AUGUST 22, 2023

Editor’s Notebook: Safety Base

Not to get immersed into religious topics, but it seems that there tends to be a rule that is the foundation for all other rules that follow. It’s the bedrock, the reason for all the rest. According to various sources, this concept is mentioned in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 22, Verses 34-40. “Which commandment is the greatest,” it was asked. The answer? -- the first and great commandment, followed by the second. Upon those, it’s said, the remainder rest. And that’s true. All critical laws are based on that second commandment.

Similarly, when Jeff Cooper went up the mountain and returned with that stone tablet, we found this: All safety rules are based on Rule 1.

All guns are always loaded.

Everything else follows. It’s because of the stated fact, absent contrary solid evidence, that the remainder of The Rules – and all range and class rules – exist.

Don’t believe it? In a safe manner, considering the two main physical safety checks (h/t, Clive Shepherd), PROVE IT. Get that solid, verifiable evidence that the rule isn’t true. Then act like it is anyway.

What are those two main physical safety checks?

Because all guns are always loaded, holstering with finger on the trigger likely leads to negative outcomes. Don't do this. Demonstrated, for our edification, at a training class.

Muzzle discipline (Rule 2) and trigger discipline (Rule 3); they’re physical safety checks because you can see them. Looking across the range, you can see someone try to reholster with their finger on the trigger. You can’t stop it, but you can see it. Likewise, when that muzzle covers something we can’t have destroyed – like a part of a human body – we can see that too.

And we’re concerned about that because of Rule 1 – All guns are always loaded.

Last week, at an Arizona firing range, a federal police agency was conducting “training.” The record thus far is unclear as to whether it was legitimate training or simply qualification. Someone shot someone else by accident. The result was the death of a federal officer.

According to press accounts, the FBI will investigate.

There’s no indication it was an intentional act. It is reported that it was a tragic mistake. I feel sorry for the family of the deceased, the coworkers, range staff and the person that must have violated in some fashion Rules 2 and 3 – that person is another victim.

Muzzle off target, finger OFF of trigger. Below, when chambering a round, have the muzzle directed into the safest available direction.

Rule 1 was in effect. If there’s any doubt, there can be no doubt. Any firearms activity defaults to “it was loaded.”

Rules 2-4 (and, to stretch a point, Rule 5) arise from Rule 1. We mind the muzzle, avoiding covering anyone and most things, because all guns are always loaded.

We keep the index finger at high register (straight or bent), avoiding the trigger and trigger guard, because all guns are always loaded.

Image from Stephen Wenger's book --

We don’t seek targets through a magnified optic and don’t shine weapon-mounted lights around when searching because of Rule 2 (and Rule 4: positive visual identification of the target) both of which stem from Rule 1.

Because all guns are always loaded, we attend to the muzzle – don’t cover anything you don’t want to destroy – and keep your finger (and other snag hazards) away from the trigger. There are muzzle aversion techniques to use – and you could always just keep the gun in the holster and don’t mess with it.

-- Rich Grassi