The Beginner’s Checklist to Becoming a Responsible Gun Owner

A responsible gun owner needs to be on top of everything. You need to know how to shoot your gun, how to clean and store it, your state laws for when and where you can carry it, and more — and there’s no room for error when it’s not only your safety involved, but also the safety of others.

Ultimately, you have to be responsible — and that means knowing the ins and outs of your firearm. So what are some ways you can improve your firearm knowledge, accuracy, and awareness?

You can always go out and just practice at a range on your own, sure. But the checklist below is a great starting point for understanding the direct actions you can take to educate yourself about gun use, safety, and ownership. Use this checklist to help you get started, and become the most prepared gun owner you can be.

Here are a few things you can do to become a responsible gun owner:

Learn the basics…and then don’t forget them.

The biggest step you can take at the beginning of your gun ownership journey is to know the universal basics of gun safety. Make sure you’ve got them down, and then don’t forget them. Unfortunately, even seasoned gun owners mess up the basics — a lot of times the stories we hear on the new are because people don’t follow 4 simple rules.

The following 4 rules are from Jeff Cooper, and have been accepted as the basic, universal 4 rules of gun safety. They are:

  1. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
  2. Never point a gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  4. Be sure of your target, AND what is behind it.

In addition to remembering the 4 rules, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with the different types of guns out there. Read about them, watch YouTube videos, ask friends about their opinions and preferences, etc. If you’re a new gun owner, it will give you more insight into what makes your gun unique. As a prospective gun owner, it will help you narrow down the differences between types of guns and various models to help you pick out which ones you would likely be most comfortable with. Don’t forget to learn how to clean your gun too! Read our previous article here on the gun cleaning basics.

Take a gun handling class.

if you don’t yet own a gun, going to a gun handling class will give you valuable experience that you can use to help make a purchasing decision. If you’re a new gun owner, most introductory gun handling classes will allow you to bring your own gun in and practice with it, which will help you get the hang of your new firearm under professional instruction. No matter where you are in the purchasing process, taking a gun handling class is essential for understanding simple mechanics, vocabulary, and gun maintenance and cleaning. It’s also good for simply being able to ask any questions you may have with the assurance of getting a professional response.


You know the old saying, already — practice makes perfect.

You have to practice not only to improve your accuracy (although that’s huge), but also to feel more comfortable using your firearm. There is no supplementation you’ll find for practicing. Go out, shoot it, get the feel of it, work on your aim, and always remember the basics of gun safety.

Take a self defense class.

Now this suggestion might sound a little non-gun related and you might be wondering why it’s on this list. The truth is, though, a lot of people own a gun but don’t have the skills required to protect themselves from an attacker who might attempt to take your gun away from you. Taking a self defense class — especially one specifically for gun retention — will help you prepare to fully defend yourself if an attack ever occurs. If an attacker ever successfully takes your gun away from you, it’s most likely bad news — so don’t let that happen! Learn to defend yourself so your weapon can never be used against you.

Invest in a quality gun safe.

If you live alone, you may not necessarily need a gun safe unless you want to purchase one as an extra precaution. But if you live with other people or your family, having a gun safe is very important — especially with children around. Even though you know the people you live with, accidents can happen.

A gun safe is all about keeping your firearms from falling into the wrong hands. Those “wrong” hands could be the accident-prone hands of a kid, a dumb guest who is trying to be funny, or a burglar who eyes them in your house.

Make sure to get a quality safe that can’t be broken into easily or simply carried away and opened later. Another good rule of thumb is to always educate your children of the dangers of firearms. You can possibly even tell them about your safe so they know where it is, even if they don’t have access. Want more examples of safe gun storage? Read our previous article here.

Get a certification or license.

Most certifications require some form of test, and that testing usually involves both questions and in-person range shooting for accuracy. Getting a certificate or license, like a certificate of completion for an advanced pistol course or a concealed carry license, will help prove your dedication and the level of seriousness you associate with using and owning a firearm. Honestly, it’s also a great way to get more instruction and practice, too, and you can never get enough of that.

Renew your license and training.

As you progress in your firearm proficiency, one of the later steps you can take is to continue to renew your training and licenses. Like I mentioned earlier, actually practicing and using your gun is one of the most important things you need to do as a safe, responsible gun owner. Just because you “mastered” the basics doesn’t mean you can’t improve, and just because you were good once doesn’t mean you won’t fall out of practice (and skill). Continually using your firearm will also alert you to any problems or changes that may come up over time, both with your gun’s functionality and your own preferences.

Being a responsible gun owner means taking responsibility for the power and danger you keep with you. In order to maintain and use a gun safely, always remember the gun safety basics. Know how to handle your gun specifically, and practice with it consistently enough to feel comfortable. You can never learn too much or practice enough when it comes to firearms — especially when you’re using your own.

Stay proficient, confident, and prepared!