Welcome to the world of gun owners! Whether you choose your firearm for personal safety or sport, you need to know the basics of being safe around firearms. Gun owners are responsible. We owe it to ourselves, the people around us, and the reputation of gun owners everywhere to make sure gun use is safe and responsible.
As a new gun owner you can take steps to learn gun handling and storage actions that will keep you and others around you out of harm’s way. You’ll be developing your skills and growing in knowledge as you enter the new world of owning a gun. Basic safety and handling are not hard to learn. As you practice, the safety rules will become second nature. Choose the right gun, practice handling your gun safely, practice shooting and grow your skills.
Know the purpose of your new firearm. Choosing the wrong gun for the intended job is often a first-time gun owner mistake. Bigger is not always better. But picking a gun that is too small for personal defense won’t give you the firepower you need. If you want to carry a concealed weapon, make sure the size and weight are manageable.
A self-defense gun of a larger caliber will outweigh a smaller family shooting choice. For self-defense consider a 9mm or a .45 for home defense. The cartridges are more expensive and it’s difficult to keep shooting all day long, but the gun will do the job in an emergency. That’s why you bought it.
For family shooting you can look at a .22 LR. The lighter weight and less expensive ammunition are just right for days at the range.
Leave large framed weapons like a K-frame Smith and Wesson .44 or a desert Eagle are appropriate for more experienced shooters and not good choices for new gun owners.
As you grow in experience, you’ll widen your choices. At the beginning, choose the right gun for your purpose.
Always check the chamber or cylinder to make sure the gun is not loaded. Check even when someone hands you a gun they have just checked. Make the safety check an unbreakable habit. Always is always. Every time.
Always point the gun away from people and in a safe direction. Even if you’ve just done a safety check, make it a habit to point your gun safely whenever you hold it. Many shooting accidents are the result of firings when someone thought the gun wasn’t loaded. Make it your habit.
Rest your index finger above the trigger. It’s called indexing. Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Even then, don’t wrap your finger around the trigger until the weapon is pointed downrange and you are ready to fire. Index every time, all the time.
When you get a new gun, you’ll be learning a whole skill set to use it properly. You need to know what to do with your gun once you have it. Learn proper gun handling and safety and train with an experienced user. The National Rifle Association (NRA) offers training courses throughout the United States. Use their form to find a course near you that teaches skills for the type of gun you have.
Keep your gun out of harm’s way. Leaving your gun out in the open where kids or others have access is asking for trouble. Keep your weapon locked in a safe or on a high shelf in a closet where it is hard to find. If you want your firearm close at hand for safety, you can carry it while you are awake and then keep it in a gun vault that is easy to open at night in the dark.
Teach your family—spouse, significant other, children—about guns. Educate them so they respect your gun and are not afraid. Teach them to do a safety check, index, point the gun in a safe direction before you teach them how to shoot on a range. Children need to know that guns are off limits without adult supervision, especially when you are not around.
Educate yourself about the correct ammunition for your new gun. Just because ammunition has a certain diameter it’s not suitable for all guns of that caliber. For example if you have a new .45 for home defense know that .45 ACP, .45 GAP, and .45 Long Colt are not interchangeable even though they are the same caliber. The casings are different and work in different weapons. Firing a gun with the wrong ammunition has the potential to cause your gun to explode in your hands.
Research the appropriate holster for your particular gun. Confirm that your holster is made specifically to match the make, model, and caliber of your gun. An incorrect holster can cause you to fire a shot accidentally while you try to wrestle your weapon out.
Make sure the holster is well made and built to last. A poorly made cheap holster won’t protect your gun adequately. And, it will fall apart quickly.
Firearm laws are easy to research online and it’s your responsibility to know the local, state, and federal laws that are relevant to you and your gun. If you plan to carry your gun concealed, find out what you need to obtain a concealed carry license.
Gun laws change and it’s your responsibility to know the law. Laws vary by state so know additional laws in your state. For example, you’ll want to know if your state has prohibitions on certain magazine capacities of particular guns or whether your state has a “stand your ground” rule to protect and defend yourself and others.