Whether you are a seasoned shooter or a beginner, everyone who handles firearms must know the 4 rules of gun safety. Whenever you are handling a firearm, the 4 rules are in effect and must be followed – without exception. Owning a firearm means you have to own the safety and responsibility that comes along with it.

Learn the 4 rules that must always be followed when handling or shooting a gun. Find out how these rules translate into safe etiquette on the range, hunting, and with a conceal-and-carry firearm. And, get to understand why these 4 rules form the baseline for keeping yourself and others safe, regardless of where or when you are handling a gun.

What Are the 4 Rules of Gun Safety? What Every Gun Owner Should Know

Almost every accident involving a firearm is due to someone handling a firearm and breaking one of the 4 rules of gun safety. Smart gun owners are extremely selective regarding with whom they choose to go shooting. Whether you are shooting at the range or hunting with a partner, preventable accidents happen because someone is negligent to firearm safety protocols.

The 4 rules of gun safety exist to encourage the practice of responsible gun ownership amongst owners. By following these guidelines, you mitigate the likelihood of causing an unintentional injury or fatality. By diligently practicing firearm safety, from day-1, you can limit the chance of a catastrophic accident occurring at your hands.

If you are new to being a gun owner, a firearms safety course can teach you everything you need to know about handling, shooting, and storing your new firearm. All gun safety training begins with a foundation in these 4 fundamental safety rules:

Handle Every Firearm Like it is Always Loaded – All the Time

No matter what – you always treat a firearm with the assumption that it is loaded. By doing so, you remove the possibility of making the mistake of thinking a firearm was not loaded when in-fact it was loaded. If you treat every gun like it is loaded at all times, you will always handle every firearm with extreme caution and care.

That being said, you must always know the condition of your firearm, and any firearm you are handling. Knowing the condition of the firearm means knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt whether the gun is loaded or not. To do this, you always remove the magazine, pop the slide twice to eject the chamber round, and visually inspect the chamber.

If you know that your firearm is unloaded, yet you treat it with the respect of a loaded gun you are not likely to have a catastrophic accident that results in accidental damage, injury, or death. One of the indications of a knowledgeable and responsible gun owner is someone who knows how to inspect a firearm and show it to be clear.

Never assume that a firearm is unloaded without performing a proper inspection. The best way to learn how to handle a gun is to learn from a basic gun safety course at your local range. Practicing firearm safety elicits respect amongst seasoned gun owners, so always ask for assistance if shooting a gun that you have never handled before.

Do Not Point the Gun at Anything You Don’t Want to Kill or Destroy

The second rule of gun safety is meant to keep yourself, those around you, and your environment safe. When you are handling a firearm, never allow the muzzle to cross the path of something you do not want to shoot. That means, at all times, the muzzle of your gun is pointed in a safe and intentional direction, away from anything or anyone.

An easy way to think of this rule is to imagine a laser beam coming straight out of the barrel of your firearm. The laser cuts through anything it comes into contact with, so you can never let the laser pass through something unintentionally. The most common mistake that new gun owners make is to unwittingly point their guns at their hands, feet, or people nearby. 

So, always point your gun in a safe direction.

Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On Target and You Decide to Fire

Your trigger finger stays off of the trigger for 99.9% of the time when handling your firearm. The rule is, only place your finger on the trigger when your target is lined up in your sights, and you decide to fire. You don’t put your finger on the trigger while you are finding the target or aiming – or even as you are waiting to get a clear shot.

Once the shot is clear and you are ready to pull the trigger – and only then – you put your finger on the trigger and squeeze. The main cause of misfiring your weapon is accidentally pulling the trigger. Follow standard gun safety protocol, however, and these accidents are nearly impossible.

Always Be 100% Sure of What is in Front of and Behind Your Target

The fourth rule of gun safety concerns your environmental awareness. Always be sure of what is in the foreground and behind your shooting target. Bullets keep sailing through the air, far past what the eye can see, so be sure there is nothing behind your target that can’t be hit – like a hiker, person in their backyard, or someone’s pet.

The best place to shoot is at your local shooting range or private property. Even on private land, make sure you are shooting into a hillside to avoid accidents and injury. Whenever you are handling a firearm, always take notice and stay aware of the location and activity of those around you.

Most gun injuries are a result of preventable accidents, and it is up to every gun owner to use and maintain firearms safely. Safety is the single most important aspect of owning and using a firearm, and it all begins with the basic rules of gun safety. Take an introductory gun owners course to get trained in the basic 4 rules of gun safety by a certified instructor.