Handling a Firearm
I'm a firm believer that American citizens have the right to purchase and use firearms for legal purposes. The Second Amendment gives Americans that right, but this right comes with great responsibility. Firearms are not toys and should be treated with great care to ensure their personal safety and the safety of others. When firearms are used in a responsible manner, they can provide great pleasure and satisfaction.
It is of my opinion that if everyone who owned a firearm treated it with the care listed below in my hub, Democratic Congressmen would not have to waste so much time and paper on trying to abolish gun ownership. Unfortunately, there are some bad seeds who have no sense and use guns for illegal gains and immoral purposes. I assume that those bad seeds will not be reading this hub and if they did, it would just fall upon deaf ears. This hub is intended for those responsible gun owners who wouldn't mind brushing up on their fundamentals. Gun responsibility is something that can never be over emphasized.
1.) Know Your Firearm
You may assume that since you shot your granddad's .410 shotgun twenty years ago when you were young that you can go out and shoot anything now. That is not necessarily true. Not all firearms are the same. When you come in possession of a firearm you should take the time to read all the literature that comes with the gun. Learn everything you can about it. Become familiar with its functions such as the safety, the magazine release, sight adjustment, etc. Handling a firearm is completely safe when it is handled by a person with common sense and knowledge of his weapon.
2.) Always keep your Firearm pointed in a Safe Direction
Sadly, you hear on the news, all too often, about someone who was accidentally shot by a friend, family member, etc. This is something that is 100% preventable if operators would just keep their gun pointed in a safe direction. If the weapon is pointed at the ground and it accidentally discharges, no one will be struck. NEVER point the muzzle at any of your body parts or another person. This applies when unloading or loading the firearm, not just when walking around.
Also keep in mind what's behind your target. There is always the possibility that you may miss your target, or that you hit the target but the bullet penetrates it and keeps traveling. Make sure there is no object or person behind the target area that can be hit by a stray. A stray bullet can kill just as easily as a well aimed bullet. A responsible shooter will keep this aspect in mind. Keep your finger off the trigger until you have fully identified your target and decided it is safe to shoot.
One of the very first things my Dad ever taught me about firearm safety is this: Don't Ever Aim at Anything you Don't Want to Kill. This saying alone can save a person's life. Guns are not toys and should not be treated as such. Don't point a gun at someone even if you believe the gun is completely unloaded and cleared.
3.) Keep Firearms Unloaded when Not in Use
Bullets should only be in your firearm when you are hunting in the field, at the target range, or in your shooting area and you are ready to shoot. Do Not store your firearms while loaded. When you are traveling from point A to point B, the gun should be unloaded. There is simply no need to have them loaded. When you arrive at home, ensure that the weapon is indeed unloaded and install a proper lock. Do not store the gun on your rack or in your gun cabinet while loaded. Ammunition should NOT be stored with your firearms either.
Keep your firearms out of sight. Do not allow visitors or children to see your gun collection. Children can view firearms as toys and play with them--this is not a good thing. Your friends may come over and not have much gun sense either. Don't assume that because they are adults that they can safely handle a weapon. I've got several friends that have looked at my guns, but I know that they do not know the first thing about safely shooting so I do not allow them to touch them.
It is the gun owner's responsibility to ensure that their weapons, ammunition, and components remain safe. If every person who owned a firearm was as responsible with their guns as they should be, the Second Amendment would not be a never ending debate in Congress.
4.) Ensure the Gun Barrel is Clear Before Shooting
Having an obstruction in the barrel can be a very dangerous situation. Do not assume that firing a bullet will dislodge the obstruction. That obstruction can actually stop the bullet and cause the barrel to bulge. Once the barrel has bulged, the barrel is useless and must be replaced. A worse case scenario is that the obstruction does more than bulge the barrel. That obstruction can actually stop the bullet completely and create an explosion in your hands. If you've got any sense, you do not want this to happen. Take the extra time to ensure that the barrel is cleared (while unloaded of course).
The obstruction can be anything from mud to snow to even just having to much lubricating grease inside the barrel. You may ask yourself how does a person manage to get mud in their firearm? Well I can answer this with a short story. It was one of the very first times, if not the first time, I ever went hunting with my Dad. I was pretty young, probably around 10 or so. We were crossing an old fence into another field. My Dad crossed on over and I tagged along, but there was a small problem. I was a bit too short to easily cross while still holding my gun. So instead of doing the intelligent thing of safely laying the gun to the side to cross or handing the gun to my dad for him to hold, I used the firearm as leverage to get over. Needless to say, my Dad was not amused and I heard about it. So, for another safety quote from my Dad: Do NOT use your gun as a walking stick!
5.) Know Your Target Before You Shoot
This kind of relates to a rule a mentioned earlier, but it is very important. Do Not fire unless you are 100% positive of where that bullet will end up. If you are shooting targets, ensure that you have a great backdrop to stop any stray bullets that may penetrate your target. If you are in the field hunting, do not shoot at any movement you see or noises you hear. Identify your target before squeezing the trigger. Yes, that movement you see or noise you hear could be that 12 point buck you've been searching for all season, but it could also be another hunter. It only takes a few seconds to identify a target, but it also only takes a few a seconds to shoot another human being. Identify your target and ensure that it is the prey you seek, not another hunting enthusiast. It can a safe a person's life and keep you from changing your life.
6.) Wear Safety Glasses and Hearing Protection While Shooting
Seems like a no-brainer, but I'm sure there are a lot of people who still don't do it. I must admit that until recently I never wore either. I would go shooting with some friends for hours and not wear any protection whatsoever. This probably has wreaked havoc on my hearing. As I've gotten older, I've begun to appreciate the little things in life that I have been taking for granted such as hearing and sight. You can get a decent pair of safety glasses for under $10 and adequate hearing protection for under $40. It's a one time investment that is well worth it. Go spend $50 bucks to ensure that you can hear your grandchildren talking forty years from now.
7.) Never Climb a Tree or Fence with a Loaded Firearm
Carefully put the firearm down before you climb a log or fence (refer back to my walking stick story). It's also wise to unload your firearm before climbing or descending a tree. It's a somewhat time consuming, but that minute you spend unloading and reloading is much more convenient than having to be rushed to the hospital from a gunshot wound. If you come across a situation that may require you to move in an awkward position, go ahead and unload your gun. It's better to be safe than sorry.
8.) Don't Shoot at a Hard Surface
Don't ever shoot at the ground or even at water. The bullet can ricochet off the surface and travel in an unsafe direction with high velocity. A ricochet can kill just as easily as an aimed bullet. Keep this is mind at all times.
9.) Never Transport a Loaded Firearm
Firearms should always be unloaded before being put in your vehicle. Not only is this the safest mode to transporting, it is also required by law in most states. Store your gun(s) in a sturdy carrying case while transporting them to the field or firing range. If at all possible, try to store your guns somewhere in your vehicle that other people can not see. This can help prevent thefts of your firearms, and random people calling the police on you for having a gun (I realize that carrying a gun in a car is not illegal, however, we all know that there are some people who assume anyone with a gun is headed to rob a bank. This is just to avoid any inconveniences with ignorant people.)
10.) Avoid Alcohol While Shooting
This is another no-brainer. Alcohol can cloud your mind and lead to poor decisions. Drinking and shooting should be considered as taboo as drinking and driving. Just don't do it. Go out for drinks after you've put your guns up for the day. Also, shooting while intoxicated can lead to criminal charges. You should always be safe while handling your firearms. Drugs and alcohol can really hinder your ability to do this, so you should flat out avoid it at all cost.