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Gun Safety 101 - Your Fool Proof Guide To The Safe Handling Of Firearms

by Daniel @HolsterCentral on October 11, 2019


If this is your first time handling a firearm and you stick to these simple rules, it will keep you and others safe and out of trouble.. 

This topic is a very important one and could save a life so read on...

So here's the 4 Universal Rules to Firearm Safety

Golden Rule #1 - Treat all guns as if they are loaded - period. - Never ever assume a gun is unloaded. Clear every gun, check all the time. Every time. Period. 

So with the first “Golden Rule” treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

Whenever you pick up a firearm regardless if the person before you just checked it, always personally clear the gun yourself and verify its unloaded do not assume or trust someone else has already done this. Do it yourself, all the time, every time. The mystical gun fairy may have loaded it in that split second just then.

So with your trigger finger, along the side of the frame or slide, (the part along the side of the gun outside of the trigger guard) simply check for a magazine and rack the slide and physically and visually inspect the chamber.

Look into the chamber and carefully, using a finger, physically check to ensure it is for sure empty and there is not a round inside the chamber.

Your eyes can lie to you, so always have a redundancy and check physically too. You can never be "too safe" 

Golden Rule #2  -

Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot 


Always keep your booger pickers (fingers) away from the trigger at all times unless you are ready to fire.

Trigger finger discipline - The only time your finger should be on the trigger is the millisecond before you pull it when your sights are on target, you know your target, whats beyond it and you are ready to send a round down range and destroy what you shoot. 

This is often an issue for all types of shooters from beginner to even the experienced shooters.

You must to train your muscle memory that the index finger remains on the side of the gun along the slide at all times completely straight until it is time to move it into the trigger guard to pull the trigger when you are ready to fire.

Becoming complacent is the biggest issue. Just because you’ve watched every YouTube video and you hang out at the gun store for hours on end doesn’t make you a pro. Study the firearm safety manual and don’t take the written exam for granted.

Surprisingly some of the most dangerous people on the range are some of the oldest shooters who have been around guns for decades and have become complacent over time. You may be a newbie but exercising safety at all times also sets an example to those around you.

Golden Rule #3 - Never point the muzzle at anything in which you do not intend to destroy.

Always keep your gun pointed down range in a safe direction. 

This is an extra special rule. IF you happen to break one of the previous rules. This may save you from disaster.

Many a Negligent Discharges have been disastrous and even fatal by breaking this rule. If you have an ND and the gun is pointed in a safe direction you can thank your lucky stars as you may have saved yourself from destroying somebody or something.

This rule is imperative. This also goes for sweeping (letting your muzzle cross the path of things it should not) never sweep yourself (legs, feet) another person, property etc. Exercise good muzzle discipline just like good trigger discipline.

You will know you have the right mindset with muzzle discipline when it just feels completely wrong pointing even a blue gun (training gun) or unloaded BB gun at somebody, it should feel very wrong. 

If you open your case or range bag at the range and the gun is pointing at you or side ways at an unsafe direction, immediately correct the direction of the muzzle to be pointed down range. 

Do not flag yourself when holstering

Do not flag others when manipulating your gun on the firing line.

Always be mindful of the direction your muzzle is pointed

Golden Rule #4 - Always know your target and what's beyond it. This is very important. Never take a shot until you know your target and what's beyond it.

Similar to having the muzzle in a safe direction. Your Gun is pointed down range in a safe direction but this time you intend to shoot, your sights are on target, you are putting your finger on the trigger about to send a round down range.

You must know your target. But not only that just as important - know what is beyond it.

You don't shoot at shadows, or things in which you don't know or can't identify, many people have been mistakenly identified and shot. Also you must know your back drop (what is beyond your target), you don't just set up a range in a field and unknowingly there just so happens to be a school in the distance behind some trees with kids out playing that you didn't know about.

Likewise you don't shoot at a squirrel in a tree when somebody's house is a hundred yards down range that you may not have taken into account or been aware of.

And in a self defense encounter you don't shoot into a crowd at a bad guy who is trying to kill you or somebody else where people may be behind the target.

You must be aware of over penetration rounds going through your target also. You could shoot at a bad guy and miss or it goes through him a wall a window and a car and hits an innocent bystander.

Especially with Full Metal Jacket target/Ball Ammo (as shown above) over penetration should be a concern and you should be aware of it.

For self defense Jacketed Hollow Point rounds (as shown below) are good for this reason as they open up in the target and flower, therefore they are made to not continue going through the target and risk hitting an innocent bystander. Never shoot if you don't know your back stop. 


Also if you have do have an ND dry firing your gun at home out of stupidity for breaking one of the 4 golden rules but the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction and you know your backstop is a brick wall you may also count your lucky stars that it wasn't pointed out a window or at something the bullet could pass through several times and damage property or worse injure/kill a person. 

All ND's happen because of one thing.

The trigger was pulled. Gun's do not magically shoot themselves. 

Bonus Golden Rule #1 - Know the consequences of shooting your gun unlwafully check your local and federal laws, know the penalty for such an act and consult a lawyer about this. Know the law and abide by it. Be a responsible gun owner and do not break any laws. 

Equally know the consequences of shooting your gun it in self defense.

You need to consult an attorney here and there are many great self defense oriented attorneys out there who specialize in firearms and self defense encounters.

These are the experts to consult and seek advice. Knowledge and education is power. These are decisions that should not be taken lightly. Be informed, seek out the advice of experts and do not take legal advice from anybody other than an attorney. 

If you do carry your weapon daily for self defense you might want to consider a Concealed Carry Insurance incase you have to use your weapon in self defense. Legal proceedings can cost into the hundred thousands and not everybody has that kind of money in savings and can afford the best lawyers to defend themselves. 

Check out our article on CCW Insurance to compare the best options out there!

None of this should be taken as legal advice, do your homework, get educated and get some legal advice and ask your attorney any questions you might have.

Bonus Rule #2 - Do not mix alcohol and firearms - Fairly obvious but it doesn't go without saying, you wouldn't and shouldn't (I hope) drive your car drunk as it would become a deadly weapon, likewise you shouldn't be around firearms when you are impaired either it is irresponsible and dangerous. 

Bonus Rule #3 - Children and Gun safety - Too many children die every year due to negligent discharges. Be a responsible gun owner and exercise firearm safety, store your guns safely and securely. But also educate your children on firearms and safety and how to handle them from a young age. Instill in them the fundamentals of firearm safety and ensure they have a healthy respect for them and know not to access them without your explicit supervision and permission. Nobody should have access to your guns without your permission - period.

Bonus Rule #4 - Dry Fire 

When dry firing your gun, whether that's at home or in a gun store, always adhere to the 4 rules of firearm safety, dry fire in a safe direction, clear the gun first.

Keep all live ammo out of the room, ideally have some snap caps.

You don't do it while distracted or you could be distracted, set time aside for your dry fire where you won't be interrupted.

Don't do it while drinking alcohol, don't do it while your kids are playing and could interrupt you.

You want to set aside some time where you can be mindful of your dry fire practice and do it in a safe manner in a safe direction.

Last but not least always remember Eye and Ear Protection you do not want to catch a casing in the eye, you equally do not want to experience hearing loss. 

 To Conclude - 


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