The same golden rule applies to beginner and advanced shooters: always treat guns like they can fire anytime, anywhere. When it comes to rifle safety, it certainly goes beyond switching the on and off feature on the lower receiver. You should never think that a gun will not fire just because the safety is switched on. The same goes for a half-safe gun—it should be considered unsafe no matter what the surrounding conditions may be.
Even when the trigger is not touched, several factors can still push the gun to fire. It can fire when it’s dropped or when it receives a blow hard enough to put the trigger mechanism in motion. When you place your gun next to an object, it may slide and fall, gaining enough force for discharge. The only time you can be sure that a gun is not going to fire is when it is entirely empty.
The safety feature should only be secondary to proper gun handling and storage. No matter where you may be practicing or shooting from, it shouldn’t serve as a substitute for common sense, especially when you’re dealing with long rifles like AR15s. You can install AR15 handguards or additional foregrips for better rifle handling.
Other than upgrading your kit, there are several safety measures that you should always follow as a responsible rifle owner. Here are a few steps to religiously adhere to every time you take out your gun for shooting.
Point at a Safe Direction
Never point your AR-15 at anyone for any reason. This is the most practical advice a gun owner can give and receive. The barrel should never be pointed at something you don’t intend to shoot.
When loading and unloading a firearm, it should always be aimed in a safe direction. Accidental discharges happen all the time, especially if you’ve fired several rounds with your gun.
Safe direction simply means steering your firearm to a vantage point where you won’t hit anyone. It should never be pointed at an unintended target. Even when you’re practicing with an unloaded firearm, it’s an excellent habit-forming practice never to lead it to an unsafe destination. When shooting indoors, you should also take into consideration enclosures, like marbled walls or ceilings, that may cause the bullet to ricochet.
For competitive shooting, in which you need to stalk an opponent, make sure that you point the gun down to the ground or up above at all times. Avoid putting your finger on the trigger; only do so when you have your target right in front of you and are absolutely ready to fire. The same goes for obstacle shooting. When you’re crawling on the ground, make sure that your rifle is in between your arms and position it sideways, like you’re carrying a baby.
Wear Eye and Ear Protection
No matter how good or bad a shooter you are, there should be no good-enough reason to forgo wearing eye and ear protection. Not wearing protective glasses and earplugs goes against every gun-safety procedure that’s been written. Loud noises can damage your ears, and gas blasts can harm your eyes.
There are a lot of rules when it comes to shooting. Most of them are for everyone else’s protection. But wearing protective gear is for your own. You need to wear them, especially when shooting outdoors.
Every shooter should be defensive when their body parts are on the line. Eyes and ears are equally vital for any shooter. Most shooting accidents can be avoided with the right protection. Even when you’re cleaning and disassembling your rifle, you should still wear protective gear to keep cleaning agents or springs away from your eyes.
Sight Your Target and What’s Beyond It
For target shooting, it’s easier to know what you’re shooting at and where your bullets go. But for outdoor firing, when you’re out hunting game or competing in the woods or any field, always be mindful of where your target is positioned. Try to check if there’s anything behind it. It’s important to know this to avoid inflicting any harm on an innocent bystander.
Before you shoot, remember that you can never call it back. When you fire your rifle, the bullet will go wherever it ought to and hit whatever it can along the way. You won’t have any control at that point. So it’s essential to know precisely where your shot is going and make sure you don’t injure anyone beyond your target.
At an average velocity, a small bullet can travel over a mile. Higher cartridges can go over three miles. Keep in mind how far your ammunition can go. In case you miss your target, see to it that it doesn’t hit another or ricochet in another direction.