In every evolution of training you conduct, safety must be paramount. From the new guy on the range, all the way to the most experienced firearm instructor on the planet, we are all safety officers on the firing line. What that means, is it is your responsibility to call a ceasefire if you see someone doing something dangerous on the range.
At no point will anyone on any range ever ridicule you for making a correction when you see a violation to these basic range safety rules. Before you go to the range and start training, make sure you have these memorized. If you need an easy way to remember it, just think: Treat, Never, Keep, Keep.
Safety Law 1: Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
Firearms accidents happen, and primarily they happen when people don’t respect their weapons. Firearms are not toys, they are tools. Tools with a very specific purpose, be that sports shooting, hunting, or self-defense. Every single one of these tools has the capability to cause damage to life, limb, or eyesight.
It’s you’re duty to ensure that whenever you have a weapon in hand, you have personally cleared it to ensure their is no source of ammunition in the weapon.
Treat every weapon as if it were loaded. Respect each tool like it has the ability to end your life.
Safety Law 2: Never point your weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
The muzzle of your gun is the business end. Never point it at anything you know you don’t want to destroy.
A simple malfunction of the weapon, or it’s load, could cause a catastrophic disaster and injure someone. Imagine if this guy didn’t have proper weapons handling under his belt the first time he encountered this malfunction. He could have inadvertently put a 12 gauge shell into his own foot, or worse, into the mid-section of one of his buddies.
If you don’t have the intention on shooting something, don’t point your weapon at it. This concept is easy, but beginners always forget. When you’re on the range with a beginner, make sure they grasp this simple concept. Accidental discharges happen. It’s best that they happen with the weapon pointing in a safe direction.
Safety Law 3: Keep your finger straight and off of the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
A majority of negligent discharges are caused by booger hooks not being straight and off of the bang switch. We’ve all seen the scene in Black Hawk Down where the Delta Operator tells the Ranger Captain “This is my safety,” in reference to his trigger finger. Let me be the first to tell you, you aren’t a Delta Operator, and real life isn’t a movie.
Anyone, anywhere, anytime can make this mistake. It only takes a temporary lapse in posture or alertness for your trigger finger to slip inside of the trigger guard and fire off a round in a random direction. A slight malfunction with your equipment could also cause a negligent discharge.
Booger hooks off the bang switches ladies and gentleman. Trust me.
Safety Law 4: Keep your weapon on safe until you are ready to fire.
Murphy says anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Let’s step back to that scene in Black Hawk Down with the Delta Operator carrying a loaded weapon with the safety off. What happens when his trigger gets caught on something? BANG! Delta Operator or no, firearms do not care. They will discharge a round when the trigger is pulled.
If your weapon has a safety, you need to keep that safety engaged until the moment you are ready to pull the trigger in almost every case. Obviously, some weapons do not have a manual safety. If that applies to your firearm, you need to ensure you are properly trained in the function of the weapon.
Safety Law 5: Know your target, and what’s behind it.
When you’re on the range engaging targets and training, you have to know what you are shooting at, what obstacles are between you and it, and what’s behind that target. Ballistics are a finicky thing. There are entire channels dedicated to ballistics for a reason. You can avoid ballistic mishaps like ricochets, or shooting the guy pasting targets because the range isn’t clear, simply by following this simple rule.
Always know your target, and what’s behind it. It might be something you don’t want to shoot.
If you’re still here, hopefully you learned something new. Make sure you spread this around to anyone who is thinking about getting into firearms. It’s also worth sharing with your friends the day after they make a mistake. Accidents can and do happen, and no one is above these basic principles.
If you’re new to firearms, and this is your introduction into weapons safety, I’d just like to say welcome. The world of firearms is a very fun place. Fulfilling your inherent right to self-defense is an extremely noble action. Remember these words, and apply them every single time you pick up a firearm.
Not a single person is exempt from these rules.
About the Author:
Josh is an 8-year-veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He conducted 4 deployments as an Infantry Machine Gunner, holding billets from Machine Gun Ammo-Bearer to Line Company Weapons Platoon Sergeant. He conducted combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (08), Operation Enduring Freedom (09/10/11), and the 24th MEU (12). During this time he was responsible for the training, supervision, and accountability for well over 100 individual Marines. He left service as a Sergeant with awards including: The Purple Heart, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat V, and the Combat Action Ribbon. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.