How to Learn Proper Handgun Safety

As an American, owning a firearm is a right. It also happens to be a privilege. And if you’re going to steward this privilege well, there are a few things you absolutely must do. Strict adherence to proper safety and firearm handling is one of them.

The Cardinal Rules of Handling Firearms

There are hundreds of different tips and practices you can use to stay safe with firearms. However, they’re all built on the foundation of these four cardinal rules:

  1. Always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle of a firearm point at anything you’re unwilling to shoot.
  3. Never place your finger on or near the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  4. Always know what your target is (and what’s behind and in front of the target).

If you remember and abide by these four rules, you’ll rarely find yourself in a compromising situation regarding safety. Repeat them over and over in your head until you’ve memorized them.

  • Additional Firearm Safety Tips

There’s always something new to learn about firearms. As you commit to learning, you’ll uncover additional techniques for ensuring your safety (as well as the safety of those around you). Here are some tips:

  • Buy the Right Handgun

Far too many first-time gun owners make the mistake of just buying whatever gun a friend suggests. The problem with this approach is that every person is different. While that gun may be great for your friend, it could feel unnatural to you. Everything from your hand size to your shooting skill will dictate which gun is right for you. Do your research and buy the right firearm.

  • Never Store a Loaded Gun

Never, under any circumstances, keep your firearms loaded in your house. (Especially if you have young children or live with roommates who aren’t familiar with firearms.)

“In some cases doing so is illegal, but in any case it’s outright dangerous,” Survivopedia explains. “It may sound like the only way to be prepared for an unwanted home invader or hostile situation, but it’s more likely to be a liability than an asset.”

The better approach is to keep your magazine loaded, but separate from your gun. This allows you to quickly load your gun should you need to access it in a hurry. And this should go without saying, but always store firearms in an elevated place where they’re out of reach of children

  • Don’t Rely on Safety Features

Gun safety features are great. And while they often do their job of preventing misfiring or accidental trigger pulls, they aren’t perfect. You should never let a gun’s safety feature cause you to ignore the cardinal rules of handling firearms. Always assume that the safety feature is going to malfunction. 

  • Always Wear Protection

Whenever you shoot your gun at a firing range, be sure to wear the proper eye and ear protection. Guns are extremely loud and can cause permanent hearing damage (especially when fired over and over again in a short period of time). They also emit hot gas and debris that can cause eye injury. Special shooting glasses and ear protection can be purchased at any local shooting range and/or online.

  • Never Operate a Gun While Under the Influence

Just like you would never get behind the wheel of a car after drinking or using drugs, you should never pick up a firearm while under the influence. You might feel like you’re fine, but alcohol and drugs slow down reaction times and hurt your ability to make smart decisions. That’s not a good combination.

Any time you pick up a gun, you have to be prepared for the fact that it can seriously injure and/or kill someone. Only operate a firearm when you’re completely sober. (And never let a friend operate a firearm if they’re under the influence. It’s simply not worth it.)

  • Putting it All Together

All firearm safety starts with the four cardinal rules of handling firearms. Once you’ve memorized these four rules, you can move on to other additional safety tips and precautions. While it might seem like overkill, you can never be too safe when handling a gun. Always go above and beyond!