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Firearms Training is Boring

Andy shooting

In order to develop physical and technical gunfighting skills it is necessary to run many individual drills many times. This means you go to the range, choose a drill and run that drill over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Then you chose a different drill and run it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

It’s possible that you could then chose another drill, but it’s likely that by then you’re probably out of ammo for that day.

These drills may be as simple as pressing out from compressed ready, or bringing your rifle up, and putting one round on target at a specific range for time. Or as complex as a multi-person, multi-target, multi-distance, multi-mag, multi-weapon drill that involves some static or fluid scenario plus time and accuracy measurements. Regardless, it is repetition of actions plus measurement and reflection on the results that forges mastery. Without it, you don’t get it.

Firearms training is boring, but so are good shooters. Repetition and measurement; there is no other way to develop technique and skill.

Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Train often, train well, and be boring.

Your Weapon’s Status

In what condition is every gun you own right now? Unloaded? Loaded? Loaded and chambered? Is the external safety gadget on or off, for each firearm? Are they in different conditions or all the same? How do you know? Are you 100% certain or would you have to do a press check to be sure? Does everyone in your household know with certainty the condition of each firearm you own without touching it? How?

This is not a situation you can treat with casual negligence. If you own one or more firearms, responsibility requires that you and everyone in your household know at all times with 100% certainty the condition of every one of them. If you or they do not, you must fix that situation. Right now.

rifle and pistol

This means that for any of your firearms, holstered on your person, stored, staged…no matter where or how they are placed, located, or carried, there should never be a moment where you or anyone else in your household has to wonder whether it is unloaded, loaded and/or chambered, or if a “safety” selector is on or off. In the event someone in your household finds a firearm they did not expect to find (in a closet, in a drawer, etc…) or if they grab it in a time of desperate need, they can be certain of its current condition even without touching it, and be able to act deliberately rather than tentatively.

And, by the way, this is an easy standard to maintain when you use a system of simple conventions.

Note: As a matter of responsibility, you and everyone in your household should regard all firearms as loaded, and should regard any “safety” lever as irrelevant; something to be kept in the “fire” position at all times and otherwise ignored—except with semi-auto rifles.

A System of Certainty

Here is a simple system that I know from experience works well to ensure you and those in your home never have to lean on discrete memory in order to know any of your guns’ condition. So long as you have no children younger than 6 to 9 in the home, even if just on occasion, System 1 is likely best for you. Otherwise, System 2 is likely best.

System 1 Conventions:

  1. All guns are always loaded, except while being cleaned, no matter whether they’re currently carried, stored, or staged.
  2. All pistols in a holster are loaded and chambered, whether on your person, stored in a safe, staged for home defense or even if in a range bag; holstered means chambered.
  3. All semi-auto/auto rifles have the bolt closed on an empty chamber (with a full magazine loaded, per convention 1) and the selector is on safe (this convention includes any “pistol”-configured AR or AK firearms).
  4. For pistols, bolt rifles, and shotguns, if there is an external safety control, the control is set to fire. Always and without exception.

You might use slightly different conventions. Maybe your pistols in holsters are not chambered. Maybe your semi-auto/auto rifles are chambered. I don’t recommend those approaches, but they may be appropriate for your situation. The point is to have as much blanket consistency as is practicable.

If you’re going to keep any of your guns unloaded, it is then imperative that you keep ALL guns unloaded (convention 1 must be 100% applicable to all guns not currently on your person) and perhaps opt for System 2 (below).

A System Variation

System 1 conventions might not work well for you if you have young children – and/or young children are sometimes in the home, like grandchildren, neighbors’ kids, or friends’ children. As such, System 2 might be best for you.

System 2 Conventions:

  1. All guns stored or staged, are always unloaded (and yet always treated as though they are loaded).
  2. A pistol carried on your person is always loaded and chambered (and in a holster).

It’s no more complicated than this. Once your children are of a certain age (that you determine, perhaps around 6 to 9 years old) and properly trained, it is best that you change to the more relevant and appropriate System 1 conventions.

Note: if children of any age other than yours are ever in your home, you have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure they have no way of gaining access to your firearms. They do not know your system and are likely wholly unsafe with firearms. Take appropriate steps.

For Carry & Training

If you don’t have an inviolate rule regarding the condition of your carry gun at all times, you cannot act deliberately when required. Instead, because of ignorance or second guessing or a simple mistake, you must act tentatively or mistakenly. This sort of irresponsibility can easily cost you your life, or the life of someone you love.

Component to the aforementioned systems, to gun safety, and to carry competence is the fact that one should never reholster an unloaded pistol; not at home, not in training, not in a class: never. When you’re training at the range and drawing from and returning to a holster, and run empty, you must either reload the pistol before reholstering – or – place the pistol on a barrel, table, or bench and pointed in a safe direction with the action open until you are ready to reload it.

No exceptions.

If you get into the habit of sometimes, even rarely, having an unloaded pistol in your holster, you will never again be able to be sure of your gun’s status. You may think you can, but you are wrong and 100% guaranteed to fail.

And yes, this means that if an instructor requires that you have an unloaded or even un-chambered pistol in your holster during a class, don’t take that class. It stands to reason that if you are unsure about the conventions of an instructor’s class, discuss this matter with them and explain your inviolate personal rule before you commit to the class. It is likely that accommodations can be made. If not, you know your choice.

Dry-fire Practice

To engage in dry-fire practice you have to introduce a mild variation into your system. While the gun carried on your person will still be loaded, it will just be loaded with snap caps rather than with live ammunition.

For dry-fire practice you will unload your firearm and take it, your magazine(s), and snap caps into a different room where no live ammunition is present, and charge your magazine(s) with the snap caps, which you will load and chamber into your pistol before holstering it. If you have a gun that has a workable trigger and doesn’t need to be charged for each dry shot, use mags loaded with snap caps anyway so that you don’t get into the habit of being okay with an empty gun (you must never put an empty gun into your holster).

When you’re finished with dry-fire practice, reverse the process and take your now-empty gun back to where your ammo & mags are (the one place where you load, unload, and clean your guns) and return it to its proper condition; be that loaded or unloaded for storage – or loaded, to again be carried on your person (in which case I highly recommend repeating, out loud, “My gun is hot now, and loaded with live ammo,” a few times before getting on with your day.

sbr

Conclusion

Human beings are creatures of habit. The only way to eliminate negligent habits is to forge unconscious, deliberately uncompromising, safe habits (as described in the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety) and to never rely on gadgets, mechanics, or technology in place of individual responsibility.

A firearm cannot be safe or unsafe. A person is safe or unsafe. No firearm gadget or lever can make an unsafe person safe with a firearm. Graveyards are filled with the victims of those who negligently believed otherwise.

You do not want or need the anxiety of ever wondering whether your gun or one of your many guns is loaded or unloaded, chambered or un-chambered, safety on or off. These are things that responsibility requires you and your household members know with 100% certainty at all times.

Use a system. Make sure everyone in your home knows the system. Conduct periodic pop quizzes to ensure everyone is on the same page. Be safe and be certain.

Gun Safety Gadgets: Trading Safety for Absolution

absolution

Among quality firearms there is no such thing as an unsafe gun. A well-made firearm is just a tool. On the other hand, a person can be safe or unsafe, dangerous or harmless, responsible or negligent. These are human qualities. With regard to firearms, safety is governed by human behavior and not gadget settings. Yet, ridiculously, some people maintain that the existence or absence of a mechanical switch defines or governs the differences between these human qualities. These people may be sincere or merely demagogues, but the results of their distortions are equally destructive.

The sincere ones are motivated by their ignorance. The demagogues are motivated by any number of factors, including a desire to sell gadgets, a desire to harm the reputation of a particular firearms manufacturer, or even a desire to see all firearms banned. Perhaps most common, though, is the irresponsible, malevolent, and otherwise pathetic desire to hold others responsible for one’s own irrational fears.

Despite the lies some will deliberately tell you, no gadget or switch can make an unsafe person safe. But the gadget peddlers and tool blamers are not selling safety. They’re doing something else entirely.

Absolution

Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis…

Those who believe and evangelize the notion that safety is a mechanical setting are not seeking safety. They’re seeking absolution. They want to be absolved of their apprehensions and, just as important, they want to be absolved of responsibility. Worse, they want to legitimize their fictional and irresponsible idiom by endearing themselves to others who want the same things.

The kind of person who believes a gadget will make an unsafe person safe is also the kind of person who, when their negligence results in damage or harm, will blame anything or anyone other than themselves.

As to apprehension when handing a firearm, it is necessary, healthy; it means that you care. That apprehension reminds you to be responsible when loading, unloading, drawing, holstering, or otherwise manipulating a firearm. Without healthy, warranted apprehension, a person becomes careless. Gadgets and mechanisms that are meant to mitigate apprehension, by definition, cultivate carelessness and irresponsibility.

So just like the hoplophobes who believe their own irrational fears should be everyone’s concern and then seek to destroy civil rights and ban firearms, these gadgetophiles work to make themselves and others feel safer instead of be safer. In doing so, they dismiss and compromise actual safety in favor of the illusion of safety. Moreover, they deliberately cultivate irresponsibility and carelessness in themselves and encourage these failings in others.

Consequences

Absolved of apprehension and responsibility, people tend toward laziness and complacency. With respect to firearms, that laziness and complacency is negligence. After having purchased or relied upon a gadget or switch instead of responsibility and when their negligence leads to mishap, injury, or death, they have a scapegoat. Worse, in such cases, other weak-minded people seem all too willing to accept their pathetic and impossible excuses:

People hear and accept the lie:

Something failed! The damn thing just went off!

instead of the fact:

I failed to keep my finger off the trigger as I drew my pistol from the holster.

People hear and accept the lie:

Glocks are unsafe for law enforcement use!

instead of the fact:

Glocks are no more or less safe than any other quality firearm. The record clearly shows that law enforcement has a culture of gun-handling complacency and negligence.

People hear and accept the lie:

This gadget will make your gun safer; will keep you from shooting yourself or someone else.

instead of the fact:

Gun safety is a human habit/behavior, not a mechanical setting. No gadget or switch can make an unsafe person safe.

The fact that a gun cannot be negligent or unsafe becomes irrelevant in the face of hoplophobic absolution. As a result, people get rewarded for negligence or, at the very least, escape the proper consequences for it.

Rewarding negligence begets negligence.

Firearm safety cannot be ensured by a switch and it cannot be learned. It must be forged into habit by proper, rigorous, and ongoing training until one is habitually incapable of unsafe gun handling. Anyone who says different is selling something and is encouraging you toward negligence. Don’t buy it.

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The title image is “The Confession,” by Giuseppe Molteni.