First-Time Gun Owner's Tips - Part 2

Part II - It's all about safety

Staring down the barrel of the .38 Special revolver, I said "Do you mind if I check it?".
"Don't worry", she replied, "I unloaded it myself".

Stepping to the side, I took the gun and swung the cylinder open.

 Sure enough, five rounds were shining in the dinner table light. This was a clear violation of Rule number 1: All guns are always loaded

A firearm is just an object, and therefore not dangerous by itself. But when handled recklessly it can cause a lot of damage or injury.

The good news is that if you follow a few simple, common-sense rules, you will stay out of trouble and keep you and the people around you safe.

Let us start with the 4 commandments of firearm safety.

  1. All guns are always loaded
  2. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
  4. Know your target and what is beyond

Rule #1 All Guns are Always Loaded

Take this rule literally, even if it makes you feel ridiculous. If the slide is back, with no magazine in the pistol, or if the empty cylinder is open, the gun obviously cannot fire.
But the point of the rule, is that until you check for yourself, you must assume that any gun is loaded – even if you unloaded it yourself seconds ago.

What happened in the opening story? We were visiting a friend who owned a gun shop which doubled as his private residence.
It was after dark and he was absent. His wife and teenage son were there, and she came to the door to let us in.
Just before we showed up, she was looking at the revolver that our friend had gifted her that morning. Obviously, she had unloaded it.
But the son worried about strangers calling at night while he was alone with his mother, and loaded the gun for protection.

Here you have it, folks: she “knew” that the gun was unloaded and nearly put a bullet through my head.

Never assume – check.

Rule #2 Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy

Again, this is to be applied literally. In the absolute, there is no safe direction to point a gun at. If it fires, there will be some level of destruction.
A gun will never shoot by itself. Even if there is some mechanical defect, it will require some manipulation to go off.
When loading or unloading the firearm, point it in a direction where damage by a bullet would be of no consequence such as a pile of phone books or a dirt berm.

Never point a gun at yourself or other persons around you. EVER.


Rule #3 Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot


There is no such thing as an “Accidental Discharge”. However, “Negligent Discharges” happen way too often.
Firing a gun requires pulling the trigger. If your finger is not on the trigger the gun will not shoot.
There are several circumstances that may cause you to involuntarily shoot if you do not follow this rule:

  • Stumbling will cause an uncontrollable contraction of the hand's muscles
  • A high-stress situation can make you white-knuckle the grip – and the trigger
  • Bumping into a wall or someone can cause a similar reaction.


Keep your finger horizontally against the pistol’s frame until the very moment you prepare to fire.
Making this practice a habit will ensure that you remain safe without even thinking about it.

Rule #4 Know your target and what is beyond

Nobody would want to shoot an innocent person. But when you hit your intended target, does your bullet stop there? And if it does not, where does it go?

On the range, it is not an issue. You hit a paper target, the bullet goes through and is safely caught by a dirt berm or a bullet trap.

But in a self-defense scenario, things could go very differently.
You could miss and hit a bystander, behind your attacker.
A ricochet could also have disastrous consequences.
Or the bullet could go right through the bad guy and strike someone behind him. Quality hollow-point ammunition will reduce chances of the latter happening. Those bullets are designed to expand and stop inside a human body.

Keep in mind that drywall, doors, and windows will not stop your common firearm projectile.
You could injure someone in the next room or even a nearby house.

Now you have bought your first gun, and you know the basic safety rules.
In a future article, we will bring to you a few more safety considerations.