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  1. #1
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    The Four Fundamental Firearms Safety Rules – Revisited



    Everyone who has picked up any type of firearm, will pick one up in the future, or who is currently carrying one on their person while reading this should know the four fundamental firearms safety rules. Those rules are set in place for a reason and they should be followed at all times. For those who have forgotten or have never heard of them before, I’ll list one of many slight variations:


    1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
    2. Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to shoot.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you are ready to shoot.
    4. Be sure of your target and the backstop beyond.


    As one of my Department’s Firearms Instructors, these words are recited at the beginning of EVERY single firearms training session. EVERY single session. Is it because cops are forgetful or because we are babying them? Absolutely not. It is having that information ingrained in their minds every chance we get. I am a strong believer that during a real-world, serious life threatening incident, we fall back on our training. If you have not been trained to do something, you will most likely not, under the stress of the incident, be able to create a new way of doing things. This is why training is so important. This is why stressful training is so important. And this is why training doing things more than just standing on a line firing at a piece of paper is so important.

    So how does training the four fundamental firearms safety rules apply to a real-world incident. Back in 2009 I was face to face with a drive-by-shooting suspect who I had located in the trunk of a vehicle. Unfortunately I had located him through the interior of the car when the seat was pulled down. The suspect had come out with his hands up and empty, then in a desperate attempt to flee, the suspect lunged between the driver and passenger seats, placed his hand on the brake, started the ignition, and placed the vehicle in drive. It is amazing how quickly someone can complete this task when they are motivated. Knowing that my life was in danger if he were able to drive away with me in the vehicle, that he was a drive-by-shooting suspect, and he was trying to flee, I was fully in my legal rights to end the situation with a few well-placed shots.

    However, this is where my training and lack of training came in. In the few split seconds when this occurred the one lingering thought in my head was; “I’m not clear to shoot.” The sole reason that I did not shoot was because there were three fellow officers standing directly on the other side of the suspect and even with a brace contact, the rounds would have had the opportunity to travel through the suspect and into one of my partners. That was not a risk that I was willing to take. The suspect did end up starting to drive away as I was still in the vehicle. I was able to get out safely and one of my backstop officers was able to put some rounds on target and the suspect was taken into custody a short time later.

    Back to the brace contact. Remember when I said; “If you have not been trained to do something, you will most likely not, under the stress of the incident, be able to create a new way of doing things.”? I have been trained in several different methods of brace contact shooting to include holding the slide with my off-hand, bracing the rear of the slide with the palm of my off-hand, and using the thumb of my shooting-hand to brace the rear of the slide. All are very effective and have varying degrees of discomfort. However, during these training sessions we were only taught the brace contact while shooting straight ahead, while standing. We were never trained to conduct brace contact shooting while shooting downward, which would have been the prescribed method of the day if it had been in my mental firearms “toolbox”.

    On to the actual fundamentals:

    Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

    This should go without saying, though we still hear about accidental shootings on an all too regular basis. If you are unsure if it is loaded, check. If you don’t know how to check, ask. One of the most common places to have a negligent discharge is when breaking a gun down for cleaning. Especially with guns like a Glock where you have to press the trigger in order to break down the firearm, ensure it is clear first. We have many clearing stands throughout our range and regularly enforce the use of them.
    What about toy guns? Toy guns are not “real” so I don’t have to treat them as if they are loaded, right? Wrong. Developing poor habits with “toy” guns translates over to poor habits with “real” guns. There are only a few exceptions to this rule and tight controls must be in place in order to prevent an accident from occurring.

    One of those exceptions is with paint-marking rounds during Reality Based Training Scenarios. There are many different safety checks that must be done before conducting this type of training and those safety standards not deviated from. Another exception is when using a “red” or “blue” gun. These “guns” are not actually guns, but chunks of plastic formed to resemble a gun. Not to say that you should start twirling the gun on your finger or acting immature and reckless with it, but it also has its place in a training environment where you should be able to act out scenarios safely without the worry of firing off a negligently fired round. Along with the “red” and “blue” guns go brightly colored training bolts, such as the ones offered from Blade-Tech, that deem a firearm incapable of firing as well as training guns incapable of firing, such as the Glock 17R. Even if you are using these types of guns for training, you should always have a “Two Person Integrity” (TPI) check in place to ensure that a live round or the capability of firing does enter the training environment.

    Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to shoot.

    This rule is one that I think needs to be reworded a little. The fact that a person is “willing” to shoot something or someone does not mean that they are legally able act upon their willingness. At least for the Law Enforcement world, I feel that this rule should read something like; “Never point your gun at anything you are not legally authorized to shoot.” I am not a wordsmith and I am sure that someone else can come up with something a little catchier, but I hope you get the point.

    Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you are ready to shoot.

    This should be a no-brainer, but time and time again we see negligent discharges caused by involuntary actions. I could come up with some gee-wiz methods and not-so-scientific research to prove this point, but I don’t have to. Read the thorough research by Roger Enoka and Christopher Heim and you will get the point. Trigger Finger Indexing is taught for a reason. The only time your finger should be on the trigger is when you are actively pressing it to the rear while consciously making the decision to shoot.

    Be sure of your target and the backstop beyond.

    Again, this is another rule that I would like to slightly modify. I would like it to read something like; “Be sure of your target, the backstop beyond, and what is in front of your target, for the type of ammunition you are currently using.”
    The first two are obvious, know what you are shooting at and what may be behind it. The third comes into play when you are in populated areas, i.e. a shopping mall. There may be some distance between you and your target and the “sheeple” walking around don’t realize that you have a threat in your sights, though they will walk directly in the line of fire between you and your threat. Keep these people in mind.

    As for what type of ammunition you are using vs. what your backstop is, it is all situation dependent. If your backstop is a dirt hill, the concern may not be there, but if your backstop is the exterior wall of a residence, you may want to take that into consideration. The same is true for cover. If your threat shooting at you has a handgun, your piece of cover may not need to be as robust as if your threat is shooting at you with a high-power rifle.

    In conclusion, be safe, ensure others are safe, don’t hesitate to correct others that are not being safe, and set an example that others will want to model after. If you are a Firearms Instructor, your students will watch your every move and will mimic your actions. If you are acting unsafe, your students will as well. There is a Zero Tolerance Policy with Firearms Safety.
    SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM
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  2. #2
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    With all due respect, your number two is still good to go. (In another galaxy a long time ago, it was ...anything you are not willing to immediately destroy.)

    The rationale as it stands now and then, instead of just "authorized" (and I did see your LE qualifier) is as a universal. You may be authorized to point your firearm at your own femoral artery, but you really do not want to immediately destroy it.

    All good points in the post, and particularly about default reflexive responses.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, for a very important reminder. This cannot be stressed to much. IMO.
    What can one man do? You never know until you try.

  4. #4
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    071,

    BTW, what is the shirt in the photo?




    Thank you
    Last edited by Gray; 22 April 2013 at 20:54.

  5. #5
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    Gray - it is a Kitanica

    Sent via Tapatalk
    SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM
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  6. #6
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    Excellent post, thanks. Many people I've known that claim to be "experts" with firearms violate one or more of these rules regularly. I try to be diligent when I take someone to the range with me that they follow these to the letter. I get a lot of shit for being overly cautious from my civilian friends, but my military and LE friends are sympathetic.

  7. #7
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    I needed that thanks for posting

  8. #8
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    Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to shoot.
    This is one that occasionally solicits comment from students. This usually occurs during a non-firing sequence at the range, when they are pointed in at a target that is not currently being engaged and does not represent a threat. The issue carries over to Officers pointing weapons at suspects during high risk contacts. The argument goes "I'm willing to shoot them if..." and they continue on with an explanation that if... the suspect pulls out a weapon that presents a lethal threat they will be willing to shoot them. If... is not a part of the equation. The muzzle needs to be depressed or otherwise directed in a safe direction until your actually willing to shoot, without the if... qualifier.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    This is one that occasionally solicits comment from students. This usually occurs during a non-firing sequence at the range, when they are pointed in at a target that is not currently being engaged and does not represent a threat. The issue carries over to Officers pointing weapons at suspects during high risk contacts. The argument goes "I'm willing to shoot them if..." and they continue on with an explanation that if... the suspect pulls out a weapon that presents a lethal threat they will be willing to shoot them. If... is not a part of the equation. The muzzle needs to be depressed or otherwise directed in a safe direction until your actually willing to shoot, without the if... qualifier.
    Eric, zero7one really meant

    "Never point your foot at anything you are not willing to kick."

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