The Four Rules of Gun Safety
Study these rules carefully. These rules apply everywhere with every gun, not just at the range.
Rule One: Always assume that a gun is loaded and treat it as such.
Lots of people are shot with guns that they or someone nearby assumed was unloaded. If you are handed a weapon and do not intend to immediately fire it, check to make sure that the chamber is clear and there is no round in the magazine ready to be loaded—Even if the person handing it to you has just done that. Check it again before you hand it back. If you are aware that it is loaded, announce “It’s loaded” before it changes hands, even if you feel silly. I will show you how to do this for any weapon you will be handling before we start shooting.
Rule Two: Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
If you are handling a weapon, you must be extremely careful to always point the weapon in a safe direction. The ground is a safe direction, but beware of ricochets if standing on a hard surface like asphalt, and angle the weapon so it is not pointed straight down or in the direction of a person. Be careful not to point the gun at any part of your body. Downrange is a safe direction, provided there is nobody standing in front of you anywhere on the range. The sky (also known as up) is not a safe direction, as what goes up will eventually come down.
Additionally, take care not to “sweep” the barrel in an unsafe direction when moving the firearm. It is very easy to unthinkingly cross the direction of the weapon over the person next to you while moving from one point to the next, so be mindful of your actions. I do not enjoy having loaded weapons pointed in my direction, and will inform you loudly should you do so.
This rule does not apply if the weapon in question is in a holster with the trigger covered, or is placed on a table and is not being handled. Guns do not “just go off” by themselves, and are only dangerous when handled by a person. If we are sitting at a table, for instance, and I remove my sidearm and holster (without removing the pistol), and place both on the table, you need not worry about it. I will still take care not to point the weapon in your direction, but if for some reason it ends up that way and you would like me to move it, I will not be offended when you ask.
Rule Three: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire! KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO FIRE! This is the rule that is broken most often, especially when people have built-in bad habits from years of unsafe gun handling, or playing with toy guns. I will show you before I let you handle a weapon how to hold it with your finger straight and out of the trigger guard. If I see your finger anywhere in the trigger guard and you are not in the process of firing the weapon, I will correct you.
Rule Four: Be sure of your target, and what is behind it.
This is closely related to rule two. Are you sure that your target is something you’re supposed to be shooting? Are you sure that anything behind it is something that’s OK to shoot? Is there anyone or anything around that could move into your line of fire or that you could accidentally hit?
At the range we’ll be attending, it is OK to shoot at a paper target with a hill behind it. It is NOT OK to shoot at a leaf sitting near the top of the hill. It is NOT OK to shoot at something on the ground between you and the targets. It is NOT OK to shoot at the trash cans or the signs, or to intentionally shoot range scenery.
So that’s the safety talk. We’ll review the four rules and their justifications before we start shooting. Remember, I’m going to quiz you!
Guidelines for the range
While we are at the range, I am the boss. You may be a friend, a relative, a co-worker or an employer, but we are attending a range that I pay for membership at, firing guns that I own with ammunition that I purchased. It is not about my ego and I am not on a power trip, but while I’m not an expert, I presumably have more experience with these things than you do, so you will follow instructions that I give you. We’re there to have fun and learn, but this is not Chutes and Ladders. Please attempt to remain serious and conscientious of your actions while attending the range as my guest.
You will wear eye and ear protection at all times while a gun is being fired. I will always look behind me to check for “ears” being on, and I suggest you do the same.
You will follow the Four Rules at all times at the range. If you do not, I will correct you. Please do not be offended if I am stern. I am not attempting to be condescending, and I’m not angry at you, I just don’t feel like standing in line at the emergency room today. If you perceive that I am acting in an unsafe manner, PLEASE ask me to explain what I’m doing. I will not be offended if you catch me breaking one of the Four Rules and correct me.
We will be shooting at an unsupervised range. This means that there is a possibility that we will interact with other people during our time at the range. If we are approached and you are holding a weapon, you will hand it to me in a safe manner, and let me do the talking. If you are asked a question directly, answer directly and honestly. Humility and respectfulness are the words of the day for both of us when interacting with strangers on a firing range.
If you repeatedly fail to respect safety while at the range as my guest, or fail to follow my instructions while handling firearms, we will pack it up and go home early. I’ve never had to do this, but I suspect that one day I will. Please do not spoil our fun day at the range and place a spot on our friendship by acting like an idiot. Thanks!
If you see anything dangerous, yell “Cease-fire” or “Stop”. If anyone yells “Cease fire” or “stop”, immediately stop shooting, but keep the gun pointed downrange until you can set it down safely.
On the big day
Blue jeans work best for the range, since you may have occasion to kneel on the ground to pick something up or while reloading. Khaki’s are OK too, as long as you do not mind either getting a little dirt on them or kneeling on the hard concrete in thin pants. Range rules say no open-toe shoes.
I do not recommend a shirt with a loose collar because the hot brass shells that are ejected when you fire a semi-automatic pistol fly in an arc, and in some cases a collar acts as the perfect method of catching that hot brass, sending it down your shirt and inducing a dance not unlike that which a bee would cause. Holding a loaded gun while contorting and jumping around frantically is obviously not good. Women should be especially aware of this, as exposed cleavage is a magnet for hot brass.
A hat is recommended, but not required.
By the way: If you should happen to get stung by a bee, hit by a piece of debris, have a hot casing go down your shirt, or any other minor mishap, try to remain calm until you can safely set the gun down. However, simply dropping a firearm is better than waving it around, or worse, fumbling with a loaded gun for fear of losing your grip. I can clean, replace, or repair the gun. It is more difficult to replace or repair you. If the gun starts to leave your hands, LET IT DROP. Do not grab at a falling gun! Even a gun that is not drop-safe is more likely to go off in a bad direction by grabbing than by falling.
I will provide all ammunition, eye/ear protection, and targets.