Sunday, June 13, 2010

The four rules... for shooters to live by


Reading a post by Richard Johnson over at 'Guns, Holsters, and Gear' this morning has me thinking about firearm safety. There is a quote that lives because of the internet; A Russian, hearing someone say some situation involving a firearm was unsafe, is reported as saying "Is gun! Is not safe!".

Now, I haven't managed to track down the source of that quote, and I'm not going to invest much time in doing so... because I agree with the sentiment with all my heart.

Is gun! Is not safe!

Speaking with Todd Jarrett about gun safety, he makes no bones about it. Things happen, and if someone shoots long enough they will get hurt, in some way, eventually. It's nearly as dangerous as walking down a city sidewalk. The thing is, s
idewalks seldom kill or maim people, but weapons can.

Firearms a
re designed to spit small pieces of metal out at very high speeds indeed. All the philosophy and history aside, the sheer physics of how a firearm works means they are dangerous. The same can be said for many things in our lives. Knives, cars, power tools, medicines, and even the thirty foot deep well pit I stared into last night.... all these are useful, and dangerous. Dangerous... if mistreated or mishandled.

To make the dangerous things in our lives a little safer, and a lot more useful, we have rules we follow in dealing with them. For shooters, Jeff Cooper gave only four rules. Following them when handling firearms, at all times, limits the odds of a tragic incident to an acceptable level. Firearms will never be 'safe', not as long as physics rule the universe, but the risk can be mitigated and controlled.

Jeff Cooper's four rules:
  1. All guns are always loaded!
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy!
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target!
  4. Always be sure of your target!
These rules may seem simplistic, but given a little thought they make tremendous sense. It takes violating at least two of these rules to have a truly bad day. Take a moment and think of the combination's, and what they mean. Here, a previous post on what happens when they are ignored. Glen lived to tell his tale, so learn by it.

There is va
lue to breaking these rules down and examining them. The rules by themselves are life savers, but a deeper understanding helps make them work.

1) All guns are always loaded! What this means is every firearm should be treated as if loaded, giving every consideration to where the muzzle is pointed and that it might go off at any moment. There are very few shooters indeed who have not had a surprise 'bang' at one time or another. In my lifetime of shooting, I have had five 'unexpected discharges'. Because I followed the rules, none of those incidents was even close to being tragic.

Now.... allowances must be made. In order to work on and service a weapon, there are times when the muzzle is going to cover someone, or we will need to literally look right down that hole ourselves. To make that safe, gunnies develop the habit of opening the action of every weapon they touch, looking in the chamber, sticking their little finger in the empty hole, removing the magazine, etc. It may seem extreme, but it's smart... and is generally accepted as a hallmark of an experienced and safe gun handler.

2) Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy! 'Cover' is an older way of saying 'point at', and can be looked at that way. It means exactly what it says... don't point the bullet spitting end of the weapon at anything or anybody you are not willing to put a killing hole in. Period. End of discussion. Got it? Good! Now stop pointing that pistol at me, and yes, I know you just checked the chamber. Point it someplace else before I take it way from you.

3) Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target! Again, it means what it says. Firearms are designed to do things. If they are working correctly, the way to make one go bang is to pull back that little lever under your pointer finger. If your finger is not touching the lever, they almost never go bang.

This is not to say that unexpected things don't happen, and firearms sometimes do go 'bang' for unexpected reasons. They do... it happens... because they are machines designed by humans and humans are fallible. That said, if the four rules are followed every single time, an accidental or negligent discharge is far less likely to hurt anyone.

4) Always be sure of your target! This one is not so simple. The best way to explain the rule is this; The shooter is responsible for the entire flight of the bullet, and it's final resting place. Once the projectile has left the barrel, there is no calling it back, so the shooter should know exactly where it will end up and everything it might hit in between.

What is the final backstop? Is there one you are sure of? The point is... if the shooter is not sure exactly where the bullet will rest after it's flight, then the shooter really can't say where it will end up. That is bad.... because 'someplace over that way' can so easily turn into 'someone over there'.

Now, trap shooters firing out over a large field can rest assured their shot will fall to the ground with relative safety after traveling a few hundred yards. Range shooters generally have a heavy dirt berm to shoot into, making the event a fairly sure thing. Field shooters? Not so easy... and not to be taken lightly. A stand of tree's cannot be trusted to stop a bullet, as chance takes too heavy a hand. A large body of water might suit, if there is no chance a boater might wander into the area. No... best is to see exactly the spot the bullet come to rest, and do so before ever touching the trigger.

Follow the four rules. When handling a firearm... live by these rules till they are ingrained habit. Complacency is the enemy of experienced shooters, and smart gunnies review these rules on a regular basis, and thank anyone who points out an error on their part.


drjim said...

EVERY time I take the wife and her son and/or my son to the range, we say the four rules out loud before we even open the gun cases. I say them out loud to myself every time I pick up one of my guns, cased or not.
And I always check the magwell, and pull the slide back on my autos, or swing the cylinder out of my revolvers, as soon as I pick one up.

Old NFO said...

Good post and a GOOD reminder! Especially one when you're off the range and in a hunting environment. Thanks!

Crucis said...

Rule #2 violation can cause unintended consequences.

Last year I was manning a booth for my gun club at a gun show. At one point I noticed a couple of "gang-banger appearing" types picking up guns off the tables and pointing them at other folks. The rules of this gun show is that all weapons must have tie-wraps through the action to disable them.

These two were having a ball pointing at folks at mouthing "Bang!" They did that to a group ofe large burly folks wearing a well-known motorcycle vest who were extremely upset by those actions. The two were grabbed by a half-dozen or so bikers and hustled off to a side exit. When they were leaving I noticed two cops approaching (obviously to talk to the two 'bangers) but they abruptly turned around and walked away as they saw the two escorted out the side door.

I don't know what happened outside. I don't think the two cops cared much either. I do believe they two 'bangers were introduced to a teaching experience.

Conservative Scalawag said...

This is something that a gun owner cannot hear or read enough.

But, may I also add something?

The three used of guns, or according to my late fathers opinion.

1) To be used to put food on the table.
2) To defend your home or rights.
3) To perfect the art of marksmanship.

Using for anyother perpose, and you are probable doing something wrong or dangerous.

drjim said...

The Range Master where I go shooting has escorted "gang banger" types off the property for doing equally stupid things, like shooting the pistol while holding it sideways ( ! ), shaking the pistol at the target, and acting like morons in general.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where that "Is gun! Is not safe!" quote originates, but I first saw it in Col. Cooper's _The Art of the Rifle_.

Seth from Massachusetts said...

I have another addition.

The presence of any type of safety device on a gun is not an excuse for leaving it loaded longer than neccessary.

Never load until you are ready to shoot!

Weetabix said...

My kids refer to #3 as "Keep your booger hook off the bang switch..."

"Never load until you are ready to shoot!"

How does that work with a carry weapon? Mine's loaded all the time, because... well... see Rule 1.

Rootie said...

I have another rule that I learned from a friend of mine. He taught his kids to never touch a gun until they had asked him or a competent adult if they could do so. Now they are teenagers and to this day will not impulsively pick up a gun. They are also great shooters and hunters and can handle firearms better than most adults I know.
I personally have been taught excellent firearm safety by my father and have passed it down to my son. Taking pride in safely handling guns is part of the enjoyment of shooting. Kind of like being a safe driver. It doesn't mean you have to drive slowly, just be aware and follow common sense safety rules.
I just found CarteachO and just want to say what a great site. You have another follower!

Cowboy T said...

Every time I teach a new shooter, I make sure they can recite those four rules. Then, I watch them like a hawk to make sure that those rules are followed. You can never, EVER have "too much safety" when it comes to firearms, and the "safety" is in our brains.

Thanks for the reminder, and I'll never ever get tired of seeing these four Rules.