Safety, storage are biggest issues for new gun owners

Firearms have long been part of America’s gift giving tradition, and no doubt many of you either received or made a gift of a firearm as part of your holiday celebrations. The question now is, “what are you going to do with it?”

At first that question might seem a bit elementary, but it isn’t meant to be. Obviously, you plan to give that new firearm a test drive at the range, if you haven’t already, but you also need to think about what you are going to do with that firearm when you are not at the range?

There are two primary considerations that come with gun ownership. The first is safety – yours and that of those around you — and the second is protection of your investment.

“I would always highly recommend that you start with basic firearm safety, which everybody should take,” said Kevin McNair, owner of Tactical West, a Las Vegas based firearms training company. “And I think that could start with the Nevada Department of Wildlife Hunter Education class. That’s all safety, and I think people should take that whether you plan on hunting or not.”

When you are ready for something beyond basic safety, McNair and others offer training that ranges from introductory to advanced. “It all depends on what the objective is,” said McNair.

Even if you have been around firearms for years, it never hurts to go through a refresher course. And don’t overlook the manual that came with your new firearm. Every gun is different and has its own nuances. Taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your new firearm and how it is designed to operate can prevent problems in the field — mechanical or otherwise.

The other side of safety involves storage of your firearm while it is not in use and not on your person. McNair encourages gun owners to “Lock ‘em up so they are not in the reach of other folks.” While the focus in recent years has been on lockable storage to prevent children from having access to firearms, McNair didn’t differentiate between age groups.

There are multiple options for securing a firearm, from simple and inexpensive to complex and costly. All provide a level of safety but also help to protect your firearm investment by deterring theft and preventing damage.

Entry level security options include cable locks and trigger locks. Neither one will prevent someone from picking up your firearm, but they are designed to prevent someone from firing it.

As its name implies, a cable lock uses a simple, plastic coated cable that is threaded through a firearm’s action, rendering it inoperable until the cable is removed. The cable basically functions as a flexible shackle on a padlock and will work on handguns as well as rifles and shotguns.

Cable locks range from about $10-$50. Many manufacturers are including cable locks with all of their new firearms.

A trigger lock is just what it sounds like, a lock that blocks a firearm’s trigger. When it is in place, the trigger cannot be accessed and thus prevents the firearm from being discharged. They are not designed for use on a loaded firearm. Typically, a trigger lock has two halves that come together over the trigger guard and lock in place. They retail for about $10-$20.

A lock box is simply a box with some type of a locking mechanism. They are designed primarily for securing handguns and can be used at home or on the road. Some use combination or key locks, while others depend on electronic or even biometric technology. Expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $300 or more.

At the top of the food chain are full-size gun safes. These safes — not gun lockers — come in a variety of sizes and configurations and can cost thousands of dollars. In addition to providing you with a place to store multiple firearms, a safe can also protect them from the elements, including fire. When considering the purchase of a safe, remember that like your firearms a safe is an investment.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at

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