Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I didn't know it was loaded!

Continuing my out-of order sequence of Jeff Cooper's 10 rules of firearms safety, I'll jump back to number 1: All guns are always loaded.

Now obviously, all guns are not always loaded, so what's the rule mean? It means we always believe all guns are always loaded and always treat them that way, no exceptions.

In Middle School, I was privileged to attend an Outdoor Education class, an 8th grade 2-quarter elective class taught by Mr. D'Amico. He was an older (in his early 60's?) Italian guy that had more life in him than any other guy his age that I knew. He was an avid outdoorsman, and in his class we learned not just firearms safety (shooting highly accurate pellet guns in the extended classroom), but his knowledge of hunting and fishing.

He had a sobering story about the importance of Rule #1. When he was a teenager, my teacher's oldest brother was proud of his "quick draw" skills. He asked the next youngest brother to go get the revolver out of the gun cabinet so he could practice and show his skill to his family. The oldest brother carefully unloaded the firearm and even had his next-oldest brother verify that yes, it was unloaded, then proceeded to quick draw against his brothers with the unloaded revolver. For some reason or another the oldest brother got called away. He took off the gun belt and set it on the counter. The next oldest brother thought he was all finished, put the cartridges back in the gun and was going to put it away in the gun cabinet when he got distracted by something else. When the older brother came back, he put the gun belt back on, and when the other brother came back into the room, the oldest brother showed him his quick-draw skill one last time, killing him.

Sure there were some odd circumstances leading up to the tragedy, but had rule #1 been followed, the oldest brother wouldn't have the lifelong guilt of knowing he killed one of his brothers.

"I thought it was unloaded" doesn't bring the bullet back when you learn you were wrong. It's a pretty shallow excuse when someone's lying on the floor bleeding to death and you were in control of the firearm.

"I didn't know it was loaded" should be followed with, "so I assumed it was loaded anyway."



  1. One of the first things I check when handed a gun, or when handing a gun to someone else; open the breech and lock it. With my old K98 you can even pull the bolt in one swift motion before handing it to someone.

    This should be an automatic reflex for anyone who handles a firearm.

  2. Stick that gun in your mouth and fire. Repeat as necessary!!

  3. Every time a firearm comes into my possession, I check its condition - every single time. It does not matter if I put it down five seconds ago, it does not matter if I know I keep it loaded, or I keep it unloaded, or if someone else checked the firearm in question right before they handed it to me - the slide goes back, or the cylinder opens, or the bolt slides, or whatever.

    Honestly, this is not a hard habit to get into, and one that can and will save you a world of hurt as long as you apply it constantly... Likewise, this is something that all people should know how to do and know to do, which just means we need to start teaching firearm safety to everyone, preferrably at an early age :).

  4. I've enjoyed your blogs on firearm safety. And it rings true- if you follow the basic 4 safety rules you can handle a firearm safely.
    I was an official on a military rifle range for a while- with 147 targets, and normally 5 shooters per target. There were very few safety excursions, and zero injuries during my time there; And I'm sure that it had something to do with the safety rules being second nature to everyone involved.

    It should be ingrained into all who possess or handle a firearm- preferably before one takes it into his or her hand.

  5. @ Justin & Linoge,
    Absolutely I agree, whenever I hand a firearm over to someone, the action is locked open or the cylinder is swung open if at all possible. That procedure combined with following rule # 3 (keep your finger off the trigger) can help prevent any negligent discharges. Following rules 1 & 2 can help prevent any negligent discharges from hurting anybody.


  6. RIGHT on Frank! If more people learned the rules, there would be fewer "accidents"...thats "Common Sense"!

    Interesting side note - I was at Cabela's yesterday checking out their used firearms section. They have trigger locks on all longarms, and the actions are zip-tied shut. SO, they allow customers to handle them, but essentially prohibit checking to see if they're unloaded prior to handling. Rule#1 in FULL EFFECT!!!

  7. I had a friend in HS--he was a year older than me--that was killed with an 'unloaded' handgun.

    He was sitting with his girlfriend at his parents house and was messing with a pistol he has borrowed from a friend. He pulled the mag out, put the gun to his head, turned to his girlfriend and said 'this is what i would do if you broke up with me'--and pulled the trigger. BAM. The round in the chamber splattered what used to be his head all over his girlfriend and he fell dead into her lap.

    This event shaped me with respect to firearms. The old adage 'unloaded guns can kill' wasn't folksy wisdow--it was absolute fact. In fact, the first handgun I ever purchased for myself--years later--was a hi-power clone because of the magazine disconnect safety that will not allow the gun to fire with the mag out of the weapon.

    Now I know that gun safety Rules #1 and #2 would have prevented this tragedy, but I felt better buying a handgun with a mag release safety because I know that I may not be the only person to handle the weapon and that you can't always control other peoples stupid.

    I eventually did get over this fear and have since acquired handguns that lack this safety feature(hell, my edc has NO SAFETY at ALL), but it left a lasting mark on me.



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