There are some basic rules of safety that you need to know before you ever lay your hands on a gun. Modern firearms are very safe, but only if the users do their part. A gun "just going off" is mostly a Hollywood myth; most unintentional discharges are due to the negligence of the person handling the gun. So, memorize these rules and apply them at all times.
1. All guns are always loaded.
You should treat every gun as if it is loaded, at all times, until you personally verify that it is unloaded. Do not let someone else do this for you. If you don't know how to clear a weapon, don't pick it up. If you set a gun down, the next time you pick it up, it's loaded until you again verify otherwise. To see how to clear a semi-automatic handgun, click here.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
In other words, keep the gun pointed in a "safe" direction. You must assume that it is possible for a gun to fire at any time, thus it must be pointed in a safe direction at all times. Never, ever point a gun at a person unless you intend to shoot them. If a person were to point a gun at me, I would assume that he means to shoot me and I would take appropriate action to prevent it... which could mean firing back!
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
The surest way to fire your gun is to pull the trigger. If you are holding a gun but not ready to fire, your trigger finger should be straight along the frame and outside of the trigger guard. The natural place for your trigger finger to go is on the trigger, so you must make a conscious effort to do this. (In time, it becomes a habit.)
4. Be sure of your target, and what's beyond it.
If you have a self-defense gun, the last thing you should do is shoot blindly into the dark at every scary noise you hear at night. You don't want to end up killing your spouse or child who got up to get a drink of water. Also, you need to be aware of the possibility of over-penetration, especially with high-power rounds, such as rifle ammunition. You could shoot a "bad guy" only to have the bullet go straight through him and into an innocent bystander.
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