There is a procedure to follow which will minimize unintentional discharges when used in conjunction with the four primary weapons safety rules.
The 4 Safety Rules
- ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
- NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY.
- KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON TARGET AND YOU ARE READY TO FIRE
- BE SURE OF THE TARGET, AS WELL AS THE SURROUNDINGS AND BEYOND
The procedure is called “Ritual Dry Fire Practice” and involves taking several extra steps whenever you perform practice or maintenance with no intention of shooting the gun.
Step One: Select the Proper Time and Place
The proper time is when you are alone. Anyone around you during your practice serves only one purpose, that of an unintended victim should you have a weapon discharge. One exception to the “be alone” rule is if someone is involved in the practice with you. There should be no distractions including no television, telephone, eating, or conversations with people who drop in on you. If you are interrupted during a practice session, practice stops immediately, and when the distraction leaves, you start over from step one.
The proper place affords a safe backstop at which to point your gun. This must be something that will stop your bullet if you fire one. Your backstop might be a woodpile, sandbags, or other objects which don’t pose a threat of ricochet. Whatever you select or construct for this purpose must be capable of stopping the type of ammunition your gun fires.
Step Two: Remove All Live Ammunition from Your Training Area
This means all live ammunition, including that in your gun, on your person, and in your vicinity. If you are in a room, remove the ammunition from that room. If you are outdoors, remove the ammunition far enough away that it will take conscious effort to retrieve it before you will be able to reload the gun.
Step Three: Go Into “Practice Mode”
This is where the “ritual” occurs. We want to make a positive mental shift to the realization that we are operating in a set of altered circumstances wherein it is permissible to do things we would not normally do, such as squeeze the trigger when we don’t intend to shoot the gun. We say to ourselves, out loud, “This is practice time; I’m going to practice now”. We repeat this statement three times to be mentally focused on what we are about to do.
Step Four: Perform Practice
At this time, we practice whatever we need. It might be pistol presentation (draw), sight alignment/picture, or compressed surprise breaks (trigger squeeze). Usually, we practice a combination of skills or maintenance procedures.
Step Five: When Practice Is Over, Go Into “Reality Mode”
This is the traditionally dangerous time when the gun is reloaded, and a shot is fired. To avoid this, we conduct a second ritual to shift our minds firmly back to the reality that when the trigger is next squeezed, a bullet will destroy whatever the gun is pointed at. We say to ourselves, out loud, “Practice is over, this is real.” This is repeated three times.
Step Six: Place the Gun into the Condition You Normally Keep It
This keeps us in compliance with the safety rules. Guns can be dangerous and should not be left unattended. Children are likely to find them and proceed to experiment. Children can load firearms, as well as obtain ammunition from their friends’ homes. They don’t intend to shoot the gun, but often children do. It’s not whether the gun is loaded, but whether it is accessible that you should be concerned about. When you are not in direct control of your firearm, it should be secured in such a manner that children cannot get it into a firing mode. Lock the gun in a safe, a gun case, or place a locking mechanism on it. This is your responsibility whether a child (or irresponsible adult) is invited into your home or not. Should one of these individuals obtain your unsecured firearm, you may be very unpleasantly surprised at your potential civil liabilities when someone is injured or killed with your gun.
Step Seven: Secure the Gun Immediately
Place the gun in its storage area, or holster if you are going to work. Try not to handle the gun again for at least an hour after Ritual Dry Fire Practice. When you next touch it, you want all vestiges of “Practice Mode” to be gone from your thinking program. These seven steps will minimize the risk of an accidental or negligent discharge while handling your firearms. They are well worth your time and effort.