Monday, October 23, 2006

Firearms Safety - the abreviated version or the comprehensive one:

The below, is a post I made over at the Firing Line (an apparently very good firearms related site). It is about the rules of gun safety; the so called 4 rules of gun safety versus the older more comprehensive rules of firerarms safety. It is a long read, but see what you think, and please comment on this one, I am fascinated by the discussion on this topic. of course you can always go to The Firing Line to comment in the forum.

My apology beforehand, for this post beginning as it does, I felt I had to address one specific off shoot before I go on the the main subject, so it will take part of 2 replies to make it fit (here in my blog it will just be one long rant).

"So have we suffered enough? I am eager to learn from the Master what the true safety rules are."

As for remarks like the above, I guess there always has to be one wise guy in the group who likes to try to offend someone who wanted to make a point in polite discussion. Yet, because of the point made in that one disrespectful sentence, I will tell you all my qualifications. Then you all can decide for yourselves whether or not you want to put any credence into what I am about to say on the original subject.

I started shooting at about age 8 or 9, at summer camp. I won quite a few NRA patches. That is not important. What was important and relevant to this thread is that before I could shoot, I had to learn the unabbreviated rules of firearms safety, the ones that had been in use for many, many years before Jeff Cooper shortened them to sell a book, and to sell his brand of firearms training.

As I matured I used firearms a bit over the years. Then after college, I got my first job in law enforcement as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Again I had to learn the unabbreviated rules of firearms safety, and I had to stick to them for the 4 years I was in the patrol.

I then transferred to the U.S. Customs Patrol. Again I went to an academy wherein I learned the unabbreviated rules of firearms safety.

While a Customs Patrol Officer, I attended an NRA Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor School. I was qualified, by successful completion of that training to become a firearms instructor. I began to have collateral firearms instructor duties at my job after that. Guess what, again I had to learn the unabbreviated rules of firearms safety in order to do so; but there is a new twist, now I had to start teaching them too.

My stint with collateral duties as a firearms instructor while working for the U.S. Customs Service lasted 14 years, from my time as a Patrol Officer, through my time as a criminal investigator, through my time as a special agent and through part of my time as a senior special agent. In all that time I never once heard another firearms instructor teach that there were only 4 rules of firearms safety. I went through co-training with the New York Police Department (several times), I had firearms training with the U.S. Secret Service, I had training with the Federal Air Marshals, I had training with the NYS Police, I had co-training with the U.S. Army in Fort Benning, I had training in 2 Customs Service academies, and I was qualified to instruct revolver, pistol, shotgun and rifle; later I was qualified to instruct submachine gun. Lest I forget, I took the NYS, and CA, hunter safety courses; and I am also a life member of the NRA, and am a member of the NYS Rifle and Pistol Association. In addition I have used my firearms to save my own life more than once.

Am I as well versed in firearms as was Mr. Cooper, probably not. Yet I can say without a doubt that I have never heard anyone else teach his abbreviated form of firearms safety except for those in recent years, and for those who praise him on the Internet.

Am I a master as TimRB would sarcastically like to suggest. No I do not think I am a master. Yet, I sure as heck know a little bit about firearms safety after having been trained in their use, and having had used them, over a period of about 43 years; the last 27 plus of which I have done so on pretty much a daily basis. I am a stickler for safety when anyone else handles them in my presence too. Because I am not a so called master, does not mean that I cannot have a disagreement on this issue with someone like Jeff Cooper,; and because Jeff Cooper was who he was does not necessarily mean that someone else might have a better way. By the way, I am not claiming these rules as my own, far from it, they were written out long before I was born, some even before cooper was born. I simply suggest you may want to consider them (they follow below), and use them in your firearms uses.

With my qualifications out of the way, not only to appease the wise guy, but rather to allow the reader to get an idea if I may know something or not, allow me to continue. I am sorry that the lengthy introduction was, at least in my opinion, necessary. Since one wise guy with poison pen if often enough to ruin a good discussion, I felt the above was prudent.

I am about to quote some of the replies I received, nothing personal, nothing intended to insult, upset, or anything like that, but I will be blunt if only because this is such an important topic.

"Furthermore, as has been pointed out, they are widely known and taught, and it would be counterproductive at this point to introduce competing rules of gun safety."
Ah, there is an irony in what you say, though you may be to young to realize it, then again maybe not.

Those 4 rules of gun safety were not the original rules of gun safety. In fact they were a cut back, abridged version, of the original rules. Some really important ones were left out, and these were written to appeal to the macho he man, what with words like 'destroy' added to them.

I wear a firearm daily, in a strong side hip holster. It 'covers' everything at which it points during the day. Do I want to destroy those things, no I do not. I am not willing to destroy them either. I take it off the shelf, put it into the holster, and take it out of the holster, and put it back wherever I put it at least once a day. I am not willing to destroy anything at which it points, although I am more willing to have a bullet pass through whatever I point it at than I would be to injure or hurt someone. So this one is, in my opinion, kind of a ridiculous rule as it is written, and I think it appeals greatly to those who have a gunslinger mentality to some extent, a real macho image, and to those who like abbreviated rules to another extent, among others to whom it gives some appeal for other reasons. Some may even like it because they never learned the other rules.

As for these rules being the lowest common denominator, they are not; in fact they are lacking when it comes to safety. I have seen several people try to use ammunition of the wrong caliber in their firearms over the years. I have seen the results in some cases in which the round actually sort of fit, then went bang, and the barrel bulged, the barrel cracked, the barrel actually blew open quite a bit, somewhat like a gun that you would see in a cartoon when Bugs Bunny put his finger into Elmer J. Fudd's rifle. At other times I have seen just plain old malfunctions, malfunctions that would get you killed had you tried to use such an improperly loaded gun in a self defense situation.

One of the cardinal rules of gun safety used to be, and still should be: Only use the proper ammunition in your firearm. It is not common sense, as there have been too many screw-ups on this one over the years by people who just did not know better. They think it looks the same, so it must fit and function the same.

Right along with that is the one that says, or said in the olden days: Always use only a firearm in proper working condition. Again, one that is not necessarily common sense. I have seen people show up for quarterly qualifications with their primary firearms not functioning properly, and they knew it, yet they carried it like that anyway.

Another apparently bygone cardinal rule of firearms safety, lost in the translation offer by Mr. Cooper, is that: You should never combine booze and drugs with firearms. Maybe Mr. Cooper did not think drinking and guns a problem when together. He came from an era when the effects of booze were looked upon with contempt than today. I will admit, this one is a bit over the top even for me, and it has been changed in many venues to work better, but not because I think you should drink a few and shoot. I think it would be okay to take an aspirin because your shoulder hurts, or something like that. The newer version of this rule, the one that makes more sense, is along these lines: Never use anything that impairs your functioning, or could potentially impair your functioning, while handling a firearms - like prescription sedatives, alcohol, marijuana, other illicit drugs and so forth. This one would certainly seem like common sense, but I actually have had people tell me they routinely drink a few drinks while shooting, and I do not mean Kool Aide. They see no problem with it as long as they remain within their 'limit'. I guess that goes for when they drive home from the range too.

As far as the one about all guns always being loaded, many of you have addressed that one, but not how I would based upon my experience. You should always treat any gun that you pick up or handle as being loaded until you check and double check to see that it is not, each time you pick it up or handle it anew.

In other words, if you are dry firing a revolver in your home (no I do not advise it, but plenty of folks do it), one that you checked and double checked to make sure it was unloaded that is sort of fine. What do you do though when this happens. The telephone rings, you put the revolver down, go to answer the telephone, have a ten minute discussion with your girlfriend or boyfriend who tells you she/he is hot to trot. You get into that call, you cannot wait to get into - well I'll leave that to your imaginations. After the call ends, you go back to the revolver, you pick it up, you point it wherever while your mind is a bit preoccupied, and you continue to dry fire. The revolver goes click, click, click, bang and you just put a hole through your wall. I have seen it happen more than once. The guys who did it forgot they had started to reload as the telephone was ringing. You have to check each time you pick it up; but that does not mean each gun is always loaded or that you should tech such an impossible thing to anyone as a rule. Teach it the right way.

As to the one telling you to never place your finger on the trigger until you have your sights lined up, well I guess that rules out point shooting, push off shooting, and vertical tracking. It is, in my estimation a foolish thing to teach anyone who is learning about self defense shooting. It could get someone killed. The only guy I have ever shot was not in my sights when I shot him, yet I knew I would hit him. I fired virtually as soon as my pistol cleared leather. The rule was: "Keep your finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot.”

Of course, you should always be sure of your target, but here another thing was abbreviated! Whatever happened to know your target and what is beyond. This of course goes hand in hand with some of the other rules, but is a rule nonetheless. I have not fired a shot, on a few occasions, because it would have potentially jeopardized people in the background. Knowing your target is simply not enough, not by a long shot.

And another cardinal rule of firearms safety, excepting emergency situations is: Always know how to properly operate your firearm before using it. This is one of the most violated rules of firearms safety that I have ever seen, right up their with a finger on the trigger at the wrong time, or the gun pointed in a very unsafe direction .I guess Jeff Cooper, for some reason or other, decided that these other already long standing rules were not to his liking, or were not necessarily conducive to safe firearms handling. I respectfully beg to differ with him for safety reasons. I believe his 4 rules are sorely lacking.

"However, the gun world is full of literalists and authoritarians. That starts the hissy fits. Maybe that isn't the answer you want but to nit pick the exact words to of the rules is to fall into this trap"
I can only hope my answer was less 'hissy fit', and more informative, than you some of you apparently had expected. I also hope you realize I was not so much 'nit picking' at the words, as I was trying to give you a feel for the rules that I have learned over the years, and that countless others (including mr. Cooper) had learned. In my estimation, the one who may have had trouble with those words, the one who may have nit picked them to fit his own purpose, is the one who shortened them in the first place. That is not meant to be irreverant to someone whom a lot of you look up to. The man knew a lot about his business, I just think there was no good reason to shorten the rules as he did, because it left a lot to be desired as far as someone knowledgeably and safely handling a firearm goes, in my opinion. If you are going to handle firearms, or teach others how to handle them, then comprehensive firearms safety must be the first sure shot, otherwise someone will always be at risk unnecessarily.

Hopefully I did not forget any of the cardinal rules of firearms safety that others have taught to me, and that I have taught to shooters over the years. I am a bit under the weather today, and it is time for me to crawl back up to bed with a cup of hot tea and nurse myself back to feeling better.

Best regards,
Glenn B

I hope you enjoyed it and found it somewhat informative. Thanks for reading it through all the way.

All the best,
Glenn B

I really do have hobbies other than firearms...

…related hobbies. Yes I do. For instance, I have quite the collection of animals. Note I did not say pets. Sure I have some pets, including a cat and three dogs among others; but I also have a collection of animals that are not pets in the sense that I play with them, or love them, or have joined PETA because of them (perish the thought, I just about puked just writing that).

What I have is an interest in herpetology and hepetoculture (a made up word maybe, but not made up by me). In other words I keep reptiles and amphibians. I have done so since I was about 4 or 5 I guess, when my uncle Ken (Unkie - back in the day) bought me a Red Eared Slider, a turtle, from a pet shop on Broadway in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Yes I lived in the hood. Ever since then it has caught onto me like a cactus that I just sat on. I have been keeping herps of one sort or another on and off, more on than off mind you - by a long shot, for about 45 or 46 years now. Man I am getting old, but later for that.

It was earlier tonight - after I had gotten done cleaning animal enclosures, after I had gone to my local herpetological society's monthly meeting (LIHS), after I had stopped at the pet shop to buy some things like guppies and a couple of tadpoles, after I had stopped at Home Depot to buy bird seeds (and I do not have any birds) to feed my rodents (and to feed the local wild bird population), after I did some more cage cleaning, after I fed the menagerie, after I watched them all for a while - that I realized I have one heck of a collection of animals; and more so I realized that I have one heck on an interest in animals.

I have kept hundreds of different species/subspecies of reptiles and amphibians over the years. I have bred a fair number of them, nothing grand but quite a few. I have also collected them from the wild, observed them in the wild, and even made a meal or two of them while camping out. Did I mention that groups like PETA and I do not see eye to eye. Yes I hunt, fish, and have bred animals for food (both the type for human consumption and the type for consumption by my herp collection). I used to dream of becoming a veterinarian, or a game warden, or a biologist, but those dreams fell through and I wound up doing something else for a career. Yet I keep in touch with that side of me on a regular basis through, at least in part, the animals I keep, the animals I observe in nature, the animals for which I hunt and fish, and so on.

As for the animals I keep, right now I figure I have about:

1 frog

2 tadpoles

2 turtles

2 tortoises

2 lizards

20 snakes

Besides the slimy and scaly animals, I also have some furry ones. These include about:

50 Guppies

12 adult mice

25 baby mice

5 Dwarf hamsters

In addition to these I have the aforementioned 3 dogs and 1 cat.

I also have a number of plants that I keep in with my herps, I figured I would add these in since they too are a form of living thing I keep.

That first red eared slider surely led me to a life long interest in animals; a fun one and a practical one, as to the practical one I remind you of the hunting and fishing.

There is only one person in my life to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for helping me to develop this interest - that is my uncle Ken. If he ever reads this I hope he realizes how much that little turtle, so many years ago, wound up meaning to me. Well, I guess there is one other person to whom I owe a debt of gratitude if only for allowing me to further my interests, thanks mom. Without her okay, I would not have kept many of the critters that crossed my path over the years. Uncle ken, is her brother, but she in no way shares his or my love of animals. She was usually terrified by most of them, but she let me keep them just the same.

So why am I bringing all of this up here in my rant. Certainly, it would have been enough just to share the these thoughts with my readers; but I guess there is another reason too, one that could make this read more worthwhile to you. You all know, if you have read my other blogs, that I am into guns and shooting. I am into hunting. I recently took my son on his first big game hunt, and he bagged a black bear. That is another animal we have at home right now, what is left of it anyway, and that is in the freezer. Well, while my son is into shooting, and hunting and fishing, he is also into animals.

For many years, Brendan accompanied me to meetings of the LIHS. Lately he has been working on Sundays, which are the meeting days. He works for a veterinary hospital. He is a kennel worker, the guy at the bottom of the totem pole. Yet, he has ambition. He thinks he might like to become a veterinarian; and who knows maybe he will be a bit luckier than me in keeping true to his dreams, or maybe he will just choose something else. The thing is, and this is important, he has this interest in animals, sort of the same as me. Heck, he is 16 years old, will be 17 before the year is out, and he still likes to do things with his dad. You may have read my earlier rant on this, or may have seen my writing on it in a forum somewhere or another; but here it is again in case you missed it, or it did not sink in the first time around!

What is it that to which I refer when I say I say 'here it is'? It is the fact that if you want to have good times with your children, if you want to establish and keep a lasting bond of camaraderie between you and them, if you want to be your kid's friend, if you truly want to enjoy yourself more than you can in any other pursuit, then you had best enjoy doing things together with your kids; and you had best start developing that mutual enjoyment when your child is young.

I have shared my hobbies with both of my children. I used to take my daughter Celina hiking, camping, fishing, and shooting. She went out with me to catch frogs and snakes. Then we also brought her brother along. Celina kind of drifted away from the enjoyment of those things once she discovered boys. Oh well. I keep trying to get her interested in something that I understand, but it is more difficult now that she is 21 so to be 22. Hopefully I will get her interested in shooting again. I may just have to invite her latest boyfriend for a day at the range; I would bet that would do it if he says yes, and he seems the type to go for it. Of course, my daughter still also has an interest in animals, but pretty much just the dogs, but that is okay by me. I figure when she is out on her own or married someday, one of her first acquisitions will be a puppy of some sort. That is good, better than drugs for sure because if you overdose on puppy all it means is you get licked to death.

I guess it is not only me who owes a debt of gratitude to my mom and to Unkie; it is my kids too, because they got that love of animals from him through me. Of course they also have to thank their mom Linda for her putting up with all the critters. She has little love for any pet except the dogs, and a past bird or three we had. Of course I had best thank her too, because she puts up with me and the whole menagerie. Thanks dear, love you all the more for it. (She will never read

this, but it is nice to hope she might.)

Oh well, you get the idea, its a family thing these animals, and a lot of fun, interesting, and educational too.

All the best,

Glenn B