So, You Bought a Gun, Huh?

It has been an interesting week in regard to some of my discussions with people who have recently purchased firearms. Gun dealers and manufacturers are struggling 24/7 to keep up with the current demand. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is as if Americans are preparing for war, thanks in no small measure to the left’s war on guns and the Bill of Rights.

Gun dealers and gun manufacturers are not the only ones dealing with the increased workload to satisfy demand. I spoke with a law enforcement official this week who handles gun permits for our local jurisdiction and she stated she was two weeks behind on issuing permits due to everybody and their brother wanting a concealed-carry permit (CCW) these days.

Additionally, I’ve talked to some people who have just purchased their very first firearm. I’ve spoken with others who have owned firearms, and are reasonably proficient in their use, but are now purchasing stuff like expensive gas-piston AR-15-style hybrids that would make a SWAT team member drool over. Still others are purchasing firearms that they aren’t really that familiar with, and only understand their operation in a strictly cursory sense.

I feel compelled to write this article for one reason only: if it can help just one person from injuring themselves or others (or worse), then it will definitely be worth the effort. First, since this subject matter is so important, I highly recommend that if you have just purchased a firearm for the first time, or you are not that familiar with the safe handling and operation of a firearm, to take a gun safety course taught by a certified firearms instructor. I can not stress this enough.

DO NOT assume you know everything about a firearm, when, in fact, you don’t. I guarantee you, if you get with a certified gun instructor, you will be surprised (maybe even “shocked”), at how much vitally important knowledge you will gain on the proper handling of firearms.

And to really drive this point home, be sure to double-check anything I may have included in this article with a qualified gun expert so that you are sure, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that you know how to safely handle a firearm. I only to wish to share my experience so that you can double-check it with a qualified gun expert to see that it lines up with standard and universally accepted safe-handling practices for firearms.

I’m not going to go outside my field of expertise here by getting into any martial use of firearms, or any highly-technical aspects of firearms; that’s better left to people who are specifically trained in those areas of self-defense and the tactical use of firearms. I only want to touch on some of these matters, just so you can be familiarized with the some of the important basic concepts. My focus in this article is focus on the critical importance of gun safety fundamentals and to encourage the reader to seek further education in the subject matter.

First off, let me just clearly state the level of my experience with firearms and Class 3 “restricted” weapons; and how I was trained to safely handle firearms and weapons. This is not rocket science, folks. But these fundamental rules of proper handling of firearms applies overall to all firearms and weapons, short of artillery and above. I’m talking about guns—guns of all sorts.

Back in the early 90’s, I was involved with a historical reenactment society—specifically, World War Two reenacting. Since I was nine years old, I’ve been a student of World War Two history. Naturally, being asked to get involved piqued my interest and I joined up. The particular group (or “unit”) I was involved with were led by two members of the National Guard who had federal firearms licenses (FFL) and were able to legally own and purchase Class 3 “restricted” weapons—meaning: machine guns, i.e. fully-automatic weapons.

NOTE: Private citizens can own Class 3 “restricted” weapons, according to the National Firearms Act (NFA), but an extensive background check and lengthy waiting period is required by law. Additionally, the government can ask to see a NFA class weapon at any time. For example, a private citizen can own a full-auto AK-47. But a full-auto AK-47 will cost you around $15,000.00, in addition to the waiting period and filling out the proper NFA forms, along with any fees required; this is the “well-regulated” part of the Second Amendment.

Our first “leader” of the group maintained a collection of American and British weapons from the Second World War. Our second “leader” maintained a very impressive and extensive collection of German weapons, as well as numerous Allied vintage arms. Since live rounds are never, ever used in a reenactment, it was necessary to fit some of these automatic weapons with blank adapters.

For example, the German MP-38 / MP-40 (commonly known as the Schmeisser) cannot create enough pressure in the chamber to properly cycle rounds when firing blank rounds. Blank rounds are crimped shell casings that contain a charge, but no bullet. Typically, the end of the barrel would have to be threaded to receive a cap with a small, precisely engineered hole to create just the right amount of pressure in the chamber to allow the weapon to function normally. Over-pressurization of the chamber can cause the weapon to possibly rupture or explode. Naturally, all this required the expertise of real gunsmiths and armorers familiar with vintage arms.

Every month or so, a live-fire exercise would be held that gave invited members a chance to fire live rounds from Class 3 weapons, as well as our own personal firearms, at a proper range. We just had to supply the ammo—which wasn’t cheap, by the way. Machine guns chew up ammo quick! I never missed an opportunity to participate in a live-fire exercise. I consider myself fortunate now, considering the current “climate.” I had the opportunity to fire the Thompson submachine gun w/ box mag; an early model slow-fast, select-fire Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the MP-38 submachine gun, and numerous other weapons and firearms. During reenactments, I ran a MG-42 belt-fed machine gun (blanks only) that was a real handful. It could jam in a number of different ways.

The people who conducted these live-fire exercises were certified firearms instructors with military and law enforcement experience. I highly recommend seeking out gun experts with this sort of background when you first start handling and shooting firearms for the first time, or if you have little or limited experience. My experience and training on these weapons by no means makes me an expert. I just want to share the experience I had and how much gun safety played the prominent role throughout.

Before I was ever allowed to handle weapons like the ones mentioned, even blank-adapted guns, I had to display proficiency in handling firearms safely to those who owned those weapons. And this is where it gets serious—deadly serious. Guns don’t kill, but guns in the wrong (untrained) hands certainly can. The fundamentals of gun safety must be practiced at all times, no exceptions … EVER! Firearm accidents happen all the time, mostly due to the improper handling of a loaded firearm—operator error.

The first rule of gun safety is to treat every gun as if it is loaded. No exceptions. Even when you are certain a gun is unloaded, always get in the religious habit of inspecting the chamber and magazine well for any live rounds.  If you remember nothing from this article, please remember to treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

The other thing that you must get in the habit of doing right of the bat is practicing trigger finger and muzzle discipline. Trigger finger discipline means never, ever placing your finger on the trigger until the target is in sight and you know what you are shooting at. Muzzle discipline means always being aware of where the end of the barrel is pointed. Only point the muzzle at something you’re willing to destroy, even when the gun is unloaded.

Now, although it may all seem simple enough to remember, it must be practiced. You have to get used to practicing safe-handling of firearms, both loaded and unloaded, at all times; You want it to become second nature. There are no exceptions.

This brings us to another point in this article where, if you remember anything, remembering the following four points of gun safety should be seared into your braincells. When it comes to gun safety, apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). These four points are widely recognized as the essential points of gun safety and must never be forgotten or overlooked.

The Four Points of Gun Safety

  1. All guns are always loaded!
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy!
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target!
  4. Always be sure of your target!

There were two main reasons I decided to write this article: 1) I know some of you out there might have just purchased a brand new Glock 20 Gen4 10mm handgun or a M6 gas piston AR-style hybrid and loaded up a few mags and have it hidden away just in case; 2) I worked construction and know for a fact that a lot of people don’t “read the manual.”

Let’s start with those who could be considered “No. 1.” The fact that you have purchased a handgun, and have some bullets ready to go, does not mean that you are ready for any possible contingencies. Far from it. You are not done yet, not by a long shot (no pun intended). In addition to thoroughly understanding the operation and breakdown of your new gun (read the manual), you need to use your gun before you can be assured that it is functioning properly. Do not assume because you bought  a decent gun from a reputable manufacturer it will work flawlessly right out of the box. Malfunctions do occur, and you definitely want to know that  before you need to use your gun in an emergency.

Guns typically need to be broken in. With a finely-crafted gun, the tolerances are quite precise and sharp edges or burrs may exist on moving parts that need to be worn down so that the action of cycling rounds is smooth and reliable. It is a similar to breaking in the engine of a car, so to speak. A gun is nothing more than a mechanical tool with parts that are under stress, high heat and pressure. With contraction and expansion of these tight tolerances it may require a couple of hundred rounds being fired to get the gun’s action smooth and reliable. The number of rounds required to break in a gun varies greatly between gun models, but typically 50-100 rounds would be a minimum. You may experience more malfunctions at first with your new gun, until it has been broken in. An ultimate test would be to fire a 1,000 rounds with no feed problems, for example.

Typically, a person who has no or little experience with a firearm will get much more accurate results with a rifle than they will with a handgun. Handguns take a good deal of practice to become proficient with due to their vastly shorter barrel length. Trust me. Even at five yards, if you practice bad form and technique, you won’t hit the broadside of a barn. There are number of factors in firing a handgun that you need to become intimately familiar with, such as the proper stance, hand grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger pull, follow-through, and even breathing techniques. All these factors need to work in concert with each other in order to put rounds accurately on the target in the shortest time possible.

I took the time to carefully pick out some videos that demonstrate some of the techniques and safety tips I’ve outlined here. I only picked videos that agreed with the methods that  were taught to me and others by qualified instructors, since they are considered standard and best practices. Some of it will be a bit redundant, since you really can’t hear it enough, in my opinion. This by no means meant to be a comprehensive treatment on the subject of handguns. But it is meant to be a solid introduction to the fundamentals.

First off, let’s take a look at how to properly shoot a handgun. The following videos cover the essentials of proper stance, hand grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger pull, and breathing techniques. Learn them well and practice often:

Handgun Shooting Tips and Techniques

How To Shoot a Pistol (1/2)

How To Shoot a Pistol (2/2)

How To Properly Load and Unload a Semi-Automatic Handgun

Guns can jam. You need to know how to put a firearm back in service when there is an ejection/extraction or feed problem with the ammunition. There are two types of common jams: 1) the “stovepipe” (sometimes referred to as a “smokestack”), which is an ejection/extraction malfunction; 2) a double-feed, which is a feed malfunction. With the first type of jam, sometimes the shell casing will not clear the ejection port after firing and will get caught between the bolt moving forward and the edge of the ejection port. The second type of jam is when multiple bullets are trying to feed into the chamber simultaneously and get stuck in the chamber or the magazine well.

Both the military and law enforcement train all the time in how to deal with these common jams. A certified gun instructor will certainly train you in the clearance of these malfunctions, and the need to practice these techniques as much as possible; it needs to become second nature. The following videos demonstrate the tried-and-true Tap, Rack, Bang method for clearing common gun jams like stovepipes, and the closely related method for clearing double-feeds.

Tap, Rack, Bang

Malfunction Drills Semi-Auto

A veteran reminded me recently that Tap, Rack, Bang has a prerequisite if you’re in a fight. If you were being shot at and you experienced a malfunction, the first thing you need to do is seek cover or concealment. Cover and concealment have a very important distinction. “Cover” can stop a bullet, such as taking cover behind a solid concrete wall. “Concealment” only hides you and cannot stop a bullet, such seeking concealment behind a wall made of wood and drywall. If you can’t find cover, then concealment is the next best option. Infantry in a combat situation always have there head on swivel looking for possible cover or concealment at all times. Even a small depression in the ground may be deep enough to be able to shield your body from lethal fire.

Every gun is different, even guns of the same type, and it is paramount to understand the idiosyncrasies and differences between them. For example, when shooting a revolver, DO NOT put your fingers (or any body part, for that matter), in front of the cylinder near the barrel. There is a gap between the barrel and the cylinder where a lot of hot gases and particles escape under great force when a round is fired. This also applies to ejection ports on guns in general. If you don’t believe me, just watch this:

How To NOT Shoot a Revolver

How To NOT Shoot a Semi-Automatic Pistol

Since it is damn near impossible to even find AR-style or AK-style rifles these days, due to overwhelming demand and depleted inventories, a number of vintage firearms from earlier eras like World War Two are becoming scarce themselves.

You need to be careful when buying vintage firearms for use with live rounds. Of course, you look for things like pitted barrels and corrosion, loose or cracked stock, badly-worn or missing parts, etc. But you also need to look at things like headspacing, among other things. The bolt needs to sit flush against the back of the shell casing when a round is chambered. If there is a gap between the bolt face and the back of the shell casing, this could possible cause the shell casing to expand and rupture, which could definitely ruin your day.

Here’s an example of an M2 “Ma Deuce” .50 cal. MG experiencing a catastrophic failure due to bad headspacing and timing:

At many gun shows and gun shops, they will have a headspace gages. It is a dummy round chambered specifically for the gun being tested that allows you to see if the bolt is seated flush against the back of the round. This is just a first check. Be sure to have any vintage firearms inspected by a qualified gunsmith or armorer before shooting real bullets through them.

Russian SKS rifle

For example, one popular surplus rifle is the SKS which was first produced by the Soviet Union right at the end of of WWII. A very small number of these rifles were used in combat at the latter stages of the war with mixed results. One of the potential problems with the SKS design is the floating firing pin system which is prone to seizing, particularly when using corrosive ammunition. A frozen firing pin proud of the bolt-face can cause what is called a slam-fire.

If one were to load 10 rounds of 7.62×39 (a powerful round) ammo into a SKS rifle magazine with a frozen firing pin, and slam the bolt forward to put the rifle into battery, the rifle could go full-auto, possibly firing every round in the magazine like a machine gun. If one is not practicing strict muzzle discipline, and does not have the iron will to hold down on the barrel and allow the rifle to empty its rounds in a safe direction, it is easy to see what a potentially disastrous situation could result, particularly if someone just dropped the rifle during a slamfire scenario, as they are wont to do. Of course,  a knowledgeable person would check the condition of the firing pin in the first place.

By the way, there are spring-loaded firing pin upgrades available for the SKS rifle, which I would highly recommend if you own a SKS rifle with a floating firing pin. Below is a video explaining the SKS slam-fire issue and its fix.

Additionally, there is a misfire condition that can occur with bad ammo. This means the firing pin strikes the primer and the round does not goes off. The standard drill is to wait at least 30 seconds with the gun pointed in a safe direction and wait to see if the round delay fires before removing the bad round from the chamber. (FYI: avoid sticking a misfire round in your front pocket after extracting it from the chamber.) There are other conditions with ammunition, such as hot loads and squib loads, that one should be thoroughly familiar with from the start. A good class on gun safety should cover all these issues.

I hope this article and the videos really made you think about the vital importance of proper firearm handling and safety, especially if you’re new to the world of firearms. Like I said, if just one of you decides to pursue an accredited firearms training course as a result, I’ll be more than happy.

In closing, I’d like warn folks to be careful about YouTube videos and internet forums that discuss the subject matter of firearms. There are a lot of so-called “experts” out there who have no idea what they are talking about. BEWARE!

Here’s a video that exemplifies what I’m talking about. I hate to single this guy out (nothing personal), but I couldn’t dream up a better real-world example of “too much money, not enough sense.” This gun owner has seemingly bought every tactical accessory ever made for his AR-15 rifle. This is the absolutely the stupidest gun I have ever seen. One thing you want is a well-balanced firearm that weighs as little as possible for the specific purpose it is designed for–less is best. A gun is only a tool, not a end-all-be-all. The AR-15 in the video would prove totally impractical in a real fight, and probably would end up getting the user killed as they hung up one of their ridiculous double-bipods on the curtains, or similar obstruction. Don’t be this guy:

When it comes to guns, make sure to verify and check out anything new, unorthodox or questionable advice with a qualified gun expert or certified firearms instructor. There are a number of myths that get passed around on the subject of guns. With that said, I’ll leave you all with this video (approx. 30 minutes), which deals with the subject:

Firearm Myths

REMEMBER:

The Four Points of Gun Safety

  1. All guns are always loaded!
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy!
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target!
  4. Always be sure of your target!

About Brent P.

Author, blogger, independent researcher, Conservatarian, and strict Constitutionalist.
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