Monday, November 10, 2008

The good thing about the Four Rules...

...is that you have to break a couple of 'em at once to put a hole in anything important. And, yes, manually de-cocking a single-action weapon is a Rule Three violation.

Sometimes people violate the Rules quite on purpose. Technically, every time I engage in dry-fire practice, I'm committing a Rule One violation, so I definitely avoid committing any Rule Two or Three violations at the same time. Carrying in a horizontal shoulder holster or a pocket holster is a Rule Two violation.

Violate the Four Rules at your peril. You'll notice Unc was careful to observe all the other Rules, and is therefore no worse for wear, save for ringing eardrums and a scuff to the pride. (Based on my personal experiences with other experienced shooters and unexpected loud noises, he's going to be a regular safety Nazi for a bit, too. This is not a bad thing at all...)


UPDATE: Other, very valid and educated, points are made here in the comments section.

24 comments:

Laughingdog said...

Would a .22 even cause ear ringing?

Tam said...

When you're expecting a *click*, even a .22 sounds like a .30-'06.

You don't want to know what a .30-'06 sounds like...

Anonymous said...

'And, yes, manually de-cocking a single-action weapon is a Rule Three violation.'

I don't think so. I've always heard rule 3 as 'finger off trigger until ready to pull it'. I was ready to pull it. But point taken.

-SayUncle

pax said...

He didn't break Rule Three, IMO.

Unc consciously picked out a specific place for the bullet to land if the gun discharged. That's following the rule, even if his thumb did slip off the hammer unexpectedly. His finger wasn't accidentally or negligently on the trigger; it was there deliberately. And he deliberately chose the least-harmful place for a bullet to land in that environment.

After all, a "target" isn't just a piece of paper. It can be a piece of paper on the range, sure. But it can just as easily be a chunk of metal, a bowling pin, an animal, a specific spot on the floor in a single-story house, the long end of a bookshelf ... and on and on. It can even be a human being in some circumstances.

Unc was handling a firearm he knew to be loaded (rule 1). He kept it pointed in a safe direction and did not allow the muzzle to cross anything he was not willing to shoot (rule 2). He kept his finger off the trigger until the gun was pointed at a deliberately-chosen spot with a known to be safe backstop (rules 3 and 4).

A lot of people think the purpose of the Four Rules is to prevent unitentional discharges. It's not. The purpose of the Four Rules is to prevent death and dismemberment. If you think about it, there isn't a single one of the rules (nor all of them put together) that can ever prevent a shot from being fired.

alath said...

"Carrying in a horizontal shoulder holster or a pocket holster is a Rule Two violation."

I always figured the Rules applied to a gun that someone is actually handling. NDs generally involve some kind of human agency.

If a gun is lying on the table and I walk past the muzzle, I don't consider that a violation. Likewise, I don't feel too threatened by a gun that's in a holster with the trigger covered. It's only when some blundering humanoid is actually fumbling around with the thing that it starts to make me edgy.

I realize this is getting fairly quibbly, but then that is the nature of rules I suppose.

Divemedic said...

I always understood rule 3 to be "Don't put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot."

Still, I had 2 unintentional discharges within 6 months of each other about 20 years ago. One was due to a pistol malfunction, the other was due to my stupidity.

I hope to never have another.

Sevesteen said...

Rule 1 addition: Even when you have personally verified a gun is unloaded, don't do anything that would be a tragedy if it WERE loaded.

Rule 2 addition: Does not apply to guns that are properly holstered or not being handled.

Rule 3 and 4 addition: If you intend to touch the trigger, the gun must be pointed at a target that will be no significant loss if shot--even if you do not intend to actually discharge a bullet.

Dry fire practice is perfectly feasible, with a proper target.

The only questionable act I see is using a loaded mag to operate the mag interlock. I make it a practice to remove compatible ammo from the room if I intend to pull the trigger where a discharge would be inconvenient or worse.

Ahab said...

You know what puckers up my fanny every time I do it? Decocking a DA/SA firearm like my Beretta 92. I "know" it's "safe", but there's seriously something about dropping the hammer on a live round with a teeny piece of metal stopping it that makes me all nervy.

pax said...

Sevesteen ~

By my reading, he intended to load the gun, and then lower the hammer (for storage? to carry?). So using a loaded magazine in for that purpose wasn't questionable, although depending on your carry or storage philosophy, it might be questionable to manually decock rather than leave the gun cocked with the safety engaged.

Unc's big mistake was failing to engage the safety on that P22 before setting out to lower the hammer.

With the gun pointed in a safe direction, here's the sequence:

1) Load gun.

2) Engage safety.

3) Grasp hammer (getting at least a little finger meat between hammer and frame if possible).

4) Pull trigger and immediately remove finger from trigger, indexing it alongside the frame.

5) Slowly lower the hammer.

If the safety'd been engaged, the P22 wouldn't have fired no matter how fast the hammer fell. Removing finger from the trigger often allows the hammer on other gun types to catch on half-cock rather than falling uncontrolled to fire.

(Oh, engaging the safety doesn't work like this for most other gun types. But for the P22 it does, and should be used.)

Laughingdog said...

"I don't think so. I've always heard rule 3 as 'finger off trigger until ready to pull it'. I was ready to pull it. But point taken."

Except that doesn't actually match Rule 3, as listed at the link you provided.

Rule 3: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target (and you are ready to shoot).

I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but Cooper's rules were flawed. According to his rules, I can't actually field strip my Glock without violating two of them. The first rule is the most ridiculous. I definitely prefer the NRA rules, though their trigger rule is still a little flawed.

If rules need unwritten caveats, they aren't effective rules.

pax said...

"According to his rules, I can't actually field strip my Glock without violating two of them."

Laughingdog ~

Beg to differ.

How to clean a Glock without breaking the Four Rules.

Tam said...

laughingdog,

"If rules need unwritten caveats, they aren't effective rules."

Rather than add caveats, I just accept that there are times I may have to break one, and while breaking one, I stay exceptionally conscious of what I'm doing to avoid breaking others at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Ahab, I know exactly what you mean about decocking. Definite puckerage to the point that my left thumb goes between the hammer and the frame and I use that method to slowly ease the hammer down when I use the decocker. That is NOT easing the hammer down manually -- that's with the decocking lever. I can't handle that snap every time it drops no matter how many times I did it at the range trying to accustom myself to it.

sawbones said...

"Carrying in a horizontal shoulder holster or a pocket holster is a Rule Two violation."

Editorial reply:
I would consider Cooper's "Four Rules" to represent merely a pithy, easily-remembered guide to safe ACTIVE gunhandling, NOT applicable to "administrative" gunhandling, and not to be regarded with superstitious awe (as some truly seem to do, judging from comments on gun-related BBs).

Obviously a gun carried within the holster, or which is in storage within a safe or drawer, or disassembled for cleaning, is in "administrative" mode. It won't go off by itself, and indeed one cannot disassemble or clean any gun nor conveniently store or carry any gun if Rule One and/or Rule Two are held to be absolutely and always in force.

Likewise, "dry practice" would be impossible if Rule Three were considered absolutely inviolable.

As several folks have noted, more than one of the Four Rules must be violated simultaneously in order for a loss of life or limb to occur accidentally with a firearm. While it's true that "unloaded" guns account for the majority of firearm mishaps, it IS possible to ascertain with certainty that a firearm IS genuinely unloaded and empty at a given time and place, and to act accordingly in your manner of gunhandling with care and maturity.

the pawnbroker said...

three nd's; different decades, different circumstances, no injuries, but all negligent (as i think all unintentional discharges are)...

wrote about the first one from '78 in april; less painful as i attributed it to youth and ignorance...the second is too painful to even think about let alone write about, and posting about the third (scary and stupid but humorous in a way) would be out of order...suffice to say it left a fair-sized hole in the floor behind my counter and a wide-eyed sheriff's deputy in front of it...

jtc

Joat said...

Pax, your sequence doesn't work for a CZ 75, if you let go of the trigger before lowering the hammer it will stop on the half cock notch, and I'm not going to go around all day half cocked.

pax said...

joat ~

Yep. And when that happens (as it will), you then carefully retract the hammer just enough to pull the trigger again from that halfway point -- getting your finger off the trigger again immediately.

So you'll pull the trigger twice, but the first time it'll stop on the half cock (or be caught by the half cock if you slip) and the second time it will be lowered from the half cock to rest (and will hopefully not have sufficience kinetic energy to fire the gun if you slip).

Make sense?

pax said...

sufficience = sufficient.

Fingers go faster than my brain does, sometimes.

staghounds said...

Tam's right. The rules are simple and meant to be easily understood. My mind doesn't work in a skirt-the-border way, I'm stupid. That's why all of my NDs have also been rule breakers- it reinforces my respect for the three rules I wasn't breaking!

I've had two nonnegligent bangs- both bad drop safeties on 30s Walthers. They might be called negligent in that I didn't test the safeties first on pencils. But even then they might have failed on the next time. I'll blame the poor quality of heat treatment at Zella sixty years ago.

Internalise the four rules, it will save you lots of thinking.

And I don't know about a 30-06, but I ND'd a 7x57 just like Uncle did. It's loud enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Along those lines, one thing that drives me nuts about IPSC and IDPA occurs at the end of the stage: the RO calls "unload and show clear" then requires the shooter to drop the hammer by pulling the trigger, a "click" demonstrating that the gun is, indeed, unloaded.

I have real heartburn with that. The shooter is building muscle memory to pull the trigger to demonstrate empty, which is the same exact motion used to fire the gun; eventually, enough reinforcement of that behavior will lead the shooter to do exactly that in a different environment, and potentially, with a round in the chamber.

I get around it - somewhat - by shifting the gun to the weak hand, holding it upside down, and using something not usually associated with activating the trigger to cycle the trigger, such as a pen, the little finger of the strong hand, or the back of the strong hand thumb; I'm trying to perform the trigger movment in so unnatural a manner that I won't be tempted to unconsciously cycle the trigger with the normal trigger finger motion to set the hammer down.

I use the same technique away from the matches as well, and keep a 5 gallon bucket 3/4 filled with sand next to the safe to aim down into during the procedure (if you do this, watch where your feet are).

Most NDs happen during the loading/unloading process, usually assisted by a brain fart; humans have those with some frequency, which is why the four rules were created to begin with.

Billy Beck said...

"Decocking a DA/SA firearm like my Beretta 92. I 'know' it's 'safe', but there's seriously something about dropping the hammer on a live round with a teeny piece of metal stopping it that makes me all nervy."

I don't understand that at all. When I decock my 92FS, what stops the hammer is the whole rear end of the slide.

I love the decock on the Beretta 92. It's one of the coolest things about it. One can look right at it and figure it out, and the concept is so mechanically simple and obvious that I've never batted an eye at it.

nbc said...

If you're going to ND, just make sure it's not public and at Ben Gurion airport.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

"Along those lines, one thing that drives me nuts about IPSC and IDPA occurs at the end of the stage: the RO calls "unload and show clear" then requires the shooter to drop the hammer by pulling the trigger, a "click" demonstrating that the gun is, indeed, unloaded.

I have real heartburn with that. The shooter is building muscle memory to pull the trigger to demonstrate empty, which is the same exact motion used to fire the gun ..."

That is not true.

You do NOT pull the trigger to demonstrate empty. You remove the magazine and pull the slide back to make sure the pistol is empty, and you show it to the safety officer to demonstrate empty.

I'm not sure I know the rationale for pulling the trigger, but it's not to demonstrate the firearm is empty. The safety officer will verify that BEFORE instructing you to pull the trigger.

Sevesteen said...

Anon:

The sequence (at least at my range) is indeed "unload and show clear", but then "Hammer, Holster". It is the "hammer, holster" that potentially develops the wrong muscle memory, especially on guns with no way to decock gracefully.