Owning and Carrying a Handgun 101 Part One

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator Of Fight Focused Concepts

With an up coming “fundamentals” handgun course coming up soon, I decided to step back to the very basics of owning and carrying a handgun for self-defense reasons. Here is a very brief look at the very basics of this very important decision and topic.

This take on these basic concepts are geared toward Nevada state law. Please check the laws in the area that you live.

Firearm Safety

When it comes to firearms, there is no more important element than safety.  The decision to carry concealed makes this even more important.  As we begin to make carrying a gun part of our daily life, the absolute need for solid safety habits increases exponentially.  Safe gun handling requires solid knowledge, skills, and attitudes.  The knowledge of safe gun handling rules, the skills to be able to apply these rules, and the attitude that you will always make safety the first priority due to the inherit dangers of a firearm.

Fundamental Rules of Firearm Safety

Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.  This is the “golden rule” of safe gun handling.  So what is a safe direction? The priorities are to not point the gun at yourself or at anyone else.  The most likely person that you are going to “cover” (point the gun at) is yourself.  Do everything that you can to avoid this.  In turn it becomes common courtesy to do everything you can to not point your gun at anyone else.  If a gun is not pointed at you or anyone else, if there was a negligent discharge nobody would be injured or killed.  You should also never point your gun at anything that would be considered flammable or explosive.  We also want to consider “damage” into this equation.  Do not point your gun at things that could sustain substantial monetary damage.  What is a safe direction is completely situational.  For example, you would not want to point the gun downward if you are on the second floor or on a boat.  You would not want to point the gun upward if you had people living above you.  Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Always Keep your Finger Off of the Trigger until Ready to Shoot

The finger should be kept straight along the frame of the gun to prevent negligent discharges.  Many people have a very bad habit of putting their finger on the trigger as soon as they pick up a gun.  Hollywood has ingrained and perpetuated this dangerous habit in many people.  The trigger finger should be extended fully and solidly set along the frame, to prevent accidentally pressing the trigger even out of a startled response.  The grasp reflex out of the startled response has been the cause of many negligent discharges.  That is why you keep the trigger finger completely straight and solidly on the frame.  Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Always Keep the Firearm Unloaded until Ready to Use

A firearm that is not being used should always be kept unloaded with the action left open.  Self defense and concealed carry firearms are often carried and stored in a loaded condition.  So the importance of the first and second rules of firearms safety cannot be emphasized strongly enough.  As a general rule, whenever you pick up a firearm you should point the gun in a safe direction, keep your finger off of the trigger, and check to verify whether the gun is loaded or not.  Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Additional Safety Information

In addition to the three basic rules of safety there are some other considerations.

Know your target and what is in line with your target, in front and behind.

It is imperative that you know your target.  Target identification is very important so that you do shoot an innocent by mistake.  It does not matter where you are shooting, make sure that you pay attention to what is in line with your target, both in front and behind.  On the range you want to make sure that there is an adequate back stop to stop and hold your bullets.  In self-defense encounters you want to make sure that there are no innocence in line with your target.

Learn How to Use your Specific Gun Safely

Before handling your gun, read and familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions on the safe operation of that specific model.  Learn as much about your gun as you can before you pick it up, including the nomenclature of the parts, the operation of the action, and the loading and unloading procedures. For firearms to work safely and reliably they need correct ammo and regular cleaning.

Maintain Your Firearm

Just like your car, if you want your gun to be safe and reliable you need to keep it up with the maintenance.  Cleaning your gun is one of the most important parts of this maintenance. Keeping your gun clean will prevent malfunctions, protect your gun from corrosion, allow you to inspect for damage. Safety is always a prime consideration before you start cleaning your gun. The first thing you need to do is carefully unload your gun.  Like a good mechanic for your car, you are going to need a good gunsmith for your handgun.

Only Use the Recommended Ammunition for your Gun

This information can usually be found on the barrel or the slide of your gun, in your manufacture’s owner manual, and on the side of the ammunition box.  Make sure that you cross-reference this information and guarantee that you are using the correct ammunition for your gun.  Using the wrong could have deadly consequences.  Just because a cartridge fits the chamber does not mean it is the correct ammo for the gun. As a general rule soft or hollow point, expanding bullets are more effective for self-defense.

Safety Equipment

Eye and ear protection should be used whenever possible.   The loud sound of gun fire can damage your hearing.  Gasses and debris can be emitted from the gun while firing.  This could cause eye injury.

Guns, drugs, and/or alcohol should never be mixed!

You need to be at the very top of your game when shooting or carrying your firearm.  Anything that impairs you mentally or physically should be avoided if you are shooting or carrying. Always refrain from drinking any alcoholic beverages while shooting!

Any Shooting, Training, or Carrying Endeavor Involves a Risk

Assess the risks involved in each activity and always practice solid common sense firearm safety practices.  When shooting at an organized event, make sure that you read and understand all of the rules of the range.  Obey all range commands.  Firearms safety is every ones responsibility, not just the range master or the instructor. When on a firing range, all firearms should have their muzzles pointed down range, unless they are in a gun case, in a storage rack, or in a holster. When anyone is down range all handguns should be unloaded, have the actions open, and should not be handled.

If you witness someone using a gun in an unsafe manner, you should tell the range master, tell the instructor, or politely inform the person that what they are doing is not safe.

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