The Four Rules of Gun Safety for New Gun Owners…and Everyone Else [VIDEO]

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four rules of gun safety

[ED: We last bumped this post three years ago during the Great Pandemic Gun Buying Run of 2020. But as even mainstream media outlets have had to acknowledge, more Americans continue to buy firearms at a noteworthy pace.

That includes groups that the clueless always assumed didn’t care about their Second Amendment rights and weren’t fans of gun ownership. The expansion of permitless carry to over half the country now is no doubt contributing to that.

To all of you first-time owners, welcome. We’re glad you’re here. These four basic rules of gun handling are easy to remember and will, if observed, keep you and your family safe.]


Col. Jeff Cooper furthered the cause of general gun safety by distilling and popularizing the four rules of safe gun handling. The purpose was to minimize accidents, otherwise known as negligent discharges (every accidental discharge is a negligent discharge).

There are other variations on the theme, but Cooper’s four rules of gun safety are easy to remember and communicate. You have to break at least two of them for something really bad to happen. Learn and follow the four rules and you’ll eliminate the possibility of touching off a dangerous, perhaps even deadly negligent discharge.

Learn them, live them, love them, and preach them.

1. Every gun is always 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. Even then, you should continue to treat it as a loaded gun.

Safety check every gun immediately when you pick up…even if you had just put it down moments before. Safety check every gun before you put it down or hand it to someone else, 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 clear. If someone says “it’s unloaded” treat the statement as utterly meaningless. It’s not unloaded until you’ve checked it yourself.

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 — treat the firearm as if it’s loaded.

2. Never point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.

If you let your muzzle cover anything like 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 — it can’t (which is why some think this should be the first rule).

Even if you somehow have a negligent discharge — which will only occur if you violate other safety rules — at least it won’t harm man or beast. What’s a safe direction? Anyplace a bullet can’t harm an innocent life should you fire the gun.

Be aware: depending on where you may be, 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.

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

No matter how many media reports to the contrary, guns don’t “go off.”

Yes, there are older guns that aren’t “drop-safe” or guns that are mechanically defective (an extremely rare occurrence), but in virtually every instance in modern times, someone or something has to pull the trigger for a gun to fire.

If you keep your finger (and other things) off of 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 to keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot.

When you pick up a gun, pause. Place your trigger finger in a safe spot (above the trigger on the gun’s frame is good). 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 (DA/SA).]

4. Be sure of your target and what’s beyond 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. You are responsible for every bullet that leaves your barrel.

Always make sure there’s no one down range, or someone about to go downrange. How far down range should you consider? As far as the eye can see — and then some.

A .22 caliber bullet can travel over a mile before losing momentum. Be sure you have an adequate backstop. Don’t forget the possibility of barrier penetration (i.e., there may be people or livestock 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 and competitions 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 firearm safety rules (i.e., don’t drink and shoot) that gun owners should know as well. But master Cooper’s big four and you’ll enjoy a lifetime of safe gun handling. It’s easy and it’s your responsibility.

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        • The training institute I used to attend (I accrued 200+ hrs of professional instructor-led training there before it changed ownership) gave strict recommendations on how to use your real gun for dry fire practice:

          1. Enter into a dedicated room or space, with no ammo in that room whatsoever. If it helps, use color-identified (like spray painted end caps) mags dedicated for dry fire use only.

          2. No matter how unnecessary you may feel this next step is, do it anyway…even if you’re by yourself, audibly say the words “I am beginning dry fire practice now”. Hearing those words helps your brain to prepare, and you’ll find yourself double-checking to be sure you have no ammo present in the room.

          3. Choose a temporary target, such as a Post-It placed on a (ballistically safe) wall. DO NOT choose anything you normally see, such as a light switch. You don’t ever want to pass by a normal object while carrying a loaded gun, and absent-mindedly draw to “dry fire” out of habit. Use only a temporary target your eyes will see only during dry fire practice.

          4. When finished, holster your gun and audibly say the words “I am now finished with dry fire practice.”

          I’ve actually done exactly this, and believe me, it really does work. Cooper’s Rule #1 always applies, but this procedure minimizes the chance of an ND.

        • Oh, and OT, but I just saw this article elsewhere:

          “It appears that [St Louis D.A. Kimberly] Gardner has complete indifference and a conscious disregard for the judicial process,” [Judge Michael] Noble said during a hearing to address the no-shows. “There is sufficient evidence of disdain and disrespect for the judicial process to determine that both Ms. Gardner and Mr. Desilets’ conduct support a finding of indirect criminal contempt. Furthermore, any attorney’s violation of a court’s order constitutes an intentional disobedience and shows a clear intent to disregard the power and authority of the judicial system process.

          “The circuit attorney’s office appears to be a rudderless ship of chaos,” said Noble.

          Glad to see a judge is willing to call her out and hold her in contempt.

      • Unloaded guns are by definition not loaded. You could never clean or dry fire your gun if you handled it like a complete emotional cripple. My six dollar knife from Wal-Mart is infinitely more dangerous than an unloaded gun.

        • How do you verify it’s “unloaded” unless it is verified to be in an unloaded state? Going to take someone else’s word for it? I think you’re missing the global point: can you absolutely know that a firearm is in an inert/ safe state unless you verify it is, like verifying it physically and visually? Ever been distracted mid-task and unintentionally extend past the task item that you left off at? Are willing to pass a weapon in an unknown state (or “should be” unloaded) to somebody that could cause them, you or somebody/ something else immediate harm or death unless you verify it? It’s not a difficult concept.

          Pretty weak argument that your knife is infinitely more dangerous than an unloaded gun.
          An inch of water is 10x infinitely more dangerous than a knife.

        • Steveo,

          The “rule” lists no exceptions (e.g., after checking it yourself).

          That’s my big issue with Rule #1.

          (Do I detect an “Inside Man” reference?)

        • to cgray
          It’s arrogant idiots like you and this “professional” that make us all look bad. By not following rule number one.

        • Not sure why people get so wound up about this. It rather obviously means that “it’s ok, it’s unloaded” or “oops I thought it was unloaded” is never accepted as an excuse for doing something dumb.
          The nuanced part where you personally verify it’s unloaded every time you pick it up and before working on it or dry firing is too much to expect a newbie to absorb, so the rules are all boiled down to something you can teach on day 1 without overwhelming them.

        • I agree. The way it’s written, it sounds like he’s saying you should always keep your guns loaded.

    • I think the better summary of the first rule is: “know the condition of your weapon at all times and treat it accordingly.” But it works as written for teaching novices.

      • As written is MUCH better for novices. It really hammers in the point that mishandling guns can be catestrophiclly bad and they should ALWAYS be handled with the respect you would handle something you KNOW is deadly.

        After some experience handing firearms I’d say:
        “know the condition of your weapon at all times and treat it accordingly.”
        is better written.

      • Oh, I don’t know. There are holes in the houses of a fair number of gun saavy people who were sure their firearm was unloaded when they “dry fired” it. One pal took out one of his old lady’s prized Precious Moments ornaments, another shot “himself” in a full length mirror practicing his fast draw. Can go on further. None of these people ever exhibited unsafe handling characteristics at ranges or while hunting with them. I think the mantra is not “If”, but “when” you have a negligent discharge. Check. Check again. And remember Rule 2 before you squeeze again without checking.

        • I know a few such stories myself. And I would add that the first rule (all the rules) are written for clarity, not nuance. If you assume any gun is loaded, and that maybe a bullet somehow magically wound up in the chamber when you just looked away there for a second, you are unlikely to ever have a problem. You can still dry fire safely with this mindset – and in fact more safely than otherwise, since you’ll stop to clear the weapon pretty frequently, ensuring it is absolutely unloaded. As for cleaning: well once the gun is a disassembled, in my mind it’s parts, not a gun, and the rules kind of lose their meaningfulness when it comes to parts.

      • Watch this and get info from the horse’s mouth. Rule 1 is at apx. 7:30. Just watching one minute will make it crystal clear. Yes, it’s crappy quality. It’s an old video digitized from a VHS or beta tape, which is the only way this video was made back in the day. I got my copy back in the 1980s, and today it isn’t in any better shape. Tape deteriorates with time. But the meaning is still there.

        • Well I just lost a lot of respect for the man. He’s apparently not familiar with his own Rule #2.
          At 7:15, when drawing his gun, he points it right at the cameraman.
          When unloading and reloading it, he passed his hand in front of the muzzle multiple times.
          And at 7:30, when reholstering it, he muzzled his own hand.
          And that’s just 15 seconds of the video.

        • Hey Rich, if you’re going to be a complete asshole in your comments, make sure you’re not completely wrong as well. As he draws and unloads the gun the camera zooms in on him. Are you suggesting a sentient tripod pushed the zoom lever on the camera? Or perhaps that some time traveler gave Cooper a camera with a remote control? There was a person standing behind that camera controlling the camera angle and zoom level.

        • JasonM: Please go watch again, carefully this time. You might note(assuming you have eyes) that the gun is pointing off to the left. No muzzling of the camera, that is just an error you made. Correct it and its no harm. Keep insisting that you are always right, and you will put yourself in the position Plato spoke of when he said:
          “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

        • With the low quality video, it’s hard to determine the exact angle, but it looks nearly straight on at first, before he starts rotating it to the right. I can see his knuckles, but not the back of his hand. The bore axis is high enough that he’d be pointing at the cameraman’s legs. In any case, it’s clearly not just a tripod, as Rich so eloquently claimed.

          Also, the hand in front of the muzzle errors while unloading, loading, and holstering are clear violations of his second rule.

        • But it is in error, and thus the duty to correct the error, no matter how stupid that error might be.
          Let’s face it, there are a LOT of stupid people out there, and they desperately need someone to set them straight. The fact that they don’t WANT to be corrected, like Jason, means nothing, other than that they think they already know everything, so why not just become Plato’s fools that only open their mouths because they need to hear themselves blather?

        • I agree with JasonM. Many of his actions, such as locking the slide back, do include the muzzle crossing his arm or hand. Not just one instance, but several. It is not clear which ones in the video, some may be pointed only close to himself or camera, but I don’t like it.

        • Unfortunately, it *does* appear (and I watched it three times to be sure I saw it correctly) that he muzzled his own support hand when holstering his gun. See mark 7:31.

          That is *not* the way I was trained to present and holster.

      • Your version misses the point. The gun should be treated as loaded, even when you know it is not, for purposes of the other safety rules. Particularly, do not point it at someone else, even briefly, just because you know it is not loaded. That just asks for problems. The point of these rules, as Col. Cooper said, is redundancy – it takes more than one error to destroy something important. Dry fire is OK, checking first, but only in a safe direction such as a cement wall below ground level.

    • Cgray et al,

      I’m pretty much with you. Always loaded, to me, means never dry-firing, except at an appropriate backstop while wearing eyes and ears; never cleaning (would you clean a barrel with a round in the chamber); never unholstering to put in a safe or drawer (especially a problem for apartment dwellers); never drawing to fire while standing on concrete ( the spall issue); etc.

      Yes, for first timers, this rule is possibly useful. Yes, old timers can get complacent (I’ve only had one ND). We PotG frequently explain to the ignorant (and stupid) that guns do not “go off” by themselves. Yet we are supposed to treat them as if they do.

      In my non-NRA class, I say that all guns are loaded until personally verified by you. Again. I echo the comment someone made about always checking.

      I prefer the “finger off the trigger” rule as the primary one. If the trigger isn’t pressed, you should be ND-free.

      (End rant)

    • Aaaand you are a complete and utter moron. Most likely a keyboard commando direct from his mama’s basement. “So Chill Out Francis”.

    • Ever see the movie Tremors where the character Bert Gummer, after handing an unloaded revolver to a teen to motivate them to move faster (long story), immediately checks the revolver when he takes it back?

      Just making sure. For a B movie, and for movies in general, the firearms handling was very good. The actor playing the character insisted on doing things that way.

      • The original Tremors is a classic. The basement scene (climaxing with the elephant gun) is a treat, though I remember thinking to myself “how in the world do they still have their hearing after that battle?”

    • Direct reply to cgray:

      What do you do for a living? I’m hoping that I nor none of the people I love ever have to interact with you. You don’t have an understanding of basic reasoning. Watch videos of the COL and try to learn. It may take some abstract thought processing to comprehend but if you try really hard you may make it.

    • These are the wrong rules. Cooper’s #1 is meaningless. I prefer the NRA’s big 3 rules:
      1: Always keep pointed in a safe direction (although “willing to destroy” is catchier for some audiences).
      2: Always keep finger off trigger and trigger guard until on target (put on frame)
      3: Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use. A gun intended for defense is in use, and a gun’s not unloaded until you’ve checked it if it has left your immediate control.

      Granted, 2 of these are pretty much the same as Cooper’s. His #4 is part of the NRA’s full list, which includes target identification, safe storage, not under influence of drugs/alcohol, proper ammo, knowledge of operation, keep gun in good working order, use eye/ear protection, and there may be other rules for activity or location. NSSF has a bunch of extras, like make sure barrel is clear, don’t rely on mechanical safety, and be careful if you pull the trigger and it doesn’t fire, but I feel they’re specific example of knowledge or operation.

      • I was raised on the Four Rules, so I prefer it above all other formats (I’ve seen other organizations push their own consisting from Three all the way up to Ten).

        But in the end, as long as you practice safe handling and act responsibly, that’s what matters.

      • That’s the way I learned them as well. Although I pretty much switched to thinking of the Colonel’s rules as The Rules because that’s how it’s taught in my area, I still consider “don’t muzzle anything you don’t want to destroy” as a more useful first rule. If a person can only manage to remember *one* rule I’d want it to be that one.

    • As commonly taught you’re right. The complete rule is more like “All guns are loaded unless you’ve cleared them personally since they came under your control”.

      • I have an extension which is more difficult to make up a quick rule about. Basically I won’t handle a gun which I have verified is unloaded, if there is anyone within view who has NOT verified the gun is unloaded. If I am alone, fine, but if someone comes in, family member or not, I will cease whatever I am doing with the gun until everyone is satisfied of their safety. Just seems the polite thing to do.

    • Dude, relax. This is introductory information aimed (pardon the pun) at new gun owners. Obviously dry fire is useful for training, but that comes further down the road. My first dry fire was “snap in” at Marine Corps boot camp. Not a relaxing environment, but we had ammo accountability and made sure our guns were safe before dry firing.

    • I am sorry to say, but who ever is reciting those four rules of gun safety (as stated in this article) is doing a very poor job of conveying the intended message and thought behind these four rules. I believe a less confusing and more correct summary version would be the following:

      1) Treat every gun you touch as if it is loaded and clear the weapon and insure it is safe to handle if not intending to shoot it.
      2) Never point a gun (loaded or otherwise) at anything or anyone you are not intending to kill or destroy.
      3) Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made a conscience decision to shoot.
      4) Be sure of your target and what may be beyond and/or in front of the target.

      In California a couple years back, a deputy sheriff while in his office was shot in the chest and killed by a colleague, who it was said, was showing the deputy his back up weapon. Now just think for a moment, how many of those four rules of gun safety had to be violated in order for this tragic “accident” to happen? Not one or two but all of the first three rules of gun safety had to ignored and directly violated otherwise that deputy would still be alive today. Gun safety has to be practiced every single time you pick up a gun in order to have it become a habit because the one time you fail to so could result in something like what happened in this California Sheriff’s Office. See the news story here:

    • Correct.

      1. /Treat/ every gun as loaded. Show and unloaded gun the same respect as you would with a loaded gun.


      3. Be sure of your target, and what is /in line/ with your target, both /in front of/ and behind your target. Be aware of your surroundings, and what may be in line with your target as you proceed through presentation and trigger press. Someone may have stepped between you and the target from the time that you’ve decided the need to present and ultimately shoot. Be aware of that potential.

    • Schrodinger’s Glock? As long as you don’t open the chamber, you don’t know if it’s loaded or unloaded. But….it’s loaded.

    • Only if you take it Literally, and not figuratively, which was Col. Cooper’s intent.
      One is to Never Assume a gun is unloaded. It’s a Mind Set to develop a Safe Discipline that every gun is loaded until you, have checked and verified that the chamber, magazine or cylinder are empty.
      The original NRA 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety were quite lengthy, overcomplicated and difficult, especially for youngsters, remember. Back when I took my Hunter’s Safety Class in 1969, we were required not only to have them memorized word for word, but to write or recite them in the proper order. Failure to do that meant you failed the class at that time. Cooper’s 4 Rules distilled the 10 Commandments down to short, easily memorized sentences.
      Even after you’ve confirmed a weapon is unloaded, you still keep it pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to dryfire/train, and always make sure there’s nothing beyond your target that could be hurt killed if you screwed up number one.

      Every Gun Accidental Shooting I responded to as a Paramedic, said the same thing when I asked them about the Injury, “I thought the gun was unloaded.”

  1. The most important bit of training is the safe day to day handling of your firearms. We will handle our firearms every day. We will only rarely be involved in a dgu. I haven’t been shot at since the late 80’s. And I do not miss it at all.

    Any training beyond basic handling and safety and a little knowledge of the local laws is all you’ll need if you ain’t a cop or soldier.

    Course if you want to fatten the purse of all those ex ‘operators’ pushing the tactifool mindset, feel free. It’s your money.

  2. And do not argue about which is the most important. They all overlap each other for a good reason. They are all co-equal, and must all be followed. Attempts to find only one rule to follow are just laziness waiting for the chance to become an ‘accident’.
    Also take note of the order. They are also in that order for a good reason. Rule #1 is for before the gun is even touched. Rule #2 is for when the gun is in your hand(s). Rule #3 is for when a target has been identified. Rule #4 is for when the sights are on the target, and the gun is to be fired. There is a progression there that should be obvious.

  3. There’s always a #5. Mine is “Know where tho gun art at all timeths.” Seriously, this bullshit of “i forgot my gun was in there!” is mental negligence of the highest order when dealing with firearms.

  4. A very good instructor (Steve Smith of Asgaard NTG) adds the following to Cooper’s Four:

    #5 If you drop your weapon, DO NOT TRY AND CATCH IT — let it hit the ground and then pick it up.

    This one makes a lot of sense, especially in the context of training/practice where you’re handling a loaded weapon a lot. (He really emphasized it during immoblization drills, where you had to practice drawing from your strong side carry using only your weak side hand, and then shooting / reloading / clearing stoppages with weak side hand only.) Trying to “catch” a falling weapon carries a big risk that you’ll snag the trigger while doing so, probably when the weapon is pointed at some part of you.

    #6 “Most importantly, do not shoot the instructor, because he will shoot back.” Always said with a smile, but I for one never wanted to find out if retired Sgt-Major Smith was less than serious about it.

  5. I’ve seen two very old shotguns and one M60 that fired when the breach was closed due to old age and worn out parts. Thankfully all were pointed in safe direction down range on an actual range so no damage aside from “O S****”.

    As I’ve seen previously it’s the four rules not suggestions.

    • Completely disagree. They form an integrated system. I used to (note USED TO) go target shooting with some guys that were constantly sweeping everything and everyone around them (with truly loaded guns). Constantly finger on the trigger. Prattling about while waving the gun aimlessly about. They knew the gun was loaded and ostensibly knew the rest of the rules too – they didn’t treat them seriously. Assuming a gun is loaded does not automatically mean that a newbie or careless shooter knows what to do with that information.

      • You confirm my point. If rule #1 is ignored then the rest of the rules are disregarded as well.
        if Every gun is always loaded then nobody will point a gun at anything they aren’t willing to destroy
        if Every gun is always loaded then everyone will keep finger off the trigger until sights are on target.
        if Every gun is always loaded then all will be sure of their target and beyond it.
        Very simple to remember for beginners: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS UNLOADED GUN.

        • “You confirm my point. If rule #1 is ignored then the rest of the rules are disregarded as well.”

          True, but that does not make them redundant or otherwise not needed.
          Rules are there for a purpose. Disregarding one, *in a single incident“, may mean the other rules “during that incident” aren’t followed either because the gun fires, but doesn’t mean the others aren’t important. It only means they didn’t matter during that incident.
          Disregarding any of them at the wrong time can make all the others irrelevant at that time. But the rules still serve a good purpose.

        • My son and I went to the range, during a cease fire he went downrange to adjust his target, I discovered his rifle on the rest still pointed downrange at his target, fully loaded (incl chamber) and with the safety off. When cease fire was declared he just stood up and headed downrange. Clearly there were words, but my point is, where in all these rules would that be caught? Gun *was* loaded. He pointed it at his target, which he did intend to shoot. It was a safe direction. On and on, there is no shortcut and quickie rules do not correct every problem.

        • LarryinTX says: ” Clearly there were words, but my point is, where in all these rules would that be caught?”

          Know your target.
          Well, I guess since he was the target, he knew his target, but still…

          And, I spoke too soon. My Browser didn’t save my information for this comment, so obviously there’s still a problem.

  6. Hickock45 does a pretty good job in all his videos. He is contantly checking the status of his firearms, especially pistols. Because while you’re doing stuff and talking to the camera you forget. And since no one has x-ray vision it doesn’t hurt to check the pistols condition when it’s in your hand.

    • That’s always the basic rule at Front Sight Academy in Nevada. No matter which course taken (handgun, shotgun, rifle), every drill begins and ends with chamber checking. It’s done so often throughout every day that I’ve found myself doing it by habit back home even when simply moving or cleaning my guns. Every time I pick one up, I automatically find myself checking…

  7. “every accidental discharge is a negligent discharge”

    That can depend on the gun. I had an old Japanese Arasaka with the safety being a disc behind the action that had to be pressed and rotated at the same time, but if bumped just right it could pop off, which frequently resulted in a shot fired as well. I was out hunting with it, and the ground went out from under my feet; the Arasaka hit a limb of vine maple, and BANG! every deer in the neighborhood was warned. 🙁

    Now unless you want to blame Arasaka for negligence in designing such a silly system, that accidental discharge WAS accidental.

    (I had another one with the same rifle; I was putting the muscle of my thumb against the safety disc to show a friend how it worked, and an idiot kid (college, maybe) whacked me on the shoulder, just right to make me twist the disc with no control… BANG! I suppose I was negligent in demonstrating with a round in, but that was the incident that made me retire the thing to display model status.)

  8. Always looked upon these short rules as the titles for the explanations that follow. Titles are supposed to be brief. Even so, the details can be very brief too, briefer than what the writer here has provided. Don’t see why people fail to comprehend this.

    I treat every gun as loaded. Until I personally clear it and it does not leave my sight and control. Done.

    I never point a gun at something I would not want to destroy. This rule covers you fucking up on that first rule.

    Finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. Yup, not much to add there.

    Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it. Covers all situations including dry fire. I have a safe place to point the thing even in my house.

  9. Grrr…

    I must advocate for 5th “Golden Rule.”

    #5. If you are not sure about the controls on a firearm, DO NOT GUESS… ASK.

    All firearms fundamentally do the same thing, but all firearms’ controls are different. If you are unsure what a lever, or switch, or button might do, don’t guess. Ask somebody. From magazine releases, to slide stops, to charging levers, to decockers, to safeties… all manufacturers put these fire controls in different places and without labels, of course. Don’t guess– ask.

    Be safe (…actual AZ Mort)

    • I was wrong once. Resulted in a neg.
      Mercifully I was also obeying the other rules, so all I did was make a hole in some inert material.
      I never let myself forget that failure.
      I fucked up, and I’m not going to allow myself to sweep that under the carpet.
      I let my fuckup burn in deep.
      I’m a better person for it.

  10. The point of rule one is to create safe habits. One does not have a set of behaviors for loaded firearms and another for unloaded firearms. Unlearning bad habits is the hardest part of training.

  11. I’ve been a gun owner for only 3 years. Everytime I go to the indoor range, I watch the safety video. I can almost recite it.

    My point, we all have our safety routines, but safety should never be routine. It requires thoughtfulness, presence of mind.

    Be safe; savor life.

  12. Also extremely important to secure firearms when not in your hands or on your hip so to prevent unauthorized access by kids.

  13. Rule #2 is misquoted. Cooper’s second rule is: “Never let the muzzle cover anything that you are not willing to destroy.”

    Pointing the gun is an intentional act. “Let the muzzle cover” accounts for intentional acts and also unintentional stupidity.

    Based on what I’ve seen, unintentional stupidity outnumbers intentional pointing by at least 100 to 1, and therefore is probably 100 times more deadly.

  14. Personally I subscribe to the first rule as being: Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
    Obviously that wouldn’t count if you are shooting a bad guy but then that’s considered a safe direction in my view. If the first rule is all guns are loaded, what are you actually doing to adhere to that rule? What are you physically doing? That’s why I subscribe to ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR GUN IS POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION. If you are fooling around cleaning it or doing whatever it is we do, you make sure it’s pointed in a safe direction when you are doing it. The microwave, the fridge the floor is a safe direction, the dog, your kids, your wife (in most cases) is NOT a safe direction. We don’t give a flying bat turd about the floor or the microwave, but if you put a round in your sleeping dog because you had your gun pointed at it after you forgot to clear the chamber and squeezed the trigger….then the person is a BLITHERING IDIOT.

      • possum,

        Is it your contention that MajorLiar and dacian the demented are sleeping dogs? They come on here every day and lie, and we let them. (Just kidding . . . sorta. They do come on here every day and lie, egregiously.)

        • I would not give them the honor of being called a dog.
          You just pissed off a mighty big pack of chihuahuas buddy.

  15. It’s interesting I ran across this subject, because just this morning at the range I had an interaction with two morons. So early this morning I am at my local outdoor range. I am at the shooting bench, shooting a M1A when I hear a vehicle pull up behind me. I continue shooting when a guy walks by me without saying anything and starts to walk down range. I quickly place my rifle on safe and set it down, muzzle in a safe direction. This idiot continues down range and puts up a pistol target and walks back.

    I contact the guy and tell him he needs to inform anyone at the range to “CEASE FIRE” and get acknowledgement when attempting to go down range. His reply, “OH, I didn’t know”. Well common sense is dead, this idiot then starts shooting. From his stance and handling of the pistol, it’s pretty obvious he has no clue. He then turns around with pistol in hand and sweeps me and his friend. I walk over and explain he needs to keep muzzle pointed down range. He the places his left hand over the muzzle and starts to push the slide back with his finger on the trigger. he checks and there is a round in the chamber. I point out he has his hand in front of the muzzle. He responds with another “OH”.

    I decide that no amount of instruction will help this idiot, I gather up my gear, clear my weapons and leave, this way I won’t be present when he negligently blows his fingers off or shoots his friend. I figure not being there will save me lots of time not filling out police statements on how a neg discharge occurred.

    It still amazes me that with all the internet videos and books on firearm handling and safety, people like this are still out there.

  16. Good move to post this. Keep it up for a while. Let’s educate the newbies and refresh ourselves as well. It’s good practice.

  17. The arrogance of some of the above gun owners who refuse to follow all or only some of the basic safety rules, explains why we are our own worst enemy. There are just to many examples of so called “highly trained” gun owners who thought “the gun was unloaded”. Or who thought there was “nothing down range”.

    Gun fail: Cop accidentally shoots himself while testing 38-caliber handgun

    • That cop was actually *given* a gun with a round in it.
      Not excusing his incompetence….but the gun store totally fucked up too.

    • Cop went full fucktard.
      He was so oblivious that he had the gun pointed at other customers as well as himself.
      It is a shame that he didn’t shoot himself in the groin.

  18. #3 is fine for targets on a square range, using a long gun, or when moving with a drawn gun, but lousy for a rapid handgun draw if you’ve decided you have to shoot. If you get the sights lined up and then put your finger on the trigger, you’ve disturbed the sights and now have to reacquire. Speed comes from eliminating unnecessary movement. If you draw and have the gun pointed down range/towards the intended target, you can remove the safety and put your finger in as you bring the gun up to acquire the sights. You can shoot at that point if the target is close and you don’t have time to acquire sights.

  19. Don’t forget the golden rule: Shoot the bad guy (or girl) before he shoots you. And, shoot until the threat(s) is/are completely eliminated.

    No point in having a gun otherwise….

  20. That video was utter shit.
    Not just utter shit, but dangerous, confusing shit.
    The whole point of the 4 rules is to keep it simple.

    1. Always treat firearms as if they are loaded
    2. Never point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to destroy
    3. Finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
    4. Be sure of your target and beyond

    I know the asian dude won a competition, but his work on this video is disgracefully and dangerously bad.

    • Totally agree, these four firearm safety rules are so simple, they should be posted above every gun shop counter. However you are trying to teach a whole generation of people that stand on the side of the highway on their cell phone calling for a tow truck because it was never ever important enough for them to learn how to change a flat tire. Just think about that

      Be warned, these are the same people who don’t have enough common sense to prepare for anything, the same people who got a participation trophy, the same people who live off credit cards !. With more businesses closing from this pandemic these people have no money coming in, shortly will have no food and they will become very desperate.

      For the rest of us, Keep your powder dry, Amen brother.

  21. I’m glad you talked about firearms and the importance of following their safety regulations. Recently, my sister said she’s interested in learning how to use a gun for protection. My sister wants to buy a small gun to keep herself safe when she’s out working late, so I’ll be sure to share your guide with her! Thanks for the advice on always assuming your gun’s loaded.

  22. Thank you for emphasizing the significance of adhering to the four gun safety rules. We should always follow it whatever we do, whether doing gun maintenance or practice. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  23. You immediately made a great point about how you should treat every gun as loaded. While I want to become a firearm owner to protect my family, the last thing I want to do is accidentally fire my weapon and potentially hurt someone accidentally. I’ll avoid that by making that my priority once I start going to a gun and ammo store for training.

  24. Tell it to the kid who pointed the gun at the photographer.

    Even if he/she walked the photo into place, there is no damn good reason for anyone to point the gun up where anyone could have innocently walked into range.

    I don’t want people hear about disabled guns, the rules are the rules because stupid accidents happen.

  25. “For example, aiming a gun at the steel-reinforced corners of a building may be an apartment dweller’s best bet.”

    or…. a lot better…get your self a ‘clearing barrel’ set up.

  26. Long-time acquaintances from high school, Brian Mason (OFWG, POG) said Michelle Elliott told him she wanted a different firearm to have at her household because she felt unsafe.

    Mason said he showed her his 40-caliber handgun and in the process, had an accidental discharge, which struck Michelle in the chest.” He further stated he panicked, covered her body with a blanket and left in his pickup truck, the affidavit said.

    • What’s your point? Obviously you had a stupid friend. What the fuck does that have to do with your stupid handle?

      • Right, because only stupid people break the 4 rules. No way could a regular good ol’ gun owner have a deadly negligent discharge.

        You’re the perfect example of a safety hypocrite.

    • Invented story concept, like a fairy tale, but based upon a ‘generic case’ contrivance that has its roots in at least one case only because at least one case maybe happened somewhere because accidents happen. Its reinvented over time and tailored to the situation. For example, similar accident case concepts (ending in some type of tragic accident) have happened with knives, cars, rebar, poisons, drugs, rope, punches, falling, trains, etc… Sometimes real names are plugged in and some times its an actual case, but its told like it always happens and there can never be anything else involved in accidents except this “thing” (what ever the current thing is, in those case a gun). Its basically the story of “man kind” – that accidents happen, mistakes are made, sometimes people don’t think, unfortunate things occur, and told with a “always dangerous under any situation simply because it exists” type of tone. But its always told to pose some sort of invented ‘moral high ground’ for the person telling the tale and ‘accusatory’ of others.

      Its a typical left wing troll tactic, told like a scary fairy tale narrative concept always presented with the story teller having a self-conceived ‘moral high ground’ stance in their view. In scary fairy tales, they are told to children to scare them and/or warn them of dire consequences if they are not good and do what their parents say – tales of a ‘boogy man will come get you’ types – in this case these stories and concepts about “guns” are related to scare and warn people to create doubt or fear that ‘the boogy man’ (getting shot accidentally or on purpose) “will come get you” if you don’t do what the left wing says and don’t have a gun.

      In some versions:

      1. “Long-time acquaintances from high school, Brian Mason (OFWG, POG) said Michelle Elliott told him she wanted a different firearm to have at her household because she felt unsafe.” …. becomes “Friends said said…”

      2. Person one (‘Brian Mason’) “said” person two (“Michelle Elliott”) “told him” … sometimes person one or person two are female names and sometimes “told him” becomes “told her”

      3. “told him she wanted a different firearm to have at her household because she felt unsafe.” sometimes becomes “told her” (or “said”) “she” (sometimes becomes “he”) “wanted a different firearm” (sometimes becomes “wanted a gun”) “to have at her household because she felt unsafe” (sometimes becomes “because they felt unsafe”)

      4. Its always person one (e.g. ‘Brian Mason’) said/told person two (e.g “Michelle Elliott”) about person three (e.g. “Michelle”, the disconnected from the narrative by “her” then suddenly identified when they get shot in this version) saying they wanted a gun for some reasons (e.g. felt unsafe in this version).

      5. At some point in this tall tale concept encounter person one (“Brian Mason” in this version) whips out a gun to show this person three (e.g. “Michelle”) and ends up shooting them. Then in an apparent act of remorse person one does something ‘caring’ for the deceased (e.g. covers the body with a suddenly handy blanket) and for some reason ‘confesses’ to another person (person one in this case).

      Although various versions may have their roots in actual real world cases – the story is always contrived to fit the specific narrative another wants to portray, which in this case with the name “Safety Hypocrite” intended to provoke responses by trolling to assert some sort of self-serving ‘self conceived’ moral high-ground concept in the argument contention he wants to provoke by trolling and derives some sort of perverse satisfaction from it to satisfy some deep seated emotionally deficient need. And kinda snarky flavor too, sort of like Miner49er snarky flavor.

      • Right!? .40 cal?
        “Michelle Elliott told him she wanted a different firearm to have at her household because she felt unsafe” Different from what firearm exactly?
        “Mason said he showed her his 40-caliber handgun” Is that 40 cal in an OWB or IWB 40 cal? I’m thinking .40 cal may have something to say about a 40 cal handgun.

  27. Elmer Fudd’s First Corollary to Cooper’s First Rule of Gun Safety:

    Treat every shotgun as if it is a lethal weapon even when you presume that it is only loaded with “harmless buckshot.”

    I actually had a scum sucking whore of an attorney argue in court filings that my marijuana bootlegging tenant isn’t a threat to my family because he only loads his shotgun with buckshot.

    Just For Your Information: contrary to presumptions made by many experienced gun owners, buckshot can retain enough energy to penetratrate a human skull at 400 yards. Many people have survived being shot at with shotguns at range only because the pattern spreads out so much that all of the projectiles miss.

  28. I usually don’t add to 4 year old thread’s but I’m a bit of a safety not-c. And it’s rubbed off on the wife. No more muzzling,handing a gat by the barrel(!) or really any careless gat handling at all. And she now wants to shoot my rifle🙃

  29. this is one of those “If I was a millionaire” months
    I would buy a billboard of this and make sure it was posted were Alec Baldwin could see it as he resumes SHOOTING on his movie and then have a firearms safety video shown at theaters that wished to make a few extra buck on the said with that same movie as a showing BEFORE his film!

  30. Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded. Simple enough. Just my take on that. I don’t care if Jesus Christ himself handed me a firearm and said it was unloaded and safe. I would still check it myself and make sure of it.
    Never point a firearm at anything you don’t want/intend to kill. Yes, I said kill. Not put a hole in or even destroy, but kill. Make damn sure both the novice shooter or old pro both understand acknowledge a firearm is a lethal weapon and is used to kill living things if needs be.
    As I saw somewhere a while ago and shamelessly stole” Keep your damn booger hook off the bang switch until you are ready to shoot.”
    Lastly, always know where the bullet is going to go if you miss. Something I always get annoyed about when I read about some officer involved shooting. A full magazine emptied and the suspect only hit once or twice. Where did those other lethal projectiles end up? If the cop was lucky, into the walls or car doors around the area and not into some innocent bystander or sleeping kid in the next room or building. Spray and pray make the cop no better than the thug doing a drive by shooting into someone’s house or car with no regard for anyone else.

    • cops bullets are not liable for where they land. Itsah tuff shit should ducked situation. It’s kinda what it was and what it should be, if I accidentally shutes somebody because I had to shute you, then that’s on you. That’s the way, weigh, way it should be for everyone. It is but them guys that do that are crooks or cops , maybe edit to just crooks, encompassing.
      Let’s Go ,,,,,-kyyyoteee chewing on a cigarette ,,,,,
      Let’s Go Brandon

  31. 1- Dont get caught with a gunm
    2- Make sure what you shuted is dead
    3- Dont get caught with gunm
    4- Skip 2 if you had a bar b q

  32. Those aren’t the Four Rules as handed down by the Prophet of JMB, Col. Jeff Cooper.

    Leave it to the ultra-fudds at the NSSF to put their own anti-rights Redflag spin on the actual firearms safety commandments. The NSSF, just like the NRA, has faaaaar outlived its usefulness to the american gun-owners and anything that comes out of their spokesfudds lips needs to taken with a truckload of road salt.

    • i meant to put, “In the video from the NSSF” at the beginning of this post.

      The text of this article has them listed, obviously. These are the Four Rules and Fudds like the NSSF and their “unload all guns when you aren’t using them” BS have NO place in our big tent changing things around and putting their own redflag BS spin on everything.

      Welcome all new gun owners. Commit Cooper’s Four Rules to memory and engrave them into your heart and soul until following them becomes second nature and anyone breaking them nearby puts goosebumps on your hackles. Live the Four Rules -THIS is the Way.

  33. Unwritten rule: If your crazy neighbor is shooting in his front
    yard, do one of the following:

    1 – install bullet and sound-proof windows and doors.
    2 – move to a place not occupied by questionable foriegn “nationals”
    3 – if you confront him out of frustration due to LE lack of action, be equipped and ready to respond to retaliation by said KNOWN crazy person.
    4 – convince other neighbors to proactively implement the ” shoot
    shovel shush ” scenario

    • That whole scenario is jacked up. The neighbor should have never confronted the shooter. Sad all the way around.

      • And as we speak, Soros talking points are being generated and sent out to paid operatives such as lil ‘d and Minor Irratant, and Moms Demand Attention is loading up a bus load of Mexicans and Hondurans to weep and snivel while telling how they knew the shooter in his youth before he bought his first AssaultingRifle 15 and it turned him into a drunken murderer….film at five

  34. Big proponent of the late Col. Cooper’s Rules. They’ve been drilled into me, and compliance with them, since I was 7. Reading some of the comments, I get the impression that some folks are missing the point. OF COURSE there are nuances to the rules (dry fire, for example – but even that should only be done with a safe aiming point), but they were made simple ON PURPOSE. They were intended to be (i) simple mnemonics for experienced users – a mental checklist if you will – where the experienced brain already KNEW the nuances, the rule was just a reminder, and (ii) a teaching tool for noobs (who DON’T know the nuances, so absolute compliance is their safest course.

    Sure, Col. Jeff could have written Rule#2 as, “Always make sure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, unless you are in the process of cleaning the gun, have verified that it is unloaded, and broken it down so it is no longer operable.” Very memorable and punchy, that iteration. Then it would have served neither purpose. The people who have to have the rules explained to them are EXACTLY the people who should be following them religiously.

    And they are intended to be, as one commenter noted, a system of rules – each complements the others. Experienced shooters know the nuances – and should still ‘violate’ the Rules only with painstaking caution. But the Rules, IF FOLLOWED, and learned/practiced to the point of muscle memory, work. And they work, if used in that way.

    FWIW, I was asked to review a draft novel, that had a section on the Four Rules, that I really thought did a good job. I am promised that the book will be released on Amazon soon. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say too much until my friend publishes, and would probably bore the hell out of you, but since so many have commented on Rule#1, I thought you might find this excerpt interesting:

    “Charlotte began to recite, but I interrupted. “No, I don’t want to know if you memorized them, I want to know if you understand them. What’s the first Rule?” Charlotte recited, “Always treat any gun as if it’s loaded.” As smart as I thought Tran was, I was going to overrule her on this one. “Close, but no cigar. If you ‘treat’ your gun as loaded, that means you don’t believe it’s loaded. That will get you or someone else killed. Your gun IS loaded. All the time. Did Tran show you how to clear your gun?” Charlotte nodded. “OK, clear it.”
    Charlotte did a competent job for a beginner, and properly placed the pistol on the stump that marked our firing line, barrel pointed down range. Giving an approving nod, I asked “What’s the condition of that pistol?” “It’s empty and safed.” I shook my head, “No, it’s loaded.” Charlotte looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I just cleared and safed it!” “Yeah, and you put it down. It’s not in your hand. It’s not under your immediate control. How do you know it’s not loaded?” She still hadn’t pegged where I was going. “Because I just cleared it, put the safety on, and put it down!”
    I nodded and said, “Yep. I did the same thing one time, getting a lesson from a retired Marine. I cleared the gun just like you did. Turns out, this Marine was an amateur magician with a talent for ‘sleight-of-hand’. While he gave me the same lecture I’m giving you, he slipped a live round into the pistol I’d just cleared and didn’t tell me. He kept a close eye on me, so I didn’t shoot my dick off, but he let me prove to him that my pistol was ‘unloaded’ by picking it up, pointing it downrange, and pulling the trigger. When the pistol fired I was so shocked I damn near dropped it. He laughed at me and slapped me upside the head. And taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten. A pistol is ‘clear’ only if it has been under your control since you cleared it.”
    “Even then it’s not ‘clear’ – in a tactical situation, your adrenaline is pumping. You get excited, you try to think ahead, you try to keep situational awareness, you watch for threats – and you miss things. ‘I’m sure I cleared this gun, so I’m safe’ is as stupid as ‘I know I loaded and racked this gun’. Never assume anything. You lay a pistol down and the gun gnomes sneak up while you aren’t looking and load a live round. You load and rack a pistol, and the gun gnomes come along and distract you and drop your loaded mag. Your firearm is in the condition you confirm it is in, while it is in your hand, period. When you are done with a string, and want to check your target, you clear your gun, safe it, put it down pointing down range. When you pick it up again, what’s the first thing you do?”
    Now Charlotte understood where I was going. “I check and clear it.”

    Thought that was a pretty good explanation of Rule#1, and why Col. Jeff DIDN’T quibble with nuances and exceptions.

  35. I thought you made a good point when you mentioned that it is a good idea to take defensive gun training courses. In addition to that, I would think that it would be a good idea to get some kind of case or safe for your gun. This seems like a good way to prevent your kids from accidentally gaining access to your gun.


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