The four required rules of gun safety

Published 7:49 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

As most of the hunting seasons are beginning to start here within the state, it always good to review gun safety.  Even for the seasoned hunter, it never hurts to review how to safely and properly utilize a gun.

I wish I had come up with these four fules and copyrighted them.  They are simply brilliant in their simplicity and importance.  Colonel Jeff Cooper, an incredibly well-respected and well-known shooting/tactics instructor is credited with developing them. 

If you are not familiar with them, then please get familiar with them.  Also train those in your home about them as well.  If these rules are followed, it is nearly impossible for someone to be accidentally killed or injured with a firearm. 

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Rule 1 – Assume all guns are always loaded.

No ands, ifs or buts on this one.  Even if someone hands you a firearm and says “Don’t worry it’s not loaded”, assume it is loaded anyway.  This goes for yourself as well.  Never assume that a gun that you have already put away, in a safe for example, is unloaded when you go to retrieve it.  Assume it is loaded at all times and treat it as such.

Rule 2 – Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

Call it what you want, the “muzzle”, the “business end of the gun” whatever you like.  However do not let it point in the direction of anyone, or anything you do not want to destroy.  A big one that is missed here is removing or replacing a pistol in its holster.  Do not let the muzzle point in a direction to bring harm to yourself.  There are specific rules for cold and hot ranges and you should investigate the rules for the range in which you shoot as well.  Suffice it to say, never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

Rule 3 – Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

If you ever watch movies or TV made in Hollywood and know this rule, it will drive you crazy.  Do not be like the idiots you see on TV.  You will often hear in the shooting community, “Keep your booger picker off the bang switch until you are ready to shoot”.  Cute yes, but also very important.  Stress can do many things to us.  If you are under stress, tired, or otherwise unfocused having your finger on the trigger is a problem waiting to happen.  Please note that this will take practice.  We are conditioned to have a firm, strong 5 finger grasp of objects.  You will need to practice with a training or unloaded firearm.  You should regularly bring your unloaded firearm to bear with the finger off the trigger alongside it, sight your target, and place a finger on the trigger.  If you remove sights from the target, take finger off again.  This is great practice.

Rule 4 – Be sure of your target.

This is usually not so hard to do on a static range, because it is purposely set up for such practice. However, the real world is never like a static range.  Whether you are hunting, or in self-defense, you need to be sure of what your target is and what is beyond it.  One example is of a hunter shooting a deer that is profiled on a hilltop.  He has no idea where that bullet will go if he misses, or if it travels through the animal.  The other is of someone in self-defense shooting on a crowded street or business.  What is behind the “bad guy”?  Statistics show us that even highly trained shooters miss due to the many variables and dynamics of just such a situation.  If you miss, what is your round going to be going into?  A person, a car full of people, another business?  Know what your target is and what is beyond it.

In conclusion, I hope you see that these are incredibly easy to follow with some focused attention.  Guns are not toys and are dangerous only if they are handled improperly.  Handled properly, however, they are nothing more than a simple tool.  Be an example for those around you, expect everyone around you to follow these 4 basic rules and show everyone that you believe in them by following them yourself.

Craig Caudill is a lifelong resident of Winchester and serves as Director of Nature Reliance School. He is the author of Extreme Wilderness Survival and Ultimate Wilderness Gear.  Please feel free to contact Craig at or through any of the various social media platforms available.