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10 Commandments of Firearm Safety

Published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation with the support of the National
Rifle Association.

The Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety should be etched in your memory forever. Let them govern your actions every time, wherever and whenever you are involved with firearms. In the woods, on the range, or in your home. Please take time to review and understand these rules.

*1st Commandment


The Most Important of All.

Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

This is the most important gun safety rule. A safe direction is one in which an accidental discharge will not cause injury to yourself or others. Never allow your gun to point at anything you don’t intend to shoot. Be especially careful when you’re loading or unloading. Treat every gun as if it were loaded. And make it a habit to know where your muzzle is pointed at all times, even when your firearm is unloaded.

No one will be injured by an accidental discharge if you keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction. It’s as simple as that.

*2nd Commandment


Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use.

Load your firearm only when you’re in the field or on the target range and ready to fire. Never let a loaded gun out of your sight or out of your hands. Unload it as soon as you’re finished shooting – before you bring it into your car, camp, or home. Remember, unloading your firearm means unloading it completely, so there is no ammunition in the chamber or in the magazine.

Before handling a firearm or passing it to someone else, visually check the chamber, receiver and magazine to be certain they do not contain ammunition. Always keep the gun’s action open when not in use. Never assume a gun is unloaded even if you were the last person to use it. Always check for yourself. Let common sense rule when you carry a loaded gun. If you’re in any situation that could risk accidental discharge – such as crossing a fence, wading through a stream, or climbing a tree – always unload your gun. Never pull or push a loaded firearm toward yourself or another person. And never carry a loaded gun in a scabbard, detached holster or gun case.

Safe storage of firearms is just as critical as safe handling. Never store guns loaded and be sure to keep your firearms in a secure place where no one can get their hands on them without your knowledge.

Take special and extra care if there are children around. Kids are fascinated by guns. It’s a natural curiosity that can have tragic consequences when not properly supervised. Store your firearms in a locked gun safe or some other location that physically bars a child from gaining access. Ammunition should be stored and locked in a location separate from your firearms. Never leave an unsecured firearm or ammunition in a closet, dresser drawer or under the bed. Remember, it is your responsibility to make sure that children and others unfamiliar with firearms cannot get access to your firearms and ammunition.

*3rd Commandment


Don’t rely on your gun’s safety.

Treat every gun as if it can fire at any time, whether or not there’s pressure on the trigger.

Your firearm has been carefully designed to maximize performance and safety. However, a gun’s safety is a mechanical device and, like any mechanical device, it couis a more likely reason for a gun safety to fail. By mistake, you may think the safety is on when it really isn’t. Or the safety may have been disengaged without your knowledge. Or you could think your gun is unloaded when there’s actually a cartridge or shell in it. A safety is not a substitute for common sense. It’s merely a supplement to your proper handling of a firearm.

Don’t touch the trigger on a firearm until you are ready to shoot. Keep your fingers away from the trigger when you’re loading or unloading. And don’t pull the trigger when the safety is engaged or positioned anywhere between safe and fire. Read your instruction manual to understand the exact location and operation of your firearm’s safety. Even when the safety is on, maintain control of your loaded firearm and control the direction of the muzzle. In other words, don’t rely on your safety to justify careless handling. If your firearm’s internal mechanisms are broken or have been altered, your firearm may fire even when the safety is on. Remember, you and your safe gun handling practices are your gun’s best safety.

Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

You can’t stop a shot in mid-air, so do not fire unless you know exactly where your shot is going and what it will strike. Never fire at a sound, a movement or a patch of color. A hunter in camouflage can easily be mistaken for a target by an impulsive shooter. Before you pull the trigger be absolutely sure of your target and what’s behind it. Make sure your shot has a backstop such as a hillside or dense material like sand.

Remember, bullets can travel great distances with tremendous velocity. Know how far your shot will go if you miss your target or the bullet ricochets.

*5th Commandment


Use Proper Ammunition.

You must assume the serious responsibility of using only the correct ammunition for your firearm. Read and heed all warnings, including those that appear in the gun’s instruction manual and on the ammunition boxes. Using improper or incorrect ammunition can destroy a gun and cause serious personal injury. It only takes one cartridge of improper caliber or gauge to destroy your gun, and only a second to check each one as you load it.

Be absolutely certain that the ammunition you are using matches the specifications that are contained within the gun’s instruction manual and the manufacturer’s markings on the firearm. Firearms are designed, manufactured and proof tested to standards based upon those of factory loaded ammunition. Handloaded or reloaded ammunition deviating from pressures generated by factory loads or from component recommendations specified in reputable handloading manuals can be dangerous, and can cause severe damage to guns and serious injury to the shooter. Do not use improper reloads or ammunition made of unknown components. Ammunition that has become very wet or has been submerged in water should be discarded in a safe manner. Do not spray oil or solvents on ammunition or place ammunition in excessively lubricated firearms. Poor ignition, unsatisfactory performance or damage to your firearm and harm to yourself or others could result from using such ammunition. Form the habit of examining every cartridge you put into your gun. Never use damaged or substandard ammunition— the money you save is not worth the risk of possible injury or a ruined gun.

*6th Commandment


If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care.

If for some reason the ammunition doesn’t fire when you pull the trigger, stop and remember the 1st Commandment of Firearm Safety – always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. After the allotted time for the specific firearm, keep your face away from the breech, then put the safety on, carefully open the action, unload the firearm and dispose of the cartridge safely. Remember anytime there’s a shell in the chamber, your gun is loaded and ready to use. Even if you tried to shoot and your gun didn’t fire, treat your firearm as if it could still discharge.

*7th Commandment


Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting.

All shooters should wear protective shooting glasses and some form of hearing protectors while shooting. Exposure to shooting noise can damage hearing, and adequate vision protection is essential. Shooting glasses guard against twigs, falling shot, clay target chips and the rare ruptured case or firearm malfunction. Wearing eye protection when disassembling and cleaning any gun will also help prevent the possibility of springs, spring tension parts, solvents or other agents from contacting your eyes. There is a wide variety of eye and ear protectors available. No target shooter, plinker or hunter should ever be without them. Most rules of shooting safety are intended to protect you and others around you, but this rule is for your protection alone. Furthermore, having your hearing and eyes protected will make your shooting easier and will help improve your enjoyment of the shooting sports.

*8th Commandment


Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.

Before you load your firearm, open the action and be certain that no ammunition is in the chamber or magazine. Be sure the barrel is clear of any obstruction. Even a small bit of mud, snow, excess lubricating oil or grease in the bore can cause dangerously increased pressures, causing the barrel to bulge or even burst on firing, which can cause injury to the shooter and bystanders.

Make it a habit to clean the bore and check for obstructions with a cleaning rod immediately before you shoot it. If the noise or recoil on firing seems weak or doesn’t seem quite “right,” cease firing immediately and be sure to check that no obstruction or projectile has become lodged in the barrel.

Placing a smaller gauge or caliber cartridge into a gun (such as a 20 gauge shell in a 12 gauge shotgun) can result in the smaller cartridge falling into the barrel and acting as a bore obstruction when a cartridge of proper size is fired. This can cause a burst barrel or worse. This is really a case where “haste makes waste.” You can easily avoid this type of accident by paying close attention to each cartridge you insert into your firearm.

*9th Commandment


Don’t alter or modify your gun and have it serviced regularly.

Your firearm has been designed to operate according to certain factory specifications. You’ll jeopardize your safety and that of others around you by attempting to alter its trigger, safety or other mechanisms. So never alter or modify your firearm in any way. Like any mechanical device, a firearm is subject to wear. It must be maintained and periodically serviced to assure optimum safety and performance.

Your gun is a mechanical device that will not last forever and is subject to wear. As such, it requires periodic inspection, adjustment and service. Check with the manufacturer of your firearm for recommended servicing.

If you do decide to alter it, have it done by a qualified personnel like an Armorer or Factory Warrantied place that will have certificates and proper knowledge to make sure your firearm is taken care of properly and still safe to operate. Also make sure you know your states legal laws on alterations, or modifications, to your specific firearm.

*10th Commandment


Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using. Not all
firearms are the same.

The method of carrying and handling firearms varies in accordance with the mechanical characteristics of each gun. Since guns can be so different, never handle any firearm without first having thoroughly familiarized yourself with the particular type of firearm you are using, the safe gun handling rules for loading, unloading, carrying and handling that firearm, and the rules of safe gun handling in general.

For example, many handgun manufacturers recommend that their handguns always be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber. This is particularly true for older single-action revolvers, but applies equally to some double-action revolvers or semiautomatic pistols. You should always read and refer to the instruction manual you received with your gun, or if you have misplaced the manual, simply contact the manufacturer for a free copy.

Having a gun in your possession is a full-time job! You cannot guess; you cannot forget. You must know how to use, handle and store your firearm safely. Do not use any firearm without having a complete understanding of its particular characteristics and safe use. There is no such thing as a foolproof gun.

**Last, but not least, Shoot Sober!

There’s one other rule that must be followed when handling firearms. In fact, respect for this rule is necessary in order to effectively practice the Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety. The rule is: SHOOT SOBER!

Alcohol, drugs and guns are a deadly combination. Never consume anything that would even mildly impair your judgment or physical coordination when you’re using a firearm. A staggering percentage of the shooting accidents that occur every year involve alcohol or drugs. Be smart. Shoot sober and stay alive!

**Use Common Sense

The gun carries with it the power of life and death. That power belongs only in the hands of responsible people who care about consequences, who are respectful of life and limb and human safety. Carrying a gun is a practice that is becoming increasingly common among ordinary American citizens. Common sense must always accompany it.

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