The Ultimate Guide To Gun Safety
It is the responsibility of the carrier or owner of a firearm to properly observe gun safety. Firearms have destructive potential, and safe gun handling cannot be overstated. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a complete novice looking to get a handle on safe firearms practices, this guide from Alien Gear Holsters has the tips, tricks and knowledge that you need to understand basic firearm safety.
Those seeking instruction should do so from qualified professionals. This guide is solely for informational purposes, and Alien Gear Holsters disclaims any responsibility, liability or otherwise from any inadvertent errors contained herein. The reader assumes all risks when handling firearms.
Gun Safety Rules
A misfire is when a round is struck by the hammer, striker or firing pin and something other than a normal discharge occurs. Typically, the round's primer is struck causing an immediate discharge, propelling the bullet out of the barrel and causing recoil. In semi-automatics, this will also cause the action to cycle, ejecting the spent case. If anything other than that happens when the trigger is pulled, that's a misfire.
There are three types of firing malfunctions, true misfires, hangfires, and squibs. Each has it's own distinct causes, symptoms and resolutions. If a gun goes "click," when a round should have fired, there are a few things to do.
Pause To Allow For Hangfire
If a round does not fire when struck, first pause in case of a hangfire. Keep the muzzle on target; do NOT attempt to put the muzzle anywhere else.
The reason to do this is to allow for the possibility of a hangfire, which occurs when a round is struck but discharge is delayed. The delay may be less than a second, though it can be longer. Generally, pause for about 30 seconds if a round fails. If the round hasn't discharged after a good 30 seconds or so, it isn't likely to.
Hangfires usually occur to due to a bad round. The primer may not have been properly seated or the powder may have degraded or have been from a bad batch of gunpowder. There may have also been a malfunction of a firing pin that caused it to insufficiently strike the primer.
After a hangfire, examine the round. You should see a deep indentation in the primer. If you want to tell the difference, find a case that was normally expended, and compare the striker marks. If you notice the normally discharged round has a deeper mark than the hangfire round, that's a problem with the gun. Cease firing and take it to a gunsmith.
If it was the round, this may have been a defect with that round or the batch of ammunition it was part of. Fire another round to see if that's the case. If no other hangfire occurs with that box or boxes, then it was likely a bad bullet. However, if it repeats, and the issue clearly isn't the pistol, it's likely a bad batch of ammunition.
Take special care with hangfire from a revolver. Do NOT cycle the cylinder; be sure to eject the round after a misfire. A hangfire that occurs in a revolver cylinder, without the cylinder chamber being in battery behind the barrel, will likely do fatal damage to the pistol. Therefore, if a misfire occurs when shooting a revolver, allow some time so a hangfire can safely discharge. If a misfire occurs, remove the round from the pistol if not all ammunition entirely.
Dealing With A True Misfire
A true misfire is when a round is struck by the hammer, striker or firing pin and does not discharge. Misfires pose the greatest danger, as the round has not discharged and therefore might. Thus, treat these with great caution.
If a round fails to fire, give it some time in case of a hangfire. If no discharge occurs, eject the cartridge and back away. If the round is still inert after a misfire, it generally will not go off if a few minutes have elapsed. Try to visually examine the round but don't try to pick it up or examine it too closely.
Misfires occur due to largely the same reasons as hangfires - bad ammunition or a malfunctioning firearm. Treat the same as a hangfire. If you can cycle other cartridges of the same ammunition, then you likely had a dud, which does - albeit rarely - occur. If not, then there was likely a mechanical malfunction.
In the latter case, take your gun to a reputable gunsmith for servicing.
The Squib Load: Worst of All Malfunctions
The worse malfunction is a squib load. How guns work is that sufficient pressure is generated by the explosion of propellant to send a bullet out of the barrel at high velocities. A squib load occurs when a round generates insufficient pressure to do so.
A squib load occurs when insufficient primer or propellant or bad primer or propellant(s) are put in the cartridge when it is loaded, either by hand or in a factory. This causes a dull discharge.
- Signs of a squib are:
- Quieter or odd noise at discharge
- Lighter or no recoil
- Discharge from ejection port or other applicable area
- Failure to cycle (in semi-autos)
The report will not be as loud, there won't be any or as much recoil as normal, and a semi-auto will often fail to cycle after a squib. Discharge of gases may also occur from parts of the pistol that normally emit none.
Hangfires and squib loads are more common in older firearms - especially black powder guns that have a flash pan. Additionally, poorly-made handloaded ammunition can result in a squib as well. Bad ammunition can also come from a factory, so even factory ammunition can produce a squib.
If a squib occurs, cease firing immediately. Many squibs leave a projectile in the barrel; firing again can easily result in a catastrophic failure of the firearm, including a possible barrel explosion. This can result in serious injury or death. Should you ever experience a squib, cease firing, unload the gun and take it to a gunsmith.
Some may recommend that a punch and a mallet be used to drive the squibbed bullet from the barrel. You can attempt this fix, but if you encounter considerable resistance, stop - and take the gun to a gunsmith.
Case Head Separation
Holster safety involves a number of factors. Primary among them is retention. Not every design offers the same amount of holster retention. The easier it is to get a gun out of the holster, the easier it is for it to come out when a person didn't mean it.
Some holsters feature a retention feature of some sort, such as a thumb break strap. Some holster makers create models with multiple retention features, for maximum security.
The individual carrier will have to decide what retention level they are comfortable with. Some holsters are adjustable, so the owner can set the retention level they want. A lighter retention level means easier access, but also makes it easier for either someone to grab the gun against the owners' wishes, or for it to fall out. Tight retention makes drawing and reholstering more difficult, but a grab or a fall less likely.
Trigger guard coverage is likewise a concern. Many modern semi-auto pistols feature only an integrated trigger safety; the gun can thus only fire if the trigger is pulled. A holster that doesn't cover the full trigger guard can potentially snag on the trigger while being drawn or even with moderate movement, which can cause an accidental discharge. Unless one is going to carry a gun that has either a long trigger pull or additional safety mechanisms, anything less than full trigger coverage should be avoided.
Holster materials generally are either plastic, leather or synthetic, though hybrid designs incorporating all materials are available as well as holster design has evolved greatly in recent years. Whereas once a simple leather pancake was all that was available, now there are a myriad of options.
Leather holsters can, like any holster, pose certain risks. Reholstering in many leather pancake holsters can be awkward, as the lack of structural rigidity will cause the holster to "wilt" once drawn from the holster. Additionally, some belt slide leather holsters - which consist of little more than a leather loop an inch or two in width that partially covers the trigger guard - can cause an accidental discharge with some pistols, as the material can snag and engage the trigger. This is especially a danger in pistols with a light trigger pull that have only passive trigger safety systems.
Composite or Plastic holsters are widely popular, with many being marketed as "tactical" holsters and/or "duty holsters" for military and police personnel. These holsters are made out of durable, low-friction plastics such as Boltaron or Kydex. The latter has become almost synonymous with holster use and some refuse to even consider purchasing a holster made from any other material despite there being no difference functionally between Kydex and comparable polymers. Some manufacturers have begun making holsters from carbon fiber as well.
Kydex holsters, or holsters made from other composites, are quite safe, as many ARE employed as duty holsters by police and military personnel. However, added safety measures can add complexities that aren't easy to navigate. Pressure-activated retention systems, which require a specific action release the pistol, can be very difficult to operate under stress and accidental discharges are known to have occurred with such retention systems.
Nylon holsters and holsters made from other synthetic materials are extant as well. Like leather, these holsters are made with a thick, heavy-duty cloth. Many of these are budget models, though many are perfectly functional despite the perceived lack of quality due to price. Despite many of these holsters are perfectly safe despite sometimes lacking as much retention as other designs, posing a danger of allowing a firearm to slip out of the holster during physical activity, which can lead to a drop-fire with older firearms or those lacking a drop safety.
Lastly, there are hybrid holsters. Hybrid holsters combine materials, usually with a cloth backer (such as leather, neoprene, nylon or multilayer design) combined with a plastic (often Kydex, Boltaron or carbon fiber) holster retention shell.
Some hybrid holsters feature adjustable retention, wherein the retention shell can be adjusted up or down to provide greater or lesser tension against the gun's surface. Many such holster shells are custom-molded to fit a specific make and model of pistol, and such holsters will provide much better retention than designs that are not. However, the lack of other retention features (such as a thumb-break strap) can turn some people away from these holsters.
Types of Holster
Every type of holster has benefits and drawbacks; it's up to the carrier to decide which they want to employ. Some people have several and alternate depending on circumstances.
Waistband holsters are the most popular. The reason is that they are the easiest to wear and access if need be. Inside the waistband or IWB holsters are worn tucked into the waistband, and can be easily concealed under an untucked shirt or with a shirt tucked over them, though some wear them for open carry as well. Outside the waistband or OWB holsters are typically worn on the belt. While they can be concealed - often easily with a jacket or untucked longtail shirt - they are most popular for open carrying. All but the largest of pistols can be carried in this manner, including concealed.
Ankle holsters are likewise easily concealed, though only if one is wearing long pants. Many find them awkward and quick access is not possible. Many consider ankle holsters only fit for a backup gun and are only feasible for small pistols. Jogging is also not recommended while wearing them.
Shoulder holsters are only concealable under outerwear, and do not easily conceal bulkier pistols. However, many people find shoulder holsters don't distribute the weight of the pistol the best. As a result, not everyone considers them the most comfortable. Some may, but a lot of people don't. This plus the additional expense of shoulder holsters is part of why many avoid the Bond rig.
Thigh holsters have become wildly popular in recent years, as they are highly "tacticool" and are very popular in the open carry crowd. Concealment is impossible unless one wears a trench coat. Thigh holsters are easily and naturally accessed, though, which is why they are so highly regarded and also used by the military and elite law enforcement units.
Pocket carry is possible with small pistols as well, though the use of a pocket holster is absolutely recommended. Pocket carry makes for very easy concealment in some cases, though it can wear one's pants pockets out much sooner than they intended.
Off-body holsters, such as concealed carry purses and fanny pack carry, have a certain amount of traction as well.
Gun Grip Holster Access
Another aspect of gun safety is safe gun storage. Firearms should be properly stored in the home, though some disagree on just what that entails. In any case, there are certain universals of gun storage that should be observed.
First, firearms should be kept safe from moisture. Whether loaded or unloaded, moisture can cause rust, which can and will ruin an afflicted gun if left untreated.
Second, they should not be accessible by everyone.
Some prefer ammo storage and gun storage to be in the same location, some prefer to keep the two locked up in separate locations. The latter approach concentrates firearms and their ammunition in one location. Provided sufficient security, such as a gun safe or strong box with access limited to very few people, this approach can be perfectly safe.
However, many subscribe to the notion that separate, locked ammo storage and gun storage is preferable and in truth is more secure as more layers of security decrease the odds of a tragedy occurring. Many with children in the home will store ammunition separately from their guns, ensuring that even if they can somehow access the one, they cannot access the other.
Types Of Gun Storage
There are a number of different options one has for gun storage, and tossing a pistol in a dresser or nightstand drawer is not the best among them.
The most basic is a simple lockbox, as they are widely available and cheap. Many are little more than a metal box with a simple lock and key, though models are available with combination locks and even some featuring biometric (thumbprint) locks as well. If one wants to keep one or two pistols by the bed, they are a decent option. If you want a separate storage container for ammunition, they are also a good choice.
The best lockboxes are also mountable, as many feature bolt holes through which one can mount it to a surface such as a dresser, nightstand or shelf of some kind. This prevents the box from being moved. Some models can even be mounted to a wall - just make sure those are mounted to a stud.
Be wary of electronic locks, as fresh batteries must be maintained for the lockbox to work.
There are also gun cases. Many firearms come with a case at the point of purchase (it's mandatory for pistol purchases in many U.S. states) and most gun cases either feature locking latches or can be locked using a cable or padlock. Provided solid construction and a good lock, these are perfectly viable methods of storage. Metal cases will often be the most durable, though many plastic cases are just as strongly built if not more so. Look for gun cases that are rated for airline use; these will the most solidly built.
A gun cabinet is exactly what it sounds like - a cabinet for guns. Most have a simple lock on the doors, so make sure to not lose the key once locked. These are the classiest and most elegant, but can be the easiest to break into as many have simple glass doors. Therefore, you may want to consider purchasing a model that does not have glass doors, as a metal or totally wooden cabinet will not have this weakness.
However, a number of gun cabinets are no longer just simple uprights. Many gun cabinets and lock boxes are taking alternate shapes, as full-on gun storage furniture is becoming proliferate. Many take the shape of common household furniture, such as ottomans, wall shelving, even entire bed frames.
Gun safes are, naturally, the most safe. A gun safe provides the greatest degree of security, as access the most impeded. Additionally, many are fireproof, so your firearms and any other valuables stored in a gun safe can easily survive a fire in your home.
Gun safes range in size, so one need not dedicate an entire closet to it. Small safes are very popular for pistols, and many gun owners install one on a nightstand or in a nightstand drawer. However, long gun safes do require the requisite space for upright or horizontal storage.
Using a Gun Lock
Some prefer to not only lock their firearms away, but employ a gun lock as well. There are different types of gun lock, and each works a little differently.
A cable lock is a type of padlock, but the part of the lock that's inserted into the main lock housing (the shackle) is on a cable instead of being a piece of solid metal like the padlocks many are used to. Everything else is the same though; insert the shackle, turn the key and it's locked.
Cable locks can be threaded through a gun's action and thereby render a gun unfireable, including pistols and many long guns. For those who want to keep a gun locked and inert while in storage, this method can be employed for very little cash and is very effective.
Trigger locks are one of the more popular types of gun lock. They may even be required in some jurisdictions. They are very simple, as trigger locks have two halves - one side with a shackle and one side with a lock cylinder. The shackle goes through the trigger guard, into the lock cylinder. Push the halves together until the lock "clicks." Just like a cable lock, open with a key.
However, trigger locks are known for a particular defect, in that the lock shackle sits on top of the trigger. A loaded pistol can be discharged if the trigger lock has sufficient travel, which a number of parents' groups, firearms and sporting advocacy groups, municipal and state governments are aware of. Some forswear against trigger locks for this very reason. With that said, every trigger lock comes with a manufacturer's warning not to employ a trigger lock on a loaded gun. Therefore, if you are going to use one, do NOT employ a trigger lock on gun that's loaded.
Rifles of AR-15 designs (and similar semi-automatic rifles) also can use magazine well locks, which range in design to a simple plastic block to mechanical locks.
Cable and trigger locks are the most common, but there are other gun lock designs though they are less common. Some pistols are manufactured with a locking system that the owner can actuate with a special key, often an Allen wrench (or hex key) or something like it, and there are other evolving gun lock designs. However, cable locks and trigger locks are currently the most prevalent.
Best Practices For Ammunition Safety
Ammunition safety is likewise important, as proper storage and use is paramount. A gun, in and of itself, is an inert machine; basically a gun is little more than a dead weight until it's loaded. Ammunition is what poses the actual proximate danger, as bullets fly very fast and do a lot of damage once they enter tissue. A bullet is basically a tiny bomb that sends a piece of metal flying, so it behooves a person to use it safely and give it the respect it deserves.
Use Correct Ammunition
Naturally, you want to use the correct ammunition. Incorrect ammunition will either not work or can cause a catastrophic failure which can ruin a weapon or cause serious injuries and/or death. It is of paramount importance that any firearm be loaded only for the ammunition it is chambered for.
The easiest way to see what sort of ammunition you should be using, look on or around the barrel of the firearm, and the chambering should engraved on the barrel. For shotguns, the chamber length should also be indicated. Once you have determined what ammunition you're supposed to be using, use ONLY that kind of ammunition.
If you are unsure about a gun's caliber, do not shoot it until you find out. Take it to a qualified gunsmith and they should be able to find out for you.
For shotgun ammunition, note the length of the shell. Most shotguns found in the United States are chambered for 2-¾ inch and 3-inch shells. Some are chambered for 3-½-inch shells, which are magnum rounds. Do not fire a round that is not supposed to be fired from your gun. Just like with rifles and pistols, a shotgun should have the bore (gauge) and chamber length engraved on the gun. If unsure, take it to a qualified gunsmith to find out.
After you have determined what caliber of ammunition your gun uses, ensure that you have the right bullets. Most of the time you can just read the box. However, if no box is available - for whatever reason - there are other ways to tell.
Centerfire firearms, which includes basically all shotguns, most rifles and pistols, use a cartridge that has the primer (a charge of shock-sensitive powder that sparks the main propellant charge upon being impacted by a striker or hammer) in the center of the round. Around the rim of the cartridge - the outside ring on the bottom of the bullet case - you should notice the caliber has been imprinted there.
Rimfire cartridges will not. However, there are only only a few common rimfire calibers - .22 WMR aka .22 Magnum, .22 long rifle or .22LR, and .17 HMR. Bear in mind that there are more than just these rimfire calibers, such as .17 HM2, .22 Short, and .22 PPC, but these are exceedingly rare. If you aren't sure of the caliber of the round, don't use it.
Do NOT use .22WMR in a gun chambered for .22LR only. A fatal malfunction can occur as a firearm chambered for .22LR is not likely rated for the chamber pressure created by a .22WMR round.
The .357 Magnum and .38 Special Conundrum
While there are many cartridges, a wide number of them - believe it or not - actually fire the same size projectile, such as .357 Magnum and .38 Special. A number of other calibers share the same size projectile as well, but the best known are these two.
Often, the creation of a new caliber is to "neck down" a cartridge to accept a smaller projectile. Said smaller projectile flies faster, farther and straighter than the parent case. Alternately, a larger case is created to hold more propellant, which shoots the same projectile as a different round at a higher velocity. This is exactly what led to the creation of the .357 Magnum, as the projectile (having a diameter of 0.357") is the same size as that of the .38 Special cartridge.
It is true that virtually every revolver chambered for .357 Magnum will shoot .38 Special ammunition. However, consult the owner's manual before doing so to ensure the manufacturer's recommendation.
There are a small number of automatics chambered for .357 Magnum, though they are rare and exceedingly expensive. These will NOT cycle .38 Special.
However, some .357 Magnum revolvers may not be able to fire some .38 Special rounds, such as some hollowpoints, wadcutters, +P or +P+ ammunition and so on. If you purchase a .357 Magnum and wish to practice using .38 Special ammunition, consult the manufacturer to learn which .38 Special rounds it is rated to shoot.
One of the most common safety features is a manual safety, meaning a safety device that has to be manually actuated to engage or disengage. This term is colloquially used to refer to a positive safety on a handgun. Handguns with a manual safety will usually have the safety located just above the grip (such as on 1911 pistols) or on the slide. Some are ambidextrous, with a safety catch located on both sides of the pistol.
However, many long guns have a manual safety as well, including most rifles and shotguns.
Most manual safeties are two-position safeties, as they are either on or off. However, on some handguns, the manual safety can only be engaged if the hammer is cocked, such as 1911 pistols.
Many bolt action rifles have a three-position safety, especially those using a Mauser or Mauser-derived action. Three-position safeties are either fully-locked (action is locked and the gun cannot be fired) half-locked (gun cannot be fired but the bolt can be opened and closed) or off, wherein the bolt can be opened or closed and the gun can be fired.
Most shotguns and many .22 LR rifles have a very simple manual trigger safety, a small button located on the trigger guard. When engaged, the trigger is locked and can't engage the firing pin. Once disengaged, the gun is ready to fire.
Decocker or Decocking Lever
Related to the manual safety is the decocker, or decocking lever. These are typically found only on double/single action pistols with a hammer, though a small number of double action only pistols have decockers as well.
A decocker uncocks a hammer, bringing it from the fully rearward position to forward. Single action and double action/single action pistols almost universally have a safety notch, which is a hammer position slightly before the forward position, which a decocker moves the hammer to in most decocker-equipped pistols, as well as a firing pin block, which is actuated via the trigger - requiring the trigger be pulled to fire.
Some older DA/SA pistols with a decocking lever lack the firing pin block, and decocking can cause an accidental discharge. If one has an older pistol where this is a concern, do not use the decocker with the pistol loaded or ensure that it is pointed in a safe direction.
After decocking, a full double-action trigger pull is required to fire, which requires a heavier trigger pull than some may be able to tolerate. Typically, the amount of pressure one must exert in a double action pistol is around ten or more pounds of pressure to get the trigger to "break" or engage the firing mechanism. Single action pulls, when the hammer is fully cocked, are closer to five or fewer pounds.
Some feel this is a sufficient safety mechanism, as the heavy trigger pull required can prevent situations where a single-action pistol would be accidentally discharged, such as the trigger snagging on a piece of clothing.
Some manufacturers have an integrated decocker AND manual safety, such as Beretta, which makes a manual safety and decocker available on multiple models. Some manufacturers, such as CZ, have made the safety features interchangeable, and the owner can change from a decocking lever to a manual safety and back again at will.
One of the highest risk groups for serious injuries or fatalities due to accidental discharges is children, which is why gun safety is of paramount importance if one has children in the home or they are present while handling firearms.
Safety concerns regarding children and firearms is a sensitive topic. Some people refuse to have guns in their home for this reason, or refuse to allow anyone who carries in their home. Keeping guns away from children was the genesis of the Gun Free School Zone Act of 1990, which has remained a source of controversy. Likewise, many businesses that cater to children and parents refuse to allow people to carry there when legally permitted, and so on.
Granted, automobiles, heights and water are equally dangerous. Accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control (see the National Vital Statistics Report and this page on child health and mortality) are the leading cause of death for those aged 0 to 14 years and motor vehicle accidents, falls and drowning are the most frequent types of fatal accidents.
However, according to the Brady Campaign (PDF), 2,703 children died as the result of injuries from firearms in 2011. Suicides by firearm accounted for 61 percent (1,651), 32 percent (850) were due to homicide by firearm, and 5 percent (140) were due to unintentional injury. An additional 16,700 were injured.
Most people have seen horrific news reports of what can happen when children gain access to firearms.
Shooting incidents involving children takes several forms. One is where children shoot people - such as a playmate, sibling or parent - unintentionally, believing the gun wasn't real or something to that effect or not knowing what they were doing. Another common occurrence is when improper handling leads to a discharge that strikes a child. Yet another is when a child uses a firearm to commit suicide, and then there are homicides by firearms.
The latter two are most common among teenagers. Teens are more likely to commit suicide by firearm than any other age group from birth to 18 years of age. They are also more likely to commit murder with a firearm, including that of another teen, or conversely be murdered with a firearm than any other age group of people under age 18.
Often enough, the most effective act of gun safety regarding children is merely to store them properly.
Safe Gun Storage Cannot Be Overemphasized
If there is one action a person can take that will virtually guarantee children will never be harmed by a gun in the home, it's safe gun storage. Keeping firearms and ammunition locked and out of the reach of children is the best and most reliable method for preventing tragedy.
The EveryTownResearch organization, a pro-Second Amendment organization dedicated to gun safety, found in its research that between December 2012 and 2013, at least 100 children died in unintentional shootings. Of those, their findings suggest, 70 percent were preventable simply by locking guns away.
Many have likely read a news report where a young child gained access to a loaded firearm and shot themselves, a sibling or playmate or a relative with it. Often, they didn't know it was loaded, or didn't think it was real. A great deal of these incidents likely would have been prevented had the gun been locked away.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide was the second most common cause of death for those 10 to 34 years of age in 2014. Young adults and teenagers have long been one of the highest risk groups - though adults aged 25 to 34 years are a slightly higher risk group - and it is likely that many teen suicides are preventable if firearms were locked away with only parental access being possible.
The Brady Campaign also reported 68 percent of school shooters obtained firearms from their home, typically from a parent or relative.
Ideally, all guns in a home will be stored locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored likewise locked and separately from one's firearms. However, not everyone is going to. A good deal of people like to have at least one loaded firearm accessed easily in case a defensive need arises, such as a pistol like many keep on or in a nightstand.
If you decide that you need to have a loaded handgun, that isn't to say it's unsafe. With proper monitoring, it's perfectly fine. However, to stay as safe as possible, you should keep your handgun holstered on your person at all possible times.
If you keep some other manner of firearm loaded for defensive or other purposes - many people keep a shotgun or AR-15 for home defense - the weapon should be kept with the safety on and out of reach for children. A gun safe or securely locked cabinet would be ideal.
The NRA has their own safety campaign for children, replete with a mascot called "Eddie the Eagle" and a flock (or rather, convocation) of friends that teach children about the subject. These materials are widely disseminated, but advocate four rules for children if they see a gun laying around.
- Don't Touch!
- Run Away
- Tell An Adult
These steps, if followed, create a safety protocol and procedure for unattended firearms.
Resolving Child Curiosity About Guns
Children are curious, and child curiosity about firearms is naturally a source of concern. Curious children have caused accidental discharges, shot playmates, and been involved in other terrible accidents involving firearms, and therefore it behooves parents or people with children constantly in their home to ensure children are made less curious about firearms and/or cannot access them.
The right age for children to be introduced to guns is a matter of debate. Some hold that numerical age is not a good rubric to go by and stress that emotional maturity is a better gauge of when a child will be ready for being introduced to firearms.
One of the most common recommendations is to perform routine gun maintenance around children. Have them observe guns being cleaned, so they become used to the sight of firearms in the home.
Teaching Gun Safety
At some point, parents will have to have "the talk" with their children regarding guns. Naturally, children need to be instructed about the potential for injury or death and therefore to respect firearms as such. The appropriate age for this, again, is a topic of some debate. Some believe that when observable "gun play" begins - whether in boys or girls - that's when the discussion is warranted.
Many people are given a pellet or airsoft gun as their first "firearm." While many learned gun safety this way, these "guns" are still capable of causing injury. The common refrain of "shooting your eye out" has a more than modicum of truth, so these "starter guns" should be accompanied with lessons in firearm safety, especially the Four Rules of Gun Safety. Shooting playmates, siblings, animals or anything other than targets should not be tolerated.
In this manner, a BB, pellet or airsoft gun can be a good teaching tool for the rules of safety. If any of the rules are broken or not observed, confiscate it and return it when you think the child is ready to begin observing them. Some recommend starting a child off with a toy gun and then graduating them to their first air-powered gun once they've demonstrated they can handle the toy gun safely.
When teaching gun safety to children, it may be difficult to drive home the point of how dangerous a gun can be. Some recommend finding an object to shoot to demonstrate the destructive power of ammunition. A large, fleshy fruit such as a melon of some sort (be it watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew) can be a good visual aid.
A 2012 CNN article quotes a girl named Robin (she didn't provide her last name) whose father demonstrated the destructive potential using a jar of red Kool-Aid during her childhood. The jug exploded when shot with a .410-gauge shotgun, which made an impression on her, as did the recoil from his .357 Magnum revolver. She maintains that she got a healthy fear and respect for guns from that point on.
If you feel your child isn't grasping one or any concept relating to firearms safety, they probably aren't ready yet.
Additionally, there are also a lot of parents that have children with special needs. While many special needs children are perfectly capable of learning proper firearms safety, some are not. In the case of the latter, safe storage is an absolute must if any guns are to be kept in the home.
Youth Gun Safety Education Outside The Home
Gun safety in the home is one thing, but what about outside the home?
Range days require safe handling and safe shooting. If your child cannot safely handle, then they cannot safely shoot. Some people will hold their child whilst they shoot, which certainly can work for young children and help absorb the recoil, though this is totally the choice of the parent. One school of thought holds that if a child cannot handle the recoil of a firearm, they shouldn't shoot that firearm.
Before a child should appear on a range, they should be able to properly handle and control a gun. They should also be instructed in safe shooting, such as never shooting at hard, flat surfaces or at any target without knowing what's beyond it.
What if you and your child are at another home where guns are present, or just your child themselves, such as the home of a friend or a relative?
Naturally, one cannot anticipate everything in advance. If you know what other homes your child may frequent, it's a good idea to ask if firearms are present in those homes and how they are stored.
If it happens to be the case that firearms in a home your child or children frequent are not stored as securely as in your own, make sure your children know not to touch them and if any are left unattended, to follow the NRA's steps to stop, don't touch, leave the area and find an adult and tell them.
If you decide to mention something to another parent, friend or relative about safe storage, do so tactfully. Whilst following best practices for firearm storage are vital, especially when and if children are concerned, some people do not react positively to criticism of what they do in their own home.
Remember that children are naturally curious. They also emulate the behavior of adults, and if you practice improper or cavalier gun safety, they are likely to do the same. Naturally, parents are human and make mistakes; no one does everything perfectly all the time. However, assiduous adherence and mindfulness to the basic tenets of gun safety can ensure that your children learn and practice good gun safety themselves.
Summary of Gun Safety
- Remember the 4 Rules of Gun Safety:
- Rule 1: Treat Every Gun as If It's Loaded
- Rule 2: Never Aim at Something You Don't Want to Shoot
- Rule 3: Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until You Intend to Shoot
- Rule 4: Be Sure of Your Target and What's Beyond It
Remember to practice only safe shooting.
Remember to use correct ammunition.
Know how your gun works and handle with an abundance of care, as there is no adequate substitution for safe handling.
Only carry in a holster with adequate retention and trigger guard coverage.
"Tedder Industries, LLC d/b/a Alien Gear Holsters ('Alien Gear') offers this guide solely for informational purposes and makes no warranty as to the accuracy of the content or information contained herein. All firearms users should obtain training regarding firearm use and safety from certified, professional firearms safety experts, and this guide is not a substitute for such training. Firearms users are required to comply with all applicable legal requirements that come with firearm use and ownership and Alien Gear makes no representations as to those requirements. Alien Gear does not manufacture or sell firearms, and Alien Gear's products are not designed as, nor are they intended to be used as, firearm safety devices. The owner and user assume all responsibility for firearm safety."