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The 5 Main Rules of Gun Safety: How To Be A Responsible Gun Owner preview image
Nov 23 2023
8 min read

The 5 Main Rules of Gun Safety: How To Be A Responsible Gun Owner

Gun safety refers to the set of practices and precautions that are necessary to use, store, and handle firearms safely and responsibly. Here are the five main rules of gun safety, each playing a critical role in preventing accidents and ensuring the well-being of both the user and those around them:

  1. Treat All Guns as if They Are Loaded.
  2. Never Point a Gun at Anything You’re Not Willing to Destroy.
  3. Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until You Are Ready to Shoot.
  4. Be Sure of Your Target and What’s Beyond It.
  5. Use Proper Safety Gear and Maintain Your Equipment.

Understanding and adhering to the fundamental rules of gun safety is not just a matter of formality; it’s about ensuring the well-being of oneself and those around us.

In this article, we dive into the five cardinal rules of gun safety, exploring each rule’s importance and practical applications.

Whether you’re handling a firearm for sport, self-defense, or as part of your profession, these rules form the bedrock of responsible gun ownership and usage. They are designed to prevent accidents and tragedies that can occur when firearms are mishandled.

Our exploration will cover what these rules are and why they matter, providing real-life scenarios and expert insights to underscore their significance.

From the timeless rule of always treating a gun as if it’s loaded, to the vital importance of being aware of your target and what lies beyond it, each rule is a pillar that upholds the safe use of firearms.

Join us as we delve into these essential guidelines, offering a comprehensive understanding that promotes safety, responsibility, and respect in the world of firearms.

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 to handle it, but you should know at every moment with absolute certainty whether it is loaded or not. And you should avoid passing it around to others if it is loaded.

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.

Be aware of the trigger

Keep your fingers off of the trigger until you intend to shoot it. Again, it’s another good practice to ensure you don’t accidentally fire the gun.

Remember, if you’re treating it as if it’s always loaded, then you would want to keep your finger off the trigger when you don’t want to shoot it.

What’s The Target?

taurus gx4 carry toro hands on review groupings

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 practice.

Potential Malfunctions

In some cases, even a perfectly performing gun can malfunction. As with any piece of equipment with moving parts, you risk 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 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 shoot rimfire rounds.

If you’re shooting something that tends to be unreliable, you can expect it to happen more frequently. In cases like this, you must 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 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 can 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. Sometimes, 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, removing the magazine and clearing the chamber is safe. 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

A dirty or corroded chamber most commonly causes failure to eject, 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.


gun being put into gun safe pistol

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 before storage.

Gun safes

A gun safe is a great place to store guns, whether 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 extra 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.

Ammo Storage

ammo ammunition storage box

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.

Secondary Dangers

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 kickback 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.

Unsafe Users

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.

The Verdict

If you own and operate guns, gun safety is the most important thing to understand. Ensure you know how to use them, store them safely, and 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.

Brady Kirkpatrick photo Brady Kirkpatrick is the founder of GunMade.com, the #1 online gun search engine. Recognizing the challenges of finding the right firearm at the right price, Brady built a platform to simplify the process, comparing prices across hundreds of online dealers and providing valuable content from trustworthy bloggers. His commitment to user-centricity and innovation has shaped GunMade.com into a comprehensive resource for gun enthusiasts. In addition to Gun Made, Brady has also lent his firearm expertise to an array of renowned publications, such as The Truth About Guns, CrossBreed Holsters, Cheaper than Dirt, 19FortyFive, We Are The Mighty, and many others.


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Survive Mon, 23 Nov 2020 02:11:33

Brady – Interesting site. You have covered the basics. Nice job. I especially liked the secondary dangers section. Not often mentioned in safety sites.

Here are a few comments I hope will help. 1) Site had no top level mention of the NRA, the premier gun training and safety organization in the world. (I saw it one click down) I suggest that you reference the NRA up front and try to connect the reader to them. 2) You did not mention training and its importance to safe gun handling. (I searched for the word training and did not find it.) Every gun handler should go through NRA level pistol, rifle, and range safety training, and concealed weapon training if they are going to carry. Concealed carry has its own set of training points and do not dos. 3. Eddie Eagle – I think this should be mentioned in relation to gun owners who have kids in the house. List Eddie’s four basic gun safety ideas for children – STOP! DON’T TOUCH LEAVE THE AREA and TELL AN ADULT. NRA has free literature in comic book form to help the kids. I suggest you mention it on your page.

I hope this is what you are looking for. god bless you
( Go to YouTube and search for ‘The Chosen’. Watch the first eight episodes. Enjoy!)

Nicki Tolzmann Sat, 05 Dec 2020 20:30:54

well post

Hollis Grabinger Sun, 13 Dec 2020 03:06:21

i love this amazing post


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