4 Rules of Gun Safety

By CTD Blogger published on in General, Safety and Training

Gun safety rules and principles are the set of rules and guidelines that are expected for preventing careless discharge or accidental release, or the negative results of gun glitches. The purpose of gun safety is for minimizing the dangers of damage, injury or unexpected death, caused by inappropriate handling or lackadaisical, treatment of guns.

Daniel Chabert

A man in a gray t-shirt with ear protection is under the watchful eye of a range officer who is keeping the shooters safe.

Among the best range officers to work with is this young lady. She is keeping a watchful eye on the group.

The idea of gun safety is that guns and other weapons are fundamentally dangerous and should regularly be kept safe and carefully handled. Gun handlers are trained to utilize guns with an adequate level of respect for their dangerous abilities. They are also plainly discouraged from playing or toying with guns, a typical reason for the accident.

The four rules of gun safety were set up to ensure that no accidents occur. If these rules are strictly followed, you can be confident that you will never have an accident with your firearms. These rules vary depending on the source, but the below list happens to be the standard.

1st Law

The gun is always loaded.

Picture yourself at a range, and a friend of yours has a new gun that he just picked up. He asks if you want to shoot it and you say. “Well, obviously!” Even if he shows you that the gun is clear and sets it down, the first thing you should always do when you pick it up is to safety-check it. This also applies to setting it down again. At any time the gun is out of your control, even if you set it on a table for 30 seconds, you need to safety-check it when you pick it up. There is no exception to this rule.

This rule is a matter of keeping a convinced mindset. The reason is to create safe handling habits, and to put off reasoning along the lines of, “I’m sure my gun is unloaded so certain risky practices are OK.” The proposition “the gun is always loaded” implies that, although it may be known that this is not true of a particular firearm, that awareness is never trusted or relied upon. So, even if the firearm turned out to be loaded when the handler thought it was not, treating it as loaded would avoid an “accidental discharge,” and if one should occur nevertheless, it will avoid damage, injury, or death.

Many firearm accidents are consequential to the handler wrongly believing a firearm is emptied, safe-tied, or otherwise disabled when in actual fact it is ready to be discharged. Such misunderstandings can occur from a number of sources.

If a handler at all times treats firearms as capable of being discharged at any time, the handler is more likely to take safety measures to prevent an unintended discharge and to avoid damage or injury if one does occur.

2nd Law

Never point the gun at something you are not prepared to destroy.

If you’ve done your safety check and are completely sure that your gun is unloaded, that does not give you the go-ahead to be sloppy with it. Remembering the first rule, The Gun Is ALWAYS Loaded, you should never point it in the direction of anything that you are not ready to destroy.
This rule is proposed to reduce the damage caused by an unintentional discharge. The first rule teaches that a firearm must be assumed to be ready to fire. This rule goes further than that and says, “Since the firearm might fire, believe that it will, and ensure no harm occurs when it does.”

A result of this rule is that any kind of playing or “toying” with firearms is forbidden. Jokingly pointing firearms at people or other non-targets violates this rule and is perhaps an extreme endangerment to life and/or property. To put off this kind of behavior, the rule is occasionally alternately stated, “Never point a firearm at anything except when you are determined to destroy it.”

Two natural “safe” directions to point the muzzle are up (at the sky) and down (at the ground). Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Firing at the ground may result in a ricochet or cause dangerous fragments to be flung at people or objects.

Pointing upward eliminates this risk but replaces it with the risk that the bullet may cause harm when it comes down to the ground again. A bullet fired straight up returns at the terminal velocity of the bullet. Nevertheless, a bullet fired at an angle not absolutely vertical will maintain its spin on the way down and can reach much more deadly speeds.

In cases where the firearm is being handled at home, up and down may actually not be safe directions. For instance, a bullet fired upward or downward possibly will travel through the ceiling, floor and plenum between bordering floors of a multi-story building. In indoor areas where firearms will be handled often, a duly safe direction should be chosen.

Firearm Safety

Firing ranges frequently determine a direction in which it is safe to point a firearm; almost universally this is downrange into a backstop which is designed to contain bullets and get rid of possible ricochets. In armories or other areas where weapons must be handled, a container full of sand known as a “clearing barrel” or “clearing can” is frequently used for this purpose; bullets accidentally discharged into the barrel will be safely stopped and contained by the sand.

3rd Law

Always be sure of your target and what is behind it.

Bullets can go through, and past, your projected target. Knowing what’s behind your target is an important step to safety and responsibility.

This rule is proposed to eliminate or reduce damage to non-targets when a firearm is deliberately discharged. Accidental damage may happen if a non-target is misidentified as a target, if the target is missed, or the bullet hits something—or someone—other than the projected target.
Handlers are trained to positively identify and confirm their target. Furthermore, they learn that even when firing at a valid target, unintended targets could still be hit, for three reasons:

  • The bullet may miss the projected target and hit a non-target around or past the target.
  • A non-target could pass in front of the target and be hit with a bullet intended for the target.
  • The bullet may go through the intended target and hit a non-target beyond it, this is called “over-penetration.”

As a result, this rule requires handlers to always be sure of their target; not just the target itself, but everything around the target.

This may create situations that present dilemmas for a handler. This kind of situations are for example a police officer in a riot, a civilian faced by a possible intruder at night, or a soldier in a situation where civilians are close to the enemy. Indecisiveness or misjudgment of the handler’s skills in such a situation may cause unwanted outcomes, such as injury to the handler owing to hesitation, or the handler violating rules of engagement and causing unintentional damage.

Hunters are usually prohibited from shooting across roads and trails, or after sunset and before dawn, due to the risk of accidentally hitting an inadvertent target. All discharges of firearms is forbidden in some cities, in part due to the risk of hitting unnoticed targets.

Training is used to reduce the risk of such outcomes. Target practice increases the accuracy with which the handler can discharge the firearm and therefore increase the chances that the projected target is hit. Education about terminal ballistics gives the handler understanding of the characteristics of a bullet following a target hit. This knowledge together with an insight into the handler’s own can-do makes it easier for the handler to make suitable decisions about whether to discharge or not, even if given small time and/or put under immense stress.
Ammunition can be selected to lessen the risk of over-penetration.

4th Law

Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

This 4th rule, debatably the most significant one, should be practiced at all times (as with all of these rules). With any modern firearm, as long as your finger is away from the trigger guard, your firearm will not discharge. Being aware of this, there should be 0% chance of a careless discharge. Notice, we didn’t say ‘accidental discharge,’ because there is no such thing. It’s negligent, period.

Every time you pick up a firearm, you should ensure you do this. With this attitude, each and every time, it will become second nature. Should you have to draw your firearm one day, you will impulsively place your trigger finger along the frame and slide instead of directly on the trigger or inside the trigger guard.

This rule is proposed to prevent an unwanted discharge. Generally, a firearm is discharged by pressing its trigger. A handler’s finger may, against his will, move for any of several reasons: the handler is startled, a lack of full attention on body movements, physiological reasons past conscious control such as a spasm, stumbling or falling, or the finger being pushed by something (as when trying to holster a handgun with one’s finger on the trigger). Handlers are, as a result, trained to minimize the harmful effects of such a motion by keeping their finger off the trigger pending when the muzzle is pointing at the target, and the handler desires to discharge the firearm.

woman learning how to shoot an AR-15 rifle.

The AR-15 is a simple firearm to learn how to use.

The trigger guard and area on top of the trigger of a firearm serves as a natural point for a handler to keep their finger out straight next to the weapon, so as not to violate this rule. One more suggestion is to keep the trigger finger above the trigger guard so that there is less chance of the finger unwillingly slipping into the guard when anxious. A properly-indexed trigger finger helps to remind the person holding the firearm of the direction of the muzzle.

Apart from the four core rules that have been mentioned and explained above there are still some other rules. These are:

Learn how to operate your gun perfectly.

Try to be totally familiar with your rifle or weapon. You should know every detail and mechanical attributes of your gun. Also, you know how to properly load, unload, and remove a glitch from your gun. Obviously, different guns have been manufactured with different mechanics. What works in your first gun may be different in this new one.

You have no reason to think that what applies to a particular model or make is exactly applicable to another. You should ask a couple of direct questions as regards the operation of your gun from your weapons dealer. Nothing stops you from contacting the maker personally if you still need more explanation.

Always keep your gun safe.

Store your gun safely and securely. Guns and ammunitions should be put away individually. By this, you are not only storing your gun, and you are preventing unauthorized use. Whenever the gun is not in your grasp, safety should be the first thing to consider.

You can make use of a gun safety box when storing your firearm. A trigger lock or cable lock can also be used to prevent it from being fired. Remember to always empty your gun, and store it empty in a secured and locked box. It is sensible to keep your ammunition in a place different from where you kept your rifle or gun.

D0 you have a rule or tip for gun safety? Share it in the comment section.


Daniel ChabertDaniel Chabert is a snowboarder, foodie, guitarist, Saul Bass fan, and RISD grad. Doing at the intersection of art and computer science to give life to your brand. I’m a designer and this is my work.

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Comments (17)

  • Jim in Conroe

    |

    Good comment. Thanks.

    Reply

  • Jim in Conroe

    |

    This has got to be for storing the service weapon after shift. No one carries with the slide locked back, the magazine removed and the chamber clear.

    Reply

  • Ken R

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    Decal sticker on the locker of every officer in a large metropolitan city:

    GUN SAFETY
    1. Keep Finger Off Trigger
    2. Point Muzzle in Safe Direction
    3. Remove Magazine
    4. Lock Slide to Rear
    5. Look! Make sure Chamber is Clear!

    Seems to work for law enforcement.

    Reply

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