Having spent thirty years in industrial construction, I can’t count the thousands of times I heard that phrase. It bears repeating, especially when it comes to handling and using firearms. Firearms can serve several purposes, but can be lethal when improperly or foolishly handled. A discussion of proper firearms safety rules is a good place to start.

There are several sources for firearms safety rules and one is the National Rifle Association. The NRA established what is referred to as the Cardinal Rules of Safety decades ago. Professional firearms instructors are still teaching these rules to Concealed Handgun Permit applicants, police officers and shooting sports competitors to this day. Rightly so. If these rules are followed to the letter when handling and using firearms, the chance of a tragic accident is greatly minimized.

Jeff Cooper, one of the 20th century’s foremost international experts on the use of firearms, also established a basic set of safety rules. Mr. Cooper’s rules are similar to those established by the NRA, with one exception.

Mr. Cooper’s rules are:

All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.

  1. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)

  2. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.

  3. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

The Cardinal Rules established by the NRA are:

ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Both sets of rules are very good. However, there are those that are legally entitled to carry a handgun for self-defense that would debate the 3rd NRA rule. A criminal that is intent on assault will not give you a timeout to load your handgun. Personally, I prefer Mr. Cooper’s rules. Whether you carry a handgun for self-defenseĀ or not, if these rules are followed, the likelihood of an accident is rare.

Get into a habit of handling firearms safely at all times. Always assume that every firearm is loaded, even if you know it’s not. Don’t be that person in the news about a tragic accident that could have been avoided.

Until next time,




About Jim

Retired from industrial construction and livin' the dream in the mountains of Virginia.
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