While owning a firearm could be incredibly useful for the safety of you and your family, access to such powerful weapons come with some responsibility. With the recent rise in mass shootings and consistent rate of gun violence, firearm safety has become a movement in its own right. In this article, we will discuss the top gun safety rules as well as essential tips and guidelines to uphold while in possession of a firearm.

Top 6 Gun Safety Rules

~1. Always Keep the Gun Pointed in a Safe Direction

~Always take care of a gun as if it is loaded. Guns are powerful weapons and whether loaded or not loaded, you are expected to handle it safely. The #1 rule of handling a gun is to never point your gun at someone unless you intend to shoot. Again, whether unloaded or not, keep you’re the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, preferable at the floor or pointed downward and off to the side.

~Accidental discharges are not unheard of. Always better safe than sorry.

~2. Keep your Finger Off the Trigger Until you're Ready to Shoot

~Another golden rule of firearm safety is to never put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to fire. Following this rule will help to avoid accidents caused because of a sneeze, hair trigger, or something random that you couldn’t control.

~3. Store your Gun Away from Children and Unauthorized People

~Always keep guns hidden from children and unwanted users. Children, especially toddlers, play with almost anything. Everything can go wrong if a child stumbles upon a firearm, so it is of grave importance that you do everything possible to prevent this. Always keep your guns in sealed lock boxes like a biometric gun safe up in a closet or a mounted gun safe in a place children can’t access them.

~A gun should always be stored with the magazine out, the chamber cleared and with the safety on. This will provide an added layer of security if someone unwanted gets ahold of your weapon. If you are trained enough, storing it in this manner won’t hinder your ability to use it in an emergency as you will quickly pop the mag in, pull the slide, and remove the safety within a matter of seconds.

~4. Know your Target and What is Behind it

~Bullets are solid objects fired at high velocity and can pierce through most materials. So, if you are not at a firing range or a place where the bullet is guaranteed to stop after it hits its target, be sure whatever is beyond your target is at no risk of damage or harm.

~Before you fire a bullet, have a good look at your target and what lies behind it. Depending on the caliber of bullet and the power of the gun shooting the bullet, the bullet could tear through a body and impact into someone or something behind the target.

~5. Keep the Gun Unloaded Until Ready to Use

~If a gun isn't in use, it should not be loaded. This especially includes the slide where the first bullet is awaiting. When unloading your weapon put the safety on, remove the magazine and pull the slide back to release the waiting bullet.

~When you are ready to shoot in the field, shooting range, or at a target, that is when you can re-load your weapon. Firearm safety dictates that, when not in use, the firearm and its extra ammunition should be stored separately.

~6. Clean your Gun After Every Use

~Gun maintenance is essential to keep guns in a perfect working order or shape. After every use, it is a good idea to clean out your weapon of all the residual dust and grime that often accumulates. Though cleaning after every use is ideal, sometimes it is just not plausible. The amount of cleaning will also depend on the kind of firearm you are using.

~Cleaning and oiling will keep your shots accurate, deters rusting, and prevents the risk of jamming or malfunction down the line.

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Other Important Safety Guidelines to Follow

~Always Treat a Gun as if it is Loaded

~A gun is a weapon, don’t ever forget that. It's not a toy, and it is not a joke. Whether loaded or not loaded, a gun should always be held nose down and away from anything that isn't the target, most especially people. Treating a gun as if it is always loaded will get you used to handling a gun in a safe way, minimizing any potential misfires or accidental shooting incidents.

~You should handle it carefully, and your finger should never be on the trigger until you are about to shoot. Most trained professionals can often tell when a gun is loaded just by picking it up due to the weight difference. Regardless of this fact, they never hold or treat a gun like it's a toy; neither should you.

~Don't Rely on the Safety of the Gun

~We advise that you turn on the safety at all times. However, this precautionary measure alone does not guarantee the weapon will not go off unexpectedly. Always keep it pointed down and away from non-targets and people. Do this even if the safety is on. Always play it safe. The safety is an additional safety tactic, but it can not be the sole reliant safety measure you practice.

~Never Point your Gun at Anything you Don't Intend to Shoot

~Even if you are at a gun range or hunting, do not raise and aim your firearm at anything that isn't your target. Do not point your gun if it is not at the specific target you are aiming to maim or kill. When not aimed, the gun should stay pointed down and away from objects and especially people.

~Learn the Mechanical and Handling Characteristics of your Gun

~There are different kinds of firearms, and you do not handle them all the same way. When you acquire a new rifle, glock, revolver, shotgun, or other model; research as much as you can on it, how to clean it, oil it, its quirks, everything. Do this, so you learn how to handle your gun the right way. Not only will this aid in your ability to be safe but also in how efficient and skilled you are at using your weapon.

~Always use the Right Ammo

~An important gun safety tip is to always use the recommended ammo for your specific model. If you use the wrong caliber ammo you can irreparably damage your gun, or worse yourself or others nearby. Using too large a caliber can cause a terrible jam or even worse, an explosion maiming or killing your and/or others near you. Using too small of a bullet can cause the bullet to bounce around in the barrel or get stuck awkwardly, blocking the barrel for the next shot. The bouncing of the bullet will also damage the barrel and repairs will need to be made.

~Be sure the Barrel is Free of Obstruction

~Before loading or shooting your weapon you need to make sure there is nothing obstructing the barrel. Do not look into the barrel. Whether loaded or not, you should not ever put your face in front of the firing end of the barrel while the gun is put assembled. Depending on the firearm, either check by looking through the breech end or using a barrel light. Remove any obstruction with a cleaning rod. Additionally, to be on the safe side, if an obstruction occurs you can fully dismantle your weapon and push the obstruction out with a cleaning rod.

~Handling a Misfire

~If your gun misfires try to remain calm, holding your position for several seconds. Next, with the gun pointed in a safe direction start by tapping the magazine bottom to make sure it is fully seated in the gun. Then, if the magazine is secured rack the slide until the shell or unspent bullet is released. If the bullet or casing is not ejected, you may need to remove the magazine and remove the bullet manually. Once you believe you have cleared the weapon replace the magazine and perform a test shot to ensure the gun is in working order again.

~Be Aware of your Surroundings

~Always be alert when holding a firearm. Be aware of the people around you, the space you are in, and your position. Make sure you know where the muzzle of your gun is pointing at all times. Be careful not to trip or lose your balance. Always be aware of your target and what lays beyond it before firing.

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Hunting Safety Tips

~Always Keep the Gun in Safe Position Until Ready to Shoot

~This is especially important when hunting with others. Just like with any gun, always keep the muzzle facing in a safe direction. Your finger should be outside the trigger guard, and the gun should always be on safety until you are ready to shoot. This precaution is to prevent any terrible hunting accidents.

~If Hunting in a Pack, Pick a Designated Safety Officer

~Your hunting group should always have someone actively assessing the situation and ensuring no one is at risk or in harm's way. This person is the Designated Safety Officer, and their presence is crucial when hunting.

~Establish Everyone's Fire Zones. When in Doubt, Don't Shoot

~Do not shoot if you are not sure what you are shooting at, what is in the area you are shooting at, and most especially if you are not sure of your fellow hunters' position. Always be aware of everyone's firing zone and be sure not to stray into anyone else's zone. To ensure visibility between your group and more importantly, the others in teh forrest, you can wear a hunting safety vest.

~Never use your Scope as Binoculars

~Your gun scope is not a substitute for binoculars, and binoculars can never replace scopes. They each have unique uses and applications, so it's best not to try the one-size-fits-all approach.

~Never Climb Anything with a Loaded Gun

~Sensibly speaking, guns can go off relatively quickly and easily. So, it's only logical not to do something as clumsy as trying to climb up a rock, ridge, or anything while holding a loaded gun. Regardless of the safety being on, be sure to carefully place the firearm in a safe position and retrieve it after you've completed your daring act.

~If you Fall or Trip, Control your Muzzle and Check the Gun for Damage or Barrel Obstructions

~This is where being aware of your muzzle’s position at all times is essential. No one plans a fall, so your grip on your gun should always be tight, your finger should be off the trigger, and your weapon should always point down and away. If you made it through this fall without setting off your firearm, be sure to check the gun for any damage. Also, check the barrel for any obstructions before firing.

Learn more about these tips and the importance of being a responsible hunter by the team at GoHunt.

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Safety Tips for the Range

~Know and Follow all the Rules of your Range

~Every firing range has rules, regulations, and guidelines. Always read them, know them, and abide by them to ensure the safety of yourself and others. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission offers more information on range rules for HOT and COLD ranges.

~Do What the Range Master Tells you to do

~Range masters are trained professionals, so doing what they tell you to do is not only imperative, but is one of the range rules. Listening to them will keep you and the other people at the range safe. While not listening to them will likely get you kicked out of the range.

~Uncase and Case your Gun at the Shooting Bench, Never Behind the Safety Line

~A gun should only be removed from its case and loaded at the shooting bench, not behind the safety line. This caution is, of course, for maximum safety. Additionally, it is best to unload your gun when casing it. All guns should be stored unloaded. As an added layer of protection when traveling with your weapon, you can install a cable gun lock to ensure the slide or kickout barrels remain open.

~Always Keep the Barrel Pointed Down Range

~The theme of this article, keep the muzzle pointed away from people. Loaded and ready for firing, the barrel of your gun should always be pointed down range. Don't point it in any other direction for any reason.

~Always Wear Eye and Ear Protection when Shooting

~Protective shooting gear is always essential. Guns are loud whether indoors or outdoors, but they can be especially loud when shooting at indoor ranges. The shooting hall will further compact the sounds of discharge and the space where spent shells have to travel. Wearing the defensive shooting goggles and earmuffs or earbuds will protect your hearing from the amplified sounds and your eyes from the flying shells.

~Always Keep the Gun on Safety until you Intend to Shoot

~Another common practice, never release the safety until you are ready to shoot. Your gun being on safety means the chances of you mistakenly setting it off drops significantly. It's safer for yourself and everyone around you.