In today’s IGOTD, Daniel Zimmerman offers a refresher course on the four main rules of gun safety. First and foremost: muzzle control. If you avoid pointing your weapon at something you don’t want to shoot, you eliminate 90 percent of the bad shit that can go down. Flip that around. If you want to shoot something, it’s best to keep your muzzle pointed at it. Which means I have three reasons why I disagree with the reloading technique demonstrated to the OFWGs by mdstraining.com above . . .

1. “Up” is not [necessarily] a safe direction. If the instructor above had a negligent discharge (ND), the bullet would ascend heavenwards. The chances of it hitting a light aircraft may be minimal, but who knows where it would go? The fifth rule of gun safety: know your target and what lies beyond it. At a gun range, an upwards-aimed ND could cause some major ricochet action.

2. I know it sounds crazy, but anytime you point a gun upwards, you run the risk of shooting yourself in the head. Oh sure, out on the range, standing still, you’re good. But what if you’re reloading while running? Your gun muzzle will be bouncing up and down and side to side, a few degrees of angle from your noggin. Not good. Add in adrenalin-fired manual imprecision and, well, why run that risk?

3. Turning the gun up and sideways to reload takes your sights off the target. After a reload, you have to spend precious seconds reacquiring your sight picture. Instead, keep the gun pointed at the threat and reload. The gun is still right there in your “visual workspace.” You don’t need to glance sideways (and you know you will). Who says you need to see the empty hole to “index” a fresh mag anyway? I’m no expert, but I can swap mags with my eyes closed. And do it even more effectively with my eyes open and the gun pointing downrange.

Whatever works, right? Wrong. Safety first, last and always.

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26 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Always Keep Your Weapon Pointed Downrange

  1. This is not an uncommon practice for reloading, I’ve seen it a lot. I don’t do reload this way – I keep the pistol pointed out at the targets and swap magazines. I do agree the method should not be followed.

  2. Robert,

    You are in your local gun shop perousing the goods and ask to see a weapon. As you are handling the weapon, what is the safest direction to point it while testing the sights, up at the ceiling or down at the floor?

    • I point either way when dry firing in a shop. I don’t feel comfortable pointing up or at the wall but I do.

    • Depends on the store, who’s in it and what’s going on. In some cases, the safest direction is the corner of the building, where the beams are. In some cases, there is no safest direction. Only less unsafe.

    • A good gun shop will have a ‘safe spot’. Always ask the proprietor.
      Mine uses an old dartboard on a brick wall.

  3. Where did this guy get his creds., a computer course? If he has to point his weapon anywhere but down range his situational awareness should have already computed that he has soft ground all around him, and particularly in front of him. If someone was downrange he shouldn’t have his pistol out anyway.

  4. I took my aunt to shoot her youth-size shotgun she hasn’t shot in years. She picks it up and passes it to me barrel-up, which can be fine, but she’s a bit short and was also holding it low, so the end of the barrel was barely above my waist. I imagined getting shot in the face and put a stop to that real quick.

    It’s a single-shot, single-action, and when she went to cock the hammer she had her finger on the trigger. I had to jump in with another “Hey, hey, hey! Stop!” but she did well from then on.

    Muzzle control and finger off the trigger — so important, so simple.

  5. “The fifth rule of gun safety: know your target and what lies beyond it.”

    It’s rule four, if that matters.

  6. How come all the students within view are not merely overweight but clinically obese? This can’t be a physical defense class. Not one of these porkchops is capable of physically defending himself. They’re all too fat. This is a pretend defense class, a fantasy camp for OFWGs. Fun and games.

    What is the pass/fail rate of these courses? If nobody fails, it’s not real training. It’s just a way for OFWGs to spend their money. The way the weapons are handled isn’t the half of it. It’s pretty much all baloney.

  7. But he has the cool T-shirt and everything. His partner said the mark of a true professional was using deliberate movements when handling a firearm. He used very deliberate movements therefore he must be a true professional.

    OK, I couldn’t keep a straight face while I typed that. Even the Army teaches better pistol handling than this guy.

  8. Magoo, i am 5’9″ and 300 lbs, making me “obese”. Sure, I am overweight, but I can bench 250, squat 675, and still keep up with the younger guys on the football field and on the MMA mats. Also, I can still run the hoses from a truck to a burning bullding without problem. I can defend myself while being obese. I wouldn’t put weight as a reason one cannot defend themself. I agree that this course does not look like one i would be taking, as I would have had to correct the instructor when he started pointing his muzzle upward, and eventually probably would have been kicked out!

  9. I’m curious as to what the Rabbi thinks about this… instructors for both PD training AND competition talked about turning the gun, pulling it in close and “watching the magazine” get inserted. After time, muscle memory takes over and you can keep your eyes on target while performing a speedy reload. Checking the shot clock recently, my (tactical) reloads are in the 1-1/2 to 2 second range, even while on the move. Of course, none of the instructors mentioned anything about aiming up in the air, but certainly the sights were taken off of target(s). I was curious about your comment of keeping the pistol downrand/on-target while reloading and can say that I flopped at that big time! Running my XDm-45 with snap caps, it probably took 3-4 times as long (on average) to reload this way. I had a hell of a time getting my grip back into place and I would say that “re-gripping” at full/near-full extension is something I’m going to work on at the range from here on out (just in case, not that I plan on changing my reloading method). Rabbi?

  10. This method is taught at Federal Law Enforcement schools. It’s not uncommon. The idea is that you are looking at your threat consistently through your muzzle. After the magazine reload you extend the weapon back out and start focusing in the sights again. I knew an instructor who could fire 3 shots, reload like this, and fire off another 3 in less than 3 seconds, all accurately.

    It’s a pretty fast method for anyone. Try it sometime with snap caps. The key is not to look at the gun, always at the threat.

  11. Would the instructor in this video reload his weapon using the same techniques if he was engaging an intruder on the first floor of his home knowing his family is safely stashed in an upstairs bedroom?

  12. Folks,

    This is the same method that I use at the range as taught by my instructor and by the folks at Magpul Dynamics. It’s very similar to what’s taught at the Houston Police Academy and by the FBI (Yes, I asked). For most civilians, getting the weapon into their “workspace” makes good sense, especially to load and to respond to any firearm failures (stovepipe, double feed, out of battery) under stress. When the adrenaline is pumping and your reactions are moving at 200 mph, most people need a visual reference to be able to perform complex manipulations like loading a gun.

    If you don’t believe it, try it yourself at a private range (with permission of course). Load one round in your magazine and holster your weapon. Have your friend yell “GUN” into your right ear and attempt to unholster your weapon, take aim, fire one shot, eject your empty magazine, load a new magazine and fire your second shot in less than four seconds. Unless you’ve practiced this routine many, many times, you’ll find that even a little stress will make your motor skills degrade significantly and something as simple as inserting a magazine will seem “clumsy” and slow.

    Now try the same thing with your weapon held outside of your working space, either low or fully extended towards the threat. Don’t just think about it, go ahead and try to drop your empty magazine, insert a fresh one and stroke the slide with your right arm fully extended, the next time you’re at the range. Let me know what results you get.

    I shoot a Government model 1911 and can’t even reach the mag release with my right thumb without breaking my grip and rotating the gun slightly. Since I don’t have a speed-shoot (mag-well) on this weapon, I really need a visual reference to insert the magazine properly. With the weapon’s 18 lb recoil spring, I can’t rack the slide unless the gun is close to my body and even then I use both my left arm (pulling back) and my right arm (pushing forward) to power-stroke the slide and get the weapon back into action. After the power-stroke, the gun being close to my body, is in the perfect position for me to re-establish my grip and press back out to engage the target.

    All I’m saying here is to try both ways (in your workspace and extended) before you decide which works best for you. I found the young man’s method as depicted in the video to be almost exactly how I train and what works best for me. You might find the same!

  13. I completely disagree with the poster. This is the best way to reload a semi-automatic handgun I can think of. While nothing applies to every single possible situation, I cannot think of a reloading technique that is both as fast and as safe as this one.

    Trying to reload with my pistol in a shooting position (muzzle point at the target, arm extended) is simple crap from an ergonomics standpoint. It takes much longer and it’s more likely that something will go wrong.

    • For you that may be true. I reload with the gun pointed downrange and my arm somewhat extended with a front to back slide pull so as not to shoot the guy to my left. Works for me.

  14. Jeff, Nate,
    I don’t think RF is saying anything about keeping the firearm at arms extended shooting position. All he said is downrange, at the target. Perhaps a video or at least photo would best demonstrate what he’s suggesting, but lacking that how about a few more words?

    1) pull the gun back to your “working space,” keeping it pointed down range all the while
    2) twist the butt of the gun toward the hand working spare mags, keeping it pointed pretty much down range all the while (not off toward Sirius)
    3) break your grip if necessary to reach the mag release and drop the mag, keeping it pointed downrange all the while (yes you’ll need to bend your wrist a little more than you’re used to)
    4) load new mag, reach hand over to rack slide if chamber is empty, reacquire grip and sight picture as you return to a shooting position, keeping it pointed down range all the while

    It’s all do able and do able fast.

    As for the visual reference. Most people can touch one hand to the other blind folded. You can touch a specific spot the other hand too. You don’t need to flip the gun around so you can peer down the mag well in order to load a new mag into it. You can almost certainly learn to do it with your eyes closed if you tried. I believe it’s called proprioception, the ability to know your limbs’ relative position without seeing them (yes I know the sense is weak in some).

    Learning to do it with your eyes open and the muzzle pointed down range and the butt of the gun angled down to the side is way easier than you’re suggesting.

  15. What seemed odd to me (and therefore reduced this instructors cred.) was his use of the word “weapon” to describe his and the class participants firearms. I understand that military and LEO training may use “weapon” routinely. However, the NRA has frowned upon the use of the “w” word for quite some time for instructors. Perhaps a benign argument in this case, but it’s the first thing I heard out of his mouth that, in my mind, was the start of a cascade of incorrect instruction.

  16. This is a fascinating discussion. It seems to me that rotating the weapon in order to aim it upwards involves unnecessary movement. I agree with Robert.

    • Very true. When I was taught to be an instructor, by State and FBI instructors, the weapon always stayed pointed downrange or at an angle from you towards the ground. The only exception was when you pointed a revolver straight up to dump the cylinder. Maybe times have changed, but I’d rather be safe. It always seems to be later, after an accident, when the “should have known better” changes to policy come down the line.

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