There are a lot of views on the safe and practical handling of firearms today. And perhaps the safest and most generic rules of firearm handling come from the NRA’s Rules on Gun Safety. (National Rifle Association of America) And those procedures will do you well on a static gun range where the paper target does nothing but remain still. However, a number of measures can be added to increase the practical side of safe firearm handling for the realistic situations of our world. The reality is that while we hope to never be in a situation that requires deployment of your weapon, unless you train to include the practical applications along with safety, you will never be prepared to fully employ the weapon effectively.
- Always assume the weapon is loaded, never presume a weapon is empty unless you have conducted a brass/function check and know there is, or isn’t, a bullet loaded in the chamber.
- Never draw your weapon unless you intend to draw it on what you are willing to destroy. Recognize the implications of what you are about to do as state laws differ on the use of weapons in public. In some, merely displaying your weapon can be considered brandishing while others have clearly defined “Castle Laws” or are open carry.
- When you commit to drawing your weapon, conduct a “belly slap” with your non-shooting hand. According to instructors at Asymmetric Solutions USA, when the non-shooting hand is pulled flat to the stomach to pull clothing, gear, or other obstructions tight to the body and minimize the risk of getting hung-up while drawing.
- When gripping the weapon in the holster, ensure full grip of the weapon with the web of the shooting hand fully into the tang of the grip.
- Upon drawing, keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction at all times. This can include modified versions of the “high” or “low” ready or, as commonly observed at most public gun ranges, in a single direction downrange.
- Bring your weapon hand and off-shooting hand together at the center of your chest or stomach, joining your hands into the proper firing grip. Then punch your arms outward and assume the correct target sight picture.
- Until you are ready to engage your target, always keep your finger off the trigger. You can place your index finger on the trigger guard, or along the side of the weapon, but until you are ready to shoot do not place your finger on the trigger. The human surprise reflex can generate up to 15lbs of pressure per finger and with many triggers only requiring an average of 5lbs of pressure to fire the weapon, it doesn’t take much in a stressful situation to accidentally pull the trigger if your finger is resting on it.
- Know your target and know what is beyond. Recognize that the bullet may very well over penetrate placing anything or anyone behind it at risk.
- When you have finished employing the weapon and conducted your scan, maintain eye contact with the weapon and follow it down and fully into your holster. When reholstering you are assessing the situation is clear and there is no longer an immanent threat, so it’s best to ensure complete return of the weapon to its holster.
Other important rules to remember when handling firearms;
- Know your weapon. Ensure you have read the Owner’s Manual prior to use of your firearm, or have received proper instruction on how it functions.
- Use the correct ammunition for your firearm.
- Wear eye and ear protection at all times.
- Do not operate a firearm while under the influence of prescriptions or alcohol.
- At any time when you are handed a weapon or cleaning one, ensure the weapon is clear and there is no ammunition in the chamber.
National Rifle Association of America. “NRA Gun Safety Rules.” The NRA: Education and Training. 2014 Feb 29-January <http://training.nra.org/nra-gun-safety-rules.aspx>.