As you sit down on your couch after dinner to watch the news, the headline reads about another shooting. It gets old hearing about these incidents over and over again, and you’re tempted to change the channel to avoid it.
But as a gun owner, you stop. You force yourself to watch. It’s a painful, but necessary reminder of just how quickly things can go bad when the proper safety measures aren’t in place.
Gun safety should be at the forefront of your mind if you own a gun or are thinking about purchasing one. It’s critical that you be informed about every aspect of gun safety for your protection and the protection of others.
5 Rules of Gun Safety
It’s smart to follow the same set of shooting rules and guidelines every single time you handle a gun or are around someone who is. Always be aware of your surroundings, where the gun is, and who has it. Here are some basic safety measures you should be taking.
Is it loaded?
Always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded. The first thing you should do when someone hands you a gun is make sure it’s not loaded. Even if you saw the previous handler disarm it yourself, check again.
It doesn’t have to be unloaded for you to handle it, but you should know at every moment with absolute certainty whether it is loaded or not.
Regardless of whether or not it’s loaded, treat it as if it is. It’s a good habit to get into. This ensures you’re always treating what could potentially become a deadly weapon with caution at all times.
Where is it pointing?
Always point your muzzle away from non-targets. The only time you should ever be pointing a gun at a person is if your life is in danger. A good rule of thumb is holding a gun down toward the ground when you’re handling it and you don’t intend to fire it.
Keep your fingers off of the trigger until you intend to shoot it. Again, it’s another good practice to ensure that you don’t accidentally fire the gun.
Remember, if you’re treating it as if it’s loaded at all times, then you would want to keep your finger off the trigger when you don’t want to shoot it.
What’s the target?
If you are firing it, always be sure of your target. Know what and where it is at all times. Is it a moving target or a stationary one?
In addition to knowing about your target, you need to be aware of its surroundings, too. What’s in front of it? What’s behind it? How will the bullet hit the target or how will the target absorb the shock?
These are all things that you should be thinking about so that you know what you could potentially hit or hurt.
Range safety rules
No matter where you are, make sure you’re following the rules. Perhaps this isn’t something that needs to be said, but I’ll say it anyway. Obey the law at all times, and follow any firearm safety rules and regulations set in place by the shooting range or facility where you are practicing.
In some cases, even a perfectly performing gun can malfunction. As with any piece of equipment with moving parts, you run the risk of something not working quite right at some point. There are several different kinds of malfunctions, so here’s what you should know.
Failure to fire
This particular malfunction doesn’t happen very often in newer guns because the rounds have improved a lot over time. Misfires have all but disappeared these days. However, it’s still possible, especially if you’re shooting rimfire rounds.
If you’re shooting something that tends to be unreliable, you can expect it to happen more frequently. In cases like this, it’s important you know how to handle it safely.
Keep your gun pointed at your target for at least a minute to ensure it doesn’t discharge late. This helps you avoid an accidental discharge while you’re trying to troubleshoot the problem. Be careful because this could be a case where your gun fires without pulling the trigger.
After a minute, there’s a much smaller chance it will discharge, so you’re safe to remove the round from the chamber and unload the gun.
Failure to feed
As you shoot, rounds are fed into the chamber in preparation for your next shot. In some cases, the round may fail to feed properly, meaning you can’t pull the trigger.
This is common in semi-automatic firearms, and it’s caused by a lot of different things like:
- Weak magazine springs
- Damaged magazines
- Improperly seated magazines
- Dirt or grease in the chamber
- Faulty cartridges
If this happens, it’s safe to remove the magazine and clear the chamber. The best thing to do is fully clean the gun before using it again to prevent it from happening again. You can reload and try again, but be aware that you may continue to experience the issue or other issues.
Failure to extract
This issue is most commonly due to user error. It’s also one of the most dangerous malfunctions. When the spent cartridge won’t extract from the chamber, it often gets double fed by the next round coming up into the chamber.
Continue to point the gun in a safe direction, Immediately remove the magazine, and then clear the gun by racking the slide at least three times to empty the chamber.
You should be able to inspect the gun visually to ensure it’s empty. Then you can reload it and try it again.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to use high quality, undamaged magazines. Always keep a firm grip on your gun, and avoid interference with the slide by not riding it forward.
Failure to eject
Failure to eject is most commonly caused by a dirty or corroded chamber, although a limp grip can also be a part of the problem. In order to correct the problem safely, you can perform a Tap, Rack, Bang drill.
Make sure the magazine is fully seated by tapping on it. Point the gun at an angle toward the ground and rack the slide. This should eject the cartridge and allow another one to feed. Then aim the gun down range and try firing again.
Some call this malfunction the stovepipe, because when the cartridge is trapped in the ejection port, it sticks straight up in the air.
The most important thing you can do to keep your guns safe when they’re not in use is store them properly. Where and how you store them is critical to keeping them out of the hands of someone who shouldn’t be using them.
Some people choose to completely disassemble their guns before storing them. If you do choose to take your guns apart before storing them, make sure you store all of the pieces in separate and secure locations.
Even if you don’t disassemble them, your guns should be unloaded prior to storage.
A gun safe is a great place to store guns, whether they’re unloaded or disassembled. Gun safes come with locking mechanisms that keep your gun safe, and because they’re built for holding a gun, they generally have padding and notches that make it easy to store them without damage.
You can also invest in gun locking mechanisms. Many guns come with safeties for additional protection, but you can still lock those that don’t. Investing in locking mechanisms gives you an extra layer of protection, even if you also use a gun safe.
Locking mechanisms are useful for all guns and should be used especially when you don’t have access to a gun safe or another way to store your firearms safely.
The best way to store ammo is in its original box. They’re far less subject to damage if you never open the box until you need it. While it’s cool to have a giant metal bucket full of ammo, dumping your ammo into another container can damage the rounds and lead to malfunctions when it comes to shooting.
Ammo should be stored in a cool, dry place. Your gun safe or the back of your closet is ideal. Avoid extreme temperatures like the basement, where it’s too cold, or the attic, where it could get too hot. The garage may also not be the best choice.
Aside from the obvious dangers of using guns, there are a few secondary dangers that some people don’t think about.
For instance, guns can be loud. Ear protection is always recommended to protect your hearing. A lot of guns also have recoil, which means you should be prepared for the kick back after you shoot it.
If you don’t hold the gun properly, the recoil could cause severe injury in ways you might not even think about.
Firing a gun also produces hot gases and debris. Wearing eye protection can help protect your eyes from anything that may be flying after you take a shot. These gases can lead to toxins and pollutants in the air.
Make sure that wherever you’re shooting there is proper ventilation to avoid breathing in any toxic pollutants. You can also wear a mask if you feel like you need extra protection.
There are plenty of arguments for or against different types of users and whether or not they should be allowed to own guns. For instance, the argument that blind people shouldn’t own guns is not new. Nor is the argument for those who have mental health conditions.
It’s a largely political issue that is far from resolution, so it’s up to every gun owner to be responsible in ways that they think are the most important.
Another strong argument from some people is that children shouldn’t be allowed to use guns, when in reality, the best thing you can do for a child is teach them early on about gun safety. The more they know, the more safe they will be.
If you own and operate guns, gun safety is the most important thing to understand. Make sure you know how to use them, how to store them safely, and how to enjoy them while keeping you and everyone around you safe.
As long as you clearly establish safe guidelines for yourself and others, you can ensure the optimum safety of everyone involved.