When are we going to give up on this “Rule One” nonsense?

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The incident of a recently graduated Navy Seal shooting himself in the head has been widely discussed in the gun world. The most common refrain (and darned near the only one I’m hearing, proving Patton’s Dictum) is that he just didn’t pay enough attention to “Rule One.”

Nonsense. Go read my original article on that rule.

Here’s the issue: it’s not that he didn’t pay attention to Rule One. It’s that Rule One has a huge logic flaw, one that most people in the gun world still don’t want to acknowledge – let alone discuss. The flaw? The rule isn’t, and can never, be universally true!

If “all guns are always loaded” or “treat all guns as if they were loaded” were true, we’d never be able to clean our guns.

If it were true, we’d never be able to engage in dry fire practice.

If it were true, we’d never be able to put them into a case and transport them to the range.

If it were true, the entire manufacturing and warehousing of firearms would by necessity grind to a halt.

The reason none of that occurs, of course, is because we make constant exceptions to that rule to allow those activities to happen. We make these exceptions to what is supposed to be a universal rule almost daily because we know we have to. We know that guns aren’t always loaded, else we wouldn’t be able to do any of these things (and many more) with them. We do this so often that we don’t even think about it, and it’s those exceptions that get us in trouble.

Face the facts: guns are not always loaded. You know it, and I know it. Rule One is a joke. Why do we keep deluding ourselves?

The problem isn’t that this guy didn’t pretend hard enough that “all guns are always loaded”; it’s because he chose to do something stupid with a gun that he was sure was unloaded. That’s the problem, and this continual Pavlovian bleating about “Rule One” isn’t helping prevent these accidents.

The solution isn’t to get people to pretend harder, it’s to get them to stop doing stupid things with guns!

Since I wrote that article several years ago I’ve modified the Commandments a little. After conversations with a number of people, and lots of thinking about the implications, I’ve come to this version:

1. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

2. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.

3. Always remember that you are handling a deadly weapon, and if you do so negligently you may kill someone – including yourself.

That last one takes care of things like watching for a proper target, making sure that you know where your bullets are going to land, following proper dry fire procedures, and all of the rest. It allows situational variance (we really don’t have to worry what’s behind our target when it’s in front of a bullet trap at a range) and better instills the proper safety mindset that I proposed when I wrote the original article. It might have saved this guy’s life.

Because “Traditional Rule One” sure didn’t.

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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