You Aren’t Better than Gun Safety Rules

Gun Safety Rules
SGT Hooten takes an ill-advised stroll down a hot range in the 2001 movie Black Hawk Down. Don’t try this at home.

All the chaos in 2020 ignited millions of Americans to go out and buy their first guns. That opened the gun range to millions of novice shooters. But it is not just the new kid who is breaking the rules. Many experienced shooters begin to cut corners when they feel comfortable. I’ve hit this topic once before, but it is worth revisiting. With that in mind, we should all remind ourselves about gun safety rules. There are four basic rules. They are posted everywhere. So for a quick refresher, here they are:

1. Muzzle Discipline. Keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction at all times.

2. Bullet Discipline. Treat all weapons as if they are loaded.

3. Shot Discipline. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

4. Trigger Discipline. Keep your trigger off the trigger until you are prepared to shoot.

Homer Simpson may not be the best role model for gun safety.

Sounds simple enough right? The point of these four rules is to be so basic even the new shooter will understand them immediately.

Gun Safety Rule 1: Muzzle Discipline

We all know that the range seems to come with an obnoxious shooter included, like Craig. Like an ADHD kid chasing butterflies, if Craig hears a conversation a couple of lanes over, he wants to join in. But once he turns to start talking, he’s got the gun in his hand like he’s about to demand your wallet too. The key is muzzle discipline.

Never point the gun at anything or anyone you are not prepared to lose. At the range this means the gun points downrange. Outside the range, this means the muzzle is pointed down and away from anybody. I had an instructor who would shoot students with paint pellets every time he caught somebody flashing the muzzle.

Gun Safety Rule 2: Bullet Discipline.

Since I met and married my wife, I, the Californian, seem to be the gun nut that joined the west Tennessee family. I taught her how to shoot, her niece and nephew, her mother, step-father, and probably a few others. To me, the four rules begin with the second. Why? Because before you have the gun in hand, it’s stored or placed somewhere. So when you pick up the gun, what condition is it in? Is there a magazine in the well? Are there rounds in the magazine? Is there a round in the chamber? Is the firearm empty? Prove it. If you cannot prove the firearm is clear and safe or loaded, you need to find somebody to walk you through the proper procedure.

Simpsons Lou and Wiggum Gun Safety
Springfield’s finest are not your best muzzle discipline or gun safety instructors.

If you’re that somebody teaching the new shooter proper firearm operation and clearing, don’t feel better than them for it. Help them learn, appreciate and enjoy their right to gun ownership. There are so many gun shop horror stories where new buyers are made to feel even more ignorant than they are about guns.

Gun Safety Rule 3: Shooting Discipline

Rule number three is shooting discipline. It is factored in for you at professional shooting ranges. There is a wall, a hill, or something along those lines to absorb the bullet. But the four rules are not for range safety, they are for gun safety. In other words, they are for whenever you handle a firearm.

In security, there is a term called triangulating. When I was working at an entry control point in Portland in 2018, I had an experience when a guest aboard my ship started acting strangely. As I confronted him, the other security member, armed with an M4, noticed as well. I was directly in front of the man and the rifle operator was directly behind him. Aware of this, my partner began to step to the side. If it came down to him needing to take a shot, that round would have gone right through the man and into me if my partner did not move. He triangulated himself to a better position. It is shooting discipline and rule three at its highest stakes.

Gun Safety what's beyond the target
When Terry Taliban is giving you trouble from behind the rocks, the XM25’s 40mm counter-defilade target engagement round can help.

The M4’s maximum effective range is 550 meters. Rick Ferran’s effective range on a Patton Series Rifle is 800 yards. What’s your firearm’s maximum effective range? Where is your target? What is beyond that target? Know what you are shooting and where you are shooting it.

Gun Safety Rule 4: Trigger Discipline

I would like to say that the most experienced shooters treat the last of these rules like Moses brought it down from Mount Sinai on a stone tablet. I’ve seen range safety officers use trigger discipline on a bottle of Simple Green. It’s fun to show off just how over-cautious we are with trigger discipline. But really think about the importance of this one. These days personal defense firearms tend to trust the operator as the safety device. When a gunfight tends to last less than eight seconds, removing the mechanical safety from the conceal carry pistol removes a step that could delay you in the life-or-death situation.

Gun Safety Hooten
This from the same SGT Hooten who was walking down the range while the Rangers were practicing on full auto? No wonder the Captain was a little irked over his firearm handling techniques.

So what is trigger discipline? It is training yourself to separate between carrying a drawn firearm and shooting the firearm. If you have the weapon drawn, your finger stays off the trigger. It coincides with muzzle and shooting disciplines. If you are not prepared to take the shot, your finger stays off the trigger.

Gun safety rules are a matter of discipline. It is our responsibility to exercise the discipline at the range, at home, and when carrying the firearm. If you see somebody breaking the rules, correct them. The Second Amendment is the most scrutinized of all our rights. Just like we have an individual right to bear arms, we have a responsibility to bear them with discipline.


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