I know I’m reaching back into my former world of teaching once again, but I couldn’t resist. It’s amazing how some of those concepts can translate to the world of firearms. Take “transitions,” for instance. In the context of communication, transitions are important for a speaker, writer or presenter to be clear and concise when moving from one topic to another. Thus, transition words or phrases are important cues with very particular meanings that guide you and others to think and react in a particular way. Just like teaching and writing, transitions are critical when it comes to firearms safety.

The Context

So how do transitions transition into firearms training? In the context of guns, I want to call out dry fire, specifically. I know many people include dry-fire practice in their training routines now and then, all the time or even every single day. Whether working on magazine changes or a smooth trigger press, dry fire can enable a shooter to work on skills and techniques without having to be at the shooting range and without using up any ammunition.

But here is where transitions come into play: It’s vitally important that you are focused and intentional when you move from a live gun and ammunition to a clear, empty gun for dry fire. The same applies when you transition from dry-fire practice to a loaded and holstered EDC gun ready for the day.

Most folks have learned that dry fire requires the user to remove all ammunition from the magazines and firearm and move the ammo into another room, away from where the practice is taking place. But what about getting your self-defense firearm ready for placing in your holster or for staging in your home? For all of this, you should use good transitions or specific words or phrases that guide you and others to think and react in a particular way when moving from one topic to another.

The Practice

In the U.S. Concealed Carry Association curriculum, we teach folks to say the phrase, “Live gun! Live ammo!” at least three times when they are moving from dry-fire training to live-fire training. This simple saying is a fantastic habit to get into, no matter who you are or where you are training. Even if you’re all alone in the privacy of your own home, you should still intentionally — and audibly — state that you are transitioning from one condition to the other. This gives you more control and helps to manage safety. You do NOT want to become complacent when moving from an empty and cleared gun to a fully loaded gun or vice versa.

The Substance

I mention all this because I have seen what happens when transitions are not acknowledged or taken seriously. I’ve personally witnessed classes comprised of both seasoned shooters and handgun newcomers who were working through numerous dry-fire fundamentals and exercises while pointing their firearms in any and every direction — even at one another! Granted, all the guns were checked for clear at the start of the class, and everyone used a brightly colored tool that blocked the barrel and rendered the firearm unable to fire a round. But there was no clear transition between those hours of dry-fire and the live-fire drills. As soon as the blocking tools were removed, the guns were loaded with live ammunition. And without any intentional and meaningful transition, who’s to say if the group was truly ready to switch gears and take on the responsibility of wielding guns that could now hurt, injure or even kill someone if use maliciously or negligently?

Ultimately, you must always have a mindset for safety and caution whenever you’re around firearms. You must make a conscious commitment to being responsible and in control of your firearms at all times. That includes knowing what condition every gun is in and being mindful of that. Never forget the importance of using good transitions.