GETTING STARTED WITH FIREARMS
Importance of Safe Handling
Handling firearms safely is a serious responsibility. As a firearm owner, it is critical to understand the potential dangers and always put safety first. Our actions impact not only ourselves, but the community around us.
Responsibility of Firearm Ownership
Firearms require a higher degree of conscientiousness compared to other hobbies or recreational activities simply because mistakes or negligence can have severe consequences. However, with knowledge, training, and safe handling practices, firearm ownership can be perfectly safe for those willing to take it seriously.
Impact on the Community
How we handle firearms reflects upon the wider firearm community. Reckless behaviors give anti-gun proponents ammunition to criticize firearm ownership as a whole. However, safe and responsible firearm handling promotes the legitimacy of firearm usage in hunting, sport shooting, self-defense, and more.
Basic Firearm Safety Rules
The modern foundation of firearm safety can be attributed to the late Col. Jeff Cooper, known as the “father of modern shooting technique.” His “four rules” encompass irrefutable guidelines that all firearm users should follow.
Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules
Col. Cooper distilled firearm safety down to four simple yet comprehensive rules:
Treat Firearms as Loaded
This means assuming all guns contain live rounds ready to fire. Verify the status visually and physically check the chamber.
Never Point at Anything You Don’t Intend to Shoot
Only point firearms at intended targets. Be aware of your muzzle direction at all times, keeping it pointed towards the ground when not aiming at targets.
Keep Finger Off Trigger Until Ready to Shoot
Your trigger finger remains straight and off the trigger guard area until you are squared on target and intend to fire. This prevents negligent discharges.
Be Aware of Target and What’s Beyond
Know exactly what your target is and what lies beyond it in case you miss or bullets over-penetrate. Never fire unless certain your shots have a safe backstop.
While these rules seem basic on paper, applying them in real-world handling takes conscious effort. Getting training from a qualified instructor is highly effective at instilling safe practices.
Jeff Cooper’s Influence
Col. Jeff Cooper was a former Marine, firearms instructor, and influential figure in modern shooting sports.
He served in both WWII and Korea, later founding the American Pistol Institute (now the Gunsite Academy) to teach pistol technique. His impact stems from systemizing the fundamentals of marksmanship while emphasizing safety.
Modern Firearm Training
Cooper’s methods permeate nearly all firearm instruction today. His four rules provide an easy-to-remember guide applicable to all shooting disciplines. From recreational plinking to policing, Cooper’s approach helps reinforce safe gun handling.
Promoting Responsible Ownership
Through classes and his writings, Cooper promoted the safe, responsible use of firearms alongside their recreational and defensive merits. This balanced advocacy bolstered public acceptance of shooting sports while cementing ethical handling as paramount.
Choosing the Right Firearm
Selecting a firearm requires considering your intended uses, personal preferences, experience level, and budget. This allows choosing from rifles, shotguns, handguns with attributes suiting your needs.
Determine how you plan to use a firearm. Self-defense, concealed carry, hunting, competitive/recreational shooting necessitate different traits optimized for those applications.
Hunting, Sport Shooting, Self-Defense
Hunting requires powerful yet precise firearms with sufficient range to humanely take game animals. Competitive/recreational shooting involves optimized ergonomics and sights for accuracy. Defensive uses demand easy handling and reliability above all.
Consider Caliber, Range, Portability
Factor in caliber for the necessary stopping power, effective range for your environment, and portability for carrying/storing ease if applicable. An off-the-shelf AR-15 handles differently than a subcompact 9mm pistol.
Types of Firearms
The three main firearm categories include rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Understanding their comparative strengths guides you towards ideal candidates.
Rifles fire small bore projectiles at high velocities using spiraling grooves in their barrel (rifling) for stability and accuracy. Shotguns fire multiple smaller projectiles simultaneously with a wider but shorter range dispersal. Handguns sacrifice power for portability.
Make and Model
Once deciding on a category, research various makes and models based on needs. Assess accuracy, reliability, fit/feel, factory support, available accessories and community support through reviews and forums.
Reputation, Accessories, Aftermarket Support
Consider reputation based on real-world use, available factory/aftermarket accessories (sights, grips, holsters), and enduring manufacturer support via parts/service longevity. These factors top purely stylistic preferences.
Firearm ownership entails ongoing financial investments beyond just a gun’s sticker price. Stay objective within budgetary realities.
Purchase Price, Ammo Cost, Accessories
Account for the firearm price itself, cost per round of its caliber (9mm vs .300 Win Mag), projected accessories, and intended quantity of ammo fired per year. Expensive firearms and ammo add up quickly, restricting training.
How to Purchase Firearms
Purchasing a firearm through lawful channels requires finding local FFL dealers that handle transfers, passing a background check, and filling out accompanying paperwork.
Laws and Regulations
The baseline laws regarding legal firearm transfers occur at the federal level, although certain states add a layer of additional stipulations.
Role of Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs)
Only FFL holders can facilitate sales and transfers for non-licensed buyers under federal law. FFLs include retailers like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shop along with local gun shops with dealer licenses.
Background Check Requirements
The federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) checks for criminal/mental health history before approving firearm transfers. Both public and private party sales often utilize FFLs to ensure compliance.
Once locating a desired firearm online, at an outlet store or via a private party seller, enlisting an FFL remains necessary to conduct the legal transfer.
Form 4473 collects buyer/seller info alongside firearm details and the background check. FFLs assist in guiding you through the required documents.
Submitting Identifying Documents
Present valid government-issued photo ID alongside proof of residency documents (utility bill, bank statement etc) to complete 4473 info and verification.
Straw purchases involve buying a firearm for someone legally prohibited from doing so themselves. This federal crime artificially circumvents regulation, carrying severe penalties.
The buyer conducting a straw purchase falsely fills out form 4473, deceitfully posing as the actual end user. When later used in a crime traced back to the straw purchase, they face felony charges too.
Firearm gifts from immediate family members can be permissible assuming the recipient legally qualifies to own guns. However, the involved nuances still favor recommending professional guidance from an FFL dealer.
Safe handling encompasses properly maintaining, storing and transporting firearms. Let’s explore some best practices.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Regular cleaning preserves function and longevity. Mastering disassembly, brushing away buildup, applying lubrication and reassembly removes fouling and debris while protecting against corrosion.
Proper Materials and Solvents
Quality gun-specific solvents and lubricants work best for cleaning and protecting parts compared to off-the-shelf universal options which can damage certain coatings or metals. Know your manual’s guidance.
Establishing a routine cleaning regimen removes guesswork, ensuring your firearms receive necessary maintenance. While varying per firearm, a reasonable starting baseline is cleaning after every couple range sessions and lubricating after cleaning.
Responsible storage thwarts unauthorized access and protects from environmental factors leading to degraded function or damage over time.
Lockboxes, Gun Safes
Lockable hard cases offer lightweight portability and security during transport while stationary gun safes provide robust multilayered protection leveraging superior fire ratings, backup key access and high-end digital locks keeping safes sealed shut.
Quick Access, Safety
Quick access gun lockboxes feature biometric fingerprint locks allowing swift authorized entry compared to safes. However, safes provide greater security overall through sheer durability and multiple points of entry protection. Determine priorities based on household circumstances.
Maintaining safety while moving firearms means preventing unauthorized access by locking firearms away from direct reach ideally within hardened, locked containers. Follow all relevant laws too.