Basic Gun Handling
The NRA has three basic gun safety rules:
► Gun Safety Rule #1: ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
► Gun Safety Rule #2: ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
► Gun Safety Rule #3: ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
These are great rules… for someone on the practice range. Having spent most of my life carrying and handling weapons, if I can be so bold as to modify or supplement these rules. Indulge me…
Gun Safety Rule #1 Muzzle Awareness - NEVER point your weapon at something you are not willing to DESTROY.
Guns are weapons, they are great for self-defense or defending your loved ones but at some point, you may have to actually shoot something or someone who is trying to hurt you. In that case, you will NOT be pointing your weapon in a safe direction, you are intentionally pointing it in a most deliberately dangerous direction.
Likewise, don’t flag your buddy with the muzzle. You control where your weapon is pointed at all times even when reducing a stoppage. On the dynamic two way rifle range – you always have to be conscious of where you are pointing your weapon. Your buddy will not appreciate turning around and end up staring down the barrel of your loaded weapon. He may wish to discuss that weapons handling error with you in a manner that words just can’t seem to capture.
Gun Safety Rule #2 Modified since you are not handling your gun unless you intend to shoot it. I will also add that you should not brandish a gun with the hopes that the mere sight of your weapon will make the opposition quail. When you bring your weapon into action, it is because you intend to use it with potentially deadly effect.
Gun Safety Rule #3 ALWAYS assume your (or any) weapon is loaded until you have physically checked it yourself. You must KNOW the status of your weapon. Even if you know you unloaded your gun earlier, when you pick it up again, the first thing you should do is verify if it is loaded. If you set your weapon down and then turn away, when you pick your weapon up, you should be checking it to see if it is loaded. There should never be any doubt in your mind if the weapon is loaded or not because you check it everytime you handle it; when you got up in the morning or when you strapped it on before you left the house.
If someone hands you a gun, you should check to see if it is loaded before you do anything else. Even if you just saw them clear it (which they should do before handing you a weapon), you check it again. You should do the same when you are handing a gun off – check to see if it is loaded in front of that person and show them it is clear and tell them it is clear when you hand it to them. Conversely, if you are handing them a loaded weapon, tell them the weapon is loaded (and if it is on or off safety). You must absolutely positively know that the weapon you are holding is loaded or unloaded. There is no room for error in this!
If you are unfamiliar with the workings of a gun, you should not be picking it up and fondling it in a journey of discovery. This is a perfect way to unintendedly transition from weapons training to first aid training. Have someone who knows that weapon show you how to load, unload, clear and do a functions check or pull out the manual.
Augment this rule: you NEVER clear a weapon by pulling the trigger. You may de-cock a weapon, but the last step of your clearing procedure should never be to pull the trigger. I have seen way too many soldiers clear their weapon with the magazine still in and chamber another round when they are supposedly clearing the weapon, then point the weapon at the clearing barrel, pull the trigger, and let loose with a round.
Augment this rule again: you NEVER look down the barrel of an assembled weapon. You might look at the chamber from the rear to see if a round is in battery, but you do not look down the muzzle… EVER!
Your range procedures have to mirror your real life procedures. If you get a stoppage, you don’t raise your hand to get the range safety to come over. You reduce the stoppage and get your weapon back in action. You might police up the brass at the end of the day, but you don’t police up the brass during a firing order. When you are in a fight, you don’t stop to police up the brass, so don’t practice something you won’t do in a gun fight.
When my son turned 10, I bought him his first rifle. It was a three barrel Rossi Trifecta: .22 short, .243 and a 20 gauge shotgun barrel. The .22 was for practice, and the 20 gauge and .243s were for hunting; single-shot, break open, breech-load design. I went over rules #1, #2, and #3 (and their augmentations) with him before he got to handle the gun. And then I had him sling the rifle and wear it the rest of the day. You have to be comfortable having a weapon around you or on you.
Last word: shooting is a skill you must practice to improve. Repetition develops muscle memory until you can do a series of steps subconsciously. Shooting is also a perishable skill: step away from it for a while and you will be rusty. All your weapon handling skills should be practiced often. All those weapon manipulations, up to the point where you have a good sight picture and squeeze off a round, have to proceed to their ultimate goal without error. If so, you will discharge a round where you did not intend, potentially with catastrophic effect.
Depending on your local laws, you should be carrying your weapon with you at all times. If you can get a CCW, you should do so and then carry your weapon with you. It is important to make sure your are familiar with your weapon, how it feels when you carry, how you draw from the carry position and present it to fire. You should have practiced your draw and presentation hundreds if not thousands of times. You don’t want to discover in that one instance when you need to use it, that it snags on your clothes when drawing or some other unexpected glitch.
In Summary – remember your basic rules
► Muzzle Awareness - NEVER point your weapon at something you are not willing to DESTROY.
► You pull your gun when you intend to use it.
► ALWAYS assume your weapon is loaded when you pick it up. Always confirm if it is loaded or clear.
► Train like you intend to fight.
► Train often.
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