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4 Rules of Gun Safety

If you’ve been shooting very long, no doubt you’ve seen some monkey at the gun range attempting to validate Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection by doing something stupid with a firearm. I know I sure have. Gun safety is everyone’s concern, and is the most important thing you can learn about firearms.

If you’re a new shooter, or if you don’t know the 4 Rules of Gun Safety, this post is for you.

Colonel Cooper

Colonel John Dean “Jeff” Cooper (May 10, 1920 – September 25, 2006) was an avid hunter, prolific author, history professor, and Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps. Colonel Cooper pioneered many things, one of them being the 4 Rules of Gun Safety, which are based on his works and detailed below.

Rule #1: Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

If you treat every gun as if it’s loaded, all the time, no exceptions, you will be sure to avoid accidents where you did not know the gun was loaded.

Rule #2: Never point a gun at anything you do not want to destroy.

This one sounds like common sense, but it’s really not for most new shooters. You only point guns at things you want to destroy (or in safe directions, like at the floor).

Rule #3: Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

Guns don’t fire themselves. This one is worth mentioning and discussing, as you’ll find that a lot of people who are not familiar with guns will say things like “I don’t even want to touch it” when confronted with a gun. This is understandable – they don’t understand how guns work.

The simple truth is of course that guns cannot fire themselves. Therefore you should always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, or, as my buddy always says, keep your booger hook off the bang switch.

Rule #4: Be absolutely sure of your target and what’s behind it.

Hitting a target, especially for new shooters, can be challenging. Once a bullet leaves the gun, you cannot bring it back. Therefore you must be absolutely sure of what you’re shooting at, as well as what’s behind and around what you are shooting at. You might miss, and bullets can pass through whatever it is you’re aiming at.

Clint Smith on Gun Safety

In the video below, Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch talks about gun safety, and goes over the 4 rules of gun safety discussed above.

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5 Responses to 4 Rules of Gun Safety

  1. The Gun Guy in NJ March 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    I am a NRA Certified Instructor and when I teach new gun owners about safety I use the 3 rules the NRA teaches. Since they are taking a Basic or FIRST step class the focus is on using the gun on a range for target practice. If they move on to defensive classes, let’s say for CCW or home defense, then the 4 rules.

    • Lance Biddle April 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      In my CCW classes, I use the NRA rules as a bad example. Completely unrelated to personal protection with firearms. #3 ??? WTF?

  2. Eddie September 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    I grew up with all these rules…long before orange tips were standard on toy guns my dad extended Rule #1 to all my toy guns (can’t say I still didn’t have a bb-gun battle or two with the neighbor kid wearing metal shop goggles). My kids now think I am mean and crazy for not letting them point cap pistols or shoot Nerf bullets at each other. Kids just can’t tell the difference between a toy and the real deal…and sometimes neither can I.

    Too bad the police in New York City didn’t observe Rule #4…they would have saved some folks a lot of pain.

    I’m enjoying reading some of your old posts. Nice site.

    • Brandon September 17, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      Thanks Eddie.

  3. Robert Hainex May 9, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    When using a guns, stress the fact that guns are not toys and are very dangerous and always take safety measures and attentive when using guns. Thanks!