Those of you who know me, or have read enough about me, know that I spent the majority of my adult life serving in the U.S. Army. I've been blessed to have been a part of a number of institutions in my life that establish, publish and adhere firmly to good values: Christian churches, the Boy Scouts of America, Free & Accepted Masons, and the United States Army.
The Soldier's Creed is a statement published in 2003 (17 years into my Army career) that encapsulates what being a United States Soldier is supposed to be about.
One statement in the Soldier's creed carries over into civilian life and should be adopted by ALL who chose to own a firearm: "I always maintain my arms, my equipment, and myself."
I've been to firing ranges probably more than most people, and it troubles me to see someone with hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of equipment (beyond the cost of the gun) trying to look like a sniper, or out of breath by simply walking out to check their target. I have actually seen people who are convinced 5.56mm and caliber .223 ammunition are the same (they're not*). Being a gun owner is more than looking tough or simply exercising your rights under the second amendment to the US constitution. Being a gun owner comes with a LOT of responsibility.
KNOW YOUR FIREARM, INSIDE AND OUT. Learn and understand how it is designed to function. Learn what all the parts are called, where they are, and what they do. This takes time, and doesn't happen in one day. After you've driven a car for a while you learn the little personality quirks it has. Same holds true of your firearm. Learn how to sight it in (if the sights are adjustable). Don't just rely on the battery-powered optics, make sure your iron sights are sighted in, too, and know how to use them.
KNOW HOW TO DISASSEMBLE AND CLEAN YOUR FIREARM. Firing your gun is exciting, exilerating, and fun. Cleaning your gun can be tedious and dirty, but it is an essential part of maintaining it and keeping it safe to fire. Read and understand your owners manual. Practice taking your gun apart and putting back together again, and again, until you are comfortable with the process. Learn how to do the function check to make sure you reassembled it properly. Know where the manufacturer recommends applying lubrication. If you don't have an owner's manual for your firearm, GET ONE! My website has links to most major manufacturers who usually have downloadable manuals for their products. If you can't find your gun's manual, ask a gunsmith.
TAKE AT LEAST THE SAME LEVEL OF CARE FOR YOURSELF AS YOU DO FOR YOUR FIREARM. In short, moderation in all things: eating, drinking, etc. Remain active. Keep yourself capable of handling your firearm safely, and effectively.
Always maintain your arms, your equipment and yourself.
* 5.56mm = Caliber .219
Caliber .223 = 5.66mm
If your barrel is stamped as 5.56, use 5.56 ammo.
If your barrel is stamped as .223, use .223 ammo.