John Scoutten is a Certified Range Officer with extensive teaching experience for new shooters. With surge in first time gun owners, he reviews the basic safety rules for handling and shooting your first gun.
Number one, all guns are always loaded.
This has to become engrained in your subconscious, Treat all guns as if they are always loaded, and the first thing you do when you are handed a gun, or pick up a gun, is remove the magazine if present, and then cycle the action to visually and physically inspect an empty chamber. In the case of a revolver, open the cylinder and remove cartridges if present. Even after you’ve inspected an empty chamber you must still handle it as if it is loaded.
Rule number two, Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
This also has to become muscle memory. Pointing your gun at anything other than a target is a direct violation of this rule, and that includes your support hand, your dog, others at the range and so on. An accidental occurrence of this is often referred to as flagging, and it’s your responsibility as a gun owner to think ahead to avoid these instances. A good way to do this is to orient your muzzle down. And handle your firearm with an open hand. This does two things, it makes that downward orientation easier, and it lets others on the range know, that you’re following fundamental rule number two.
Rule number Three, keep your finger off of the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Trigger discipline is vital at all times, and your natural orientation of your trigger finger when you handle any firearm speaks volumes about your level of experience and proficiency, it is one hundred percent your responsibility. The good news is, your hand is naturally oriented when you take a grip on any firearm to point your index or trigger finger. The other piece of good news, there is always a point of reference on any firearm for your index or trigger finger. The trigger is never that point of reference. With a little practice, this will become the natural way you handle any firearm.
Fundamental rule number four, know your target and what is beyond it.
You are 100 percent responsible for every bullet that comes out of your gun. And your range must have a suitable backstop to catch your bullets once they go through your target. This is a valuable rule that is rooted in awareness, no matter if you are on your own range or at a public range, you must focus on your point of impact on the target and then your point of impact on the berm or backstop. Make these four fundamental rules your guide to a lifetime of fun and safe firearms ownership.
One other note for new owners, you must have hearing and eye protection when firing any gun, add that to your list of safety rules. Overall, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has the right advice to add here… Now that you own it, respect it, and secure it.