Four Rules?

Caleb is speaking about rule violations, and SayUncle notes that they aren’t as cut and dried as people would imagine:

And it’s not even for photos. If you’ve ever dry fired, you’ve broken a rule. If you holster your weapon in an IWB holster, you’ve broken a rule. If you draw from a shoulder holster, you’ve broken a rule. When you pull the trigger on your Glock before you disassemble it, you’ve broken a rule. Boresighted your rifle on your kitchen table, you’ve broken a rule. It goes on and on.

Exercise caution and use your head.

I don’t think anyone’s ever argued that the four rules are to be taken absolutely literally, but they are meant to create a culture of safety, so that you have to break two rather than one in order for someone to get shot accidentally. There are plenty of situations one can think of which represent legitimate gun use, such as drawing from the holster, dry firing, or disassembly where you’re going to technically violate a rule. But I would hope for the case of dry firing, disassembly, or holstering, they will take care to make sure the gun is at least pointed in a safe direction for the former two, and rule three is being meticulously followed for the latter.

I agree with Uncle that people need to use their heads. There are times when you’ll have to drop one of the rules in importance and be really really sure you’re raising another. Draw practice, dry fire, and cleaning are all good and necessary reasons to violate rule, because we know we’re violating it, and know to be meticulous with the others. We are still part of the culture of safety. The examples Caleb gives…

Recent controversies across the gunblog world have sparked this train of thought on how quick we are as a community to point and holler “they have their finger on the trigger” or “she’s muzzling people with that gun“.  In both of those linked instances, those people would be correct: the SniperBabes have several pictures that are in clear violation of Rule 3, and even Breda is clearly violating Rule 2 in that video.  So technically, the people that called them out for those violations of The 4 Rules are quite correct if you’re holding to the letter of the law.

… are not good reasons for violating the rules. The point of the rules is to make people think very seriously about their gun handling. Obviously poster babes on a calendar are not of that mindset. They are not part of the safety culture we’re trying to promote among responsible gun owners. That’s why I have a problem with it. I can sympathize with frustration at people who swear up and down you can always at all times take the four rules as literal gospel, but the point really is, if you are in a situation where you have to violate one, you should think, think, think! “I am dry firing, better do it into a solid backstop and not into the wall that goes to the next room where my kids are,” think about “I am holstering my gun, so I should make sure no one is directly behind me, and my finger is off the trigger.” (at least until you do that without thinking), and thinking about the direction your gun is pointed when you drop the hammer for disassembly. As long as all those things are being followed, the most you risk is some property damage and embarrassment, rather than quarts of blood and a lot of questions from the police.

The issue with the SniperBabes poor gun handling is not that they violated a technical rule, it’s that they violated it for no good reason, this indicating they have no regard for the safety culture we’re trying to promote. I would like to think that should bother everyone.

22 Responses to “Four Rules?”

  1. Robert says:

    I made similar points myself in the comments on Caleb’s post, and in my own blog. In a nutshell I felt you should only violate one of the rules when it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t see dry fire practice as breaking one of the rules as SayUncle has said on his blog. If you are doing dry fire practice safely you follow all the rules, so that to me is a bad example as well because the rules aren’t violated.

    I think people may be wanting to play too loose with the rules, and that’s dangerous.

  2. Sebastian says:

    That’s a good point Robert. I would agree that if you’re doing dry fire practice aiming at the cat, it’s definitely a rule violation. Aiming at a good solid, basement wall, not so much. Aiming high, also not so much. But if you’ve ever dry fired at a wall at ground level, particularly in an apartment, it’s hard to argue that’s not a rule violation.

  3. SayUncle says:

    Are you ‘willing to destroy’ your basement wall?

  4. Sebastian says:

    Not really, but it’s more in the realm of annoyance than disaster.

  5. j t bolt says:

    Yes, you have to violate the rules at times. To field strip a 1911, for instance. But when you do you should be thinking: “Hey! I’m about to violate one of the 4 rules. That’s how NDs happen. I better think really hard right now about what I am doing and triple check everything I do, and if I can avoid breaking 2 rules while breaking 1, I should do so. Or avoid breaking 3 rules when I have to break 2, etc.”

  6. Sebastian says:

    I’ve also heard, alternately, rule 2 as “Keep guns pointed in a safe direction.”

  7. Robert says:

    If I had a basement wall I would be willing to chip it (assuming solid concrete basement walls like most people have around here). I have a small range on my property and do most of my dry firing there. When I dry fire inside I use the back bedroom wall that faces my berm. Small holes in the wall are easy to repair if an accident happens. Never was comfortable dry firing in my apartment when I lived in one.

    I realize I am very anal about the four rules and some people think it’s silly or over the top, but I never want to hurt someone because one time I skipped following an easy rule, or four.

  8. Sebastian says:

    I do dry fire practice with an air gun, using my kitchen stove as a backstop, which I am definitely willing to destroy, and which there are a few pellet marks on :)

    Once I redo the kitchen, I’ll need to find another backstop.

  9. mikeb302000 says:

    I agree the Four Rules cannot be taken literally in every situation. But, unnecessarily violating them is to be avoided.

  10. mikeb302000 says:

    I’ll add this. It was my pointing this out on Breda’s blog that generated such an outcry from her loyal supporters that it eventually resulted in my being banned from her blog and boycotted by the likes of Weer’d and Bob S., not to mention endless discussions on the definition of a troll.

    Now Caleb has stated exactly what I said from the beginning, which I had the pleasure of being the first to point out.

  11. Sebastian says:

    Well, did you keep bringing it up? She made a mistake. It happens. Move on.

  12. ctdonath says:

    Jeff Cooper wrote The Four Rules. I’ve been in his class when he explained this issue.

    Like any rule, no rule is absolute and complete. There are times to break rules, but you do so ONLY with rational deliberation addressing an immediate specific situation, and do so with heightened care, aware that something is “wrong” and must be managed as such.

    Would that pundits sought further insight into what they criticize before they do so. Cooper had his Rules very well thought out, with plenty of commentary thereon. Best to listen to the author than some wiseguy keen on bashing whatever he can to garner attention.

  13. Bob S. says:


    Wrong, again!
    It was my pointing this out on Breda’s blog that generated such an outcry from her loyal supporters that it eventually resulted in my being banned from her blog and boycotted by the likes of Weer’d and Bob S.

    It wasn’t just that and you know it. We’ve explained it many times why we won’t read your blog any more.
    You’ve repeatedly have shown yourself to be a troll on many different issue many different times on many different blogs.

    You say you want to discuss the issues; yet you rarely comment more then once on someone else’s blog post. You repeat disproved statistics ad nauseum (such as the ATF 90% canard).

    We are still waiting on information about how SWAT and/or the police draw down on kids with toy guns more often then people use firearms defensively, where is your evidence ?

  14. markofafreeman says:

    Another point to keep in mind is what Xavier brought up a while ago here about the cognitive dissonance required if you take rule one literally:

    In a handgun self defense class not long ago, the instructor reworded the rules is this way:

    1. All guns are always loaded. (no change, but I like to add something akin to Xavier’s suggestion like “Always know the condition of your firearm, but treat it as loaded, regardless.”)
    2. Never let the extended line of the muzzle cross anything you cannot afford to destroy.
    (I may not be completely *willing* to put a hole in my wall, but I can afford to fix it. The cat? Well, that depends. ;-) Also, the muzzle crossing something creates a better picture than the muzzle pointing at something. Pointing can be taken to mean an event, were crossing, IMHO, is more of a continuous awareness of what you are crossing as move the gun.)
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are aligned with your target and you have made the decision to shoot.
    (A bit more explicit on what it means to be ‘ready to shoot.’)
    4. Know your target, what is behind it, and what is around it.
    (The version I’ve usually heard leaves out ‘around it’.)

    On the comment about not using your cat…you would not believe the story the instructor told us. He knew of a guy who did just that. And wound up cleaning up quite a mess in the garage one day quickly before his wife got home. He told her that the cat had gone missing when she got home. And would you believe it? They had two cats. Yes, he did it again.

    Don’t know if it was true, but it keeps me conscious of my cats’ whereabouts in the house while handling any of my firearms.

  15. Mikee says:

    Sorry for the late reply, but what exactly is wrong with aiming at your cat, Sebastian? I know I am willing to destroy mine, and am hindered only by my wife and daughter, who for whatever strange reasons want to keep the darn thing.

  16. Sebastian says:

    Because I love kitties :)

  17. Weer'd Beard says:

    I’m just curious why MikeB302000 has boycotted my blog.

    Seems intolerant to me.

  18. Brent G says:

    We all know the rules, but sometimes become too “comfortable” with them or our satisfaction and knowledge…and sometimes they are broken. The Sniper Babes photos drive me nuts. As stated, the breaking of these rules were for no good reason…well there was a good reason…to make a more “interesting” photo. Which is not a reason.

    For those who say ‘well the safety will catch me if I do something stupid,” safetys are mechanical devices. And all mechanical devices can fail. Bottom line: The best safety is the one between the ears.

    Good discussion Sebastian!

  19. Sniper Babes says:

    Four rules apply to the Sniper Babes the same way they do to everyone else. The difference is that photos of the ladies with fingers on the triggers are given away free to instructors as teaching tools.

    If any of the blog readers want specific details they are clearly posted on the Sniper Babes Website on the link below.

  20. Bitter says:

    If any instructor pulled out one of your products, I would immediately report him or her to NRA or other credential-issuing authority for creating a hostile environment for women. Quite a few would probably yank the credentials or at least issue warnings for anyone caught using such images. You may like looking at half-naked women mishandling firearms, but the fact is that those images are wholly inappropriate for any classroom setting.

    In fact, I might actually call up the training division of NRA and let them know that you are promoting this for use in the gun safety curriculum. I’d like to make sure my fellow instructors know, partially to keep them from coming unglued when they hear such a pitch. Of the instructors I have worked with, none of them would dare repeat the words for you in the presence of mixed company if you told them this bullshit was a teaching tool.

    In fact, I’d like to hear from Caleb if Gun Nuts Media is supporting the effort to use inappropriate photos as teaching tools in the classroom for brand new shooters.

  21. Ian Argent says:

    Sort of tangential; but the range/store I went to a while back had me rather nervous and considering not patronizing in the future. I was repeatedly covered by a variety of muzzles both as I was examining the wares and also by my own gun when I asked for advise on how to get the $@#%$# breakdown lever to move on a P22. (Answer, use a screwdriver, carefully).

    Fine, he knew and I knew that none of those guns were loaded (the wares were all bolt-action with no magazines and the bolt open; and the P22 had no magazine and I had just examined the chamber immediately prior to handing it to him); but it still gave me the willies.


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