When using or storing a firearm, always follow these rules:
- ALWAYS assume the firearm is loaded.
This rule is more of a good mindset to have rather than a rule. Following this rule, keeps everyone from misunderstanding whether a firearm is safe or ready to fire.
- NEVER point the firearm at something you are not willing to destroy.
Keeping with the first rule of assuming the firearm is loaded, this rule is a good way to be safe and prevent injury or death from accidental discharges. Inherent to this rule, there would be no "playing" with a firearm, or playfully pointing the firearm at another person. This can be very dangerous and should be avoided at all times.
Two naturally safe locations to point the firearm are upwards at the sky or downwards at the ground. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.
When passing a gun or firearm to someone else, it is generally good practice to show the chamber empty, make sure the firearm is set to safe, and magazine removed. Also, when receiving a gun from someone else, it is good practice to check the chamber and make sure the gun is safe.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
A round is fired when the finger presses the trigger. Accidental discharge can occur from involuntary movements of the finger. Adhering to this rule is great practice in preventing accidents.
The trigger guard provides a good place to rest your finger. It is common practice when holding a gun to extend your finger along the guard. Making this a habit and instructing others to do so also will always help gun safety.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
Be absolutely sure of your target, and it's identity without a doubt. Additionally, always be sure of the area around and behind your target. Do not fire in a direction where there could be people or other potentially dangerous items. As the NRA says, Think First, Shoot Second.
- Know your gun and be sure it is safe to operate
Before handling a gun, especially one you are not familiar with, learn how it operates. Learn how to control the safety, clear the chamber, change magazines, remove blockages, etc. A gun's mechanical safety is never foolproof, and should not replace safe gun handling.
Also, be sure the gun is safe to operate. Like any other tool, a firearm needs to be cleaned, and have regular maintenance performed on it. Failure to do so can result in a misfire, leading to injury.
- Wear ear and eye protection.
Firearms can be very loud and damaging to hearing. Additionally, they emit hot brass, gases and other particles, which can get into your eyes, possibly causing permanent damage. For these reasons, wearing ear and eye protection is important to gun safety.
- Never use firearms under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs can impair your ability to make correct judgements, as well as impair mental and physical abilities. It is imperative that drugs nor alcohol be used when operating firearms or even by spectators.
- Store guns in a safe and controlled manner.
Gun safety when firearms are not in use is also very important. A trigger lock or action lock can be used to secure firearms when they are not in use. These are effective, but definitely not as effective as a gun safe or other locked cabinet for storage.
Many firearm experts don't recommend solely using a trigger lock because the firearm can still be loaded and a round chambered. In some cases, the round can even be fired with the trigger lock in place.
- ALWAYS use the correct ammunition.
Using incorrect ammunition (ie. wrong caliber, type, etc) may result in the firearm becoming damaged and/or malfunction in its operation. This can cause the firearm to explode, possibly resulting in severe damage to the operator or spectators.
Ammunition may also be manufactured independently, called "hand-loading." Incorrectly manufactured handloads can cause problems when used in the firearms. Using hand-loaded ammunition, without having prior experience with using this type of ammunition, can lead to many possible consequences, as described above.