Always, always, always point the gun in a safe direction, whether or not it’s loaded and you are planning to shoot it. It is a standard – and safe – practice that will help you develop the right habits for when the gun is loaded and keep you prepared in the case that the gun happens to be loaded without your awareness. This leads directly to the next point…
Check – and re-check – the chamber religiously any time you pick up a gun. Treat the gun as if it’s loaded at all times. Keep your finger off the trigger until you plan to shoot the gun. Do not rest your trigger finger on the trigger until you intend to pull it. This is simply the safest practice for you and anyone around you – it’s a good habit, and unless you always take good care to check the chamber, there is always a chance that the gun could be loaded without your realization.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Your muscle memory will kick in when you are in a traumatic, fight-for-your-life experience if you’ve repeatedly handled your gun. You can’t ever be too comfortable handling a pistol – and being sure you know how to operate it correctly. Being familiar with your weapon will help you in every aspect of its use – how to select the right ammo to use for that gun, how to eject a jammed round, or how to clean and oil the gun, for example.
Always use ear and eye protection when shooting. Ear plugs will preserve your ears from hearing loss or other damage that could be caused. Battery-operated, noise-cancelling headphones are a great option as they allow you to hear enough to carry on a conversation with your shooting buddies while muffling the pops of guns firing.
Wearing protective glasses are a must for shielding your eyes. You never know where those hot shell casings are going to fly when ejected from the chamber. They may even tend to fly up and back and could easily hit you in the eyes, injuring your eyes unless protected.
Know your Target
When shooting, be aware of the area around you. If you’re target shooting, know what is beyond your target. You’ll notice that outdoor gun ranges are built with a hill or embankment of some kind behind and sometimes to the sides of the target area. The purpose of that is to stop stray bullets from traveling to an undesired location and hitting an unwanted target. Treat any shooting area with the same respect, assuming that you never know where or how far your bullet will travel.
Never Operate Under the Influence
This one speaks for itself. It’s never a good idea to handle a gun when consuming anything that affects your ability to make safe, sound decisions.