View Full Version : The Four Rules - Which 'rules'?

Mike in VA
June 19, 2006, 07:20 PM
So, there I am, trying to inculcate basic firearms safety to my neice, drilling on The Four Rules, when she asks, "Which is the most important?"

From the mouths of babes (and she soon will be one), I tried to explain that they all work together, sort of like the Oppenhiemer logo ,where the four hands each grasp a wrist for mutual support, but being of my clan, and therefore stubborn, she persisted.

Verily, it is a good thing to (1), treat all firearms as if they are loaded.

And, of course, one can't get in trouble if (2), you never let the muzzle cover anything you aren't will to destroy.

Can't hardly go wrong (3), being sure of your targer and what's beyond . . .

But to me, the most single discipline a shooter can develop is (4) to keep your finger off the trigger untill your sights are on the target.

Honestly, I can't separate any of them, but when training a newbie, finger control and muzzle control are the two biggies.

So what say ye, brethern & sistern?

June 19, 2006, 07:37 PM
In my opinion #2 in your lineup is the most important.

If maintaining proper muzzle control, you can have all the ND's you want, and all it'll cost you is embarrassment, and maybe a few trips to Home Depot for some wall/ceiling/floor repairs.

That said, they all work in conjunction with one another and should be taught as equally important.

June 19, 2006, 07:38 PM
Rule One is the foundation for the rest. Properly worded, Rule One states "All guns are always loaded. (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/06/rule-one.html)"

Mike in VA
June 19, 2006, 08:28 PM
Thanks for your input. I went back and forth between 2 & 4 more than anything else. I agree that #1 is a given, and all else follows, but I kinda went for 4 'cuz guns just don't go off by themselves, but you can't discount #2, as even if they do, if it's pointed in a safe direction, it's merely embarassing, I guess it's really like the OODA loop or the Gordian Knot, they just can't be severed.

More thoughts? The bigger point I'm trying to get her to understand is that knowing the rules isn't all that hard, but relexively interalizing them only comes from practice and self-discipline. I guess this could mean some happy time at the range with the kid . . . .

June 19, 2006, 08:41 PM
+1 to Xavier that Rule 1 encompasses all the other rules. I agree that everything is important, but if you treat a gun like its loaded you're not going to point it at anything you don't want to shoot, you'll be sure of your target, etc. etc.

Tim Burke
June 19, 2006, 08:47 PM
According to Jeff Cooper, Rule 3, "Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target." is the Golden Rule.
I'm partial to Rule 2, "Never let the muzzle cover anything that you are not willing to destroy."
I think designating one rule as most important may actually be counter-productive.

June 19, 2006, 08:51 PM
Mike, I just remembered something from the Wisconsin hunter safety class curriculum that really seemed to help the kids remember the 4 rules.

Rather than learning the rules as "number 1... number 2...", etc -- the rules were taught with an acronym that made an easy to remember name: TABK (pronounced: 'tab-kay').

The rules are summarized as TABK:

T - Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

A - Always point the muzzle of your firearm in a safe direction.

B - Be certain of your target and what lies beyond.

K - Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

Not sure if it'll help your little one, but the kids who take hunter safety at my trap club really seem to associate the rules better using the TABK method.

Hard Ball
June 19, 2006, 09:22 PM
Sorry, but I can't agree with Rule 4. If I had I would be dead now. Staying alive is more important than rules.

June 19, 2006, 09:24 PM
You smile & say "They all are. Just like the legs of a chair, they all support each other- and if any of them is removed, the other three can't do their jobs."

June 19, 2006, 09:39 PM
If my uncle and brother in-law would have obeyed rule #1 they would both be alive today, this is one of the many reasons why I post the four rules.:mad:

June 19, 2006, 11:50 PM
All are equally important.

Generally speaking it takes a failure to obey at least two rules to cause injury.

However, we frequently violate the muzzle rule when we walk around with a holstered handgun. thus it takes merely a trigger violation to cause an injury.

My instructor taught me a rule 5: Maintain control of your firearm at all times. This basically says do not leave it where children or criminals can get to it.

As long as you are consciously following the rules an accidental violation of one of the rules will not usually cause an injury. such as drawing from a shoulder holster.

June 20, 2006, 12:15 AM
Rule 1 is the most important. It is the only rule that you must obey even when you are not holding the firearm.

Teach your neice that when ever she sees a firearm, she should expect it to be loaded and act accordingly. That means if the person who is handling the gun is an idiot, then she needs to get as far away from the idiot as fast as possible.

For instance, when I am in a gunstore, and another customer sweeps me with a firearm, I noticeably duck/dodge out of the way. If the customer does it twice, I'll leave the store after explaining to the salesperson why.

You also might consider teaching her what are good things to hide behind that can stop a bullet.

June 20, 2006, 10:48 AM
Reading through these responses I have to note that maybe one should be added.

Rule 5: If you've had any alcohol, DON'T TOUCH A FIREARM

I have a friend who would be alive today if he had observed that. Granted, other rules were ignored, but its much easier to be careless when you've been drinking.

June 20, 2006, 11:06 AM
Rule One is most important, because it contains all the other rules. It is the only one which could stand on its own (if people weren't idiots and didn't need everything spelled out for them). The other rules are merely logical outworkings of following Rule One.

Gazpacho makes a Darn Good Point, too.


June 20, 2006, 11:59 AM
As was mentioned, they are all equally important.

Why not just tell her that is the way it is ?

If you tell someone the recipe for a cake and they ask you which one is the most important, what do you tell them ? The fact is that without all the ingredients you wouldn't have a cake. One isn't more important than the other.
What about if she asks who the most important member of the family is ? Do you say we can do without mom and your little brother ? They are all equally important.

Mike in VA
June 21, 2006, 08:24 AM
Thanks, again, for your thoughts. My neice is 15, very bright, and prone to over-analysis.

I think the logic is best presented as they all flow from #1 - Always treat the gun as if it is loaded. Afterall, what do you do with a loaded gun? You never let the muzzle cover something you aren't willing to destroy, you must be sure of your target and what's beyond, and you keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.:cool:

The point I really want her to understand, though, is that while the rules are easy to learn, internalizing them to the point that they're reflexive takes time and PRACTICE, so off to the range, eh?

June 21, 2006, 09:42 AM
They are equally important.
They are all disposable at one time or another.
Rules? what rules? I need to survive.


June 21, 2006, 12:52 PM
My rule #1 is to relax and have fun shooting. I can't dispute any of the other four rules, because they just make good common sense, and were drilled into my head at a very young age nearly 50 years ago.

When my cousin was staying with me last month, someone asked me about the serial # on one of my revolvers, just for information about the date of manufacture, so I brought it out. My cousin is very gun-shy, but I opened the cylinder and showed her it was indeed empty. After that, she was OK with it.

That's one of the reasons I prefer revolvers. I've heard too many stories where someone dropped the magazine out of an auto and forgot there was one in the chamber.

June 21, 2006, 01:23 PM
All of them are obviously crucial to safe gun handling. I don't like the idea of picking one rule over the rest.

BUT if you held a gun to my head I'd say #4 "keep your finger off the trigger" because it's the one rule I see most often violated especially with new shooters.

June 21, 2006, 01:40 PM
While you can say that rule #1 encompases the other rules, I also feel that rule #4 is the one most often violated. When dealing with gun safety, I feel you should be specific about exactly what actions should be done and what actions should not be done. Assuming there are not mechanical malfunctions, kepping your finger off of the trigger will almost always prevent the accidental discharge from happening.

While rule #2 is obviously important, accidental discharges may also cause injuries by ricochets. One of the most important aspects of this rule is that you don't get yourself shot by others who feel that you are pointing a loaded weapon at them. Besides, if the gun never goes off, then it doesn't matter as much where it is pointing.

Think about it this way. Does anyone wear a shoulder holster? Is you gun loaded? Does you muzzle cover anyone standing behind you? You you even know what is behind you and what lies beyond? In that case, trigger discipline becomes the MOST important factor in preventing an accidental discharge. Even if you are talking about SOB carry, you are still pointing the gun at your body while carrying a loaded weapon. I'm not sure about you guys, but most of my interaction with guns does not occur at the range and any gun I carry is LOADED! So far keeping my grubby paws off the trigger have kept them from going off spontaneously.

June 21, 2006, 01:51 PM
I think the Four Rules can be summarized as follows: Don't hurt anybody. The real rules exist to help people keep from hurting themselves or anyone else.

As such, if you're teaching your little kid how to handle a firearm, the thing to emphasize is that you're not making them follow these rules to be bossy. You're making them follow the rules so that they won't get hurt, and so they won't hurt anyone else.

I mean, come on! When it comes to handling firearms, there are MANY more rules than just the Four, and each rule is equally important. (My soon-to-be father-in-law recently taught me not to stick your thumb in the chamber of an M-1 rifle. That's a good rule to know!) The important thing is to know the rules, and to know why the rules are in place. Don't get hurt.

June 21, 2006, 02:00 PM
To make a "teachable moment" out of it and to find out what her understanding is, turn it around and have her tell you which is most important.
Good luck.

June 21, 2006, 02:28 PM
Aw you guys!

Ya left out "nobody should have a gun"

:D :D :D

June 21, 2006, 02:37 PM
I always make sure to impress on new students that the four rules are what stands between them and a life changed for the worse, and by keeping them, disaster can be averted. Observe all four of them and nothing bad will happen. Accidentally miss one and keep three others, and they will save you. Skip two and you're looking at serious risk. Skip three and someone could get injured. Skip four and someone will die.