Rules of Safety: What version do you use?

There are a lot of variations on the gun safety rules, but they all have a lot of similarities. I typically stick to one version when I’m teaching, but I’ve been introduced to a number of versions.

Who taught you the version of the rules that you know?

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Even though I’m NRA Certified, I use the NSSF rules…Although for #4 I use “be sure of your target and what’s beyond” just to be clear to the person I’m instructing.


I agree with @JamesR.
I keep in mind NSSF rules with different #4 (be sure of your target and what’s beyond).
I’ve learned these from Youtube channels, long time before I touched first gun.
Then I’ve heard these rules all over again on every classes and whenever I practice with my kids.

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My grandfather taught me these simple rules.

  1. gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. know your target and what’s behind it.
  3. only shoot something you’re willing to destroy or kill.
  4. only put your finger one the trigger when you’re ready to fire.
    And 5) a clean weapon is a happy weapon.
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I learned from my dad, a former Marine marksman:

  1. Never trust your memory or what someone tells you about a gun being loaded. ALWAYS CHECK. EVERY TIME. (Emphasis his.)

  2. Never point a weapon at anything you don’t want to hit with a bullet.

  3. Always be absolutely certain of your target AND what you might hit if you miss.

  4. NEVER touch the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

  5. Keep your weapon clean.

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@Brian_J, @David38 - I love the fifth rule (even it’s not a “safety rule”) :+1:


I agree with @Jerzees, I love the 5th Rule! I would think that a clean gun is helpful for safety as well as there are less chances of issues.


This is true, plus cleaning my firearms is actually a calming thing to do for me… well until this battle with the 1911, but I adapted and overcame for the win… lol

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This is a kind of loop… To use rule #5, you have to follow rules #1 - 4 :point_up:

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Yes it is, but it’s a good loop to be in.

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The Firearms Industry Trade Association (NSSF®).


This is the most basic safety rule. If everyone handled a firearm so carefully that the muzzle never pointed at something they didn’t intend to shoot, there would be virtually no firearms accidents. It’s as simple as that, and it’s up to you.

Never point your gun at anything you do not intend to shoot. This is particularly important when loading or unloading a firearm. In the event of an accidental discharge, no injury can occur as long as the muzzle is pointing in a safe direction.

A safe direction means a direction in which a bullet cannot possibly strike anyone, taking into account possible ricochets and the fact that bullets can penetrate walls and ceilings. The safe direction may be “up” on some occasions or “down” on others, but never at anyone or anything not intended as a target. Even when “dry firing” with an unloaded gun, you should never point the gun at an unsafe target.

Make it a habit to know exactly where the muzzle of your gun is pointing at all times, and be sure that you are in control of the direction in which the muzzle is pointing, even if you fall or stumble. This is your responsibility, and only you can control it.


Firearms should be loaded only when you are in the field or on the target range or shooting area, ready to shoot. When not in use, firearms and ammunition should be secured in a safe place, separate from each other. It is your responsibility to prevent children and unauthorized adults from gaining access to firearms or ammunition.

Unload your gun as soon as you are finished. A loaded gun has no place in or near a car, truck or building. Unload your gun immediately when you have finished shooting, well before you bring it into a car, camp or home.

Whenever you handle a firearm or hand it to someone, always open the action immediately, and visually check the chamber, receiver and magazine to be certain they do not contain any ammunition. Always keep actions open when not in use. Never assume a gun is unloaded — check for yourself! This is considered a mark of an experienced gun handler!

Never cross a fence, climb a tree or perform any awkward action with a loaded gun. While in the field, there will be times when common sense and the basic rules of firearms safety will require you to unload your gun for maximum safety. Never pull or push a loaded firearm toward yourself or another person. There is never any excuse to carry a loaded gun in a scabbard, a holster not being worn or a gun case. When in doubt, unload your gun!


Treat every gun as though it can fire at any time. The “safety” on any gun is a mechanical device which, like any such device, can become inoperable at the worst possible time. Besides, by mistake, the safety may be “off” when you think it is “on.” The safety serves as a supplement to proper gun handling but cannot possibly serve as a substitute for common sense. You should never handle a gun carelessly and assume that the gun won’t fire just because the “safety is on.”

Never touch the trigger on a firearm until you actually intend to shoot. Keep your fingers away from the trigger while loading or unloading. Never pull the trigger on any firearm with the safety on the “safe” position or anywhere in between “safe” and “fire.” It is possible that the gun can fire at any time, or even later when you release the safety, without you ever touching the trigger again.

Never place the safety in between positions, since half-safe is unsafe. Keep the safety “on” until you are absolutely ready to fire.

Regardless of the position of the safety, any blow or jar strong enough to actuate the firing mechanism of a gun can cause it to fire. This can happen even if the trigger is not touched, such as when a gun is dropped. Never rest a loaded gun against any object because there is always the possibility that it will be jarred or slide from its position and fall with sufficient force to discharge. The only time you can be absolutely certain that a gun cannot fire is when the action is open and it is completely empty. Again, never rely on your gun’s safety. You and the safe gun handling procedures you have learned are your gun’s primary safeties.


No one can call a shot back. Once a gun fires, you have given up all control over where the shot will go or what it will strike. Don’t shoot unless you know exactly what your shot is going to strike. Be sure that your bullet will not injure anyone or anything beyond your target. Firing at a movement or a noise without being absolutely certain of what you are shooting at constitutes disregard for the safety of others. No target is so important that you cannot take the time before you pull the trigger to be absolutely certain of your target and where your shot will stop.

Be aware that even a 22 short bullet can travel over 1 1/4 miles and a high velocity cartridge, such as a 30-06, can send its bullet more than 3 miles. Shotgun pellets can travel 500 yards, and shotgun slugs have a range of over half a mile.

You should keep in mind how far a bullet will travel if it misses your intended target or ricochets in another direction.


You must assume the serious responsibility of using only the correct ammunition for your firearm. Read and heed all warnings, including those that appear in the gun’s instruction manual and on the ammunition boxes.

Using improper or incorrect ammunition can destroy a gun and cause serious personal injury. It only takes one cartridge of improper caliber or gauge to wreck your gun, and only a second to check each one as you load it. Be absolutely certain that the ammunition you are using matches the specifications that are contained within the gun’s instruction manual and the manufacturer’s markings on the firearm.
Firearms are designed, manufactured and proof tested to standards based upon those of factory loaded ammunition. Handloaded or reloaded ammunition deviating from pressures generated by factory loads or from component recommendations specified in reputable handloading manuals can be dangerous, and can cause severe damage to guns and serious injury to the shooter. Do not use improper reloads or ammunition made of unknown components.

Ammunition that has become very wet or has been submerged in water should be discarded in a safe manner. Do not spray oil or solvents on ammunition or place ammunition in excessively lubricated firearms. Poor ignition, unsatisfactory performance or damage to your firearm and harm to yourself or others could result from using such ammunition.

Form the habit of examining every cartridge you put into your gun. Never use damaged or substandard ammunition — the money you save is not worth the risk of possible injury or a ruined gun.


Occasionally, a cartridge may not fire when the trigger is pulled. If this occurs, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keep your face away from the breech. Then, carefully open the action, unload the firearm and dispose of the cartridge in a safe way.

Any time there is a cartridge in the chamber, your gun is loaded and ready to fire even if you’ve tried to shoot and it did not go off. It could go off at any time, so you must always remember Rule #1 and watch that muzzle!

Discharging firearms in poorly ventilated areas, cleaning firearms or handling ammunition may result in exposure to lead and other substances known to cause birth defects, reproductive harm and other serious physical injury. Have adequate ventilation at all times. Wash hands thoroughly after exposure.


All shooters should wear protective shooting glasses and some form of hearing protectors while shooting. Exposure to shooting noise can damage hearing, and adequate vision protection is essential. Shooting glasses guard against twigs, falling shot, clay target chips and the rare ruptured case or firearm malfunction. Wearing eye protection when disassembling and cleaning any gun will also help prevent the possibility of springs, spring tension parts, solvents or other agents from contacting your eyes. There is a wide variety of eye and ear protectors available. No target shooter, plinker or hunter should ever be without them.

Most rules of shooting safety are intended to protect you and others around you, but this rule is for your protection alone. Furthermore, having your hearing and eyes protected will make your shooting easier and will help improve your enjoyment of the shooting sports.


Before you load your firearm, open the action and be certain that no ammunition is in the chamber or magazine. Be sure the barrel is clear of any obstruction. Even a small bit of mud, snow, excess lubricating oil or grease in the bore can cause dangerously increased pressures, causing the barrel to bulge or even burst on firing, which can cause injury to the shooter and bystanders. Make it a habit to clean the bore and check for obstructions with a cleaning rod immediately before you shoot it. If the noise or recoil on firing seems weak or doesn’t seem quite “right,” cease firing immediately and be sure to check that no obstruction or projectile has become lodged in the barrel.

Placing a smaller gauge or caliber cartridge into a gun (such as a 20-gauge shell in a 12-gauge shotgun) can result in the smaller cartridge falling into the barrel and acting as a bore obstruction when a cartridge of proper size is fired. This can cause a burst barrel or worse. This is really a case where “haste makes waste.” You can easily avoid this type of accident by paying close attention to each cartridge you insert into your firearm.


Firearms are complicated mechanisms that are designed by experts to function properly in their original condition. Any alteration or change made to a firearm after manufacture can make the gun dangerous and will usually void any factory warranties. Do not jeopardize your safety or the safety of others by altering the trigger, safety or other mechanism of any firearm or allowing unqualified persons to repair or modify a gun. You’ll usually ruin an expensive gun. Don’t do it!

Your gun is a mechanical device that will not last forever and is subject to wear. As such, it requires periodic inspection, adjustment and service. Check with the manufacturer of your firearm for recommended servicing.


Not all firearms are the same. The method of carrying and handling firearms varies in accordance with the mechanical characteristics of each gun. Since guns can be so different, never handle any firearm without first having thoroughly familiarized yourself with the particular type of firearm you are using, the safe gun handling rules for loading, unloading, carrying and handling that firearm, and the rules of safe gun handling in general.

For example, many handgun manufacturers recommend that their handguns always be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber. This is particularly true for older single-action revolvers, but applies equally to some double-action revolvers or semiautomatic pistols. You should always read and refer to the instruction manual you received with your gun, or if you have misplaced the manual, simply contact the manufacturer for a free copy.

Having a gun in your possession is a full-time job. You cannot guess; you cannot forget. You must know how to use, handle and store your firearm safely. Do not use any firearm without having a complete understanding of its particular characteristics and safe use. There is no such thing as a foolproof gun.

The reason why I list longer more complete versions of our Safety Rules is because I am reminded every day what the are and to follow them to the best of my ability and continue to learn.

Don’t want to be to off topic, but what was the 1911 battle?

To be on topic, I do not follow the long form of the NSSF rules. No offense to those that do. Specifically, #2 and #9.

I live alone, so I do have loaded guns that are not applicable to #2. I also do some modifications to my guns in violation of #9. I do agree to the spirit of the rules, as I live alone, I don’t have to worry about kids, and I know when to try a mod on a gun, and when to have a gunsmith do the work for me. Also don’t agree that it is my responsibility to prevent unauthorized adults from getting stuff, because of simple logic. How strong do you make your safe?

But, as I said, I agree with almost all of them. Some rules, in my opinion, should have some flexibility. Just my thoughts. :grinning:

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You can see what happened on my YouTube channel, but it goes like this.
I was doing my regular cleaning maintenance on my EDC 1911, well after I cleaned and lubricated all the necessary areas I went to reassemble it. The sear spring came unseated and I didn’t know until I had the mainspring housing on and put the ambi safety on. I function check it and the hammer wouldn’t lock back. So I went to disassemble it again to reseat the sear spring.

And that’s where the trouble happened, I couldn’t get the ambi safety off for the life of me. I worked on it four a few hours and said hell with it for now and went to bed. After 2 cups of string coffee the next day I FINALLY got the ambi safety off to fix the original problem.

Ahh, got it.

I have taken several 1911’s all the way down, never one with an ambi safety. Glad you got it worked out, they can be humbling.

It’s something I’ve done a million times before, just can’t figure out why the safety was acting as stubborn as my ex girlfriend😁

I try to continuously learn about safety from different sources with goal of combining best practices. I imagine we each differ in our strengths, weaknesses, and habits. I think it should be a never ending journey of education and training.

This subject posted is one of my faves because for many of us, we handle our firearm daily, and sometimes more often.

I think it helps to admit and acknowledge all the steps involved when handling, down to the smallest detail.

We hear of accidents in the “news”, but only partial. Know anyone who’s ever had an accident? I once heard a story. So, it was more impactful.

Revolvers might not be to everyone’s liking, but notice how when you check if a bullet is in the chamber, it’s more esily visible compared to a semi-auto.

However, with semi-automatics, when needing to ensure it’s empty, a “press check” may not be the proper way to check. Sometimes a “press check” can help you see that it’s loaded. But can you trust a press check to prove to you that it’s “not loaded”? No.

There’s a lot riding ‘on the line’.

Ask yourself what really is a press check, and how do you do it? Are you doing it best or correctly?

What is your goal? Going out, or trying to clear to inspect, clean, maintenance or “showing” the firearm to your family member or range partner who has never seen it before.

I’m sure there are some great tips out there, please share with the group.

Some ideas:

  • Pointed in safe direction
  • With the safety “on”
  • Remove the magazine
  • Rack the slide to empty out that live round which is or could be sitting in that chamber (it may fly out the side and softly land on your table or floor, or it could fall through the open mag channel)
  • Press check
  • Open the action
  • Lock open the action/slide if you can
  • Look down into the mag
  • From the rear, look at the chamber (critical)
  • From the rear, look into barrel (critical)
  • Remember, it’s dark in there and if you pull that slide back, do it slow so you see
  • That bullet could be hidden, inside that barrel, with its casing hugging the chamber – ready to fire
  • You might not see the whole bullet, the only thing visible might be the back of the casing - which means it could be loaded/still live, unless it was a fired bullet that failed to eject (rare)
  • Is there a live round sitting in that chamber/barrel or not?
  • If the bullet or casing is still inside that camber/barrel, it could be stuck and you would need to remove it manually by hand or with an instrument
  • Be very careful not to allow the slide to bite or chop off your trigger finger you if it were to slide forward or if the slide stop lever moves
  • Always have a mini flashlight on you, in your pocket, and shine it into the “rear” of the barrel chamber to look for a live shell which could be embedded
  • Never insert a snap cap unless 100% assured that it’s been cleared first
  • All while never pointing it at anyone, nor at yourself at any time during inspecting

Why is this important?

The end of the shell casing can be dull in color, not stand out, normally they’re not neon bright.

Depending on the caliber, the back of the shell could be thinner than a dime, smaller than any button on your TV’s remote control

Ramifications of an error? How would it make you feel? Tips/suggestions?

Video attached

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Good remainder @Burdo . Safety is the most important thing that has to engraved into our brains.

So even you posted it already I will write it down again, because more we read it, more we remember it.

  1. point the muzzle in the safe direction
  2. remove the source of ammunition
  3. rack the slide at least twice and then lock it open
  4. visually inspect chamber and magwell (from the top)
  5. look away, then look back and visually inspect chamber and magwell again
  6. put your finger into the ejection port and physically inspect chamber
  7. put your finger into bottom of magwell and physically inspect it.
  8. If you shoot with other person, let him/her inspect your chamber and magwell

:point_up_2: This is the procedure I’ve been using whenever I’m practicing alone or teaching others.
I never start teaching without verifying all others understand this procedure.

One pro tip I’ve learned. Sometimes handgun manipulation with keeping the muzzle downrange is hard. Simply standing sideways to the safe direction (downrange) and front to your handgun fixes the problem.

Press check is good… if you know what you are doing.
It is not to verify empty chamber and safe condition of the firearm. It is to verify the round is in the chamber. These two are not the same.

Check out the U-Tube video on firearm safety rules by John Lovell.
Can’t beat 'em.

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@Burdo ,

You forgot to indicate the video is an example of how to not handle a pistol, unless your intent is to shoot yourself in the hand

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