U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Most readers on this site own a firearm (or 20) and are very familiar with the safe operation of their weapons. But with the vast increase of new gun-owners panic-buying as a result of COVID-19, some basic-level information is necessary to help these new folks. And since by and large, the most common self-loading firearm in America is the AR-15, it only makes sense that a new gun owners article center around this modern sporting rifle (MSR).
And to ensure as many of these people as possible actually read this piece, it’s broken up into bite-sized pieces as a list. That way overwhelmed reader’s eyes won’t glaze over. So, with that in mind here are 5 must-haves for brand-new gun owners and their AR-15 carbines.
Follow the Rules
This one is paramount. If you take away nothing else from this article, new owners will be measurably better off with this one in mind. Also, this one applies to any, and all firearms.
This might shock some of you, but firearms are dangerous tools. Much like a miter-saw, or a lawn-mower, if you screw around with a powerful tool you can really hurt, or even kill yourself. Thankfully, someone already figured out four easy rules to follow for otherwise clueless shooters. I’m going to list them below, and give you a breakdown of what they mean. They are mostly self-explanatory, but I’ve made the mistake of assuming competence in the past, and it’s taught me that nothing is fool-proof.
- All Guns Are Always Loaded
No, this doesn’t mean you should keep your firearms loaded at all times. It means you should treat them like they’re loaded at all times. Countless people have been shot with “unloaded guns”. This is an entirely avoidable situation. A gun only fires in one direction – from the end of the barrel. This is known as the muzzle – AKA the dangerous end. Which brings us to rule number 2.
- Never Point a Gun at Anything You Aren’t Prepared to Destroy
This one is pretty simple, but people breaking this rule are responsible for most of all accidental shootings. It’s impossible to shoot someone or something if your gun isn’t aimed at them. Easy solution – don’t aim at them. More than that, shooters should be aware of their muzzle at all times. Many shooters find it easier to do this if they imagine a deadly laser beam emitting from the barrel at all times. Whatever works for you, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t aim your firearm any anything you aren’t trying to shoot.
- Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until You’re Ready to Shoot
Again, this is a very easy rule to follow, and one that is very logical. Despite what Hollywood and the media would tell you, guns do not simply, “Go off.” They are precision machines that require a user to perform a specific action to discharge the weapon. Yes, I know it’s comfortable for new shooters to rest their fingers on the trigger, but it’s needlessly dangerous even with the safety on. Remember, no mechanical safety is 100% reliable, nor should we expect one to be.
- Be Sure of Your Target and What is Behind it
While popular media might have us believe that bullets magically ricochet off of sheet metal or the sides of cars, the reality is quite different. Bullets are traveling very fast. So fast, that they can penetrate wood and thin metal easily. This rule is designed to make sure shooters won’t put up a thin wooden target out in the woods, and shoot through it towards a distant neighbor’s house. While there is no definitive guide to what stops bullets, a thick pile of dirt or a very steep side of a hill or mountain is 100% effective.
Read the F&^*ng Manual!
Now that you’re familiar with what safe handling of firearms entails, it’s time to familiarize yourself with your firearm in particular. This one is boring and unexciting, but absolutely critical. Read the manual! Yes, I’m one of those guys too, who doesn’t read the manual when he gets a new piece of technology. But fumbling with programming your DVR is annoying, accidentally discharging your rifle through the wall into your neighbor’s cat – or worse – is a big deal.
Don’t worry, the manual has pictures, and is designed for the lowest common denominator. Because there’s no such thing as a minimum IQ requirement for firearms ownership (thank God!) every manual has to be made so that dumbest guy reading it can understand it. If you’re reading this blog, congratulations! You’re not the dumbest guy, and so you’ll have no issues following along with the kindergarten-level vocabulary and big pictures of the manual. Yes, I know it sucks, but just do it the first few times you take the gun out or decide to clean it. At the very worst, you’ve wasted 10 minutes of your time. It’s worth it, and your neighbor’s cat will thank you.
At this point, new owners should at least be able to use their firearm safety and employ it properly when needed. It will take hours of practice to become proficient, but take comfort in knowing that you’re on the right path. And since we’ve already gone over a ton of information, we’ll wait until part two, to get into the specifics of what you’ll need to get the most out of your new firearm.
Jim is a freelance writer, editor, and videographer for dozens of publications who loves anything and everything guns. While partial to modern military firearms and their civilian counterparts, he holds a special place in his heart for the greatest battle implement ever devised and other WW2 rifles. When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.