Watching TV this morning I saw some crime story cop clearing a room with his gun.  The whole time he was doing it he had his finger on the trigger.  One would assume that the weapon was “off safe” or, more likely didn’t even have a safety.  But that doesn’t matter a damned bit really and here’s why.   Three different times as he and his partner “cleared” the room this guy pointed his weapon at his buddy.  As someone who has been trained in the use of firearms these scenes make my skin crawl and you see it happening all of the time on television.  Of course, they’re just actors and it was just a fictional show but you would expect some level of professionalism from them.  I mean, really…

The NRA says that there are 4 rules to gun safety but really, there are only three.  Interestingly, none of the rules involve unloading the weapon and only the fourth, the one that I say doesn’t matter, involves the guns physical safety button.

1) Treat all guns as if they are loaded.  This is because they _should_ be loaded.  A gun without ammunition is useful for a very few purposes which include, trotline weights, party balloon anchors and… umm.. not much else, really.  I mean, you could probably club someone with it but if you’re going do that you might as well pick up a baseball bat instead… better reach.   At the end of the day, all guns should be loaded and ready to fire unless you’re using them for something other than what they were designed for.  In some cases, maybe not.  In some cases you need for a gun to be “safe” so you unload it to help with that but that’s all it is, a help.  Which, actually, brings me to a second pet peeve.  Don’t ask me if a gun is loaded.  My answer will always be “yes”.  Even if I unloaded it 5 minutes ago.   I mean, you’ve got the dang thing in your hand right?  Open the breech and look.  That way you’re not depending on me for your safety.  Open it, Look.

2) Never point a weapon at something that you don’t intend to shoot.  This is probably better said as “Never point a weapon at something that you don’t’ mind shooting, killing, destroying or otherwise maiming” because a gun is a physical thing.  It ALWAYS points somewhere.  The trick is to only point it at things that you don’t mind losing.  That means a target, or the ground, or the sky but not your foot. When you pull that trigger it’s going to fire.  Make sure that when you do, no matter what, it’s pointed somewhere safe which is to say, make sure that it is always pointed somewhere safe.

3) Never put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire.  Seriously.  No shit.  All guns are loaded.  All guns are always pointing somewhere.  The trigger is the part of the gun that makes it go bang.  Even 5 year olds know this. So… don’t touch it.  Ever.  Guns these days do not “go off” without warning.  You can cock my Sig Sauer P229 and throw it out the window while doing 70 miles an  hour and it won’t do anything more than bounce merrily down the highway until it comes apart… or stops.  It won’t go off.  In order to fire a round from it, you MUST pull the trigger.  My handgun has been modified to have a lighter than normal trigger pull when cocked.  That means that while you might “rest” your finger on the trigger of a BB gun you’d damned well better not do it on a real weapon.  Trigger “travel” or the distance that you have to move a trigger to cause a gun to fire is highly variable but it’s always something less than a half inch.  Usually it’s a tiny fraction of an inch. Trigger “pull” or the amount of pressure that you have to apply to the trigger to cause it to travel is almost almost always less than 7 pounds but, again, this is highly variable.  With my gun cocked it takes less than 3 pounds of force to cause it to move.  With it uncocked, it takes six.  That’s almost nothing.   DON’T TOUCH IT.

4) The most used and least “safe” part of a gun.  The safety is just that a safety, a backup, a last ditch effort to keep you from killing yourself.  It only comes into play when you break one of the other rules and it’s completely fallible.   Safety’s are not safe to begin with and the more you depend on them to be something that they’re not intended to be the less safe they become.  It’s a useless feature.  Heck, they’re so useless (and so dangerous) that many manufacturers have stopped installing them altogether.  Our Sig’s are a good example of that.  As I said, it won’t fire unless you pull the trigger but if you DO pull the trigger it’s going to fire.  No matter what.  There’s no backup, I’m a moron, safety switch.   If your gun has one, hey cool, use it.  It’s a good back up but don’t dare assume that it’s going to work.  Ever.

So here’s the short form of the safety rules:

1) Yes, it’s loaded.

2) Don’t point that thing at me.

3) Do you want me to break that finger?

4) What safety?

Safety Last

6 thoughts on “Safety Last

  • May 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    In my teens a buddy came home from Basic Training and was showing his cousin (a friend of mine) some bayonet drills with a .22 rifle. You know the rest of the story.
    What you’ve written needs to be emphasized again and again and again and again and…

  • May 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Yeah, my favorite thought around this is that “A weapon’s safety button is a lot like a condom. Nice when it works but life changing when it doesn’t”

  • May 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Dude! A proper salute takes all of 10-20 seconds to learn and 95% of actors can’t get that right. You want proper firearm handling? 🙂

  • June 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Isn’t it curious that the most staunch supporters of gun control are those actors that glorify the misuse of the firearms and don’t take the few minutes it takes to learn what you so succinctly wrote. I have been around guns my whole life and started shooting at 4. I learned all the rules of safely handling a gun at 4. I guess it is too much to ask an actor to be smarter than a 4 year old.

  • July 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    One of the first things San Antonio College Law Enforcement Academy teaches in Phase III (Tactics and Firearms) is don’t shoot your partner. Some learn and keep it forever. Some forget it fairly quickly and then wonder why the only job they can get is security guard at a plant where they work with no partner.

    The worst thing I have ever heard was an academy graduate, commissioned law enforcement officer who shot herself (and ultimately died from her wound) while trying to force her Glock into its case while fully loaded with duty rounds. Seems she was trying to get it to fit into the case backwards and applied force which caused the retaining post to put enough pressure on the trigger to fire the weapon. Scary part is that she had been on the job for 3 years.


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