If you’re among the millions of Americans who own a firearm, you understand the responsibility that comes with it. For one thing, a firearm is a beautiful and dangerous machine that has to be respected. For another, law-abiding gun owners have taken a lot of heat for years now, and will continue to do so, especially with the nation’s growing concern over mass shootings. What it all boils down to is that one word: responsibility.

The first step in responsibility is safety. You probably know the basics of AR safety already: responsible storage, proper maintenance, correct handling, trigger discipline, and so on. That said, it’s important to understand that being a responsible gun owner is more than just knowing how to operate a firearm. There’s a whole mindset that goes into it. Plus, we’ve found that there are always gaps in knowledge, so it never hurts to have a refresher. Here’s what you should know about responsible firearm use.

Basic Principles: Think Safety First

The number one priority for any gun owner should be ensuring AR safety at all times. Even if you know your firearm inside and out—and if you bought an unfinished AR from us and did the final assembly yourself, odds are that you know it pretty well—there are often other people around you who don’t know that particular firearm, and who may not know much about firearms at all.

“Always Loaded”

Whether you’re teaching a beginner how to hunt, target-shooting at the range, or cleaning your rifle, it’s important to always treat every gun as loaded. Never assume that an assembled rifle is not loaded.

With ARs, cases of accidental bullet discharge are actually pretty common. It definitely happens to younger folks often, and sometimes it even happens to seasoned gun owners with decades of experience. All it takes to make a life-changing mistake is to let your attention slip for a few seconds, or to cut corners to save a little time.

Don’t fall into that trap. The AR safety rules here are pretty obvious:

  • Always check the gun’s magazine, chamber, and receiver to visually and tactilely ensure that it’s not loaded.
  • When handling a firearm yourself or handing one over to somebody else, ensure that the gun muzzle points in a safe direction, meaning an empty direction with no people in it, that has soft features like wood and dirt where a ricochet is unlikely.
  • Never point a gun at another person, period. The only time you ever point a gun at someone is in self-defense, or when your commanding officer orders you to, and either way that is not a good day. If you want to swagger around, buy a prop gun.

Trigger Discipline

The short version of trigger discipline is:

  • Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard.

This is a habit to build from Day 1. But there’s more to it than that. Situational awareness is critical when it comes to AR safety. Ensure that there are no people or animals downrange, including beyond your target, that could potentially be injured when shooting.

Only put your finger on the trigger once you’re sure of the target and other things downrange, and after you’ve aimed and pointed at the target itself. Good trigger discipline means fundamentally associating the trigger with the act of discharging the firearm.

Protect Your Eyes and Ears

Always, period, triple underline, no debate: Protect your eyes when you go shooting. You can damage them so easily with random debris, ricocheted bullets, and even your own limbs and the firearm itself. Wear safety goggles for responsible AR safety.

Protect your ears too, with a quality set of firearm earmuffs. Shooting is associated with hearing damage, especially among regular shooters, and hearing loss is cumulative: You may not notice the tiny little bit of damage from any one overexposure to the sound of a discharge, but it will catch up to you someday, sooner than you think.

Do Your Drinking After Your Shooting

Never use alcohol or other drugs when using a gun, as they can impair your judgment. You’ve heard it before, but take it to heart.

Proper Handling

After the basic firearm safety precautions, like always assuming your AR is loaded and practicing trigger discipline, it’s time to think about handling.

There is too much nuance in proper handling to explain it all in full detail here—that’s a job for your instructor—but here are some general AR safety guidelines you need to think about:

  • Always be confident in your grip—in both hands, when applicable. This is important before your first shot as well as between shots. If you need to adjust, or feel like you’re losing your optimal grip, stop and make it right.
  • Be ready for the recoil. That’s obvious when you’re firing a new gun, but even with a familiar gun that first recoil of the day hits like a splash of cold water. Your hand and arm are your shock absorber, and you can hurt yourself really easily if you’re not prepared for the recoil.
  • If your AR fails to fire after you’ve pulled the trigger, handle it with great care. Don’t be ashamed to ask someone more experienced for help.
  • Good handling means keep your hand on your firearm: Never leave a loaded gun unattended.

Proper Firearm Maintenance

As an AR owner, you should take good care of your rifle to ensure safe use. Treat your weapon like any other machinery that requires regular care and maintenance. That means cleaning it properly and often to reduce the risk of misfiring or malfunctioning. For the best AR safety, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

In addition:

  • Be sure to fire your AR regularly to ensure the ammunition doesn’t get damaged or go bad. Responsibly dispose of old ammunition. (Check with your shooting range for details.)
  • Don’t alter your gun unless you are a trained firearm expert.
  • Always make sure the barrel is clear of any obstructions after maintenance, and again before shooting.

Practice Regularly and Take Classes

There’s no point of owning an AR rifle if you don’t know how to use it. Practice shooting regularly, ideally at more than one range. The more you practice shooting your AR-15 or AR.308 rifle, the more proficient and responsible you’ll be.

Additionally, while practicing on your own may seem enough, take a few classes as well. You won’t regret it! Whether it’s a hunter’s safety class, an AR-15 custom building class, or an AR safety training course or refresher course, the more knowledge you gain and the more you train, the better off you’ll be.

Proper Firearm Storage

Another crucial but often overlooked role in responsible AR safety and ownership is storing your firearms in a safe and secure location. No matter who you are or where you live, it’s always a wise investment to purchase a firearm safe, cabinet, or rack. No one should handle one of your guns unless you personally authorize it.

The other aspect of firearm storage is mechanical safety: When you put your gun up, make sure your weapon is cleaned and unloaded, properly mounted, and so on, with both it and any related accessories in their proper place, so that nothing goes unaccounted for and nothing gets overlooked.

Build Your Own Custom AR-15 or AR-308 with 5D Tactical

So that’s our little refresher on responsible AR safety practices. From trigger discipline to safe storage, we hope it gave you something to think about.

But none of it matters if you don’t have a gun to fire! Want to build your own custom AR rifle? 5D Tactical provides firearms enthusiasts with the capability to easily and quickly build their own custom AR-15s, AR-10s, AR-308s, glocks, and more. We supply 80% lower receivers and stipped and complete upper receivers, glock parts, as well as the tools and jigs needed to complete your next AR build.

Learn more here on our website today, and for any questions or issues please contact us at 508.834.4223. Happy shooting!