The 4 Rules of Firearms Safety
And why they exist
1. Treat every gun as loaded
What does that mean? In short, it means that whenever you see a gun, you have to assume it is loaded and ready to fire, until you personally ensured that it is not.
Further, it also means everyone else will treat your gun as if it were loaded, even if you know that it is not. This means don’t unholster your gun in a gun shop, unless you want to be asked to leave.
2. Never point a gun at something you don’t want to destroy or kill
This is a very important rule. Don’t ever point a gun at a person if you don’t intend to shoot them. Don’t point your gun at an object if you don’t intend to shoot it.
But even more important, it means that you should be aware at all times where your gun is pointing to. Newer shooter especially tend to point guns at their own feet or turn around and aim at people. So please, keep this in mind.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire
Be aware of where your finger is. Keep it next to the trigger until you are absolutely ready to fire. Otherwise you may accidently pull the trigger, especially if your gun has a very light trigger pull. Trust me, it happens. It happened to me too.
In the best case, you shoot somewhere into the ground. In the worst case, you shoot somewhere over the hill and kill someone. Trigger awareness saves lifes!
4. Always be aware of your target and what’s behind it
This means don’t shoot at anything just because you feel like it. Bullets are usually made of lead, which means if you shoot a steel target, the bullet will splash and hit anything next to the target.
Newer shooters also tend to miss their target entirely, so always be aware of what’s behind the target. Are you shooting downhill into the ground? Or are you shooting somewhere into the desert? Know how far your bullet may travel and if it’s safe for bullets to go there.
Why do we need these rules?
When you frequent gun stores or gun shows, you quickly notice that the customers there tend to fall into certain stereotypes. One of them is what I like to call the “Safety Hazard” — people who are hardwired to break as many safety rules simultaneously as possible. They sweep half the audience, pull the trigger several times, etc.. Even better, when you tell them how unsafe their behaviour is, you always get the same response: “Well, it’s not loaded, so…”
The entire point of these four rules is that they are designed around the idea that safe behavious keeps you safe, even in unsafe circumstances. Even if someone were to hand me a loaded gun while assuring me it’s unloaded (which happens a lot in semi-auto pistols), until I personally check that the chamber is empty, I’m going to treat it as loaded. Even if I don’t, as long as I always keep it aimed at a safe direction and my finger off the trigger, this is not a safety risk.
The nice thing about these rules is that in case you break one of them, the other three will generally keep you safe. This is not an invitation to just go ahead and break rules, but instead an explanation why these rules exist.
Gun Store Ettiquette
This topic is only semi-related, but I think it doesn’t warrant a full blog post on its own. I mentioned before that you shouldn’t unholster your gun in a gun store, even if you want to show someone something. So, what is the correct way to ask for accessories for your specific gun?
The first and easiest way is to bring your gun unloaded in a carrying case. That way, if you put a case on the table and open it up. Those carrying cases are relatively cheap and a good way to transport your weapon if you don’t carry it in a holster.
If this is not an option, then stop before entering the shop and unload the gun. For a revolver, this is relatively straightforward. For a pistol, this means removing the magazine and cocking the slide once to remove the cartridge from the chamber. Many gun stores offer chamber safety flags, which you simply insert into the chamber to show that it’s unloaded.
If that is not an option too — because you forgot or such — then simply ask “Is it okay if I pull out my gun and unload it?”. Most gun stores will be okay with that, and if not, then just go outside and unload there.