That sounds easy, doesn't it? In fact it is, once you remember that YOU and only you are responsible for what happens with that gun. There is NO "accident", only safety, or negligence. When you maintain awareness of where the gun is pointing, you can easily keep it pointed in a safe direction.
The simplest way to think of this is - - where people are not.
NO the rule is NOT "treat every gun as if it were loaded".
If you think it is "treat it as if it were loaded", HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
You follow the four rules we show here.
To those of you thinking of personal protection, hang loose, I'll cover that in a bit.
Many people feel safer if they have their finger on the trigger, even when they are not ready to shoot. Several studies show that the time lag induced by the finger being outside of the trigger guard is far less than most think. In fact, when you fold in the added safety of NOT having the finger on the trigger, you are far better off.
OK, when ARE you ready to shoot? Simple, when you have the gun pointing at the target and the sights are lined up on the target. THEN you are actually ready to shoot. Put your booger hook on the BANG switch and go.
But why is it a problem to have my finger on the trigger before I am ready to shoot? To answer that, let me ask you a question. What happens if you trip or are startled while you have the gun in your hand? You WILL experience a reflexive tightening of your grip. That tightening WILL include your trigger finger and the gun WILL fire. Did you want to fire the gun at that instant? Probably not, but it WILL happen. Remember, there is no "accident" with a gun, only safety, or negligence.
Many people will object to this on the grounds of self defense. For self defense, when will you be ready to shoot? You don't know. As such you will keep the gun loaded, but you WILL also take extra precautions to assure there is NO NEGLIGENCE, only safety.
If you are shooting for fun or practice, then you ONLY load the gun when you are about to shoot.
SEE, I told you I would cover self defense.
These three rules are, to at least some measure, redundant. They overlap to a degree that assures safety. You can forget or ignore any one of them, and if you have followed the other two, how much harm can happen? The only harm is to the ego stoked by testosterone. - - There are many, many examples of incidents where all three were ignored, and in a large percentage of those cases, someone was hurt or killed. Remember, With guns there is ONLY safety or NEGLIGENCE!
While some may be offended by this "rule" saying that THEY have done the "verification" for you, YOU are the one that WILL be held responsible if there is an inadvertent discharge. If you verify the chamber IS empty, what is the likelyhood of the gun firing when you do not want it to? As they say mathematically, Approaches Zero!
The easiest example to think about is shooting "tin-cans" (now usually aluminum). Does the bullet suddenly stop when you hit the can? NO WAY! It continues on and on and on. In some cases as far as a mile. If you ignore that, you could easily hit someone well beyond where you thought the bullet "should" stop.
When you shoot into a good earth berm or bullet trap, it is much easier to shoot safely.
One last item is to remember that you are responsible for EVERY bullet that leaves your gun, until it comes to rest, where ever that ends up being. That is not just a moral obligation, it IS a legal liability. You will be held accountable for every bullet that leaves your gun. Make sure it gets to where you wanted it to go.