The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America. But with that right comes the responsibility of knowing how to handle your firearm safely. Be sure to carefully read the owner’s manual for your specific firearm, and always follow these tips:
1. Never point a firearm at something that is not safe to shoot.
Never let the muzzle of a firearm point at any part of your body or at another person. This is especially important when loading or unloading the firearm. When you are shooting at a target, know what is behind it. Some bullets can travel over a mile. If you miss your target or if the bullet penetrates the target, it is your responsibility to ensure that the shot does not cause unintended injury or damage.
2. Always treat a firearm as if it were loaded.
Never assume that a firearm is unloaded. The only certain way to ensure that a firearm is empty is to open the chamber and visually examine the inside to see if a round is present. Removing the magazine will not guarantee that a pistol is unloaded or cannot fire. Shotguns and rifles can be checked by cycling or removing all rounds and by then opening the chamber so that a visual inspection of the chamber for any remaining rounds can be made.
3. Store your firearm so that children cannot gain access to it.
It is your responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 18 or other unauthorized persons do not gain access to your firearm. To reduce the risk of accidents involving children, unload your firearm, lock it and store the ammunition in a separate locked location. Please note that devices intended to prevent accidents — for example, cable locks, chamber plugs, etc. — may not prevent use or misuse of your firearm by a determined person. Steel gun safes may be more appropriate to reduce the likelihood of intentional misuse of a firearm by a child or other unauthorized person.
4. Never shoot at water or at a hard surface.
Shooting at the surface of water or at a rock or other hard surface increases the chance of ricochets or fragmentation of the bullet or shot, which can result in the projectile striking an unintended or peripheral target.
5. Know the safety features of the firearm you are using, but remember: Safety devices are not a substitute for safe handling procedures.
Never rely solely on a safety device to prevent an accident. It is imperative that you know and use the safety features of the particular firearm you are handling, but accidents can best be prevented by following the safe handling procedures described in these safety rules and elsewhere in the product manual. To further familiarize yourself with the proper use of firearms, take a firearms safety course taught by an expert in firearms use and safety procedures.
6. Properly maintain your firearm.
Store and carry your firearm so that dirt or lint does not accumulate in the working parts. After each use, clean and oil your firearm, following the instructions provided in your user’s manual, to prevent corrosion, damage to the barrel or accumulation of impurities, which can prevent use of the gun in an emergency. Always check the barrel prior to loading to ensure that it is clean and free from obstructions. Firing against an obstruction can rupture the barrel and injure you or others nearby. If you hear an unusual noise when shooting, stop firing immediately, engage the manual safety and unload the firearm. Make sure the chamber is free from any obstruction or possible bullet blocked inside the barrel due to defective or improper ammunition.
7. Use proper ammunition.
Only use factory-loaded, new ammunition manufactured to industry specifications: CIP (Europe and elsewhere), SAAMI (U.S.A.). Be certain that each round you use is in the proper caliber or gauge and type for the particular firearm. The caliber or gauge of the firearm is clearly marked on the barrel of shotguns and on the slide or barrel of pistols. The use of reloaded or remanufactured ammunition can increase the likelihood of excessive cartridge pressures, casehead ruptures or other defects in the ammunition, all of which can cause damage to your firearm and injury to you or others nearby.
8. Always wear eye and hearing protection when shooting.
The chance that gas, gunpowder or metal fragments will blow back and injure a shooter who is firing a gun is rare, but the injury that can be sustained in such circumstances is severe, including the possible loss of eyesight. A shooter must always wear impact-resistant shooting glasses when firing any firearm. Hearing protection such as earplugs and ear covers will help reduce the chance of hearing damage from shooting.
9. Never climb a tree, fence or obstruction with a loaded firearm.
Open and empty the chamber of your firearm before climbing or descending a tree or before climbing a fence or jumping over a ditch or obstruction. Never pull or push a loaded firearm toward yourself or another person.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages and judgment- or reflex-impairing medication when shooting.
Do not drink and shoot. If you take medication that can impair motor reactions or judgment, do not handle a firearm while you are under the influence of the medication.
11. Never transport a loaded firearm.
Unload a firearm before putting it in a vehicle. Hunters and target shooters should load their firearms only at their destination. If you carry a firearm for self-protection, leaving the chamber unloaded can reduce the chance of accidental discharge.
12. Lead warning.
Discharging firearms in poorly ventilated areas, cleaning firearms, or handling ammunition may result in exposure to lead and other substances known to cause birth defects, reproductive harm, and other serious physical injuries. Have adequate ventilation at all times. Wash your hands thoroughly after exposure.
For information about safety courses in your area, please visit www.nra.org.