By John Farnham [via Ammoland.com]
In our Urban Rifle (UR) and Armed Response to a Terrorist Attack (ARTA) Classes, students come to us from numerous divergent training backgrounds. We, of course, run a hot range, so rifles carried by students are loaded (round chambered, manual safety “on,” fully-charged magazine inserted) continuously. All drills start, and finish, with loaded rifles . . .
There is no specific command to reload at any particular moment, so all students are expected to keep rifles they are bearing continuously loaded, magazines charged.
I have adopted a universal “muzzle-down” doctrine for all our courses.
A “safe” direction in which to point a gun is mostly imaginary! Even on an established firing range, a “safe” direction, such as at a dirt berm, is only “relatively” safe. When any gun discharges in any direction, intentionally or accidentally, a bad outcome is always a substantial possibility. Of course, some directions are blatantly unsafe, and these need to be recognized and carefully observed.
So, on shooting ranges (and all other places), we endeavor to constantly keep muzzles pointed in “relatively safe” directions. We call this practice and philosophy “muzzle consciousness,” and every student is expected to be continuously aware of the direction in which his weapon is pointed. The ostensible “condition” of the weapon never relevant. Sloppy gun-handling is, at no time, tolerated!
With the foregoing in mind, which is safer, muzzle up or down?
Logical arguments are made for both practices, but I see muzzles inadvertently pointed in unsafe directions much less often when “muzzle-down” is the prevailing and accepted doctrine.
Our rifles are always slung (one-point or two-point) with the muzzle down. The rifle is never allowed to come up to horizontal unless the student is on the line or otherwise facing a “safe” direction.
Even when facing downrange, we don’t do “port arms,” nor do we allow the rifle’s muzzle to point upwards during reloading. It is always, “Heads up! Muzzles down!” A muzzle-up posture during reloading is a “gun give-a-way,” plus it greatly increases your profile, particularly when you’re behind cover.
Sending a rifle bullet over the berm and off the property is a real danger on any shooting range. NDs are always the result of poor finger discipline, but an ND (negligent discharge) into the dirt downrange of the shooter is always preferable to one that sends a bullet high enough to clear the berm!
There is nothing we can do, and no policy we can implement, that will guarantee nothing bad will ever happen during training. Any training worthy of the title will always be (1) painful, and (2) dangerous. Risk can be managed,” but never eliminated. I believe a muzzle-down philosophy and training doctrine represents appropriate risk management.
Thus, “Heads up! Muzzles down!” is, in my opinion, the correct philosophy during serious rifle (and pistol) training, and should be universal.
About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.
It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit: www.defense-training.com