NRA Gun Safety Rules

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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, people have a natural tendency to place their finger on the trigger. Don't do it! 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 open the action and look into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. (If the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and make sure it is empty.) 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 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.
  • Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.


    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.

    Training Programs

    NRA Basic Firearm Training Program -- Safety with firearms begins with learning the rules outlined in this brochure and acquiring the skills to apply them in a responsible and conscientious manner. You can obtain hands-on training in the safe and proper use of different types of firearms by enrolling in a course of the NRA Basic Firearm Training Program.

    Many thousands of persons attend these courses annually and receive a solid foundation in the basics of safe firearm handling and shooting skills. NRA basic courses are conducted in communities throughout the United States by NRA Certified Instructors.

    Courses are available in the following eight areas:

    Become An NRA Certified Instructor -- This program prepares experienced shooters to teach firearm safety and shooting skills to others as NRA Certified Instructors. NRA Training Counselors in each state provide training to qualified candidates.

    NRA Shooting Coach Program -- NRA Certified Shooting Coaches provide training to shooters and athletes who wish to develop and refine skills necessary for success in competitive shooting.

    Safety & Education Programs

    NRA offers a wide variety of programs, activities, and publications, including:

    Youth Programs -- Youth activities in the shooting sports, such as: air gun programs for secondary schools; cooperative programs with 4-H, Jaycees, Boy Scouts, and The American Legion; marksmanship qualification programs; shooting camps and fairs.

    Magazines and Newsletters -- Publication of InSights magazine for young shooters, Shooting Sports USA magazine for competitive shooters, and NRA Shooting Education Update newsletter for shooting instructors, training counselors, coaches, and youth leaders.

    Books, Brochures, and Videos -- A variety of safety and educational materials, including: brochures such as A Guide to Firearm Safety, A Parent's Guide to Gun Safety, and Shooting for Safety; a Fundamentals of Gun Safety video; and the Eddie Eagle´┐Ż Gun Safety Program (an accident-prevention program for children in the pre-kindergarten through sixth grade age group).

    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 Advanced Information & Care Click Here
    Hunter's Code Of Ethices
    Firearms Glossary

    For more information about the NRA 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.

    Copyright´┐Ż 1995 National Rifle Association, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
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