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Which 4 Rules?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by YankeeFlyr, Jul 21, 2012.

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  1. YankeeFlyr

    YankeeFlyr Member

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    I've seen a lot of talk lately about "The 4 Rules" of gun safety...I've been shooting a long, long time, and was in the military, and yet I have to ask:

    Which 4?

    There are MANY rules that could be prioritized to be the top 4, but which ones?

    And, who established this top 4???
     
  2. metalart

    metalart Member

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    The 1st Law - The Gun Is Always Loaded!

    So EVERY TIME you pick up or draw a gun, inspect it in a safe manner (control your muzzle) and always treat it as a loaded gun.

    The 2nd Law - Never Point The Gun At Something You Are Not Prepared To Destroy!

    The only safe way to operate is to assume the Worst Case Scenario: Pretend that your "empty" gun is loaded and that it's going to function perfectly. When you press the trigger it will FIRE! Since you are prepared for that, you only point the gun in a Safe Direction. This way, when Brainfade does result in an AD, it will be into a safe impact area and there won't be a tragedy.

    The 3rd Law - Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Behind It!

    Bullets can penetrate lots of things, many of which will surprise you. Identify your target before firing - even before dry-firing at home. If you are not sure, DON'T FIRE! Make sure there is a safe impact area behind it before firing. For home dry-fire practice, find and aim only at a BULLET PROOF BACKSTOP. Even though you have checked and double-checked your gun, you should still treat your gun as though it is loaded. Plasterboard walls and outer walls are not bulletproof. A handgun bullet will easily travel through several rooms before stopping. Who is in these rooms? You don't know, and you still aimed in that direction?! Shame on you!

    The 4th Law - Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target!

    Almost all of the ADs during a match are caused by a finger on the trigger when you were not ready to fire. Some examples: Finger on trigger during reloading, during movement, during the draw, and during jam clearing have led to ADs and disqualifications (DQs). Finger on the trigger during reloading or movement is a DQ - you don't have to AD - and two ROs are watching for just that. Of the five Match DQs at the 1988 US Nationals, four were ADs.
     
  3. YankeeFlyr

    YankeeFlyr Member

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    Interesting; I was aware of these, but also of a couple others...

    Curious; whose list is it?
     
  4. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    metalart explains it very well.

    There are a few things I can clarify.The military is vague, because frankly, they are terrible at enforcing the rules. They do things like, have squad tactic drills with real weapons. "Bang bang, you're dead." when I participate in these activities, I insist that the bolt carriers be removed. This way, they aren't functioning weapons. Whenever possible, we put BFAs on the muzzles.

    Another thing that confuses people is the interpretation. Sometimes they don't clarify that they apply when you are actually HANDLING the weapon. Does my 1911 flag people behind me when it is in a shoulder holster? No. Because I'm not HANDLING the weapon. The Four Rules are intended to keep people from causing accidental shootings, not to keep guns from mechanically failing and going off by themselves. (In reality, this is so rare as to be considered insignificant. It just doesn't happen.) When you go to the range in a van with 200 M-16s lying in the back, are you breaking the rules every time they point at someone outside the vehicle? No, because they aren't being HANDLED. When you have a pistol in your waistband, sitting in a row of chairs, and someone puts their feet under your chair, you aren't flagging them, because you aren't handling the weapon.

    The confusion comes in situations like, picking up a rifle by the sling, it's dangling horizontally. Are you handling it? Are your hands on it? Does it count before you actually touch it? This is why I teach my soldiers to pick up their weapon by tipping the muzzle into the ground before picking it up.

    I have heard a few people say; "The four rules don't apply in combat." They ALWAYS apply. I won't stop combat to correct a soldier, but I will tell them when the fight is over. There are four for a reason. (Ok, two of them kind of go together.) But the point is, you can't have a gun injury unless you break ALL OF THEM AT THE SAME TIME. I have an ex bro-in-law who is missing a foot. I ask my boys; "Which rules did Uncle David break?" They reply; "All four dad." Was he treating the gun as if it was loaded? No. Was he putting his finger on the trigger when he didn't plan on shooting it? Yes. Was he pointing it at something he didn't intend to destroy? Yes. Was he (this is why two of them kind of go together, it sounds strange to ask it in some situations,) knowing his target and what was behind it? No. This is why he doesn't have a foot, and he has to pick out a chunk of 7 1/2 every few years.

    The rules are generally attributed to the late COL Jeff Cooper. Look him up.
     
  5. YankeeFlyr

    YankeeFlyr Member

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    Yeah, yeah, I'm AWARE of these rules, plus some others, just never heard them narrowed to 4, and was curious whose they were (I was wondering if it was an NRA training standardization concept).

    Yes, I know who Jeff Cooper was.
     
  6. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    When I was terping for some Marine infantry doing training in Africa, they added a fifth. "Keep the weapon on-safe until you are ready to fire." I don't like this one as much, because there are a lot of firearms (Glocks, revolvers, old shotguns,) that don't even have an actual safety switch.

    I'm not much of a fan of the NRA safety rules either. (I should disclaim; I am a lapsed NRA certified instructor, and when I do give their classes, I use their material and verbiage to the letter. But I don't like it.)

    1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

    What exactly is 'ready to use'? Should I not keep a magazine in my carry gun? What's the difference between carrying and using? See where the confusion comes in? Saying, "Keep it unloaded" opens up the possibility of unloading it, playing with it, and saying; "It's ok, it's not loaded. (BANG.) I prefer to state rule number one as; "Every gun is always loaded." Make it absolute.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2012
  7. Ignition Override

    Ignition Override Member

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    Almost none of these rules are followed at our gun shows near Memphis, unless somebody picks up a gun which is already upright in a rack, and they somehow keep it pointed only at the ceiling (seldom notice this), or is horizontal on a table and is picked up with the muzzle immed. pushed downwards.

    Maybe the safest people are those who never lift the gun from a rack or table. But they can't inspect it.
    Guns are always "sweeping" people, whether by prospective buyers or sellers.
     
  8. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

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    The standard view is that the Four Rules originated at Gunsite. Founded by Jeff Cooper in the mid-1970s, it was probably the first school teaching defensive pistolcraft to private citizens.

    I've been fortunate enough to attend three classes at Gunsite, and the Four Rules are core to safe gun handling. Note that Gunsite is a hot range. All guns really are loaded at pretty much all times.

    [​IMG]

    Here's an interesting discussion of firearm safety by another former student of Jeff Cooper's.

    And to reinforce that, A short time ago I received the following (quoted in part) in an email from another Gunsite alumnus:
    The current Four Rules grew up on a hot range where it is customary to indeed go about with one's gun(s) loaded and where people are trained who will indeed be going around with loaded guns out in the world and about their normal business.
     
  9. dmazur

    dmazur Member

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    While it wasn't part of the question, "exceptions" occasionally enter the discussion. To wit, some say there are no exceptions, while others insist that, for practical application of the Four Rules, there must be.

    Cooper said (Cooper's Commentaries, Vol. 6, No. 2) -

    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. ...


    A further clarification has already been mentioned, that the Four Rules apply to guns which are being handled. Cased guns, holstered guns, etc. are exempt. It is prudent to observe muzzle discipline when uncasing a gun, as the Four Rules apply as soon as you have it in your hand.
     
  10. Hacker15E

    Hacker15E Member

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    For the purposes of this thread, people who are not long-time shooters need to understand that the "4 rules" concept, as it is widely understood today amongst US shooters, simply did not exist in widespread use 20-30 years ago.

    It is to some extent a "recent invention" amongst American firearms users. They have not always been canon. I have met many people who consider themselves 'veteran shooters' and have only been firearms enthusiasts 10-15 years, and who believe that the 4 rules have been part of firearms culture since "the beginning".

    All the OP is trying to sort out is where they came from.
     
  11. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Member

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    As stated in post #6, the NRA teaches a similar set of safety rules.

    From their site:

    "The fundamental NRA rules for safe gun handling are:

    "1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.

    "2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.

    "3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does."

    I agree that "ready to use" can be seen as vague, and the further explanation I've included doesn't help to clarify. But if one always applies NRA rules 1 and 2, it won't matter.

    I still teach that every gun must treated as loaded until you have proven to your satisfaction that it is not loaded, and that every time you put it down or hand it to someone it becomes "loaded" again.

    The concept of knowing your target and what's beyond falls into the NRA's next category of rules, which it terms "using or storing a gun" rather than "gun handling."

    Either set of rules (Cooper or NRA) will work. And keeping in mind two things will solve a lot of related safety arguments:

    1) A gun that's got nobody's hands on it cannot fire, and is therefore safe.

    2) A gun whose action is open or disassembled cannot fire, and is therefore safe.

    I agree that it's generally bad practice to sweep people needlessly even with a gun whose action is open or removed, but there are times when it simply cannot be helped. I agree also that while a holstered, cased, or mounted gun is technically sweeping someone much of the time, it cannot be termed unsafe as long as no one is touching it.

    Once the two points above are overcome by touching the gun and/or closing the action, the other set of safety rules is back in play.
     
  12. Sheepdog1968

    Sheepdog1968 Member

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    Loui Awerbuck who worked at Gunsite and knew Jeff Cooper for over 30 years used these four rules in the classes he teaches. About a year ago or so he was forced to add a fifth rule because of a new safety issue he was seeing frequently happen I don't recall the exact wording but it had to deal with cell phone usage and folks not paying attention.
     
  13. Fishslayer

    Fishslayer Member

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    I have no idea but I've seen them attributed to Jeff Cooper. I could be totally wrong.

    I was taught at a young age to always treat a gun as loaded & always point it in a safe direction. The other two make sense though.
     
  14. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    I always think #2 and #4 are a lot the same - both regard muzzle control.

    I don't agree with rules like "always keep it unloaded" (my handguns are always ready and my long guns just need a round chambered...all of them) or "keep the safety on until ready to use" (uh...my handguns have no manual safeties, my long guns have the safety off so all I have to do is chamber a round).
     
  15. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    I'd like to add that these aren't laws, only rules. They are called Safety Rules.

    Breaking one is usually rude, breaking two is dangerous, but breaking three is usually going to result in something bad happening.

    I believe it is commonly accepted that Rule 3 is finger off trigger and Rule 4 for is target awareness

    I'd be interested in which additional rules you are referring to.
     
  16. coalman

    coalman Member

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    My Top 4 Gun Handling Rules:
    1) Gun is loaded until I know firsthand gun is not
    2) Do not point gun - loaded or unloaded - at people
    3) Keep finger and objects out of the trigger guard when gun is loaded
    4) Do not fondle loaded gun - unload it then fondle it
     
  17. Fat_46

    Fat_46 Member

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    As a PTC instructor I've found that I often need to reinforce the "4 Rules" with additional descriptions in order to make my students take notice.

    Rule 1: I don't care if you/your friend/your mom/ the Pope already checked - consider it loaded!

    Rule 2: There is no do-overs with guns.

    Rule 3: Keep your booger hooks off the bang switch

    Rule 4: Your bullet doesn't care where its going. Look at, past, and through the target.

    I once had a very nice woman in her 60s take a course from me. She was highly educated, and seemed extremely interested in safety. When it was time for the practical portion(shooting) of the course she asked me the following question:

    "When we get to the firing line, and the target is ready, when can I put my booger hook on the switch?"
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2012
  18. cpileri

    cpileri Member

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    A firearm is a tool and tools are SAFE if used properly.

    1. Always point your firearm in a safe direction
    2. Always keep a firearm unloaded until ready to shoot
    3. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
     
  19. wwace

    wwace Member

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    Your example #1:

    EXAMPLE #1: Trap and skeet shooters often rest muzzles on their toes and point them at each other. They have almost no accidents on the range because guns are unloaded until just before they shoot. ...CHANGE CONDITIONS to a duck blind with loaded guns and the results are predictable....

    is ridiculous. To imply that trap or skeet shooters somehow become less safe when hunting because they are somehow out of their element is crazy. Also covering anyone with a muzzle on range is completely unacceptable. Typically doubles are kept open and rested on your shoe while waiting your turn, this isn't even possible in most duck blind situations even if the shooter is using their skeet or trap gun which most probably are not. To imply that we are somehow complacent when the environment changes is just wrong. Complacency has no place in gun handling ever.
     
  20. YankeeFlyr

    YankeeFlyr Member

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    The others

    The others I was taught were:

    - Never hand someone else a loaded weapon.

    - Never dismount/climb/cross obstacles with a loaded weapon.

    Didn't say I agreed with any particular one as an absolute, but 9mmepiphany asked...
     
  21. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    Interesting.

    - Never hand someone else a loaded weapon.
    ...conflicts with Rule #1, but is a good reminder of polite behavior

    - Never dismount/climb/cross obstacles with a loaded weapon.
    ...I believe is part of Hunter Safety
     
  22. YankeeFlyr

    YankeeFlyr Member

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    No it doesn't conflict with number one; number one is to assume that it is loaded until shown otherwise (as the receiver).

    Yes, the other is probably from hunter safety.
     
  23. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    That could be how you learned the rule, but I learned it as taught at Gunsite: All guns are always loaded or Treat all guns as loaded.

    Before handing someone a handgun:
    1. I always check that it is empty.
    2. Then I hand it to them, with the action open, without pointing it at them
    3. I then expect them to verify that it is unloaded.

    It is always treated as if it is loaded when being handled...it also allows me to take control of a gun that is suffering a malfunction/stoppage on the line

    I would also like to repeat that the rules at Gunsite are written taking into account that the whole facility is a hot range/facility. All guns are loaded, unless the carrier doesn't feel comfortable carrying it that way
     
  24. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

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    Of course if you consider that many people carry guns for protection as they go about their everyday activities, the real world is a "hot range."
     
  25. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    I like to think of it that way as well.
     
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