Whether you plan on carry a gun concealed or in plain sight, you should take some basic precautions to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of those around you.
If there's one firearm accessory that you don't want to cut corners with, it's the holster. Sure, you can purchase a cheap holster for about $10-$20 bucks online, but this is an instance in which the mantra “you get what you pay for” holds true. Cheap holsters may have design flaws that increase the risk of an accidental discharge. And when a gun is holstered up against your body, you don't want it to suddenly fire. A high-quality holster should feature built-in safeguards to prevent an accidental discharge from occurring.
Safety On or Safety Off
Many gun owners and enthusiasts continue to debate over whether to carry their firearm with the safety on or safety off. Some prefer to carry with a round in the chamber and the safety on, whereas others prefer to carry with the safety off and no round in the chamber. Having one in the chamber eliminates the need to cock back your firearm, allowing you to draw and fire in less time. If you are going to carry with a round in the chamber, though, it's usually best to keep the safety on. Regardless of which method you prefer, practice drawing, readying and firing your gun until it becomes second nature.
Keep Muzzle Pointed in a Safe Direction
Regardless of the type of firearm you choose to carry, the muzzle should remain pointed in a safe direction at all times. Hunters, for instance, tend to carry their guns with the muzzle pointed downwards, so even if an accidental discharge occurs, it won't result in injury or property damage. This same principle holds true when carry a pistol for self-defense: keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction to eliminate the risk of injury to bystanders.
Keep Finger Outside the Trigger Guard
Your index “shooting” finger should be kept outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire. If you are at the shooting range, for instance, don't place your index finger inside the trigger guard until you've positioned yourself in the appropriate lane and are pointing your weapon down range at the target. It only takes a slight bump to accidentally hit the trigger and cause a discharge.
Clean and Maintain Your Gun
There's nothing wrong with taking your gun to the range for some practice, but you should clean it afterwards. Failure to clean your firearm will result in buildups of gun powder, dirt and debris, which can increase the risk of jamming, misfires and other problems. Try to get into the habit of cleaning your gun after each use, and finish cleaning with an application of lubricant.
Getting in these fundamental safety habits early will ensure that you continue to enjoy using your firearm safely for years to come.
* Image used by creative commons license, credited to mr.smashy.