Let’s not mince words here.
Firearms are dangerous.
They literally expel a projectile traveling at minimum 1200 feet per second.
That’s fast. Like, Ricky Bobby fast…
All humor aside, when you’re handling a firearm is critical you treat it with the respect it deserves.
Like any tool, if used incorrectly it can cause serious damage. And ultimately the responsibility will fall on your shoulders should an accident happen with your firearm.
With that said, here are the 5 most important rules you must know if you’re a beginner with firearms (and for you experts out there it never hurts to get a refresh of your safety knowledge).
1. Treat Every Firearm As If It’s Loaded
If you take away anything from this article please, please, let it be this rule.
It’s imperative that you treat every firearm as if it’s loaded and ready to discharge a cartridge.
Don’t allow yourself to slip. It doesn’t matter if you just cleaned your firearm and you’re sure it doesn’t have one in the chamber.
Treat it like it does.
Because perfect practice makes perfect performance.
Here’s an example of how easy it is to slip up…
If you watched to the end of the video, he thought he had ejected the cartridge, but had forgotten his mag was still in the handgun.
You don’t want this to be you.
Because you never know who might be next to you in a situation like this.
2. Trigger Finger Stays Off The Trigger Until You’re Ready To Shoot
Memorize those 2 words. They’re the cornerstone of proper firearm handling.
Most modern handguns and rifles don’t often have misfires. In the cases of accidental discharges, it’s because of poor trigger discipline.
The only time you want to put your finger on the trigger is when you’re ready to shoot the object. And you better be ready for the consequences of that bullet because you’ll never get it back.
Why is trigger discipline so important?
Because it prevents random events from causing an accidental discharge. Things like muscle spasms, getting spooked and clenching your gun (the ole’ white knuckle syndrome), and even tripping can cause your finger to squeeze whatever it’s holding.
And if it’s holding the trigger, then you know what happens next.
So what does poor trigger discipline look like?
This is a lawyer pointing a gun at a jury, with his finger literally on the trigger.
So. So. Stupid.
Don’t be this guy.
What does good trigger discipline look like?
I know the image comes from a movie, but still. Good example of how to properly hold your firearm.
3. Never Point Your Muzzle At Anything You’re Unwilling To Kill
Gunshot wounds are gnarly.
If you really want to see the devastation of a bullet, google “gunshot wound”. Be warned though, it’s not going to be pretty and if you get queasy then you’re probably better off not searching for that.
The goal is for you to see the power of a firearm.
They’re meant to destroy the object you’re shooting at. Not just kill, but destroy.
So with that said, the 3rd rule is straightforward. Don’t point your firearm (muzzle) at anything you want to see dead or destroyed.
What’s the muzzle?
A muzzle is the opening of the firearm where the projectile exits.
Here’s a great piece of advice I learned when first learning to shoot.
Treat your muzzle as if it’s a laser, and anything it touches will instantly die.
Follow that rule and you’ll be in the clear!
4. Be Certain Of Your Target, Your Line Of Fire, & What Lies Beyond Your Target
The moment a bullet leaves the firearm, you will need to take the consequences of where that bullet travels.
Remember – you can never bring the bullet back. So be extra sure you know where you’re firing, AND what lies beyond your target.
Firing without being 100% certain of what lies beyond (or next to) your target is a disregard for the safety of others.
There’s no target so important that you disregard your surroundings.
5. Maintain Your Firearm & Body
Most firearm instructors will stop at those top 4 rules and move on.
However, I think this is a failure because it neglects what comes after (and during) your time at the range or in the field.
First, let’s talk about maintaining your body. Most importantly, your eyes and ears.
Take a look at this graphic…
If you notice, you’ll see a gunshot is on the very right of the chart. This chart even softens it because high powered rifles are known to be in the 160 dB range.
What does this mean for you?
That means exposure to this just one time can permanently damage your ears. Wearing proper ear protection is critical to preventing hearing loss.
What about the eyes?
If you’ve fired a semi-automatic firearm, I’m sure you’re aware that once the cartridge is used, it gets discarded by the chamber slide.
Well, those discarded cartridges are hot when first ejected, and can sometimes hit your face. Even excessive gunpowder can blowback on you and start burning your face.
Next is maintaining your firearm.
Everytime you discharge a cartridge, it produces a buildup of debris in your firearm. If you want your firearm to work correctly it’s important to constantly clean and oil your gun.
Remember, these are mechanical devices that work together to expel the bullet. And like any mechanical device they can be prone to failure if not properly maintained.
Keep these 5 firearm rules in mind and we promise your problems will drop exponentially.
You’ll be treated well at every range you go to, and most importantly, you’ll keep yourself and your loved ones safe from accidental discharges!