%% PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU EDIT !!!
%%Before adding any more, stop by the discussion to see if there's a way to lump any additions in with other points so we can keep the list concise. Poor thing has been having trouble staying short and to the point, with various repetition. This page may get pruned for extra tips repetitious. Yes, we should emphasize some points, but this is TV Tropes, not an NRA safety course.
'''''Disclaimer''': This page has been provided for informational purposes only. The authors of TV Tropes can take no responsibility for any accidents that may result should you neglect proper training on the assumption that reading this was sufficient.''
There are a variety of ways to handle a gun. [[IJustShotMarvinInTheFace Most of them are the wrong way.]] Here are some basic rules for handling firearms safely.
!The Short Version
The below gets into details, but there are four commonly quoted universal rules of gun safety:
# Treat a gun as if it's always loaded, especially when it's not.
# Never point a gun at anything you aren't willing to kill or destroy.
# Keep the safety on and your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
# Be absolutely sure of your target and what's behind it.
!Before you start...
!! 1) Understand a gun is a dangerous tool.
* A gun is not a toy. It is designed to kill people and animals. Even used against non-living things, it will still cause destruction.
* On the other hand, don't believe that having a gun makes you invincible. The first rule of winning a gunfight is not to get into one.
* A gun should never be aimed at anything unless the holder is willing to accept the legal, moral, and physical ramifications of pulling the trigger.
** Be aware of your local self defence laws. In most courts, pleading self defence does not magically equal a "get out of jail free card". For example, a murder charge may just be downgraded into manslaughter charge.
** A gun should never be aimed at anyone [[WeaponForIntimidation simply to intimidate them]]. If you are not ready to ''kill'' the person you are going to aim the gun at, do not aim the gun at them. If they call your bluff you are completely out of options. Legally, pointing a gun at someone constitutes a threat and they are allowed to defend themselves, even if you didn't mean it.
*** In [[TheCommonLaw common-law countries]], pointing a gun at someone also constitutes the crime and tort of assault: the person who you pointed the gun at can both file a criminal complaint and have you prosecuted, which means prison if you are convicted--''even if you never pulled the trigger and never intended to''. If that doesn't work out, or even if it does, they can sue you to Hell and back for both compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages just because.
*** Quote from a gun safety instructor: ''If you don't know 100% how to use your handgun and simply wish to threaten people with it, you deserve fully for your opponent to take your handgun by force [[PistolWhipping and beat you over the head with it]]''.
** A gun is not [[OnlyAFleshWound reliably capable of inflicting nonlethal injury]]. Pulling the trigger means that you have decided you are willing to accept the legal and moral ramifications of killing the person or animal you are firing at. Because this bears repeating: ''A firearm is a lethal weapon. Never,'' '''UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES,''' ''ever point a firearm, loaded or unloaded at another human being unless you intend to kill that human being.''
*** That said, a gun is not reliably capable of inflicting ''[[InstantDeathBullet lethal]]'' injury, either. The [[BearsAreBadNews bear]] or [[FullBoarAction wild boar]] may still tear you to small shreds if only wounded, and even a human being, especially one under the influence of PCP or crystal meth or who has battlefield/military/police experience, may keep on attacking through being wounded. (Which is why if an armed assailant didn't drop to the ground, flee, or drop their weapon when shot you assume they are still capable of killing you and now have ''no reason not to do so.'')
!! 2) Know your limits.
* Use a gun only if you are ''comfortable'' with it. If you are scared of what a gun is capable of, or feel too inexperienced to use it, you shouldn't use it.
* If you have no experience with guns, do not touch one, unless properly supervised. Accept no substitute for proper instruction.
* If you have experience with guns, but come across a new one, find out how it works (either from its instruction manual or an experienced user) thoroughly before using it.
* Do not use a gun after drinking alcohol or are under medication. Ask your doctor if you have doubts when being prescribed medication.
** In some countries, seeing the gun wielder either drunk, dizzy (which may indicate drug use) or even drowsily tired is perfectly legal reason to kick him or her out of the gun range or hunting field.
** As a good rule of thumb, if you should not drive or operate machinery after taking given medication (it is usually mentioned on the package), you should also not shoot.
!! 1) Be aware of possible collateral damage.
* A gun should always be pointed in a safe direction. In a shooting range, this means down range. In the field, this means toward the ground, unless in a building with thin floors. Just always be aware of the direction where the gun is pointed and what it would hit if it went off.
** This rule is just as important even when a gun is not actually use. Be wary of unconsciously waving a gun around while standing or walking around, or where a gun is pointed when placed down.
* Always carry your firearm in such a fashion that you can control where it will point if you stumble or fall.
* Know what is behind and to the side of the targets and assume they will be hit. A projectile can still have lethal force even upon penetrating something. Trying to shoot past somebody risks having them walk into your line of fire (or you walk your line of fire into them). Back in 2012, a man who had a carry permit was trying to stop a man shooting up a shopping center, but wisely chose not to use his weapon for fear of hitting an innocent bystander behind the assailant.
* Take precautions against ricochets, spalling, and other such hazards. It is perfectly possible to be struck by a bullet reflected off a polycarbonate slab a dozen feet away -- stunts like [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=n4BJBz8GpzI#t=92s shooting a steel plate at point-blank]] can be fatal.
* Identify what ''is'' your target. You don't want to shoot something you thought was a threat, but instead was someone innocent. The number of people every year accidentally killed when paranoid homeowners have shot at suspected prowlers, or when hunters have [[http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/68057/magistrates-heavy-heart-man-to-face-trial/ mistaken people for animals]], is depressingly high.
* In countries where shotguns have been far more common than rifles for hunting over decades, people have the tendency to treat them as nearly harmless [[ShortRangeShotgun due to their short range]]. Shotgun range increases dramatically when firing [[http://www.grurifrasca.net/Sito/balistica/BalisticaTerminale/Images/sauvestre1.jpg modern]] aerodynamic [[http://www.ddupleks.lv/data/Image/Hexolit_32_picture.jpg slug]] types, and the large slugs (nearly .70 caliber by comparison to rifles) are almost as deadly as a small artillery shell.
* There are two ranges for firearms: maximum range and maximum ''effective'' range. Maximum range is the farthest the bullet will travel given the right circumstances. Maximum ''effective'' range is the farthest a bullet will travel and still retain lethal force. Even if you cleanly miss a target, the bullet can still kill from hundreds of yards to over a mile. One source to read further on this subject is [[http://gunwiki.net/Gunwiki/FactorsOfEffectiveRange the Gunwiki article on Effective Range]].
** As a corollary, never, under any circumstances, [[FiringInTheAirALot fire into the air]]. Even in celebration. That bullet WILL come down, and you have no idea of where. Also, it's a waste of perfectly good bullets. (Unless you have already ''removed'' the bullet from the cartridge or shot from the shotgun shell.)
!! 2) Maintain trigger and safety discipline.
* Do not put your finger near the trigger until you are ready to fire the weapon. Keep your trigger finger either securely on the guard or on the grip with your other fingers.
* Always ensure the safety is in use and enabled until ready to fire. '''Do not''', however, use it as a substitute for proper handling and trigger discipline. A broken safety cannot cause an accident but it can fail to prevent one.
** Many pre-World War One weapons either do not have a safety or they're very hard to use. And quite a few of these (namely, revolvers, bolt-action rifles, and muzzle-loaders) have a "trigger will do nothing if pressed" state -- do not use this as a safety.
** There are even multiple safety types, such as a grip safety, magazine release safety, or other mechanisms (such as the multiple safety features in Glock pistols). '''''Never assume''''' any random gun has them or use it instead of the actual safety.
!! 3) Always keep the gun unloaded when not in use, but treat it as if it still is.
* In the FamousLastWords of Terry Kath of Chicago fame: [[TemptingFate "Don't worry, guys. It isn't even loaded. See?"]][[labelnote:context]]Kath was cleaning his gun and had removed the magazine. He was goofing around with the gun and put it to his temple. He had intended to dry-fire it as a joke, but did not realize that even though the magazine had been removed, there was still a cartridge chambered and ready to fire.[[/labelnote]] (Lest you laugh: [[http://184.108.40.206/d20t9/143619.pdf this 1991 study]] found 23 percent of fatal gun accidents resulted from people treating loaded guns as unloaded.)
* When unloading the gun, remove the magazine or rounds, '''and''' pull the slide/bolt back to eject any cartridge(s), lock it back, and/or visually confirm that the chamber(s) are empty. Finally, try at least one dry-fire at the ''floor.'' In that order.
** The reason for the above is that many guns are closed bolt. Even if the gun has no magazine inside, there can still be a bullet in the chamber, ready to fire.
* When receiving a firearm from someone, even if you saw them unload it and engage the safety, ensure for yourself that it is safe to handle (magazine ejected, chamber cleared, bolt/slide locked back) before doing anything else with it.
!! 4) Interacting with others.
* An ignorant person with a weapon is a danger to themselves and others, and should be avoided.
* If someone shouts "CEASE FIRE", you stop immediately. No questions, no finishing what you're doing, '''just stop'''.
* When handing a weapon to someone, empty and clear the weapon before handing it over grip or butt first.
* ''Always'' ask the person if they know how to handle the firearm. If they don't know or you suspect they are [[BlatantLies BSing]] you, do not allow them use of the firearm until they are informed of:
** Where the safety is, how to operate it, and what's "safe" and "not safe".
** How to insert and eject a magazine or rounds.
** What to do in case of a misfire.
** Warn the user of recoil if there's a substantial amount of it. Especially with non-shoulder fired guns, as the user may be more prone to dropping the gun.
* If somebody is uncomfortable with handling a gun for ANY reason, never try to force them to do so, or try to reassure them it's safe. Even if you are 100% sure the gun is unloaded and safe, if they don't want to hold it, don't make them. If you do so, you make them a danger to themselves AND you.
* Do not try any "trick" anywhere. The life that your stupidity ends may not be your own.
* Do not leave a firearm unattended where untrained or unauthorized persons can reach it. Even if it's unloaded. Even for 'just a minute'. ''Especially'' if kids could get a hold of it.
!Other Safety Tips
!! 1) Ammunition safety
* Misfires and jams happen, even with proper maintenance, in more ways than you can imagine. Know how to ''safely'' clear a firearm.
* There are three kinds of misfires: hangfire, dud, and squib.
** Hangfire means the cartridge has a delay before firing. This is anywhere from the time you pulled the trigger to about 60 seconds.
** A dud is when the cartridge won't ever fire, at least if left alone under proper storage conditions.
** A squib occurs when there is insufficient expanding gas to expel the bullet from the barrel.
* What to do in case of misfire:
** If a cartridge does not fire, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction for 60 seconds in case of a hangfire. Then eject the cartridge, store it in a steel container, and dispose of it properly at a later time. Dud cartridges should be treated as a live, and care should be taken when handling them.
*** If on a firing range, the range should always have such a receptacle for these. If it doesn't, you might want to go to a different range.
** If there is light or no recoil, odd sound, or failure to cycle (with semi-automatic firearms), there's a good chance of a squib. Proper procedure if you think you have a squib fire is to cease firing, clear the stuck bullet from the barrel with a cleaning rod or similar object, clean any unburnt powder out of the firearm, and ensure that there are no other issues. If you believe someone else had a squib fire, immediately call a cease fire and inform them that you believe they had a squib.
* If there's a bullet in the casing, it's live. Even if there's a dent in the primer (dud rounds will often have a dent where the primer is).
** Related: some guns (for example, Russian [[http://imzcorp.com/en/company/open/weapon.html IZh Baikal]] boxlock rifles and shotguns) will not allow full release of the hammer if the gun is not 100% closed. (This is a measure to avoid an explosive breakup of the gun, as well as a side effect of the cock-on-closing firing system.) In such cases, even if the gun is apparently cocked and the trigger is pulled, the firing pin will barely scratch the primer. [[DontTryThisAtHome A knowledgeable operator]] can then re-open the gun, re-close it forcefully and safely, aim, and pull the trigger again, and expect the round to fire.
* Always ensure that your ammunition is designed for use in your gun. Many rounds may look similar, but they do not always work for that gun.
** As an example, the 5.56mm NATO and .223 Remington are almost identical except the pressure generated and the gun's chamber shape. Specifically, the 5.56mm NATO specification gives a maximum pressure of 430 [=MPa=] vs. a little less than 380 [=MPa=] (specifically, 55,000 psi) for standard .223 Remington. Because of this difference, .223 guns not designed to handle the higher pressure may react badly.
* Know where your ammunition came from. Random gun show reloads might be cheap, but replacing missing fingers is not.
* Do not fire dirty or damaged ammunition. Leaving aside probable fouling of the firearm, for a bullet to fire correctly requires that the pressure generated by the burning of the powder be uniformly directed towards pushing the bullet down the barrel -- if instead the path of least resistance is tearing wide a weak point in the casing, the results are unlikely to be to your liking.
* Blank cartridges are not harmless, even if you are certain that they are blank. Depending on the type of weapon, it is possible for some combination of a jet of flame, burning particles of propellant, and any foreign body in the barrel to strike a person with enough heat and force to cause severe injury or death. This is what caused [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crow_(film)#Death_of_Brandon_Lee the death of Brandon Lee]] on the set of ''Film/TheCrow'', and [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum#Death the death of Jon-Erik Hexum]] on the set of ''Cover Up''. Never fire a blank cartridge directly at another person, or in close proximity to them. The probability of these type of accidents is why movie and TV actors today undergo actual firearms training before shooting even ''flash-paper non-guns'' on set.
!! 2) Maintenance & Modification
* A new gun bought from the manufacturer will come with a manual as well as some cleaning tools. Familiarize yourself with both.
* Always ensure your gun is properly cleaned and maintained after firing. Cleaning kits are normally cheap and can prevent accidents and jams. Be aware of proper cleaning procedures if you are using corrosive ammunition.
* Before firing, double check to make sure the firearm is in good condition.
** As an example, the Mosin Nagant's firing pin protrusion can be adjustable. However, it must be within a certain tolerance. Too short and the rounds won't fire. Too far and the firing pin will pierce the primer, effectively creating a backblast.
* Only use cleaning products that are safe for use in your weapon. For example, ammonia based solvents will damage nickel finishes and other products should be used instead. Check the manual or contact the manufacturer if you are unsure if a product, tool, or technique is safe and effective to use on a particular firearm.
* If there is significant damage to the gun, do not try to fix it yourself unless you are a certified and licensed gunsmith. Either send it back to the manufacturer or take it to a certified and licensed gunsmith for repair and any major maintenance.
* Do not customize your weapon yourself unless you are knowledgeable enough to be sure that you have done any modifications safely. If you are unsure about a given modification, take it to a professional gunsmith and ''ask'' a professional's opinion as to the viability and safety in doing so.
** To clarify, this rule is about doing something such as working with the gas system, the safety, or headspacing. As a general rule, the external modifications such as adding slings and accessories is fine. It's the internal modifications you need to watch out for.
* When your gun is not in use, keep it unloaded, and at the minimum, locked in such a way that it's unable to fire. Or keep it in a gun safe (which has the secondary feature of being an actual safe).
** Even when a gun is intended for home defense and you wish to keep it loaded, think very carefully how you'll store it so nobody else can easily access it. First, quite a few deaths have resulted from children finding a loaded gun and accidentally firing it while playing with it; second, the fact that you intended the firearm for your own use cannot prevent whoever broke in from stealing it.
'''Ignore those that decry these rules; you will outlive them.'''
'''''Disclaimer:''' While we have done our best to make the above information clear, concise, and comprehensive, there is no substitute for actual training with firearms. Such training can be had from many sources, ranging from major organizations like the US National Rifle Association to local shooting clubs, and just about any gun store or range will be happy to refer you to a qualified instructor. '''This page is not intended to be used as a substitute for said training.'''''
%% Note: On reflection, I believe the presence of a redundant disclaimer is a very good idea, and am leaving both in place. -- @/RobinZimm