Four Cardinal Rules for Handgun Owners: What You Need to Know

Posted by Team Springfield

Sep 4, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Before ever touching your handgun, you need to understand the four cardinal rules of safe handling for a firearm. By following these, you can keep yourself—and those around you—safe.

Buying a handgun is a great first step toward ensuring your protection, but a firearm is merely a tool, and can be useless—or even dangerous—without proper training. An official training course from an experienced National Rifle Association instructor is a great option for firearm owners, but all training starts with research and knowledge of the basics, including how to load and unload, safely store, and care for a handgun. As always, be sure to read your owner’s manual completely before starting to use your handgun. This post will give a brief overview of the four cardinal rules of safe handling of a firearm: assume all are loaded, only point your firearm at your intended target, be certain of your target (and what’s behind it), and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.

Cardinal Rule #1: Always Assume Firearms are Loaded

Before touching or even approaching a firearm, it’s important to follow the rule that all firearms are always loaded. Regardless of whom used it last, where it came from, or what you may believe, every firearm is loaded at all times until proven otherwise. Until you physically and visually inspect the firearm on your own, it should be treated as a live firearm. Once it leaves your control, it should be considered a loaded firearm again.

Cardinal Rule #2: Only Point at Your Intended Target

If you aren’t willing to fire at something, you shouldn’t point your firearm at it. When using a handgun you have to be particularly careful. While shotguns and rifles usually require two hands to change the direction of the muzzle, handguns are prone to being accidently pointed in the wrong direction.

Cardinal Rule #3: Be Certain of Your Target

When you do decide to aim at something, you must be 100 percent positive of what you’re aiming at, always know what is in your line of fire i.e., between and behind you and your target. Don’t risk anything.

Cardinal Rule #4: Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger

Until you have made the decision to fire, you must keep your finger off the trigger and outside the guard. This is the most important of all the rules, because a firearm cannot fire without engaging with the trigger. Regardless of the type of firearm or situation, your finger never touches the trigger until you have made the decision to fire.


Springfield Armory®

At Springfield Armory®, we can help you find the firearm that fits you best. Whether you’re looking for rifles or handguns, we have a variety of products to choose from. Visit for more information on our products, as well as tips on gun safety.

Topics: First Time Gun Buyers

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual.  These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory®.