3 Gun-Handling Fictions (That Are Actually Facts)

The very foundation of gun safety lies in accepting these metaphorical concepts as bedrock fact.

posted on April 14, 2022
instructor teaching a gun safety class

The NRA's Three Rules of Gun Safety are as follows: 1.ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. We phrase these instructions that way because it's clear, simple and easy for beginners to remember. If you're a new shooter who's looking for or undergoing gun safety training, you'll hear those rules over and over again. You may also hear some other "rules" that may seem confusing, because occasionally they will contradict the evidence of your eyes. That's because there are some bedrock concepts of gun safety, gun handling and hunting that are best expressed as a metaphor. They're not gun-handling fictions ... they're actually facts. Here are three examples.

That gun is always loaded, especially when it isn't.

You may hear this as "always treat guns as if they are loaded," and that's a more accurate representation of what we mean. The problem is that when it comes to gun safety, there really is no room for nuance. You must train yourself to believe that the gun is ALWAYS loaded. Yes, even when you have just dropped the magazine and cleared the chamber yourself. Yes, even when your pinky finger is jammed in the breech. Firearms accidents are relatively rare, but when they do happen, the most common cause is that someone treated a loaded gun as if it weren't. 

When are you allowed to stop treating the gun as if it were loaded? Around the time it stops looking like a gun ... when you have fully disassembled it for cleaning.

Every bullet costs $10,000.

No, we're not referring cheekily to the current price of ammunition, and the way you can tell is that we're saying "bullet." If we were complaining about the price of ammunition, we'd say "cartridge," "round" or "shell," because that's what goes into the breech. What comes out the muzzle is the bullet, and that's the part that might cost you $10K.

The explanation for why lies in the other way you might hear this saying: "Every fired round comes with a lawyer attached." The $10,000 in question is a round-number figure for what it might cost to have a lawyer defend you in court for something like a negligent discharge—e.g., having your firearm go off when you did not intend it to—in a crowded area. 

Therefore, it's always in your best interest to think of every single round as precious and deserving of great care. It's that extra motivation to ALWAYS be sure of your target and what lies beyond it. It also helps you keep the #1 rule above at the top of your mind ... now all guns are always loaded with rounds worth as much as a used car.

That buck is invisible until legal light.

This one's for the new hunters out there, because it's a little confusing. When you're hunting, depending upon the species you're after and the area you're in, you will be told to respect a concept called "legal light." Usually, that means official sunrise. When you're out in the woods and fields, you must familiarize yourself with what the legal light time will be that day. Up until that time, you cannot see that buck. He's invisible.

Yes, even if it's actually a very clear morning and you're facing East and you've been able to pick out the little bumps at the base of his antlers for the last 10 minutes. Until legal light hits, you cannot see that buck and you definitely won't be squeezing the trigger. It's tempting, but don't even think about it. Not only does it violate the rules of ethical hunting—that's absolutely considered poaching—it can get you in legal hot water no matter where you are. Game wardens can enter private property at any time without a warrant (and that is a plain fact, not a metaphor). 

Would you like to know more about gun safety and gun handling? NRA Instructors are here to help you on your journey as a safe, responsible gun owner. Just click here to find one in your area!



person preparing against home invasion with shotgun
person preparing against home invasion with shotgun

Smaller-Gauge Shotguns For Home Defense?

Do you have to have a 12-gauge? We look at the facts.

10 Perfect Holiday Gifts for Your NRA Family

Looking for a great gift for your outdoorsy loved ones? Search no further!

Guns & Loads for Self-Defense Against Animals

Lions, tigers and bears? More like rabid foxes, snakes and...OK, bears.

Video Review: Savage Stance Pistol

Our expert reviewers put Savage's first handgun in decades through its paces.

Wild-Game Recipe: Smothered Deer Backstraps

How do you improve on venison backstraps? Here's how!

Henry Guns For Great Causes: $50K to First Responders Children's Foundation

“The primary focus of our Guns for Great Causes program has always been about children, which is why we are extremely proud to help support such an esteemed and worthwhile organization."


Get the best of NRA Family delivered to your inbox.