Always remember -- SAFETY first!

Learn the following rules of safety. Make them an unconscious, automatic part of your behavior with regard to firearms. Accidents, whether through ignorance, carelessness, or just plain bad luck, not only cause pain and suffering to individuals, but also provide ammunition to those who would use any excuse to restrict or eliminate our right to own and use firearms. Besides, promoting firearms safety is just the right thing to do.

Ignorance is just a lack of knowledge. Ignorance of firearms safety rules can easily be cured by enrolling in an NRA basic education course. These courses are inexpensive (in both time and money) and will help you develop the appropriate firearms safety knowledge and skills. Carelessness is avoided by maintaining a positive attitude with respect to firearms safety.

The NRA's Fundamental Rules
of Firearms Safety

For competitive, target, or casual "plinking" types of shooting:

  • ALWAYS   keep firearms pointed in a SAFE DIRECTION !

  • ALWAYS   keep your finger OFF THE TRIGGER until ready to shoot !

  • ALWAYS   keep firearms UNLOADED until you are ready to use them !

A "safe direction" is defined as a direction in which nobody can be injured should the firearm discharge, taking into account the fact that bullets can ricochet and/or penetrate walls, floors, and ceilings. Some folks re-phrase this rule as "Never let the muzzle of a gun cover anything you are not willing to destroy".

You should never place your finger on the trigger of a gun, or even inside the trigger guard, until the gun's sights are on the intended target. Get into the habit of laying your trigger finger along the frame, above and outside the trigger guard. This applies both before and after the shot is taken.

Unless you are carrying for defensive purposes, your firearms should always be unloaded. When handling firearms, ettiquette (and some range rules) requires that guns not in actual use be visibly unloaded, with actions open. "Safe-chamber" indicators are an excellent idea.

Use the phrase "Always, Always, Always" to help you remember the three fundamental rules of firearms safety.

Some Other Important Rules
for Safe Gun Handling:

  • EVERY gun is ALWAYS LOADED. Never believe otherwise.

  • Always be sure of your backstop (what's BEHIND your target?).

  • Make sure that guns are NOT accessible to unauthorized persons.

  • Do not rely on a gun's "safety" mechanism.

  • Know how to operate each particular gun safely.

  • Use only the correct ammunition for each gun.

  • Always wear ear and eye protection when shooting.

  • BEFORE shooting a gun, make sure the barrel is free from obstructions.

  • If a gun fails to fire, WAIT for five minutes, keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, before removing and disposing of the cartridge.

  • Do not shoot toward open water, or hard, flat surfaces.

  • Observe all local laws, rules, and Range Officers' commands.

  • Have your guns cleaned and serviced regularly, and don't allow unqualified persons to make modifications to your guns.

  • Never use alcohol or drugs before or while handling guns.

  • Have fun and enjoy the sport, but avoid horseplay and carelessness.

The Four Rules of Firearms Safety

For carrying, keeping, and using a firearm for defense:

  • ALWAYS   treat   EVERY   firearm as if it is   LOADED !   Check, first thing, every time
    you touch any firearm.

  • ALWAYS   keep firearms pointed in a SAFE DIRECTION !   Never let the muzzle cover
    (point at) anything you are not willing to destroy.

  • ALWAYS   keep your finger OFF THE TRIGGER until your sights are on-target and you
    have made the decision to shoot !

  • ALWAYS   be sure of your target AND WHAT IS BEHIND IT !

These safety rules are for those who may handle, carry, and/or use a firearm other than at a pre-determined "shooting range". You will note that they are essentially the same as the fundamental rules above, in a slightly different order and with a somewhat different emphasis, given the fact that firearms used for defense are typically loaded ahead of time.

Be Aware of Lead

These days we are learning that excessive exposure to lead can cause all sorts of unwanted effects on behavior, cognitive abilities, and general health -- in extreme cases it can be life-threatening. Even formerly common blood-lead levels in adults are now associated with increased risks of high blood pressure, impaired kidney function, fertility problems, and cataracts. In children, they are linked to deficits in attention span, adaptability, learning, and memory, and to increases in aggression and other behavioral problems.

Shooters can be exposed to lead under certain circumstances. The ignition of modern cartridge primers can produce potentially dangerous air-borne lead compounds. And, though skin contact is a lesser problem than inhalation or ingestion, many bullets are, of course, made of raw lead alloys. However, shooters can greatly reduce their risk of lead contamination by developing a few good safety habits.

Safety Tips Concerning Shooters and Lead

  • Ensure that indoor ranges you use have good, down-range ventilation airflow. (See the NRA's Range Sourcebook for guidelines and suggestions.)

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while shooting, reloading cartridges, or cleaning your firearms.

  • Do not wipe your hands on your face or clothing while shooting, reloading cartridges, or cleaning your firearms.

  • Keep a canister of pre-moistened towelettes in your range bag. A clean cloth or a supply of paper towels can also come in handy.

  • Immediately after a shooting, reloading, or cleaning session, wash your hands, face, and other exposed skin with soap and cool (not hot) water. Change your clothes, and wash the clothes worn during the session.

  • If you use indoor ranges a lot and reload your cartridges, investigate the use of lead-free primers and coated bullets.

  • Have your blood's lead level checked every year or two, via a blood sample taken by your doctor. If your blood-lead level is above 3 micrograms/deciliter, take steps to reduce your exposure. (The average level for adults is 1.2 mcg/dl or less, though the actual levels vary by state, occupation, age, sex, and other attributes. The CDC starts getting excited about anything above 10, and above 40 or so is considered lead poisoning with treatment recommended. All of these levels should be considerably reduced for children.)