Firearm and Ammunition Safety
Firearms Safety is something that can never
be taken lightly. Even with experts accidents can happen. A recent
email that I received chronicles an accident that happened to a highly trained
law enforcement officer. I feel that his story is an eye-opener and an
excellent prelude to the firearm safety instructions below.
Read "Glock Unintended
Discharge by a U. S. Marshall" by clicking here.
The following safety
recommendations were obtained from
Joe St Sauver of the University of Oregon and are reprinted here
with his permission.
This firearm safety document
can be downloaded via a link found at the bottom of this page.
I. The Fundamentals of
The three basic general
rules of safe gun handling.
Always point the muzzle in a safe
direction; never point a firearm at anyone or anything you don't want to
Keep your finger off the trigger and
outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
Keep the action open and the gun unloaded
until you are ready to use it.
II. Additional specific
rules of safe gun handling
Safety Rules Related to the
Shooter and His Behavior.
Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
Never pass a firearm to another person,
or accept a firearm from another person, until the cylinder or action is
open and you've personally checked that the weapon is completely unloaded.
Before handling any firearm, understand
Never rely on any mechanical device for
Think before shooting: once you pull the
trigger you can't take back the shot you've just fired!
Never joke around or engage in horseplay
while handling or using firearms.
Be alert at all times; never shoot if
you're tired, cold or impaired in any way. Don't mix alcohol or drugs with
Don't sleep with a loaded firearm in your
bedroom if you sleepwalk, have nightmares, sleep restlessly or have other
Safeguard your sight, hearing and health.
Always wear eye and ear protection. Endeavor to limit your exposure to heavy
metal particulates and gases, and minimize your contact with aromatic
organic solvents (such as those commonly used in gun cleaning products).
If you see unsafe behavior any time when
firearms are being handled or used, speak up and take action to correct the
unsafe behavior at once.
Receive competent instruction from a
qualified person before beginning to shoot. If questions arise later, after
you've been shooting for a period of time, get answers to those questions
from a competent authority.
Safety Rules Related to
Positively identify your target and the
threat it poses before firing at it.
What's behind your target? Always make
sure that a stray shot, or a bullet which penetrates its intended target
through and through, will be safely stopped.
Never shoot at a hard surface, or at
water -- your shot may glance off, ricochet and injure someone.
Never shoot at glass bottles, living
trees, or inappropriate targets which would create a hazard for other
persons or damage the environment.
Never shoot a rifle or handgun directly
upwards, or at a high angle of elevation. Even a rimfire .22 bullet fired at
an angle into the air can have enough energy a mile and a half away to
accidentally kill someone!
Never shoot across a highway or other
Never vandalize a road sign (or other
public or private property) by using it as a target.
Never poach a game animal out of season,
or shoot any game animal you don't intend to eat.
Safety Rules Related to
Make sure your firearm is in good
mechanical condition before firing it. Periodically have your firearm
checked for signs of erosion, cracking, or wear by the factory, by a
qualified armorer, or by a factory certified gunsmith.
Never try to fire a gun which may have a
plugged or partially obstructed barrel.
Insure that any modifications made to a
firearm are made by a qualified individual, and that those modifications
don't interfere with your firearm's safety features.
Be sure all accessories, such as holsters
and grips, are compatible with the firearm and won't interfere with its safe
Remember: a backup firearm carried about
your person may be highly valuable to you in the event your primary firearm
is ever rendered inoperable or is taken from you by an assailant.
It is your responsibility to insure that
your firearm is always either about your person and under your personal
control, or positively secured from access by children or other unauthorized
parties. Prevent tragedy: lock down your firearms when they aren't in use.
When storing a firearm for a long period
of time, consider storing the slide, bolt, or other critical components of
the firearm separately under separate lock and key.
Never carry a single action revolver with
a round under the hammer unless that revolver is a modern transfer-bar type,
equipped with an inertial firing pin.
Never carry a pistol with a round in the
chamber unless the pistol has an automatic firing-pin block and/or an
inertial firing pin.
Generally avoid carrying or storing an
external hammer-type firearm with its hammer cocked. Exercise extreme care
in decocking any external hammer firearm: it is very easy to experience an
accidental discharge while doing so if your thumb slips off the hammer.
Generally avoid unloading a firearm by
working the cartridges through the action one-at-a-time; drop the magazine
and then eject the round which may be left in the chamber, instead, if
Never use a scope mounted on a firearm as
a general purpose spotting scope: while observing an area you may end up
accidentally aiming your firearm at fellow hunters, or other non-targets.
Avoid trying to catch a live round (while
unloading a semiautomatic pistol) by cupping your hand around the ejection
port while retracting the slide; doing so may result in an accidental
Safety Rules Related to
Be sure your gun and ammunition are
compatible. Shooting incorrect ammunition in a firearm may cause it to be
damaged or even make it blow up.
Relying on ammunition which doesn't feed
reliably in your particular firearm may make your firearm malfunction at a
critical juncture: get experience with a particular lot of ammunition in
your firearm before relying on it for defensive purposes.
Use only ammunition recommended for your
firearm by its manufacturer. Never fire ammunition which exceeds industry
standard pressure specifications. Over-pressure ammunition will reduce the
service life of your handgun, and puts you and those around you at risk of a
catastrophic firearm failure.
Use reloaded ammunition judiciously. Be
aware that many firearms manufacturers specifically forbid the use of
reloaded ammunition in their products, and will void their product's
warranty if you elect to use reloaded ammunition in contravention of their
instructions. Also remember that a cartridge which has: the wrong powder, no
powder charge, or too large a powder charge; an inverted primer, mis-seated
primer, the wrong type of primer or an inert primer; a mis-seated, inverted,
or mis-sized bullet; a collapsed, weakened, improperly sized or mis-crimped
case; incorrect overall length or any of a host of other defects may
seriously jeopardize your safety, the safety of those around you, and/or the
reliability of your firearm in a defensive situation.
Many shooters prepare and safely use reloaded ammunition each day, and it
can be an economical way to stretch your ammunition budget, but the safety
of that reloaded ammunition directly depends on the care, components,
equipment, and practices used in preparing it.
Carry only one caliber of ammunition when
shooting. Accidentally grabbing the wrong ammunition while shooting can
result in a shooter or third party being injured, or damage or destruction
of a firearm.
Insure you carry sufficient spare
ammunition for your defensive firearm, and make sure you carry it in a
readily employable fashion (such as in spare magazines or in speedloaders).
Store ammunition that isn't being used
under lock and key, inaccessible to unauthorized parties and children.
Dispose of unwanted ammunition safely.
Safety Rules Related to
Your Firearm's Holster and Ammo Carrier.
Always use a holster which is designed
for, and which fits, your handgun.
Make sure your holster covers the trigger
guard of your handgun.
Purchase a holster which allows you to
obtain a secure grip on your handgun while it is still holstered.
Be sure the thumb break, safety strap, or
other firearm retention device on your holster is functional and
consistently employed. A good holster should retain your firearm during
normal carry and routine physical activity, but no holster can insure that a
firearm will be secure against determined attempts at disarmament, or keep a
firearm secure during all possible physical activities.
Avoid clip-on holsters and magazine
pouches. These carriers may fail to stay clipped to the belt and end up
being drawn along with the firearm or the magazine they still hold, thereby
interfering with use of the firearm or with timely reloading.
Avoid paddle-style holsters, cross draw
holsters, and similar holsters which provide poor weapon retention.
Avoid ankle holsters, shoulder holsters
and other types of holsters which can introduce unnecessary delays in
accessing a defensive firearm.
Avoid carrying a defensive firearm in a
purse, pocketbook, daypack or briefcase. A firearm carried in that fashion
Typically hard to rapidly access due
to the presence of slow-to-open zippers, multiple latches, etc.,
Often hard to find and draw amidst
all the other items routinely carried, since few purses or briefcases
include a dedicated handgun-carrying compartment,
Prone to being unavailable when
needed, since briefcases, purses and other carriers are routinely set
down or put away in a desk drawer where they may or may not be readily
accessible and under your physical control,
Unusually vulnerable to being stolen,
since purses, pocketbooks, daypacks and briefcases are prime targets for
purse snatchers, pick pockets, muggers and thieves,
Prone to misfunction in an emergency
since materials carried along with your handgun in a purse or brief case
may gum up the firearm's mechanism and potentially interfere with its
proper operation, and
Likely to allow your handgun to
accidentally become visible to shop clerks, bank tellers or other
parties while you are searching for your checkbook or locating a credit
card, and that inadvertent exposure may potentially result in a tense
situation or even a tragic over-reaction on the part of an individual
noticing the firearm and/or summoning law enforcement officers to the
Never carry a handgun tucked into your
belt or waistband without a holster (i.e., so-called "Mexican carry''). A
handgun carried in this fashion may be unintentionally dislodged, fall onto
a hard surface and accidentally discharge or be damaged. Inside the
waistband-type holsters will allow you to obtain the concealment of this
type of carry while simultaneously providing vastly improved firearm
Always employ a proper magazine holder or
speed loader carrier to carry your spare ammunition. Select a design that
secures and protects your speedloaders or magazines while still making them
readily available for use. Avoid ammunition loops and ammo dump boxes.
Never put a partially empty magazine or
speedloader back into a magazine carrier or speedloader pouch: only full
magazines or full speedloaders belong in a carrier. Partially empty
magazines or speed loaders should go into your pocket; empty magazines or
speedloaders should be allowed to fall where they're used during an
Miscellaneous Safety Rules.
At a range, obey the commands of the
range officers, or any individual calling `cease fire,' at once. Read, know
and follow any rules peculiar to a particular range which you may be using.
Be careful of hot gases and metal
shavings ejected at the forcing cone of a revolver.
Keep your fingers and other parts of your
body away from the muzzle, the rear of the slide, and the ejection area of a
In the event of a misfire, keep the
firearm pointed in a safe direction, remove your finger from the trigger,
wait ten seconds, then eject the cartridge and dispose of it properly.
If you hear an unusual sound upon
squeezing the trigger or feel an unusual recoil, stop shooting and
investigate. You may have experienced a ``squib'' load (or under-powered
cartridge), and it may have caused a bore obstruction. Keep the firearm
pointed in a safe direction, remove your finger from the trigger, wait ten
seconds, then unload the firearm and safely examine the barrel, checking
carefully for any possible obstructions before reloading and resuming
Climb a tree with a loaded firearm,
Cross a fence with a loaded firearm,
Jump a ditch or ford a stream with a
Scale or descend a steep incline or
hill with a loaded firearm,
Climb a tree, or climb into a hunting
stand with a loaded firearm,
Prop or lean a loaded firearm against
a tree or other surface which may allow it to slide, or Transport a
cased loaded firearm.
Always carry your firearms in a way which
will allow you to control where the muzzle is pointing, should you stumble
A ballistic vest may substantially
improve your chances of surviving an armed encounter on the street.
Always wear a thousand square inches or
more of blaze orange while in the field during hunting season.
Blackpowder (and replica blackpowder)
firearms require additional safety precautions not discussed here. Obtain
qualified instruction in the safe operation of blackpowder firearms before
attempting to load or fire any such firearm.
Circumstances may require additional
safety rules unique to a particular situation.
III. Safe Gun Storage.
When you are not using your firearm, you
should insure that it is store safely. Affirmative measures designed to prevent
unauthorized access to a defensive firearm by minors, or firearm theft, include:
Use of a simplex-type locking box for
securing firearms which need to be kept loaded yet available for
ready-access defensive use, and
Use of trigger locks or padlocks to
secure firearms which don't need to be kept immediately available for
Also note that:
Gun security devices which rely solely on
physical strength to secure firearms from unauthorized use are generally
undesirable since ingenious children can potentially employ leverage or
tools to overcome those devices.
"Hiding" a firearm won't secure it from
discovery and possible misuse by curious children or intruders.
Metal gun cabinets or gun safes can be
used to safeguard firearms from unauthorized access or theft in many
circumstances and metal gun cabinets or gun safes are generally preferable
to open racks or glass-front cabinets.
Firearms should be stored unloaded and
separate from ammunition when the firearm isn't needed for ready-access
You may want to store critical components
of a firearm (such as the gun's bolt or slide) separately from the rest of
the firearm when the gun won't be used in the immediate future.
Consider engraving your firearms with
your social security number, driver's license number, or concealed firearms
license number to deter theft and facilitate return of stolen firearms which
may happen to be recovered.
Explore "gun-proofing" your child by
proper training, and by controlled and closely supervised access to firearms
to reduce your child's natural unsatisfied curiosity about firearms.
Download these firearm safety rules and
recommendations as a MS Word Document by clicking the following link:
Firearm Safety Fundamentals
| Word Doc | 49 KB