The most basic knowledge, skill, and attitude every shooter must know and follow are basic firearm safety rules. These rules apply everywhere and every time! Even seasoned shooter can become complacent and create unsafe situations thus these rules apply to everyone! There are many firearm safety rules to follow but all are derived from 3 basic gun handling rules:
1) ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
At a shooting range pointing downrange is usually a safe bet, but generally a safe direction is if the gun were to go off, it would not cause damage or injury.
2) ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
Trigger finger discipline is something you must ingrain into your gun handling skills. A gun usually won't go off by itself so keeping the trigger finger (booger hook) off the trigger (bang switch) and placing it outside the trigger guard and along the frame is the best method for safe gun handling. Also, it's paramount to keep the finger out of the trigger guard when reloading the gun!
3) ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
For beginners, it's best to keep the guns unloaded (cold firearm) and secure. When cleaning a firearm you must ensure that it is unloaded! Many gun ranges and instructors will require guns to be unloaded whenever it's not used. However, this rule can be circumvented in specific situations. For example, for concealed carry permit holders, it would be appropriate to have a loaded (hot firearm) firearm. A home defense firearm may also be loaded but it should be stored in a safe and secure location.
These are the 3 fundamental rules for safe firearm handling. Here are the rest of the rules you should follow.
- Use only the correct ammunition for your gun. I have seen many people on the range trying to put a .40 cal cartridge into a 9mm handgun not knowing what's wrong. Don't be that guy! To find out what ammunition your firearm uses look for markings on the barrel, slide, or in the manual. You need to know this! On rifles you can find the right caliber on the barrel, receiver, and manual.
- Know how to use the gun safely. Know your gun and how to operate it.It's best to get familiar with your unloaded (cold) firearm and its functions at home before you get to the range.
- Know your target and what is beyond. Criminals don't care who they shoot but as a responsible gun owner you are accountable for every shot! Bullets don't stop until their energy is dissipated and many things like walls, couches, doors, windows, tables, etc. will not stop a bullet like in the movies. Know what you are shooting at and what's behind it.
- Wear eye and ear protection as appropriate (maybe even a hat and shirts with a high neck line). If you value your eyes and ears then protect them. Guns are loud and hearing is precious. Thing also fly around, like empty shells from semi-automatic pistols, so protect yourself! A hat is important because I've seen a shooter without a hat get hot brass stuck between his glasses and gave him a good burn on his temple. A high neck line shirt, instead of v-necks or other low neck line shirts, may prevent hot brass from going down your shirt. It's funny to see people doing the funky chicken dance with hot brass down their shirts, until you realize they have a loaded gun in their hands.
- Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting. Self explanatory but taking alcohol or drugs can impair coordination and judgement. The upmost care and attention is needed when shooting! This also applies to over the counter medication and prescription drugs.If it says not to operate machinery then don't use it while handling firearms.
- Store guns so they are inaccessible to unauthorized persons.