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The NRA’s Three Rules of Handling a Firearm

Today I am going to take a look at the NRA’s rules of safe gun handling and clarify some of the reasons behind them. Hopefully you will find this educational and possibly incite some thought.

ALWAYS keep a gun pointed in a safe direction

Probably my favorite rule to ingrain into students, this rule is the epicenter of safe gun handling. If you follow only one rule of the three then this is the one to follow at all times. It seems self-explanatory right up until you have to determine what a ‘safe direction’ really is. A lot of students like to ask the question of whether they should always point the gun at the sky or at the ground as the ‘safe direction’. I like to point out that the sky is generally not ‘safe’ since the bullet eventually comes back down to the ground. The ground is a better choice, but with a concrete floor it might not be the ‘safest’ direction of all. ‘Safe direction’ is subjective depending on your situation and should be treated as such. Be sure to understand what your gun is capable of and adjust your ‘safe direction’ accordingly.

ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot

Another fairly simple rule that is almost universally violated by new students on their first time at the range. My next training tool is going to be a mock pistol that has a simple contact that turns on a light every time a finger touches the trigger. A definition of ‘ready to shoot’ should be given as well. I like to tell students that it means that your finger needs to be off the trigger until the sights are aligned with the target, they have begun their breath control, and they are ready to actually put the round down range. This means that they have already adjusted their stance, grip, and sight alignment/sight picture to be ready for the shot. Enforcing this with a student means that when a correction is made after the trigger has been touched by their finger that the first thing said will be to take the finger off of the trigger, then give the corrective action whether it be position, grip, or fundamentals related.

ALWAYS keep a gun unloaded until ready to use

First lets define ‘loaded’. My definition for students is having a gun with rounds in the magazine, cylinder, or chamber. This is a hotly debated topic when an self-described ‘advanced’ student comes to a training class. Upon initial reading most students will assume that it means that a gun should be unloaded at all times. When broken down, however, it is clearly seen that it means that a gun that is not ‘ready to use’ should be kept unloaded. So for this one we will simply take a look at the ‘ready to use’ section. When carrying a concealed firearm, are you ‘ready to use’ it? I know that I am, therefore my firearm is loaded. Is a home defense firearm ‘ready to use’ in its storage location? What this boils down to is the thought of whether a gun in a safe is ‘ready to use’ or if it is there for display or storage. For my own personal uses I will have only the firearm that I am ‘ready to use’ loaded in my home or on my person. Beyond that all of my firearms are unloaded and kept either safely stored or locked with chamber/trigger locks. A couple of display firearms even have their firing pins removed in order to render them completely safe since they are in a display form and have no need to be loaded or used.

In closing, the rules make sense on a lot of levels, but they do take a good bit of common sense and forethought to fully understand and implement. I would like to hear anyone’s thoughts or comments on the matter.

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