The Four Rules

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Legman688
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The Four Rules

Postby Legman688 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:00 am

Okay, I first dashed this off five years ago when I was going to take Miss Carolyn to the range for the first time. I have a couple liberal friends up in Alaska who may be having their first experience with firearms soon, and I KNOW I have a young lady here in TX who wants me to take her to the range soon. So I will be emailing it off to people again soon, so I thought I would run it past everyone here for their critique and perusal. PLEASE offer constructive criticism if you see things I missed, misunderstood, explained poorly, etc.

The Four Rules of Gun Safety (Legman's annotated version).

1. ALWAYS TREAT EVERY GUN AS THOUGH IT WERE LOADED. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Always assume every gun has ammunition in it and can go off, and treat it as such. Even if someone tells you it isn't loaded, verify for yourself. This is called "clearing" and it works differently for every gun. And no, it's not rude to clear a gun even if someone just told you it's unloaded - in fact, it's considered polite, because it shows you're concerned with their safety as well as your own. Now, obviously, as a practical matter, it's impossible to obey this rule 100% of the time, because it would make cleaning and dry-firing practice impossible. That being said, those are the only two circumstances when you don't adhere 100% to this rule. The rest of the time, even if you've cleared a gun and know it's unloaded, you still treat it as though it were, because it's simply good practice, and prevents falling into a potentially deadly bad habit. If you are dealing with a gun that you don't know how to clear, it's best to just leave it alone.

2. NEVER POINT A FIREARM AT ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO KILL OR DESTROY. This one is also sometimes written as "Always keep firearms pointed in a safe direction," which is what you actually do, but I prefer the phrasing above, because it really impresses on people the consequences of not following this rule. This doesn't just mean intentional pointing. You have to be aware of where the muzzle is and where it's pointing at all times, and keep it pointed in a safe direction, even when clearing or cleaning it. This safe direction is also referred to as 'downrange' sometimes, but that's only if you're at a shooting range. Up at the sky and down at the ground are also usually safe directions to point the weapon if you aren't at a range. If you pay close attention to these first two rules, you'll notice that they're redundant. As long as you never break both at the same time, even if you have an Accidental or Negligent Discharge, no serious harm will be done - which does not mean it's ever acceptable to break them, but it does permit cleaning and dry-firing as described above.

3. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU'RE READY TO SHOOT. Don't even put your finger inside the trigger guard until you've taken the safety off and are prepared to shoot at the target. Modern safety systems built into guns are very good at preventing accidental discharges - you can drop them, run them over, bang on them with a hammer, and they won't go off - until the trigger is pulled. Probably 98% of all accidents occur as a result of people breaking this rule. So keep that trigger finger straight, and resting alongside the trigger guard until you're prepared to shoot.

4. ALWAYS BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT. At a shooting range, the targets will be clear, and there is an ample backstop, but, for example, hunters in the woods must make sure that their target is in fact a game animal, not another hunter. Also, it is important to make sure of what is beyond the target, that the bullet will be stopped by the terrain, and that there are no people or other valuable things beyond.

Always remember - the best safety in the world is the one between the shooter's ears.
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cu74
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby cu74 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:39 am

My personal version of Rule Three is, "Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot". It's just too doggone easy to "bump" that trigger if you have your finger inside the trigger guard. IMHO, the proper placement of the trigger finger is finger extended straight out and indexed on the side of the receiver/frame.
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby JohnOC » Tue Nov 02, 2010 7:46 am

Food for thought on rule 1 here. I'm not sure I agree with him about the severity of the problem, or if it applies specifically to the way you have stated rule 1 in your post.

I like to think of rule 1 as creating a 'safety mindset.' More of a reminder to treat the firearm with respect and to pay attention to what you are doing at all times with it, rather than an inviolable rule with exception a for dry firing and exception b for cleaning.

Restating the rule is harder, because rules like that are easier to memorize if they are short and punchy, like a midget boxer.
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby randy » Tue Nov 02, 2010 1:32 pm

The variation of rule 3 I use is "Finger off the trigger until sights are on the target".

Basically I train to never have my finger on the trigger until my sights are on the intended target, and to remove my finger (usually index along the slide/receiver) as my weapon comes off target (such as going to low ready or holstering).

It's something I've practiced so much (easy to do with an unloaded weapon at home) that it's automatic, and I often don't notice the movement when on the range.

(I've also practiced with a BHP so long that folks have told me that they see me sweeping my thumb up/down as if sweeping a safety on/off when shooting a Glock. One of many reasons I won't own a pistol with a slide mounted safety or decocker)
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Evyl Robot
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby Evyl Robot » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:17 pm

I have a couple liberal friends up in Alaska


They actually have those there? Well, I have a conservative friend that just moved out of San Fransisco. I suppose anything is possible...

As to the original question. Looks good to me overall. I agree with the others about the small clarifications, but other than that, I'd say you're golden. Have fun and be safe!

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Erik
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby Erik » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:30 pm

Legman688 wrote:1. ALWAYS TREAT EVERY GUN AS THOUGH IT WERE LOADED. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Always assume every gun has ammunition in it and can go off, and treat it as such. Even if someone tells you it isn't loaded, verify for yourself. This is called "clearing" and it works differently for every gun. And no, it's not rude to clear a gun even if someone just told you it's unloaded - in fact, it's considered polite, because it shows you're concerned with their safety as well as your own. Now, obviously, as a practical matter, it's impossible to obey this rule 100% of the time, because it would make cleaning and dry-firing practice impossible. That being said, those are the only two circumstances when you don't adhere 100% to this rule. The rest of the time, even if you've cleared a gun and know it's unloaded, you still treat it as though it were, because it's simply good practice, and prevents falling into a potentially deadly bad habit. If you are dealing with a gun that you don't know how to clear, it's best to just leave it alone..

Even if you are dryfiring your gun, i think you should still regard it as loaded. Which means you dont dryfire at something that you absolutely dont want to shoot, like the TV or the cat. You dryfire at something that can take the hit if a live round should suddenly appear in the gun. Even when cleaning I follow this rule as much as possible, but I guess once it's fieldstripped it's not technically a "gun" anymore.
When I have helped instructing newbies at the club I always start with this. We also make it a point to always clear the gun ourselfes and we teach others the same thing. If you show a gun to someone, you clear it in their view so they can see it's clear. If you hand over a gun, you clear it in their view and then they clear it for themselfes when they have it. I've cleared a gun that a beginner had just cleared and placed on the bench, and I pointed out that it was not that I didn't trust her, it's just that you should always clear a gun that you haven't seen cleared. I even clear my guns when taking them in and out of the gunsafe. Like JohnOC says, it's a "safety mindset".

Legman688 wrote:2. NEVER POINT A FIREARM AT ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO KILL OR DESTROY. <....> This safe direction is also referred to as 'downrange' sometimes, but that's only if you're at a shooting range. Up at the sky and down at the ground are also usually safe directions to point the weapon if you aren't at a range.

I have to disagree here. The sky is not a safe direction. If you fire a shot in the air, you have no idea what it might hit when it comes down. Even if you're out in the middle of the woods, there might be a hiking trail where the bullet comes down. The only reason to point to the sky is if you are trying to shoot something in a tree or the air, and you know the area behind it is safe.

Legman688 wrote:3. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU'RE READY TO SHOOT. Don't even put your finger inside the trigger guard until you've taken the safety off and are prepared to shoot at the target. Modern safety systems built into guns are very good at preventing accidental discharges - you can drop them, run them over, bang on them with a hammer, and they won't go off - until the trigger is pulled. Probably 98% of all accidents occur as a result of people breaking this rule. So keep that trigger finger straight, and resting alongside the trigger guard until you're prepared to shoot.

This has caused me a bit of problems lately. I tell the beginners this to stress safety, that "sights on target= finger on trigger, sights off target = finger off trigger". This is easy to teach and easy to grasp.
However, when trying to shoot ISSF style or fieldshooting, this is something that you not necessarily do. When you're on the line and the Stand by or Fire command has been given, you hold the gun in a 45degree angle and take up some slack before raising the gun, to save time on target. As a beginner, there's really no need for this, and it's not advicable to even try before they get a feel for the trigger. But once they get a bit more comfortable it's better if they try doing it that way. But it does violate the rule, and therefore makes it a bit awkward to teach. You can of course argue that you are technically "on target" at that point, but still.
Legman688 wrote:4. ALWAYS BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT.

This is why I dont consider the sky as a safe direction. :) Unless you know the area where the bullet will drop down is safe.
Another thing that's easy to forget is ricochets. In some places there might be rocks in the backstop, or if you are shooting metal plates the bullet will not magically stop when it hits the metal. It might bounce away in another direction, and might hit something there.
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skb12172
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby skb12172 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 4:41 pm

A few thoughts...

4. ALWAYS BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT. At a shooting range, the targets will be clear, and there is an ample backstop, but, for example, hunters in the woods must make sure that their target is in fact a game animal, not another hunter. Also, it is important to make sure of what is beyond the target, that the bullet will be stopped by the terrain, and that there are no people or other valuable things beyond.

Always remember - the best safety in the world is the one between the shooter's ears.



My deer hunting escapade last year ended prematurely because of an idiot on public lands who didn't follow this rule. While up a tree in a deer stand, I accidently made some noise and a bullet "whanged" into the tree trunk near me. It's common knowledge that deer do not climb trees. Since there was at least one person in the woods who lacked that essential knowledge, I decided to go home and call it a season.

My personal version of Rule Three is, "Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot". It's just too doggone easy to "bump" that trigger if you have your finger inside the trigger guard. IMHO, the proper placement of the trigger finger is finger extended straight out and indexed on the side of the receiver/frame.
My personal version of Rule Three is, "Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot". It's just too doggone easy to "bump" that trigger if you have your finger inside the trigger guard. IMHO, the proper placement of the trigger finger is finger extended straight out and indexed on the side of the receiver/frame.


This is a biggie for me. One of my biggest, personal gripes. I was so happy to see in George Romero's "Diary of the Dead," that everyone from the college girls up to the "black militia" was following this rule. Of course, the leader of the militia was supposed to be a National Guardsman, so it stands to reason. Still, we're talking Hollywood here, so give him props.
There must be an end to this intimidation by those who come to this great country, but reject its culture.

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Re: The Four Rules

Postby arctictom » Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:01 am

We have a live and growing group of libs in Alaska , If we get the Fed's out of the state it would help reduce it to a reasonable number. And maybe get an open season on them.

Gun always pointed in a safe direction.

Finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Know your target.

The gun is loaded, ( unless it is proven).

I drill these in to new shooters and you will need to reinforce them , again and again .

Good luck and make sure to have fun as-well.
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby Aglifter » Wed Nov 03, 2010 6:07 pm

+1 on the sky not being a safe direction. (Well, it is for a shotgun loaded w. birdshot, but that's about it.)
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby Legman688 » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:23 am

Thank you all for the value-added input! First person I ended up sending it to was actually someone I knew from college in Iowa who ended up teaching in Houston, married a cop, and he recently took her to the range for the first time and she was rather freaked out, not unlike Breda's first time.

Agreed that the sky is not a safe direction, Mythbusters' results notwithstanding. I noted that when I posted it, but decided to leave it in and get other opinions.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, should I post the edited version to the wiki?
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Re: The Four Rules

Postby PawPaw » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:13 pm

The Colonel's four rules have been an endless source of discussion since he promulgated them. They are a good starting point for discussion and are easily remembered.

They are perhaps his greatest legacy to the shooting community.
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