Gun safety is a huge subject. You can approach it from a number of different angles, from the gear you need and the specific actions you need to take to the general mindset you should have. The NRA’s gun safety rules are a great place to start, and they cover a lot of the basics. Things like keeping your finger off the trigger, pointing the gun in a safe direction and keeping the gun unloaded until ready to use. One of the first rules I ever learned is to assume the gun is always loaded, even if I just unloaded it. We’re all a bit absentminded on occasion, so taking this extra little precaution can quite literally save a life.
Here’s a quick list of gun safety tips to think about before you head out with your firearm or store it:
- Don’t rely on the gun’s safety – This is similar to assuming a gun is always loaded. Just good commonsense dictates you treat such a potentially dangerous tool as such.
- Know your gun – Like many shooters, I’m a big fan of getting to know a gun before I operate it. In one of my favorite films, The Ghost in the Darkness, Val Kilmer takes an untested rifle on a lion hunt only to have it fail at a particularly inopportune moment. You should know how your gun works, from where the magazine goes in to what exactly the safety does when engaged. When you buy a new gun it’s a good idea to give it a good cleaning and get to know each part. Not only does regular cleaning prolong the life of your gun, it also makes you more confident handling it. The Hoppe’s 9 Boresnake is a fast and easy way to give your gun a quick clean. Check out the Boresnake VIPERfor a little extra cleaning power.
- Know your target – This is an good gun safety tip and something newer shooters tend to overlook. When I was young my dad let me fire a BB gun on occasion. I would take all the pop cans I could find out to a tree stump and run through BBs as fast as possible. One day I was shooting and noticed after a couple shots that I’d nearly hit a squirrel on a tree a little ways down. It never crossed my mind at the time that the shots I missed or even the ones that hit the can but passed through might hit something behind the target. Consider if your target is thin enough for bullets to easily pass through or hard enough to cause ricochets. If you’re hunting, having a really good pair of binoculars, spotting scope or rifle scope is important for more than simply hitting your target. If it’s getting dark a powerful scope with perfect glass, good lens coatings and a large objective lens will collect a lot of light and help you see past a deer to the surrounding trees and foliage. A rifle scope that transmits little light may not show you a person on the other side of your target.
- Store your gun securely – This is important, and it’s another safety rule that you have to think very carefully about. Proper gun storage can take many forms, much like gun safety, so if you’re transporting a firearm on a plane you’ll have a different type of storage unit or case than at home. When you’re traveling you’ll likely use a strong but lightweight case like a Pelican 1720 Watertight Protector Case, whereas at home most shooters prefer a heavier safe. Cannon and Mesa have quite a few heavy-duty safes that’ll keep your firearms out of the wrong hands.
- Store your gun UNLOADED – This goes along with having a good gun safe or cabinet. When you put your gun away, make sure it isn’t loaded. Still treat the gun like it’s loaded, but store it unloaded. Hopefully no one will ever gain access to your firearm without your approval, but in the event they do it’s best the gun is unloaded until you’re ready to use it.
- Holster retention – Much like you properly store a gun when away from it, when carrying a handgun you need the proper holster. Different holster manufacturers design their retention differently. BlackHawk Serpa holsters are tough and feature multiple levels of retention (read more about SERPA in my last post!), while an older-fashioned leather holster by Galco will have an entirely different set of retention features. Make sure you know what retention features your holster has, and how to use them.
- Eye and Ear Protection – Keeping safe and healthy when shooting is very important. You don’t want spent brass hitting you in the eye or loud reports from your gun or someone else’s to affect your hearing. These days there are a ton of options for protecting your eyes and ears. You’ll see safety ratings like ANSI, OHSA and MIL (which is the strict military standard) on most shooting glasses. You may not always need eye protection that meets MIL-PRF-31013, but any decent pair of shooting glasses will be at least ANSI rated. For a full breakdown of the various things to look for in shooting glasses, check out our Choosing Shooting Goggles & Glasses How-To Guide. As for hearing protection, there are a number of options here as well, though they tend to fall into either the simple sound-muffling earmuffs or plugs and the more advanced hearing enhancers, which not only safeguard your hearing but also enable you to hear what you want without the deafening gunshots going off in your ear. While it’s hard to argue with the old-fashioned yet reliable sound mufflers, these new hearing enhancers help you stay safe on the range or hunting grounds by letting you continue conversations or hear someone walking up. It’s never a good idea to be startled when you’re armed. If you’re looking for eye and ear protection in a single package check out our new Radians OPMOD SRP Vision and Hearing Protection Performance Kit. The glasses and ear muffs are comfortable and effective. They’re perfect for a day at the range or when you’re out hunting.
This is just a brief list of the things to consider when handling a gun, but one thing that’s probably best to look for when learning about firearms is a good teacher. Many of us learn gun safety from our parents, although I’m sure many of you picked up a fair amount of safety tips in the military or when training to be a police officer. Find a qualified instructor who can spot problems before they cause harm. Above all else, treat a firearm with respect. As long as you do that you’re headed in the right direction.