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Are there different levels of safety when it comes to firearms handling and training?

Yes, we believe that there are and we are going to discuss some of the general safety rules used by most ranges and training institutions, then we are going to move into understanding how those rules may evolve as the individual’s training progresses.

The Universal Safety Rules

Many schools, agencies, organizations and firearms ranges have different rules for safety. Some of the rules sound very similar but are placed in a different order of importance.
For instance, one of the most popular firearms safety rules, due in part to its promotion by the NRA is, "Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction."

This is a great safety rule because in itself it states, in not so many words " be aware of your surroundings, exercise care, be conscious of where your muzzle is pointed and be courteous to others around you"
Most organized ranges state that when you are moving with an uncased firearm keep the muzzle pointed upwards as a safe direction.
 
This rule should always state “when moving with an unloaded firearm… “ because if a round were inadvertently fired it has to come back down somewhere. The chances of someone being injured exist both if the muzzle is pointed up or down. We encourage our students to be constantly in control of their weapons and conscious of their muzzle at all times either up or down.
 
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We like to start our students off with understanding the proper mindset you should have when handling any firearm. So we start with our first rule, Treat all weapons with respect and handle as if they were loaded.”

Col. Jeff Cooper was quoted as saying the first rule wasAll guns are always loaded.” We understand what he was saying, that you should always assume that a gun is loaded. However even when we know that the weapon is unloaded we want you to still treat the weapon with the same level of respect as you would a loaded firearm.

The way we state the muzzle safety rule is Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.”

There are many safe muzzle positions that are situationally dependent upon your environment.
 
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The next few rules are usually in the same order:

Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Some schools state “Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.” We like to go a step further and explain that sometimes you may be ready to shoot even when you are not looking at your sights. (Such as when shooting at “Close Contact”)
 
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The next rule on our list is "Know your target and what is in line with it."
 
Others will say “Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.” Again taking another step we explain there is more to this rule.

Knowing your target for instance involves a few skill sets in and of itself. First to know your target begins with target identification, asking is this the correct  individual and threat assessment does this individual need to be shot? The legal ramifications both criminal and civil have to be considered during this phase, furthermore one should also have an understanding of the differences between legally justified and absolutely necessary. By using the words “in line with it” rather than simply “beyond” we also stress the consideration of the foreground and the ever changing environment of an engagement on the street.

So to summarize and restate these rules:
 
1. Treat all weapons with respect and always handle as if they were loaded.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off of the trigger and outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
4. Know your target and what is in line with it.

 
More about firearms safety coming soon! Future topics will include: (Click on the text to read the associated article.)

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