Properly Using Firearms





Introduction: Properly Using Firearms

Due to the near infinite types of weapons now available, both historic and modern, there is no way to cover all the details of every firearm.  Instead, this is meant as more of a guide to help understand a few basic concepts in dealing with firearms.  You are ultimately responsible for your own actions, so by taking some steps to make sure everyone is safe, you ensure that everyone has an enjoyable experience, and most importantly stays unharmed

With deer season fast approaching in my home state, I thought I would take a bit of time to document a few ways to help stay safe while dealing with firearms. This is by no means a complete list of things you should know, so take the time to get to know as many details as possible in regards to the operation of any firearm you are going to use.  Firearms are to be treated with respect, but don't need to be feared to the point of total avoidance.  If you are looking to own your first, have someone train you on how to handle it before you purchase it.

One final thing before I get started- Instructables member NachoMahma has pointed out an excellent instructable by Skunkbait which is much along the same lines as this instructable.  I'm not sure how I missed it before starting my own instructable, but it's nice to see we have a lot of the same information, and each has a few things the other doesn't mention.  If you are interested in learning more, I suggest you read both.  Skunkbait also has an instructable dedicated entirely to the storage of firearms and goes much more in-depth on that section.

Step 1: Some Perspective on Firearms

As firearms have evolved, they have deviated into a few different types of weapons. There are handguns, shotguns, and rifles, as well as many of the older styles of black-powder guns. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. In order to avoid a flame war, I'm not going into many specifics on the types of firearms and what is better, but rather try to just give a basic overview of how to properly handle them. One last note, I've avoided use of the term gun, because that is normally only given to large caliber rounds, or other specialist type of military weapons which I will not be covering.

Firearms are largely responsible for the formation and sustained independence of the United States, where I am a citizen.  After the first amendment and the five freedoms it guarantees, I feel that the second amendment may be the next most important freedom we are guaranteed.  Owning and operation of firearms is a big responsibility, and requires constant vigilance in order to ensure the safety of yourself and others around you.  If you are not willing to take the steps required to do this, you should reconsider owning a firearm.

Step 2: Storage of Weapons and Ammunition

You may think that you don't need any special storage for your firearms, but that would be a mistake.  Even if you are kind of anti-social like myself, you're probably going to have people in your house on occasion.  You can never anticipate the actions of someone else, especially if they are young, or if alcohol or another judgment-impairing substance is involved.  Firearms are notorious for bringing out what I refer to as Idiot-Syndrome, where otherwise intelligent and sane people basically go on a power-trip while wielding a weapon.

So, how do you properly store a firearm?  For starters, you should separate the ammunition from the actual weapon.  Empty out all the ammo that the gun holds, and be sure to also clear the barrel.  Move the ammo to another room, where it is temperature and humidity controlled and otherwise less open to visitors.  If you have children, it should absolutely be locked.  Even if it is forbidden for them to touch, all it takes is a few moments of inattention for tragedy to strike.  If you don't have a gun safe, the weapon itself should be placed on a rack that is high out of reach for young people.  Again, it is useful to place them in a room that is infrequently used by visitors.

Step 3: Never Point at Something You're Not Willing to Kill

It seems simple enough, but you read and hear about accidental shootings in the news all the time.  Whether it's being stored, loaded, cleaned, handled, moved, or you are ready to use the gun, it should always be pointed towards something safe.  If it's on a gun rack, it should be horizontal and above head level.  If it's in a safe, it should be vertical where it would only hit the top of the safe.  If you're carrying it, normally you'll want to point it at the ground.  Keep in mind that bullets can also ricochet off certain surfaces such as metal or water.  Certain angles will increase the chances of projectiles bouncing or breaking up.  If you don't know how your ammo will react to what you're shooting at, you should avoid the shot.

If everyone followed this one simple rule, despite all of the other safety precautions you should follow, there wouldn't be tragic accidents.  Always point your weapon in a safe direction!

Step 4: Chamber Empty, Safety On, Finger Off Trigger

Next to where you point a firearm, these may be the next three biggest rules to follow.

First, never chamber a round until you are getting ready to fire.  This can mean different things- if you are target shooting, you'll want to wait until the target is set and the lane is clear before you chamber your round.  If you are hunting, you may want to chamber something after you are set in your stand or you get to the area you're planning to walk.  If you need to climb a stand or go through rough terrain, you should un-chamber your round until you are in the clear again.

Whether or not you choose to chamber a round while you are hunting for game, you should still set your safety.  It is very quick and easy to slide the safety off and still take a shot right away.  The fraction of a second you would save getting a shot off quicker could cost you or someone else their life.  Not really a good tradeoff.  Learn where your safety is and practice putting it in safety mode and placing it in fire mode so you don't fumble around too much it when you need it.  Also, never assume that because the safety is on that your gun won't fire.  You still need to follow the never point a gun at something you're not willing to kill rule.  A safety is mechanical, and like anything else mechanical it can and will break down with enough use.

Finally, don't place your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire.  This is a pretty common mistake among inexperienced users, because when you see people using guns, that is where their fingers always seem to be.  On a pistol, you generally keep your trigger finger down the barrel until you are ready to fire, and on a shotgun or rifle it's often left on the stock with the rest of your trigger hand.  Just be conscious of not holding the gun with your finger in the trigger if you don't intend to fire it.

Step 5: See What You Shoot

Like many of the "rules" about using firearms, this seems pretty straight-forward.  But it still needs to be stated.  You want to see what you are shooting.

If you are hunting, don't shoot at noises.  Deer and other game are infinitely quieter than humans, so chances are that if you hear something it's another person and not what you are trying to find.  It's okay to investigate the noise if you like, but don't do so with the barrel of your weapon.

If you are trap shooting or target shooting, you want to make sure that not only the line of sight is clear, but everything surrounding your area is too.  Be mindful of farm animals, fellow humans, and even property that could be damaged.

You will probably also want nice clear shooting lanes.  Even if you are hunting, you can clear certain areas of brush so that you have a nice lane to where your game is likely to cross.  This is best done a fair amount of time before when you actually want to use it so that when the season rolls around, your scent and general presence are not causing animals to avoid the area.  If you are target shooting, you want a nice open area so nothing can effect your shot.

Finally, just because you recognize something as an animal, you should still make sure to take time to see what is around it before firing at it.  If you are hunting with other people, account for where they are in relation to the shot you are considering.  Make sure that no other people have wandered into the area, even if you are on private land.  Most states also have rules about what animals can be legally harvested.  Know the local regulations about the game you are hunting and make sure you are following the proper rules and procedures.  Also, if you see one animal, there is a good chance there may be others with it, depending on the species you are hunting.  You may want to consider taking one of them instead- either it's better quality or you have a better shot.  Only when you see that everything appears to be in order should you decide to fire.

Step 6: One Shot, One Kill

Instead of being a rule per se, this is more of a personal motto.  No matter what you're shooting at, make it your goal to only do it once.

There are certain tips and tricks that can help you become a more accurate shooter.  You should be familiar with your weapon, and have it sighted in for your own eyes.  Everyone sights in a weapon just a bit differently.  Practice shooting enough until you are fairly accurate.  Never take a shot that is beyond your range of accuracy.

While you have everything sighted in and are ready to take a shot, there are a few things that can help you.  First of all, never rush a shot.  You not only want to see your target, you want the gun to rest on your target.  This is much harder if your target is moving.  When your skill level is a bit higher, you can practice leading a target.  Rolling clay pigeons are an excellent way to learn this skill.  If you have time, take a deep breath, and let it half way out, then hold your breath.  Instead of then just pulling the trigger, gently squeeze the trigger.  By doing this, you won't know exactly when the gun is going to go off, and it will keep you from pulling a shot up or off to the side.

Finally, if you are choosing to hunt for game, have the proper respect for what you are hunting.  Learn where you should fire to cleanly and quickly kill that type of game.  Don't take a shot where you are more likely to just injure an animal instead of killing it.  While it's my belief that hunting is okay and that state-regulated population controls are better than the natural order or prey-predator starvation swings, I also believe that injuring an animal and letting it suffer is wrong.  If you're not certain you are taking a kill-shot, let it pass.  More than likely, you'll have plenty of chances to harvest a comparable animal.

Step 7: Parting Words of Advice

Some final words of advice... if you are mindful of others around you and respectful of the responsibility of firearms, there is no reason to be afraid or dislike them.

As for myself, I prefer to hunt in groups of three or smaller.  It is easy to keep track of your fellow hunters, and you can always have open firing lanes that are not endangering those around you. 

When your children are old enough, teach them about firearms.  If you supervise them and teach, they will learn to respect them.  If you hide them and keep it a big secret, their curiosity may get the better of them.  In my opinion, It is far better for you to have a hand in their understanding of firearms.  Even if they are responsible, never let them handle or operate a firearm without supervision. 

If you are out in the field, wear orange so other hunters can spot you easily.  Most game that you'll be after is color-blind anyway, so you're not losing any hunting advantage.  You don't want to be mistaken for something that's hiding.  Just because you follow the safety rules doesn't mean that everyone else will.

Finally, I know that not everyone will agree with some of the opinions presented in this instructable.  That is okay, all opinions are welcome.  However, please keep any comments constructive, useful, and within the confines of the be nice policy.  Remember that we are on instructables and not on youtube, so lets keep it that way.

This has been instructable number 12... if you have further tips, please leave them in the comment box, and I may even get around to including some of them in the instructable in the future.  One final note, if any boy scouts upload a pic of your shooting merit badge, I will award some digital patches to you guys.  Have fun, enjoy, and above all, be safe.



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    this appears to be a remington pump .22, possibly a fieldmaster? i have one myself, very good lil rifle

    It was a pump .22, but that's all I can tell you offhand. I do believe it was also a Remington. It had been loaned out and roughed up a bit, but was still quite accurate.

    I'm not sure but aren'tyou supposed to have all guns on a rack without a concealed weapons permit?

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Isn't that technically nullified because of the National Guard? I lol'd at this possibility.

    Thanks for posting this instructable. Even though I'm qualified and trained, it's ALWAYS useful to have a refresher.


    The 2nd amendment *arms* the National Guard (which is effectively the militia, which it evolved from).

    You are, however, correct that the US's military might effectively rules out the possibility of armed citizens banding together and overthrowing the government (it wouldn't nullify anything, that's a legal term).

    You seemed confused. Especially in this day and age (post Heller and Mcdonald)

    Both of those court cases recognize and individual right which the government cannot infringe.  

    Why would the phrase "the people" mean something different in the 2nd amendment that what it means in the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 10th amendments?

    I'm quite aware of Heller and Mcdonald, thank you. I didn't say the second amendment doesn't apply to individuals, I said it *also* arms the militia (today, the National Guard). Read the full text; it specifically mentions the militia. I'm making the point that the second amendment can't be "nullified" because of the National Guard as the Guard is *part of it*. Individual rights under the 2nd could quite conceivably be infringed upon by the Guard, but the second amendment is applicable to both groups, not just one or the other.

    Also, the founders philosophy of government was a *very* exclusionary one - though fortunately the Consitution has since been made less so by the amendments - (and the Articles of Confederation more so); in your "freedom to read books" example, actually, yes, many of the founders would have said only the well educated/elite individuals should be able to "read and compose books" (to use your example, not a real one), and in fact had mechanisms in place to ensure just such an outcome at the state level. So, if we're going by original intent, your argument kind of doesn't work, particularly if you apply it to voting, holding office, etc.

    > The "militia" is everybody able to bear arms for the common defense. The first thirteen words merely explain why it is good that everyone should be proficient in arms.

    I'd certainly like a citation for that. While the Supreme Court has recently incorporated the 2nd, I haven't heard anything about them defining the militia as a theoretical collective of unorganized citizens (which isn't actually a militia at all); if I'm wrong, please show me the opinion defining it as such. The entire point of McDonald was that there exists an individual right *separate from* that of the right to arm a militia; the first words aren't just "merely explaining why it is good that everyone should be proficient in arms". There's the individual right _to ensure that the right to arm a militia_ exists.

    If the framers of The Constitution did not want us to be educated, why would Jefferson write this? "To all of which is added a selection from the elementary schools of subjects of the most promising genius, whose parents are too poor to give them further education, to be carried at the public expense through the college and university. The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be double or treble of what it is in most countries." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jose Correa de Serra, 1817

    >Also, the founders philosophy of government was a *very* exclusionary one...

    It may have been exclusionary, (only male landowners could vote...), but we've since extended those rights to women, and the non-landed class. You're not seriously saying that this one individual right which the government cannot infringe upon does not apply to some people, but the rest of the Bill of Rights does.  Had a "freedom to read and write books" amendment existed, no way would you deny this right to anyone, regardless of age. What is your point here?

    >I said it *also* arms the militia (today, the National Guard)...

    The National Guard is not the militia. You can't deny rights just because you decide to redefine "militia" as "the National Guard". The National Guard is "armed" by congress the exact way the Army and Navy are.  Cite:

         "The militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves, ... all men capable of bearing arms;..." -- Richard Henry Lee writing in "Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic", 1788, page 169.

    >...The entire point of McDonald was that there exists an individual right...

    While Heller defined an individual right that applies to the Federal enclave called the District of Columbia , McDonald incorporated that right through the fourteenth amendment to the states. (i.e. Chicago and/or Illinois is forced to honor your right to keep and bear arms as well as your right to free speech)

    >I'd certainly like a citation for that. While the Supreme Court has recently incorporated the 2nd, I haven't heard anything about them defining the militia as a theoretical collective of unorganized citizens

    (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Anti-federalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.

    (above is from the first two pages of the Heller decision.)

    >You're not seriously saying that this one individual right which the government cannot infringe upon does not apply to some people, but the rest of the Bill of Rights does.Had a "freedom to read and write books" amendment existed, no way would you deny this right to anyone, regardless of age. What is your point here?

    My point is that your analogy as continued here:

    >Obviously this does not mean that only well-educated voters have the right to read or write books. Nor does it mean that the right to read books of one's choosing can be restricted to only those subjects which lead to a well-educated electorate.

    doesn't hold, because provisions of the bill of rights HAVE been interpreted in such clearly wrong-headed ways (Plessy v. Ferguson, anyone?). We've corrected many such errors (thank goodness). But when the "equal books right" amendment was (would have been? What's the right tense to use for a past event that never happened?) written, it appears eminently likely that yes, that is what it would have meant to those who wrote it - the court would have interpreted it in just such a restrictive way, only being corrected by later generations. I'm not arguing it *should* be that way, just that it probably *would* have been. 

    >The National Guard is not the militia. You can't deny rights just because you decide to redefine "militia" as "the National Guard". The National Guard is "armed" by congress the exact way the Army and Navy are. Cite:

    I'm not trying to redefine the militia, simply say it comprises more than everybody who has a gun.

    Why do you keep trying to explain McDonald and Heller to me? I'm not disagreeing with you on them, and I understand the difference between the two cases quite well, thank you. I mean, I had just *said* that the court had recently incorporated the second. It's as if we were discussing cheeseburgers, and I said "They have pickles on them", and you said "NO, they have CHEESE on them." They have both!

    It's pretty well accepted that the Guard is directly descended from the militia. I guess you haven't heard of the Militia Act of 1903 (which "organized the various state militias into the present National Guard system")? However, according to the same link:

    "Title 10 of the US Code states:
    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
    (b) The classes of the militia are—
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia."

    So there's organized and unorganized militia - and my original point (that simply because the organized could take arms away from the unorganized does not mean the second amendment would be "nullified") stands.

    >The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.

    OK, thanks.