20 August 2012

Moving Beyond the Three (or Four) Rules

Safety is the mantra on every range, for every kind of shooting event. Whether you subscribe to the three NRA rules or the four Cooper rules, these rules are the foundation of everything we do behind a gun. Simply being able to recite them isn't enough, though. We need to be able to understand, internalize and integrate the rules into our instinctive handling of firearms. Part of the grace and beauty of an experienced shooter is that safety is a natural part of every movement they make around a gun.

It's the bone-deep understanding of where the muzzle is pointed at all times, no matter how the body is positioned or where it's moving. It's always knowing where your trigger finger is and what it's doing so that you never fire except with intention. It's the comfort to keep that muzzle in a safe direction even if it means shifting to a one-handed pistol grip around a tight corner or subconsciously shifting a slung rifle a few inches when someone else joins a conversation between relays. It's training your body to default to indexing a gun, any gun (even a hot glue gun) unless you are ready to shoot. It's the unbreakable habit of controlling the muzzle even when taking a tumble or having hot brass leave blistering burns.

And it all starts very simply - with knowing the rules as something more than a chant to be parroted before a range session or match. Spend some time thinking about what it is the rules boil down to, then practice them not only on the range but off. Pick up that hair dryer with your finger indexed. Air gun while you dance down the hallway of your home, keeping your air muzzle pointed in your designated safe direction. Spend some of your safe dry fire time making a point of always picking up your gun with your trigger finger indexed and experimenting with how you can move while keeping your gun pointed safely. As safe handling becomes more and more natural to you, you'll find that you too will start to look like that experienced shooter you've been admiring at the range.