Guide to beginner’s gun safety

Firearm safety

Shooting a gun for the first time can be an exhilarating experience for anyone, but before you head out to the range there are a few things you should know. Shooting technique, proper stance, and more make a good shooter, but attention to gun safety makes a great shooter. In this article we’ll be exploring the proper way to enter and exit the range, safety equipment, gun storage, and gun cleaning or maintenance. All of these things will help your gun function properly and keep you along with your fellow shooters safe. So read on to learn how you can stay safe while having a great day at the range.

Gun safety may at first appear to be a very dry subject, but never fear this is after all a crash course so we’re going to keep it light and simple.
The first thing to remember about gun safety is that all guns should assume to be loaded unless you've just unloaded it yourself then verified that the chamber and magazine are empty.
You should never take anyone else’s word for this because accidents do happen. Unless the slide is locked back or the cylinder is open assume that the gun is hot. This will prevent accidental discharge that may injure you or others. So to stay safe always check to make sure that the gun you’re going to handle is absolutely empty before handling it. While checking be sure to keep the gun down range or point downward away from others to prevent injury.

So now that you’re sure that your weapon is unloaded you can either prepare to load it and shoot or clean it. If you’re going to load your weapon, be sure to use the correct rounds for your gun. You can find this information in your owner’s manual or from a local dealer. When loading your gun be sure that the label on the box and the rounds match to avoid using incorrect ammunition in your gun. If this occurs there may be serious consequences up to your gun barrel exploding which will of course ruin the gun and possibly injure you in the process. We’ll talk about cleaning your gun in just a little bit.

Also while on the range if you have a malfunction on don’t panic. Misfires, hang fires, cylinder jams, and misfeeds are common. If any of these issues occur just relax and keep your weapon pointed down range. If you can try to lock your slide back and dump the round. If you cannot clear the jam yourself stay calm and raise your hand, all the while keeping your weapon pointed down range or at your chosen target. Someone more experienced on the range will come to assist you.
Each year many firearms injuries occur from improperly cleared jams and misfires. To prevent this just relax and point down range then ask for help if you need it.
So now that your gun is loaded you might be chomping at the bit to fire the first round, but there’s more to consider. While shooting you’ll be needing some safety gear to have a great time during your trip to the range. Before firing that first shot you’ll need to put on muffs or ear plugs. Gun safety glasses will also be necessary to protect your eyes from debris off the target or in the event of gun malfunction. So before you head out to the range head to your local sporting goods store to pick up some glasses and muffs that fit you well. If you like ear plugs better those are fine too, just be sure to protect your ears. Shooting without ear protection over a long period of time is likely to lead to hearing loss.

Now let’s talk about the gun safety mechanism

Most modern guns do come with a safety which can be engaged while the gun is loaded to help prevent accidental discharge. If you’re shooting a gun without a safety you need to unload the gun if you’re going to be laying it down.
This is because without a safety mechanism there is no way to prevent accidental discharge if someone happens to pick up your gun. So be smart about using the safety lock on your gun, but remember a gun safety is not an easy fix and malfunction may occur so handle your gun carefully. You still need to remember to be careful and keep the muzzle pointed away from others.

Alright you’re ready to shoot now and you can finally get on the range. When you get there though you’ll need to keep in mind that others will be shooting with you so keep bystanders in mind at all times when your weapon is loaded.
Before you shoot always check to be sure that the range is clear. Sweep the range with your eyes and remind others that you’re about to fire.
This will help them to be prepared with muffs on. It will also prevent others from entering the range as you’re firing or about to fire. This is a very important part of gun safety and should never be neglected. Also remember to know what you’re shooting at.

When you’re actively aiming and shooting it’s important to know what you’re shooting at. So be sure that you can see your target clearly. This applies to range shooting and hunting. Even if the deer is the prize of the season don’t shoot unless you’re sure it’s a deer you’re shooting at.
Also never pull the trigger without knowing what your backstop is going to be and be sure you can see beyond your target.
This prevents you from firing at someone else or from have ricochet from a hard backstop. This like making sure the range is clear is always an essential point of gun safety that will prevent many injuries throughout your range visits.

Now you’re ready to pull that trigger and hopefully hit your target. When you’re ready to fire be sure to hold your gun in a moderate grip. A loose grip may cause jamming to many modern hand guns and a tight grip will skew your aim. A tight grip may also cause you to feel more recoil in your wrists or cause injury to this area during firing. So hold your gun in a good firm grip and relax. Keep your eye on the target and breathe to prevent flinching when the shot is fired. This will prevent your shot from landing where you weren’t aiming for it to go.

Now that you’ve shot it is likely someone else’s turn so step aside pull up your muffs again and keep clear of the range while others are firing. When the day is done you need to clean your gun to prevent malfunction. As mentioned earlier be sure that your gun is empty and the slide is locked back or the cylinder is open.
Be sure to verify that the chamber is empty as well to once again prevent accidental discharge. Then clean your gun as the manufacturer suggests with an appropriate gun cleaning kit and be prepared to store your gun in an appropriate way.
While tedious and sometimes time consuming gun cleaning and handgun storage solutions really are an important part of gun safety. Don't put gun maintence on your to do list for later, you will most likely forget and that is when safety issues become a problem. We discussed this in our previous post, take a look here: Why Cleaning and Maintaining Your Weapon is Important

Gun Safety at Home

So now you’re ready to go home and put away your gun after a great day at the range, but this too requires consideration for safety. Always keep in mind that guns should be stored unloaded and in an inaccessible place unless you have a concealed carry permit. In fact for beginners transporting your gun this way is probably the best option to prevent any accident that could occur from your gun being loaded. Your gun should be unloaded anyway after cleaning it at the range so this should be no problem. Ideally you should transport your gun in gun storage boxes to protect your gun and your passengers.

Once home you should also take care to store your gun in a safe location away from children and pets. There are many gun storage solutions on the market from trigger locks or gun locks, to gun storage boxes, and gun storage cabinets. We want to make a special note here and say that most accidents involving children can be prevented if we teach them to respect and properly handle firearms. We wrote a separate post dealing with just that, take a look here: Teaching Children to Respect Firearms
Whatever way you chose to store your gun, always store it unloaded to prevent discharge if someone were to bypass the trigger lock and break into your box or cabinet.
This is especially important if you have young children in your home who will naturally be curious and who will want to explore. Guns may fascinate them and cause severe accident s even leading to death in some cases. So always follow gun safety rules to keep everyone as safe as possible. You may also want to ask your local law enforcement office about the opportunity for free gun locks to protect your family as well. If you are interested we put together some safety tips here: Safety Tips For Keeping A Handgun In Your Home

We mentioned young children above, but I’d like to take a minute to talk about gun safety in children. While no one should be frightened of guns it is important to have a healthy respect for guns. Later on when your children are older you may want them to shoot with you. There are many ways to help them be safe including beginners gun safety guides and gun safety classes which are often taught as a part of hunter’s safety courses in some areas. So while you should instill a healthy respect for firearms in your children there’s no need to frighten them. Just be honest with them and keep your guns stored safely to prevent firearms injuries in your home.

So there you have a quick down and dirty guide to beginner’s gun safety that you can use right now to stay safe and have a great time shooting. Just remember never point a gun at anything you don’t want to harm. So keep your muzzle pointed down range and be sure to unload your gun when you’re finished shooting. Also remember to store your guns safely with a trigger safety lock to prevent accidental discharges in your home. That’s really all there is to it and you can be shooting safely in no time with these quick tips. Also as one last point please never shoot alone and always shoot with an experienced safe gun handler for your first time.

This is something that you cant do at a range but we urge you to practice the motions of drawing from your concealed carry holster, you can do this with an unloaded gun. Take a loo here: 5 Reasons Why You Should Practice Drawing your gun

Megan Spencer  

About The Author


Megan Spencer is a paramedic from North Carolina and a freelance writer with an interest in hand guns, particularly antique revolvers. She is currently pursuing a degree in Emergency Medical Care from Western Carolina University. She has been shooting for quite some time with various experts from law enforcement and military backgrounds. When she’s not working she enjoys archery and genealogy.