AIMPOINT TRAINING - RANGE PREP, PART 1: SAFETY
There are very complicated things to talk about in the orbit of firearms training and we go into a lot of them here. Let’s take a step back and consider some of the less cerebral but just as important facets of our sport/hobby/profession. This will be a series of articles to address some of the foundational (but less discussed) skills that facilitate good days on the range.
Let’s start with the most important: Safety
I couldn’t put a number to the times I’ve been subjected to the “range safety brief.” It usually looks something like this: all of the shooters gather around a person (often reading from a card in a deeply monotone voice) that delivers a fairly rote stream of information. Sometimes the speaker gets crazy and asks the crowd to fill in the four firearms safety rules. When that happens, there is a mumbled unintelligible mix of words that starts and stops at roughly the same time. No one is really paying attention or engaged until this person talks about the schedule or perhaps where the bathrooms are.
This reminds me of the brief the airline crew gives the yawning passengers that are already putting on their noise cancelling earphones. It feels like it’s done for lawyers and not to make anyone any safer.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these briefs; I’m saying that we shouldn’t trust them to make us safe… and without further thought, many of us are doing just that.
In my experience, the only thing that can make us safer is a deeply personal and integral dedication to firearms safety. Start with the four weapons safety rules. They are well thought out and very good, but don’t stop there.
When I’m training, I calve off a significant portion of my effort to a constant curiosity about the gun. This starts with where it is. I know this sounds glib but it isn’t. I’ve had guns pointed at me on ranges by “professionals” more times than I would like to say. These people lost concern for where the gun was and as a result, it slaved to where their infrastructure (their posture) was pointed.
Another dangerous moment is during the manipulation of the firearm (pistols in particular). The shooter has likely not mapped the movement before embarking on it and as a result, hasn’t identified the dangers. It happens a lot.
Another curiosity that we should have is the load condition of our weapon. When I have control of a gun, I constantly check the chamber… it’s incessant. If the gun I have is fitted with an external safety, I check it just as often. I make myself curious about the gun and I never assume old information will keep me safe NOW. Changing lanes in traffic because you looked behind you a few minutes ago would quickly land you in an accident it will with a gun as well.
When dry firing, check the gun constantly. You are doing several things in this: you are making sure the gun is indeed in a safe condition to do what you are doing with it AND you are training yourself to be safe, to be curious about the gun.
All of the classes I teach involve some dry fire. I program this for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s a very good practice (read this tip) secondly, it helps me identify among the students who may need some help becoming a better (safer) weapons handler. Those that have a personal commitment to safety will have built “checks” into their system. They will go through the drill I’m asking of them and then noticeably break when it’s completed - to verify that their assumption is correct (that the lane is clear to merge).
They usually move at a much slower pace when conducting these movements, giving their brain ample opportunity to catch any hovering danger. This is important. We’ve all glanced at our watch and then had to look again because, for whatever reason, it didn’t register. The same can happen with other things, like chambers.
Lastly, use safe practices as a way of enjoying the experience more. I see many shooters that have developed (or been taught) a fear of the gun. I’m of the opinion that this works opposite to the desired effect. Fear makes few things better. Respect the gun (as trite as that may sound) by building thoughtful processes around its use.
So, the takeaways here are:
#1 Don’t count on the person giving the safety brief (or anyone else) to make sure you’re safe. It isn’t a collective responsibility, it’s individual.
#2 The four weapons safety rules are good but should be a foundation not the house.
#3 Create a curiosity about the firearm you are training with. Always be hungry to know its condition (in the moment).
#4 Make yourself an aware weapons handler. Never let the gun become tied to your infrastructure unless you are actively shooting. (Remember… good infrastructure helps you aim the gun – see our training tip from August 9th.)
Fear alone doesn’t make you a safer shooter.
Until next time, train smart (and safe).
Duane “Buck” Buckner
After spending 25 years in the USCG, Duane “Buck” Buckner is now the U.S. Director of Training for Aimpoint. The Aimpoint Training Division conducts training courses for military and law enforcement agencies up to the Federal level as well as for the prepared civilian. Buck is widely known for his emphasis on brain psychology as it relates to combat and survival.
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Posted by Duane Buckner, Aimpoint US Director of Training on Oct 31st 2022