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THE NRA'S GUIDE TO FIREARM SAFETY

NRA Gun Safety Rules
A Guide to Firearm Safety
A Parent's Guide to Safety

NRA Gun Safety Rules (available as brochure)
Three Fundamental Rules For Safe Gun Handling

1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.
 

2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
 

3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does.
 

When Using Or Storing A Gun, Always Follow These NRA Rules:
Know your target and what is beyond. Be absolutely sure you have identified your target beyond any doubt. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot. Never fire in a direction in which there are people or any other potential for mishap. Think first. Shoot second.

Be sure the gun is safe to operate. Just like other tools, guns need regular maintenance to remain operable. Regular cleaning and proper storage are a part of the gun's general upkeep. If there is any question concerning a gun's ability to function, a knowledgeable gunsmith should look at it.

Know how to use the gun safely. Before handling a gun, learn how it operates. Know its basic parts, how to safely open and close the action and remove any ammunition from the gun or magazine. Remember, a gun's mechanical safety device is never foolproof. Nothing can ever replace safe gun handling.

Use only the correct ammunition for your gun. Only BBs, pellets, cartridges or shells designed for a particular gun can be fired safely in that gun. Most guns have the ammunition type stamped on the barrel. Ammunition can be identified by information printed on the box and sometimes stamped on the cartridge. Do not shoot the gun unless you know you have the proper ammunition.

Wear eye and ear protection as appropriate. Guns are loud and the noise can cause hearing damage. They can also emit debris and hot gas that could cause eye injury. For these reasons, shooting glasses and hearing protectors should be worn by shooters and spectators.

Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting. Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must not be used before or while handling or shooting guns.

Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. Many factors must be considered when deciding where and how to store guns. A person's particular situation will be a major part of the consideration. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun, are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules.

Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.

Cleaning
Regular cleaning is important in order for your gun to operate correctly and safely. Taking proper care of it will also maintain its value and extend its life. Your gun should be cleaned every time that it is used.

A gun brought out of prolonged storage should also be cleaned before shooting. Accumulated moisture and dirt, or solidified grease and oil, can prevent the gun from operating properly.

Before cleaning your gun, make absolutely sure that it is unloaded. The gun's action should be open during the cleaning process. Also, be sure that no ammunition is present in the cleaning area.

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Guide to Firearm Safety (available as brochure)

SAFETY FIRST!
When handling, using, or storing any type of firearm, safety must be your first concern. Gun safety rules must be understood and applied in all situations involving firearms.

The three fundamental rules of gun safety must always be applied simultaneously when handling or using a gun:

1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

The following gun safety rules should also be observed when using or storing a gun:

  • Know your target and what is beyond.
  • Be sure the gun is safe to operate.
  • Know how to use the gun safely.
  • Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.
  • Wear hearing and eye protection as appropriate.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting.
  • Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.
  • Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) provides a variety of courses in its Basic Firearm Training Program. These courses are conducted by NRA Certified Instructors and are available in the following subject areas: pistol, rifle, shotgun, home firearm safety, personal protection, and muzzleloading. Contact the NRA Training Department at (703) 267-1430 for a list of instructors in your area. For more information on firearm safety, contact: NRA's Education & Training Division at (703) 267-1500.

    Types Of Guns And Gun Actions
    The two basic types of firearms are pistols (handguns) and long guns. The most common types of pistols in use today are revolvers and semi-automatics. The most common types of long guns are rifles and shotguns.

    To understand how a firearm works, it is first necessary to understand the firearm's action. The action is a group of moving parts used to load, fire, and unload a gun. A gun is usually identified by its type of action. Various gun actions and unloading techniques are described here. When unloading a gun, always eject the cartridges into your hand or onto a soft, clean surface.

    CAUTION:This brochure provides only general information about firearms. Due to the large variety of mechanical designs available, some guns will differ from the descriptions in this brochure. Some guns also require different handling and unloading techniques. For this reason, always be sure to get proper training from a competent instructor. Also read and understand the gun's instruction manual. If you have any questions or problems, consult a knowledgeable person.
     
     

    LONG GUNS
    1.Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. 
    2.Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. 
    3.Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. 

    A typical bolt-action long gun is shown here with the names of some of its parts. Various types of long gun actions are shown on the following pages. 

     
    Magazines
    Some long guns use a magazine. A magazine is a storage device designed to hold cartridges ready for insertion into the firing chamber. The location of the magazine may vary depending upon the action, model, and make of the gun. Various types of magazines also exist. Two of these magazine types are described below.
    A box magazine is usually found in the location shown here. Some box magazines are detachable and can be removed by depressing a button, latch, or similar release device. Other types of box magazines are not detachable. Some have a hinged floorplate, and are unloaded by pressing a release device that allows the floorplate to open and the cartridges to drop out of the magazine. Other types of non-detachable magazines do not have a releasable floorplate, and the cartridges are usually ejected by carefully opening and partially closing the action. 
     
    A tubular magazine is usually found in one of the locations shown here. Some tubular magazines have an inside tube which must be removed in order to let cartridges drop out of the magazine. The action must also be opened and partially closed several times in order to be sure that no cartridges are left in the magazine. Other types of tubular magazines do not have a removable inside tube, and the cartridges are usually removed by carefully operating the action of the gun. Because a cartridge can become stuck in a magazine tube, the gun may still contain a cartridge after the above steps have been taken. Therefore, leave the action open to prevent a cartridge from being moved into the chamber. 
     
    NOTE: Read the manufacturer's instructions for unloading your type of gun. However, whenever possible: (1) avoid handling the gun when a cartridge is in the chamber; and (2) avoid working the action in such a way that a cartridge is fully inserted into the chamber.
    Bolt Action 
    Bolt actions are opened using a lift and pull motion similar to that used to open a door bolt or gate bolt. 

    To Unload: 

  • If the gun has a detachable box magazine, remove it. 
  • If the magazine is tubular or non detachable, see "Magazines" above. 
  • Open and partially close the action several times by operating the bolt to be sure that all cartridges are ejected. 
  • Inspect the chamber (plus the action and any tubular or non-detachable magazine) to be sure that the gun is empty.
  •  
    Lever Action
    Lever actions are opened by pulling the lever down and away from the stock, and are closed by returning the lever to its original position. Most lever-action guns have tubular magazines, but some models may use box-type magazines. 

    To Unload: 

  • If the gun has a detachable box magazine, remove it. 
  • If the magazine is tubular or non detachable, see "Magazines" above. 
  • Open and partially close the action several times by operating the lever to be sure all cartridges are ejected.
  • Inspect the chamber (plus the action and any tubular or non-detachable magazine) to be sure the gun is empty. 
  •  
    Pump Action
    Pump actions are operated with a pumping motion. The action is opened by pulling the fore end of the gun to the rear, and closed by pushing the fore-end back to its original position. Some pump-action guns have tubular magazines, while other models use box-type magazines. 

    To Unload: 

  • If the gun has a detachable box magazine, remove it. 
  • If the magazine is tubular or non detachable, see "Magazines" above. 
  • Open and partially close the action several times by pumping the fore-end to be sure that all cartridges are ejected. 
  • Inspect the chamber (plus the action and any tubular or non-detachable magazine) to be sure that the gun is empty. 
  •  
    Semi-Automatic Action 
    Semi-automatic actions are opened by pulling the bolt handle straight to the rear. Some semi automatics have tubular magazines, while other models use box-type magazines. 

    To Unload: 

  • If the gun has a detachable box magazine, remove it. 
  • If the magazine is tubular or non detachable, see "Magazines" above.
  • Open and partially close the action several times by pulling the bolt handle to the rear to be sure that all cartridges are ejected.
  • Inspect the chamber (plus the action and any tubular or non-detachable magazine) to be sure that the gun is empty. 
  •  
    Hinge Action 
    Hinge actions are opened by moving a release lever to one side, and then moving the hinged barrel(s) downward. Hinge-action guns do not have magazines. 

    To Unload: 

  • Activate the release lever and move the hinged barrel(s) downward. 
  • Opening the action may cause the cartridges to be ejected from the firing chamber(s). 
  • If the cartridges are not ejected, remove them from the chamber(s) with your fingers. 
  • Inspect the chamber(s) carefully to be sure that the gun is empty. 
  •  
    Pistols
    1.Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    2.Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    3.Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    Revolvers 
    A revolver is a pistol with a revolving cylinder that holds cartridges in individual chambers. Each time the hammer moves to the rear, the cylinder turns and brings a chamber in line with the barrel and the firing pin. When the hammer falls, it causes the firing pin to strike and fire the cartridge. In single-action revolvers, the trigger performs only one action - releasing the hammer. The trigger does not cock the hammer. The hammer must be cocked with the thumb, and will stay in a cocked position until it is released by pulling the trigger. In a double-action revolver, the trigger performs two tasks. When it is pulled, it will cock and release the hammer. Most double-action revolvers can also be fired in a single-action mode by manually cocking the hammer with the thumb. 
    To Unload Single Actions: 
      1. Hold pistol in left hand by cupping hand so that the trigger guard is in the palm of the hand with the left thumb on the left side of the cylinder, and the index and middle fingers on the right side of the cylinder. 
      2. With your right thumb, open the loading gate. (*If the cylinder now turns freely, SKIP the next step.) 
      3. Use the right thumb to pull the hammer back two clicks. 
      4. The cylinder should now turn freely. 
      5. Grasping grip with right hand, use left thumb and fingers to align a loaded chamber with the loading port by turning cylinder. 
      6. Elevate muzzle in a safe direction; using left hand, push cartridge out of chamber with ejector rod. 
      7. Continue process until all chambers are empty. 

      8.  
      9. SLOWLY rotate cylinder with left thumb and fingers while inspecting each chamber to be sure that all cartridges have been removed. 
      10. Close loading gate. 
      11. Place right thumb on hammer spur. 
      12. While controlling hammer with right thumb, pull trigger with right index finger to release hammer, using right thumb to gently lower hammer completely. 
      To Unload Double Actions: 
      1. Use right hand to place pistol in palm of left hand. 
      2. Operate cylinder release latch with right thumb; push cylinder out with the two middle fingers of left hand. 
      3. Place left thumb on ejector rod and elevate muzzle in safe direction.
      4. Use left thumb to push ejector rod completely to rear, removing cartridges from chambers. 
      5. Inspect all chambers to be sure that they are empty. 
     
    Semi-Automatics 
    A semi-automatic is a pistol that has only one chamber located at the rear of the barrel. Cartridges are held in a storage device called a magazine. When the pistol is fired, the slide moves to the rear, ejects the empty case, and usually cocks the pistol. On its return movement, the slide picks up a cartridge from the magazine and pushes it into the chamber. 

    To Unload Semi-Automatics:

  • Hold pistol in right hand. 
  • Activate magazine release, and remove magazine from gun. (Magazine release locations vary - consult instruction manual or knowledgeable individual.) 
  • Grasp rear portion of slide with left hand, and move slide completely to the rear, ejecting the cartridge from the chamber.
  • If the pistol has a slide stop, use it to keep the slide open. 
  • Inspect chamber to be sure it is empty. 
  •  
    Muzzle Loading Guns
    1.Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. 
    2.Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. 
    3.Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. 

    A muzzleloading gun is so named because it is loaded through the muzzle. It does not use cartridges; instead, it is usually loaded by pouring a measure of black powder into the barrel, and pushing a cloth patch and lead ball into the barrel on top of the powder charge. Muzzleloading firearms are available in long gun and pistol models.

    Due to the construction of a muzzleloader, it is not easy to tell if it is loaded. Don't try to determine this yourself; instead, have a knowledgeable person make sure that the gun is unloaded. 

     
    This brochure is not intended as a complete course in gun safety and is not a substitute for formal, qualified instruction in the handling, use, or storage of firearms.

    For more information about the NRA's Basic Firearm Training Program please contact the NRA Training Department at 703-267-1430.

    To join NRA today, or for additional information regarding membership, call 1-800-NRA-3888. Your membership dues can be charged to VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover.

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    Parent's Guide to Gun Safety (available as brochure)

    The Parents' Responsibility
    In a home where guns are kept, the degree of safety a child has rests squarely on the child's parents. Parents who accept the responsibility to learn, practice and teach gun safety rules will ensure their child's safety to a much greater extent than those who do not. Parental responsibility does not end, however, when the child leaves the home.

    According to federal statistics, there are guns in approximately half of all U.S. households. Even if no one in your family owns a gun, chances are that someone you know does. Your child could come in contact with a gun at a neighbor's house, when playing with friends, or under other circumstances outside your home. It is critical for your child to know what to do if he or she encounters a firearm anywhere, and it is the parents' responsibility to provide that training.

    Talking With Your Child About Gun Safety
    There is no particular age to talk with your child about gun safety. A good time to introduce the subject is the first time he or she shows an interest in firearms, even toy pistols or rifles. Talking openly and honestly about gun safety with your child is usually more effective than just ordering him or her to "Stay out of the gun closet," and leaving it at that. Such statements may just stimulate a child's natural curiosity to investigate further.

    As with any safety lesson, explaining the rules and answering a child's questions help remove the mystery surrounding guns. Any rules set for your child should also apply to friends who visit the home. This will help keep your child from being pressured into showing a gun to a friend.

    Toy Guns vs. Real Guns
    It is also advisable, particularly with very young children, to discuss gun use on television as opposed to gun use in real life. Firearms are often handled carelessly in movies and on TV. Additionally, children see TV and movie characters shot and "killed" with well-documented frequency. When a young child sees that same actor appear in another movie or TV show, confusion between entertainment and real life may result. It may be a mistake to assume that your child knows the difference between being "killed" on TV and in reality.

    If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms. Even though an unsupervised child should not have access to a gun, there should be no chance that he or she could mistake a real gun for a toy.

    What Should You Teach Your Child About Gun Safety?
    If you have decided that your child is not ready to be trained in a gun's handling and use, explain that he or she must not touch a gun in your home, unless you are present and have given permission. If your child sees a gun outside the home, teach him or her to follow the instructions of NRA's Eddie Eagle ® Gun Safety Program:

    STOP!
    Don't Touch.
    Leave the Area.
    Tell an Adult.

    The initial steps of "Stop" and "Don't Touch" are the most important. To counter the natural impulse to touch a gun, it is imperative that you impress these steps of the safety message upon your child.

    In today's society, where adult supervision is not always possible, the direction to "Leave the Area" is also essential. Under some circumstances, "area" may be understood to be a room if your child cannot physically leave the apartment or house.

    "Tell an Adult" emphasizes that children should seek a trustworthy adult - neighbor, relative or teacher - if a parent or guardian is not available.

    The NRA's Eddie Eagle ® Gun Safety Program includes an instructor guide, activity books, poster, and an animated video to explain its four-step safety message. For more information about the program or to obtain the materials, call (800) 231-0752.

    Where to Get Training
    The time may come when you or your family members want to learn to handle and shoot a gun safely. In the case of a child, his or her attitude, learning ability, and physical and emotional maturity are some of the factors to be weighed before allowing formal instruction to begin.

    When a parent decides a young person is ready, many training opportunities are available. Providing instruction in the safe handling, use, and storage of firearms is one of NRA's most important functions. NRA Basic Firearm Training courses, taught by 36,000 NRA Certified Instructors, are offered in every state. A program called "FIRST" STEPS (Firearm Instruction, Responsibility and Safety Training) provides a three-hour orientation to your specific firearm. For more information about taking any of these courses, please call our automated voice menu system at (703) 267-1430.

    Gun Owners' Responsibilities
    Most states impose some form of legal duty on adults to take reasonable steps to deny access by children to dangerous substances or instruments. It is the individual gun owner's responsibility to understand and follow all laws regarding gun purchase, ownership, storage, transport, etc. Contact your state police and/or local police for information regarding such laws.

    If you own a gun and do not know how to operate it, do not experiment with it. Point it in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger, and store it securely. Seek competent assistance and instruction at once. An untrained adult can be as dangerous as a curious child.

    Store guns so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users. Gun shops sell a wide variety of safes, cases, and other security devices. While specific security measures may vary, a parent must, in every case, assess the exposure of the firearm and absolutely assure that it is inaccessible to a child.

    For more information on firearm safety and youths, call (703) 267-1560, or write: NRA Community Service Programs Division, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030.

    This brochure is not intended as a complete course in gun safety and is not a substitute for formal, qualified instruction in the handling, use, or storage of firearms. The guidelines herein should be considered options to minimize the chance of an accident occurring in the home.

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    These brochures were excerpted from the NRA website and adapted for this site. They are used here for your information.

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