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« PDF Targets | Main | Flinch or the phobic reaction to recoil »

September 14, 2003

All guns are always loaded

Jeff Cooper's Four Rules Of Gun Safety

No mechanical device has a will of its own. A gun never "goes off" unless something causes it to do so. The aspect of safety is central to gunhandling. Memorize the four principles of firearm safety. Treat them with absolute seriousness. Burn them into your consciousness.

Rule One -
All guns are always loaded.
Rule Two -
Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
Rule Three -
Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.
Rule Four -
Be sure of your target. Know what it is, what is in line with it, and what is behind it. Never shoot anything you have not positively identified.

Sources:here, here and here

These rules have caused much discussion and argument and you can read one such discussion here along with some other sets of rules including some of the NRA's "always keep" rules and the ten commandments of gun safety. All these rules are important but there is a time and place for Jeff Cooper's particular set.

I use Jeff Cooper's four rules while around others with firearms. If you allow your gun to point at any part of my body I think of rule one. If you are not acting in a threatening manner I will firmly order you to keep your gun pointing in some other direction. Point it at me again and I think of rule two and my instant response is that you will have my objectively loaded pistol pointing at your control center while I repeat the order.

Why would I do such a thing to you when you are CERTAIN that your gun is unloaded? Because of rule one and rule two. Because many accidental shootings occur with "unloaded guns", that is with guns that were presumed to be unloaded. Because both accidental discharges that I witnessed (outside a combat pistol range) were with those same "unloaded guns".

The first one was a 9mm into the carpeted concrete floor of an aquaintance's home, he had removed the magazine and was waving it around. Just as I was saying "there might be a round in the..." -BOOM!- the bullet that had been in the tube splattered on the concrete floor filling the air with shreds of carpet.

The second AD was at a rifle range where an older gentleman was showing off his new Ruger pistol in it's box behind the firing line. He wasn't allowed to handle it behind the line but he still pulled it from the box and pulled the trigger -BOOM!- a .40 projectile splatted into the concrete floor next to a bench and some of the splatter struck one of the bystanders. The first thing this guy said was "I thought it was unloaded". That has been the immediate eulogy for too many people after being shot by someone ignoring rule one.

You can use any set of rules for firearm safety that you wish, all of them will keep you from pointing your weapon in my direction. Just know that when you do point your weapon my way that this is the set of rules I will be using.

Years ago I heard an anecdote.
The story tells that Jeff Cooper arrived at a rifle range in Southern California and proceeded to remove from his trunk his rifles that where fully loaded (with the safety on) and obviously contrary to range policy. To Jeff Cooper All guns ARE alwas loaded.
Note: this is perhaps apocryphal (I could find no confirmation in a brief search) and is offered for amusement only.

Posted by LayLines