Safe firearm handling is a martial skill unto itself. It speaks volumes about the depth of your competence as a modern self-defense practitioner. The following safety rules are offered as a guideline and are a fusion of the best work of Jeff Cooper and Andy Stanford:
1. Handle every firearm with the same care you would exhibit if you knew the weapon was loaded and ready to fire. This rule is never suspended, including when your revolver’s cylinder is swung open and the charge holes are empty.
2. Always control your muzzle. Never let it cross anything you are not prepared to kill, destroy or buy.
3. Always keep you finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you have made the conscious decision to fire.
This rule often generates a lot of in-class discussion. Consider the example of the “compliant” home intruder held at gun point and lying face-down on the floor. You may need to and probably should keep him under your sights while waiting (behind cover) for the police. But by the same token your finger should not be on the trigger. To do so is neither safe nor reasonable. Whenever handling a firearm it is only when your sights are on the target and you have made the decision to fire should your finger be on the trigger.
4. Be aware of your target and all things around it.
You have to presume that in a gunfight there will be innocent people to the right, left, and rear of both you and you attacker. Remember that if you are forced to shoot your life and the lives of all these people will depend on your disciplined, practiced and accurate marksmanship. Every shot he fires is a threat to everyone in that 360-degree bubble. Any missed shots from you will only contribute to the threat to the innocents. Every shot you fire must land in the only safe backstop available, the attacker’s body. It is incumbent on you to train constantly in order to be capable of that standard.
5. Whenever around any firearms you have both the authority and the responsibility of a safety officer.
Anytime you see careless gun handling say something. If a gentle word doesn’t work leave the area and notify the range staff, the local police or both. Not all dangerous gun handling should be dismissed as the mark of a shooting neophyte possessing poor safety fundamentals. History is replete with stories of violent individuals who were inappropriately and publicly handling firearms prior to tragic events.
Your gun is not your friend. You must avoid anthropomorphizing it. It is devoid of personality, loyalty and love. You must constantly remind yourself that it is an inanimate machine designed for a single lethal function. You must actively work to make its safe handling a conscious behavior and not a relaxed routine.