The 5 Firearm Safety Rules

There are many different variations of firearms rules, from the NRA’s three “Always” to Col. Jeff Coopers 4 rules, we all have a slightly different way of explaining the same concepts. Here at DCS, we have our standard that we use in classes for teaching and the details as to what we mean and why we have the rule.

1. Always treat firearms as if they are loaded.

This is all about mindset and awareness.

  • Firearms are sometimes loaded, sometimes unloaded. You must know the difference and give all firearms the respect they are due.
  • The more we handle firearms, the greater our chances are for a negligent discharge. Loading, unloading, casing, uncasing, at home, at the range, at the store, we are around firearms every day. Because of this fact, we must treat them with the “This firearm could be loaded” MENTALITY at all times when handling firearms and limit our nonessential handling of firearms.
  • The law doesn’t generally distinguish a loaded firearm from an unloaded one, neither should we.

2. Always keep firearms pointed in a safe direction.

We define a safe direction as “designed to capture the projectile” at the range, and at home.

  • It is a felony to point your firearm at someone without justification. There is no “Whoops, sorry!”, we enforce this rule hard with no second chances. [ARS 13-1203(A)(2), ARS 13-1204(A)(2), ARS 13-1201]
  • All firearms must be cased and uncased at the bench, pointed down range.
  • In your home you need a clearing barrel. You can make one using a bucket of sand. It is a class 6 felony to have a negligent discharge in your home. (ARS 13-3107)

3. Always keep your finger off the trigger and on the slide/receiver until your sights are on target, you have identified your target and have made a CONSCIOUS DECISION to shoot.

You must identify your target; sights MUST be on your target in order to touch your trigger. NO OTHER TIME.

  • Sympathetic reflex is when your hand squeezes or tightens while doing a task with your other hand, especially under stress, such as gripping and turning door knobs and moving family/holding hands.
  • You must make the CONSCIOUS choice to pull the trigger because you have to live with the consequences.

4. Always know your target, what is beyond it, and what is around it.

Bullets are not stopped when hitting your target.

  • You are responsible for every bullet that leaves your firearm, and everything the bullets touch.
  • Controlling the backstop means controlling what is behind your target. You may not be able to move your target, but you can move yourself to change what lies beyond your target.
  • You can be completely justified in the use of your firearm and even discharging it. However, if those bullets impact someone else after passing through or around your target, you are criminally and civilly liable for the damages, injury and/or death. (ARS 13-401)

5. Always maintain control of your firearm 24 / 7 / 365.

You are responsible to ensure your firearms are under your control and not accessible to unauthorized persons.

  • Don’t fumble your firearm! Keep your control/strong hand on the firearm, use your support hand for other tasks. Holster or set down your firearm if you need both hands.
  • Always have a case, holster, or safe. Disguise your safe. Your safe can be stolen. Nothing is impenetrable.
  • Don’t leave firearms in your car unsecured. Glove box, center console, and trunk are not secure by themselves.