Universal Firearms Handling Rules
By Stephanie Kerns
They are called the Universal Rules because they cover us at ALL times, in ALL Places and with EVERY kind of gun.
If you look at the mistakes that people make, what they all have in common is the attitude the people have about guns. As a result they have two different kinds of guns in their world -- loaded guns and unloaded guns, with two different sets of handling skills. But could you ever accidentally access the wrong skills for the wrong gun? Could you ever be mistaken about the condition of a gun?
So we are going to simplify our lives when it comes to handling guns. And we are going to follow a handling system that will not only make it nearly impossible to make a mistake; but will cover us at all times, in all places, with every kind of gun. They're called the "Universal Firearms Handling Rules".
Rule 1 "Always treat all guns as loaded".
Any and All guns must be treated as if they are loaded. Every time I handle a gun, I check its condition of readiness, even if I just set it down a moment ago. If someone hands me a gun and says “Don’t worry it isn’t loaded”, I ALWAYS check for myself. Whenever you transfer a gun to another person, make sure you take the magazine out, lock the slide to the rear and CHECK for yourself. If it is a revolver open the cylinder and remove any rounds. I am never going to do anything with an unloaded gun that I wouldn't do with a loaded gun. Which means I can never get my handling skills mixed up or be confused about the condition of my gun. My attitude is always the same -- all guns are dangerous -- I will treat all guns as loaded guns.
Rule 2 "Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to shoot."
Whether at the range, in a class or my daily carry, I need to be constantly aware of where my gun is pointed and what is in front of it. This is called muzzle awareness. You could also call it the "laser rule" and imagine there is an industrial strength laser beam coming out the front of your gun at all times and whatever comes in front of the gun gets cut by that laser. To put it another way, if you don't want to shoot yourself or your buddy in the hand, foot, or buttocks, don't point your gun at you or your buddy's hand, foot, or buttocks. It is up to us to revise it, if someone or thing comes in front of where we currently perceive to be the safest direction. We are always going to keep our muzzle pointed in the safest direction available to us.
Rule 3 "Keep your finger indexed above the trigger guard, unless your sights are on target and you have decided to fire."
I know we have been pre-programmed by the watching movies: finger on the trigger for those action shots are more exciting. However, since our hand naturally tries to work as a unit, as in gripping or clenching, separating our trigger finger from the rest of the grip on the gun takes effort.
We have a few reflexes, that if our finger is on the trigger, the gun will go off. The first is human startle reflex: loud noises or being touched unexpectedly will cause you to clench your hand with enough pressure to squeeze the trigger and have the gun go off. Second is losing your balance. When you trip, your hands will close on whatever they can to help you keep your balance. If your finger is on the trigger when this happens, you will fire the gun. Lastly, sympathetic contraction means that when you are under stress, the action in one hand will occur in the opposite hand up to about 30%. Pulling, grabbing, yanking under stress with your finger on the trigger will cause you to fire the gun. A mantra that can help, you say to yourself : On Target…..On trigger, OFF target….OFF trigger.
So we need to have a master grip: When handling, picking up or drawing your gun up, place your trigger finger (your index finger) straight, elevated and touching the side of the gun well above the trigger. I only touch the trigger when my sights are on the target and I am ready to shoot.
Rule 4 "Be sure of your target and what is behind and beyond it."
Bottom line, when a bullet leaves your gun, you are responsible for where the bullet goes. When we are at the range, we don’t have to think of what is beyond our target, we know there is a backstop. We never shoot at anything we can’t positively identify. In many cases the bullet does not stop with your target and can pass through doors and walls. Know your target, what is in line with it and what is behind and beyond. That doesn't mean we can only shoot when we have a perfect backstop; we also need to be aware of what our backstop is before we shoot.
These four rules are redundant, so that we are covered in case we have to break one. If I break one rule, I have a bad day because I’m embarrassed. If I break two rules, I have a catastrophe that changes the rest of my life and/or someone else’s. Memorize them, so you will remember them under stress. They will allow us to handle all guns, at all times, and in all places.
Remember, it all starts with the attitude that there is no such thing as a safe gun. Once I accept that, I can learn to handle them safely.