Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Tactical Edge – September

Silencers and Suppressors

Summer was really hot this year, but now its fall and the weather is turning nice again. It’s cooling down and the elk are now in rut. Everyone is heading up to the mountains early in the evening to watch the bull elk rounding up their herds of cow elk. It’s quite a site around here. On a good night, you have no trouble seeing hundreds of elk in one area or another. As the winter comes on, you will see more and more elk in the town area especially around Estes Park. On a good day there’s more elk than tourists.

This month I want to talk about the topic of silencers and suppressors on firearms. Why do people own suppressors? There are three main reasons: reduction of noise pollution, hearing protection, and safety training. As for the first, hunting frequently takes place in state or national forests or other locations near where people live. During hunting season, nearby residents may be annoyed by the frequent sound of gunfire. Likewise, some people have built houses near established target ranges; when people at the range use suppressors, the ambient noise is reduced, although certainly not eliminated.

There is no difference between a silencer and a suppressor or for that matter, a car muffler. They all function the same way, which is to suppress and muffle sound. Now if you’re a big movie buff, you know a silencer on a gun will enable it to shoot without somebody in the next room even knowing it. That’s an awesome feat, but it’s only possible on a Hollywood movie set. Silencers do not make firearms silent. The average silencer on a typical handgun will suppress or reduce the noise level between 24 and 30 dB. Typical ammunition for a handgun such as a 9 mm has a muzzle blast in the range of 140 to 150 dB. Suppressing that noise by 30 dB only brings it down to a range that is reasonable and not completely damaging to your hearing. It is definitely not silent by any means. Even if you were able to make it silent, the mechanisms on most handguns and rifles make enough noise when they cycle to be easily heard at a reasonable distance. 

Silencers were made illegal to own in the United States by the National Firearms Act of 1934 because people thought that if they were silent, bad guys could do mass shootings without being detected. Silencers can be purchased similar to a gun purchase, but ATF forms for the transfer from the gun store to the purchaser had to be sent to ATF headquarters in Washington along with the $200 application fee and a roughly six-month waiting period while an FBI background check is completed before you can take possession. Currently that six-month wait is taking almost a year. With more and more silencers being purchased, the wait times are just going to get longer and longer. I will speak more to this in a little bit. It’s a funny thing, but if you wanted to purchase a silencer/suppressor in Europe, all you would need would be the appropriate amount of cash. European nations such as Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Britain, among others, an individual who is licensed to own a firearm is always allowed the appropriate suppressor. Many European guns are sold with suppressors already attached. The policy is that if a person is legally authorized to possess a firearm, then it is generally preferable for that firearm to have a suppressor. Simply stated, they are regulated just like holsters and scopes are. Suppressors have the benefit of both decreasing the likelihood of hearing loss and decreasing noise pollution from hunting and shooting ranges. In the UK, Europe, and Scandinavia, they recognize the health and environmental benefits of suppressors, so they are sold over the counter without much regulation at all. 

What a lot of people don’t understand is that silencers not only reduce sound but reduce hearing difficulties and deafness as a result of that sound. Most instructors that I have ever met that have been in that line of work for a long time have hearing aids. If you watch the shooting programs on the sportsman’s channel, you can notice that almost all of the older instructors have hearing aids. The constant high decibel sounds that come with shooting can severely damage your ears. Even with good hearing protectors, the sound is loud enough over a long period of time that it can become debilitating. Silencers are able to suppress the noise to a level that your hearing can tolerate better. Even with silencers, it is highly recommended that hearing protection still be worn. Hearing damage begins to occur at about 85 decibels, about the sound of a hairdryer. Most hearing protection sold for shooting purposes has noise suppression in the range of 21 to 30 dB. That still leaves a fairly loud noise that can damage hearing over time. If you combine the noise suppression of the hearing protectors in combination with a good silencer, that comes out to a 55 to 60 dB reduction in noise. That brings most firearms into the range that is not damaging to your hearing. That is the primary reason for having a silencer/suppressor for your firearm, the ability to hear and understand what your grandchildren are saying to you.

Suppressors have the benefit of both decreasing the likelihood of hearing loss and decreasing noise pollution from hunting and shooting ranges. This is a big deal in Europe where most shooting is done in closer proximity to towns and villages then in a lot of areas in this country due to the population density.
Another reason to own a suppressor that is not commonly discussed, is the fact that they also suppress the recoil on a firearm. I myself like to shoot large bore, big caliber pistols and revolvers a lot more than I enjoyed my .22’s. Due to some medication that I use, I tend to bruise very easily and a day of shooting my .45 auto can leave my hands very sore and bruised. The suppressor I use tends to reduce the recoil of my pistol by roughly 40%. It makes shooting a lot more enjoyable, especially the next day.
What I would like to bring to your attention is the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act that is currently being reviewed by several congressional subcommittees. The Act has 16 titled sections within it that cover a sweeping list of subjects ranging from Good Samaritan search and rescue and polar bear conservation to the management of federal lands for recreational purposes. Buried in the middle of it is the Hearing Protection Act (HPA).

What is the Hearing Protection Act? In the current Congress, the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) is H.R. 367 in the House (sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.) and S, 59 in the Senate (sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho). The HPA retains all of the Gun Control Act’s provisions on suppressors. In other words, purchasing a suppressor would continue to be subject to all the rules that apply to purchasing or possessing an ordinary firearm but it removes silencers from the National Firearms Act (NFA) where it is currently treated the same way as machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and rifles, grenades, mortars and various other devices. The HPA removes suppressors from the National Firearms Act, which means buyers would not have to pay a $200 tax and would not have to go through a months-long federal registration process.

How many people own suppressors? As of November 2006, the number of suppressors in the ATF’s registry was 150,364. By February 2016, the number had risen to 902,805. There is no doubt that suppressors have become much more popular, especially with hunters, as CNN has reported. This number seems to be growing exponentially now.

If you are interested in this topic and want to see silencers/suppressors become more available, contact your local congressman and senator and ask them to vote for the Hearing Protection Act as it is included in the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement or SHARE Act when it comes up for a vote. If you are new to silencers/suppressors, talk to a friend who has one and ask their opinion on how they work. They are a great tool to keep in your shooting bag. If you buy the largest caliber suppressor that you’re going to need, you can buy the reducers to couple them up to your other smaller caliber firearms. Or if you have the financing, ideally you will have one for every gun. However, they tend to run anywhere from $600 to $2000.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog. We hope you’re reading the blog, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us. We love to get email. In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Tactical Edge – August

Firearm Security At Home And Away

Guess what folks? In case you haven’t noticed, Labor Day is coming up in about a week. That means summer is almost over and we can begin to get possession of our mountains and national parks again. Don’t get me wrong, tourists are awesome. They bring a lot of money to our state, but they also bring long lines of traffic and large crowds to popular areas. After Labor Day everything seems to quiet down quickly and the locals get their turn to swarm the mountains. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all. I love the mountains in late fall and early winter. You’ll see more wild game than the tourists ever see during the summertime. It’s really common to see herds of elk inside the town of Estes Park and other small towns in the area. In fact, elk are considered a natural hazard on most of the mountain golf courses. You don’t get a do over if one of them gets in your way.

Anyway, this month we have to talk about firearm security in the home and away from the home. One of our instructors wanted me to call it “Securing your firearm at home and abroad” but that sounded kind of confusing. I asked several people around here what the term “abroad” means. I got funny answers. Several of them said that’s anywhere east of the Mississippi, like Chicago or New York. Others told me that’s where the flatlanders come from. To make things simple and easy let’s just go with in your home and outside of your home.

Firearm security in your home is of paramount importance, especially if you have children in the home. Firearm regulations in Colorado do not include written specifications for the lawful safe storage of private guns and ammunition. Other states have varying regulations dealing with safe storage of firearms that range from fairly weak to extremely intense (California, New York). Since this blog deals mainly with people in Colorado, I’m going to talk about what we should do here. If you’re not from here, anything I relate to you should be reviewed in conjunction with your local laws. Colorado has very weak laws regarding firearms storage and safety, but that will not protect you from civil actions if your gun is lost, stolen, found by a child, or used in a crime. Anybody can sue anybody about anything and it will still cost you money to defend yourself even if you’re not guilty. That said, it behooves us to protect our firearms and our children when storing guns in the home.

Unsafely stored firearms cause major public health and safety problems in the United States. Researchers estimate that more than half a million firearms are lost or stolen from private residences each year. These unsecured guns are a major source of black market weapons and are a significant threat to public safety. Safe firearm storage laws help prevent burglars and other dangerous people from gaining unauthorized access to firearms.  Since Colorado does not mandate specific regulations or methods to provide secure storage, we must take it upon ourselves to come up with the methods that suit our individual circumstances the best.

Safe storage of a firearm in Colorado is every gun owner’s responsibility, regardless of federal, state, or local regulations. Even in the absence of laws, common sense should tell the law abiding citizen an unsecured gun is a dangerous proposition, especially if it should fall into the wrong hands. In states that don’t have specific laws related to securing the safety of a firearm, there are almost always laws on the books for some sort of criminal negligence that can be levied against the gun owner. For gun owners who do not take responsible measures for securing their weapons, there is the possibility of a civil suit that can be brought against them in the event someone is seriously injured or killed while using their firearm. It doesn’t matter if your children are all grown, if it’s just you and your spouse in the home, or if you are taking a trip to the store; your responsibility for ensuring your firearm is safely secured when left unattended is a duty you have to yourself, the safety of others, and the community. One of our most important decisions must be child access prevention. 

# 1 Safety Rule:  “If it’s not on your person, it’s locked in a safe!”

The question of safe firearm storage can be a confusing topic. If the firearm is stored in a safe that is difficult to retrieve during an emergency, it could actually hinder you in carrying out your personal protection strategy. On the other hand, if the safe can be easily accessed or is portable, a thief or criminal may be able to gain access or remove your safe from your home; allowing them to break into it at a more convenient time. The balance between the two scenarios is up to the gun owner to determine and no two gun owners will have the same opinion.
If you were raised in the 1950s, ’60s, or ’70s, it’s a good bet your childhood was quite different from those of kids today. We drove without car seats or even seat belts, bikes were ridden without helmets, and lead paint was used to brighten our lives. And, if you grew up in a hunting and shooting family like we did, having guns around was just as natural as having kitchen knives, cleaning chemicals, and power tools in the home.
Much as with other potentially dangerous objects found in our household, my siblings and I were raised to follow a strict “Don’t Touch” policy. Don’t touch the hot stove, don’t touch the paint thinner and don’t touch the guns. The “Don’t Touch” policy that worked for us, may not work for you and your family today.

The right safe storage solution for everyone is different. Whichever method you choose, it must provide an adequate level of protection to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the firearms. The determination of what is “adequate protection” is a matter of judgment on the part of the individual gun owner.

The variety of options for safe and secure storage seem limitless, but tend to fall under six different categories.

Trigger Locks - are a simple and affordable option for preventing a gun from being loaded or fired by an unauthorized user. Whether they are provided by the manufacturer or the dealer, most new guns are now sold with a trigger lock right in the box. These locks take different forms. A trigger shoe clamps down around the trigger or trigger housing to prevent the trigger from being manipulated. Because these devices come into direct contact with the trigger, they should never be installed on loaded guns. Also, older children are unusually clever at defeating them given enough time.

Cable locks block the action of a firearm, preventing the action of rifles and shotguns from being closed. When used with a semi-automatic pistol, they will also prevent a magazine from being loaded into the grip. For revolvers, the cable is looped through the barrel to prevent the cylinder from closing.

If a dedicated gun lock is not available, an ordinary padlock can be used with many guns. Simply slip the hasp of the lock between the back side of the trigger and the trigger guard to prevent the trigger from cycling. Trigger locks are inexpensive (less than $20), or even free through some community programs, and can successfully prevent an unintentional discharge when installed properly. However, they do not offer any physical protection for the firearm or a measurable level of theft deterrence.

Gun Cases - are readily available at local sporting goods stores in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and material options to fit every kind of commercially available firearm. Case options range from padded fabric sleeves to rugged foam-lined plastic containers, with prices from $10 to $150. The primary role of this kind of affordable carry case is to protect one or more firearms from physical damage.

Most soft and hard-side cases can be “legally” locked for firearm transportation to and from shooting events. A padlock through a soft case’s zipper pull or a hard case’s carry handle can do the trick (check your local regulations). Affordable, portable, and easy to store, locked gun cases represent a common and convenient safe gun storage method, and a big step up from tossing a bare gun into a drawer or closet. A locked carry case will certainly keep small children from handling a firearm, just as a trigger lock will.

However, their usefulness as safe storage devices is limited by the materials from which they are made. The soft fabrics and plastics used in these cases can be quickly defeated by ordinary edged tools. Because gun cases are designed to be light to carry and handle, they can be carted around just as easily by a thief as their lawful owner. Unless they are secured within some other lockable structure, gun cases may be spirited away, along with their contents, to be opened and pilfered at another location.

Strong Boxes and Security Cases - represent an effort by manufacturers to provide gun owners with the anti-theft and gun-finish protection features of a locking gun cabinet while maintaining the portability of handgun and long-gun carry cases. Pricing for these units varies greatly, anywhere from less than $50 to more than $300, based on the level of technology incorporated into the system. Some of the best storage options for those who want quick-access to defensive firearms are found in this category.

When it comes to strong boxes, it’s hard to beat the variety of configurations and lock options provided by GunVault. The MV500-STD Micro Vault is a portable model that’s slim and light enough to carry in a briefcase or to be tucked into a small drawer. The No-Eyes electronic keypad allows the user to enter a customized code by touch so that the box can be opened quickly in total darkness if necessary. I keep one of these in my car for storage when I am unable to take my gun into a prohibited area. The Speedvault SVB 500 mounts to vertical surfaces, such as the interior of a desk or closet. The programmable biometric fingerprint reader allows access to a single pistol or revolver in less than two seconds. Multiple-gun or increased-capacity units, such as the DrawerVault and Multi-Vault, are also available.

Secure Firearms Products provides some of the most rugged security cases available for travel. These metallic cases feature welded corners, heavy-duty plated steel latches, case hardened locking studs, and a high security Medeco Lock. Mounting hardware and cables allow the cases to attach directly to the trunk of a car, the wall of a closet, or the interior of a suitcase when flying with commercial airlines.

These work well but they have to be secured to a stationary object to prevent them being carried off. In my car they are attached to part of the frame. In your home you would have to find something strong enough or heavy enough to contain them. They work great in the home as a defensive vault where you have quick access in an emergency. They can be on your dresser and give you immediate access while preventing your children from gaining access.

Locking Steel Gun Cabinets - provide an increased level of storage capacity and internal configuration options, when compared to security cases and strong boxes, but they differ from gun safes in several respects. The thinner gauge of steel, a simple locking mechanism, and the absence of fire-resistant insulation keeps these units in the $150 to $450 price range and reduces their weight. Because these cabinets are light enough to be moved safely up and down stairs by just one or two people, they can be employed in locations such as apartment buildings or second-floor rooms, where a gun safe would be too large or heavy to install.

An excellent example of this category is the Model GCB-18-C convertible security cabinet from Stack-On. This California DOJ-approved cabinet can hold up to 18 54-inch long guns, or nine long guns and four shelves of storage, or it can be converted to all storage shelves, depending on your needs. The three-point security system features a double-bitted, key-coded lock for greater security. Fastening hardware, for attaching the cabinet to the floor or wall, and foam padding for the shelves and floor of the cabinet are included. If additional storage space is needed, a Model GCB-900 pistol and ammunition cabinet can be mounted on top of the GCB-18-C convertible.

Gun Safes - represent the most secure gun storage option available to the average gun owner. A basic, no-frills safe is superior to any other storage option discussed so far in preventing unauthorized access to firearms. The dedicated racks and lined interiors will help to protect the finish of the guns and, most importantly, safes are an effective theft deterrent. A gun safe’s weight, the heavy-gauge steel of the outer box, the complex locking mechanism, and the option to bolt the safe directly to a concrete slab, all work together to frustrate the efforts of burglars. Safes not only fulfill the three-fold mission of safe gun storage, they can also provide additional protection against flooding, fires and other disasters. Quality safes are available from American manufacturers, including Cannon, Fort Knox and Liberty Safe.

The purchase of a gun safe represents a significant financial commitment. Just like other high-end consumer products, safes are available with a wide variety of features, all of which affect the bottom line cost of the unit. Prices range from $500 to more than $3,000. 

Now we get into away from the home firearm security. When you’re away from home, the absolute best way to secure your firearm is on your hip in your immediate control. If that’s not always possible then several of the options above will work equally well in your vehicle, office, or hotel room. I highly recommend against storing your firearm in either your luggage or the so-called safe that most motels and hotels provide for in your room. Neither of those options is secure. The trunk of your car is fairly secure and if you add one of the above strong boxes or security cases which are either mounted to your vehicle or secured by a cable in your vehicle.

I can’t stress enough that the best place for your firearm is either in a strong gun safe in your home or in a well-made holster attached to your belt. You have to decide for yourself based on your circumstances, your location, whether you have kids around, and how strongly you feel about the necessity of immediate response to a sudden threat against yourself or your family. All of these must be part of your plan for how to secure your firearms. Each individual will have to look at their unique situation and decide what’s best for them. In the case of children, we think it’s critical that they are educated about firearms and their dangers. On the one in 1 million chance that you leave one laying around and a child finds it, you want that child to know it’s not a toy and they need to find an adult right away to secure it. The older the child the more you can train them, but the most important thing is to take the curiosity factor away by showing your firearm to them along with the importance of their danger and why they shouldn’t touch them. A trained child in your house is a safer child compared with the untrained child who happens upon a gun and gets excited to play with it.

If one of your firearms gets into the wrong hands and someone is injured or killed or the firearm is used in a criminal manner, you ultimately will bear the responsibility for it. In the event of an accidental death, you will have to live with it for the rest of your life. It’s one thing if you have to take out a bad guy as a last resort, but it would be devastating to find out that one of your children or a neighbors child was accidentally shot.

By this point, you are probably wondering how you were going to protect your home and family after you secured everything. It’s a great question. Home invasions aren’t planned, they happen and happen quickly. Ask yourself “What’s my next step to being safe while having my firearms secured”?

Balancing Security and Accessibility with Guns in the Home
Having children in the house changes everything, including your gun habits. At least it should. Even if you do not have kids of your own, you may on occasion host others with children, or even other adults that are not trustworthy. Here is a good policy:  Any firearm that you own is either physically on your person or locked up and inaccessible to unauthorized users. No exceptions. This is the only way to responsibly maintain your guns. The issue that plagues many, however, is balancing the necessary safety with quick accessibility in case you actually need your gun to defend your home. Here are some suggestions for striking this balance.

Home Carry
The optimal place to store a home defense gun when you are awake is on your body. It is that simple. We tend to relax and certainly shut the world out when we are at home. Even most folks who carry a gun when in public put the gun away when in the home. Being a victim of a home invasion is quite low statistically. However, when it comes to self-defense I encourage people to remember that the odds don’t matter, what is at stake matters. Just as having a fire plan is important for yourself and your family, even though being the victim of a house fire is exceedingly low statistically, having a home invasion plan is also important. The best place to have a home defense gun when your walls are breached is on you.  My approach to carrying a gun does not change whether I am home or out in the world. I always carry a gun unless I have to go in a place that prohibits it. In the morning my gun goes on my body and remains there until I go to bed at night. Therefore, my foremost defense at any moment is my handgun on my person, even if at home. This is the best policy for home defense, making no distinction between home defense and general self-defense. 

Leaving loaded handguns out and about in the house is exceedingly irresponsible if you have children who are too young to be trained and educated in firearm safety. A firearm that is carried on the body is the only firearm you truly maintain control over. Any gun not worn directly on the body needs to be locked in a secured container of some sort, period.

Another reason I am generally opposed to unsecured guns in the house is the fact that they tend to remain unsecured, even when the homeowner is gone from the house. Many people who leave guns laying around claim they always lock them up when not at home. I find this is rarely true. It has happened more than once, a homeowner returns home to a robbery in progress only to be killed with his own firearm. These are all reasons to avoid the habit.
Staged Handguns
Let me now address what some refer to as “staged” handguns for home defense. If you do not home carry, this is going to be your best solution. Even if you do home carry, but only carry a smaller handgun, staging a full-size combat handgun in a quick-access safe is a sound idea. I have found that a quick-access hand safe is the ideal balance of speed and security for the home defense handgun. These devices are not only suitable for in the bedroom next to you at night; these safes are quite small and can be secured out of sight in different locations of the house, keeping the gun out of unauthorized hands, yet providing rapid deployment.

Regarding the hours of sleep, some people are very concerned with the idea of having a gun quickly accessible if, heaven forbid, you wake up to an intruder literally right in the room with you. I am of the opinion that your bedside handgun is best kept in a quick access safe for safety on a number of levels. Being forced to gain enough consciousness to open the safe may also avoid an accident. The best solution here is to ensure that there are warning systems in place that will wake you before an intruder is actually in the bedroom with you while you are fast asleep. While the open gun on the night stand may be fast for you, it may also be right there for an intruder to grab himself if you are dead to the world while he stands next to your bed. Terrifying thought indeed, but the answer to this is multiple layers of security and warnings to ensure that you are awake if your home is breached. Alarms and/or alert dogs works here.

Staging Long Guns
For those that wish to embrace the effectiveness of a long gun, I think there is sound motive here, but it should be considered supplemental to the handgun, and utilized and deployed from a planned position of ensconced defense. The long gun is harder to stage, less maneuverable within the house, and slower to deploy into action than a handgun. However, if unwanted company has gained entry into the home and all members of your household are accounted for in the designated safe room, now is the ideal time to be holding a shotgun or a rifle. Therefore, a home defense long gun is best staged within the safe room, whatever room that may be. If it is the master bedroom, perhaps you wish to mount a shotgun or rifle to the wall somewhere in that room. The same safety issues that apply to handguns apply to long guns: the gun cannot be simply left in the corner of the closet; it needs to be locked up.

Gun safety, like home safety, is best practiced in layers. Just as you have good lighting, secure windows and doors, an alarm system, a dog, a home defense plan AND a home defense firearm, keeping your firearms safe from kids requires layered security. Awareness is first. If you have kids and firearms, the former need to know the safety rules for the latter. They need to be intimately familiar with guns: what they are, what they do, and how to handle them safely. Begin the process as soon as they can talk. Reinforce firearms safety until they leave home for higher education or gainful employment. Include your children in your home defense plan. Giving them tasks in an emergency helps them view firearms responsibly. At some point, you may want to give your progeny access to your home defense firearm or firearms; you can’t alway be there for them. But maybe they can be there for you.

If I haven’t scared you by now, I probably can’t. I do hope you understand the importance of our subject matter. If you have questions, send us an email or talk to a knowledgeable firearms instructor or your local gun store. It’s help that we’re all glad to give.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog. We wish everyone a safe holiday weekend.  We hope you’re reading the blog, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us. We love to get email. In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Tactical Edge – July

Firearm Safety And The OOPS Factor

Oh my gosh, it’s mid July already. We are all sweltering in the heat and hoping September comes quickly before we melt. It’s been so hot here that I really worry about leaving ammunition in the car for more than an hour for fear of a fireworks show. The one at the fairgrounds was awesome but the one in my car won’t be. I’ve been thinking that when we go out shooting I should probably take a second cooler along just for the ammo. Oh well, it’s almost over. Another two months and we’ll be in the 80s again. A few years ago, September meant the first possible snow. Now it means a possible chance to be in the 70s. Dreams are still free, right? Anyway, back to the blog. This month we need to talk about gun safety and the dangers of being unsafe.

The Oxford English dictionary definition of OOPS says the word is used to show recognition of a mistake or minor accident, often as part of an apology. It’s a quaint, sometimes funny term that you hear frequently in conversation. It’s used to express surprise or distress or to say in a mild way that you are sorry about having done something wrong. We’ve all used that at one time or another I’m sure. But, it is never ever good to hear it used on the firing line while you’re handling a loaded gun. On the firing line, it’s neither cute, nor funny, but downright scary. It can make even the seasoned instructor turn ghostly white. I know this because I’ve witnessed it myself. I’ve seen veteran instructors, decked out in their military fatigues and decorated in curious scary tattoos go absolutely pale at the sound of the word, especially when they hear a gunshot at the same time. An oops on the firing line can get somebody killed or severely injured. That being said, immediately remove the word oops from your vocabulary if you are a shooter and then take the steps necessary to eliminate its need. I would like to reacquaint everybody with the rules of gun safety. I think the best way to do this is through the insight of Jeff Cooper. 

Jeff Cooper's Rules Of Gun Safety


There are no exceptions. Do not pretend that this is true. Some people and organizations take this rule and weaken it; e.g. "Treat all guns as if they were loaded." Unfortunately, the "as if" compromises the directness of the statement by implying that they are unloaded, but we will treat them as though they are loaded. No good! Safety rules must be worded forcefully so that they are never treated lightly or reduced to partial compliance. 

All guns are always loaded - period! 

This must be your mind-set. If someone hands you a firearm and says, "Don't worry, it's not loaded," you do not dare believe him. You need not be impolite, but check it yourself. Remember, there are no accidents, only negligent acts. Check it. Do not let yourself fall prey to a situation where you might feel compelled to squeal, "I didn't know it was loaded!"


Conspicuously and continuously violated, especially with pistols, Rule II applies whether you are involved in range practice, daily carry, or examination. If the weapon is assembled and in someone's hands, it is capable of being discharged. A firearm holstered properly, lying on a table, or placed in a scabbard is of no danger to anyone. Only when handled is there a need for concern. This rule applies to fighting as well as to daily handling. If you are not willing to take a human life, do not cover a person with the muzzle. This rule also applies to your own person. Do not allow the muzzle to cover your extremities, e.g. using both hands to reholster the pistol. This practice is unsound, both procedurally and tactically. You may need a free hand for something important. Proper holster design should provide for one-handed holstering, so avoid holsters which collapse after withdrawing the pistol. (Note: It is dangerous to push the muzzle against the inside edge of the holster nearest the body to "open" it since this results in your pointing the pistol at your midsection.) Dry-practice in the home is a worthwhile habit and it will result in more deeply programmed reflexes. Most of the reflexes involved in the Modern Technique do not require that a shot be fired. Particular procedures for dry-firing in the home will be covered later. Let it suffice for now that you do not dry-fire using a "target" that you wish not to see destroyed. (Recall RULE I as well.)


Rule III is violated most anytime the uneducated person handles a firearm. Whether on TV, in the theaters, or at the range, people seem fascinated with having their finger on the trigger. Never stand or walk around with your finger on the trigger. It is unprofessional, dangerous, and, perhaps most damaging to the psyche, it is klutzy looking. Never fire a shot unless the sights are superimposed on the target and you have made a conscious decision to fire. Firing an unaligned pistol in a fight gains nothing. If you believe that the defensive pistol is only an intimidation tool - not something to be used - carry blanks, or better yet, reevaluate having one around. If you are going to launch a projectile, it had best be directed purposely. Danger abounds if you allow your finger to dawdle inside the trigger guard. As soon as the sights leave the target, the trigger-finger leaves the trigger and straightens alongside the frame. Since the hand normally prefers to work as a unit - as in grasping - separating the function of the trigger-finger from the rest of the hand takes effort. The five-finger grasp is a deeply programmed reflex. Under sufficient stress, and with the finger already placed on the trigger, an unexpected movement, misstep or surprise could result in a negligent discharge. Speed cannot be gained from such a premature placement of the trigger-finger. Bringing the sights to bear on the target, whether from the holster or the Guard Position, takes more time than that required for moving the trigger finger an inch or so to the trigger.


Know what it is, what is in line with it, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified. Be aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a fight. Do not assume anything. Know what you are doing. 


Make these rules a part of your character. Never compromise them. Improper gun handling results from ignorance and improper role modeling, such as handling your gun like your favorite actor does. Education can cure this. You can make a difference by following these gun handling rules and insisting that those around you do the same. Set the example. Who knows what tragedies you, or someone you influence, may prevent?

I’ve read this before and I think it pretty well covers every aspect of safe gun handling in blunt and understandable terms. Jeff was a military man and didn’t waste much time on useless talk. He was also one of the best firearms instructors of our time. Gunsight, his Arizona shooting school taught some of the most prestigious shooters known today. We can all benefit by his wisdom.

All of us that have spent any amount of time in the shooting world have seen the acts and heard the stories of what can happen or in some cases did happen because of the oops factor. If you talk to the people involved, they like to tell you it was an oops, a mistake, they didn’t mean it, it just happened. What they are actually telling you is that they never learned or took seriously the four rules of gun safety. But we as the teachers and the instructors and the leaders can’t let them be satisfied with that answer. It is our job to teach what is absolutely a must for every shooter, safety first.

One of the things I feel really strongly about after going over the rules with new shooters is the fact that they must be able to handle their firearm. New shooters like the wow factor of having a big gun and a big caliber, but frequently they don’t have the physical strength or dexterity to handle such a firearm. I see people coming to the firing line and when it’s time to load and make ready, they don’t have the ability to pull the slide back and they fumble around trying to load their gun. This can get really dangerous for the shooters standing around them. They’ll struggle trying to retract the slide and their attention is so focused on the slide that they don’t see they are pointing their gun at the people next to them. We’ve seen other people come out with firearms that they’ve never used before and they know nothing about. All they know is the bullets go in here and come out there and hopefully they figured out which is which. Those people are really scary. They don’t even know enough to know that they need help in the form of some classroom work with an instructor or a knowledgeable shooter. Yes, I am definitely picking on these people because it’s me or my friends who could get shot by them.

There are so many things that can happen with a firearm even with a good shooter and a quality firearm. One of our instructors was handling a brand-new gun on our outdoor range. Luckily it was one of our instructors because when he racked the slide to load the firearm, it fired, not once but repeatedly. There was evidently a factory problem with the seer and it allowed the weapon to accidentally fire several times in succession. The instructor tried this same maneuver several more times and in each instance he had the same results. The gun was disassembled to be returned to the factory. Had this been a new shooter, who knows what could’ve happened. A lot of people I’m seeing lately are having their guns modified so that they have a lighter trigger pull in a more accurate shooting firearm. There is nothing wrong with that provided that the shooter has the skill to handle the new settings on their firearm. If you’re not a skilled shooter, having a very light trigger pull can very easily mean an accidental discharge. We had one recently on our range. We were doing movement and shooting drills. One person was carrying a revolver with an extremely light trigger and they had it cocked. As they went to move, their finger accidentally brushed against the trigger and the firearm discharged. The student and the instructor were standing less than a foot apart and the round went into the dirt between their feet. That was almost too close to a disabling injury. Both the student and the instructor were in shock when it happened. If you have a modified firearm, it is even more critical that your attention is focused on safety and awareness.

Another thing that I see a lot of is people coming out with a gun that was handed down to them or sold to them by a friend or whatever. You can tell when a gun is in bad shape and has been neglected. Who knows if they are mechanically safe to operate. Firearms like that are potentially unsafe until they’ve been cleaned and thoroughly inspected before any attempt at loading and firing. I’m proud of my guns. They are cleaned and mechanically inspected after each use. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My life could depend on them. Besides that, I pay a lot of money for my guns. Most shooters I know feel the same way. It behooves us to pass this knowledge on to all new shooters and even seasoned shooters around us. In such a serious business, it is up to the knowledgeable to spread that knowledge for the benefit of all of us. I hate funerals and don’t much care for hospitals, so I’d rather be a good trainer than a sad visitor. Don’t you agree? I could go on and on with examples of things that go wrong but strict adherence to the safety rules can prevent 98% of them. Just be safe.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog. We hope you’re reading it, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us. We love to get email. In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.