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Safety For Everyone

Editor’s Note: This essay by Tiger McKee first appeared in The Tactical Wire.

There are four basic safety rules:
    1. All guns are loaded.
    2. Never point the muzzle at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
    3. Finger off the trigger unless you are ready to fire.
    4. Identify your target, and angle of fire.
    (There are variations on these rules but the principles are the same.)

These rules apply whenever firearms are present. There are no exceptions. You must constantly be focused on what and how you perform every action. Plus – and equally important – you must stay aware of what the people around you are doing.

The root of Rule 1 is consistency. Treating every firearm as loaded greatly reduces the chance of making a mistake. Mistakes with firearms can be tragic. Concentrate on what you do and never assume the people around you know what they are doing. When you hear “Don’t worry, it’s unloaded,” your radar should start pinging.

Muzzle discipline insures that if a negligent or unintentional discharge occurs the bullet is stopped from damaging anything valuable. You know to keep the weapon pointing in a safe direction, but those around you might not be gun savvy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve witnessed people walk in front of another’s muzzle or attempt to point their muzzle at my body. Know where your muzzle is while at the same time watch those around you. When someone even starts moving in an unsafe direction get your muzzle into a safe position. Stand to the side of anyone holding a weapon to insure they don’t muzzle you and you can trap or block their arms if necessary.

New gun owners know very little about safety. If you don’t believe me hang out at the gun shop and watch people pick up a firearm. Their finger immediately slips onto the trigger. After all, that’s where it’s supposed to be, right? Even experienced gun owners make mistakes. When you see this happen you have two choices. Get out of the way and leave or correct the problem.

Rule 4 is important for you. You don’t shoot at noises, movement, or anything else that you haven’t identified and justified as a target. Rule 4 is also important when you’re around other people with firearms. For example, trying to sneak into home late at night without waking your wife. Except you’re making more noise than you think, and upon entering the hallway to the bedroom you’re covered by a very serious wife holding her pistol, and you know she is capable of using it effectively. I know several people this has happened to; when I come home I loudly announce myself. Don’t be a target.

Safety is mandatory to insure you don’t make any mistakes, and at the same time that those around you are conducting themselves in the proper manner. Never assume anything. You know the old saying about making an ass out of you and me. Well, I ain’t gonna be there. It’s up to you to know, apply, and enforce the safety rules.


Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns,” a staff member of several firearms/tactical publications, an adjunct instructor for the F.B.I. and designer of the Shootrite Katana. (256) 582-4777 http://www.shootrite.org