Pistol Safety Golden Rules


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pinghat
January 19, 2013, 05:57 AM
Hey guys,

Im pretty new to firearms/pistols and I know there is ALOT of info online about pistol safety, but I thought I could ask you directly. What are some of your "golden rules" regarding general pistol safety?

Thank you.

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davidalyn
January 19, 2013, 07:04 AM
I did not not write these rules, but have lived by them for longer than I care to remember.

My remembrance of Jeff Cooper's four general Firearms Safety rules:

1. All guns are always loaded (treat all guns as if they are loaded regardless whether there is any ammunition present)

2. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

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

4. Know your target and what is behind it.

JTQ
January 19, 2013, 10:01 AM
Here is an NSSF video explaining those four rules, and other safety tips.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK8Cb9zIK60

pinghat
January 19, 2013, 05:20 PM
Thanks for all the info guys. Much appreciated.

OptimusPrime
January 19, 2013, 05:33 PM
Stay safe.
Have fun.
Stay safe.

Drail
January 19, 2013, 09:03 PM
For a start just try to remember "always loaded" and "where am I pointing it?". ALWAYS loaded.

MikeJackmin
January 19, 2013, 09:06 PM
Be aware that the act of putting a handgun INTO a holster is potentially a dangerous moment. An unattended finger left covering the trigger with be pressed against the trigger by the edge of the holster, potentially causing it to fire. This can result in a particularly ugly and dangerous wound to the thigh, which can be fatal if the femoral artery is damaged.

Develop a rigorous habit of keeping your trigger finger straight as the pistol is slid into the holster. It's also wise to slide it in smoothly, don't jam it down.

The generic term for this sort of accident is 'glock leg', but most handguns will be dangerous if they are mishandled in this way.

dmazur
January 19, 2013, 09:28 PM
Here are a couple -

1. Some pistols have a "magazine safety" to handle the problem of leaving a round chambered after you drop the magazine, but many do not.

A local police department rangemaster was explaining their "clearing pipe" and that, as officers carried their pistols loaded, they had to unload and show clear by pulling the trigger on their pistol while its muzzle was in the clearing pipe.

Apparently an officer would get confused, rack the slide and then drop the magazine. This resulted in a discharge in the clearing pipe a couple of times a month...

So, pistols are not unloaded just because the magazine has been removed. (Rule 1).

2. I also read of a gun show accident where someone managed to open the bolt on a hunting rifle to "clear" it, closed it and then pulled the trigger. Shot someone. The extractor had failed, and while the bolt came back, the round stayed in the chamber.

So, guns aren't unloaded just because you ran the bolt. And, just because you think it is unloaded doesn't make it OK to point it at someone. (Rule 1 and Rule 2).

The Lone Haranguer
January 20, 2013, 12:23 PM
There are a number of other rules besides Jeff Cooper's four, but those apply to all situations at all times, while the others are situational or vary with type of gun.

MedWheeler
January 21, 2013, 08:06 AM
Post 2 covers the basics. In a nutshell, don't pull the trigger when doing so would be a bad thing.

Now, to expand on that, you will need to be familiar with those cited concepts in post 2, and with whatever weapon you are handling.

Regarding Rule 1, I phrase it as "Any gun you come into contact with is loaded until you yourself unload it or verify its unloaded status. To do that, you will need to be familiar with its Manual of Arms. Once you turn your back on it, it becomes loaded again."

Regarding Rule 2, I expand it to include ".. not willing to destroy or see killed."

Regarding Rule 3, I expand to read "..off the trigger and outside the trigger guard."

Regarding Rule 4, I expand to read ".. know your target and what is behind or beside it."

dogrunner
January 21, 2013, 10:29 AM
I'll add that you will.........that's WILL..........sooner or later have an unintended discharge. I don't care how many rules you memorize or just how much 'training' time you engage, it will at some point, happen to you.

Probably the most effective way to ensure that you don't do harm is to train yourself into a constant state of muzzle awareness........hell yes, they're 'alway's ' loaded, like John Wayne's character said an unloaded gun ain't good for anything. Sooner or later, it's gonna go off, but if you ingrain a cautionary handling philosophy you are at best, not going to harm anyone.

Believe me, I have seen it all. I was a LEO/CLEO for way over 30, a certified FTO by both my State and the NRA. I've personally noted everything from holes in vehicles, walls, feet and torso's.........I recall one wherein an officer touched one off from her Glock that went thru a PD building wall and cipped another officer in a parking lot in both lungs and nicked his heart......another wherein a young deputy will never walk again as a foolish companion grabbed that Glock from his belt while horsing around.......he has no base to his spine now!......................and on and on and on. In EVERY instance wherein damage or injury occurred, the simple issue of muzzle awareness was the deciding factor!

Take it for what it's worth, but remember, sooner or later it's gonna go off when you did not intend it.

MikeJackmin
January 21, 2013, 10:36 AM
I'll add one more point - extractors fail, and many guns will continue to run just fine without them. The remaining pressures in the barrel will often extract the fired cases just fine.

Why does this matter? Because too many people will 'clear' a chamber by just blindly racking the slide back and forth a few times. If the extractor is broken, this does nothing. A chamber is not clear until you either eyeball it, or stick a pinky finger in there to verify it by feel.

Some pistols, notably the Beretta 950, do not even _have_ extractors.

My habit for clearing a pistol is to drop the mag, lock the slide open, and then take a moment to actually look inside. I refuse to be surprised, ever.

Ramone
January 21, 2013, 10:51 AM
Two 1911 type I would recommend-

Most Retention type holsters require an additional effort in the last bit of travel to seat the pistol properly. At this point I 'pinch' the hammer and the top of the grip safety with thumb and forefinger (Thumb on hammer holding back, keeping it from falling, forefinger holding the grip safety in the 'Safe' position) to seat the pistol that last bit.

As the thumb safety is against the body, it is possible (especially with extended/enlarged safeties) for it to disengage when you are moving around a lot. I check it when it occurs to me, by placing my forefinger under the hammer (blocking it from falling) while swiping the safety off/on with my thumb.

With the exception of bathroom rules (more about that in a second), if I remove a pistol from my holster, I clear it.

I never hand it to someone without the slide locked back.

I never hand it to an idiot- in a perfect world, those coworkers/acquaintances that are idiots, don't even know I am carrying. Actually, in perfect world, there wouldn't be any idiots.

I have a lock box in my car, and I use it when I don't feel a pistol is safe in a particular place, or prohibited by law (like a bar), and I have a satchel ( man-bag, murse, whateva) for places like the beach, where I can't carry concealed on body, but might not want to leave it in the car.

When using the head, I remove the pistol from the holster and if there is no ledge to place it on, I simply let it rest in the hammock of my dropped trousers- in this (hopefully) well controlled environment, for this short time, I do not clear it. Likewise, if I am just unholstering to change pants, I do not clear.

I try to rotate my carry ammo every range trip (every week or two, usually) firing at least my 'in pistol' mag, and I occasionally check for 'set back' by simply standing up my ammo on a flat surface, and sighting across the tops with a straight edge. rounds that show 'short' get put in the bottom of the mag, and I have found that if I stick to better quality ammo, while I do sometimes see a shorter round, it is never so bad that I am concerned about it's fitness.

edited to add:

I also talk myself through clearing a pistol
<drop mag> "mag- check"
<rack slide> "slide-check"
<inspect chamber> "clear- check"
<close slide, lower hammer> "hammer- check"

On the overnight, it sits beside in condition three ( mag inserted, chamber empty ) hammer down. I never lower the hammer on a loaded chamber, so my visual indicator is Hammer down= Empty Chamber, Hammer Back= loaded.

dbp
January 21, 2013, 11:18 AM
Keep in mind even though you might shoot a bad guy out of self defense. He will get a free lawyer. The family will say he was a nice kid who made a few mistakes however was trying to go straight. Be prepared to go broke.
What does this have to do with the OPs question of pistol safety?

If I were to take your remark to it's logical conclusion I wouldn't even carry a weapon. I mean if it is inevitable that we go broke if we have to shoot someone in self defense, who could afford that. Why, I may not even get out of bed again -- too risky. :)

ATLDave
January 21, 2013, 12:15 PM
I mean if it is inevitable that we go broke if we have to shoot someone in self defense, who could afford that.

Without adressing the relevance of the point to this thread, the heuristic offered is not a bad one. If you're not willing to go 100% broke for pulling the trigger in SD, then you probably are not in a situation where you are entitled to pull the trigger.

dbp
January 21, 2013, 01:35 PM
Without adressing the relevance of the point to this thread, the heuristic offered is not a bad one. If you're not willing to go 100% broke for pulling the trigger in SD, then you probably are not in a situation where you are entitled to pull the trigger.
Not to be argumentative, but If I am in a situation where I am "entitled" to pull the trigger, i.e., to save a life - then I shouldn't have to worry about the inevitability of going broke to defend myself in a court of law. However, I do recognize the possibility of facing a lawsuit brought by either the person I shot or a family member.

What I refuse to do is buy into the mindset that it is inevitable that I will go broke because I defended a life.

Mainsail
January 21, 2013, 02:09 PM
I'll add that you will.........that's WILL..........sooner or later have an unintended discharge.

That's the most ridiculous statement I've read on this or any other forum. If I believed that nonsense I'd sell every gun I own and join the anti-gun groups to get them all outlawed. You're claiming that guns are too dangerous, or people are too stupid (or both), to prevent a firearm from discharging unintentionally.

For a start just try to remember "always loaded"... ALWAYS loaded.

All guns are NOT always loaded. Anyone who makes this statement is a liar, and is doing more to make themselves unsafe than they realize. Do you clean your loaded gun? Do you function check your loaded gun? I think not. So your actual claim is that all guns are always loaded except when...

Making exceptions to an absolute is a recipe for disaster. Where do you draw the line? A rule by its very definition must be inviolate or it's not a rule.

Imagine you're teaching a novice that 'all guns are alwyas loaded' and yet they see you cleaning, function checking, or demonstrating it. What message are you sending? You're telling the novice that 'all guns are always loaded unless you're an expert like me and then you can be more casual about gun handling. Then BANG.

If you have to make exceptions to your 'rule' you're making it a mere suggestion with no bright line. The bright line is bright because it makes you uncomfortable when you approach it, and downright nervous when you're standing on it.

1. All guns are handled as loaded until you confirm for yourself it is not. This means if it leaves your hand even for a moment you reconfirm its status.
2. The gun, regardless of whether it's loaded or not, is always pointed in a safe direction when handling it.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
4. Be sure of your target and what's behind it.

dogrunner
January 21, 2013, 04:01 PM
Mainsail, there's only two types of gun handlers.........those that HAVE had an unintended discharge, and those that WILL.


You can rest assured that I don't like making that call, but that call is precisely why I stress that the one, unbreakable rule is relative to the muzzle!

And remember, I am not talking about the novice.......usually those types, if there's anything upstairs to begin with, are likely more safety concious....the folks that get so familiar with that everyday tool are, in my personal experience, at a greater risk...........

Dangereous......damn straight, like the Russian said, "Is gun, Is dangereous".

I did not utter the sentimiments in my post lightly, I am MORE than just an experienced shooter and LEO....I'm also a military vet, shot competitivly there, and I stand on my comment. If it hasen't happened to you yet, thank that guardian Angel..........likely it will!


Ridiculous? There are those that will in truth admit to such an event, and those that choose silence......


And, Oh yeah, if you have the thing in your hand and sweep me with it, IT'S LOADED!

dmazur
January 21, 2013, 04:02 PM
All guns are NOT always loaded.

Correct. While Col. Cooper's "exception" isn't often noted, he did state -

RULE 1
ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED

The only exception to this occurs when one has a weapon in his hands and he has personally unloaded it for checking. As soon as he puts it down, Rule 1 applies again. - Cooper's Commentaries v. 6 no. 2

And it can be a subject of heated debate that Cooper's Four Rules don't say this. And, I'm sure there are published examples which omit it.

But it is common sense. And Cooper did intend it to be a recognized exception to Rule 1. (Well, the only exception.)

IMO, what isn't realized, even by those espousing a common sense application of Rule 1, is that Cooper's exception is very limited. As soon as the gun isn't in your control, even for a moment, Rule 1 applies again.

tipoc
January 21, 2013, 08:09 PM
The 4 rules were devised to be simple and easy to remember. Col. Cooper was pretty far from a fool and he well knew that there are certain exceptions, stipulations, provisos etc. to each of the 4.

1. All guns are always loaded.

2. Do not point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger till you are ready to shoot.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Now he could of added all those situational provisos to the rules but that would have muddied up the simplicity and clarity. The simplicity is one of their main attributes.

All guns are NOT always loaded. Anyone who makes this statement is a liar, and is doing more to make themselves unsafe than they realize. Do you clean your loaded gun? Do you function check your loaded gun? I think not.

Some can get emotional, as you can see above, that each of the 4 is too simple. Cooper figured that folks could think for themselves so the 4 are blunt and to the point, easy to remember. Simple tools usually work best. What situational provisos are needed folks will be aware of as they are obvious.

The 4 rules interlock and are mutually supportive. If one rule is over-ridden the others are still operative and so keep things safe.

tipoc

ATLDave
January 21, 2013, 09:21 PM
What I refuse to do is buy into the mindset that it is inevitable that I will go broke because I defended a life.

That's not the point. The point is that you should only pull the trigger in situations where going broke is preferable to the consequences of not pulling the trigger. It's a decision-making heuristic, not a statement of what one deserves. After all, deserve's got nothing to do with it. Nor is it necessarily a prediction. It just illustrates how desperate one needs to be before that trigger gets pulled.

dmazur
January 22, 2013, 02:15 AM
Cooper figured that folks could think for themselves so the 4 are blunt and to the point, easy to remember.

Except that, there was enough concern over Rule 1 that he wrote an exception for it, as I explained above.

It was written directly below the Rule in the commentary I cited.

IMO, it is a short description of a "common sense" application of Rule 1, with the important note that it is limited by your possession following the inspection. As soon as you put it down, it needs to be inspected again...

This clarification, though written by Cooper, is often ignored.

hovercat
January 22, 2013, 10:18 AM
Really, rule #1 is all you need. Everything else follows.

tuj
January 22, 2013, 10:24 AM
The gun is always loaded, until you have VISUALLY VERIFIED it is not. Verify and verify again.

Finger off the trigger until sights are on the target.

Never point the gun at anything you wouldn't be willing to shoot.

surferdaddy
January 22, 2013, 12:29 PM
I have 5 basic rules that I follow religeously. The four which many are familiar with and a fifth which I almost learned the hard way. Rule #5 of 5, never...EVER attempt to catch a dropped gun. Catching a dropped firearm is instinctual, these things are to be handled with care after all. They are expensive! They are our companions. But if it is dropped, and you go to grabbing it, most, if not all, the other 4 basic rules are tread upon.

Surfer

Skribs
January 22, 2013, 12:31 PM
Get a quality holster that won't allow you access to the trigger guard. Flimsy holsters or holsters that do not cover the trigger provide poor safety. The holster is a combination carrying device and safety device. Treat it well.

When holstering, make sure your shirt is clear of the holster so it doesn't get caught in the trigger. Make sure the strap (if applicable) is clear.

The big thing to remember about the four rules is that they always apply. They create safety by overlapping. Don't point a gun at someone because "I checked, it's empty" and don't forget to keep your finger off the trigger just because it's pointed in a safe direction.

One thing someone else on this forum said in another thread: don't get so wrapped up in knowing what you do, that you forget to do what you know.
In other words, just knowing the rules is pointless if you don't practice them.

303tom
January 22, 2013, 12:38 PM
I did not not write these rules, but have lived by them for longer than I care to remember.

My remembrance of Jeff Cooper's four general Firearms Safety rules:

1. All guns are always loaded (treat all guns as if they are loaded regardless whether there is any ammunition present)

2. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

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

4. Know your target and what is behind it.

5. guns are NOT toys, so do NOT refer to them as such.

Deer_Freak
January 22, 2013, 12:57 PM
Some of the four rules are not so easy to follow. The first is keeping your finger off the trigger. Shooting in a match or just goofing around it's pretty easy to do. But get a blue gun and let a friend grab the gun and see where that booger hook ends up. Quite possibly your finger will end up on the trigger before the gun clears the holster. People say what they will but until they try it they are clueless. Don't just watch to see if you put your finger on the trigger. Put some chalk or baby powder on the trigger so there is no doubt.

tipoc
January 22, 2013, 01:04 PM
From Dmazur:

Except that, there was enough concern over Rule 1 that he wrote an exception for it, as I explained above.

He did not have "concern" over it. He did not add another rule. Neither did he lengthen the first. In many of his writings he spoke of situations and circumstances where any and each of the rules are overwritten or there are exceptions. But he did not add each of these exceptions to the rules. There could be no rules if there weren't exceptions to them, he knew this and said as much. He figured people could handle this apparent contradiction.

The rules are a tool for clarity. To keep things simple. So that the 4 are focused on and not the many exceptions. There are logical exceptions to each of the rules but he did not add written "provisos" to any of them though he did speak of them. The signs hanging at Thunder Ranch still today don't have amendments or explanations added to them.

The rules are brief and to the point so that they can be easily pounded into a head.

tipoc

Zardaia
January 22, 2013, 01:13 PM
If you make it common practice to always follow all 4 rules you'll never have a problem. That said, if you brain fart and break one the other three should provide redundecy to either prevent a nd or at least ensure the round goes off in a "safe"direction. I'll reiterate safe clearing though as that's were I've seen the most nd's at clearing barrels. Actually visualy inspect to see there is no ammo in the chamber or magazine well, if you make that a habit then you should be able to catch youself if you forget to drop the mag first.

Skribs
January 22, 2013, 01:43 PM
Some of the four rules are not so easy to follow. The first is keeping your finger off the trigger. Shooting in a match or just goofing around it's pretty easy to do. But get a blue gun and let a friend grab the gun and see where that booger hook ends up. Quite possibly your finger will end up on the trigger before the gun clears the holster. People say what they will but until they try it they are clueless. Don't just watch to see if you put your finger on the trigger. Put some chalk or baby powder on the trigger so there is no doubt.

That's why you constantly practice and reinforce these rules. I don't see "if you remember to do so" as the preamble to the four rules. Zardaia hit the nail on the head: practicing all four means when you bugger up on one of them, you're less likely to have a tragedy.

dmazur
January 22, 2013, 03:57 PM
From the referenced publication -

RULE 1
ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
The only exception to this occurs when one has a weapon in his hands and he has
personally unloaded it for checking. As soon as he puts it down, Rule 1 applies again.
RULE 2
NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED
TO DESTROY
You may not wish to destroy it, but you must be clear in your mind that you are quite
ready to if you let that muzzle cover the target. To allow a firearm to point at another
human being is a deadly threat, and should always be treated as such.
RULE 3
KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER TIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE
TARGET
This we call the Golden Rule because its violation is responsible for about 80 percent
of the firearms disasters we read about.
RULE 4
BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET
You never shoot at anything until you have positively identified it. You never fire at a
shadow, or a sound, or a suspected presence. You shoot only when you know
absolutely what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.

The point that "short is good" is valid. I'm sure I've seen the Four Rules posted, but I can't remember seeing any explanatory text on these signs. So, whoever is making the decision to post must be content with the Rules themselves.

I must disagree, however, with the idea that explanation is unnecessary. Without it, gun owners are left to decide that Rule 1 is crazy, because obviously guns are unloaded under certain conditions. Or decide that catching a falling gun or keeping your finger out of the trigger guard during holstering is somehow different than Rule 3.

Cooper's brief explanations are helpful. They explain how the Rules should be applied.

IMO, it is unfortunate that the full text isn't posted. It isn't that lengthy, and it helps explain things. Understanding should mean greater safety.

thecarfarmer
January 26, 2013, 03:17 AM
First, glad to see the OP is taking time to look into safety. I'd recommend Kathy Jackson's 'cornered cat (http://www.corneredcat.com/)' website. Although it's a little frilly and pink for me (being as I'm a guy and it's geared towards women), it's full of a lot of good info for a new shooter. A great place to start.

Second, I think Col. Cooper's rule was made in anticipation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and the legislation of one Mr. Murphy.

That's the most ridiculous statement I've read on this or any other forum. If I believed that nonsense I'd sell every gun I own and join the anti-gun groups to get them all outlawed. You're claiming that guns are too dangerous, or people are too stupid (or both), to prevent a firearm from discharging unintentionally.

All guns are NOT always loaded. Anyone who makes this statement is a liar, and is doing more to make themselves unsafe than they realize. Do you clean your loaded gun? Do you function check your loaded gun? I think not. So your actual claim is that all guns are always loaded except when...

(snip)

Most of gun safety boils down to muzzle awareness (where is it pointing? am I okay with it putting a hole in what it's pointing at?), checking a gun for being cleared (reasons why to do this have been amply described already) before handling it or giving it to someone, and lastly, as my friend Ben put it: "keep your booger-hook off the bang switch until you're ready to shoot!"

One other thing I'd mention... for those who decide they want to carry a gun with a round chambered: do some research to see if it's a good idea w/ your model of pistol.

On some striker-fired pistols, if a round is chambered, (even if the safety on), there's a chance that the gun could be handled in a way (dropped, takedown button pushed, some other action) which would cause it to unintentionally fire. Glocks (and probably a lot of other modern guns) have a firing pin safety which precludes this from happening - older guns often don't. I can attest that a Phoenix P-51 doesn't...

-Bill

TarDevil
January 26, 2013, 11:02 AM
Mainsail, there's only two types of gun handlers.........those that HAVE had an unintended discharge, and those that WILL.
When I started flying 40 years ago, I read the same thing about pilots flying retractable gear aircraft...those who have made gear up landings and those who will.
Now retired from flying, I'm one of those who never did.
Now, as then, I refuse to accept the notion of inevitability.

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