New firearm owners often have questions about their proper use. So, our team decided to put together some of the top safety rules for gun owners.
ALWAYS TREAT EVERY FIREARM AS IF IT WERE LOADED
An important concept we stress at Silver Eagle Group is to develop a proper mindset as a gun owner. And one of the fundamentals of that mindset is to avoid complacency with firearm safety. A gun in any condition should still be handled as though loaded and ready to fire. Ignoring safety rules when a gun is clearly unloaded makes it more likely to make a mistake at a critical moment. The philosophy is that we need to ingrain consistency with our gun handling, whether that gun is capable of being fired or not. Treating a firearm as if it were loaded means…
KEEP YOUR FINGER STRAIGHT AND OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL READY TO FIRE
If you have taken any firearms course there is a good chance that you heard your instructor use the term “muscle memory” at least once. Muscle memory is a trained response in muscular movement through repetition and practice – a formed physical habit. With good technique and repetition, our bodies tend to automate if we handle guns the same way each time. The first physical habit you should develop is to always place your shooting finger on the frame of the firearm the moment your hand makes contact with the gun. Without thoughtful firearm training and intentional application, new shooters are often prone to pick up firearms with their fingers immediately placed on the trigger. This is problematic for obvious reasons. We do not want the trigger to activate unless the sights are on target and we have decided to shoot. If you pick up guns by the trigger in a range booth, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you poke a hole in the shooting bench. If you keep your finger on the trigger when working with a holster, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you poke a hole in your leg.
NEVER POINT YOUR FIREARM AT ANYTHING YOU DO NOT INTEND TO DESTROY
This is our muzzle direction rule, and it is arguably the most important rule you need to follow when handling a gun. Keeping your muzzle pointed in a safe direction is THE best thing you can do to minimize risk with a firearm. So how do we define a “safe direction”? At a public shooting range like Silver Eagle Group, this is pretty easy. Our only determined safe direction is downrange, where a steel backstop made to withstand the impact of bullets, and safely deflect fragmentation, is placed. But gun owners also need to understand that a safe direction is an evolving situation that may continue to change depending on location. A safe muzzle direction will always be towards an area that, in the event of an unintentional discharge, ensures the following:
- The round will not cause an injury
- Minimal damage will be done to the property
All gun owners should consider establishing a safe area in the home where handling firearms is appropriate with those two parameters in mind.
KEEP YOUR SAFETY ENGAGED UNTIL READY TO FIRE
If your firearm has a mechanical safety or a decocking mechanism on it, you MUST utilize it any time the firearm is not in use, or you are not actively engaged in shooting. Mechanical safeties are to remain engaged until your sights are aligned on target. Whether casual target shooting from a booth or drawing from a holster, engaging your safety and decocker before and after shooting must be factored into your training. Students are quick to point out that a polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol such as a Glock has neither of these safety features. But this does not mean you can bypass and ignore them with a firearm that does. If you have the option to minimize risk with a gun, you should always take it. Mechanical safeties and decockers are an added layer of protection for the shooter.
BE AWARE OF YOUR TARGET’S FOREGROUND AND ITS BACKGROUND
This is also a dynamic situation that can change depending on context and location. At a public shooting range, your target’s foreground is nothing, the target itself is most likely cardboard and paper, and the background is a backstop engineered to withstand and absorb bullet impact. But outside of these ideal conditions, our target’s foreground and background may not be as conveniently distinguished.
Foreground is typically more easily assessed – do I have a clear line of sight to my target, free of visual obstructions? Are there any physical obstructions that could change the course of my bullet and send it in an unintended direction, or are there any objects that I am not willing to hurt in my line of sight, or that have the potential to move into my line of sight? If the answer to these questions is all “no,” then I have a clear foreground.
When considering awareness of your target’s background, let’s use the example of a hunter. When hunters are discharging firearms outdoors, after assessing the foreground of their target, and knowing they have a clear shot, before discharging their firearms, hunters also need to understand their responsibility for what happens after bullet impact. Many, if not most projectiles will pass through and exit the opposite side of the intended target. For this reason, hunters are trained to ensure they have an equally appropriate backstop situated directly behind their intended target, to withstand and absorb bullet impact, before engaging the trigger; think a rise in the ground or the ground itself when shooting from an elevated position. To establish a clear background of their target, the hunter must again decide, are there any physical obstructions that could change the course of my bullet and send it in an unintended direction, or are there any objects that I am not willing to hurt in the target’s background, or that have the potential to move into the target’s background?
Now we have established a clear foreground and background of our intended target.
In defensive and recreational shooting, we must always condition ourselves to minimize the risk of collateral damage. We need to be situationally aware of our surroundings, knowing where each moving piece is, if I have a clear bullet path or if/how I need to adjust to ensure my bullet impacts the intended target and dead ends in an appropriate backstop.