Four Rules of Gun Safety

By Andy Grossman
Posted in #Skills
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Four Rules of Gun Safety

August 28th, 2021

4 minute read

As a firearms instructor and carry advocate, I absolutely love the influx of new gun owners in the country. I think everyone should be able to protect themselves and their families, and a firearm is a great tool to be able to do just that.

However, as a firearms instructor and carry advocate I also have some concerns regarding this huge influx of new people to this world — specifically, helping to make sure they understand how to safely handle their new firearms.

Press check
The safest way to conduct a chamber check, or “press check”, keeps both hands behind the trigger guard.

As a trainer, I am in a unique position where I can teach through writing, as well as in person, lessons that can help define the most important regarding gun ownership — the Four Golden Rules.

If you simply follow, practice, memorize and understand these four rules of gun safety, you will not risk an accident that could cost you your life. This is why the rules are set in stone and not to be altered.

These rules are as follows:

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Always treat the firearm as if it is loaded.
  3. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  4. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.

This means that your barrel should never point at anyone or anything you are not willing to destroy. Some situations can make keeping your barrel pointed in a safe direction harder than it sounds, though.

Demonstrating pointing gun in an unsafe direction
Your barrel should never point at anyone or anything you are not willing to destroy including TVs, pets and family members.

I like to use a gun store as an example. You may have people all around you, but you want to hold that new Springfield Hellcat you have had your eye on. Well, how do you keep it pointed in a safe direction with people all around? Keeping it pointed down at the ground is probably going to be your best bet.

Do not be that person who wants to look at the rifling in the barrel and point it at yourself.

Always treat the firearm as if it is loaded.

Get yourself in the habit of checking every single gun you touch to be sure it is clear. Do not just visually glance in the chamber, check it and check the magazine as well.

Checking chamber status of pistol
You must treat all firearms as if they are loaded. Get in the habit of checking every single gun you touch to be sure it is clear.

In my classes, every time an instructor touches a firearm we check it is clear and show clear to at least two other people in class while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction. Even if the gun is set down for a second, we check it again when it’s picked back up.

Let’s face it, you can not have any accidents if there is no ammo in the gun.

Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Your trigger finger has two positions — on the side of the frame (which is the “safety” position) and on the trigger. The absolute only time that trigger finger goes inside that trigger guard is when you are ready to pull the trigger. At this point, you have followed the first two rules and it is time to safely shoot.

Keep your finger off of the trigger
Don’t touch that trigger until you are ready to shoot. It is the final and most important “safety” in the shooting process.

If you are not ready to destroy something, DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGER ON THE TRIGGER.

Sorry for yelling there, but as an instructor, this is probably the number one thing I must constantly say in class. Again, if your finger is not on the trigger, you cannot have accidents.

Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Now that you followed the first three rules and you are ready to safely shoot, you must be sure you are shooting at exactly what you want to shoot at. Know exactly what that round is going to hit if you miss. Remember, as a gun owner you are responsible for that projectile until it stops moving.

Demonstrating breaking the rule of knowing what your target is and what is beyond it
You are responsible for every shot fired. Before pulling the trigger you better know what your target is and what may be in front of or behind it.

At times this takes a lot of planning. In a home defense situation, what if you needed to shoot from your bedroom? It’s important to understand where that round might travel within your house or even possibly outside of your house. I don’t want to have to use my gun in defense inside my own home and miss with a round that ends up in my son’s room.

At an outdoor range I do not want to miss the steel I am trying to hit and hit something behind it. Be sure you know what is always beyond your target.

If you follow the first four rules religiously, it’s practically impossible to have an accident. Enjoy that new purchase but never forget the responsibility that comes with being a gun owner.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Product prices mentioned in articles and videos are current as of the date of publication.

Andy Grossman

Andy Grossman

Andy is a content creator and photographer for a wide range of outdoor publications, including Athlon Outdoors. As a certified NRA Instructor since 2008, he has taught concealed weapons courses and firearms safety courses in Michigan. Through both photography and writing, Andy tests and reviews the latest guns and gear with the goal to bring an unbiased opinion to the reader on some of the industry’s most popular products.

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