So You’re a New Gun Owner? Firearms Safety

The very first thing you need to know as a new gun owner is the Firearms Safety Rules. Now, I’ll go ahead and tell you that there are different versions of these rules. However, in general they agree, even if slightly different wording is used.

Rule 1: Treat every firearm as if it is loaded

This is the cardinal rule of firearm safety. Far too many firearm accidents involve firearms that people swore were unloaded. Because people thought the firearms were unloaded, they did something dangerous with their firearms, like pointing it at a friend or themselves, and pulled the trigger. Even if you have checked the firearm and cleared it, treat it with respect because the minute you don’t, it will bite you.

Rule 2: Always maintain proper muzzle control

The muzzle is the end of the barrel – the part of the gun the bullet comes out of. You should always know where it is pointed. If the muzzle of your gun is pointed at something, you are accepting the possibility that it could get shot. Because of this, your muzzle should never be pointed at yourself or another living thing that does not present a threat to you. Even if you hate your spouse’s cat…

Rule 3: Keep your finger off the trigger, indexed alongside the receiver, until you are on target and the decision to fire has been made

Barring complete mechanical failure, firearms don’t fire unless someone pulls the trigger. To avoid accidents, your finger should stay off the trigger and away from it until you are ready for the gun to fire. That typically means you have identified what you are about to shoot at and have decided to pull the trigger. Then your finger goes on the trigger.

In the left picture, the finger is off the trigger but still in a position that could allow contact with the trigger. In the right picture, the finger is high and away from the trigger and the frame provides a point that I can physically reference.

When we say “indexed alongside the receiver,” we mean have your finger well away from the trigger. You don’t want your finger just laying on the outside of the trigger guard because it is easy for your finger to slip inside the trigger guard while you’re not thinking about it, or for you to have a sympathetic reaction that puts your finger inside the trigger guard. Find a tactile point on the receiver that you can touch so that you can confirm just from feel where your finger is on the receiver.

Rule 4: Know your target and what is beyond your target

Bullets don’t always stop immediately in the thing we’re shooting at. This seems obvious if we’re shooting at paper, but they don’t always stop in bodies either, or household walls. Much as you wouldn’t point a gun at something you aren’t willing to shoot, you also need to make sure that whatever is behind or around your target is also okay to shoot in case the bullet goes through or you miss.


The firearms safety rules are designed to logically address the two biggest chances of an accident. The gun won’t go off unless you pull the trigger, so keep your finger off the trigger until you consciously choose to shoot. If you were to pull the trigger prematurely, no one will be hurt if you’ve made sure that it’s pointed in a safe direction and that the area behind where you have the gun pointed is clear.

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