A Not-so Safe Gun Safety Course


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    A Notso Safe Gun Safety Course

    SHTF blog – Modern Survival

    by Steve Markwith, author of Survival Guns: A Beginner’s Guide

    Each firearm was neatly laid out on a conference table – with its muzzle pointed directly at us! Both of my sons picked up on this immediately. So much for Rule #2 (see below) and the credibility of the instructors. I think they ever knew the difference, but I’m guessing we weren’t the only attendees who noticed this glaring contradiction. Only a short time later, firearms safety rules were conveyed with great solemnity.

    Not that I’m knocking the value of the Firearms Hunter Safety Course. They’ve been around for years and their success in reducing hunting mishaps is beyond debate. In fact, thanks to the direct efforts of committed volunteer instructors, hunting is now among the safest sports.

    Fortunately, the above example of a firearms safety tenet violation is an exception, but it does go to show that even some supposedly “experienced gun people” can be sloppy gun handlers. Too bad, because like some other fields, they’re also role models.

    Would you want your kids in a vehicle with a Driver’s Ed instructor who runs stop or ignores yellow lines? Nope, me either. Worse would be lack of any training whatsoever. That’s we toss a set of keys to new drivers after having them read an owner’s ual.

    All drivers make mistakes at one time or another, however. Just like with guns, sometimes those mistakes might just wake you up. Other times they might just end your life – or someone else’s. Safety is everything. Let’s start with the s.

    A simple but widely recognized set of safety rules has evolved. Initially developed by prominent trainers, today’s four “ firearms safety rules” are now the gold standard for safe range operations and gun handling.

    #1 – Always treat every firearm as if loaded.
    #2 – Never let the muzzle cover anything you’re unwilling to destroy.
    #3 – Always keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target.
    #4 – Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    Paradoxically, some gun buyers with littleto no experience take possession of new handguns, boxed with factory literature and a trigger locks. At that point, adios and out the door. With luck, the included paperwork will actually be read prior to handling. Most factory uals do include safety rules, along with loading and unloading instructions. If followed to the letter, safe handling and operation should be possible at a level. However, safety information can vary, sometimes to address proprietary features.

    Until recently, I was the Officer in Charge (OIC) of a busy government firearms training unit. During a nearly threedecade period involving thousands of shooters – thanks largely to the vigilance of wellqualified firearms training unit (FTU) cadre – we were able to maintain a spotless safety record. Beyond strict adherence to the above four rules we added several others, including:

    #5: Check any firearm you handle upon assuming custody of it.
    #6: If you understand how it works, leave it alone.
    #7: exchange a firearm unless the action is open.

    These are firearm “rules of the road,” analogous to staying within yellow lines and obeying stop or red lights. Anyone with a safe driving record should be able to follow them. For other “accidentprone ,” pepper spray is a safer bet (the nozzle thingy points away from your face).

    That said, y good drivers have been involved in some type of accident which could even be their fault. Likewise, y serious gun people have experienced one gamechanging accidental discharge (AD). Such an event is often referred to as a “negligent discharge” (a technically more accurate assessment).

    Either way though, it’s a serious wakeup call almost certainly related to Rule #3, and likely involving Rule #1 (for now, note the “almost certainly” caveat). In most cases these folks are still active if humbled shooters because Rules #2 and #4 were followed, confining collateral damage to underwear.

    Still, some “experienced shooters” persist with sloppy gun handling. Watch the various gunrelated shows on the outdoor channels and you’ll see supposed professionals violate Rule #2.

    One regular occurrence involves muzzleswept fingers during coverage of new handgun models. I’d love to hear a loud buzzer sound off every time this happened. Entertainment aside, the educational value for all would be priceless. Pay attention to others handling firearms in your proximity and you may note similar alarms. In fact, the aggravating mental buzzer could even involve you!

    Muzzle is a major concern, particularly among newer shooters. It’s just a whole lot easier to wave a handgun around, not that you can’t get in trouble with a shotgun or rifle. Heck, a guy in my military outfit succeeded in blowing a large hole through his hand with an M60 machine gun. I could go on with plenty more stories, but I’d rather help avoid future ones.

    Plenty of additional safety information is available online, so instead of listing a bunch of dos and s, I’ll note some potential areas of hazard we’ve witnessed with frequency, y while on ranges.

    Steve is also the author of Handguns: A Buyer’s and Shooters Guide

    Think about where the muzzle will be pointing in relationship to others before opening a container, or removing a gun! Failure to do so is an alltoo common screwup, even though it’s among the easiest to address. We have the luxury of our own range, so we can age this situation. Any handgun not holstered will be immediately cleared in a designated area and benched, action open, facing a safe backstop. This SOP is also employed during y combattype pistol matches like IPSC. Sadly, such s are necessary for a reason. Again, think about others in your proximity! And, FYI, most bullets will penetrate most walls.

    There’s a good chance Rule #2 will be compromised through this practice. The safest bet is to skip it entirely. Remove the handgun first.

    This bad habit can develop through poor holster de or clothing choices. If the support hand (the left one for most of us) goes to the holster ahead of the gun, sooner or later, it WILL be swept by the muzzle.

    Yup, you can shoot yourself with this Rule #3 violation. Simple fix; extend that digit to follow the holster’s exterior. Problem solved right? Maybe not…

    Back to the “almost certainly” caveat, a piece of sweater or a drawstring that enters the trigger guard can cause a discharge while reholstering – especially with strikerfired pistols that have socalled “triggersafety” features. Errant items in pockets or purses can raise further havoc if they migrate into trigger guards.

    A conversation on a firing line can result in distractions that lead to a Rule #2 violation. Whether you talk with your hands or not, remove the support hand only during the recovery (reholstering) process. Any conversations can wait until it’s completed.

    This omission can be stressinduced. It applies mainly to doubleaction pistols like a Beretta M92, etc., however, singleaction de can pose similar risks (like 1911s holstered without thumb safeties engaged). The cure is as simple. Stop and think before recovering the gun.

    Although seen most often among new shooters, Rule #3 violations can surface as a result of marginal training – especially if the stressmeter begins to climb.

    Muzzle discipline can evaporate, commensurate with the complexity of a stoppage. Stop and engage brain. Priorityone is Rule #2!

    First, seek a safe location! Second, assuming the gun is a pistol, remove the magazine (preferably while still holstered). The chambered round is extracted last. Sounds simple enough, but this sequence is sometimes reversed. Look in the chamber(s) after unloading it. Look in that magwell, too. Both should be empty! Swingout cylinder revolvers are simpler but, regardless of the gun, check it at least twice!

    Whether alone or in a group setting ALL of the rules apply! For whatever reason group cleaningfests are especially prone to muzzlerelated brainfarts.

    A holster is worthwhile if allowed on your range. It’ll free up both hands and greatly improve muzzle . Some facilities, especially indoor ranges, will restrict handgun usage to shooting bays, sans holsters. Whatever the circumstances, handle firearms while others are downrange and factor in muzzle orientation.

    Much of the above applies here as well. In my area, a former police chief received a refresher on “foreign object interference” by blowing off a thumb. His cruiser’s shotgun was stowed horizontally via Shooks attached to a security cage. One hook passed through the trigger guard; never the best of plans. Neither was pulling the gun towards him, muzzlefirst. When it comes to blowing off body parts though, there are worse alternatives, especially considering this “accident” happened in the busiest part of town. Which leads to…

    Commonly associated with vehicles, boats, or ATVs, odds of violating Rule #2 are high. Sometimes though, it’s the most expedient method. If so, an unloaded and cased gun offers some reassurance. Regarding passengers and multiple guns, just step aside during handling and take turns to avoid muzzle mayhem.

    A firearm deserves more respect – especially in the company of others. Extremely problematic were early carryhandle M16s, which were routinely carried like luggage.

    Singlepoint slings can be iffy regarding Rule #2 (see problems with single-point slings on AR-15s). Sportingtype slings are pretty , but an undertheshoulder dismount can jeopardize anyone to the rear. Bending or stooping can create similar risks.

    Running late, Billy notices Clem’s orange hat is still on the dash. So, Clem leans his deer rifle against the truck and hops back in – whereupon it tips over. What happens next is a matter of chance. Slippery buttplates and floors play well either. Some firearms can fire from a hard jolt, regardless of the safety being “on” (see below).

    Steve is also the author of Shotguns: A Comprehensive Guide

    Per above, times ten! Climbing or descending with a loaded gun is suicidal, as are other gymnastics (like jumping creeks). Some people climb using a sling, but a separate hoisting system is better. Do a dryrun first though to check the angle of the dangle. You may be surprised!

    mindlessly cycle an action. If need be, use a light (vehicle headlights work) to visually ascertain clearance. With some like shotguns, you can even insert a finger. I check everything before it enters a case, the house, or the safe. Anything coming out of the safe also gets checked.

    All of these hazards can be eliminated through a mental pause, just a quick timeout to think things over. The concept is similar to parking your shiny new vehicle on a steep incline. Thinking worstcase, you take a few extra seconds to cut the wheels inboard and apply the emergency brake.

    Proper handson training is still essential. Normally, the affordable starting point is a local gun shop or club, affiliated with NRA Firearm Instructors (which differ from hunter safety). In a pinch, some new gun owners may turn to military or LE folks for guidance. Generally, that’s better than winging it, although muzzle awareness could still be shaky.

    Rules #5, #6, and #7 are ignored with alarming frequency, either through ignorance or carelessness. Thus, Uncle Bud strolls into the living with his pet gun. He hands it to his nephew, action closed. Neither bother to check it. That’s how the TV winds up getting shot… or worse, Aunt Edna. If it’s Auntie, the media will probably report the gun as having “accidentally fired.”

    The reality is, if we cocked a gun, laid it on a table fully loaded, and waited for it to go off, we’d probably die of old age first. So is there such a thing as “accidentally fired” or is it really “negligent handling”?

    They fire because someone activated the trigger. Safe storage methods are a story for another day. Meanwhile, led access is a paramount concern. Gun safes are good, but there are other options like secure handgun containers

    Back to that Hunter Firearms Safety Course, vertical storage would’ve been better, assuming a decent gun rack was present. Since one wasn’t, the area behind the rear wall was just woods – a direction much less likely to endanger hu life. Sometimes there is no perfect solution. Like driving, firearm safety boils down to common sense – and awareness.

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    A Notso Safe Gun Safety Course


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