Firearms Safety

With great power comes great responsibility. - Voltaire (or Stan Lee - either way it rings true.)

Firearms safety is up to you. If you intend to own or handle firearms your FIRST responsibility is to ensure that innocent people are not harmed. My training counselor explains it this way: There are no firearms accidents. There are only ignorance and negligence. Proper training can fix ignorance. A proper attitude is required to avoid negligence. You must want to be safe and follow all the proper safety procedures all the time.

Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.

What is a safe direction? Well, it depends.

  • At the range a safe direction is downrange. In fact it is probably the only safe direction. Bring your gun to the firing line in its case. If not actually shooting, keep it unloaded with the action open.
  • When outdoors there may not be a safe direction. Pick the safest direction. Soft ground is a good bet. An object that might absorb a bullet could be a good choice. Be aware of people around you or who might be around you, but out of sight. Think about ricochets and where they will go.
  • When indoors there are few truly safe directions. Again, pick the safest. Sheetrock walls and wood floors will not stop bullets. Walls with masonry behind them are best. There is often more material where walls meet floors. Be aware. Ask yourself where that bullet is going to go.
  • Avoid handling firearms in uncontrolled situations.
  • Guns that are not pointed at anybody can not harm anybody.

NOTE: The foregoing discussion assumes that you have a legitimate reason for having a gun in your hand in the first place. The sign in my favorite gun store sums it up best: "Keep It In Your Pants! Please do not un-holster your personal firearm."

Also: The fact that you are defending your life does not relieve you from the responsibility to do no harm to innocent bystanders. Firearms safety is up to you.

Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Ready To Shoot

This is a good habit to get into. It takes practice. Most people instinctively put their finger on the trigger when they pick up a gun. Find a place on the side of the frame, usually above the trigger, to put your finger between shots. Practice this until it is second nature. In a competition it may save you some points. In a panic situation it may save someone you love.

Keep Your Gun Unloaded Until Ready For Use

  • At the range "ready for use" means you are on the firing line and ready to shoot. Unload it and case it before leaving the firing line.
  • If hunting keep your gun in the safest state possible. Be aware of where it points!
  • A gun you keep for protection is by definition ready for use. If it is not on your person it should be locked in some kind of quick access container.
  • Cased or stored guns should always be unloaded.

NOTE: There are often several states of readiness into which a firearm can be placed, depending on its action and its specific features. Go here for a discussion on this subject as it relates to firearms safety.

Unauthorized Access

An often neglected part of firearms safety is keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

You are responsible for preventing unauthorized access to your firearms. This includes your honor student, your neighbor's suicidal teen, your best friend's curious children, the fruitcake down the street and your drunken husband. Lock them up. In a safe. Safes are cheap. Lawsuits and funerals are expensive.

Never Use Drugs Or Alcohol Before Or While Shooting

  • Even over the counter and prescription medication can impair your judgement or motor skills. Read and heed the warnings on the label.
  • Do your gun shooting first, then lock 'em up before you start your beer drinking. Invite me.

Know Your Target And What Is Beyond It

  • What are you shooting at? Where are the bullets going to go after you hit, or miss, your target?
  • Don't shoot into the air. Bullets shot into the air come down hundreds or thousands of yards away and may still be lethal.
  • Don't shoot at low angles to hard surfaces or water. Bullets skip off of these surfaces like stones.

Know Your Gun

  • Be sure you know how to operate your gun. Read the manual. The manual might be available online for free.
  • Be sure your gun is safe to fire. If in doubt consult a gunsmith.
  • Know what ammunition to feed your gun. This information is often stamped on the barrel.
  • Keep it clean and functioning properly.

Wear Eye And Ear Protection

Guns are loud. Discharging firearms involves high pressure gasses and supersonic projectiles. Take precautions.

Wash Your Face And Hands

Bullets contain lead. Lead is a heavy metal that can cause brain damage and other health problems, especially in babies and young children. Wash your face and hands after shooting. Use cold water because hot water will open up your pores. Change your clothes as soon as possible. Keep babies and young children away from bullets and shooting areas. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid exposure to lead.

Check The Chamber

When handling a firearm do not assume it is unloaded. Open the action and check with your own eyes. If you don't have a good view of the chamber stick a finger in there. If you don't know how to do this have a knowledgeable person show you or read the manual.

Children And Guns

Parents should teach their children about guns. Safety lessons and simple explanations at first; gun handling and shooting skills at an appropriate age. Guns are not evil. Gun ownership and use is our birthright. Guns can be dangerous, just as cars, power tools, swimming pools, and dogs can be dangerous. Children must be taught to respect the potential danger of guns, rather than making them a deep, dark secret or pretending they don't exist. Children must not have unsupervised access to guns.

A good first lesson from the NRA Eddie Eagle program: If you see a gun


Remember: Firearms Safety Is Up To You