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Useful Notes / Gun Safety

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"A common rule of gunsmiths is that there are only two classes of firearms owners: those who have had an accidental discharge, and those who will have an accidental discharge."
— Anybody who has had more than one probably shouldn't have a gun

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. note 

There are many ways to handle a gun. Most of them are wrong. Here are some basic rules for handling firearms safely. Also, go to YouTube and search "gun fail." You'll see lots of examples on how not to shoot a gun/rifle or things to be aware of and NOT to do.

The Short Version

The below gets into details, but there are four commonly quoted universal rulesnote  of gun safety, to which we have added three others of similar generality:
  1. Treat a gun as if it's always loaded, especially when it's "not". As a Spanish proverb says: "The devil loads your guns". You'd be surprised how many people were buried after being shot by a gun they or the person who shot them knew was empty. Even if you are offered a gun that the person claims is not loaded, check it anyway. If you are offered a gun and don't know how to check whether or not it is loaded, learn how before you handle it. Even if you just took it apart and reassembled it and know that it's 100% unquestionably empty, still act as if it's loaded. If nothing else, it keeps you in a good habit.
    • In (way too many) gun stores they have a large closed pickle jar on the counter with pieces of ammunition inside. No, these are not free samples. They are the rounds that are found in guns brought in for maintenance, whose owners assured the clerks that the guns were empty..
  2. Never point a gun at anything or anyone unless it is your absolute intention to pull the trigger. Another version of this is "Never point a gun at anything you're not willing to destroy." Russians say "Bullets are stupid" for a reason.
  3. Keep the safety on and your finger off the trigger until you're aiming at your target.
    • Never assume the safety will save you from disobeying the other rules on this list. Even if you're certain the safety is on, the truth is you might have forgotten to actually turn it on. Even if it is actually on, it's a mechanical device that can fail.
  4. Be aware of who or what your target is and what is around and behind such. Do not fire if there is anyone or anything anywhere near your line of sight that you are not willing to hit/destroy. Be aware of what your target is made of, too, and if the bullet might pass-through or ricochet.
  5. Always store guns safely: locked with a trigger lock, in a locked gun safe, or both.
  6. Don't tamper with or misuse firearms or ammunition.
  7. If intoxication, exhaustion, or any other physical or mental state would make you a danger to yourself or others, stay away from firearms. (See also bottom of page.)

Before you start...

1) Recognize that guns are weapons.

  • Guns are not toys; they are tools designed to efficiently kill things. (Or, if not kill them, severely damage them, such as breaching rounds used in shotguns to destroy or disable door locks.) But then even if you don't actually kill someone, if it was unnecessary because you used it improperly, do you want to live your life knowing how you carelessly cost someone a crippling injury, or "only" lost a finger or two?
    • Even if you're using a gun purely for recreational purposes or as participant in shooting sports, it's still weapon that's perfectly capable of killing things and you must always remember that. The bullet doesn't care whether you intend to hit a person with it. And yes, the "low power" "small caliber" guns used in many competitions are still lethal weapons. Never ever think of it as "only a .22".
  • Guns don't make their holders invincible; the only reliable way to survive gun-combat is to avoid it.
  • LOCK. UP. YOUR. GUNS! Many unintentional shootings every year are the results of children finding guns that their parents were convinced were well-hidden or that the parents didn't think to keep away from their children. Young children are curious by nature, and can often easily find hidden guns, even if you think you know of a good hiding place. Even if you have no children and no visiting children, guns are a highly valued target of burglars, as they're easy to fence to other criminals. If any gun is not on your person/within your control, it should be stored in a gun safe and/or equipped with a trigger lock. Even when a gun is intended for home defense and you wish to keep it loaded, you must think very carefully how you'll store it so nobody else can easily access it. The fact that you intended the firearm for your own use cannot prevent whoever broke in from stealing it, especially if you weren't/aren't at home, and an unsecured firearm is a tragedy waiting to happen.
    • The reason infants and young children have such a disturbing tendency to accidentally kill themselves with unattended handguns is the gun's trigger is a very obvious and intuitive mechanism to fiddle around with, but due to the kid's lack of hand strength they aren't able to pull it back all the way with their finger. So they flip the gun around so they can take better utilize what grip strength they do have and use their thumbs to squeeze the trigger, and well...
    • Keeping your gun under your pillow is a recipe for disaster, as a man in Orange County discovered. Infuriated by the incessant barking of the dog next door one night, he reached for the Colt Derringer he kept under his pillow - and accidentally shot himself in the arm. The dog was unharmed.
  • Never aim a gun at anyone or anything unless you understand and are willing to bear the moral and legal consequences of killing or destroying that target.
    • Be aware of your state's or nation-state's self-defence laws. In the United States, regardless of which state, pleading self-defense does not magically equal a "get out of jail free card," in other words, just because you claim it was self-defense doesn't mean you're off the hook. Local police and/or sheriffs will conduct an investigation, during which you almost certainly will be taken into custody note , to determine if the evidence indicates you were justified. If so, you will be released. If not, you will be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter, or if they didn't die, attempted murder, and will have to prove in court that you genuinely feared for your life and didn't see other options. For example, a murder charge may just be downgraded to manslaughter charge.note 
      • State laws vary, but most states presume the shooter's innocence if the shooting took place in their own home (excluding domestic violence, of course). This is often described as "Castle Doctrine" (regardless of whether State Law actually uses or cites Castle Doctrine) and basically means that you have the right to shoot a home invader without warning based on his implied threat to you and your family. There will still be an investigation to determine that he was not invited in (which usually voids Castle Doctrine). Also, this protection often does not extend to property outside the physical walls of your house, depending on the state.
    • In common-law countries, pointing a gun at someone also constitutes the crime and tort of assault with a deadly weapon: the person who you pointed the gun at can both file a criminal complaint and have you prosecuted for a serious felony, which means prison time if you are convicted—even if you never pulled the trigger and never intended to. In some countries this applies even if what you were pointing at them wasn't actually a firearm - if the threatened party believed that the object was a weapon, you will be charged as if it actually had been one. If that doesn't work out, or even if it does, they could sue you to Hell and back for both compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages just because. To 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 and beat you over the head with it.
    • A gun should not even be drawn if a potential attack is obviously noninjurious and/or can be thwarted by evasion or physical force. While in some locales, police officers may be able to get away with shooting someone who is unarmed aside from bare fists/a bottle/a held object/a stick/mace or pepper spray (and in some very controversial US court cases, the occasional civilian has) many judges and juries (not to mention the public in general) view someone who responds to a likely nonlethal assault with lethal force as worthy of criminal punishment and social sanction.
    • Firearms are not reliably capable of causing non-lethal 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. This bears repeating: A firearm is a lethal weapon. Never, under any circumstances, point a firearm, loaded or unloaded, at someone (or something) you are not willing to kill or destroy.
  • Because, as all of this has made clear, a gun is your last resort for self-defense, be sure it is not your only resort. It's much better, both for practical and legal reasons, to invest in much better home security such as gates, high fences, better locks, alarms, and the like. Most opportunistic criminals will simply move on if they can't get in. If a criminal is more determined, it'll buy you precious time to act.
    • Outside the home, the gun remains your final line of self defense. In almost no jurisdictions will your attempts (or lack thereof) to deescalate the situation or leave be ignored. Your best self-defense is to not be in a dangerous situation and to extricate yourself quickly from them when possible. Could you end a confrontation safely by apologizing or backing down? Could you avoid violence by walking or running away? Could you have called the police or otherwise disengaged from the other party? If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes," you may face some serious criminal charges for drawing a gun, let alone firing it, depending on your jurisdiction. This doesn't apply just to guns, either; you may face charges for resorting to Good Old Fisticuffs if you could have backed down.
  • Know the laws about ownership, what paperwork needs to be filled out, and any registration requirements. Also, if a gun you own is stolen, report it to law enforcement immediately with all the pertinent data (make, model, serial number, etc.). Failing to report a stolen weapon can be used against you if the stolen firearm is used in the commission of a crime as an accessory to the crime. And can even make you the prime suspect in the crime if it can't be proven that somebody else did the shooting.
  • NEVER EVER EVER indulge in Gun Twirling! It violates some of the most important rules on this list (You can't keep your finger off the trigger, you can't control where the barrel is pointed and so on). When you see this trick done in films and TV it's almost certainly being done with a replica or otherwise non-functional gun. If you try this with a real gun then anybody in your vicinity would be a potential target... including yourself. You do not want a Darwin Award.
  • Let us end here with the following speech which came from a story about a concealed carry holder explaining why he does so:
    I am also aware that a handgun is a tool. It is intended to kill, or hopefully seriously wound a person in order to stop them from unjustifiably injuring or killing another person. A handgun is not a device that makes me taller, or stronger. Nor is it an extension of my penis. Being allowed to be armed is both a right and a responsibility. It is a right of ordinary individuals to protect themselves against criminal attacks. It is a responsibility to know when it is appropriate and permissible to use force, and when it is not.
    I couldn᾿t carry here because it is a restricted area, otherwise I always carry in public, on the presumption that I hope I never have to draw or use my weapon, there is always the possibility I am the only person who can prevent someone else from committing a crime against another person, or possibly against myself. I suspect that mindset is what makes most dishonest people behave. When the potential penalty for robbery, rape, or attempted murder is an automatic death sentence, criminals tend to move on to softer targets.

2) Know your limits.

  • Use a gun only if you are comfortable with it.
    • If you are scared of wounding or killing others with firearms, or feel too inexperienced to use them, you shouldn't use them. (Unless you are taking instruction or doing target practice, of course.)
    • By corollary, if you don't feel you can handle a given firearm, you shouldn't buy it, lest you be tempted to try in some kind of 'emergency' (like a burglary).
    • By extension, don't pressure somebody who isn't comfortable with a firearm into using one either, even if you feel comfortable and well-trained with guns.
  • If you have no experience with guns, do not touch one unless properly supervised. Accept no substitute for proper instruction. TV Tropes does not count as proper instruction. (And remember: proper instruction is not a substitute to keeping a cool head and being careful.)
  • If you have experience with guns and come across a new one, find out how it works thoroughly, either from its instruction manual or an experienced user, before using it.
  • Do not use a gun after drinking alcohol, when taking medication, or using recreational drugs with known mental side effects. Ask your doctor when being prescribed medication if you have doubts.

Using Guns

1) Do not shoot non-targets.

  • A gun should always be pointed in a safe direction. In a shooting range, this means downrange. 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 being used. Be wary of unwittingly waving a gun around while standing or walking around, and be conscious of where a gun is pointed when placed down.
    • A useful trick: if you need to turn to one side, holding your gun in the other hand (right if you're turning left and vice-versa) makes it easier to keep it pointed downrange.
  • Know what is behind and what is to the side of the targets and be prepared for them to be hit. Many bullets are still traveling fast enough to wound or kill even after penetrating something like a sandbag or a wall. Trying to shoot past somebody risks having them walk into your line of fire (or you walk your line of fire into them).
  • Related to the above: know where your bullet will end up if it misses or passes entirely through your target. By far the most important component of any gun range — formal or informal — is the backstop: a wall, berm, or hillside meant to absorb the bullets fired there. If you are setting up a range, you need to know that there won't be bullets passing through or ricocheting off of your backstop, and if you are shooting at one, you need to leave any round which might at home.
    • A common trick in rural areas is to set up targets in a valley between two hills, so that the shooters can stand on one and fire downwards. This offers two layers of safety: first, the vast majority of bullets will bury themselves in the soil, and second, the land beyond the range is sparsely populated (meaning even a freak ricochet or stray shot is unlikely to kill).
  • Take precautions against ricochets, spalling (shrapnel), and other such hazards.
    • If you look at any box of ammunition, it will tell you: never shoot at a hard surface. If you've ever bounced a rubber ball off a hardwood floor, you know that a solid projectile won't lose much speed when it hits a solid barrier unless either it breaks or the barrier breaks — put two and two together, and you can see why a stunt like shooting a steel plate at point-blank can easily be fatal. (YouTube also has video of a Real Life incident when a .50BMG bullet fired at a steel plate 100 yards out bounced back to hit the shooter on the side of the headnote .)
    • One of the hard surfaces that you might not have thought of: water. In real life, at bullet velocities, Soft Water is sufficiently averted that a trick shooter with .22LR bullets can intentionally ricochet off the surface.
    • If you spend any amount of time shooting, you'll see the strangest things happen — on one shooting trip, a bullet fired at a polycarbonate slab (that is to say, a hunk of plastic) a dozen feet away came back uprange to bounce off of one of the people at the field. No matter how careful you and your friends are, always wear eye protection whenever people are shooting, because it can make a difference between telling a story that ends with, "It was the damnedest thing" and telling a story that ends with, "So that's why I'm wearing an eyepatch".
  • Identify 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 mistaken people for animals, is depressingly high, the mainstream and social media are full of high profile cases of misidentified people who were shot, and some of these cases have actually managed to rekindle the same old gun control and self-defense debates (e.g. the Trayvon Martin case).
  • Know the kickback/recoil force of the gun and be sure you or the person firing can keep it under control.
    • The size or weight of a gun does not tell you how much kick it has. The truth is closer to the opposite, in fact: if two guns fire the same round, the heavier weapon will absorb more of the recoil. This is especially important with non-shoulder fired guns, which the unaware or inexperienced user is more prone to drop, and automatic or automatic mode guns, which may keep firing even if the shooter's aim is lost or the gun is dropped. That being said, there are certain guns that are both very heavy and kick like a mule, with Desert Eagles being particularly infamous for thisnote ; when dealing with guns like that, be extra cautious with anyone who wishes to test them out despite having never fired one before, especially if they're small and light in build. The kickback is enough to prove a serious problem even for large, strong individuals - more diminutive folks run the risk of literally being knocked off their feet or fracturing bones from it.
    • There have been at least two fatal incidents involving Uzis being fired by minors because — while the Uzi is a lightweight enough gun for someone of relatively small stature and strength to use — its light weight makes its kickback far more pronounced, and the results of kickback + a panicked or inexperienced shooter + full-auto mode are deadly.
    • On that note, never give an inexperienced shooter a weapon too powerful for them to control as a prank, as is commonly seen in online videos. Not only is this a major dick move, but it also is not funny, it is not cute, and it has gotten people killed.
  • 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 due to their short range. On the contrary: nearly all varieties of shot are still lethal even past their effective range. Shotgun range increases dramatically when firing modern aerodynamic slug types, and these large slugs (nearly .70 caliber by comparison to rifles) will cause catastrophic damage to whatever part of the body it hits.
  • 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 as far as the bullet can travel and still wound or kill. Even if you cleanly miss a target, the bullet can still kill someone over a kilometre away. One source to read further on this subject is the Gunwiki article on Effective Range.

    As a corollary, never, under any circumstances, fire into the air (especially not in celebration, i.e. when there are crowds standing outside). That bullet will come down somewhere, travelling fast enough to wound or kill. It's also a waste of perfectly good bullets.
  • Obviously firing blanks is a different situation, although you should be aware that discharging a firearm in city limits is often a crime whatever the type of ammunition. If your line of work deals with discharging firearms within an earshot of the public, you must call your local police department and inform them what you're doing. However blanks are not guaranteed to be safe, and they can still be lethal at close range. There have been numerous cases of individuals being killed by the discharged wadding from a blank cartridge, such as the late actor Jon-Erik Hexum, or Brandon Lee. Treat blanks the way you would a live round.

2) Do not fire by accident.

  • Guns don't "just go off" by themselves. Many armies do not refer to accidental discharges, instead using the term negligent discharges, due to all of them being easily preventable with proper handling and observation of safety rules. You are always 100% responsible for everything, from inspecting the weapon and ammunition, bringing mechanical problems to the attention of someone qualified to deal with them, maintaining the weapon, safely handling the weapon, and making sure the weapon is never touched by an unauthorized person.
    • If you have to ask, you should not make any modification to your gun's firing mechanism. One possible outcome is making an otherwise normally functioning gun into one that goes off (possibly only) when you don't intend it to.
  • The best way to keep a firearm not in use in transport is in a case. If you intend to carry it outside of a case, make sure the safety is on and is in a proper method of carry (holster for pistols, strap for rifles). Keeping a gun on your pants waist is a very bad idea by the way. There are holsters that go inside your pants waist, and if you insist on that particular mode of gun carrying, you should use one.
    • Keeping a Pillow Pistol comes with all kinds of storage and accidental firing risks - straight into your head. It's important to remember that once an intruder is in your room, there's little you can do when still half-asleep, and in the circumstances you're as likely to shoot yourself or your partner while trying to work out what's going on. If you are going to keep your gun in your bedroom, it should still be locked up.
  • Always carry your firearm in such a fashion that you can control where it will point if you stumble or fall.
  • Do not put your finger near the trigger until you are ready to fire the weapon. Keep your trigger finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
  • 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 have a safety that's hard to use or a nontraditional safety (such as the half-cock position in pre-1870s guns). A lot of these basically prevent the hammer from dropping. This should not be an excuse to ignore trigger discipline or otherwise.
    • Many firearms have safety mechanisms besides the manual safety switch, such as a grip safety or a magazine release safety. (Some, including pre-2003 Glock pistols, have multiple automatic safety mechanisms, but no manual switch.) Never assume any random gun has any given safety mechanism, and never use such mechanisms as a substitute for the manual switch when one is present.
  • Even with the safety on, a gun is dangerous if you handle it carelessly. There's a true story of a man who was going hunting with a friend and their dogs. They had the guns in the front of the truck. During the drive, one dog became excitable. It managed to both disengage the safety and fire the driver's rifle, resulting in him being shot in the leg. Fortunately the dog was unhurt.

3) Always treat guns as being loaded, even when they are not.

  • In the last words of Terry Kath of Chicago fame: "Don't worry, guys. It isn't even loaded. See?" 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. (Lest you laugh: this 1991 study found 23 percent of fatal gun accidents resulted from people treating loaded guns as unloaded.)
    • Think your gun is unloaded? Here's a jar full of bullets found in "unloaded" guns at the January 2014 Dallas Gun and Knife Show.)
  • If you are done shooting for any reason, unload the gun completely (see the next bullet point) and set it down, pointed in a safe direction.
  • Part of understanding the proper operation of a given firearm is knowing how to unload it completely.
    • For most firearms with detachable magazines, you unload by removing said magazine, pulling the slide/bolt back to eject any cartridge in the chamber, locking said slide back, and visually confirming that the chamber is empty. These steps must be done in that order; if, for example, you were to pull the slide back on a semiautomatic firearm (ejecting the round in the chamber) without locking it back and then remove the magazine, the top bullet from the magazine would be in the chamber — having been loaded there when the slide closed.
      • If a gun is open bolt, the steps are slightly different: Lock the bolt back, then eject the magazine. The reason is if for some reason the bolt is stuck against the magazine or there's some other malfunction, removing the magazine will cause the bolt to go forward, firing a round ( as demonstrated in this video).
    • The final step of unloading any firearm is always being able to confirm that it is fully unloaded. The reason why the above procedure ends with locking the slide or bolt open 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. (For some firearms — e.g. bolt-action tube-fed rifles — experts recommend cycling the bolt multiple times as the final step in the unloading process.)
    • For ease of inspection, you can also purchase flags that stick into the chamber and come out the ejection port or its equivalent.
  • If you are doing a dry fire test (after reassembling the weapon), remember to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction as if it were going to fire a round.
  • 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) Make sure of everyone's safety when using firearms with others.

  • If someone shouts "CEASE FIRE", you stop immediately. No questions, no finishing what you're doing, just stop.
  • Make sure that someone knows the basics of gun safety before allowing them to handle any firearm. Most ranges have short lists of rules (akin to the list at the top of the page) posted; if the person you are talking to cannot paraphrase such a list, do not entrust them with a weapon.
  • Always ask someone if they know how to operate a given firearm before handing it to them. If they don't know or you suspect they are bullshitting 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.
    • The force of the recoil, particularly if it's substantial, especially with non-shoulder fired guns (as the user may be more prone to dropping the gun).
  • When handing a weapon to someone, empty and clear the weapon before handing it over grip or butt first.
  • If somebody is uncomfortable with handling a gun, whatever the reason, don't make them do it. 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 perfectly safe. If you do so, you make them a danger to everyone.
  • Do not try any "tricks", 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.
  • If you find an abandoned firearm by accident (for example, left in your car trunk or thrown into your yard or in a piece of used furniture...), do not touch it or even think of keeping it, even if you know how to use it. It may have been used in a crime and you may well be charged with the crime or with evidence tampering if you so much as disturb it from its place, or (in some cases) if you even call the police directly to report finding it. The proper course of action is to immediately call a criminal defense lawyer, tell the lawyer what happened, and let the lawyer take custody of the gun and turn it over to the cops — protecting you as the finder via attorney-client privilege. This goes double if you could be assumed to know the gun was used in a crime. Yes, this will set you back anywhere from $500 to $1000. Your legal defense if you were arrested would be far more than that. note 
  • Do not put yourself in anyone else's line of fire.
    • Do not go downrange while anyone else is shooting.
    • During hunting season, be aware of where people may be hunting, and wear bright colors to make yourself visible and clearly not a target — because many animals have limited color vision, you needn't worry about this as it won't spoil anyone's fun (as opposed to the massively unfun experience of someone getting shot). This is what plaid red is for.
    • An ignorant (of firearms-safety) person with a weapon is a danger to themselves and others, and must be re-educated. Failing that, they should be avoided by everyone.
    • A murderous person with a weapon is also a danger to themselves and others, and should be reported to the police immediately. (There are a number of sources that can be found discussing what to do when faced with a gun-wielding maniac, but like in all self-defense situations, escaping is the preferred option.)
  • Accidental Suicide by Cop is another problem. This happens when police officers see a gun and feel threatened. Always ensure that:
    • If you are defending your home or yourself with a firearm, holster it or drop it the second police arrive.
    • If you are hunting, make sure to have proper permits, not to carry your weapon anywhere people might feel threatened, and possibly to dress in standard hunting gear rather than street clothes.
    • If you are wearing costumes with unloaded or prop guns or using prop guns in filming, make sure you have proper permits for filming, that when not on camera all weapons have proper safety bonding and are checked into storage, and that nothing is carried off set. Consider excluding guns for cosplay and Halloween costuming, where you may have to enter public areas, because authenticity isn't worth your life. If you feel like you have to carry a prop gun, particularly to a Fan Convention, make sure you follow all convention regulations on handling prop guns, and to check yours in with the con operations department as soon as possible; if they approve of your prop, they may give you a "peace bond" (usually a zip-tie around some thin part of the prop) as an indicator of "Yes, con ops approved of this weapon prop and I understand what to do and not do with it." If they refuse to approve your prop, do not argue with them; take your prop off the con grounds and store it someplace safe.
    • If you have a gun and are legally carrying it when approached by police, hold out your hands from your body in such a way that it is impossible to reach for the gun (generally straight out in front, palms up, or the Crucified Hero Shot pose - arms straight out to each side away from the body). When the officer feels out of danger (usually when he or she has removed the gun from you), only then mention your concealed carry permit.
    • Open carry is a politically contentious issue, but if you decide to do so, it is best to use a retention holster (if carrying a handgun) or a sling or scabbard (if carrying a long gun). It is critical that you maintain situational awareness and focus of retaining your firearm.
    • Additionally, if you choose to open carry, don't be a dick. There are lots of stereotypes about open carry proponents, almost all of them negative, and subverting them goes a long way towards public acceptance of the practice. First off, don't be an attention whore - people can already see that you're carrying, you don't need to prance around showing it off or take a selfie or group photo every ten minutes. Carry clean, too - holstered or zipped is fine, but carrying longarm at low ready makes cops and civilians nervous, makes you look like a bellicose douchebag, and is just completely unacceptable in general. Above all, however, be nice. Be polite, be personable, and be willing to acquiesce or compromise for the comfort of others if needed. If asked by a business owner or employee to leave your weapon outside or leave altogether, do so and do not become argumentative or belligerent. If insulted by someone on the street, don't respond with rudeness or aggression. Kill them with kindness (that is to say, figuratively) and make them look like an unreasonable asshole. Open carry is a polarizing issue that many people carry strong opinions about, and the least you can do is represent your side well.
    • There were incidents with people stretching the legal carry conditions to the limit. As in: law allows carrying the shotgun or rifle unloaded in a scabbard - guy drives the car with gun in unzipped scabbard on the front seat, bolt pulled back open, a magazine in the shirt pocket, ready to load in 2-3 seconds. While it's technically within legal limits, it still makes the cops nervous and it leads to unpleasant issues.
    • Even if you don't have a weapon, never reach into your clothes unless directed or under your car seat around police - there have been too many unpleasant incidents of jumpy cops making rash assumptions. Maybe they are being an asshole, but you're still the one in hospital - or worse. It shouldn't be like that, but it is - guns can grant the holder with a false sense of security and power - and it's something that could just as easily happen if you're the one with the gun.
  • Lastly (this should be common sense, but when friends, family, or significant others are involved, people can wind up giving them far more leeway than they should), if you truly feel that someone is a walking liability, do not let them handle guns. Most gun owners and users can name at least a few people who are idiots who have no regard for gun safety and have far too cavalier an attitude with something that can end a life in the blink of an eye. These people also tend to show up like a bad penny when you go to a range or a sandpit as a group, and if you find yourselves collectively going "who the hell invited them, again?" when this person shows up to a session, you need to seriously consider just telling them that they are no longer welcome. If they habitually make you babysit them beyond what is reasonable for an inexperienced user (i.e., if you're not just giving them basic pointers and showing them the correct way to do things, but rather thinking two steps ahead of them in terms of what they can and probably will do to jeopardize their own safety and the safety of others due to their sheer incompetence and inability or unwillingness to learn and basically doing just about everything save for wiping their asses for them), they probably need to go for the sake of your safety and sanity. If they're tagging along because they're the friend, family member, or significant other of a group member and you know that even having them just sit on the sidelines is more trouble than it's worth, tell that group member that the person needs to go. If the group member refuses, don't be afraid to take a "my way or the highway" approach. Remember, this is not just for their own good, but for yours and your group members as well, and you do not want your inaction to be the reason why someone is in the hospital or the morgue.

Other Safety Tips

1) Ammunition safety

  • Remember, "guns don't kill, bullets do." Employ as much or more care to safety of storing and handling ammunition as you would to anything. Keep it away from children or anyone you wouldn't trust with a loaded gun. Do not, ever, "play" with ammo or do any dumb "tricks" of "roasting on a grill" or "Ass Shove" variety.
    • Please note that while loose ammo has significantly less destructive force than chambered ammo (as investigated by MythBusters), this is not an excuse to treat loose ammo any less carefully.
  • Misfires and jams happen, even with proper maintenance, in more ways than you can imagine. Know how to safely clear a firearm.
  • There are four types of misfires: hangfires, duds, squibloads, and chain fires.
    • Hangfire means the cartridge has a delay before firing. This is anytime when the primer is struck to about 60 seconds. While there's no definite maximum time limit, 60 seconds is the generally agreed upon limit.
    • A dud is when the cartridge won't ever fire, at least if left alone under proper storage conditions.
    • A squib load occurs when there is insufficient expanding gas to expel the bullet from the barrel.
    • Chain fires only apply to pre-cartridge revolvers (i.e., loose powder and bullet). This is when firing a round causes one or more loaded chambers to fire. For this reason, if you plan on shooting something like a Colt Revolving Rifle you must have your support hand behind the revolver cylinder, lest it chain fires and you lose your arm. There are several methods to help prevent chain fires, but following the gun manufacturer's procedure on loading the gun typically is enough to prevent them most of the time.
  • 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 magazine, pull the slide/bolt back to eject the cartridge, look at it to see that all of the bullet is still attached, 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. Firing ranges should always have safe receptacles for these. If a prospective range does not, choose another.
    • 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, unload the weapon, and check whether the barrel is clear. (For weapons you cannot open to easily look down the barrel from the breech, a cleaning rod or similar object should be used.) If the barrel is not clear, 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.note  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 
  • Always ensure that your ammunition is designed for use in your gun. The fact that two rounds look similar, or that a given round will physically fit in a given firearm, is no guarantee of good results.
    • One of the examples most frequently mentioned is the contrast between the 5.56mm NATO and .223 Remington. The rounds 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, and 5.56 was designed to need slightly more freebore as a safety feature, although it doesn't actually stop you from chambering the overpowered ammo into an under-strength chamber and barrel. Because of this difference, .223 guns not designed to handle the higher pressure may react badly. Many manufacturers "idiot-proof" their .223 weapons today by designing them to be able to handle the pressure of 5.56mm anyway (in fact most are just outright chambered in 5.56x45mm nowadays (or in ".223 Wylde", a chamber carefully designed for ideal function with both rounds, thus giving the same safety margin as a 5.56x45mm chamber and plus better accuracy when using commercial .223 Remington ammunition), it's rare to see a new gun actually even designed only for .223 Rem anymore), but for your own safety and your weapon's viability, you should absolutely not load a round into your weapon if you are not 100% positive your weapon is meant to fire it.
    • Videos of people firing the wrong round out of a gun are not impossible to find on YouTube: this video shows three examples. Note how in all three cases the weapon fails to cycle properly.
  • Know where your ammunition came from. Random gun show reloads might be cheap, but replacing missing fingers after firing some of "Bubba's pissin' hot handloads" 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.
    • Cheap military surplus ammo with steel case may be decades old when purchased, and if some moisture crept into the cartridge, the powder cements together and may explode uncontrollably. Which would ruin your day, your rifle and possibly yourself.
  • 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, particles of propellant, wadding used to seal the gunpowder into the blank cartridge, fragment(s) of brass from the cartridge itself, and/or a foreign body in the barrel to strike a person with enough force or heat to cause severe injury or death. This is what caused the death of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow, and 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.

    A case in point: Russian 5.45/7.62x39 blanks (for AK/AK-74) have massive plastic wads that are designed to be used with special barrel attachments that fragment them and ensure that there's enough pressure for the action to work. When, for any reason, these devices aren't present, these plastic wads become plastic bullets and there's been cases of people being fatally injured by them.

    Likewise, many pre-WWII European blanks have wooden bullets, the intention being to ensure they would feed just as well as regular ammo. The ones most commonly seen today are surplus Swedish Mauser blanks. Originally the Swedish Army used them in training under the assumption that the wooden bullets would be harmlessly destroyed before they even left the barrel. It was soon determined that these wooden bullets were, in fact, potentially lethal out to about 100 feet. Thus, an adapter was created that shredded the wooden bullets into sawdust.

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.
  • Speaking of corrosive ammunition, it's important that when using it that you clean the firearm as soon as you get home. Do not wait and say "I'll get around to it," as you won't and over time the firearm will become useless. The Mosin-Nagant rifle is famous for this. Since the ammo for it is essentially custom (the only firearm that shoots 7.62x54R ammo is the Mosin - more modern weapons in that caliber like the SVD use special versions of the round meant for use at longer ranges) and because it's designed to be cheap (Mosins were mostly made by or for Soviet-aligned or Communist countries that needed cheap arms and ammo), the ammo uses cheap chemicals and thus is corrosive, failing to clean the weapon after use can cause pitting or other worse damage to the barrel. A Mosin-Nagant with a pitted barrel loses about 30% of its accuracy. A barrel with damaged rifling loses 70% of its accuracy. A gun that only hits where you aim it 7 out of 10 or 3 out of 10 is no longer a reliable weapon, it's a danger to anyone around it. To paraphrase Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, "Pretty please with sugar on it. Clean the fucking weapon."
  • 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.
  • Before firing, double check to make sure the firearm is in good condition and properly configured.For example 
  • 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.

3) When firing

  • Always wear hearing and eye protection. Depending on the gun being fired, your everyday glasses can be used to protect your eyes. Earplugs are sold at all gun shops and should be enough to protect your hearing. If you've only ever been exposed to gunfire from a distance, or in television/movies, the actual concussion of a gunshot is about 100 times greater than you might imagine. Even one shot is capable of causing serious hearing damage, especially in an enclosed area. And silencers (which aren't really silent, anyway) range from very strictly regulated to outright banned; only in the movies can you just walk into a gun store, fork over some cash and walk out with a silencer.
    • For your reference, Linda Hamilton was subjected to permanent hearing loss due to use of inadequate ear protection on the set of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (the offending scene is the one where they're escaping the mental hospital in an elevator). Don't be that guy who says "WHAT?" to everything because you failed to learn from her mistake.
  • Even if you are at an indoor range, always wear closed-toe shoes. For ladies it's also recommended to not wear low-cut shirts, and men shouldn't go bare-chested. Discharged casings (commonly called "brass") come out extremely hot and can burn if they land on exposed skin.
    • Shooters refer to a person's reaction to red-hot brass inside their shirt as "The Brass Dance." Retired US Marine Max Uriarte summed it up appropriately as "The Dance of Our People."
  • If you have long hair, tie it back. You need to see where you are aiming.
  • If you are with another person at the range, be careful of the casings from their weapon. They won't kill you, but they can leave bruises and burns. That's why there's usually a divider between shooters. Never enter another shooter's "personal space" for this reason.
  • Firearms operation is likely to leave you and your clothing covered in residue from bullets, propellants, and primers. Never eat or drink at the firing range. Always wash your hands before eating or handling food after leaving the range, and wash your clothes soon after the trip. (Some sources recommend having a separate change of clothes to wear while shooting). It won't give you lead poisoning and it probably won't give you cancer (no more than anything else will, anyway), but it is basic hygiene.
  • Similarly, when cleaning and maintaining your firearms, take precautions to avoid breathing harmful fumes or leaving residues on household surfaces. Wearing disposable nitrile gloves and working on a non-permeable and/or disposable surface can help here.

4) When transporting

  • Sometimes guns need to be moved from one place to another - when going on a hunting trip, for example - and you need to keep them safe then, too, just as much as you do when they're in storage. If you need to move your gun, you should buy a special transport case to hold it while you're on the way. Don't just dump it in your backpack. No matter what you pay for the case, your hospital bills would probably be higher - and so would your funeral. There are just too many stories of people just moving their gun from one place to another with no intention of firing at all, when a misfire has occurred.
  • Note that in some instances (especially in the United States) you could be traveling from one place to the other and passing through an area where a gun you're carrying is illegal. For example, a Utah non-resident carry permit is honored in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, North and South Carolina. It is not honored in Maryland, Washington DC or Pennsylvania, and carrying an unlicensed handgun in these areas can get you prison time. Federal law allows you to carry a firearm if it's (1) legal for you to have it; (2) legal in the place where you started; and (3) legal where you are going, even if it is illegal in one of the places you're passing through, as long as it is stored unloaded in a locked case without ammunition. Amazon.Com sells inexpensive lockable handgun cases for under $10 and cheap padlocks can be obtained from dollar stores.

5) For Use as a Film Prop

  • Cooperation between prop master and set armorer who will verify the use of real guns, non-functioning replicas note , stunt props (made of foam or rubber) and the various types of ammunition that may be utilized. Live rounds are real bullets (typically not used on set in general, though exceptions have been made for various reasons), blanks will discharge but not fire a bullet (as mentioned, sheer pressure makes it dangerous at close range) and dummy rounds are fabricated props designed for screen use only (small marks on the cartridge indicate it is not functional).
  • Use of any type of firearms need to be outlined in the call sheet, and highly recommended to inform law enforcement and neighbors to the set of what is being done. Actors and crew members should be allowed access to the weapons to confirm their nature. During the course of their use, they are not to be handled recreationally after hours and should remain locked up.
  • Basic rules of gun safety should be adhered to off camera regardless of their design and function. Any weapon brought to set should be announced for their role for the actors and crew. Actors are expected to verify the gun they are holding, sometimes referred to as "pack your own parachute."

Mental Health

  • Some 90% of suicides are impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions. Shooting yourself in the head with a gun has a less than 10% survival rate. More than half of the USA's suicides are with guns, and some three-fifths of the USA's firearms deaths are self-inflicted. Owning a gun means you or someone in your family are vastly more likely to take their own life. So please, if you believe that you or anybody you know is at risk of suicide, we insist you get help. Please, put the gun away somewhere safe and talk to somebody.
  • If you notice that someone who you know to have a gun appears to be undergoing major life stresses (especially relationship-related, especially if they are in a situation of domestic violence or a nasty divorce), appears to be suffering a psychotic break or manic episode, appears to make even "joking" threatening comments or especially serious threats, or seems to be expressing either extreme anger/hatred/resentment and/or a complete lack of feeling and empathy, try to get them to proper psychiatric help and get the firearm out of their possession. This could be as easy as just having a serious talk with them (e.g. if it's a situation where you know the person and they are angry/despondent over a work or domestic situation but not floridly psychotic) and asking to keep the gun/have them store it at a range or pawn it or whatever for a while until they feel better, all the way to contacting law enforcement and informing them of the threatening behavior (as a last resort, if you believe violence is truly imminently possible, as a police visit itself can result in violence or death).
  • If you know someone with a history of poor anger management and impulse control, especially if they have a proven history of aggressive or violent behavior in public or clearly enjoy confrontation and conflict, who either owns guns or has displayed a substantial amount of interest in them, and you have good reason to believe that they pose an imminent threat to others, alert the authorities. While it may not result in any immediate action (and likely won't), it creates a paper trail, and in many jurisdictions, it may get them flagged in the system if they go on to attempt to purchase a firearm or apply for a concealed carry license. There's always the chance that their talk is just idle rhetoric and there was no real threat, but if your instincts tell you that one particularly bad encounter (or, worse, any sort of encounter with any room for them to escalate) is going to result in one or more people getting blown away, your early warning may save a life.
  • This is also why, if you suffer from a mental illness or developmental/brain disability, you should seriously consider whether you should own a gun, and which gun to own if you do choose to buy one. Something like being on the less severe end of the autism spectrum or dyslexia/similar learning disabilities or an IQ below 100 but above 70 might not be a problem if you are otherwise capable of ordinary adult functioning, suffer no other illnesses and can follow safety rules and understand the gravity of firearm use. Epilepsy is much the same as driving: if you have had no seizures for five years and you are not compromised by your anticonvulsive medication itself, operating/owning a gun may be safe if a doctor signs off on it, but otherwise it's not safe at all. If you have depression or bipolar even if it is treated, however, you should be considerate about owning a firearm, because you could make a bad decision during a bad time. If you have schizophrenia or traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer's, you likely most certainly should not. There are alternatives to guns (for protection, mace or pepper spray, martial arts, staying in groups; for hunting, "photograph hunting" where you have a camera and your objective is to photograph the animal or bird, and for sport/marksmanship/target, Airsoft, archery, paintball, and video games) that are just as fun as owning a firearm without the potentially deadly downsides if you feel that your mental illness might lead to rash decisions. And of course, if you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from extreme paranoid delusions, we insist you immediately seek professional help. Please put the gun somewhere safe and talk to somebody.

Trading With Guns

  • Selling, trading and repairing guns is more than just a business: it's a big responsibility. You're literally selling or working with killing machines and make them available to the general public, and this puts you in a position where you should also put some effort from your part to ensure that your business won't result in gun deaths and an onslaught of gun haters clamoring for the end of your business. Take the time to learn the signs of someone who is a danger to themselves or others as a result of a mental health or life crisis, educate yourself in the warning signs of a sociopath, and take the time to talk. It also goes without saying that, as a shopkeeper or gun business owner, one of your duties is to prevent straw purchasing — when someone purchases a gun on behalf of someone who is not legally allowed to own it — because even though American gun laws are so easygoing you probably won't have any liability for having sold a gun to someone who used it on a crime (in the event of a straw purchase, the purchaser is the one guilty for allowing someone who shouldn't possess guns to possess one), that doesn't means you won't run into serious legal trouble if the police manages to trace back a fraudulent transaction to their store.note 
  • One of the preferred techniques among gun dealers to ensure the safety of their business, thanks to its simplicity and relative accuracy, is to have a little talk with the customer in order to read their mind through body language, attitude, actions, personal context, words and what they reveal about their personal profile. Unless the customer is cool-headed or good enough at lying to fake non-verbal language, chances are the customer will reveal at least a little bit of their true intentions. Pay close attention, and some attitudes in particular will stand out as red flags that indicate that the customer is up to something that is definitely not good; in these cases, refusing to sell guns or ammo could prevent a crime or save someone's life. Some highly specific red flags are as follows:
    • As noted in the links and above, if someone seems emotionally distraught (crying, rage), showing symptoms of a mental illness (the rapid, pressured, fast speech that is a hallmark symptom of bipolar mania, the anxiety and eye contact avoidance of a suicidal person, appearing to be hearing voices, acting in a paranoid manner), or obviously under the influence of alcohol or drugs (especially stimulant drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine), they do not need a gun.
    • Anyone who "just wants a gun, any gun" should be assumed to possibly be having bad intentions. Hunters, sport shooters/marksmanship/target shooters, gun fanboys, and even most people looking for self-defense weapons usually know exactly what type of weapon they need/want and have researched it in advance, whereas people who are suicidal or homicidal often don't care, because any gun can kill. Of course, a more savvy suicidal person or killer might use one of these as a glib excuse - in which case, be aware if the gun matches the alleged need. If it doesn't, that's even more of a red flag than "oh just give me anything." This is mostly limited to countries with unregulated gun trade like the USA, as in European jurisdictions any gun license released is specific to the category of weapon - as in rifles or shotguns for the hunter, handgun for self-defense, specific types of rifle or pistol for the target shooter and so on.
    • Related, someone who doesn't truthfully say what they are going to do with the gun upfront - or especially who doesn't even say so if actually asked. If the answer to "what do you need this for" is silence, subject change, Blatant Lies, or a glib, quick excuse that doesn't seem to make sense, watch out.
    • If your customer seems to know next to nothing about guns, chances are they're a straw purchaser. If, in addition, they want one specific gun and nothing else, chances are they're fulfilling a gun smuggler's order or are coming in to make a straw purchase after the person who put them up to it tried and failed to purchase that same item; if you just refused to sell a certain gun to someone an hour earlier and someone walks in asking for that same exact gun, but seems to be absolutely clueless about guns, you can safely assume that the would-be original purchaser sent them. If they walk in with someone who seems to be way more knowledgeable about guns, monitor their interactions and listen in on their conversations when possible; if it looks like the more experienced person is just there to offer them guidance and is giving them pointers and answering their questions, it's probably benign, but if they are clearly telling them what to do and the less experienced party seems to have no idea what they're doing (as opposed to having some general idea of what they want), it's probably a straw purchase with the intended recipient present.
    • Multiple guns in one purchase/trade is a warning sign, especially if they are very different kinds. It might be plausible that a hunter or sport/target shooter is buying, say, three slightly different long guns (in case of jams or breakage, to try something different, for different stages in the event), and similarly a new concealed-carry holder might buy two handguns, one for home and one for car/body carry. Someone seeking to acquire an AR-15 semiautomatic, two handguns, and a sniper rifle, on the other hand, should be taken with major suspicion — there's a high chance they're either stocking up for a major crime, or that they're fulfilling a gun smuggler's purchase order.
    • No Kill like Overkill is also a very major warning sign. Usually this can be spotted with ammunition - know how much an average shooter needs, and start asking questions if someone is buying far more. This is a red flag for paranoia, mass casualty shooters and gun smugglers. This also ties into the gun itself - if someone is seeking, say, a .50 BMG anti material rifle for "home defense," you can and should consider trying to steer them toward a handgun or a pump-action shotgun instead - and see their reaction when you try. If they acquiesce, they may have just been thinking unrealistically, but you should still monitor them closely. If they try to sidestep the issue, come up with an excuse, or suddenly grow defensive or even outright rude or hostile (e.g., if your attempts to gently redirect them are met with a reply of "I don't recall asking for your fucking opinion" or something along those lines), you have an absolutely massive red flag on your hands and should act accordingly.
    • Purchasing too little, however, is also a red flag — it implies the purchaser is about to commit suicide. Why bother purchasing the whole suite of safe, holder, carrying case, maintenance kit, accessories and a fair supply of ammo when you're going to die without using them?
    • Mentioning major personal setbacks such as divorce, job loss, bankruptcy or academic failure might as well just be an up-front "I'm going to kill myself and/or other people".
    • Presenting any money other than legal tender, such as foreign currency or cryptocurrencies (bitcoins, litecoins, ethereums...), or insisting on paying with cash if the shop enforces credit card purchases (some shops do it to add another layer of paper trail), means your purchaser does not want to be tracked. While this behavior has become increasingly prevalent among otherwise perfectly honest people following Edward Snowden's big reveals, there is still a possiblity that you're dealing with a criminal who wants to slip off the radar.
    • Unsolicited comments disparaging specific minority groups, that sound suspiciously like the rhetoric of known extremist groups, or that have an aggressively militaristic anti-government bent should also serve as a warning sign. Given the very heated nature of the gun control debate in the US, anyone who works at a business that sells firearms will most certainly hear anti-government sentiment from customers on a fairly frequent basis. As such, you should instead listen to the tone of the sentiment. Are they lamenting a loss of freedom and expressing fears of a police state, or do they sound as if they're preparing for a war or have an overly bellicose demeanor? If it's the latter, definitely listen closer to their speech to see if what they're saying matches up with the rhetoric of extremist groups. For those in the US, sovereign citizens are probably the most commonly encountered extremist group; listen for things like explicit or thinly-concealed anti-Semitic and/or Masonic sentiment, anti-banking or Federal Reserve comments (something along the lines of "Wall Street is going to be the death of this country" is nothing to worry about; on the other hand, something like "fucking Jews are using our corporate shells as collateral" should make your spider-sense tingle), comments about the government being illegitimate or fraudulent (rather than just corrupt or power-drunk; sovereigns genuinely believe that the US government is a sham), and an overwhelmingly arrogant or contempt-filled attitude (as they believe that they are enlightened by their knowledge of a massive, labyrinthine conspiracy that most Americans are simply too stupid and gullible to understand or believe), and look for things like odd license plates (if their vehicles are visible), oddly-punctuated names, or strange addresses; lastly, if they try to pay with currency that you have never seen before and that does not match any known legal tender, that's almost assuredly a sign that you're dealing with them, especially if it has something like "Republic of Texas" or "Little Shell Pembina Band" emblazoned upon it (in case you're wondering, this currency is not recognized and should not be accepted under any circumstances).note  Sovereign citizens have also taken to cryptocurrencies such as the Bitcoin to make their transactions, due to them not being backed by any nation-state and due recently also to the painstaking efforts by companies as large and recognized as IBM to legitimize them, meaning that in principle, accepting them shouldn't hurt — but as usual when doing business with guns, err on the side of caution, refuse them, and ask for US dollars. While the average sovereign citizen will never engage in violence and will mostly just be a colossal pain in the ass for law enforcement, the court system, government employees, and the odd landlord or property owner who is unlucky enough to have gotten into a squabble with one, there are enough high-profile cases of sovereign citizens engaging in violence that you should be on the lookout for them. Second to sovereign citizens are Neo-Nazis or various other white supremacist groups - this symbolism combined with a professed hatred of minorities (especially Jews or African-Americans) is a major red flag there.
      • While there is such a thing as acceptable targets in fiction, the concept doesn't apply to violence in the real world. While hating Neo-Nazis and other hate groups is encouraged in society, going on a shooting spree against these people is not defensible, and you as a gun broker should take steps to prevent this from happening. While it is expected (and generally a positive sign) to hear anti-racist speech, be careful of people who make jokes like "man, if only I had a bullet for every Nazi in the world," or seem unusually focused on racism or other injustices in society. These people may be working themselves up into becoming a vigilante or worse. And lastly remember that anyone can be a racist against another group even they are themselves a minority. If you hear a potential customer make prejudiced comments against any group of people you should at the very least press them about the issue to find out if it's a deep seated grudge or not and take appropriate action.

What to do if it may be necessary to use a weapon

Let's say that you're in a dangerous situation, you have a weapon, and may have to use it. What should you do?

1. If it is at all possible, call the police first. If nothing else, the 9-1-1 recording will be useful if you're heard saying, "Put the gun down, the police are coming and if you point it at me I'll shoot."

2. In cases where the other party might not know you're armed, you want to have the weapon loaded and ready, especially if it's noisy. Cocking a shotgun will immediately give away your location and if they are armed, gives them a place to aim. If you're going to have to use it defensively, have the shotgun already loaded and ready for use. The last thing you want to have to do is rack the slide, which could give away your position, in which case it may very well be the last thing you ever do.

3. After the incident, call the police - again, if you already did. You want to notify them of what happened, and what you look like so they don't shoot you, mistaking you for the perp. Use a passive voice when describing the event and avoid making any specific statements regarding your actions that could be seen as an admission of wrongdoing. "There's been a shooting" is sufficient; there is no need to tell the dispatcher or responding officers any more details than that without the presence of a lawyer.

4. Put your weapon down and away from yourself for the same reason as the previous point: so the cops don't think you're the perp and shoot you. Keep your hands in plain sight.

5. Related to point 3, CALL A LAWYER. You have just shot someone, they may be dead or dying. The police are going to want to talk to you at length, and you are not going to be in any kind of clear mental state. Remember those Miranda warnings: "Anything you say can and will be used against you." Let the lawyer think clearly for you. If you don't have a lawyer, or one specialized in criminal defense, look into one. There are organizations that support handgun owners with on-call attorneys should the need arise.

6. Even if you didn't shoot — say, someone approached aggressively, you feared for life and drew your gun, they backed off — someone still probably saw you holding a gun on someone. Call the cops, call a lawyer, get your side of the story on record.

In conclusion...

Finally, in accordance with all the above rules, remember, human (and all) life is precious. Guns weren't invented to shoot the lock off a door, destroy the cameras of hostile robots, frighten people, or show off tricks. They're meant to kill human beings, and the better the gun, the better it is at killing people. If you buy a gun, any destruction it causes is directly down to you, even in the case of the most tragic of accidents. A family member, a friend, a burglar, an attacker, a jerk... no matter who they are or what they're doing, do you think you can take responsibility for ending their life? If you own a gun, you cannot do so with the knowledge that it will not one day end a life. Think about what you really need that gun for, and remember - if you don't own a gun, it can't be misused. End of story.

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.

Disclaimer: While we have done our best to ensure that the above information is accurate, useful, and sufficient, Wiki Magic is inherently an amateur operation, and editing TV Tropes does not require expertise, certification, or knowledge of any kind. This page provides neither authoritative reference material nor legal advice.