Eighteen years ago, I lost a dear friend in a hunting accident. He and his uncle were going rabbit hunting. They were both experienced outdoorsmen, and may have developed a lax attitude to gun handling. They did not follow all the appropriate safety measures. He recieved a shotgun blast at point-blank range to the upper thigh and torso. Even though he had the top surgeon in the area working on him within 5 minutes (another close friend) he bled to death right there beside his truck. His young wife lost her husband. His 2 year-old son lost his father. I hope his story will encourage others not to take firearm safety lightly.
This instructable is not intended to be the last word on safety, but rather just a start. Good safety habits are developed and maintained over years. It is also not about "How to Shoot/How to Shoot Better". That's a different Instructable, for a different day. It's not "How to Hunt". It's not a Second Amendment forum. It's just a few precautions on how not to shoot yourself or someone else.
NOTE: This is my first instructable, so if you like it, please rate it accordingly. If you have constructive criticisms, those are appreciated as well. Thanks.
Step 1: The Rules of Firearm Safety
1. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to kill/destroy.
2. Assume the gun is ALWAYS loaded. You would not believe the number of people killed with "unloaded" firearms.
3. Keep your finger away from the trigger (outside of the trigger-gaurd), and the safety (if your gun is equipped with one)in the "Safe" position until you are ready to fire.
4. Always maintain control of your weapon. When in your posession, it should always be pointed in a safe direction. I usually point mine at an angle towards the ground.
5. When in storage, it should be under lock and key, and separated from the ammunition. There is nothing worse than having your weapon fall into the wrong hands (inexperienced, immature, or criminal). Trigger locks and gun-safes go a long way towards preventing unauthorized use of your weapon.
6. Your gun should always be unloaded and stored properly/securely during transportation.
7. Read the instruction manual for your particular firearm. Different types of guns function differently, and you need to know exactly how to operate the one you will be using. Pay particular attention to the manufacturers' safety features (locks, safeties, etc.)
8. Never handle your firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
9. Always know what is behind/beyond your target. Misses and over-pentration happen. You may hit an unintended target as far away as 3 miles with an ordinary hunting rifle.
Step 2: In the Field.
1. Always know what is behind/beyond your intended target. Remember, even a .22 is capable of traveling 1.5 miles. A more powerful weapon can penetrate a heavy target, or even ricochet, and then travel farther than the .22!
2. Keep your firearm unloaded and properly stored when travelling to and from the field. More than a few guns have discharged inside automobiles, sometimes with disastrous results.
3. Never cross a fence/ditch/obstacle with a loaded weapon. Slide it under the fence, or hand it to a friend while navigating the obstacle.
4. Always know who else is in the area, and exactly where they are located.
5. Never shoot what you can't see. Every year there are numerous deaths because some idiot shot at a sound or a movement. "It sounded like a deer" or "It moved like a turkey" is no excuse to pull the trigger.
6. Always unload your gun when getting in and out of a deer-stand, boat, or blind. A loaded gun does not belong in a potential slip-and-fall situation.
7. Do not hunt/shoot with others who ignore basic gun safety.
Step 3: Additional Precautions.
1. Safety equipment is important. Eye and ear protection are essential on the range and for any sustained shooting. Hunters safety orange may be necessary in the field, depending on the type of hunt and local hunting laws.
2. Make sure you are using the correct ammo. Certain rounds will fit in weapons for which they are not intended. The results are almost always disastrous. A 16ga. or 20ga. shell can slip in a 12ga. or 10ga. barrel. A 9mm parabellum will fit in a .38 short weapon. I only carry the ammo that is correct for the weapon I am using to avoid accidents.
3. Make sure your weapon is clean and functioning properly. Safeties can fail. Triggers can be set too lightly. Cartridges can "hide" in certain magazines. Know your weapon and make sure it is properly maintained.
4. Make sure the barrel is free from obstructions. Mud in the muzzle, or a projectile lodged in the barrel can be deadly to the operator of the weapon, and those standing nearby.
5. Practice with the weapon you intend to use. An unfamiliar gun is less-than-safe in moments of stress or excitement.
6. Leave all functional modifications to properly trained individuals. A gun is not a toy, and is designed to function under specific circumstances. A malfunction can be deadly.
7. Remember, most weapons may still fire even when the clip/magazine is removed.
Step 4: Gun Safety for Dummies
1. Don't look down the barrel of an assembled gun.
2. Don't point it at people/pets for fun.
3. A gun does not make you tough/bad/cool.
4. Don't hand your gun to an idiot.
5. Don't testfire your gun in the house.
5. A telephone book will not stop a .38 round.
6. If it's not yours, leave it alone.
7. Tell your family about your gun.
8. Follow local, state and federal laws.
9. Don't play with your ammunition.
10. Don't modify your gun with a hacksaw.
11. Don't carry a gun into a school or courthouse.
Step 5: Have Fun!
Know your target, and what is behind it. Aim carefully. Learn advanced shooting techniques. I use a .22 for target practice as the ammunition is cheap and the recoil is extremely mild. It is a good beginners gun, and still lots of fun even after 32 years of shooting. Be safe and enjoy yourself!