Firearm safety

Personal safety and the safety of others is one of the most important issues regarding the operation and use of any equipment that has the potential to injure or kill. 

We have included this information as a public service to try to ensure that ignorance of this important subject does not lead to any serious injury, death or a tragedy in your home or other environment where you may be present. 

Any person who for any reason wishes or needs to handle a firearm should approach a qualified and registered professional instructor at an accredited institution and receive hands on instruction to develop and embed the correct skill in this most important subject.

Four golden safety rules

Rule No 1:  Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, far away from people.

After identifying a safe direction, where if an accidental discharge takes place, no person should be injured by the discharged projectile either directly or by ricochet, ensure that you direct the muzzle of your firearm towards it.

Rule No 2:  Always keep your finger off the trigger, until ready to fire

Because the handgun is designed to fit a human hand, your finger will instictively want to go to the trigger.  This is how most accidental discharges occur.  With all firearms you must make a conscious effort to keep your finger outside the trigger guard and alongside the frame or stock, or upwards against the slide of the self-loading pistol.  If possible direct the tip of your trigger finger above the edge of the ejection port.

Rule No 3:  Always treat a firearm as if it were loaded

Remember there is no such thing as an EMPTY firearm.  Any firearm, simply put, is ALWAYS FULL, it is only the contents that change!  If you always treat any firearm as loaded, safe handling will become automatic, and you will be demonstrating concern, care for and a positive attitude to those around you.

Rule No 4:  Always know your target and what is beyond it

A handgun is capable of projecting a bullet for distances up to two kilometers (2km) and a rifle up to about five (5km), and you are responsible for where that bullet stops.  Before firing, you should know where the bullet will come to rest.

Six simple steps in safety precautions

One should never accept a loaded firearm from another person, nor should one hand over a loaded firearm to another person.  Before you hand your firearm over to someone else, you should, without deviation, first carry out safety precautions.  This means that you are going to unload the firearm, or "make the firearm safe."

Safety precautions should be carried out in the following manner:

Step one 

Identify a safe direction and point the firearm in this direction, keeping your finger away from the trigger.

Step two

Safety first.  Apply the manual safety if the firearm has one.

Step three

If it is a self-loading pistol, rifle or shotgun with a detachable magazine, remove the magazine.  If it is a revolver, open the cylinder and remove the ammunition.   

Step four

Remove the cartridges.  For self loading pistols, rifles or shotguns, unlock the action and pull back the slide or bolt from the rear to make sure that there is no cartridge in the chamber of the firearm.  If there is a round of ammunition in the chamber, it should be ejected by the action of pulling the slide or bolt to the rear.  If it is a hinged action firearm, the opening and dropping of the muzzle will cause any round of ammunition in the chamber to be extracted or ejected. 

Step five

Inspect the firearm by looking and feeling in both the chamber and the magazine well or tube, to make sure that there is no ammunition remaining in the firearm.

Step six

Close the action of the firearm.  For self loading pistols, rifle and shotguns, you may now release the slide or bolt under control to the foward position.  Should the firearm have an external hammer, you will need to lower the hammer under control.  Even though the firearm is now unloaded, it is still best not to press the trigger and "dry fire" the firearm.  "Dry firing" can not only damage the firing pin, but can, in this instance, also develop into a bad habit which could lead sooner or later to an accidental discharge when you think the firearm is unloaded.  With a revolver all you do is carefully close the cylinder. 

Some general safety rules

  • Be aware of where your muzzle is pointing at all times. The muzzle of the firearm should never point at another person unless you intend to use the firearm against that person.
  • Always make sure that a handgun is properly secured in the holster.
  • Never climb fences or walls with a loaded firearm in your hand.
  • Always keep the firearm unloaded when it is not in use.
  • Be sure before you shoot.  Remember that once you have pressed the trigger, you cannot recall that speeding bullet.
  • Do not handle the firearm unnecessarily.  A firearm is not a toy, playing with it can only lead to accidents.
  • Never attempt to modify your firearm in any way.  Any repairs or modifications to the firearm must only be carried out by a registered and qualified gunsmith.
  • Alcohol and gun powder do not mix.  Never handle firearms while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Always know the condition of your firearm.  You must know if the safety catch is on or not, and if there is a round in the chamber or not.
  • Always remember to keep your firearm locked away in a safe when you are not carrying it.
  • Never fire it into the air.  A bullet fired into the air will come down with enough speed to kill or injure the person that it hits.
  • If you fire a warning shot, make sure you know where the bullet is going to stop.
  • Use only the correct ammunition in your firearm.  In South Afica you may only be in possession of ammunition that is of the same calibre as the firearm that you are licenced to possess.
  • If you have not used your firearm in a long time, make sure that the barrel is free of obstructions or excessive oil.
  • Always use eye protection and ear protection whenever possible.  When shooting on an indoor shooting range remember to use earmuffs and not only ear plugs.  An earplug does not protect the delicate bone behind the ear.  Shooting, without proper earmuff protection on an indoor shooting range, can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
  • Keep your firearm clean.  Your firearm should cleaned each time after it has been used.
  • Keep firearms out of the reach of children at all times.  Children should be taught to never touch any unattended firearm.  We do, however, recommend that as children mature they need to be taught regarding the dangers, safety rules and safe handling of firearms when under your direct supervision.
  • Whenever possible give verbal warning before you shoot.
  • When unloading the semi automatic pistol, rifle or shotgun, always remember the round in the chamber.
  • Make sure that the firearm you are carrying is always in good working order. Should you need to use it urgently, your life may depend on this.