This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
Over the weekend, thousands of lucky people got a firearm for Christmas. For many of them, it’s the first firearm they’ve ever owned. If you or someone you know is a brand new gun owner, then check out these gun safety tips. They should be practiced over and over until they become second nature.
Preppers know that firearms are extremely important for things like hunting and self defense, but they can only keep you safe if you handle them safely. If you buy a firearm for home defense but someone gets hurt or killed because you were careless with it, then it would have been better if you’d never bought one in the first place.
So if you’re a new gun owner, I highly recommend taking a training course. In the meantime, here are 15 gun safety tips.
1. Keep Your Gun Unloaded When Not In Use
Unless you store your gun in a safe (such as this one), you should keep it unloaded when you’re not using it. Store your ammunition close enough so that you can load your gun quickly if someone breaks in (get a speed loader if you have a revolver), but don’t ever leave a loaded gun on the dresser or in a drawer. It’s just an accident waiting to happen. In a survival situation, this may be less than practical. Adjust the rule so that you are always “using” your weapon if the need arises.
2. Handle Your Gun As If It Is Loaded
Even if you have a perfect track record for unloading your firearm before putting it away, always assume it is loaded. Remember, accidents frequently happen when someone is absolutely sure their firearm is unloaded; everyone makes mistakes. That’s especially true in survival situations, so be careful.
3. Only Point Your Gun At What You Want To Shoot
Even if you think your gun is unloaded, never point it at anything or anyone you don’t want to punch a deadly hole into. It is best to keep the barrel of the weapon pointed somewhere neutral like the ground except when you are actually aiming to shoot.
4. Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger When You’re Not Firing
Until you are ready to actually squeeze a round off, don’t put your finger on the trigger. Especially do not run with your finger on the trigger. You never know what kind of distraction could make you clench your finger and fire a deadly shot.
5. Make Sure The Barrel Is Free From Obstructions
Never fire a weapon without checking the barrel for obstructions. Obviously do not point the gun at your own head when looking through the barrel. If you have fallen on or dropped your gun, there is a chance dirt made its way into your weapon. If you have to wade through water, make sure to drain the water out of the barrel before firing. If you know you’ll be wading through water a lot, you can protect your gun by placing an unlubricated condom over the barrel to keep water out.
6. Know What You’re Aiming At
Never fire at something you haven’t completely identified. This goes for target practice, hunting, and especially a firefight. This tip is important for two reasons. The first is that you don’t want to accidentally hurt another person by shooting at them. The second is that you need to know the type of material your bullet will be striking. Hard surfaces that bullets might ricochet off of should be avoided as targets or backdrops for targets.
7. Don’t Depend on Your Gun’s Safety
The safety mechanism on your gun can be a very handy feature, but don’t rely on it entirely. Use previously mentioned tips to avoid accidents. Never dry-fire a weapon that could be loaded simply because you’ve engaged the safety mechanism.
8. Wear Eye and Ear Protection
Protecting your sight and hearing is very important. Using firearms involves employing a controlled explosion, and soft tissue does not mix well with explosions. In a survival scenario, the convenience of eye and ear protection may not be available, but do your best. If you have the time and the preparation, you can acquire a suppressor and subsonic rounds for many firearms. This will allow you to save your hearing if you have to use your weapon unexpectedly.
9. Become Familiar with Your Gun
Know your weapon as well as you can. Know how to disassemble and reassemble it. Know what parts are the most likely to malfunction. Know how your weapon is sighted in. Know what types of ammunition it can safely fire. Know its range and its capabilities.
10. Always Clean Your Gun
Always clean your gun after use. This allows for optimal firing conditions. If you neglect this process long enough, it can impede the firing process and even cause unsafe conditions.
11. Only Fire the Ammunition Your Gun is Built to Handle
Never fire ammunition your gun isn’t meant to fire. Some weapons can fire multiple types of rounds safely (for example, a rifle chambered in 5.56 ammunition can also fire .223 rounds, but not vice versa).
12. Make Sure Your Ammunition Isn’t Expired
While most ammunition has a pretty long shelf life, certain storage conditions can cause your ammunition to expire. Particularly in a survival situation where normal society no longer functions properly, you may have to rely on old ammunition. To protect your ammo in the long term, always store it in a cool, dry area, preferably in a sealed container.
13. Use Proper Care When Reloading Your Own Ammunition
In a SHTF scenario, you may soon become dependent on reloading your own ammunition. When doing so, always exercise the proper safety precautions. Keep your powder stored in a separate place from your primers. Make sure you’re not reloading with damaged shells or putting in too much powder.
14. Handle Misfires Properly
If your weapon misfires, don’t confront the issue immediately. Keep your weapon aimed at the target for half a minute or so to make sure the problem isn’t a delayed fire. Once you’ve waited, carefully remove the faulty ammunition and check it for signs of malfunction. Make sure there is no obstruction remaining in the barrel of your gun.
15. Decide What You’re Comfortable With
Much of gun safety comes down to what you’re comfortable with. The weapon you feel the most comfortable with should be your go-to weapon. In addition, consider if you want to carry your weapon with a round in the chamber or not. There are advantages and disadvantages to each: having a round chambered allows for quicker reaction time but reduced safety, while not having one chambered is safer but slower to engage.
Bonus Tip: Practice!
Practice shooting as often as you can. Keep your muscles in shooting shape. Practice firing under duress. Shooting in a life-or-death situation is extremely stressful, and the first thing to go in these scenarios is fine motor skills. Practicing often will improve your muscle memory and help you react more accurately in these situations.