Over the years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to mentor many young men. This has mostly been through Christian ministry, rifle instruction, and teaching youngsters how to shoot and hunt. One of the fine young men, who was both an excellent shot and terrific small game, and big game hunter, was named Josh. I knew Josh for a long time, his family and mine were and are very close. I know his Dad very well, and I count him as a close friend to this day.
For many summers I took Josh and his brother and a couple other guys fishing for smallmouth bass and catfish in North Carolina’s beautiful French Broad River. We hunted small game in the late summer and fall, and spent much of deer season hunting as a tight knit group. Looking back, those times were some of the highlights of my sporting life.
One cold January day, not long ago, Josh and a few of the guys met up for an afternoon squirrel hunt. I was unable to go, as my wife and I were waiting on the birth of our third child. The hunt went uneventfully that morning, and the guys took a lunch break. They then decided to go out again in that afternoon. Josh, being eager to get back to the hunt, loaded his .12 gauge while indoors, chambered a round, and took the safety off. He was so excited, he ran out of the house holding the gun with one arm at his side. He tripped 4 feet outside of his front door, he hit the ground hard and the firearm discharged, the shot striking him in the head and killing him instantly.
Let that sink in a moment.
To this day, I can hardly remember that young man without coming to tears. As a Christian, I know where he is. But that does not mean I don’t mourn the loss of a young man who was like a kid brother to me.
Firearm safety is so important, so very, very important. A rifle, shotgun, or pistol is no toy. No, it will not kill or cause damage by itself, it is an inanimate object. But when reckless behavior, or carelessness are mixed with a firearm, horrible things can happen. If you are new to shooting, or have shot for years, I think this is a good time to review firearms safety. It may just save your life or the life of someone you care about.
3 Basic Rules of Firearm Safety
- Always keep the Firearm Pointed in a Safe Direction: This is rule number 1. Keep that muzzle (front tip of the firearm) pointed is a safe direction at all times. Do this while maintaining a secured control of the rifle, shotgun or pistol.
- Keep Your Finger of the Trigger until ready to shoot: Keep that trigger finger out of the trigger guard and away from the trigger at all times, unless you are ready to shoot your firearm or discharge the firing pin. The best way is the military style of keeping your finger pointing straight along the side of the firearm above the trigger guard.
- Keep the firearm unloaded until ready to use: When you pick up a firearm that you are not sure is loaded or not, engage the safety and open the chamber to be sure if it is loaded or not. If it is a magazine fed firearm, remove the magazine before opening the action. If you are not sure of the use of a firearm, don’t try to show off, set it down and call over someone knows how to use it so that they can demonstrate it to you. Don’t load your firearm or place a loaded magazine into it until you are ready for its use.
Other Safety Rules
Know Your Target and what is Beyond: Keep an eye out before taking your shot for anything that is between you and your target, or beyond that could cause damage or injury. Even in a hunting or self-defense situation, you need to be certain what is behind your target as you are responsible for every round that leaves your firearm.
Know How to use Your Firearm Properly: Don’t shoot or handle a firearm you don’t know how to use. Know how to open or close the action, load and remove a magazine, and where the safety is located. My personal rule is I never take a new firearm to the range until I have broken it down and cleaned it. Know your firearm intimately.
Be Sure Your Firearm is safe to operate: If you discharge an old, damaged or unmaintained firearm, have a gunsmith check it over and be sure it is safe to operate. Any firearm, no matter what anyone says, needs cleaning and maintenance.
Use the correct ammunition for your firearm: Failure to do so can kill you. It can cause your firearm to have a catastrophic failure, and literally blow up in your face. If you don’t know what to shoot, don’t guess, consult an expert.
Wear Eye and Ear Protection on the Range: To protect your eyes from flying debris, be sure you have eye protection on at all time. Your hearing is very sensitive to loud noise, use proper ear protection when using a firearm.
Note: When hunting or using is self-defense, this is not always practical. But when you are on the range or competing, there is no excuse not to use eye and ear protection.
Store your Firearms so they are not accessible to unauthorized people: Except for your personal defense weapon when it is on you, or a firearm in use, lock your firearms securely is a gun safe or gun locker. Three reasons: Children, Criminals, and Reckless Individuals.
Never mix Alcohol or Drugs with Firearms: Yes, I have seen it. And I left right when I saw drunks at a shooting range. Call the police or game wardens when you see anyone high or drunk with a firearm. If you ever handle a firearm drunk or high on drugs, you should be horse whipped.
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