hunters carrying dead turkeys on their backs

Big Green Blog

Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety

06.12.2023 | By Remington Contributor

shooter aiming a handgun at a couple targets outside

1. Always Keep the Muzzle Pointed in a Safe Direction. This is the most important firearm safety rule. A safe direction is one in which an accidental discharge will not cause injury to yourself or others. Never allow your firearm to point at anything you don’t intend to shoot. Be especially careful when you’re loading or unloading. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. And make it a habit to know where the muzzle is pointed at all times, even when your firearm is unloaded. No one will be injured by an accidental discharge if you keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction. It’s as simple as that.

shooter looking down the iron sights of a shotgun

2. Firearms Should be Unloaded When Not Actually in Use. Load your firearm only when you’re in the field or on the target range and ready to fire. Never let a loaded firearm out of your sight or out of your hands. Unload it as soon as you’re finished shooting – before you bring it into your car, camp or home. Remember, unloading your firearm means unloading it completely, so there is no ammunition in the chamber or in the magazine. Before handling a firearm or passing it to someone else, visually check the chamber, receiver and magazine to be certain they do not contain ammunition. Always keep the firearm’s action open when not in use. Never assume a firearm is unloaded even if you were the last person to use it. Always check for yourself.

3. Don’t Rely on Your Gun’s Safety. Treat every firearm as if it can fire at any time, whether or not there’s pressure on the trigger. Your firearm has been carefully designed to maximize performance and safety. However, because a firearm’s safety is a mechanical device, it could fail. Human error is a more likely reason for a firearm safety to fail. By mistake, you may think the safety is on when it really isn’t. Or the safety may have been disengaged without your knowledge. Or you could think your firearm is unloaded when there’s actually a cartridge or shell in it. A mechanical safety is not a substitute for common sense. It’s merely a supplement to your proper handling of a firearm. Never touch the trigger on a firearm until you are ready to shoot. Keep your fingers away from the trigger when you’re loading or unloading. And don’t pull the trigger when the safety is engaged or positioned between safe and fire. Before using your firearm, read this instruction book to understand the exact location and operation of your firearm’s safety. Even when the safety is on, maintain control of your loaded firearm and control the direction of the muzzle. In other words, don’t rely on your safety to justify careless handling. If your firearm’s internal mechanisms are broken or have been altered, your firearm may fire even when the safety is on. Remember, you and your safe firearm handling practices are your firearm’s best safety.

Looking looking adjusting a rifle scope sight
(Pictured: Proper Trigger Discipline)

4. Be Sure of Your Target and What’s Beyond It. You can’t stop a shot in mid-air, so never fire unless you know exactly where your shot is going and what it will strike. Never fire at a sound, a movement or a patch of color. Before you pull the trigger be absolutely sure of your target and what’s behind it. Make sure the shot has a backstop such as a hillside or dense material like sand. Remember, bullets can travel great distances with tremendous velocity. Know how far your shot will go if you miss your target or the bullet ricochets.

5. Use Proper Ammunition. Every firearm is designed to use a certain caliber or gauge of ammunition. Using the wrong ammunition, mixing ammunition or using improperly reloaded ammunition can cause serious personal injury or death. And it only takes one cartridge or shotshell of the incorrect caliber or gauge, or which has been improperly reloaded, to destroy your firearm. It’s your responsibility to make sure the ammunition you use exactly matches the caliber or gauge of your firearm. Refer to this instruction book to find out the specific requirements of your firearm. Always read and heed the instructions on ammunition boxes. Confusing shells or cartridges can cause serious personal injury or death and destroy your firearm. Examine your shells or cartridges closely and use only the precise caliber or gauge for your specific firearm. For example, suppose you accidentally loaded a 20 ga. shell into a 12 ga. shotgun. Because the 20 ga. shell is too small for the chamber, the 20 ga. shell could travel down the barrel and get lodged in the bore. If you then loaded a standard 12 ga. shell behind it and fired, the 12 ga. shot will slam into the lodged 20 ga. shell and may cause the barrel to explode in your hand. This is commonly called a 12/20 burst, and it can kill you. Check all ammunition before you load it to make sure it matches your firearm’s requirements. Every Remington® cartridge and shell is head-stamped with its caliber or gauge for easy identification. Likewise, you’ll find the caliber or gauge of your new Remington firearm imprinted on the barrel.

6. If Your Gun Fails to Fire When the Trigger is Pulled, Handle With Care. If for some reason the ammunition doesn’t fire when you pull the trigger, stop and remember the 1st Commandment of Firearm Safety – always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keep your face away from the breech, then put the safety on, carefully open the action, unload the firearm and dispose of the cartridge safely. Remember that anytime there’s a shell in the chamber, your firearm is loaded and ready to use. Even if you tried to shoot and your firearm didn’t fire, treat your firearm as if it could still discharge.

7. Always Wear Eye and Ear Protection When Shooting. Your sight and hearing risk injury from shooting and should be protected at all times. Wear protective shooting glasses to guard against falling shot, clay target chips, powder residue, ruptured cartridge cases and even twigs and branches in the field. Also be sure to wear eye protection when you’re disassembling or cleaning a firearm so that tensioned parts (like springs) and cleaning solvents don’t come in contact with your eyes. Continued exposure to shooting noise can permanently damage your hearing. On the range, where shooting volume is the loudest, be sure to use the maximum protection of a headset. Learn to use ear protection at all times.

shooter looking down the iron sights of a lever action rifle
(Pictured: Proper eye and ear protection)

8. Be Sure the Barrel is Clear of Obstructions Before Shooting. Before loading your firearm, open the action and make sure there’s no ammunition in the chamber or magazine. Check the barrel for any obstructions or debris. Even a small amount of snow, mud, excess lubricant or grease in the bore can dangerously increase pressure and cause the barrel to bulge or burst when firing. Use a cleaning rod and patch to wipe away anti-rust compounds or any other residues or obstructions in the barrel. Never try to shoot out an obstruction by loading another shell and firing! When firing, rely on your instincts. If the noise or recoil of your firearm seems weak, stop everything, unload your firearm and be sure nothing is lodged in the barrel. Remember the 12/20 burst? That’s what can happen when the barrel is obstructed. Always be sure you’re using the correct ammunition in your firearm and that it’s free of obstructions.

9. Don’t Alter or Modify Your Firearm. Have it Serviced Regularly. Your firearm has been designed to operate according to certain factory specifications. You’ll jeopardize your safety and that of others around you by attempting to alter its trigger, mechanical safety or other mechanisms. So never alter or modify your firearm in any way. Like any mechanical device, a firearm is subject to wear. It must be maintained and periodically serviced to assure optimum safety and performance. Only a qualified service facility should service, repair or modify your Remington® firearm. Consult your instruction book for instructions on how to send your firearm to the factory or for the location of the nearest Remington authorized service center. Proper cleaning and lubrication are also important to firearm maintenance and are necessary to assure accuracy, safety and reliability. Before cleaning, always make sure that your firearm is completely unloaded. And always clean the barrel from the chamber end to the muzzle when possible.

10. Learn the Mechanics and Handling Characteristics of Your Firearm. Not all firearms are alike. They have different mechanical characteristics that dictate how you should carry and handle them. Anyone who plans to use a firearm should first become totally familiar with the type of firearm it is and the safe handling procedures for loading, unloading, carrying, shooting and storing it.

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