Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review of Firearms Safety

I guess it's time to write about something to do with ammo again--after all, it is in the name of the blog.  The thought of basic safety is on my mind this morning...Guess that's ammo related.

In my years of being a gun enthusiast and my time in training (a police firearms instructor since 1985) lax safety practices have been particularly disturbing to me. Whether it's range discipline by a police agency or at any other range, personal handling practice by individuals, or the practice and behavior of "professionals" in gun shops, it a problem.  My personal favorite shop has a couple real professionals--both retired police firearms instructors--their safety practices are admirable and I'd like to think that they're picked up on by the customers, even though I know better.

Let's review some of the basics

First, all guns are always loaded until you have checked them yourself!  Don't rely on anyone to tell you "It's empty, I checked."  Treat it as loaded until you've checked yourself. When you check it, make sure you see the chamber and the feeding system.  Work the action a couple times--some tube-fed .22 rifles if unloaded in a certain sequence, will have a round "in the system."  I've seen that happen at least twice.  Check a gun any time it's been out of your control for any amount of time.

Second, keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you're on target and have decided to fire.  I well recall the account of a young police officer,  never been trained in proper trigger discipline, who was running to make an arrest when he fell and accidentally pulled the trigger of his revolver.  His round struck a man who, though violating the law, according to the law didn't deserve to get shot.  The officer went through years of turmoil before that was settled out.  Proper training and personal discipline on that would have prevented that.

Next would be keeping the muzzle in a safe direction.  Admittedly, safe is a relative term, where is safe in a concrete room?  Pick the direction in which if there is a round discharged, only minor property damage would occur.  If guns are checked and fingers are off triggers, there should never be round touched off in an unsafe direction.

Finally is target environment awareness.  Within hunter training, the instructors usually tell the shooters to be sure of their target and what's beyond it.  That's an over-simplification; a non-target can find its way into the line of fire.  If you're on a range, a dirt bike might come between you and the target...yeah, I've seen that; a deer might wander out of the sidelines as you prepare to fire...had that happen too; or someone one horseback might come out from around the berm...had that happen as well.  Awareness is the key.  Also, on the range you have to be sure that the backstop is adequate.  Shooting a .22 into a steel backstop rated for that is fine...using the same for a .223 is not a safe thing.  If you're using an informal range, you might be shooting into a grassy hillside or gravel bank.  Look out for rocks or anything else that could cause a ricochet, either back at you or into a direction where it might do harm.  If you're hunting, be totally aware of your surroundings.  There are many folks (many clueless about hunting) who are in the woods during the many game seasons.  Keep looking around and be sure when you spot a legitimate target it's well identified and the bullet can't pass through it and strike something else.

Related to all this is how professionals pass their guns back and forth between themselves.  The muzzle should be in a safe direction, the action should be open and the safety--if any--should be on.  That marks a professional.

We live in a world where the uneducated are hostile to firearms.  Let's not give them any ammunition against us by behaving in any unsafe ways.

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