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  1. #1
    Grandmaster melensdad's Avatar

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    Firearms Safety Rules (from the late Col Jeff Cooper, shooter, trainer, hero)

    I may have missed it, but I didn't see any "safety rules" thread anywhere here on the website. I know we have some brand new shooters here, they may appreciate these rules. These are also the rules I used to train my daughter in safe practices.

    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 gunhandling 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 gunhandling rules and insisting that those around you do the same. Set the example. Who knows what tragedies you, or someone you influence, may prevent?

  2. #2

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    The thing about those rules is:
    Those four simple rules are enough.

    They are enough to keep everyone safe.
    They are enough to remember.

    My wife's family is from GA and I joined a gun club nearby to shoot at while there. I just got a list of "revised rules" in the mail from them to sign and return. It was seven pages long, listed 30 items, and took 68 cents of postage to send...and it didn't say anything that wasn't said by those four rules.

    Just about anyone can memorize Jeff Cooper's four rules. I can almost guarantee that anyone who read, signed, and returned that list of rules I got couldn't tell you any four of the thirty right now.

    If those four rules are followed, there should never be a problem.
    Even at that, you almost have to violate two of them to result in an injury.

  3. #3
    Master indyjoe's Avatar

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    It amazes me how many people just casually put their finger in the trigger area with a Pistol. I was in Bradis and watching a customer look for a pressure switch for his pistol (Glock I think.) He is pointing it around, all the time with his finger in the trigger guard. I don't care if you believe it to be unloaded, INDEX THAT DAMN FINGER.

    Even playing a pistol based video game at the arcade, I index my finger as I lower the light gun. This is the first thing I teach shooters and I am annoying with it. They finish a mag and start lowering without a finger coming out, I'm yelling "Finger OFF the trigger!"

    You train it. You do it.

  4. #4
    Patriot, Pater, Plinker obijohn's Avatar

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    thanks, melensdad, this needed to be here.
    NRA Endowment Member
    NRA Certified Instructor

    Adaptive Consulting & Training
    Riley Conservation Club

    "The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State."
    Article 1 - Bill of Rights - Section 32


    To must ACT!

  5. #5
    Grandmaster melensdad's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry in IN View Post
    Those four simple rules are enough.

    They are enough to keep everyone safe.
    They are enough to remember.
    There are dozens of examples of LONG LISTS of gun safety rules, some are many pages long, but they all really simply restate, over and over, the 4 central points from Col. Cooper. Seems to me that these 4 rules are something that can be remembered and repeated and learned. Give someone a list of 25, 30 or more rules and its pretty much a recipe for disaster.

  6. #6
    Marksman NWI40cal's Avatar

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  7. #7
    Expert ryanmercer's Avatar

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  8. #8
    Grandmaster melensdad's Avatar

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    Here are some expanded rules, but basically all of them relate back to Col Cooper's rules above. Some of these may be open to some debate, and there are a few I disagree with, but basically they are sound rules and mostly common sense. Some are not even rules, just common sense suggestions/guidelines. I figured I'd add them for those people who like to complicate things and think that Col Cooper might have been too simplistic with his rules.

    I. The Fundamentals of Firearm Safety

    The three basic general rules of safe gun handling.

    • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction; never point a firearm at anyone or anything you don't want to shoot.
    • Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
    • Keep the action open and the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.

    II. Additional specific rules of safe gun handling

    Safety Rules Related to the Shooter and His Behavior
    • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
    • Never pass a firearm to another person, or accept a firearm from another person, until the cylinder or action is open and you've personally checked that the weapon is completely unloaded.
    • Before handling any firearm, understand its operation.
    • Never rely on any mechanical device for safety.
    • Think before shooting: once you pull the trigger you can't take back the shot you've just fired!
    • Never joke around or engage in horseplay while handling or using firearms.
    • Be alert at all times; never shoot if you're tired, cold or impaired in any way. Don't mix alcohol or drugs with shooting.
    • Don't sleep with a loaded firearm in your bedroom if you sleepwalk, have nightmares, sleep restlessly or have other sleep problems.
    • Safeguard your sight, hearing and health. Always wear eye and ear protection. Endeavor to limit your exposure to heavy metal particulates and gases, and minimize your contact with aromatic organic solvents (such as those commonly used in gun cleaning products).
    • If you see unsafe behavior any time when firearms are being handled or used, speak up and take action to correct the unsafe behavior at once.
    • Receive competent instruction from a qualified person before beginning to shoot. If questions arise later, after you've been shooting for a period of time, get answers to those questions from a competent authority.

    Safety Rules Related to Your Target.

    • Positively identify your target and the threat it poses before firing at it.
    • What's behind your target? Always make sure that a stray shot, or a bullet which penetrates its intended target through and through, will be safely stopped.
    • Never shoot at a hard surface, or at water -- your shot may glance off, ricochet and injure someone.
    • Never shoot at glass bottles, living trees, or inappropriate targets which would create a hazard for other persons or damage the environment.
    • Never shoot a rifle or handgun directly upwards, or at a high angle of elevation. Even a rimfire .22 bullet fired at an angle into the air can have enough energy a mile and a half away to accidentally kill someone!
    • Never shoot across a highway or other roadway.
    • Never vandalize a road sign (or other public or private property) by using it as a target.
    • Never poach a game animal out of season, or shoot any game animal you don't intend to eat.

    Safety Rules Related to Your Firearm.

    • Make sure your firearm is in good mechanical condition before firing it. Periodically have your firearm checked for signs of erosion, cracking, or wear by the factory, by a qualified armorer, or by a factory certified gunsmith.
    • Never try to fire a gun which may have a plugged or partially obstructed barrel.
    • Insure that any modifications made to a firearm are made by a qualified individual, and that those modifications don't interfere with your firearm's safety features.
    • Be sure all accessories, such as holsters and grips, are compatible with the firearm and won't interfere with its safe operation.
    • Remember: a backup firearm carried about your person may be highly valuable to you in the event your primary firearm is ever rendered inoperable or is taken from you by an assailant.
    • It is your responsibility to insure that your firearm is always either about your person and under your personal control, or positively secured from access by children or other unauthorized parties. Prevent tragedy: lock down your firearms when they aren't in use.
    • When storing a firearm for a long period of time, consider storing the slide, bolt, or other critical components of the firearm separately under separate lock and key.
    • Never carry a single action revolver with a round under the hammer unless that revolver is a modern transfer-bar type, equipped with an inertial firing pin.
    • Never carry a pistol with a round in the chamber unless the pistol has an automatic firing-pin block and/or an inertial firing pin.
    • Exercise extreme care in decocking any external hammer firearm: it is very easy to experience an accidental discharge while doing so if your thumb slips off the hammer.
    • Generally avoid unloading a firearm by working the cartridges through the action one-at-a-time; drop the magazine and then eject the round which may be left in the chamber, instead, if possible.
    • Never use a scope mounted on a firearm as a general purpose spotting scope: while observing an area you may end up accidentally aiming your firearm at fellow hunters, or other non-targets.
    • Avoid trying to catch a live round (while unloading a semiautomatic pistol) by cupping your hand around the ejection port while retracting the slide; doing so may result in an accidental discharge.

    Safety Rules Related to Ammunition.

    • Be sure your gun and ammunition are compatible. Shooting incorrect ammunition in a firearm may cause it to be damaged or even make it blow up.
    • Relying on ammunition which doesn't feed reliably in your particular firearm may make your firearm malfunction at a critical juncture: get experience with a particular lot of ammunition in your firearm before relying on it for defensive purposes.
    • Use only ammunition recommended for your firearm by its manufacturer. Never fire ammunition which exceeds industry standard pressure specifications. Over-pressure ammunition will reduce the service life of your handgun, and puts you and those around you at risk of a catastrophic firearm failure.
    • Use reloaded ammunition judiciously. Be aware that many firearms manufacturers specifically forbid the use of reloaded ammunition in their products, and will void their product's warranty if you elect to use reloaded ammunition in contravention of their instructions.
      • Also remember that a cartridge which has: the wrong powder, no powder charge, or too large a powder charge; an inverted primer, mis-seated primer, the wrong type of primer or an inert primer; a mis-seated, inverted, or mis-sized bullet; a collapsed, weakened, improperly sized or mis-crimped case; incorrect overall length or any of a host of other defects may seriously jeopardize your safety, the safety of those around you, and/or the reliability of your firearm in a defensive situation.

    • Many shooters prepare and safely use reloaded ammunition each day, and it can be an economical way to stretch your ammunition budget, but the safety of that reloaded ammunition directly depends on the care, components, equipment, and practices used in preparing it.
    • Carry only one caliber of ammunition when shooting. Accidentally grabbing the wrong ammunition while shooting can result in a shooter or third party being injured, or damage or destruction of a firearm.
    • Insure you carry sufficient spare ammunition for your defensive firearm, and make sure you carry it in a readily employable fashion (such as in spare magazines or in speedloaders).
    • Store ammunition that isn't being used under lock and key, inaccessible to unauthorized parties and children.
    • Dispose of unwanted ammunition safely.

    Safety Rules Related to Your Firearm's Holster and Ammo Carrier.

    • Always use a holster which is designed for, and which fits, your handgun.
    • Make sure your holster covers the trigger guard of your handgun.
    • Purchase a holster which allows you to obtain a secure grip on your handgun while it is still holstered.
    • Be sure the thumb break, safety strap, or other firearm retention device on your holster is functional and consistently employed. A good holster should retain your firearm during normal carry and routine physical activity, but no holster can insure that a firearm will be secure against determined attempts at disarmament, or keep a firearm secure during all possible physical activities.
    • Avoid clip-on holsters and magazine pouches. These carriers may fail to stay clipped to the belt and end up being drawn along with the firearm or the magazine they still hold, thereby interfering with use of the firearm or with timely reloading.
    • Avoid paddle-style holsters, cross draw holsters, and similar holsters which provide poor weapon retention.
    • Avoid ankle holsters, shoulder holsters and other types of holsters which can introduce unnecessary delays in accessing a defensive firearm.
    • Avoid carrying a defensive firearm in a purse, pocketbook, daypack or briefcase. A firearm carried in that fashion is:
    • Typically hard to rapidly access due to the presence of slow-to-open zippers, multiple latches, etc.,
    • Often hard to find and draw amidst all the other items routinely carried, since few purses or briefcases include a dedicated handgun-carrying compartment,
    • Prone to being unavailable when needed, since briefcases, purses and other carriers are routinely set down or put away in a desk drawer where they may or may not be readily accessible and under your physical control,
    • Unusually vulnerable to being stolen, since purses, pocketbooks, daypacks and briefcases are prime targets for purse snatchers, pick pockets, muggers and thieves,
    • Prone to misfunction in an emergency since materials carried along with your handgun in a purse or brief case may gum up the firearm's mechanism and potentially interfere with its proper operation, and
    • Likely to allow your handgun to accidentally become visible to shop clerks, bank tellers or other parties while you are searching for your checkbook or locating a credit card, and that inadvertent exposure may potentially result in a tense situation or even a tragic over-reaction on the part of an individual noticing the firearm and/or summoning law enforcement officers to the scene.

  • #9
    Master Crystalship1's Avatar

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    Thumbs up


    Some truths NEVER change!!!!

    Sadly..... Common sense doesn't seem very common anymore.

  • #10
    Grandmaster Coach's Avatar

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    The four rules are all that you need to be safe and a good gun handler.

    One of the positives of USPSA shooting is the tough demands on safety. I am biased but the best gun handlers are the ones who shoot in competition. It quite frankly scares the hell out of me 9 times out of 10 when a non competition shooter handles a gun. I have never shot IDPA and so I don't have first hand knowledge. That group may be and probably is just as safe. My point is competition does wonders for safe gun handling. If you don't participate you should.
    No one is stronger or more dangerous than the man who can harness his emotions.

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