There are two schools of thought with regards to the rules of safe gun handling. The NRA has a 3-rule guideline and many instructors have a 4-rule guideline that is slightly varied. Here are both, but we prefer the four-rules, as they make the point a little more agressively.
NRA RULES FOR SAFE GUN HANDLING
The two sets of rules are applicable for two different ways of thinking. The NRA respects firearms as much more than just weapons. In fact you will never hear the word “weapon” uttered in an approved NRA firearms course. As such, we are talking about training shooters on technique, storing, cleaning, and operating firearms. in that light, these rules make sense and are a wonderful guideline for how you should think about your firearms.
The rules are:
- ALWAYS Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- ALWAYS Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
JEFF COOPER’S UNIVERSAL GUN RULES (the 4-rule system)
The “weapon” approach to the four gun rules is a little different. It approaches the idea of a firearm as a deadly weapon and instructs the user to think of it that way at all times. From our perspective, you can’t go wrong with these rules, and they don’t contradict anything in the NRA rules above. Here they are:
- ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
If you turned your back on a firearm arm and it was unloaded, then turned back around to it again, you assume someone loaded it while you weren’t looking. If you put your firearm down to use the bathroom and then return to the kitchen counter to pick it back up, you assume someone loaded it while you weren’t looking. In short, if you take your hand off that firearm, even to put it down and take a sip of soda, you assume a gremlin reloaded it while you weren’t looking. If you treat your firearm this way, there should never be a reason for an accidental discharge.
- NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY
Rule one applies at every time and Rule 2 applies at every PLACE. Whether at the practice range, in your daily carry, examination or cleaning. A gun that is holstered properly, lying on a table, or stored properly poses no danger to anyone. It is only when handled that there is risk. This rule applies of keeping the muzzle (front) pointing in a safe directions applies in self defense, practice and daily handling. The muzzle of a firearm shall never point at anything you are not willing to destroy. If you are not willing to take a human life, do not point the muzzle at a person, including yourself! Do not allow the muzzle to point at your extremities, for example using both hands to re-holster your firearm. This is an unsafe practice. A well designed hostler will accommodate one-handed holstering, so avoid holsters which collapse after withdrawing the gun.
- KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
Rule 3 is violated when any uneducated person handles a firearm. Since the hand naturally tries to work as a unit – as in grasping – separating the function of the trigger-finger from the rest of the hand takes effort. When drawing your gun, or picking it up, place your “trigger finger”, your index finger, straight along the side of the gun frame. Do NOT allow your finger to move into the trigger guard until you have your target sighted. Never fire a shot unless the sights are superimposed on the target and you have made a conscious decision to fire. Allowing your finger to settle inside the trigger guard before you are ready to shoot is extremely dangerous. Once you move the gun sights off the target, the trigger-finger leaves the trigger and straightens alongside the frame once again. Under stress, and with the finger prematurely placed on the trigger, an unexpected movement, misstep or surprise could result in a negligent discharge. This rule applies any time a gun is handled. Practice placing your trigger finger extended along the frame to help minimize the natural tendency to slide the finger into the trigger guard. Please remember that keeping your finger off the trigger is also required when posing for photographs.
- BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEHIND IT
Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified. Remember – in many cases the bullet does not stop with your target and can pass through both interior and exterior walls. In self-defense situations, always be aware of what or who may be behind your target and the assess the risk of hitting an innocent bystander. You may need adjust your line of fire to avoid hitting others. You must assess the deadly threat from your attacker with the deadly threat from your bullets to others. Be keenly aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a life threatening altercation. Do not assume anything, ever.
There is a legal responsibility that comes into play with almost every firearm related incident in the country. The basic verbiage states that “as a gun owner you are responsible for every projectile that leaves your firearm until it reaches its terminal resting point.”
This means if you miss the coke can four feet high on that post, but the bullet travels over the hill, half a mile down the road, and then penetrates a window and kills a litle old lady sitting in her recliner, you are automatically guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter,a felony that could cost you twenty years in prison.