Guns are machines, and like any machine there are malfunctions. When this occurs, part of safe operation is to know how to deal with them. The good news is that it’s easy.
If a malfunction occurs, keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction at all times until the malfunction is cleared.
Typical semi-auto malfunctions are a failure to feed (the cartridge won’t go into the chamber) failure to extract (a fired bullet doesn’t eject) and a failure to return to battery, where the slide won’t return all the way after firing.
The typical causes are insufficient lubrication, a bad magazine, or a bad extractor, though there are some others.
What you do to address them is a procedure called Tap, Rack, Bang.
You tap the magazine to ensure it’s fully seated, rack the slide and – if the slide returns to battery – commence firing again. Sometimes a malfunction can happen due to a variety of factors and never repeat…and sometimes it’s due to an issue that needs to be fixed.
If it continues to happen, get your gun to a gunsmith.
Another aspect of gun safety is safe gun storage. Firearms should be properly stored in the home, though some disagree on just what that entails. In any case, there are certain universals of gun storage that should be observed.
First, firearms should be kept safe from moisture. Whether loaded or unloaded, moisture can cause rust, which can and will ruin an afflicted gun if left untreated.
Second, they should not be accessible by everyone.
Some prefer ammo storage and gun storage to be in the same location, some prefer to keep the two locked up in separate locations.
The latter approach concentrates firearms and their ammunition in one location. Provided sufficient security, such as a gun safe or strong box with access limited to very few people, this approach can be perfectly safe.
However, many subscribe to the notion that separate (locked) ammo storage and gun storage is preferable and in truth is more secure as more layers of security decrease the odds of a tragedy occurring.
Many with children in the home will store ammunition separately from their guns, ensuring that even if they can somehow access the one, they cannot access the other.
Types Of Gun Storage
There are a number of different options one has for gun storage, and tossing a pistol in a dresser or nightstand drawer is not the best among them.
The most basic is a simple lockbox, as they are widely available and cheap. Many are little more than a metal box with a simple lock and key, though models are available with combination locks and even some featuring biometric (thumbprint) locks as well.
If one wants to keep one or two pistols by the bed, they are a decent option. If you want a separate storage container for ammunition, they are also a good choice.
The best lockboxes are also mountable, as many feature bolt holes through which one can mount it to a surface such as a dresser, nightstand or shelf of some kind. This prevents the box from being moved.
Some models can even be mounted to a wall – just make sure those are mounted to a stud.
Be wary of electronic locks, as fresh batteries must be maintained for the lockbox to work.
There are also gun cases.
Many firearms come with a case at the point of purchase (it’s mandatory for pistol purchases in many U.S. states) and most gun cases either feature locking latches or can be locked using a cable or padlock.
Provided solid construction and a good lock, these are perfectly viable methods of storage. Metal cases will often be the most durable, though many plastic cases are just as strongly built if not more so. Look for gun cases that are rated for airline use; these will the most solidly built.
A gun cabinet is exactly what it sounds like – a cabinet for guns. Most have a simple lock on the doors, so make sure to not lose the key once locked. These are the classiest and most elegant, but can be the easiest to break into as many have simple glass doors.
Therefore, you may want to consider purchasing a model that does not have glass doors, as a metal or totally wooden cabinet will not have this weakness.
However, a number of gun cabinets are no longer just simple uprights. Many gun cabinets and lock boxes are taking alternate shapes, as full-on gun storage furniture is becoming proliferate. Many take the shape of common household furniture, such as ottomans, wall shelving, even entire bed frames.
Gun safes are, naturally, the most safe. A gun safe provides the greatest degree of security, as access the most impeded. Additionally, many are fireproof, so your firearms and any other valuables stored in a gun safe can easily survive a fire in your home.
Gun safes range in size, so one need not dedicate an entire closet to it. Small safes are very popular for pistols, and many gun owners install one on a nightstand or in a nightstand drawer.
However, long gun safes do require the requisite space for upright or horizontal storage.
Use Correct Ammunition
You should only use the correct ammunition for your gun. Some chamberings allow for use of multiple calibers, which we’ll cover in a moment, but outside of those exceptions you must take care not to use the wrong ammunition in any firearm.
Most modern firearms have the caliber marked on the barrel or receiver. Check to make sure; do not load or fire the gun if you aren’t sure.
If shooting a shotgun, also make sure you check the chamber length. A modern 12-gauge shotgun, for instance, will have either a 3-inch or 3-½” chamber; older shotguns may have only a 2-¾” chamber.
Centerfire ammunition will have the caliber imprinted on the rim. Rimfire ammunition often will not, so make sure know what caliber it is by keeping it in its box.
Take care to store different calibers separately. This is absolutely critical for people who own AR-platform rifles of multiple calibers. A .300 Blackout cartridge will chamber and headspace in a 5.56mm rifle, and the rifle will detonate if you pull the trigger.
Therefore, make sure that all ammunition is stored separately, and in clearly labeled containers