Although gun ownership has gone down in recent years, many still have guns for recreational purposes—like hunting and target shooting. Yes, some may keep them at home for self-defense purposes. Many such people are already experienced with firearms and know how to be safe around them. However, there are some out there who may be new at gun ownership and could use a few tips. If that fits your description, here is what you need to know:

Assume That the Gun Is Loaded, No Matter What

As a responsible owner it’s very important that you make sure that the gun is unloaded after it has been used. However, mistakes do happen, especially if you are fatigued or distracted for one reason or another. All it takes, though, is that one remaining bullet in the chamber for a catastrophe to take place. Because of this, always assume that there is a live round in the gun. Even blank rounds can kill at close quarters. You should also know that you should never take the gun off of its safety setting or touch the trigger until it is time to shoot with the device.

Point the Gun Only at Your Target

Never, under any circumstance, treat the gun as a toy or a joke. First and foremost, it is a tool that ought to be treated with respect for its power. This is especially true when you use it around other people. Pointing a gun at anyone or anything, even if it is unloaded, is a foolish move that could also get you in a lot of trouble. Fatal accidents could happen and nothing about that can make one moment of careless play worth it. Be sure you know exactly what you are shooting at. You don’t want to be aimlessly shooting and end up hitting something that you shouldn’t have. You can avoid doing this by setting up targets or using clay pigeons. If you aren’t shooting the gun, make sure to keep the muzzle pointed at the ground at all times. When you set the gun down on a table or something, always turn on the safety and point the gun away from people. If there are children or teenagers around, for some reason, make sure that they know not to handle the guns and make sure that you’re always watching the gun as well.

Be Familiar with Your Gun

Familiarize yourself with a new gun before you ever load or shoot it. Know the effective range and proper ammunition that you ought to use—this type of information should be available to you in the owner’s manual. Try some safe target practice to become familiar with how it feels and properly adjust the sights. Learn how to disassemble and reassemble it. Inspect all the parts for wear and smooth operation each time you clean the gun. Always ensure that the barrel is free of obstructions.

Store Your Gun Safely

Remind yourself to unload your gun when you are done shooting with it. Store the gun and the ammunition in separate locations. For home defense, keep the gun unloaded. Yet, for security reasons, it would be a good idea to keep a full magazine or speed loader nearby. The best solution to secure gun storage is to keep firearms and ammunition in a safe. A lock and security company, like Southern California Security Centers, can provide a number of storage solutions specially made for gun owners that are both tamper-proof and fire resistant. Although this is an important thing for every gun owner to do, this is definitely something that you should do if you have children.

Keep the Gun Well-Maintained

Maintenance is a very important part of gun safety that often gets overlooked. Basically, you need it to be fully functional with little to no hiccups. If it keeps jamming, get that fixed. You should also keep some cleaning materials on hand to help get rid of lead and powder—such as gun oil, a bore brush, patches and a cleaning rod. You should know that the barrel is the most important part of the gun to keep clean as it can affect your accuracy while shooting with it and help prevent corrosion from happening. When cleaning your gun, it’s very important to make sure that it’s unloaded first. As you’re cleaning, it might be a good idea to wear safety glasses so that you don’t get exposed to any chemicals or other such toxic materials. If you don’t think that you’re doing a good job at cleaning your gun, you should definitely ask an experienced gunman to show you the ropes. There are also YouTube videos that you can watch that can demonstrate to you how to maintain your gun.

Responsible gun ownership includes exercising all due caution when using a gun and when storing it. Strong safes and high-tech mechanisms can ensure that only you have access to your weapon.