Firearm Safety: the "do's" and "don'ts" of Enjoying Guns Safely.




This instructable will show you some basic firearms safety precautions. I am intentionally keeping this very basic and to-the-point, but may go into more detail in a future instructable. Handling a firearm, like any other deadly item (cars, knives, ballbats, cook-stoves, lanterns, welders, etc.) is no laughing matter. People's lives are at stake.

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

There are a few simple but important rules to keep in mind when handling a firearm. If you adhere to these rules, the chances of an accidental shooting are dramatically reduced.

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.

In the field, you will encounter different situations than on a range or tightly regulated environment. These brief rules should help you stay safer in hunting/outdoor situations.

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.

There are other issues, apart from ordinary gun-handling that are serious nonetheless. These should be adhered to as well for your safety and the safety of those around you.

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

There are some things that are just common sense. Unfortunately there is a world-wide shortage of common sense. These are brief tips for the safety-impaired.

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!

Go to a range, or to the field. If you're inexperienced, go with someone who is familiar with firearm safety, and firearm operation.
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!



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    259 Discussions

    canadians train to have the same basic knowledge of firearms as every cop and soldier before we civilians can buy that kind of gun. we are licensed to buy a type of gun before we buy it. canada understands that firearms are a dangerous responsibility and not a responsibility that can be handed out with birth certificates like they do in america. too many americans buy guns without any responsibility at all. anyway, here is the canadian safety rules that saves everyone that follows them. [1] go online and read your owners manual before buying the gun [2] learn the a.c.t.s. and p.r.o.v.e. methods of firearm safety and watch the half hour video about safe use, transportation and storage of all firearms on youtube or elsewhere. [3] re-read your owners manual before touching the new gun you bought [4] re-read the a.c.t.s. and p.r.o.v.e. methods of firearms safety before touching you new gun [5] even though you have not used your gun, clean your new, non-fired gun according to the manufacturers instructions about how to clean it after it was used [6] use your gun responsibly [7] clean your gun again and store it under lock and key and store the ammo separately away from the gun [8] thank me later LOL ..... of course certain situations will arise that create a need to "modify" this method. ex: primary use of firearm in america for self-defense.

    1 reply

    Funny how you think your military is so well trained and your civilain gun owners. I served in Afghanistan with military from your country and watched many accidental shootings and some pretty stupid sh*t done in and out of combat by your people. Canada has the 4th highest for firearms accidents and crime in the world yet only has approx 35+ million people compared to America that has10 times the amount of people. Funny if you take your firearm and crime accident figures and times them by 10 to equal our population your country would have more of each. I checked you Halifax leads in gun crimes higher percentages then many American cities. Considering the low population and low gun ownership percentage in your country yes you have lower then America but only becuase of that. With 50 states each state has different back ground checks and many have waiting periods up to 1 month to get your friearm once you pass that background check and pay fo the firearm. Your country has nothing special going on and your hunters have just as many accidents as ours but lower population and not as many refugees and illegals coming in to your country also. You cannot get ahunting permit in America with out taking a hunter safety course.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I used to believe all sorts of awful stereotypes about gun owners. It is partly due to awesome Instructablers like you that I have been more respectful and knowledgeable towards lawful gun owners. Now, I've decided to actually learn about firearms, their uses, their makeups, and the people who own them before deciding I have an opinion. I plan to (properly) shoot a gun before voting on laws about them, too.

    So thanks. Keep it up. :)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    its really ironic how this is right next to an instructable called "how to make a grease firebomb"...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Two years ago the 14 year old son of a friend accidentally killed himself - as near we can reconstruct it he was waking across a grassy field carrying a loaded and cocked .22 rifle by the muzzle end of it's forearm, stumbled, muzzle was pointing towards the center of his forehead when the stock struck the ground. Entry wound, no exit wound.


    Plo Koon

    7 years ago on Introduction


    Ole bally

    7 years ago on Introduction

    couple more for you!

    Don't climb through fences or up/ down ladders with a loaded firearm.

    Don't shoot at hard surfaces which are likely to cause ricochets!

    Don't hand a 'closed' firearm to anyone...ensure the action is open - bolt is back or the slide locked open


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Skunkbait (why'd you choose THAT name? LOL) you did a good job, and your idea is sound, but still not quite "right" (IMHO). In the first place, the rules of firearm safety can be (and were!) codified into just four simple-to-remember rules about forty years ago, by one of the most wise and well-known experts in this arena - the late Lt. Col, John, "Jeff" Cooper - USMC(ret). I suggest that anyone who wishes to know more about firearms, their history and use, and much more, should google this man's name and buy some of his books. Col Cooper's Principles of Personal Defense is a MUST for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic, as is Ayoob's In the Gravest Extreme.

    Rule 1 - All guns are always loaded.
    Rule 2 - Never let the muzzle cover anything you're not willing to destroy.
    Rule 3 - Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
    Rule 4 - Always be sure of your target - and beyond.

    That's all - no silliness about "always keep the ammo away from the gun", "make sure you read the instruction book" (if you don't, you're a dumbell!), "never handle guns while drunk or on drugs (if you do - you're a moron and you deserve to go to jail!") or any of that other twenty-rule nonsense propogated by the NRA (bless their litigation-minded little hearts) etc.

    And as for never keeping ammo with the gun - that only goes so far. For any gun you keep in the safe, you could easily keep the ammo locked up there as well, and certainly when you're dry-firing for practice, you should ALWAYS first double-check for an unloaded magazine and chamber (what you refer to as the barrel in your advice above) and then deliberately place the ammo in another room before you dry fire. And if you keep the weapon in a rack, keeping the ammo in another location is not a bad idea. But for firearms kept for the purposes of self-defense, keeping the ammo separate from the weapon will create some pretty obvious problems!

    Instead, keep the gun in a safe place, secure from and out of sight of children and anyone you do not wish to know about it. Never brag or tell anyone about your guns - just family and close like-minded friends. If there is ANY chance that kids will visit - then take whatever extra precautions are necessary to make sure they NEVER will accidentally find your firearms. I've found that a small, quickly-opened one or two-gun safe works well when placed near the bed or in another room - but still far enough away that you must first be fully awake in order to access it. (Some people will disagree with this, and that's their preogative, but the old adage of "keeping the gun under your pillow for speed of access" is for morons and lunatics only!

    All in all, I think you did a very good job, and you're obviously a safe and intelligent person. Keep up the good work!

    As you were!
    Lt. Greg


    8 years ago on Introduction

    it's (partly) accidents like what happened to your friend that cause people to believe that guns should not be allowed for citizens, which is why it is so vital for EVERYBODY to know how to handle a gun safely.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    although you are correct about keeping the gun unladed which i always did with my .22 but you need to always think that the gun is loaded because i came home from a trip to find it loaded so never assume.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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. I've never understood that, if you load another shot you dont hear it fire and dont see it come out of the gun then dont load another one in(unless your like me and my friends that just shoot stuff and unload the whole magazine as fast as possible into whatever your shooting at(lol i can unload all five shots within 2.5 seconds while bumpfireing)). that is also why semi-autos are better, if it doesnt shoot the first shot it wont load a second

    8 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It's not hard to understand: a faulty primer may take longer to ignite the charge and so, you have a hang fire. If you unlock a bolt action and the round suddenly detonates, you'll (at least) feel a bit of pain on your thumb. About semi-autos being better... a revolver will be faster to fire again if you get dead round and you can't beat the reliability of a quality bolt-action like a Mauser.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I agree about the revolver. I've always been a revolver man, surrounded by auto guys. When it's all said and done, a revolver is just going to be more reliable. And if you need more than 6 rounds to take care of business, you probably need to practice more.

    Coffee beanskunkbait

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It really is a personal choice. I love autos i love the fact you can pack and extra clip and that they both can carry 19 rounds of 9mm

    Coffee beanEsmagamus

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    My range is indoor so any kinda run and gun and true stress training is not possible. However places like the CATS(correct me if that name is wrong) in California does great run and gun high stress training. But i live in Virginia. Bottom line why not carry the extra rounds. Also i should find my own place to shoot.

    EsmagamusCoffee bean

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Still, any of that will be of little use if your body and your mind aren't properly trained. I bet it's not easy to take aim while panting.