Weapons Safety and Training: A Necessity—Not a LuxuryApril 27, 2013 by Melanie Swick | Be the first to comment »
Everyone who knows me fairly well knows that I am a huge supporter of the Second Amendment. That does not come with any caveats or asterisks. I believe every adult who isn’t in prison or a mental institution should have the right to own whatever weapons they feel they need to defend their families, but with that right comes tremendous personal responsibility.
Your primary job in life is to ensure your safety and the safety of your family. This often begins by purchasing a weapon and ammunition, but that’s far from the end of your duty because you’re dealing with a device capable of inflicting tremendous damage and even death. Negligence can quickly result in an outcome that you can’t take back. Therefore, training, both initial and ongoing is necessary.
Before you start breaking out the pitchforks and torches, I am not advocating any form of government mandated training programs as a condition for owning a firearm. Given that a trained police officer has a hit ratio of only about 20% according to Department of Justice statistics, the last people I want in charge of firearms “training” are the people who think this is acceptable. During my days in the Marine Corps, I would have had my ass handed to me for such abysmal performance. As a civilian today, I would quickly find myself in jail if I I fired five rounds in self-defense and one hit the bad guy while the other four flew wildly into the crowd.
No, I believe it’s up to each of us to ensure that we’re properly trained in the use of every firearm we own. That means in ideal conditions like we experience at the range, as well as in the dark, the cold, the heat, the rain, and the snow. We need to be able to employ our weapon just as effectively from either hand and in unusual shooting positions. It’s critical that we can effectively draw and accurately fire our weapon in a variety of clothing. Remedial action and rapid reloading must be second nature. In essence, your weapon should be an extension of your body.
The four rules of weapons safety
The four rules of weapons safety apply to every weapon, from a pellet gun to a Howitzer, so let’s cover that first.
- Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
This means every weapon—even if you just unloaded it. I’ve even seen more than one well-trained Marine hand me an “unloaded” weapon only to find out there was a live round in the chamber. Much ass chewing ensued, followed by punishment that would make the hardest person cry. These a trained people— sadly, there are countless stories of ordinary people doing the same thing. If I hand you a weapon, I will remove the magazine, lock the slide or bolt to the rear, check the chamber, and then hand you the weapon rear-end first. You damn sure better do the same thing before handing me a weapon or I will ram it into your chest with enough force to ensure you never make the same mistake again. This isn’t a one-time event either. Let’s say you’re about to clean your weapon and you’ve already ensured that it is unloaded, but your doorbell rings. Most people would simply set it on the table to answer the door and then come back to disassemble and clean their weapon. Don’t. Anytime your weapon leaves your eyesight, you must again ensure that it is unloaded.
- Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
Nearly every Hollywood action movie poster is emblazoned with an oiled-up hero, toting the latest and greatest weapon with his trigger firmly molesting the trigger. This might be cute when you’re dealing with weapons that can only fire blanks, but in the real world, it’s a good way to kill someone. Remember, there is no such thing as an “accidental” discharge, only a negligent discharge. Due to modern manufacturing, a weapon is physically incapable of firing accidentally—even if dropped. Trigger discipline is one of my biggest pet peeves, and it drive my wife nuts that it drive me nuts because I always point it out, whether I see it from amateurs at the range, on movies and TV, or even worse, from police and military who should know better.
- Never point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
A few days ago, I was watching a supposedly well-trained SWAT team preparing to raid a building. As the point man, oriented forward as he should be, covered the objective, the #2 man behind him fumbled with his M4 trying to figure out whether he left the stove on at home. In the process, he muzzled the point man (pointed the business end of the barrel at him) no less than six times in about 15 seconds. At that range, he almost certainly would have killed his partner despite the best body armor available today. That is the result of poor training and poor discipline. It takes only a fraction of a second to navigate the muzzle of your weapon around the good guys, rather than across their body; your weapon should either point at the target or the ground at all times. (Not up in the air—what goes up must come down, and a falling bullet still carries enough kinetic energy to kill a person.) In addition, you need to be aware of what’s behind your target as well.
- Keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire.
It may seem like an unimportant detail as long as you follow the previous three weapons safety rules, but consider what happens if you fall, get bumped, or something snags your trigger. My weapon stays on safe until I am in my shooting position and have my target properly aligned in my sights. Then I remove my safety, place my finger on the trigger, and with a slow, steady squeeze, send a round into my target. You should also make it a habit of regularly checking that you weapon is still on safe because it could get snagged and change position; this once happened to me. During a cold-weather operation, wearing enough extra clothing and gear to make Ralphie from A Christmas Story look under-dressed, I attempted to sling my rifle. As it slid against my extra clothing and gear, the safety became disengaged and my trigger caught on my canteen causing a negligent discharge. Thank God my rifle was only loaded with blanks, but the lesson was firmly planted in my brain housing group forever. To ensure consistency, you can tie checking your safety to something else you must do on a regular basis, like drinking water or urinating.
Memorize these rules. Understand the logic behind each one. And most of all, follow them at all times. Then make sure that everyone you shoot with does the same.
Next comes training. Shooting is a perishable skill and if you want to perform at your best, you need to shoot regularly. In the Marine Corps, we would fire several thousands of rounds per week. Unfortunately, few civilians, myself included, can afford to maintain that kind of consistency, but nearly everyone can afford to fire 50-100 rounds per week from their primary weapons. Be sure to mix it up by:
- Positioning your targets are varying ranges.
- Firing from both dominate and weak stances, as well as single-handed shooting from each hand.
- Practicing remedial action (tap, rack, bang) to deal with malfunctions.
- Firing under various lighting conditions.
- Utilizing outdoor ranges during inclement weather, like heat, cold, rain, snow, and extreme wind.
- Firing from both your dominate and weak eye.
- Practicing reloading and cycling the action with one hand.
- Drawing from a variety of clothing. (Start off with an unloaded weapon!)
- Engaging multiple targets.
- Practicing rapid-fire instinctive shooting. (Using no sights.)
- Firing from unconventional positions, such as on your back, underneath vehicles, or in simulated buildings.
- Occasionally firing without hearing protection to accustom yourself to the effects.
- Engaging moving targets (Forward/backward and left/right)
- Practicing rapid magazine changes.
- Firing on very close targets within a short time limit.
If you really want to take your training to a higher level but don’t want to join the military or SWAT, you can attend an accredited course offering a force on force training with Airsoft or Simunition® and practice your skills against other humans without the danger of being killed. Keep in mind, this is a supplement to, not a replacement for range time with real weapons.
Weapons safety and training are ongoing. Time and money expended on this skill is well invested because your life could very well depend on it. Can you afford to take a chance by relying on something you practice one or twice a year?