I’m going to be taking some new people to a range tomorrow. So I get to teach them the safety rules of shooting.
There are usually some posted rules, between 3 and 5ish. Written up like the ten commandments and obeyed just as well.
So I explain these things. Instead of just reciting a rule once or twice, I explain why we have that rule.
Rule 1: Treat every weapons as if it were loaded.
Well if we got someone who never handled a gun before, and doesn’t know jack about them, this phrase doesn’t exactly mean much does it?
Eh. On that note, are we running a hot or cold range? Gotta explain that too. So I like to start with this other rule:
Never point a weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
See, we gotta start getting clear here. BUT I don’t know what these other people intend to shoot or not. Some people seem to think it is acceptable to point a gun everywhere. So I start to clarify the specifics.
Don’t point a gun at Howard.
Don’t point a gun at Howard’s car.
Don’t point a gun at Howard’s stuff.
Now, slightly less importantly, don’t point the gun at your self, or someone else, etc.
Depending on the range, I instruct the novice to either keep the weapon pointed up, or down, or only downrange.
I point out the designated impact area of the range, and explain that that is where your shots need to be landing. I explain not to shoot out of bounds, not to shoot the target frames, etc.
That pretty much leads into:
Know your target and what lies beyond it.
I point out the importance of paying attention to what is going on. If the range is hot or cold, if it is time to shoot. What is going on around the targets and behind the targets. Why it is important to not shoot over the berms, or the wrong directions, etc.
I might repeat the story of the Cop who was shooting at a snake in front of a bush and killed a boy who was fishing on the other side of the bush.
Now at this point, I go and cover the “Keep your damned finger off the trigger unless you are actively shooting“.
Here is where you have to keep watching the novices as the moment they stop actively paying attention they will screw this up.
Then the keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire. This is probably the harder to get new shooter to do as they tend to forget and are not truly familiar with the manual of arms of the firearm.
If we are shooting steel, I explain minimum ranges, which ammo that is allowed, and it is explained that unless you have wrap around eye protection, you stay either facing the steel or facing away. Don’t need anyone taking any frag to the eye.
I tell novices that if they drop a gun, to let it fall.
If you drop a long arm, there tends to be plenty of stock and forearm you could grab safely. But on pistol, especially smaller ones, it can be very easy to end up doing something very unsafe in the attempt to catch it.
I might share the story of when I dropped my Glock 19 and caught it. Looking down, I saw that I had caught it with my thumb on the trigger and the muzzle pointing at my belly button. Could have been much worse. Most all modern guns are rather unlikely to fire if dropped. Safer to just let it hit the ground.
Reciting all the safety words is good, but what ultimately matters is making those novices work safely until these practices are internalized. That is the hard part. When I’m supervising novices or doing instruction, I do very little anything other than being as vigilant as possible in helping them work safely.