The Four Rules

The Four Rules

Any time the subject of firearms comes up in conversation it’s important to keep safety at the forefront. In the world of firearms there are four rules that all gun owners should live by. There is no room for carelessness when handling a firearm.

Carelessness leads to negligence and negligence to serious consequences.

So what are the four rules?

– Treat every gun as if it is loaded
– Never let the muzzle cover anything you do not wish to destroy
– Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until your sights are on target
– Know your target and what lies beyond and between.

Hopefully, if you are a gun owner you were able to quote those before you read them. If not, please take some time, familiarize yourself with these rules, commit them to memory, and LIVE BY THEM.

Some people add a 5th rule in the middle.

– Keep your weapon on safe until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to fire.

This rule only applies to firearms with manually operated safety’s. I tend to skip over this rule due to the majority of weapons I handle and teach with do not have manually operated safety’s (Glock’s/Revolver’s) The popularity of defensive weapons without manually operated safety’s is consistently growing. The original four rules will ensure safety no matter the weapon, but If the weapon you are handling has a manually operated safety then by all means abide by this rule as well as the others.

Why are they important?

Treat every gun as if it is loaded.

If every-time you handle a firearm you treat it as if it is loaded it will build habits that could save your life of the life of someone you love. Even after checking, checking again, and checking for a third time to ensure the gun is unloaded and empty this does not give you the licensed to goof off with it. There have been countless stories of negligence of people breaking this rule. Assuming the gun is empty and pointing it at friends, family, pets, and even themselves and pressing the trigger only to be met with the harsh reality that in fact the gun was not empty. A split second of negligence can change your entire life. if you refuse not to treat every gun as if it is loaded you are gambling with the lives of those around you.

Never let your muzzle cover anything you do not wish to destroy.

To put it simpler don’t point your gun at anything you are not comfortable shooting. This rule goes hand in hand with the first. Even if you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that your firearm is empty, waving a gun around and pointing it at people is not funny, it’s not cute, it’s dangerous and if practice these shenanigans, allow me to be blunt, you’re an idiot! This rule also has a place is dry fire practice and firearm disassembly. If your firearm requires you to dry fire (pull the trigger with an empty chamber) make sure your muzzle is not covering anything you do not wish to destroy. Point the weapon in a safe direction and ask yourself before you pull the trigger, if the gun does go off am I okay with sending a round through what ever the gun is pointed at?

For all of my dry fire trainers, those of us who spend hours racking our slides, lining our sights, and pressing our triggers with empty guns In the comfort of our own homes. This rule still applies, what ever you are using as your dry fire target make sure it doesn’t share a wall with a bedroom, or a living room, or a neighbors wall. I have my dry fire target posted on my office door in my basement, I know that no one is in the office before I start, and if God forbid there is a negligent discharge during my dry fire practice the only thing on the other side of the door is a wall and a bunch of dirt.

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

I know it’s tempting, it feels so natural, so right, where else does your finger belong if not the face of a trigger? Isn’t that why God gave us pointer fingers in the first place? As tempting as it may be prematurely making contact with the trigger is the most negligent thing you can do while handling a firearm, after all the trigger is what makes the gun go BANG! No matter the location or activity, at the range, un-holstering at night before bed, or If you woken up by the infamous bump in the night, and clearing your house is needed. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until your sights are on target. Your adrenaline will be pumping odds are that a number of things could startle you and if you finger is resting on the face of the trigger, this is the perfect recipe for a negligent discharge.

Know your target and what lies beyond and between.

In case you didn’t know after being fired from a gun, bullets tend to pass through things. Some things easier than others. It’s important to know your target and what lies beyond and between simply for this fact alone. Even if everything goes right, you get a good sight a picture, sights are aligned properly, you press the trigger straight back and to the rear and your shot connects exactly where you wanted to. Odds are your target did not stop that projectile. It has passed though your target and into something or someone else… On the range and in fighting for our life it’s important to do your best to break the tunnel vision and be aware of your surroundings. Taking the extra time to ensure no one is taking a wiz behind your target stand, keeping watch incase the neighbors dog has gotten loose and is about to run into your line of sight, or by far the worse you are in fear for your life, made the decision to draw and drop the monster threatening you and little Timmy is riding his bike on the other side of the street. Know your target and what lies beyond and between.

I’ve taught these rules to countless new shooters, my favorite conversation happened when I taught firearm safety to the Royal Rangers at my church, A group of 8-12 year old boys eager to get their hands on my laser training pistol, squirming in their seats as I do all I can to get the four rules to stick. As I go over the rules for what had to be the 100th time I ask the class the importance of the fourth rule. I young man raises his hand ready to answer. The young man comes from a non firearm household. His answer is quite comical but it proves he understood the rule. He said and I quote “if you are hunting, and you see a deer. But there’s also dynamite behind the deer, you want to wait until the deer passed the dynamite before you shoot. So you don’t hit the dynamite and it doesn’t explode”

Farfetched and comedic but it’s still proved he understood the concept of the fourth rule.

All four rules are equally important, together they guarantee firearm safety in all situations.

There are no accidental discharges or gun “accidents” every single one can be accounted to negligence.

Commit these rules to memory, live by them, put an end the negligence, do not be part of a statistic.


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