Primer Series: Firearms Safety 101 - Women's Holsters

Primer Series: Firearms Safety 101

Primer Series: Firearms Safety 101

This is the first of several articles in Women’s Holsters Primer Series, which is a series of original content created for the purpose of educating all people on foundational and essential knowledge as it pertains to firearms.  The Primer Series will cover topics such as gun laws, gun safety, types and mechanics of firearms, ballistics, concealed carry, etc. and there is certainly no more of an appropriate topic with which to start than firearms safety.

First, let me begin by stating that I did not grow up in a home that was involved much in the shooting or hunting sports.  I also did not grow up opposed to or fearful of them.  I am sometimes surprised by how many intelligent people express their fear of guns in such a manner as if guns themselves were evil manifested as a living being.  That fear is additionally fueled by news releases posted almost daily regarding "gun accidents" committed by seemingly responsible gun owners.  Without any exposure to firearms except through the media, it becomes easy to place blame and fear on guns for various societal problems.  But like with any matter, without knowledge and education, there is a tendency for fear to take over, leaving rationality at the wayside; with firearms, this effect is even further magnified.

My very first exposure to shooting firearms was as a New Cadet during the Summer of 1999 in Cadet Basic Marksmanship Training at West Point, NY with the M16A1 rifle.  Anyone who has ever served in any branch of the military can attest to the fact that respect for the firearm is quickly and thoroughly instilled in each trainee.  That severity is never diluted throughout a military career – and rightfully so.  It was sometime during my years of service that I recall the military changed the term “Accidental Discharge” (or “AD”) to “Negligent Discharge” (or “ND”).  The idea behind this is that there is no such thing as a weapon accidentally discharging a round.  Complacent handling by a human operator is what causes a round to discharge; thus, making it a negligent act on the handler’s part.

This is an important distinction to make in light of much of the media antipathy towards firearms: a firearm, much like a car, a cleaver, or a chainsaw, is an inanimate object and requires training and safety precautions before handling.  When you train yourself, are within the right mental capacity, and understand the appropriate applications, tools and equipment add value to your quality-of-life, not detract. Negligent and complacent training and attitudes will result in negligent and irresponsible applications of any tool.

Whether you are brand new to firearms and the shooting sports, or you are a seasoned veteran, gun safety must always be treated with the same gravity each and every time you pick up a gun - without exception.  Not only was gun safety something that was repetitively ingrained in my own training, but even friends who served with the elite 1st SFOD-D (Delta) always began every training session repeating the four fundamentals of firearms safety, even if repeating only to themselves.  There is a reason that the more elite and disciplined a unit or individual, the fewer the resultant number of gun “accidents”.

There are four rules of gun safety.  Some people teach it differently or in a different order, but this is how I was taught.  They are simple but fundamental rules and must be reviewed and repeated each time you pick up or train with a firearm.  They need to become second nature to you even under pressure.

4 Rules of Gun Safety:

  1. Always treat every gun as if it is loaded.  The majority of all gun accidents are caused when someone thinks the gun they are handling is unloaded. While it seems inconceivable, I have seen people go through the motions of clearing a weapon (meaning, release the magazine and charge the slide to eject the round in the chamber), except that they failed to release the magazine.  Rather than clearing the weapon, they simply chambered the next round in the magazine.  And while relatively uncommon for most commercial applications, even if a gun’s safety is on safe, an equipment malfunction or overheating of the barrel can cause it to fire (I will post a future 101/primer blog about the mechanics of firearms).  For this and many other reasons, always treat the weapon as if it could fire a round at any time and keep it pointed in a safe direction.  Which takes us to Rule #2…
  2. Never let the muzzle cross or sweep anything you are not willing to kill or destroy.  This is what it means to keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. It is impossible to kill or destroy something with a gun if the gun is not pointed at it.  This also means do not sweep, or point, the muzzle even briefly in your movements.  This term is also commonly referred to as “flagging”.  It is for this reason that you find range safety officers on edge at an indoor or outdoor range and religiously enforce that muzzles are always pointed down range, even when lying flat on the shooting bench.  Sloppy or poor handling of the gun combined with pointing the gun in any other direction than towards the backstop of the range is a recipe for disaster.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire. Even with your firearm at the ready position, keep your finger off the trigger and let it rest laterally on the outside of the trigger guard as in the image below. concealed carry

All too often, I’ve heard of instructors, police, and others who accidentally shoot themselves while drawing their firearm from the holster with their finger on the trigger.  And depending upon how you holster your firearm, this could very well be a fatal shot. 

4. Always be aware of what is in your foreground and what is beyond your target.  You may follow all the other rules and have your muzzle pointed towards your target, but you need to also be aware of what might cross in between you and that target (this is your foreground) and what is on the other side of your target. Bullets have tremendous kinetic energy and will often punch through your target or ricochet and lodge itself in another object or person beyond or near it.  This is a particularly complicated factor when considering home defense or other defensive scenario against an aggressor.  Collateral damage in the form of killing innocent bystanders or family members is an unacceptable consequence of forgetting this rule.  There are some measures you can take to mitigate collateral damage beyond a target, such as selecting ammunition that disperses its kinetic energy in the primary target (hollow point ammunition is designed for this purpose).

    The right to keep and bear arms is protected by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; however, this right should be treated responsibly and respectfully through education and training, with the fundamentals of gun safety as the core basis for training.

     -Susan C. Gonzales


    Other Articles From the Primer Series:

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