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Guns and Shooting Safety
Gun safety and safe shooting
Regardless of your familiarity with firearms or level of shooting, both new and experienced shooters should always focus their thoughts on safety when around their firearms. Knowing safe practices and, most importantly, always applying this information should be first and foremost at all times whenever and wherever firearms are present. Whether you are target shooting or hunting, never let safety dictate your actions. Firearms safety can never be repeated too often or emphasized enough, because careless handling of a gun can easily cause devastating results.
Firearms safety awareness can be presented as a simple list of dos and don’ts, or a set of rules or commands, but any summary of gun safety and safe shooting cannot be comprehensive. . Any single list cannot take into account additional circumstances or unique situations that present themselves. The instructions presented here are intended to make a person knowledgeable in recognizing potentially dangerous situations with firearms. When using firearms and ammunition be careful of your actions, use common sense and caution. Shooting is a relaxing and enjoyable sport that anyone can participate in. The key to it all is to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
The first things to keep in mind about gun safety are:
Always treat any gun as if it were loaded. Never assume a firearm is discharged. Whenever you use a firearm, the first thing you should do is point the muzzle in a safe direction, make sure the safety is engaged, and check that the gun is loaded. The only way to be sure a firearm is not loaded is to examine it. If you don’t understand how to tell if it’s loaded, if you don’t know how to open the action or inspect the chamber, leave the gun alone and get help from someone who knows how to check. Never accept any firearm until someone tells you for sure that it is unloaded.
Always point the gun in a safe direction. A safe direction means that even if the gun discharged, it would not cause injury or damage. Depending on your environment, common sense determines the safest direction. Be aware of your immediate surroundings and constantly aware of where the muzzle or front of the barrel is pointing at all times. Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot. Never allow the muzzle of a firearm to be pointed at your body or another person. Never rest the muzzle on a body part, such as your legs.
Some good practices for shooting safely are:
Keep the gun unloaded when not in use. Unload your firearm when not in use. The only time a gun should be loaded is right before you use it to fire. Do not carry a loaded gun. Leave the action open and store the gun in a case when traveling to and from shooting ranges. When hunting, open and empty the chamber of your firearm before climbing a tree or jumping over an obstacle. If you have a carry permit for self-defense, keep the gun chambered when carrying it to reduce the chance of an accidental discharge.
Learn about the gun and how to use it safely. Find out how the weapon works before handling it. Know the basic parts and features of any firearm you use; including the safety mechanism, how to safely open and close the action, and how to load and remove any ammunition from the gun. Knowing the handling characteristics of a weapon provides the basic information to be able to practice safe weapon handling. Read the owner’s manual. Ask someone familiar with the gun for information. To further familiarize you with proper gun use, consider taking a formal firearms safety course taught by an expert in firearms use and safety procedures.
Hold the gun to keep it working safely. Like any mechanical tool, any firearm needs regular maintenance. General maintenance, such as periodic cleanings and proper storage, are needed to keep a gun in good condition. Regular cleaning will keep your gun functioning correctly and safely. After each use, clean and oil your firearm to again protect against corrosion, dirt build-up and damage to the barrel. Proper cleaning will also help preserve the value of the gun and extend its life. Store and carry your firearm so that dirt and lint do not accumulate on the working parts. Any firearm removed from extended storage must be cleaned prior to firing to remove any accumulated moisture and dirt, or hardened grease and oil, which may prevent the firearm from functioning properly. If there is any question about a gun’s ability to function, a knowledgeable gunsmith should look at it.
Use the correct ammunition for your gun. Only ammunition that is designed for a particular gun is safe to fire in that gun. Loading ammunition into a firearm that was not designed to fire that ammunition can be dangerous. The caliber or gauge is indicated on the barrel, frame or receiver of a firearm. Ammunition can be identified by checking the head stamp to confirm that it matches the caliber or mass of your firearm. If the ammo has no markings on the headstock or cartridge, check the original ammo packaging. Even if a cartridge can be chambered in a firearm, it does not necessarily mean that it is safe to use that ammunition in the firearm. An excessive buildup and/or release of high-pressure gas into the chamber, barrel, and/or action in excess of what the firearm is designed to withstand can cause serious injury or death to the user and bystanders, as well as cause damage to firearms. If there is any question about the caliber of ammunition, do not use it until you have it examined by a qualified person who can determine its caliber.
Handle your gun and ammunition with care. Do not start or participate in any horseplay with firearms. Never face or look down the barrel from the end of the muzzle. Use gun or trigger locks and guards on your firearm when not in use. Store and transport your gun and ammunition separately under lock and key. Never climb a fence, tree or ladder with a loaded firearm. Never jump a ditch or obstacle with a loaded firearm. Carry only ammunition that correctly matches the gauge or caliber you are shooting your gun. Hold your gun with the chamber empty. Learn how to hold your firearm and use a two-handed grip when possible to give you the best muzzle control.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. Never rest your finger on the trigger, but keep it on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun until you are actually ready to fire.
Never consider the safety lock as a substitute for safe firearm handling. The safety is a mechanical device and can fail. But as an extra measure, keep the safety on until you’re ready to fire.
Know your target, and what is before and behind it.
When hunting, know your safe fire zone. Your safe fire zone is the area and direction in which you can safely fire a shot that will not cause injury or damage. Depending on your firearm and ammunition, some bullets can travel over a mile and you need to know how far your shot can travel. Know what is in front of and behind your target. Never shoot at flat or hard surfaces, such as stone, steel or water, because the bullet may ricochet. Determine that you have a safe background or background behind your target that will stop your bullet. Never make a shot at a target that is on top of a ridge or hill because you don’t know what might be on the other side. It is your responsibility to ensure that the shot does not cause injury or unwanted damage if you miss the target or the bullet penetrates the target.
Wear hearing and eye protection when shooting.
When shooting, the use of hearing and eye protection is a necessary precaution at all times. Firearms are loud. The noise created by a firearm damages hearing. Hearing loss can be immediate from being in the vicinity of a muzzle blast, or gradual from the vibrations made by smaller blasts over many years. Impact resistant shooting glasses protect your eyes from escaping gases, burning gunpowder or metal fragments that can explode and injure the shooter. Although these incidents are rare, serious injury can occur and loss of vision is possible.
Control your emotions when shooting. Shooting is challenging and stimulating, but keep your emotions in check so you don’t act carelessly. You or someone else can be in danger if you are caught up in the moment by your emotions. When you shoot successfully you will be thrilled. At that point, you must demonstrate discipline and keep safety in mind. After a successful hit on a target, you must first lower the weapon with the muzzle facing away from the range, before turning to your comrades with a loaded firearm in hand. When shooting, after a successful shot, remember to engage the safety before running with a loaded firearm toward a downed animal. Plan in your mind what the safe course of action will be.
Never drink alcohol or take over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before using a gun. Alcohol and drugs can impair the body’s normal mental and physical functions and should never be used before or while using firearms. Using a weapon while using alcohol and/or drugs creates a dangerous situation because these substances affect motor reactions, judgment and emotions.
Store your gun safely. There are several locking devices available for firearms. Consider your personal situation when deciding how and where to store your gun and ammunition. Separate and lock your unloaded firearm and ammunition in different locations. Devices like cable locks, room plugs, and gun cases are meant to prevent accidents. To reduce the chance of a child or unauthorized person misusing your gun on purpose, steel gun safes are the most convenient storage. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 18 or other unauthorized persons do not have access to your firearm.
The right to bear arms, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, guarantees Americans the freedom and ability to own and use firearms. With that right comes the great responsibility of knowing how and how to handle a firearm safely. A simple internet search for Gun Safety Rules or Safe Shooting will bring up many results with similar but different and varied instructions. There is no definitive number of rules to follow, but there is a basic commonality between all guidelines. The most basic goal is to use common sense and be aware of firearms. Handling a firearm safely and responsibly is always the most important concern in participating in any shooting sport.
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