The Four Rules and Exceptions

The Four Rules and Exceptions

This is a discussion on The Four Rules and Exceptions within the Basic Gun Handling & Safety forums, part of the General Firearm Discussion category; jmf552 posted this comment in a thread about Instructor Shoots Student during Training Class "As a firearms instructor, he broke at least three of the ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array Tenncvol's Avatar
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    The Four Rules and Exceptions

    jmf552 posted this comment in a thread about Instructor Shoots Student during Training Class

    "As a firearms instructor, he broke at least three of the four major firearms safety rules.

    - TREAT ALL GUNS AS IF THEY ARE LOADED, ALL THE TIME

    - KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF OF THE TRIGGER, UNTIL YOU'VE MADE THE DECISION TO SHOOT.

    - NEVER LET THE MUZZLE OF YOUR GUN CROSS ANYTHING THAT YOU AREN'T WILLING TO DESTROY.
    I have been shooting for 50 years, including in the military and I have always wondered if those rules are not part of the problem. Maybe not the problem the instructor had in the OP, but part of the overall safety problem. We preach these rules and then willingly violate them all the time.

    - TREAT ALL GUNS AS IF THEY ARE LOADED, ALL THE TIME - Really? No dry firing, no function checking, no letting the hammer down on an empty chamber? A shooting range can never be "cold?" You could never handle a gun in a gun store.

    - KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF OF THE TRIGGER, UNTIL YOU'VE MADE THE DECISION TO SHOOT - Again, no dry firing, etc. and how do you field strip a Glock?

    - NEVER LET THE MUZZLE OF YOUR GUN CROSS ANYTHING THAT YOU AREN'T WILLING TO DESTROY. So you are willing to destroy the walls, floor and/or furniture in your house when you pick your gun up from wherever you keep it and put your gun in your holster, because there is no way to get it in the holster without the muzzle crossing something you wouldn't want to shoot. It's a physical impossibility.

    I say this and someone will say, "Oh, that's different" or "Well, you have to apply common sense to the rules." I can tell you from working in the safety field: Any rule that routinely gets violated because of some common perceived exception is not a good safety rule. That is how people get hurt, whether it's with airplanes, power tools or firearms. Yes, safety rules sometimes do need to get violated, but those violations should be very, very rare, and special precautions should be taken when that happens. It should be an emergency situation and treated as such.

    I would rewrite the rules as follows:

    - TREAT ALL GUNS AS IF THEY ARE LOADED UNTIL YOU HAVE DOUBLE-CHECKED THAT THEY ARE NOT LOADED.

    - KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF OF THE TRIGGER, UNTIL EITHER YOU'VE MADE THE DECISION TO SHOOT OR YOU HAVE DOUBLE-CHECKED THAT THE GUN IS NOT LOADED.

    - NEVER HAVE LIVE AMMUNITION IN THE SAME SPACE AS GUNS YOU ARE GOING TO DOUBLE-CHECK AND TREAT AS UNLOADED.

    - ALWAYS KEEP THE MUZZLE POINTED IN THE SAFEST POSSIBLE DIRECTION, UNLESS YOU ARE INTENTIONALLY SHOOTING AT A LIVING THING AND YOU ARE JUSTIFIED IN DOING SO."


    Like jmf552, I have spent many years working hard to keep my employees safe. In my case it was in heavy industry where one overlooked precaution can kill you in an instant. I fully agree that "any rule that gets routinely violated due to some perceived exception is not a good safety rule." However most people have a hard enough time remembering Cooper's four rules as is, much less if extended to include allowed exceptions. Moreover the four rules are in widespread circulation now and trying to amend them might not be successful.

    In industry we often had specific, written procedures established to make a job site safe before we started work, and each worker was obligated to read these in advance of starting work. However when we assigned them to the job we often only gave them a reminder such as, "make sure you follow the LOTO procedure" (Lock Out Tag Out), or "remember to use your fall safety procedures". These were easy to remember reminders - not the full rule.

    The four rules are just the easy to remember reminders. However when a shooter is TRAINED, more specific information needs to be provided for each rule - similar to jmf552's suggestions plus more. I think each rule should be discussed at length to make sure full understanding is achieved and allowed exceptions are defined. There is more to firearm safety than just the four rules but they provide a great reminder and have probably saved countless lives. Just my perspective. Anything that improves gun safety is worth the effort to improve it.
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    VIP Member Array Stetson's Avatar
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    That's a terrible accident.

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    Senior Member Array highergr0und's Avatar
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    They are fantastic and basic rules. I wouldn't want to start muddying the waters by adding a bunch of caveats. I'd rather have people get the original four down pat before they think about adding situations where breaking them are ok
    suntzu, darbo and Maxwell47 like this.

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    Don't over think it.

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    My Uncle is an engineer. His favorite saying is; "Just when you thought something was foolproof, along come smarter fools."
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    I try to K.I.S.S. In most things.
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    VIP Member Array suntzu's Avatar
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    Most people that have had accidents probably thought they did "doube-check" everything.......you just can't fix stupid, laziness, or just plain forgetfulness.

    We once had an aircraft land with the wheels up and it was no malfunction......the pilots thought the wheels were down. There are two places in the checklist for both crewmembers to verify that the wheels are down and locked.......stuff happens.
    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
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    I would say just use common sense, but that seems to be missing in most folks these days.

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    I think the four rule are perfectly basic and that you have to use your head also (common sense). The goverment had great basic rules to follow and look were we are at now. A bunch of basic rules with ridiculous stipulation and segments that are getting harder and harder to understand. IMO follow the 4 basics and use your head for the rest. The people that want to be lazy and stupid thinking they know will learn there lesson. You or anyone else can not stop that! It's going to suck cause it reflects on all of us (look what the police are going threw now) but there is nothing you can do about it.

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    Follow the rules. IMO, there are these four for a reason. Breaking just one shouldn't result in a tragic accident...... breaking 2 or more at the same time is where the trouble is.
    highergr0und likes this.
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    I like the "add common sense" concept. When I have a gun indoors for dry firing obviously I'm pointing at things I don't want to destroy. When I'm cleaning a gun I point at things I don't want to destroy, like the floor. I don't want to shoot the floor. Add common sense without carelessness and you are good to go.

    You get caught up in a literal translation and you get stupid.

    The rules have been around a long time because they are valid and they work. But as Charlie said (and I listen when he posts) "Don't overthink it".
    Typos are for the entertainment of the reader. Don't let it go to your head

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    If one feels the need to argue the absolutist, dogmatic perfection of the rules, stick with them. I live in the real world, where there are no absolutes.
    Ghost1958, suntzu and farsidefan1 like this.
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    I think the rules are well written, and a lot of thought went into them.

    Consider Rule 1. Learned this lesson the easy way. Was going to clean the gun, so I ejected the mag. Went ahead and racked the slide even though there wasn't a round in the chamber, just to reinforce the practice, even though it wasn't necessary in this case. Had to get a yardstick and recover the round that wasn't in the chamber (now) from under a piece of furniture. Rule 1 learned!

    And at a LGS, I once asked the clerk to show me how to clear a pistol. "You don't know how?" "Well, actually I do, but you didn't do it before handing it to me, so show me how to do it."

    - NEVER LET THE MUZZLE OF YOUR GUN CROSS ANYTHING THAT YOU AREN'T WILLING TO DESTROY. So you are willing to destroy the walls, floor and/or furniture in your house when you pick your gun up from wherever you keep it and put your gun in your holster, because there is no way to get it in the holster without the muzzle crossing something you wouldn't want to shoot. It's a physical impossibility.
    Depends on the definition of "willing." I'm not willing to shoot another person, my dog, or my gas tank. I'm willing to shoot the ground, a target, sheetrock, furniture, or anything inanimate. Does not mean I want to, but in the event of AD/ND, there are things I am, and others I am not, willing to destroy.

    - NEVER HAVE LIVE AMMUNITION IN THE SAME SPACE AS GUNS YOU ARE GOING TO DOUBLE-CHECK AND TREAT AS UNLOADED.
    Mine is "No ammo in the same room when cleaning a firearm." Your's is more general, and would have also prevented the tragedy which prompted your post. As would the original rules. There should not have been ammo in that room, at least not unsecured ammo.
    Rudy in Tennessee - Sig SP2022, Maverick 88, and one really good dog

    "Well regulated" shouldn't be confusing...

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    Senior Member Array highergr0und's Avatar
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    The rules were constructed in the absence of common sense.... Assume the gun is loaded, don't point it at things you don't want to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger, and know your target all seem like common sense things, yet the rules had to be established and people constantly fail when it comes to following them

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    I got the hillbilly version as a kid and aint had a ND so far.
    It went like this.
    "Boy, every gun is loaded until YOU make sure it aint.
    Dont let the point at anything you dont want to kill.
    Keep your finger off the trigger unless you want shoot.
    That was it. Served well from age 6 to age 57.
    farsidefan1 and jwilson904 like this.
    You dont have to believe a train is coming. Itll run over you anyway.

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