THE FOUR RULES TO FIREARM SAFETY
BASIC FIREARM SAFETY TO COMMIT TO MEMORY
At Hexmag, we take firearm safety seriously, and we hope our customers do, too.
That’s why we spent some time with NRA firearms safety instructor Paul Morgan to create this six-part, monthly series on gun safety. Whether you’re looking to build or buy your first rifle or one who was once a seasoned military veteran , it never hurts to brush up on your firearm safety rules. Complacency kills and we can all stand to stay sharp and set excellent examples for those around us, Of course in no way should this series replace an in-person firearm safety class. We encourage you to learn as much about firearm safety as possible, so stand-by, here’s our first installment …
When Paul Morgan teaches a firearm safety class, two things happen the moment his students walk through the door. First, he checks that no one has live ammo in the classroom. In fact, he’ll make you stow away your gun in a case or holster, then he hands over a 15-page packet of rules, printed in 10-point-size type (a small indication of just how much gun enthusiasts need to know to be safe).
There are a lot of rules. Some only apply to specific types of guns, and others in certain situations. In fact, you’d need an entire series of books (not just 15 pages) to cover every scenario, which is why most instructors turn to the fountainhead of shooting doctrine — Jeff Dean Cooper — who created the “Four Rules of Firearm Safety” — four rules every firearm owner should commit to knowledge. So we’re starting our series with those today …
THE FOUR RULES OF FIREARM SAFETY
Rule 1: All guns are always loaded.
This is the No. 1 reason why Morgan essentially disarms his students before they walk into his classroom. Not everyone treats a gun as if it could be potentially loaded, and that’s when accidents happen. Remember, a caliber can accidentally be chambered, even when you’re a trained shooter, so treat every gun as if it’s loaded. It’s the cardinal rule, and other safety rules follow from it.
Still, you might ask, is there a way to check whether a gun is loaded?
Of course, and Morgan makes this a main part of his instruction. Any time you pick up a gun, stop to assess. First, note if the gun has a magazine inserted into the well. Release it. Then check to see if the bolt is open. (On a pistol, the slide should be pulled back, exposing an opening above the trigger area. On an AR-15, the charging handle must be pulled back and locked into place to expose the chamber.) If the chamber is clear and the magazine is released, your gun is likely unloaded, but again, don’t forget Rule 1 — always treat your gun as if it’s loaded, which brings us to the next three rules.
Rule 2: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Rule 3: Never point the gun at something you’re not willing to destroy.
Rule 4: Identify your target and what’s behind it.
We’ve lumped these rules together because you need to think about all of them in tandem the moment you pick up a gun and are checking to see if it’s loaded. Let’s start with Rule 2. A good rule of thumb (or should we say, good rule of index finger), is to always place your shooting finger on the side of the gun, not on the trigger. In fact, Morgan encourages his students to note where that finger is pointing because that’s also where the muzzle is pointing, which brings us to Rule 3 and Rule 4 …
Never point the gun at something you’re not willing to destroy (or kill). Not only should you identify your target, but you should know what’s behind it. If you’re pointing a gun at a wall, know that there could be people and objects behind that wall. The same applies for the ceiling or the floor, especially in a multi-story building. Another good tip from Morgan — before handling a gun, always identify the safest spot to point it. And don’t forget, these rules apply when you’re disassembling your gun.