Safety tips, pointers, and info for newbies


May 17, 2011, 08:42 PM
Hey everyone. I've shot before with family and friends but honestly I am a newbie when it comes to shooting. I'll be getting my first firearm soon and I also will be taking basic pistol training/safety courses in my area because I believe that I should educate myself in the use of proper firearm handling. In the meantime, I wanted to get my mind fresh on the subject of firearm safety and would like to ask everyone to pitch in and help me out with some basic safety tips. I'm looking for something along the lines of the most elementary and basic/first and foremost to be at the beginning, and to increase as I read on down the list.

For instance,
1. Always treat every firearm as if it's loaded, even if you know for a fact that it is not.
2. Always check the gun to see if it is loaded.
3. Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire.
4. Never point the gun in a direction unless you intend to fire in that direction.
5. Always be aware of who is around you when firing your firearm.
Etc, etc.

Or if you don't feel like typing it all out, if you know of a good resource online that I could check out or print so I can read it, that would be great. If not, just jot down the main points that everyone handling a firearm should know.
Thanks! :)

If you enjoyed reading about "Safety tips, pointers, and info for newbies" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
May 17, 2011, 08:51 PM
Don't be stupid would be one.

Gun safety is a pretty obvious thing to some and doesn't come to others ever. Just be careful and have fun.

May 17, 2011, 09:12 PM
Don't be stupid would be one.

Gun safety is a pretty obvious thing to some and doesn't come to others ever. Just be careful and have fun.

Well, obviously. And "Don't be stupid" goes without saying. I was hoping for something a little more informative than that.

Shadow 7D
May 17, 2011, 09:23 PM
Get some training, actually pay for it, safety is taught, and sometimes pounded into your skull, cause it only takes one time for you to be dead. So, the Maxim, don't be stupid, is a good one to follow.

READ THE RULES, and follow them... it saves a lot of hurt

And before you post, think about it, and before you hit the 'post reply' button, read it, and think again, cause if you are wrong, we aren't shy about telling you so.

If what you want to do is stupid or dangerous, we aren't shy about telling you so
and if you ask the question for the 143,600 time, expect "Your GOOGLE-FU SUCKS"

or a post full of the first page of search returns.

Shadow 7D
May 17, 2011, 09:30 PM
Otherwise, get a gun, get some training, and expect to take a lifetime to learn
after a while you will learn what you like

find a good place to learn, don't be afraid to ask questions, and be OPEN MINDED about what you are told, often it's well meaning, but may not be right.

Good places to learn,
Cornered Cat
No nonsense self-defense
your local range, if it's an old vet, who has been shooting for the last 70 years, listen, if it's some guy decked out like a Delta Operator, spouting stuff, just nod your head, be polite and take it with a grain of salt.
All sorts of people shoot, many just have a gun, and not much training.

May 17, 2011, 10:23 PM
As I said in my original post, I am taking a training course and it does cost money. I'm doing this because I believe that it is my responsibility to educate myself properly. This isn't my first time on an internet forum - I am asking for safety rules of firearm handling, not how to properly use an online forum. I know how to use it and how to behave, and I know to use the search function. I also know that I should think before I speak, as that goes with any situation, whether online or in real life. I realize you aren't saying that to be personal with me, but you'd say it to anyone who's new, so I don't blame you. I'm glad that if I'm doing something stupid or dangerous, someone will tell me - I'd be upset if they didn't. As for learning something new, I always ask questions, and I'm very open minded. These are the traits that were a huge part in my success as a businessman and as an individual. I read, read, and read some more, and ask questions and try to be like a sponge and absorb as much useful information as possible. My original post reflects that, as I asked for tips and helpful information on safety, because I am new and am not afraid to admit that I am new, and am not afraid to ask questions. You're right that many people have guns and many people shoot, and that doesn't make them a genius or a great teacher, and it doesn't mean that they always know what they're talking about. I've been around the guys decked out like they're a part of Delta Force, and I do exactly as you said, nod and be polite, and take everything with a grain of salt. The veterans and older generation are some of the smartest people on the planet. They have so much to offer, and if you're lucky enough and get someone to teach you, you can learn a lot of valuable information. "Respect your elders" is a proverb that everyone should remember. I know old age veterans who didn't even graduate high school who I consider to be more intelligent and wise than someone with a Bachelor's Degree. Shadow, thanks for the suggestions of places to learn about firearm and firearm safety. I'm currently reading some of those websites as I write this. Does anyone else have any other pointers or tips to add?

May 17, 2011, 11:55 PM
I would add that if you pull the trigger and you only get " click " not bang keep the muzzle pointed down range for a minimum of 30 seconds as a hang fire may result.

Good luck
God speed

May 18, 2011, 12:01 AM
To add don't forget your eye and hearing protection. Make sure your hearing protection is fitted properly, the ringing from tennitus never goes away, ask me how I know.
And welcome aboard

Good luck
God speed

Larry Ashcraft
May 18, 2011, 12:10 AM
Get some training, actually pay for it, safety is taught, and sometimes pounded into your skull, cause it only takes one time for you to be dead. So, the Maxim, don't be stupid, is a good one to follow.

READ THE RULES, and follow them... it saves a lot of hurt

And before you post, think about it, and before you hit the 'post reply' button, read it, and think again, cause if you are wrong, we aren't shy about telling you so.

If what you want to do is stupid or dangerous, we aren't shy about telling you so
and if you ask the question for the 143,600 time, expect "Your GOOGLE-FU SUCKS"

or a post full of the first page of search returns.

Jawman, hopefully some more helpful members will come along. As for me, it's way past my bedtime.

May 19, 2011, 12:05 AM
No question is stupid the first time you ask it. As for doing something stupid, well, a lot of guys won't admit it, but we've all done stupid things.We're men and it's in our nature. Following the rules means that the gun is pointed in a safe direction (or cleared) when we do that stupid thing.

May 19, 2011, 03:46 PM
Besides the "four rules".... here's ones that I use:

1. Use your holster as a secondary "safety". In other words, keep administrative handling of a gun to a minimum. Unless you are actively in the range for practice, keep that thing holstered.

The only time that it should be out of the holster is if you are actively in the range for practice, when you are engaging a bad guy in a self-defense situation, or when you are cleaning the gun. I see so many newbees "fondle" their new toy.... and you can almost read their mind thinking..."but it's not loaded". Ahh...another ND waiting to happen.

2. When doing "dry fire" exercises, keep live ammunition separate in another room. No real bullets allowed in the room that you are using for dry fire practice. Even when dry firing, make sure that you have a safe "target" and a safe backstop.

3. I make it a habit never to do "dry fire" practice when others are at home....even when they are in a different room.

4. And if possible, avoid cleaning your gun when others are home. Why? Well, too many reports of ND during "cleaning" time.

Claude Clay
May 19, 2011, 05:58 PM
never shoot faster than you can stop (expect in battle)
a lodged bullet in a bbl can cost you a gun and or some damage.

use holsters that fit the gun proper and have retention ( strap over the top with a snap)
something with just a taste of wiggle room will eventually wiggle free...
without retention you may move quickly ( by accident or on purpose)
and your gun may move someplace else...

think of you BUG as a 'secondary' gun
life comes at you from all directions and often fast; so your response should be from either hand rather than thinking how you can't reach your strong side gun and now you will go to the other one.

practice situational awareness till it becomes second nature. like Norton runs in the background unattended till it is needed--than it is there in an instant.

May 19, 2011, 06:08 PM
If you have friends who are trouble magnets, get rid of them.

May 19, 2011, 06:14 PM
You may want to check out the NRA website. They have various literature on gun safety and related topics available even if you are not an NRA member. Your state's conservation department (or whatever they may be called in your state) probably has a website as well that could have some helpful information. Also, most of the large hunting and outdoor magazines have websites with loads of firearm info and blogs that would be helpful (e.g. Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, etc.).

You are wise to learn all you can now to enjoy this great hobby (and hopefully introduce others to it).

May 19, 2011, 07:12 PM
I don't believe that my methods are perfect or that I'm the ultimate gun guru but I have had some success in teaching newbies how to shoot safely and reasonably accurately. These are some of the things that I do. I'll probably edit it later and add something. I look foward to seeing any tips or teaching methods that others use.
I first go over the range safety rules and the Principles Of Firearms Safety (I'll leave it for you to look up).
They then get a brief explanation of the gun they are going to shoot and the operation. They get a few dry runs in how to operate the handgun before we load it with live ammo. I usually have snap caps for them to use in practice.
I like to start new shooters off with a 4" .357 Magnum loaded with the wimpiest wadcutters that I can find. They are always suprised at how low the recoil is. Go figure. I add some slightly hotter rounds after the first box or two. They are shown how to use a speed loader after the first box of ammo.
Usually the newbies I take shooting are planning on buying a gun and they have an idea of what they want. Most want semi autos but if possible I try to start them off with a revolver. I don't push it though because ammo is expensive and they should be able to shoot what they are interested in instead of what I think they should shoot. The most that new shooters will usually buy is 2-3 boxes of ammo when I take them to the range. Once in a while someone will buy a bit more but 2 boxes is generally the most they'll spring for. Training is limited so I have to try to squeeze the most in that I can.
They get shown the Weaver stance and Isociles (SP?) stance. Almost all of the shooting is done two handed.
Should they shoot semi autos I have them start off with only two rnds loaded in a mag. I let them shoot a few mags and then move them up to 5 rnds in a mag. This allows them to get more gun handling in. They learn the controls much better when doing these constant reloads. They also slow down and relax while reloading. Some are very nervous initially. They also get to breathe. It's funny but some new shooters forget and their groups really open up when they are trying to get through a hi capacity mag. Only loading a few rnds in the mags is one of the best things I can recommend for new shooters trying to learn semi autos.
Loading 5 rnds in the mags stretches the day out a bit but it does allow for more training and gun handling. If a newbie only brings 2 boxes of ammo to the range and they're loading 17 rnds in every mag it really does'nt lead to much gun handling and muscle memory being built.
I try to show them how to clear jams if they are concentrating on semi autos. I'll usually slip a snap cap into a mag so they get a FTF while shooting. I'll have them do the tap, rack, bang drill (or whatever you wish to call it). Later I'll make a double feed with dummy rnds and have them clear that. I'll show them what a stovepipe is and how to clear it. Training is always limited when ammo is scarce and it's great when someone wants to buy a box or two of ammo off of me.
I had one new shooter last year swear that she wanted a semi auto but she really didn't like my XDM initially. I let her shoot my 4" .357 and she took to that really well and liked the simplicity compared to the semi autos. I just switched ammo with her and let her enjoy what she wanted to shoot. I try to bring a few different handguns because not everyone can shoot ______.
Anyway, this is a few of the things I like to do. Every new shooter is different but I've found that giving them the range rules early helps since they sometimes get tunnel vision when standing on the firing line. I try to maximize the gun handling but I don't act like a Nazi about it. It's their money and if they want to top off mags then so be it. If they want instruction I'll give it. If they want to safely crank off rounds then I'll stand back and observe. It's up to them. I want them to have fun as long as they are safe.

May 20, 2011, 12:40 AM
One thing is to learn how to hand a person a semi auto pistol and revolver. On both you clear the weapon. On revolver you leave the cylinder open and hand the pistol to the other person with them looking down the empty cylinders. On semi auto you lock slide back and hand the empty pistol to the other person with them looking down the empty breech.

Don't shoot on anything causing ricochets and account for where rounds end up. That means some sort of backstop is best.

Chamber flags: I like them and they can be used in pistols.

Eyes & ears - Already mentioned, but worth mentioning again.

Don't put the wrong ammo in the gun. I have seen it twice with the same guy. At the range it pays to stay organized. Take your time. We even stop to clean up at times.

Not to get beyond basic, but 2 things stick out from a certain individual/instructor/class.
1 is always no where the nearest hospital is from where you are shooting. He would go over the plan for when someone gets shot and have a vehicle designated for transport and ready to go. Sobering and maybe even a drama queen move. It was a very practical concern. I think it really drove the point home that people can and do get accidentally shot. That it could happen to you today gave it a sense of urgency that a plan would best be figured beforehand.
2 was don't chase a pistol with your weak hand.

You seem to have a good attitude and your head on straight. I am glad to see another firearm owner being responsible.
Best of luck to you

May 20, 2011, 01:53 AM
Don't believe everything you a CZ has no grip safety and isn't safe to carry 'cocked and locked' .

There is no such thing as Underwriters Laboratory for holsters. Go with heavy leather or Kydex as a general rule. Unload the gun, put the gun in the holster and see if you can make the trigger move. If it moves, or doesn't cover the trigger completely, that's a holster you don't want.

Keep a cell phone and a first aid kit with a product like QuikClot with you when out shooting. Keep another one in your car. These can save your life.

Its going to take some time to figure out what gear and what weapon works for you. Don't fret over the learning curve, but instead treat it as a journey. Enjoy the journey and the new things you learn.

May 20, 2011, 03:06 PM

Read the owner's manual i.e. to the weapon you just brought home.. refer to it when it applies until, like the 4 rules of gun Safety, it becomes ingrained/carved in stone, first.

Make sure you have a full understanding of the inspection process of your gun i.e. disassembley, inspection (what to look for), cleaning, and proper lubrication and where it goes and where "it does not go" and reassembly of one's weapon at home or in the field -

Make sure you understand various jams that can occur and how to clear them using safety procedures and what to do, if at home or at a range -

If you have a question, find it in the owner's manual, a gun book of type gun you own.. Expanding on this -

Most important: if you have a question or problem and can't find or solve the answer yourself, ask or find someone that can -

Being in "unfamiliar territory" is not an embarrassing or humiliating place to want to hide in or be silent on/with - rather get past this dangerous trap of one's ego -

It's the_approach of how you handle it, correctly, smartly - is the_Key, by getting assistance/help from any "more experienced, up the_road, gun owner around you, at a gun shop, gunny, person or persons, such as this, or other, forum/s -

When in doubt, "always ask first" as doubt and guns are a bad mix that least-favor you or anyone around you -

No-one, with gun experience, thinks of such "questions" as dumb or stupid, quite the opposite - "the right and smart (as in learning) thing to do -

With this in mind, you'll soon be walking "up_the_same road" we all have traveled some less, some much much more, but running "with the herd" is the desired goal with the same gun safety rules and applications that apply to all that do, finally, begin with the same, solid, foundation we all have "in common"

Avoid the "false sense" from crawling to running as, without doubt, when or IF TSHTF, in any gun related matter, and you go to slow down, to a walk, you're gonna stumble and fall and incur an accident, AD, ND, very possibly, to yourself or others around you.

There is a proper way to slow down, quick, to a "learned walk" or even back to a crawl (ego has no real meaning here) "when needed", but it will always be "a choice" you made, right or wrong -

Enjoy the journey, via, using a good map with the_right directions

See ya there,


Steve CT
May 20, 2011, 04:12 PM
I'm a new member here, but not a new shooter. You got a lot of great advice on safe shooting, don't forget safe storage at home, in your car, etc. Also, when cleaning, no ammunition in your work area.

May 20, 2011, 04:25 PM
I'm reading your first post as a request for the most basic safety tips. Seems to me the replies are wandering away from that.

Most basic:
Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
Never let the muzzle cover anything that you're not willing to shoot.
Know the target AND what lies beyond it.
Never forget that an accident can happen.

There are many more aspects to safety but truly, if you maintain control of where the gun is pointing and keep your finger off the trigger you're likely to be OK as you learn the rest.

May 21, 2011, 10:06 PM
Wow. What a great wealth of valuable information. Thanks to everyone who contributed something worthwhile! I've learned a lot and this is exactly what I was hoping for. I just have one more question, what do all these acronyms stand for that you keep using, e.g., ND, FTF, BUG (back up gun?), TSHTF, AD, etc.?

May 21, 2011, 11:31 PM
Hi Jawman,

First, welcome to the forum! Sorry some people have felt the need to be flippant towards a newbie. Rest assured that there are no stupid questions (although you probably do want to run a search first if you have what you think might be a common newbie question - feel free to ask for clarification if you need it, but the archives are a great wealth of info)!

There is a sticky at the top of this section that should hopefully help you out with any acronyms that you haven't been able to figure out (there are a lot of them, and they are confusing at first):

If you aren't already familiar with Jeff Cooper's Four Rules concept, a Googlin' will do you some good - I'm sure there are a few pertinent Wiki pages if you want to read about Col. Cooper himself or possibly find other safety resources. For now, here are the Four Rules, annotated:

1) All guns are always loaded.
Which is to say that the first thing you should drill into your head is to always treat a gun as if it is loaded and ready to rock and roll; observe safe handling procedures, and if you're ever uncertain whether a gun has been unloaded (or "cleared") before you need to clean it, take it apart, hand it to someone else, whatever - DOUBLE-CHECK!

2) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Eventually this will probably be so ingrained that you'll find yourself indexing your trigger finger to the side of power drills, spray bottles and anything else vaguely gun-shaped... :)

3) Never point a gun at anything you are unwilling to destroy.
Pretty self-explanatory... this includes your own body parts, so watch out that you actually are pointing that gun at the ground and not at your foot by accident!

4) Be aware of your target and what is beyond it.
Always identify what you're shooting at before you shoot - this may seem like a "duh" thing (and it is) but it's something you have to remember if you see movement out of the corner of your eye while hunting, or come up against something unexpectedly in the dark, or... etc. Keep those impulses under control - and remember that bullets also go through things! Always shoot into a safe backstop.

Hope this helps - feel free to post any other questions you may have or drop me a PM if you'd like a tour around the place. ;)

May 22, 2011, 09:30 PM
Jams are not much of a description when trying to diagnose a malfunction.
FTF is Failure To Fire
FTF is Failure To Feed
FTE is Failure To Extract.

A good description of a problem will cut the response time. So does properly titling a thread.

POI Point of Impact
POA Point of Aim

I can't remember all of them offhand. I usually wait til I run across them in use & they come back as needed.

Just don't call a magazine a clip!!!

May 23, 2011, 09:00 AM
A NOTE FOR WOMEN..... don't be afraid to ask questions, or admit that you don't fully understand something. Its easy to get caught up in being one of the boys, and forget that guns are tools and when used properly can be very safe. You literally hold your life and the lives of others around you in you hand, so don't be silly and pay attention.
**** by the way Im a 30 yr. old at home mom and responsible gun owner.

May 23, 2011, 11:03 AM
Nothing wrong with asking about safety.

To the already excellent answers, perhaps the only thing I can add is an underline to "gun handling protocol", which doesn't appear to be addressed by the Four Rules.

As already mentioned for semi-auto pistols and revolvers, it is a very good practice to open the action (lock it back if possible) when handing a pistol to someone else, or swing out the cylinder on a revolver.

For SA revolver fans, open the loading gate and let them watch you inspect the cylinder, then hand it to them with the loading gate open.

For bolt-actions or lever-actions, leave the bolt back or the action open.

And, as a further extension to this practice, do the same thing even when you are alone. Make believe you are handing it to yourself, and do the same inspection protocol. Every time you pick one up repeat the inspection if the gun has not been directly in front of you (such as on a shooting bench) and under your control.

It only takes a few seconds, and it can help prevent ND's.

May 23, 2011, 02:51 PM
I've been hearing about this for some time, but no definition has been given.

What is a magazine and what is a clip?????????

May 23, 2011, 08:23 PM
Are you just being sarcastic because the last guy specifically said not to call a magazine a clip? If not, I'll explain: The magazine is the device that stores and feeds rounds into a repeating firearm, such as a semi auto pistol or a rifle. Most are removable/detachable, but some are integral and are fixed. What the magazine does is it functions by moving the rounds stored inside it into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action of the firearm. "Clip" is just a slang term for the magazine (when it is a detachable magazine, if a gun has an integral magazine, you wouldn't call it a clip). Magazines are often shortened and just simply called a "mag".

May 24, 2011, 12:25 PM
Sorry, I guess I was being a bit specious. But thank you for that very clear explanation.

May 24, 2011, 08:47 PM
I was saying (jokingly) that because some people are sticklers about terminology. Sends some folks into a fit. I don't worry about that.

There are some threads on here that you can find that go over it.

May 25, 2011, 02:32 AM
"Clip" is just a slang term for the magazine

Actually, no; a clip is usually a stamped-metal accessory that holds the rounds ready to be stuffed into the integral magazine (as in a Garand's en bloc clips) or stripped off into an integral magazine (as in an SKS, Mosin Nagant, and various other rifles and pistols - thus, "stripper clip.")


May 25, 2011, 07:27 AM
Stripper clip is/was also called 'charger' in England.

May 25, 2011, 01:07 PM

There have been some excellent responses and tips provided by the many posters. The 4 rules are the very basic and ALWAYS following those 4 to the point it is ingrained in your psyche will prevent any issue from resulting in catastrophic consequences. NRA has the 10 rules of gun safety, and others list as many as 30. Following the 4 will be suffice as a starting point. As others mentioned, proper handling of the guns during all other aspects beyond the firing range are critical and is where other problems arise. In cleaning, storing, transporting you MUST follow the 4 rules each and every time.
For example, when I'm packing up after the range, I clear my guns before storing in the range bag or case. Once I get home and I'm going to put them in the safe, I once again, clear them as they go from range bag to safe. I also do this when removing any gun from the safe, whether to place in range bag or on workbench. Is it excessive and borderline OC? Maybe, but it ensures the gun is unloaded.
Of course the exception is my carry piece which is loaded at all times, unless it's cleaning time or being cleared for a specific purpose.
Above all -- learn the basic safety rules, ingrain them into your conscious actions around firearms AT ALL TIMES. And then, learn to shoot, enjoy, repeat...


Owen Sparks
May 25, 2011, 01:15 PM
The main problem I see with beginners is muzzle awareness, especially with handguns. They usually know better than to let it point at their own body or the guy standing right next to them but they often seem oblivious to anything past more than a couple of yards. One way to build this awareness is with a laser if you have one. I attended a shooting seminar once and the instructor turned down the lights and handed a student a pistol with a laser sight turned on. He was told to remove the magazine, check and make sure it was unloaded then replace the magazine and hand it to the next student who was to repeat the drill. The pistol was passed around the room with everybody watching where the red dot went as it was being handled. An older method is to stick a 3 foot dowel rod in the barrel of a pistol and allow the students to pass it around the room in the same fashion.

May 25, 2011, 01:53 PM
I understand using the proper terms is important, but I refuse to call a revolver a rotater.

May 25, 2011, 04:34 PM
In addition to the training you plan on taking, try these:
Cooper's Four Rules -
Four Safety Rules for Firearm Handling by FirearmPop (YouTube has some very good videos demonstrating safe firearms handling. Of course there are very bad examples, but if those aren't obvious to us, maybe natural selection will take its course.)

If you enjoyed reading about "Safety tips, pointers, and info for newbies" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!