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Firearm Rules to Live By

by Owner  |  January 20, 2024

Every class and every instructor has their own variations of rules they say to follow. Many try to break it down into an “easy three” or some silly thing like that. Firearm safety is a responsibility that should be taken seriously, and there is no one-stop-shop for firearm safety. In this post, I will discuss my 10 rules to live by. Following these rules will keep you alive and safe.

1. Always Treat The Firearm As If It Is Loaded

This is in every single class you will go to, and you will hear it over and over again. You should ALWAYS treat a firearms as if it is loaded, even when you have cleared it yourself. Every single rule following this REQUIRES you to follow this paramount and most important rule.

2. Never Rely On A Mechanical Safety

Firearms are machines, and machines can malfunction. Mechanical safeties, such as thumb safeties and selector switches, can malfunction. Safety buttons on some rifles and pistols still allow the hammer to fall but put a “block” between the hammer and firing pin which can fail to stop ignition of the primer. Sometimes, loose safeties can be deactivated inadvertently when holstering and un-holstering. When following rule number 1, we have to always assume that it is loaded, and we do NOT want to be the one that pops one off in the market parking lot.

This rule plays a critical part in rule numbers 4, 9 and 10.

3. Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction At All Times

Muzzle awareness is extremely important. A bullet won’t go where the muzzle isn’t pointed. By adhering to rules 1 and 2, we can safely assume that it’s loaded and the mechanical safety is inoperable. Now all it needs is your finger (see rule 4) or an accident (which is why we have this rule). If you are always aware of where you muzzle is pointed, and ensuring it is NOT pointed at anything that isn’t a threat (rule 5) and can’t be replaced.

A good example of this, although likely not to happen with most civilian firearms, are the fully automatic M2, 240B and 249 SAW’s used by the US Military. These can actually get hot enough to “cook off” rounds even without the firing mechanism being manually activated. There is actually a term for this, “Runaway Gun”.

This may seem counter intuitive if you want to play little word games like “Safe direction at all times, but it’s not safe for the [[ insert violent felony commission ]]”. I would argue, a muzzle pointed at a threat IS pointed in a safe direction. The safest place for it is towards a threat, to protect oneself, ones family and innocent bystanders from imminent danger.

4. Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Ready To Fire

This is another that you will hear from every class you go to, and that is how important this is. At this point, we can assume now that the firearm is loaded, the safety doesn’t work, and we haven’t had some sort of freak accident yet, so at this point, all that’s left, is to keep your booger picker off the bang switch.

“Oh, but the safety is on,” I don’t care! See rule number 2!

“Eh, I practice slack take-up,’ take yourself on up to rule number 3, specifically about the point that accidents happen! And it’s generally from careless stunts like this.

5. Only Point At What You Intend To Destroy

There is a specific reason I choose the word “destroy” here. Although anyone who knows anything know a 5.56 does not open 6 inch wounds, it can in essence, destroy life. So we don’t have in our mind “what I want to shoot”, or “what I want to hit”. We put in our mind, “what do I want to destroy”. That’s the seriousness of pulling the trigger.

Once you have made that decision that this is the threat you want to destroy, drawn down on it, then, and only then, do you move your finger to the trigger. As soon as the muzzle leaves the target, the finger should again be removed from the trigger well.

6. Know Your Target And What Is Beyond And Before It

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you get into a high stakes situation, but you have to be able to pay attention to everything in the scenario. Misses happen, and when they do, they can hurt or kill the same innocent people you are attempting to protect. Different people react different ways to threats and danger. Some will freeze, some will run, some will act erratic, and we have to keep all of this in mind as well.

Imagine a scenario where you are in a shopping mall or department store. There are likely going to be people behind the person, and likely to also be people and objects between you and the target. Others could be taking shelter behind items that are not entirely bullet proof. They could also run between you and the target as you are engaging. They could also move behind the target while you are firing. You have to ALWAYS be aware of what is beyond and before your target to ensure ONLY the target gets hit. It’s on you to adjust to make that happen to keep others from getting injured to the best of your ability.

7. Always Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

There are any number of things that can happen in a critical fluid situation. This is not a static scenario like at the gun range in your lane. You will likely be moving through the hot zone, but you also have to control that zone. Everything from tripping hazards to secondary and tertiary threats, such as additional shooters or accomplices, to possible areas of cover and concealment that could present opportunities for either you or the target.

There is also the fact that you can look for other assets to help you take control of the situation in a safer manner. If it’s not safe to shoot, maybe there is something you can throw to temporarily get a reaction to allow movement to a better vantage point, or to distract so someone else can move to safety. Anything can be a tool used for or against you.

8. Always Use Proper Ammunition

In just the short time I’ve been in business, I’ve had several customers come with with catastrophic failures that destroyed their firearms (luckily all of my customers have been uninjured up to now) by using the wrong ammunition. I have also had people come in from stuff they bought at gun shows where other vendors sold them .38 Special Ammo for a .38 S&W Revolver, as well as other caliber markings such as 9mm Kurtz (now called .380 ACP) and even 9mm Makarov (they got sold 9×18 Police Ultra, not 9×18 Makarov). These are not compatible cartridges.

It is not always up front, especially with older firearms or those made in other countries, that some are not compatible with others. In other cases, it is because the rounds look similar enough to another caliber, that they get mixed up. NEVER LOAD 2 CALIBERS AT THE SAME TIME! I had a guy come in with a 5.56 rifle that was destroyed because he was loading his 300 AAC Blackout at the same time as his 5.56 and put a 300 Blackout round in the 5.56 magazine. His bolt and barrel (and essentially entire firearm) was destroyed, the round lodged in the barrel and he’s lucky he walked away with only a dirty pair of undies.

9. Know How To Properly And Safely Clear Your Firearm

Clearing the firearm means removing all ammunition from the firearm to ensure it is incapable of firing. It is important to note that every firearm is different in how it gets cleared. It depends on many different factors for the firearm. Fixed or removable magazine? Tube fed? Open bolt or closed bolt? Many other factors!

In order to perform any type of maintenance or cleaning on your firearm or when handing it off to another person, you MUST clear the firearm to ensure it is safe. You should also clear the firearm yourself when receiving it. Yes, it should be cleared twice in a possession change: Person one clears the firearm and passes it to person two. Person two then clears the firearm because person one might be an idiot.

10. Know How To Address Common Malfunctions With Your Firearm

The four base firearm malfunctions are Failure to Feed, Failure to Fire, Failure to Extract and Failure to Eject. You should know and understand how to address each of these with your firearm. You need to know how to safely get your firearm back into working order. It is a machine and it might fail. But not every failure is permanent.

I will be completing an article soon regarding the ways you can train for these malfunctions and how they are generally addressed with different firearm types, but there may be some that are missed, as everything is different. You can generally start with introducing snap caps into your live round magazines to simulate failure to fire.

Bonus Rule: Keep It Clean!

I’ve seen some pretty nasty firearms come through to get cleaned. I’m talking dust-bunnies, spider webs with prey caught in them, bolts rusted closed, mounds of powder caking up triggers, the list goes on. The best thing you can do for yourself and the firearms is take the time to clean it. Taking this time also gets you intimate with how the firearm operates, giving you an even better grasp of rule 10. Nobody LIKES cleaning their firearm, but it is essential. We do offer cleaning as a service as an alternative to DIY.

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