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Let’s Talk About Firearms Safety

If you have not seen my weekly video blog, Into the Fray, I would ask that you please take a look. I have more than 100 episodes covering everything from shooting positions to the effective use of cover to what common firearms terms really mean.

I also talk about safety. Occasionally astute (some would call them hyper-sensitive) viewers will try to “ding” me on my safety practices. While I typically try not to let the comments on most social media sites get to me (someone once said I had womanly hands), I feel that I should address the issues of safety as I present information to you in a visual format.

My hope would be that you would simply assume, because of my position, I work diligently to maintain a safe work environment. But I also understand that problems arise once we start assuming things are safe. We should not assume. We should check.

I always check. I double check. An observer will triple check. If I am near a group of people, I will show my weapon to be clear, then ask if anyone else would like to verify clear just for their own peace of mind.

But I still get calls, letters, and emails. One viewer does not like the opening sequence because a pistol comes up on target, pointing right at the camera. He said, “I don’t like to have guns pointed at me.”

I explained that it’s a picture of a gun pointed at a camera. It’s not pointed at anyone.

Another guy was upset because I pointed a Blue Gun at an assistant.

It’s a Blue Gun. That’s why Blue Guns were invented. There is nothing I can do to ease that man’s concern.

But just so you know that I know the four cardinal safety rules, I will review them here: 1.) Treat every gun as if it is loaded. 2.) Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. 3.) Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you have made a conscious decision to shoot. 4.) Know your target and what is beyond it.

Those are good solid rules. But here are some explanations as to how they don’t always apply.

You cannot always treat every gun as if it is loaded. That rule should say, “Treat every gun as if it is loaded, until you are sure it is not loaded.” Here is a prime example: If you are cleaning a revolver, at some point you are going to be pushing the cleaning rod down the bore, or pulling a cleaning kit through the bore. You can’t treat that gun as if it is loaded. You just can’t. And, you are violating Rule 2, because your hand (and likely other parts of your body) will be in front of the muzzle.

How about Rule 2? We are talking about self-defense. What if you are required to pull your gun out and point it at a bad guy, but he immediately surrenders? Now you are holding him at gunpoint, but you have no legal right to shoot him, so therefore you should not be willing to destroy him. But you should keep your gun trained on him because he could very quickly become a deadly threat again.

Rule 3 is inviolate. I can think of no reason to break Rule 3. Well, there is one reason: you need to pull the trigger on some pistols to fieldstrip them.

Rule 4 is incomplete. Should you also know what is between you and your target? In a self-defense incident, people might be running all over trying to get out of the way.

The point I’m trying to make is that these rules cannot be your only basis for safe gun handling. They are a good start, but do not follow them blindly. Question everything. Here is what I mean.

In addition to the four cardinal safety rules, additional rules apply when it comes to training and fighting with a firearm. 1.) Know the status of your firearm at all times and act accordingly. 2.) Muzzle management is a key to safety. 3.) Trigger finger discipline is elemental.

These rules interlock and overlap. That is why you need to break more than one rule simultaneously to have a truly unsafe situation. For example: if, during the course of a training video, I have to point my gun in what would otherwise be an “unsafe” direction, I can safely do so as long as I know the status (triple check the firearm is clear) AND I keep my finger off the trigger. Those other two rules trump the safe direction.

Here is another example: on the range, you are required to fire three rounds from the 5-yard line, turn and run back to the 10-yard line, turn and fire three rounds. This can be done safely, but you will likely be violating some of the cardinal safety rules. Still, if you follow rules of status, muzzle management, and trigger finger disciple, it will be a safe training exercise.

I can rest assured tonight that some of you are rolling your eyes and crying out, “Bullshit! You should never, ever violate any of those rules.”

That is your right. I fully support your right to feel and act that way. What I’m saying is you can maintain a perfect safety protocol if you understand and accept how the rules overlap. And I never do anything unsafe while creating Concealed Carry Magazine or Into the Fray videos.

I guess, all I can say now is, “Let the letter writing begin.”

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