In this blog, I want to discuss what everyone firearm owner should know and understand to safely and effectively handle a firearm. I am always amazed at just how many people, in fact the vast majority, that handle firearms do so precariously! Yes, I mean dangerously to the point that it makes me cringe. But before you say: “awe Dale you’re taking it a bit too far and you’re trying to be a perfectionist,” I will state here that yes I am a perfectionist when it comes to firearm safety and there is NO room or tolerance for anything less than perfect-safe handling of a firearm. I have been shooting professionally for thirty-five years and have racked up quite a bit of experience shooting bad guys and being shot at by bad guys and negligent good guys. I have seen darn near every firearm accident that you can imagine and can tell you that most of the time, if not all of the time, the accident was not an accident but negligent handling of a firearm. When people break the rules, don’t pay attention, or think they are so good that they take safety for granted, someone usually gets shot!
So, let’s start with the five rules for firearms safety. These should be blazed into your psyche so that you can spew them out of your soup coolers without forethought or hesitation. These rules are not negotiable nor are they circumstantial – they are to be applied religiously every time and all of the time.
Three Conditions of Firearms Storage and Carry
Let’s make sure you understand the three conditions of firearms storage and carry.
♦ 1. Condition One = a loaded magazine in the weapon and a bullet in the chamber with weapon on safe.
♦ 2. Condition Two = a loaded magazine in the weapon and NO bullet in the chamber with weapon on safe.
♦ 3. Condition Three = NO magazine in the weapon and NO bullet in the chamber with weapon on safe.
Five Firearm Safety Rules
► 1. Treat every weapon as if it is loaded, even when you have cleared it and “know” its unloaded. Treat guns with respect, and the same way every time, to avoid the chance that you have a brain fart and mishandle a firearm because you assumed the weapon was rendered safe. How many times have you heard “I thought the gun was unloaded” as they tried to explain why the body on the ground is dead? You should never “think” squat about whether the gun is or is not loaded. You should know its condition and have taken the proper steps to ensure that the weapon cannot be dangerous even if you screwed up and left the weapon in condition-one.
► 2. Never point your weapon at anything or anyone that you do not intend to destroy. Pretend there is a perpetual laser beam coming out of the barrel and everything you point at gets lazed. Always laze in a safe direction and only things that cannot be destroyed such as the ground, clearing barrel, impact area on a range, or anything else that if the gun discharges will not be affected. That goes for a gun that is empty, slide or bolt locked to the rear, and even training guns. I am reluctant to point anything that looks like a firearm at someone except for plastic red guns that are designed for training purposes.
► 3. Finger never touches the trigger until you have acquired a target, made the decision to shoot, and leveled the weapon at the target. Lord knows how many times I have seen people run around with, or draw-holster a weapon, with their finger on the trigger just to have them engage the sear and make the gun go bang into a ceiling, a bystander, through their holster into their thigh and knee cap, through car doors, car hoods, wall lockers and on and on. Heck, I watched a world-class shooter have a negligent discharge as he waved his pistol by his head as he was lecturing just to shoot his ball cap off! Once you have engaged the target and you decide you will no longer shoot, the trigger finger comes out of the trigger guard before the weapon comes back to position three (center of chest) or the low ready for a rifle or shotgun.
► 4. Always look beyond your target before you shoot. Ensure there is not a person or object that you do not want to destroy in the event that you miss your shot or the bullet over penetrates the target. Once that bullet leaves the weapon, there is no way to stop it; so, you will be responsible for where it comes to rest.
► 5. At anytime and anywhere anyone can call for a cease fire and call for a safety timeout to correct a problem, question a procedure or condition of a weapon. To have doubt about a situation and to not say anything makes you negligent also. If you See Something – Say Something! When it comes to firearms handling, there are no stupid questions!
Now you are familiar with the three storage and carry conditions of a firearm and the five firearm safety rules. Train and handle your weapons safely and DO NOT TOLERATE those that mishandle weapons. They are lethal instruments designed to do one thing – kill. With that in mind, you should always store your weapons safely if you have children in the home. Invariably, they will discover them and be inclined to handle them. Make sure that can’t happen! If you are concerned about easy access in an emergency situation, then develop a strategy that will let you meet readiness requirements but make the weapons safe around your kids. For example: I will load my weapon and place securely by my bed out of plain view while I sleep. In the morning, I will clear the weapon and put it in a safe place apart from the ammo source. I do this out of view of my kids and always in a safe direction. Do not sleep with your gun under your pillow. Although you may have seen this in the movies, there is always the possibility that you could inadvertently grab the weapon and pull the trigger in your sleep, especially if you sleep with the weapon in condition one.