A firearm is a device that can cause serious injuries or death if not handled properly and responsibly. For that reason, there are gun safety rules that should be followed and made into a mindset. These rules help to avoid accidental discharge or negligent discharge, or the consequences of firearm malfunctions.
There are a lot of variations on the 4 rules of gun safety in terms of wording, but they all tend to boil down to the same 4 rules of gun safety. The easiest way to remember a set of rules, is to make it into an easy to remember acronym! We have listed the four rules below, which can easily be remembered as The 4 Gun Safety ACTS.
ACTS – The 4 Rules Of Gun Safety
The 4 rules of gun safety that we list below are the rules formalized and popularized by Jeff Cooper. Jeff was a United States Marine, the creator of the “modern technique” of handgun shooting, and an expert on the use and history of small arms.
1. Assume every firearm is loaded
This is not only a rule, but a mindset that should be installed into anyone handling a firearm. Handle and respect any and all firearms as though it is loaded. Even when your best buddy tells you that it is unloaded and safe, treat it like a loaded gun. When you handle a weapon for the first or if the weapon has been out of your sight, assume that it is loaded until you have safely checked the weapon yourself and verified that it is safe – trust but verify. Many firearm accidents result from the handler mistakenly believing a firearm is emptied, safetied, or otherwise disabled when in fact it is ready to be discharged.
2. Control the muzzle direction at all times
Even when you have checked a weapon to make sure it is safe, you still need to handle it responsibly. Do not point the weapon at something if you are not prepared to shoot at that something. This seems like an obvious and logical thing to do…but you will probably still find people that do not have that sense of logic, so be careful.
This rule is intended to minimize the damage caused by an unintended discharge. The first rule teaches that a firearm must be assumed to be ready to fire. This rule goes beyond that and says, “Since the firearm might fire, assume that it will and make sure no harm occurs when it does.”
Two natural “safe” directions to point the muzzle are up (at the sky) and down (at the ground). Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Firing at the ground may result in a ricochet or cause hazardous fragments to be flung at people or objects. Aiming upward eliminates this risk but replaces it with the risk that the bullet may cause damage when it comes down to the ground again.
3. Trigger finger off trigger and out of trigger guard
Many a gun related accident would have happened where someone accidentally set off the trigger of the gun and the gun discharged. When you are not in the process of actually firing your weapon, keep your finger off the trigger and away from the trigger guard. Your finger may involuntarily move for any of several reasons, such: you are startled, a lack of full attention on body movements, physiological reasons beyond conscious control such as a spasm, stumbling or falling, or the finger being pushed by something. So if your finger is not actually on the trigger or in the trigger guard…these things won’t be a problem.
We recommend to keep the trigger finger above the trigger guard, so that there is less chance of the finger involuntarily slipping into the guard when startled. A properly indexed trigger finger also helps remind the person holding the firearm of the direction of the muzzle.
4. See that the area and target is safe
Always be certain that the target that you are shooting at and the surrounding area are safe before firing. That includes the area in front, below, to the sides and behind your target (remember that bullets can go through and beyond the target). Knowing what’s behind your target is an essential step to safety and responsibility.
We put the rules above into a graphic that you are welcome to share or print out to put up in your house or past it on your gun safe.
We hope this article on the 4 rules of gun safety has been useful and insightful. We hope it helps to teach people how to handle weapons in a safe and responsible way. If you have any thoughts on the subject of gun safety, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section.