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When you first learn how to handle a gun, you are given safety rules to follow. Guns
are dangerous weapons, and can potentially be lethal, so it is imperative that they be
treated with the utmost respect. A gun is an implement, one designed primarily for
defense, and used in hunting and sport as well. Like any tool, it can be abused,
especially if the person handling it has no respect for it or for his surroundings.
Every gun comes with a safety/instruction manual, and every manual has the same basic
rules. A gun owner in Vermont will know the same safety rules as a gun owner in Texas,
California, Michigan, or any state in the country.
From the time you pick up a firearm, you have become part of a system over which you
have complete control. You are the only part of the system that can make a gun safe - or
This is the most basic safety rule. If everyone handled a firearm so carefully that
the muzzle never pointed at something they didn't intend to shoot, there would be
virtually no firearms accidents. It's as simple as that, and it's up to you.
Always Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction
Never point your gun at anything you do not intend to shoot. This is particularly
important when loading or unloading a firearm. In the event of an accidental discharge, no
injury can occur as long as the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction.
A safe direction means a direction in which a bullet cannot possibly strike anyone, taking
into account possible ricochets and the fact that bullets can penetrate walls and
ceilings. The safe direction may be "up" on some occasions or "down"
on others, but never at anyone or anything not intended as a target. Even when "dry
firing" with an unloaded gun, you should never point the gun at an unsafe target.
Make it a habit to know exactly where the muzzle of your gun is pointing at all times, and
be sure that you are in control of the direction in which the muzzle is pointing, even if
you fall or stumble. This is your responsibility, and only you can control it.
Firearms Should Be Unloaded When Not Actually In UseFirearms should be loaded only when you are in the field or on the target range or
shooting area, ready to shoot. When not in use, firearms and ammunition should be secured
in a safe place, separate from each other. It is your responsibility to prevent
children and careless adults from gaining access to firearms or ammunition. Unload your
gun immediately when you have finished shooting, well before you bring it into a car, camp
Whenever you handle a firearm or hand it to someone, always open the action (slide)
immediately, and visually check the chamber, receiver and magazine to be certain they do
not contain any ammunition. Always keep actions open when not in use. Never assume a gun
is unloaded - check for yourself! This is considered the mark of an experienced gun
Never cross a fence, climb a tree or perform any awkward action with a loaded gun. While
in the field, there will be times when common sense and the basic rules of firearms safety
will require you to unload your gun for maximum safety. Never pull or push a loaded
firearm toward yourself or another person. There is never any excuse to carry a loaded gun
in a scabbard, a holster not being worn or a gun case.When in doubt, unload your gun!
Don't Rely On Your Gun's "Safety" Treat every gun as though it can fire at any time, regardless of pressure on the
trigger. The "safety" on any gun is a mechanical device which, like any such
device, can become inoperable at the worst possible time. Besides, by mistake, the safety
may be "off" when you think it's "on". The safety serves as a
supplement to proper gun handling but cannot possibly serve as a substitute for common
sense. You should never handle a gun carelessly and assume that the gun won't fire just
because the "safety is on".
Never touch the trigger on a firearm until you actually intend to shoot. Keep your
fingers away from the trigger while loading or unloading. Never pull the trigger on any
firearm with the safety on the "safe" position or anywhere between
"safe" and "fire". It is possible for the gun to fire at any time, or
even later when you release the safety, without your ever touching the trigger again.
Never place the safety in between positions, since half-safe is unsafe. Keep the safety
"on" until you are absolutely ready to fire.
Regardless of the position of the safety, any blow or jar strong enough to actuate the
firing mechanism of a gun can cause it to fire. This can happen even if the trigger is not
touched, such as when a gun is dropped.Never rest a loaded gun against any object because
there is always the possibility that it will be jarred or slide from its position with
sufficient force to discharge. The only time you can be absolutely certain that a gun
cannot fire is when the action is open and it is completely empty. Again, never rely on
your gun's safety. You and the safe gun handling procedures you have learned are your
gun's primary safeties.
Be Sure Of Your Target And What's Beyond ItNo one can call a shot back. Once a gun fires, you have given up all control over
where the shot will go or what it will strike. Don't shoot unless you know exactly what
your shot is going to strike. Be sure that your bullet will not injure anyone or anything
behind your target. Firing at a movement or a noise without being absolutely certain of
what you are shooting at constitutes criminal disregard for the safety of others. No
target is so important that you cannot take time before you pull the trigger to be absolutely
certain of your target and where your shot will stop.
Be aware that even a .22 short bullet can travel over 1-1/4 miles and a high velocity
cartridge, such as a 30-06, can send its bullet more than 3 miles. Shotgun pellets can
travel 500 yards, and shotgun slugs have a range of over half a mile.
You should keep in mind how far a bullet will travel if it misses your intended target or
ricochets in another direction.
Use Correct Ammunition
You must assume the serious responsibility of using only the correct ammunition for
your firearm. Read and heed all warnings, including those that appear in the gun's
instruction manual and on the ammunition boxes.
Using improper or incorrect ammunition can destroy a gun and cause serious personal
injury. It takes only one cartridge of improper caliber or gauge to wreck your gun, and
only a second to check each one as you load it. Be absolutely certain that the ammunition
you are using matches the specifications that are contained within the gun's instruction
manual and the manufacturer's markings on the firearm.
Firearms are designed, manufactured and proof tested to standards based upon those of
factory loaded ammunition. Hand-loaded or reloaded ammunition deviating from pressures
generated by factory loads or from component recommendations specified in reputable
hand-loading manuals can be dangerous, and can cause severe damage to guns and serious
injury to the shooter. Do not use improper reloads or ammunition made of unknown
Ammunition that has become very wet or has been submerged in water should be discarded in
a safe manner. Do not spray oil or solvents on ammunition or place ammunition in
excessively lubricated firearms. Poor ignition, unsatisfactory performance or damage to
your firearm, and harm to yourself or others could result from using such ammunition.
Form the habit of examining every cartridge you put into your gun. Never use damaged or
substandard ammunition - the money you save is not worth the risk of possible injury or a
If Your Gun Fails To Fire When The Trigger Is Pulled, Handle With Care!Occasionally, a cartridge may not fire when the trigger is pulled.If this occurs, keep
the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keep your face away from the breech. Then,
carefully open the action, unload the firearm and dispose of the cartridge in a safe way.
Any time there is a cartridge in the chamber, your gun is loaded and ready to fire - even
if you've tried to shoot it and it did not go off.It could go off at any time, so you must
always remember Rule #1 and watch that muzzle!
Always Wear Eye And Ear Protection When ShootingAll shooters should wear protective shooting glasses and some form of hearing
protectors while shooting. Exposure to shooting noise can damage hearing, and adequate
vision protection is essential. Shooting glasses guard against twigs, falling shot, clay
target chips and the rare ruptured case or firearm malfunction. Wearing eye protection
when disassembling and cleaning ant gun will also help prevent the possibility of springs,
spring tension parts, solvents or other agents from contacting your eyes. There is a wide
variety of eye and ear protection available. No target shooter, plinker or hunter should
ever be without them.
Most rules of shooting safety are intended to protect you and others around you, but this
rule is for your protection alone. Furthermore, having your hearing and eyes protected
will make your shooting easier and and will help improve your enjoyment of the shooting
Be Sure The Barrel Is Clear Of Obstructions Before ShootingBefore you load your firearm, open the action and be certain that no ammunition is in
the chamber or magazine. Then glance through the barrel to be sure it is clear of any
obstruction. Even a small bit of mud, snow, excess lubricating oil or grease in the bore
can cause dangerously increased pressures, causing the barrel to bulge or even burst on
firing, which can cause injury to the shooter and bystanders. Make it a habit to clean the
bore with a cleaning rod and patch to wipe away anti-rust compounds in the gun each time
immediately before you shoot it. If the noise or recoil on firing seems weak or doesn't
seem quite "right", cease firing immediately and be sure to check that no
obstruction or projectile has become lodged in the barrel.
Placing a smaller gauge or caliber cartridge into a gun (such as a 20 gauge shell into a
12 gauge shotgun) can result in the smaller cartridge falling into the barrel and acting
as a bore obstruction when a cartridge of proper size is fired. This can cause a burst
barrel or worse. This is really a case where "haste makes waste". You can easily
avoid this type of accident by paying close attention to each cartridge you insert into
Don't Alter Or Modify Your Gun, And Have Guns Serviced Regularly Firearms are complicated mechanisms which are designed by experts to function properly
in their original condition. Any alteration or change made to a firearm after manufacture
can make the gun dangerous and will usually void any factory warranties. Do not jeopardize
your safety or the safety of others by altering the trigger, safety or other mechanism of
any firearm or allowing unqualified persons to repair or modify a gun. You'll usually ruin
an expensive gun. Don't do it!
Your gun is a mechanical device which will not last forever and is subject to wear. As
such, it requires periodic inspection, adjustment and service. Check with the manufacturer
of your firearm for recommended servicing.
Learn The Mechanical And Handling Characteristics Of The Firearm You Are Using Not all firearms are the same. The method of carrying and handling firearms varies in
accordance with the mechanical characteristics of each gun. Since guns can be so
different, never handle any firearm without first having thoroughly familiarized yourself
with the particular type of firearm you are using, the safe gun handling rules for
loading, unloading, carrying and handling that firearm, and the rules of safe gun handling
For example, many handgun manufacturers recommend that their handguns always be carried
with the hammer down on an empty chamber. This is particularly true for older
single-action revolvers, but applies equally to some double-action revolvers or
semi-automatic pistols. You should always read and refer to the instruction manual you
received with your gun, or if you have misplaced the manual, simply contact the
manufacturer for a free copy.
Having a gun in your possession is a full-time job. You cannot guess; you cannot forget.
You must know how to use, handle and store your firearm safely. Do not use any firearm
without having a complete understanding of its particular characteristics and safe use.
There is no such thing as a foolproof gun.
from the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc.