The Four Rules of Gun Safety: Guns for Beginners

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The Four Rules of Gun Safety prevent firearms-related accidents — more accurately called “negligent discharges” or ND’s. Follow all Four Rules of Gun Safety and you eliminate the possibility of creating a dangerous perhaps even deadly ND. Click here for gun guru Jeff Cooper’s original Four Rules. Here’s my take . . .

1. Keep all guns pointed in a safe direction

If you point a gun at an innocent person or an inoffensive inedible animal, bad things can happen. If you keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, away from innocent life, they can’t. Even if you have a negligent discharge — which will only occur if you violate the other safety rules — it won’t harm man or beast.

What’s a safe direction? Anyplace where the bullet couldn’t harm an innocent person or non-game animal should you fire the gun.

There may be times when there isn’t a safe direction.

Bullets can penetrate walls and other barriers and travel extremely long distances. Someone living in an apartment building in an urban area may not be able to avoid the possibility of a negligent discharge causing harm.

In that case as in all others — such as cleaning, storage and transportation — always keep a gun pointed in the safest possible direction. For example, aiming a gun at the steel-reinforced corners of a building may be an apartment dweller’s best bet.

2. Treat all firearms as if they’re loaded 

Safety demands that you treat all firearms as loaded — at least until you personally and accurately verify that a gun is unloaded. Always safety check a firearm before and after handling.

Safety check every gun immediately after you pick up, even if you put it down moments before. Safety check every gun immediately before you put it down or hand it to someone, even if you “know” it’s unloaded. Remember: you can remove a magazine from a firearm and still have a round in the chamber. You must check the chamber.

If someone hands you a gun, make sure it’s unloaded. If someone says “it’s unloaded” treat the statement as meaningless. The only unloaded gun is one you’ve personally checked and it’s been secured or hasn’t left your sight since you checked it. Until and unless you’ve safety checked a firearm — and in most cases (save cleaning) even then — assume the firearm is loaded.

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

Guns don’t “go off.” Excepting older guns that aren’t “drop-safe” or a gun that’s mechanically defective (an extremely rare occurrence) someone or something has to pull the trigger for the gun to fire. If you keep your finger (and other bits) off the trigger, you won’t create a negligent discharge.

There’s a natural tendency to place your finger on a gun’s trigger; that’s the way firearms are designed to be held. You have to train yourself not to put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

When you take hold of a gun, pause. Place your finger in a safe spot (above the trigger on the gun’s frame). Feel your finger placement. Look at it. Lock it into your memory. Do this every time you hold a gun.

[NOTE: Even people with excellent “trigger discipline” may place their finger on a trigger in a high-stress situation. For this reason, some people choose handguns with a heavy trigger pull (e.g., revolvers) or a gun with a heavy first trigger pull followed by lighter trigger pulls.]

4. Be sure of your target and what’s around it.

Again, bullets can penetrate barriers and travel great distances before they lose lethal force. You can aim at one thing and hit another, with disastrous results.

Always make sure there’s no one downrange, or someone about to go downrange. How far downrange should you consider? As far as the eye can see — and then some (a .22 caliber bullet can travel a mile before losing momentum). Don’t forget the possibility of barrier penetration (e.g., there may be horses or people behind a distant barn).

Also keep in mind that you may inadvertently fire well to the left, right or above your target. Imagine a horizontal line running from where you’re standing to your right and left, trailing off into infinity. Make sure there’s no person or animal anywhere ahead of this “firing line” or about to go ahead of the line.

In terms of self-defense, assess your environment, preferably before you draw your gun and certainly after. Defensive gun training courses (especially force-on-force) and competition are helpful in this regard. In any case, accuracy is a function of distance. The closer you are to a target, the less likely you’ll miss and shoot an innocent bystander.

———

There are other gun safety rules (e.g. don’t drink and shoot). But master these Four Gun Safety Rules and you’ll enjoy a lifetime of safe gun handling.

comments

  1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    A good reminder as I head off to help teach a handgun course.

      1. avatar kenneth says:

        Why would anyone prefer the unreasonable rule; “never load your firearm until ready to use”, to the imminently more sensible; “All guns are always loaded, all the time”?
        Oh. You’re Bill Gates.
        There’s my answer. Never mind.

  2. avatar Ralph says:

    This would be a good time to introduce new shooters to the late Jeff Cooper, who codified these Four Rules and the Color Code of readiness.

    Look him up, beginners. Read his material. You’ll learn a lot.

  3. avatar Blackspike2710 says:

    IMHO. Your No.2 should be first because the others are deritives of that rule. Keep it pointed in a safe location because it’s always loaded, keep your finger off the trigger because it’s always loaded, and so on.

    1. avatar SlackerX says:

      Well then by that logic, please stand there while I point this gun at you and check if it’s loaded. It’s best not to think of them as steps per se.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        Huh? That makes no sense. If you’re putting “all guns are always loaded” first, then you won’t be pointing it at anyone while you check it, because why would you point a loaded gun at someone?

        The OP was right. The fact that the gun could be loaded even if you think it’s empty is what necessitates the precautions in the other three steps.

        In practice, it really doesn’t matter how you order the first three steps; any one of them, followed correctly, will prevent people from getting hurt. All of them together help ensure that a single inadvertent lapse doesn’t put a bullet hole in anything that could be fatally bullet-holed.

        1. avatar SlackerX says:

          Point taken, however the OP suggests the first rule is moot owing to the fact that “all guns are loaded.” All guns are not loaded as a matter of logic, it is best practice to assume they are until they are confirmed not to be. My point being that the first rule is the first rule because you should not barrel something unless you are confident that is the most preferable location for you’re round to go at that moment should your firearm discharge.

          While it is understandable that this is common sense and can be inferred, to a newcomer these are the rules. Always keep your gun pointed in the safest direction until you can confirm the firearm is absolutely unloaded.

    2. avatar kenneth says:

      Also, there is a logic to the rules that almost everybody misses. The first rule is the first BECAUSE it is the one that takes effect BEFORE you even touch the firearm in question. Since one cannot know the status of a firearm that has been out of your possession(someone could have put a round in the chamber while you weren’t looking, no matter how ‘expert’ you consider yourself to be), you MUST assume that is ready to rock and roll. UNTIL you pick it up and check it out, that is.
      The second is AFTER you have ‘possessed’ the firearm and checked the chamber. THEN the second comes into play, never let the muzzle cover anything you are not prepared to destroy. The third and fourth simply build on the same; 3: AFTER muzzle discipline comes pointing at the actual target, and you keep your finger OFF the trigger until the sights are on the target. This is the one that I see a full 99 percent of police on videos FAIL TO FOLLOW, and it shows up in their ND rates, which they term “accidental” in order to hide their guilt, just as any criminal would, were it to work for them as well as it does the hapless rookie who cannot resist breaking the rules, to show how tough he is. But then they shoot themself in the guts in an elevator, showing not how tough they are, but how stupid.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EG3ZDOWeiG8
      Or, in a truly EXCEPTIONAL case of stupidity(a fed natch, the higher ranking they get, the stupider officials get):
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-WJMoxMfm4
      And then fourth: Know your target and what is beyond it. This is AFTER rules one-three, once you have already acquired a target and it is in the sights. THEN comes rules four, before the shot. There is a very compelling logic there, which it is clear that people do not understand once they rearrange(and often reword, as well) the rules to suit themselves.
      NOW, don’t get what I am saying incorrect. I have no problem with someone rewording and rearranging things to suit their own preferences. BUT, they should be aware of the basic logic behind what is already there, BEFORE they start to rework it. In much the same way, my students first learn the Katas in my MA classes BEFORE they are allowed to change it around. Once one UNDERSTANDS what is there, it is one’s duty to take what works best for him and redo it to suit. But the BASIC knowledge MUST come first, otherwise it is just a haphazard throw together of ideas that does no one any good, least of all the one lacking the basic knowledge in the first place. Which he generally then sticks to with a religious fervor, since he “designed it myself”
      If RF reworded the rules for a reason, then he should articulate WHY he thinks that the second should go first, and WHY the loss of logical continuity is worth that price, at least in his mind and for his situation. But, since that could get wordy, he probably left it out.
      I suspect that it might be(sorry, RF, but it is a possibility) because he thinks the muzzle direction is more important than the loading status, like many do who don’t quite understand the full power of the four rules and why they work together, and HOW.
      A great many exhibit this clearly when the discussion starts about WHICH rule is the MOST important? My answer is: They are all equal, and all work TOGETHER to stop NDs. Thus no ONE rule is greater than another, but they ARE in that order for a reason, but they are NOT in order of importance. Much like the question which is more important in a car, the engine or the transmission? In this example it is easier to see that the answer must be they are equally important, for the vehicle will not function with either one disabled. This system is much the same, but just harder to comprehend.
      The entirety of the rules are a system, and whenever one starts thinking that one part of a complete system is more important than another…. well, it can easily end up with a guy who checks his engine oil religiously, but runs the transmission dry and then cannot understand why the car refuses to move.

  4. avatar daveR says:

    “2. Treat all firearms as if they’re loaded until you safety check the gun”

    I’ve always hated that rule because it only invites trouble. Just treat guns as if they are always loaded (EVEN IF you safety check them).

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      If you treat an unloaded gun as a loaded gun, you can’t clean it or dry fire.

      1. avatar Smoke Jensen says:

        People clean loaded guns all of the time. They just don’t get to finish.

        1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

          did you know a unloaded mosin can send a round thru 2 oak table leaves, a exterior wall (tore the 2-4 in half, was spinning at this point) a tread mill and off into the night? Oh, and it took a chunk out of a CRT monitor on its way by, was on youtube diagnosing extraction issues.

          my first and hopefully last ND, be careful with the unloaded guns.

      2. avatar Mr. 308 says:

        Yes we do have to invite common sense in, however the idea should be to make this an automatic habit. Exaggerate safety – look at Hickock45 clearing a pistol, you don’t just rack the slide, do it about 5 or 6 times, look, rack it a few more.

        I haven’t heard of an ND that didn’t involve breaking one of these classic rules. Follow the rules. At least that’s what I try and do.

        #4 – “Be sure of your target and what’s around it”

        I have always seen that one as ‘what’s beyond it’.

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          You have to care about what is in front and beside, too.

          Beside – Bullets can deflect.

          Front – Do I even have to explain?

        2. avatar DaveL says:

          you don’t just rack the slide, do it about 5 or 6 times, look, rack it a few more.

          I never understood what racking multiple times was about. Drop the magazine, pull the slide back and look. Look in the chamber, look in the mag well, look at the breech face or bolt. Put your fingers in there if it’s dark. If there are no rounds, there are no rounds. What is racking over and over again supposed to gain you? If the extractor was broken the first time it’ll still be broken. I guess if you forgot to remove the mag, you could empty it that way, but wouldn’t it be more efficient to notice it the first time and drop it?

        3. avatar Mr. 308 says:

          “I never understood what racking multiple times was about. ”

          Obviously no need, *as* long as you drop the mag first. As I said, exaggerated safety, make it a habit.

          It only takes one mistake to ruin your day.

        4. avatar Hasdrubal says:

          Extractors don’t always break all at once, sometimes the spring starts to wear out and the failure to extract is intermittent. Sometimes people forget to take the magazine out, but they think the one coming out of the chamber when they rack the weapon one time proves that it’s now empty. I don’t know how many rounds ended up fired into the clearing barrels outside chow halls in Iraq because of that, but I can assure you it’s way more than zero.

          Yes, if you do it right, you won’t have a problem racking it once. The point of doing it multiple times is to try and build habits that account for human fallibility and inattention.

        5. avatar kenneth says:

          “What’s beyond it” is exactly how Jeff Cooper worded it. All the rest are just others rewording it to suit themselves. Which is fine, PROVIDED that they know what they are doing and WHY. Which is seldom the case.

      3. avatar Ralph says:

        If you treat an unloaded gun as a loaded gun, you can’t clean it.

        Especially a Glock, which requires pulling the trigger to field strip.

        1. avatar daveR says:

          So what are you and RF implying? You clear it and then drop the striker with the muzzle pressed against your head?

        2. avatar Ing says:

          That’s why the “safe direction” rule exists. Even if it is loaded, point it at something that can stand to have a bullet hole in it.

      4. avatar daveR says:

        Come on RF! You (must?) know what I mean. Higher vigilance, means that you never accidently cap your cat.

        Just treat guns as loaded. That’s it. Period.

        If you have to clear your gun before removing the slide–even if you’ve verified clear–drop the striker in a direction you could afford to let loose a bullet

      5. avatar Badwolf says:

        Except of course to clean or dry fire, I think what daver means by treating guns as always loaded is its a mindset. Don’t fool around with your gun even if it’s unloaded. Obviously If you unloaded and clear it there’s no chance to discharge. But even so if you get complacent and don’t treat it with respect ALWAYS then that invites carelessness and you might eventually get a nd.

        1. avatar Kevin says:

          Exactly. Before I train with an unloaded gun, I load a magazine with snap caps, clear and verify the firearm, remove all ammo from the room, clear and verify AGAIN!, load the snap caps, and repeat, out loud, 3 times: “I am training now.”
          When done, I repeat 3 times “I am finished training.” And when my EDC is again loaded with live ammo, I repeat, aloud, 3 times “This gun will fire if I pull the trigger. It is loaded and dangerous.”
          The aloud repetition forces the brain to change directions, from “This is somewhat safe” to “This is definitely dangerous.”

        2. avatar kenneth says:

          If a beginner really wants to know what is up. watch this video
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNdI_CyiRZQ
          Now its crap for quality, its a YT copy of a VHS tape circa 1980, from Gunsite Raven, when it was not called just “Gunsite”. Although the Logo is the raven, Cooper introduces himself as “The President of the Gunsite Raven Corporation”. My original copy is a little better, but only just. Tapes deteriorate rapidly with time.
          In one hour it covers almost everything from beginners to very advanced. Like the draw technique at 35:00. Everything starts from the earth, exactly as the way Bruce Lee puts power into the one inch power punch. Much of this video applied later, to my career in the Martial Arts. It even covers single actions and loading five, transfer bars in the Ruger new model, SA/DA auto, surprise trigger breaks, and on and on. Virtually everything here is important, and should be watched over and over again. I’ve probably watched my copy a hundred times over the years, and I still catch things I missed decades ago. THAT is the mark of a true genius in education, when they can give you a lot, crammed into a little, and then let you pick it up at your own speed, and even after many repetitions, it can still teach. IMO, OFC.
          Anyway, the best video on guns that I have ever seen, and I’ve watched a LOT of them.

      6. Rule 1: All guns are loaded.

        When I clean, the gun always pointed in a safe direction. That’s because the gun is loaded. If I need to clean from the muzzle, the action is open.

        Since all guns are loaded (refer to Rule 1), when I dry-fire, I know in my heart that the gun will go off when I pull the trigger. That’s because all guns are loaded. So far I have been usually pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t, since according to Rule 1, all guns are loaded. I must have been lucky that it did not go off.

        It’s safer to follow Rule 1 and be wrong assuming the gun is loaded than to be wrong assuming the gun is unloaded. Did I mention that all guns are loaded? It’s Rule 1.

        Yes, I’m taking it to absurd extremes. But all guns are still loaded. That’s Rule 1.

    2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      This is supposed to be the first rule.

      It’s the only rule which is not meant to be physically literal, but to stand as mindset rule, only. Hence why it is first.

      It’s the mindset you have before you start the physical action of handling a gun. Then the other rules follow.

      Don’t get too wrapped around the axle about it. It could just as easily and effectively be written as, “Rule1: Don’t be a dumbass.”

      1. avatar kenneth says:

        You’re almost there. Please note my post above under blackspike2710 that starts:
        “Also, there is a logic to the rules that almost everybody misses. The first rule is the first BECAUSE it is the one that takes effect BEFORE you even touch the firearm in question. Since one cannot know the status of a firearm that has been out of your possession(someone could have put a round in the chamber while you weren’t looking, no matter how ‘expert’ you consider yourself to be), you MUST assume that [it] [sic] is ready to rock and roll.”

    3. avatar PetitionForRedress says:

      I agree wholeheartedly…

  5. avatar Bernard says:

    Does Everytown for Gun Safety teach this stuff? I’m curious about if they can name just one gun safety rule.

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      Rule # 1: NO GUNS!

      Rule # 2: See rule # 1.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        They likes guns – they just don’t like for the commoners to have guns.

        I’ve only ever met two anti-gunners who wanted police, security forces, and military disarmed, as well. And both of them were coo-coo for coca puffs.

        1. avatar Ing says:

          Cocoa puffs, or coca puffs? Cause if they were on crack, that would make sense.

        2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          They were burn-outs; it was on purpose.

  6. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    There really is no “safe direction” except maybe on a gun range or into a clearing barrel. Otherwise, it’s a chance you take with whatever is the next best and next safest choice. It does require one to think about it each time.

    So, the first two “rules” must be to keep the finger (and other stuff) out of the trigger guard until ready to actually pull the trigger, and to treat all guns as loaded, all the time, even if you know they are not. I don’t endlessly check the chamber of my carry gun… because I KNOW it is loaded, and handle it as such. Every other gun is handled in the same way, until I have it disassembled to clean it or otherwise deal with it.

    Nobody should ever hand someone a loaded gun, or accept one from someone else. The proper protocol for that is for the person giving control of the gun to SHOW the receiver that the chamber is empty and no magazine is in place (where there is one), preferably leaving the action open during the exchange. The muzzle should be pointed away from people at all times, including during this transfer of an “unloaded gun.”

    With these two firmly in mind, all the rest of that verbiage here would better serve as additional information. If you make the “rules” too verbose and too complicated with explanations, most people will not absorb it or remember it, even if they understand it all. Keep it simple…

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      This was a fiendishly difficult post to write, for the reasons you mention. Especially, the ease of assimilation.

      I ultimately decided it was worth “watering down” the rule “treat all guns as if they’re loaded” by adding “until you’ve safety checked the gun” because it covers cleaning and it encourages safety checks. I figured “keep all guns pointed in the safest possible direction” overlaps enough to add an extra level of protection.

      But I certainly appreciate the counter-argument.

      1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

        🙂 I understand. I’m a professional writer and educator, among other things, and the temptation to “explain” in odd places is almost impossible to resist sometimes. As a firearms instructor, the rules must be explained, of course. I just have found it is easier to present students with solid, simple rules first, get those memorized, and then go on to explain them.

        Within the internet context, there’s probably room for both in an article like this because most probably won’t actually memorize the basic rules. They may choose to do so, of course, but the least we can hope for is that some of this will be absorbed, enough maybe to get them to seek some actual training with a live instructor.

        Anyway, I didn’t intend to argue with what you said, but I can’t help being a teacher and can always see a better way to present something. I’m harder on myself than anyone else, if that helps. 🙂

        1. avatar Robert Farago says:

          I welcome any and all input. Anything that makes this better is welcome. I lost any personal sensitivity to criticism at least two websites ago.

      2. Perhaps there should be a separate rule on how to unload and verify. The key is not to look for a round in the chamber but to look for a clear chamber. Stick your little finger in there or a pipe cleaner or chamber flag. It is so simple yet so important.

    2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      “Nobody should ever hand someone a loaded gun, or accept one from someone else. ”

      I would say, yes and no. Handgun, yes. Long gun, you can. It’s easy to hand off a long gun without getting anywhere near the trigger and keeping it in a clear direction. Handguns, best to just set it on the table or ground and let them pick it up.

      The act of handoff a loaded gun isn’t an issue, unto itself.

      1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

        Outside of a combat situation, or the zombie army storming your position… just why would anyone need to hand off a loaded gun… long or short? 🙂 As with so many other things, sure you could… but it’s likely better not. That’s the purpose of protocol. Isn’t it?

        1. avatar Wreckermam says:

          Crossing a fence while hunting with a partner is a perfect example of when you would hand off a loaded long gun. There are other examples of times when handing off a loaded long gun is necessary. I know Hunter’s Education classes tell you to unload the gun first, but that practice is completely unrealistic in practice.

        2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          It seems like safety just for the sake of safety to me.

  7. avatar David Hanover says:

    I don’t understand why every swinging Johnson feel compelled to “improve” on Cooper’s 4 laws.

    I fail to see the “improvement”.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      No disrespect to Cooper.

      I consider the safest “possible” instruction an improvement because it highlights the need to carefully consider your options, and increases muzzle awareness.

      As I mentioned above the safety check provision of “treat all guns as if they’re loaded” allows for cleaning and maintenance. I hope it doesn’t enable complacency. Let me think that one over and listen to the arguments here. What’s your take?

      Number three is as Cooper wrote it. I have no compunctions about changing “what’s behind “a target” to “whats around a target.” I believe it increases awareness in a good way without diluting the general principle.

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        After considering your comment, I’ve changed it to

        2. Treat all firearms as if they’re loaded. Always safety check a gun.

        And added:

        “Until and unless you’ve safety checked a firearm — and in most cases (save cleaning) even then — assume the firearm is loaded.”

        That’s cheating, of course. But does that work better? Or should I change it again?

        1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

          Too complex and a little wishy-washy…

          All guns are treated as loaded, at all times. Implied is that being in several different pieces on the bench might be an exception, of course. But I take a dim view of having the business end of the barrel pointed at me even then.

          It isn’t that the gun is dangerous at that point, but I find that if the gun is regarded as loaded, and that mind set is maintained whenever handling them… I’m not nearly as apt to get careless or “forget.” It’s the same mind set regarding trigger discipline.

          It is a simple default, and much better without all the ifs and whens.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Robert,

          Dry fire practice is a common, efficient, inexpensive, effective, and wise method of training. Of course dry fire practice requires breaking almost all the safety rules. And, unless people who take advantage of dry fire practice have a dirt berm in their home, they are pointing their firearm in an unsafe direction at some point. Furthermore, as others have already pointed out, you have to break some of the safety rules in order to clean/maintain a firearm as well. Therefore, I believe some language about clearing firearms is in order rather than a blanket “treat every firearm as if it is loaded” statement.

          I think you had it right initially.

        3. avatar Robert Farago says:

          What do you think of the two-part approach?

        4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Robert,

          I like your explanation as I see it right now.

          (1) We treat all firearms as loaded when we first pick them up.
          (2) We personally verify that a firearm has no cartridges in both the magazine and chamber the instant we pick up a firearm … before handling, manipulating, demonstrating, cleaning, practicing (dry-fire), etc.

          Your additional explanation simply reinforces those two concepts and points out two common scenarios where people have good reason to believe (although incorrectly) that a firearm is unloaded. And you mention best practices in that regard.

        5. avatar Tile floor says:

          RF for what it’s worth I think you did a great job explaining the common sense rules, you not only said what but why, which I imagine would be helpful for a beginner.

    2. avatar Aerindel says:

      Because they are stupid. You can’t even pick up a gun without violating them, which means they are just situational rules, which means you have to use judgement, which defeats the point of rules int he first place.

      1. avatar Kevin says:

        Explain to us why it is impossible to pick up a firearm and keep your finger off the trigger while pointing the muzzle in a safe direction.

        1. Keeping finger off the trigger is easy. Not flagging people or objects you don’t want to shoot? Not as easy. Ever been to a gun show? Ever handle a firearm in a room full of people milling around? You ask the guy to show you a pistol. As soon as he lays a hand on it, he has broken rule three because it is pointed at someone. One of the first things I do when checking out a new gun is test the trigger. After verifying the gun is unloaded, I violate rule 1 or 2 in this article. I point the gun at the floor and pull the trigger.
          Treat a loaded gun the way a loaded gun should be treated. Treat an unloaded gun the way an unloaded gun should be treated which means in most cases, treat it like a loaded gun.

  8. avatar RCC says:

    Anything mechanical can develop a fault and go off
    Have had an M60 go off next to me when it was loaded before a patrol many years back
    Turned out to be faulty catch in bolt assembly but as it was pointed away from all of us no problem after the initial “what the–” moment. Always use the four rules

    Taught my son the four rules from age 3 and I have always thought gun safety should be a school subject so children who’s parents are not shooters don’t learn by tv

  9. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    This is what I have been advocating. Above all else, keep a firearm pointed in a safe direction. Maintaining that single rule at the top of the list does not lesson the importance of other gun safety rules, but if one was to embrace that one single rule, a violation of any other rule will almost guarantee non-catastrophic results.

  10. avatar Mark Worthen says:

    there is a very good reason Cooper’s 4 rules work so well is because you could get away with breaking 1 nothing bad will happen break 2 odds are still very low something bad will happen break 3 shit goes down hill really fast #1 treat all firearms as if they a loaded #2 never let the muzzle cover or sweep anything you are not willing to destroy #3 keep your finger off the trigger until sites are on target (also called booger hooker) #4 know you target an what is behind it. I have seen it work too many times to break the order is asking for trouble.

  11. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I am not sure where/how to address one final consideration: malfunctions that cause a discharge. In some instances, a trigger mechanism is defective and a firearm can literally go “bang” by itself or with a bump. While this is very rare, it has happened. In other instances, a firing pin can be stuck forward causing a firearm to discharge when you cycle the action — e.g. “slam firing”.

    I mention malfunctions because I don’t ever remember anyone talking about them in the context of safety. To some extent, you could argue that the two rules “treat every gun as if it is loaded” and “keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction” covers that rare possibility. And yet, in practice, it seems inevitable that you will have your muzzle pointed in an unknown direction at some point if you partake in a long plinking or hunting activity.

    Clarification: while it might be the right thing to do — waiting to cycle your action and chamber a round until you are pointing precisely at your target — in reality it can be quite difficult depending on the type of action, type of firearm, and specific firearm. For example, I have operated some firearms with really STIFF actions that are impossible to manipulate without taking the firearm somewhat off target. In these situations, we need to be aware that slam-firing is a possibility and act accordingly. Similarly, when we set down a loaded firearm while hunting, we need to be aware that a bump or jolt could cause a weak/defective trigger mechanism to make the gun go bang and act accordingly.

  12. avatar James in AZ says:

    Here’s my personal list of gun safety rules.

    Finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot, whether the gun is loaded or not.

    Muzzle off anyone you dont wanna kill, whether the gun is loaded or not.

    Always know whether the gun is loaded or not.

    Know everything on the trajectory.

    Dont touch a gun you dont know how to use.

    Eyepro earpro.

    1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

      That’s actually very good! Memorize those, and then go back to learn the rationale. 🙂

  13. avatar On the can says:

    5. Don’t ever, ever, under any circumstances, vote democrat.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      You sir or ma’am win the Intertubez for the decade!

  14. avatar John says:

    What about keeping your gun unloaded unless you are ready to us it?

    1. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

      You’re kidding, right? RIGHT???

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        For some activities, I keep the gun unloaded until ready for use. Target shooting.

      2. avatar Mr. 308 says:

        GLOCK owner?

    2. avatar JackInAlabama says:

      ALL of the firearms I own (and there are quite a few) are kept loaded – even the safe-queens. Anyone who enters my home is also TOLD that any firearm they might happen to run across IS loaded (and this includes my grandchildren).

      I practice Cooper’s Rules – religiously. The only time I have an unloaded firearm available to me is when I’ve just fired it dry, before reloading, or I’ve just cleared it and broken it down to clean it – period.

      My logic – I KNOW they’re loaded, there’s no wondering about it, and an unloaded firearm is either “art” or a very ineffective club…

      For the record, there’s a Garand hanging over my fireplace in a shadow box – it’s loaded as well…

    3. avatar Kevin says:

      I agree. But again, you have to add “mindset.” The guns in my safe, I am not ready to shoot. They are unloaded. My EDC, and my nightstand gun, I AM ready to shoot. I hope I don’t HAVE to, but I am ready.
      Mindset.

  15. avatar RetMSgt in Pa. says:

    Perhaps this should be taught at all police departments throughout the country.

    As supposedly “well trained” officers, they do tend to have more than their fair share of “accidental” discharges, either when handling their assigned service weapon or when cleaning it (and I’m still trying to figure out how one cleans a loaded firearm).

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      I never could figure out how I was supposed to clean a loaded gun. Could someone make a video of this?

    2. avatar PAUL CLARKE says:

      I am always amazed by how many ‘incidents’ involving police officers and weapons one hears about. I am assuming that this is often but not always a case of ‘familiarity breeding contempt’, namely that their weapons remain firmly located in the holster for days or even weeks on end. In addition it would also be interesting to know how often police officers are obliged to submit themselves to formal range time where their skills are assessed? Finally as a retired MSgt you will appreciate that once an individual is trained on a particular weapons platform there is no such thing as an ‘accidental’ firearms incident they are only ever negligent.

    3. avatar Kevin says:

      I had a guy tell me how that happened to him. Got the cleaning kit out, sat at the bench, dropped the mag. Next step is to rack the slide, but his phone rang. Answered, talked a minute, then pulled the trigger to allow his Glock to be taken down. Oops.
      Complacency got him. He knows the rules, but because he always does things in the same order, he got complacent.

      Now, when someone accidentally kills himself because his “gun went of while he was cleaning it”, I’m skeptical, but I’ll let the family have their peace.

      1. I own a Glock. I remove the magazine then lock the slide back. Just racking the slide is not enough. YOU MUST LOCK IT OPEN. Even if I somehow get distracted during the process, When I return and the action isn’t open, that is where I pick up. Don’t see that ever happening because it is almost in one motion. Lock it back so as to see and feel an empty chamber.
        On the Beretta Nano that doesn’t have a slide lock lever, I insert an empty mag and then lock the slide back. Rack rack rack is dumb dumb dumb. Lock it open and prove the gun is clear.

        1. avatar Isaac V. says:

          I never understood the rack, rack, rack thing. I rack it back once, hold it up to a light, make sure I can see (from the breech end) light coming through the barrel.

  16. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Beware of the nut behind the butt.

  17. avatar RCC says:

    As I stated above anything mechanical can fail. I had extractor break in half on a very expensive competition shotgun at state title.
    40 cal slam fire next to me in IPSC etc

    Rule one about safe direction is the biggest one in personal opinion. All needed but rule one is the one I push with new shooters

  18. avatar JP in Tennessee says:

    The beauty of the Four Rules is that you must simultaneously violate at least TWO rules before someone would get hurt.

  19. avatar fred says:

    Wait, isn’t there something about boogers involved?

    1. And banging hookers?

  20. avatar Jaffas says:

    Hey Kids, safety is safety. I agree with the writer. Better to error on the side of overcaution than to assume anything.
    Before handing my gun to someone I remove the magazine AND rack it several times. Makes me and others feel better and know it is empty. I also make sure the frame safety is on EVEN though I just verified it is empty.
    OVER CAUTIOUS? Probably but I rather be that way than to shoot myself or anyone else in the arse or other places.

  21. avatar Watts' Twat says:

    Damn! You forgot to include “Always look down the barrel to determine whether a particular firearm is loaded”.

    1. avatar Kevin says:

      As long as it’s from the breech 😉

  22. avatar Isaac V. says:

    My dad just had two rules. “Treat every gun like it’s loaded” and “don’t point at anything you don’t intend to shoot.” You can get pretty far with just those two.

  23. avatar Marvin says:

    always treat a gun as if it is loaded, never put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot! Great tips!

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