When handling a gun, follow these fundamental rules:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to fire, it would not cause injury or damage. The key is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates "in the safest direction."
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until
ready to shoot.
When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible; if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action; pull back the slide to make sure it is clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the firearm, put the gun down carefully (pointing the gun in a safe direction with your finger off the trigger) and get help from someone who does.
When using or storing a gun, always follow these important rules:
- Before handling your gun, learn how it operates. Know its basic parts, how to open and close the action safely, and how to remove any ammunition from the gun's chamber or magazine. Remember a gun's mechanical safety device is not entirely foolproof.
- Be sure the gun is safe to operate. If there is any question concerning a gun's ability to function properly, a knowledgeable gunsmith should be consulted.
- Use only the correct ammunition for your gun. Only ammunition designed for a particular gun can be fired safely in that gun. Most guns have the ammunition type stamped on the barrel. Ammunition can be identified by information printed on the box or stamped on the cartridge. Do not shoot the gun unless you know you have the correct ammunition.
- Wear eye and ear protection. Guns are loud and the noise can cause hearing damage. They can also emit debris and hot gas that could cause eye injury. For these reasons, shooting glasses and ear protection should be worn by both shooters (and spectators).
- Never use alcohol, prescription drugs, or
any other drugs before or while shooting.
Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must never be used before or while handling or shooting a gun.
- Know your target and what is beyond your target.
Be absolutely sure you have identified your target. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing the area of fire before you shoot. Never fire in a direction where there are people or where there are other possibilities for mishap. Think before you shoot.
- Clean your gun. Just like other tools, guns need regular maintenance to remain operable. Regular cleaning and proper storage are a part of the gun's general upkeep. Regular cleaning is important in order for your gun to operate correctly and safely. Taking proper care of it will also maintain its value and function. Your gun should be cleaned every time that it is used. A gun brought out of prolonged storage should also be cleaned before shooting. Accumulated moisture and dirt, or solidified grease and oil, can prevent the gun from operating properly.
- Before cleaning your gun, make sure it is unloaded. The gun's action should be open during the cleaning process. Be sure no ammunition is present in the cleaning area as well.
- Store your gun so it is not accessible to unauthorized persons. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun, are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules.
- Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.
and NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting.