You may have gone to the gun store, filled out your ATF Form 4473, gotten a background check and walked out with a firearm and probably a box or two of ammunition, but that's only the start of the journey. In fact, this is the most critical moment in firearm ownership. Right now, you can choose to become a safe, responsible gun owner by following only a few simple steps.
Step One: Learn The Basic Firearm Safety Rules
Before you do anything else, internalize these basic firearm-safety rules:
No. 1: ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
No. 2: ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
No. 3: ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
These rules are often referred to as "The Big Three," but there are other safety rules for new gun owners to learn. One resource for additional safety rules is "8 Gun Safety Rules You May Not Have Heard Of" from NRA Family. More NRA Gun Safety Rules can be discovered at gunsafetyrules.nra.org.
Step Two: Learn How To Safely And Confidently Handle Your Firearm
While following the gun-safety rules above, it's important to know exactly how your new firearm works. Your firearm's owners manual is a great resource for all the technical and handling information you need to know. Read the manual in its entirety, as it will outline how the action works, where all the controls are, how you activate the safety and more.
While pointing the gun in a safe direction and keeping your finger off the trigger, work the action and examine the chamber and magazine to ensure your gun is unloaded. When handling and learning about your firearm, it is critical that there is NO AMMUNITION near you or the gun. While working the action, learn exactly how the controls operate. Can you easily activate the safety? It's important to familiarize yourself with the gun's operation so you can use it with confidence.
Field-stripping, or taking the gun down into its separate components, is a good way to understand how your new firearm works, and it gives you an opportunity to thoroughly clean and lubricate the inside of your gun. This is another critical first in your journey as a new gun owner. This article, "How To Clean Your Gun," is another good resource from NRA Family.
Step Three: Seek Out Professional Training
For most new gun owners, the concept of owning, handling and even carrying a new gun can be overwhelming. Don't be afraid to seek out help! One of the core missions of the National Rifle Association is to provide accessible firearm training across the country, and you can find courses near you at firearmtraining.nra.org.
There, you'll find a list of training courses that cover all the basics for owning a firearm, whether it's a handgun, rifle or shotgun. You'll also find courses on the basics of firearm safety in the home and personal protection.
In certain circumstances, it may not be possible to find a readily available training course near you. In that case, reach out to friends or family members and ask for guidance. Most firearm enthusiasts are eager and willing to help new gun owners find their way.
Regardless of what class you take or who you reach out to, know that you're doing the right thing by seeking help and guidance from those with experience in handling firearms safely.
Stay tuned for other guidance tips for new gun owners, as we'll cover topics like safe storage, range visits and cleaning. For more information on the basics of firearm ownership, check out this NRA Mentor videos on Gun Safety Basics.