Fundamental Rules of Gun Safety

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Before handling guns, you should have basic skills in shooting and gun safety. It will be a real asset among your other survival skills. Many people in the US start to learn how to shoot with various types of firearms from their childhood because their parents are teaching them. However, not only knowledge in firing is required to shoot with a gun but also mastery in handling firearms.

A lot of accidents happened because of the careless usage of guns by not experienced people. That is why you should pay attention to the rules of gun safety before buying and applying them in real life.

Shooting can become a hobby for you if you know how to use a gun safely and do not put at risk other people’s health. So, if a rifle is an essential part of your survival gear, you’d better know how to handle one safely. This article will discuss general rules for safe gun handling, talk about the importance of proper ammunition usage, and explain some special techniques for secure shooting.

Table of Contents

  1. Essentials rules to know for shooting.
  2. Additional rules to increase the safety of shooting
  3. Practical advice for firearm safety

Essentials Rules to Know for Shooting

Among all the other survival hacks, the principles of safe shooting a firearm or, say, an air-rifle are a must-have for any prepper. We can divide gun safety rules into two parts: critical rules, additional safety precautions for gun owners. All of them are important to know, but without the first part of the rules, it is recommended to apply guns for any purpose.

Five rules can allow you to prevent almost all accidents connected to gun usage. We did not create these rules by ourselves — they were developed by gunsmiths with huge experience in this field. Almost all sources are using them as the common-sense rules to follow while shooting, but sometimes they highlight only three or four of them. Anyway, you must never break the rules presented below to save your life and the lives of people around you independently of the type of gun and conditions.

1 — Do not aim a gun at objects you want to be saved

You must always control the point that is the target of your gun because the shot can happen accidentally. Make sure that you do not point your gun at people, animals, or objects that you want to protect.

There is no universal safe direction for you in all situations because it depends on the place you are staying in. For instance, if you are staying outside, the most preferred target for aiming your gun is the ground. As regards shooting on the special range, you should aim your gun to the backstop because its main purpose is to stop bullets. While handling guns in buildings, choose objects made of hard substances and make sure that there are no people around them.

Gun pointed into proper aim cannot injure anyone or destroy valuable things. That is why you should never neglect this rule when aiming for safe gun handling.

2 — Always Imagine That Firearm is Loaded

Most of the accidents with guns happened because users did not know that guns are loaded. For example, my classmate was cleaning the loaded firearm and did not notice this. The consequence of this fault was the death of my friend.

This situation taught me that you should always treat a gun as loaded even if you are sure that it is not. This easy method could prevent a lot of damages and deaths. For this reason, do not trust your intuition or other people while handling the gun and avoid doing operations that can cause a shot.

As we have already discussed, the primary rule in every situation is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction — ground or up in the air. Discharge of the gun pointed in a safe place will decrease the probability of damaging other people as much as possible.

3 — Put the finger on Trigger Only When You are Intend to Shoot

Work on the position of your fingers and control all of them when using a firearm. You should make a habit of locating your finger off the trigger guard when you are resting. Even if you are sure that the gun is pointed at a safe object or place, locate your trigger finger on the receiver or the frame. The only time you can keep your finger on the trigger is when sight is aimed at your target consciously.

It will take a long time for you to get used to this action, and for this reason, you need to spend time on training before using any firearm. Immediate movement of the finger from trigger to frame after a shot should become an automatic action for your hand. This skill requires your concentration on the process every time you are shooting.

Besides, an unloaded gun or turned on safety does not allow you to keep your finger on the trigger. In any case, you should remove your finger from the trigger except at the moment of the conscious shot.

4 — Use Safety Every Time You Do Not Intend to Shoot

Almost all firearms, including shotguns, survival rifles, revolvers, or pistols, have a safety switch that you should use all the time. These safety locks allow you to prevent a shot until the time you intend to shoot. You should always pay attention to the safety switch when using a loaded gun to prevent an undesirable shot.

A manual safety lock does not allow the gun to fire when you pull the trigger to avoid accidental discharge when the gun is not pointed in a safe direction. The main rule for the usage of a real gun is to keep the gun’s safety switched on until you aimed a sight at your target and intend to shoot. Do not forget to switch it on the right after the shot as well.

It is important to note that you should be prepared for the fault of the safety mechanism and always remember the second rule. The safest way to handle firearms is to treat them as they are loaded and can discharge at any moment.

5 — Check the Target and Its Surrounding

The golden rule you should always follow is to be sure of your target, its probable movements, and surrounding. All guns have a different range, and you should learn it before using your particular gun. For example, if you fire into the bird in the forest, your bullet can reach not only the bird but other animals and maybe hunters staying close to it.

Make sure that you choose the proper angle for the shooting to avoid the recoil of the bullet to other objects. For instance, when I am using a survival rifle, I direct the firearm downward to make the round fall into the ground.

By the way, remember that the round can go through your target and reach other objects after your target. Always keep in mind this thing to prevent accidental injuries.

Additional Rules to Increase Safety of Shooting

6 — Group Shooting

Sometimes groups of hunters aim at the same target at one point of the moment, and this type of shooting requires the particular position of all members of the group. You must stay in a straight line to prevent pointing the firearm at any member of the group when the target is, for example, one bird.

When at least one person is coming ahead of the line, they can get into a potential route of the round from other shooters.

7 — Cleaning and Checking the State of the Bore

It is prohibited to use a muzzle to check the cleanliness of the bore and point it right to your face. You cannot be sure that the rifle will not discharge at the moment when you are looking inside the bore. That is why you should always keep the muzzle pointed to the ground or in another safe direction.

In the situation when your firearm fell into the mud, and you need to clean it to continue shooting, you should disassemble it partially or fully. It is the only proper way to inspect the bore and fix some defects.

8 — Safe Storage of the Gun

Keep in mind that your firearm should be available only for you because unauthorized persons who can find it may not have any skills for its usage. That is why you should use only locked boxes or containers for the storage of your firearms and ammunition. Also, there are special gun safes that are popular for the storage of firearms, but the most important thing about them is a lock.

If you are living with children, it is essential to keep guns in a safe place inaccessible to them. The better option is not to store guns and ammunition at your house, as it will eliminate the probability of unauthorized access.

9 — Loading of the Chamber

As an experienced gun owner, I recommend you to put rounds into the chamber right before the shooting process. As regards the magazine, I usually load it at home in advance before going for shooting, but I never chamber rounds until I am ready to fire. This principle prevents the unexpected discharge of the firearm on your way from home to the shooting place.

Another rule is to unload the chamber and magazine of the gun after the end of hunting. You do not need it to be loaded when you are not going to fire anymore. Always control gun safety during transportation and storage.

Moreover, it is a secure practice to check if the gun is unloaded several times when carrying it. After every shooting, you should keep rounds and all ammunition in special storage to prevent accidental finds of them by your family or friends.

10 — Use Only Reliable Ammunition

You should always be sure that you use the proper ammunition for firing. In my opinion, a proficient gun owner will never find weird and unfamiliar ammo in their gear because it is essential to know the mechanical and handling characteristics of all rounds and guns you use.

Sometimes rounds can be damaged, and it is the reason to refuse to use them. If you do not know what to expect from the ammunition, you should never apply it for hunting or other activities where you need to shoot.

Always choose only the correct ammunition for your firearm because any other type of ammunition can cause undesirable consequences. Even if rounds fit your magazine but are damaged or look suspicious, you should throw them and never insert them into your gun.

11 — Take Care About Your Firearms

You should always check the condition of your handgun or rifle before using it to be sure of its accuracy and perfect performance. Usually, every knowledgeable gunsmith disassembles their guns after every shooting and clean them properly to eliminate the probability of rusting. The idea is to keep excellent not only the appearance of firearms with regular cleaning but also their mechanisms.

Once you neglect regular cleaning of your gun after several shootings, the quality of its performance will decrease, and you will not be able to control its work anymore fully. This situation can be dangerous for you and all people around you as it can cause accidental shots.

12 — Behaviour on Shooting Range

If you want to protect your life from injuries, you should never step on the range when other shooters are working. Wait until the time when safety officers check the actions of all the shooters and make sure that guns are unloaded.

Even if you are shooting in a special court, you should always control the situation around you. For instance, when you want to check your target or move your walk to it can be dangerous. Firstly, you should warn all the members of the shooting that you want to go downrange, and when they stop shooting, you can do it. However, finishing the shooting does not prevent accidental shots, and that is why all participants should unload their firearms for you to go.

The same condition is obligatory for you if you are staying on the line and someone wants to check their target. Do not put at risk life of the person and follow this simple rule on a range.

Practical Advice for Firearm Safety

The properly chosen and safe direction of the shot can protect the lives of other people because sometimes the trajectory of the round is not known in advance.

  • Do not shoot up into the air because you cannot be sure of the final destination of the round. Such a thing as “happy fire” has already destroyed thousands of lives because of the reckless shots in the air. That is why you should always remember about the right position of your finger on the frame and fire only when you have the intended target on sight.
  • Remember about ricochets every time you point the gun because such hard surfaces as metal or other sloping areas can turn the direction of the round. After ricochets round can come back to you or other people and injure them. Even if you do it unintentionally only, you will take all responsibility for this action.
  • Another important thing you should remember is the protection of your ears and eyes. As shooting is an extremely loud activity, it is better to use eye and ear protection to save your eardrums from possible hearing damage. Moreover, you can not notice the influence of the shooting on your hearing after the first session because the effect of the sound is cumulative. For this reason, you should always use such ear protection as earplugs or a special headset during firing.
  • Furthermore, staff of some ranges requires visitors to wear eye protection such as glasses for shooting. They can prevent eye injury and stop fine particulates on the way to your face appearing because of the shooting power. So, do not forget to wear eye and ear protection every time you fire with a gun.
  • Make sure that you choose a proper way of carrying your gun. People tend to put it into waistband as it is shown in movies, but this way can hurt your body. For example, the handgun can discharge at an unexpected moment, and the round will injure your leg. That is why you should use only specialized cases for guns when carrying them.

To Sum Up

The obvious gun safety rule that is neglected by many people is the prohibition of shooting when you are intoxicated. Also, you should never use your firearm if you take other substances that can impair normal mental function. As well as for driving, shooting is forbidden for intoxicated people in some states because they do not understand the level of danger for other people.

You can be in a situation when you need to climb the tree and shoot from its top, but the way to the top with a rifle or gun can be dangerous. If the firearm falls, it can hang on one of the branches, and the trigger can be pulled by some objects. In this case, you will not be able to control the destination of the shot, and it can injure someone around you. When you need to use your firearm on the top of the tree, you can firstly climb by yourself and then drag the cordage with the gun from the ground to you. This option is secure for you and your surrounding.

Shooting is an activity that can put the lives of people around you at risk, and that is why you should learn basic rules of gun safety before doing this. If shooting is your hobby, we recommend you to take courses in safe gun handling and be sure that you can provide maximum safety for yourself and other people.

By the way, some states require gun owners to take such courses to receive a hunting license because it can prevent many accidents in the future. When you follow proper gun safety rules and use only correct ammunition, you will not have anything to worry about during firing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the safety on a gun?

Gun safety is one of the parts of most guns that does not allow the trigger to make a shot when it is turned on. When the safety is in a stopping position, it prevents the firing pin from going to primer. It means that the gun fails to fire when the trigger is switched on, and this can save a person from unintended shots.

What are the 4 cardinal rules of firearms safety?

There are basic gun safety rules, and the most important are:

  • Hold gun pointed in a safe direction or your target when using it;
  • Keep in mind that firearms can be loaded and treat safely;
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger;
  • Do not forget to check the surrounding of your target before a shot.

How many weapon safety rules are there?

We figured out that there are five main rules of gun safety, but you should know additional safety precautions if you are a constant user of firearms. So, the best option is to learn all the gun safety rules with a specialist and explore the mechanical characteristics of a particular gun you will use in advance. The more rules you know, the less will be the probability of accidents.

Why is gun safety important?

There are a lot of cases when unintentional shots caused deaths of people. Usually, these accidents happen because of a lack of knowledge about safe gun handling and lack of experience. For this reason, every potential shooter should learn at least five main rules of gun safety that we described in this article.


A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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