As you read below, remember this: The Four Rules Are Life.
#1) All &*%$@>! guns are always ?*%@!?# loaded.
#2) Never let the gun point at anything you are not willing to destroy.
#3) Keep your booger hook off the bang switch until you are ready to fire.
#4) Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
You must break at least two of these rules to put a hole in something important that you didn't want to perforate.
I have seen many lousy examples of gun-handling in my years in the firearms business. Let me, however, share some role models instead:
1) The young clerk at the shop who took to the Four Rules so completely that he carried cordless drills and Windex bottles with his finger indexed along the frame, and subconsciously refused to point even these non-guns at someone. I won ten bucks from a friend by walking in front of him as he reflexively pointed the Windex bottle away from my path, no matter where I went, without breaking the flow of his conversation. When his behavior was pointed out to him, he was astonished; he hadn't realized he was doing it.
2) The salesman who, if you tried to hand him a gun with the action closed, would just stand there with his hands in his pockets and stare at it, occasionally glancing up at your face to see if you were catching on. If the light didn't dawn on you, he would quietly, patiently, and respectfully ask that you open the action on the weapon before handing it to him.
3) The salesman and the customer who, while mounting and boresighting the scope on a T/C Encore chambered in some exotic wildcat caliber of which there wasn't a live round for two miles in any given direction, would carefully (and subconsciously) open and inspect the weapon every time it was picked up off the cradle or handed back and forth between them. The rifle must have been checked fifty times in the half-hour they stood there, but without fail whoever picked it up or handed it to the other would reflexively break it open and check the chamber, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the same act had been performed just a minute ago. It's beautiful to see good habit become conditioned reflex.
In all the years I've been in this gig, I have only once or twice had to look at a customer waving a gun at my midsection and answer the mealy-mouthed statement "But it's not loaded!" by resting my hand on the butt of my pistol and saying "Well this one is, and you're starting to make me nervous."
It's been years since I used that line. In a perfect world, everyone will read Xavier's post and take it to heart, and I'll never have to use it again.