If you have heard them once, you have heard them 1000 times: the Three Rules of Gun Safety. In fact, originally there were 10. Written by Col. Cooper, their numbers have been reduced over the years for ease of remembering them. But, confusingly, a quick look online and you will find lots more than three rules and a quite a few variations of them to boot.
One pet peeve of mine is the rule that states, “All guns are loaded.” The concept is that you should treat an unloaded gun the same way that you treat a loaded gun. And you should—but not in all cases! It’s amazing to see the large number of accidental shootings with “unloaded” guns by owners who thought they could be reckless with what they thought was an unloaded gun.
While the intent is good, the problem with the rule, as written, is that it is demonstratively false. As an example, my defense guns are loaded, but the guns in my storage safe are, in fact, not loaded. I will, however, treat them as if they were loaded when I remove them and first handle them.
Taking that into account, and with a goal to make the rule more sensible, many shooters and instructors have adapted the rule to read, “Treat all guns as if they are loaded.” While that makes it more appropriate than the original connotation, I can’t dry fire or clean my guns if I treat them as if they are loaded.
The version of the rule that I like the best is “Treat all guns as if they are loaded, unless redundantly proven otherwise, and done for a specific purpose.” Finally! That one works for all occasions.
Shooters should treat guns as if they were loaded, meaning, don’t put your finger on the trigger, and don’t point them at anything that you are not willing to destroy. When it comes to a specific purpose, such as dry firing, cleaning a pistol, or storage, here’s the procedure for unloading:
- Remove the magazine, and then rack the slide to empty the chamber.
- Confirm the firearm is unloaded. This is done by looking at the chamber to visually confirm that it is empty.
- To be redundant, double check with a finger that the magazine is removed.
- Look at the chamber again to confirm it is empty.
- Put a finger in the chamber to confirm that it’s empty yet again.
Only then can you point it in a safe direction and pull the trigger if needed or dry fire and clean it.
Accidents happen because of an assumption that a gun was unloaded, and a shooter was too lazy to confirm whether it was loaded. Follow the adapted rule and you will always be safe.