No matter what you’re shooting, you should be well-versed in the basics of gun safety. There are several rules you need to keep in mind, but a few are higher priority than others. Here are five critical gun safety rules everyone should know.
Practice Barrel Etiquette
Barrel etiquette focuses on where the barrel is aimed at any given moment; when you’re holding a firearm, always keep the barrel pointed downward and away from anything or anyone that isn’t your target. Even if you know your firearm inside and out, you never know when a misfire could happen.
Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger
Accidents happen all the time, especially with loaded guns. To minimize the risk of accidentally firing, always keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire. Even in a range or other controlled environment, taking a shot isn’t something you should do without thinking, so make sure you know exactly what you want to hit and why.
Treat Every Gun as if It Were Loaded
In the spirit of preventing accidents, you should treat every firearm you come in contact with as though it were loaded. Keep your weapon holstered until you absolutely need it, maintain a firm grip when holding it and never allow anyone who isn’t versed in gun safety to hold or use it. When inspecting, cleaning or otherwise handing your firearm, perform a chamber check: drop the clip, pull the slide back and look into the chamber to make sure it’s empty.
Use Proper Protection
Guns are loud and powerful — whether you’re shooting Gen5 Glock pistols or firing a full-sized rifle, you should use proper eye and ear protection. Safety goggles can prevent your eyes from being struck by discarded bullet casings or other debris as you fire, and sound-dampening earmuffs are designed to reduce the risk of hearing loss. Most firearms give off noise at around 140 decibels minimum, and prolonged exposure to this level of noise without protection can severely damage your ears.
Understand Your Target and Surroundings
Any time you’re shooting, you need to be aware of your target and everything around it. Once you’ve pulled the trigger, you have no control over where your bullet goes; make sure absolutely nothing is between you and your target. If someone is in the area with you, verbally alert them when you’re about to fire and give them a chance to distance themselves from you.
Practicing gun safety is one of the most important parts of handling a firearm. By exercising caution and being aware of your surroundings, you can significantly minimize the risk of an accident or misfire.