Handgun Safety

Do not skip this material, even if you think you know about gun safety. Instead, please read it twice.

Three Rules for Gun Safety

The three rules of gun safety are:

  1. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Put another way. Don’t point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. For a handgun, this takes a lot of concentration. The gun wants to point where your hand is pointed. So it is important to be very conscious and deliberate about moving the gun, your hand and your body.  Remember, your own foot or elbow is not a safe direction.
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. You are not ready to shoot until you see the target, know what is behind your target, and have your sights aligned on the target.
  3. Keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it. Note, we say “use it.” Many people keep a loaded gun on their nightstand at night. Even though they are not touching the gun, they are ready to use the gun.

If you follow these rules without fail, you are extremely unlikely to have an accidental discharge that causes injury.

These are not just rules of gun safety. They are rules of politeness.  When you are with other people, say, at a shooting range, no-one wants to be around you if you have your finger on the trigger or you are pointing the gun at them. It doesn’t matter if YOU know your gun is unloaded. Other people don’t and they do not like it at all if you are not following these rules.

Tips for Handling a Gun Safely

A few general thoughts on gun safety:

  • Always treat a gun as if it were loaded. It doesn’t matter if you just checked it and found it unloaded.
  • Check whether the gun is unloaded every time you pick it up or receive a gun. It doesn’t matter if the person giving it to you swears the gun is unloaded. It doesn’t matter if you are certain the gun is unloaded. Check that it is unloaded every time.
  • Don’t pick a gun up or accept a gun from another person unless you can plot out, in advance, a trajectory for the muzzle that is always pointing in a safe direction.
  • Do only one thing at a time when handling firearms. Some examples: If you are checking to see if a gun is unloaded, don’t hold the magazine in your other hand. Similarly, if you are picking up a dropped cartridge, put the gun down before you bend over.
  • Drugs, alcohol and guns do not mix. (Duh!)
  • If you don’t know how to operate a particular handgun, learn how before you start handling it.
  • Use the correct ammunition for your handgun. If you are not certain what the correct ammunition is, make yourself certain before you use it.

About the Safety on a Gun

Make sure you know how to identify the on and off position for your safety on your gun because they are different from gun to gun.

You need to know how to operate and use your safety. But don’t rely on it to prevent injury. It is a mechanical device. Safeties can and have failed. Your best “safety” is between your ears—following the rules of gun safety will prevent injury even if the safety fails.


Get used to handling guns in this manner every time you use them. Make it a habit, even when you think no one is watching. Good habits make for safe gun handling.