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Open Chamber

Safety - AKA The Four Rules

Safety - you should be all about it. Whether you are a regular guy or girl, or a professional door-kicker - it should be foremost on your mind. Firearm safety isn’t like skateboarding safety where maybe you can get away with not wearing knee & elbow pads and still be OK. Flubs with firearm safety can kill people. In addition to the Four Rules, I’ll go over some additional safety ideas which actually make for a more effective and enjoyable shooting experience.

The Four Rules

You’ve read them elsewhere, now you’ll read them here. We’re responsible firearms owners. Let’s not give the opposition more of an opportunity to use the term in jest.

Rule 1: The Gun Is Always Loaded.

Yes, even if you know it’s unloaded, treat it as if it’s loaded. It’s super-easy to forget there’s one in the chamber. Many gun store workers have recounted tales of when a customer comes in, and the client hands them a loaded pistol. The magazine may be dropped, but there could be one in the chamber. If you lend your gun to someone, always drop the magazine, rack the slide back, lock it in place, and hand it over, preferably muzzle pointed downward. At the range, don’t pass your gun to someone else in another lane either, even if it’s been safety-checked. Trade people, not guns. If I’m in lane 1 and you are in lane 2, and I want to try your 9mm pistol, have me come into your lane. Don’t hand the gun over to me past the dividers.

Rule 2: Never point the gun at something you aren’t prepared to to destroy.

Yes, you checked the gun and the action is open and there’s no round in the chamber. Doesn’t mean you can be careless with it. Even if you are checking functionality, always make sure it’s pointed in a safe direction, i.e. downrange. The gun is always loaded. Sounds irrational, but it isn’t.

Rule 3: Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Bullets, especially full metal jacket training rounds, can and will go through objects. Whether it’s a defensive situation or a training session, always identify your target, and what is beyond it. That super-reliable .45 ACP Winchester Service Grade round will go right through the target and won’t stop traveling til it hits something rather substantial. This rule is especially important when shooting outdoors on public (BLM mostly) land. You are policing your own training, and there could be others around who may stumble into your session. Triple-check your surroundings and have a spotter (who isn’t firing a gun) watch the range.

Rule 4: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.

This is called “indexing the trigger”. Don’t go Hollywood and draw with your finger on the bangswitch. Place your finger on the slide above the trigger until you are sure of your target and surroundings. Only then should you engage the trigger. Practicing this, you will never have a negligent discharge. Note “negligence”. Guns don’t “go off” unless you make them. You are accountable for each bullet that leaves your gun’s barrel.

My safety addendum

There’s a few other things I’ll add to a safety discussion. Most “people of the gun” should agree with me.

Ear protection.

This is an obvious one. Gunshots are loud. Like 160 dB loud. One gunshot in an enclosed space will cause permanent hearing loss. Bring “earpro” with you to the range. Most ranges will have the foam earplugs or muffs anyways, but be prepared if they don’t. Even the cheap disposable earplugs will knock 25 - 35 dB off of the blast as measured at your ear location.

Eye protection.

To hell with what Armslist says, “eyepro” is a must. Bullets can and will fragment upon impact with a hard target. Think about how fast a bullet travels, and imagine something almost as fast coming back at you. Also, firearms can and do fail on occasion in a spectacular fashion. Chunks of your upper don’t belong in your ocular cavity. Also, when shooting suppressed, there’s a lot more gunk being blown back into the chamber of your rifle, some of which comes out of the gap between the charging handle and upper receiver of your AR. I tend to be generous with the CLP, and it was quite comical once to get a jet of squid-like liquid spraying me in the face at the range. But it stayed out of my eye, thanks to the eyepro.

First-aid kit.

Most ranges have them on standby, but if you are shooting at an unsupervised location, this is a must. Make sure your first aid kit has things like bandages, disinfectant, Quick Clot, and so forth. Also, a good idea is to know where the closest ER is. And most importantly, bring a friend. He or she could save your life.

Yes, I’m the suppressor addict. However, the safety benefits can’t be ignored. Think about it. Your average can will knock a 5.56mm round from an ear-shattering 160+ dB down to about 130 dB. Still loud, but not devastatingly so. Couple that with earpro and you have a nice, quiet, and less fatiguing shooting experience. On the extreme end, a good can will knock subsonic 300 BLK down to less than 119 dB, which you can shoot outdoors without earpro even. Keep the eyepro on though - again a suppressed weapon will throw back a lot of crap your way.

Obviously there’s huge barriers to suppressor ownership. It’s why I support the American Suppressor Association in their effort to remove suppressors from the purview of the NFA. Cans make shooting safer and more enjoyable. In gun-control fanatic countries like Norway, it’s considered polite to buy them, and you can do so over the counter with no more trouble than buying a flashlight. But regardless, if you have the finances and the patience to get a can, do it. You’ll be amazed.

I could be missing something.

I covered the Four Rules, and my own safety tips. I’d love to hear what you guys think. Give me a shout.