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Gun Handling 101; Don't suck, and don't buy into dogma

Chapter and verse has been written about firearm rules. Much of this is oft repeated and ubiquitous, but I enjoy challenging convention and stirring the pot, so I thought I'd take my own stab at firearm rules. Note I lump training, proficiency, and safety all in together. I don't separate these aspects of gun handling, and I don't think you should either.

1. Know the condition of your firearm at all times, and insure it is appropriate for the situation - Yes, everyone has heard "treat all guns like they're loaded", but that universal advice isn't as universal as you may think. If I'm dry-fire practicing at home, I don't WANT to treat my gun as if it is loaded because I wouldn't be discharging it all willynilly in my own home. Likewise, I don't want to realize my gun is cleared in a defensive situation. Know what condition your gun is in at all times, whether loaded and hot, slide locked on an empty mag, or completely clear. And always insure it is in the condition it should be. 

2. Always be aware of where your muzzle is pointing -  Pretty self explanatory, but really important. Whether drawing, storing, handling, or shooting ALWAYS know where your muzzle is pointing. Many a man has perforated his calf or buttcheek and decimated innocent pieces of furniture not paying attention to where their muzzle was pointing. 

3. Maintenance, maintenance, more maintenance - Every time a single round goes down my barrels, they are field stripped, cleaned, and oiled. If a gun sits for sixty days unfired, it is checked for corrosion, wiped down, oiled, and put back in storage. My conceal carry gun gets weekly cleanings. More or less maintenance may be advocated by others, but the point is to keep on top of your firearms maintenance. If a firearm can not be depended upon to go bang every time firing pin hits primer it is useless as a defensive firearm. 

4. Know your firearm by touch alone - If you train enough, you should be intimately familiar with your firearm so as to operate its controls by touch alone. Extra points if you can reload without looking. Now, I recommend you glance at your firearm while reloading (a bobbled reload costs valuable time), but you shouldn't have to hunt for a safety, slide release, or bolt catch. Know your gun by touch, and to that end train with gloves if you intend to wear them (things feel a lot different, trust me.)

5. Train with ALL of your gear, No I don't care if you feel like a dork - Now, please don't be that range nerd that shows up at his local public range in a plate carrier, III%er gear, LBE/military load bearing equipment, etc. Yes, I have seen all of the above, and it is ridiculous. BUT, if you plan to wear any gear while operating your firearm you owe it to yourself (damn Private Murphy) to make sure it all fits and works together. I have an armor vest and battle belt that were built to work together (and separately) and I only know because I did some dry firing with both on to figure out if anything interfered. I also practiced with both my carbine and sidearm, seeing how everything lay when I transitioned weapons, could I access my pistol reloads with my rifle laying across my chest, could I reach all of my gear, was anything in anything elses way?  Just please don't make a spectacle of yourself in public, the home with cleared weapons is the proper place to figure all of this out. 

6. Practice the hard shit - I suck shooting with my offhand. Not like can't hit the broad side of a barn, but MUCH more awkward and larger groups, so that's what I take time to practice. With my new home defense gun, I suck shooting double action on that first shot, then transitioning to single action, so THAT is what I practice. I am a much more proficient rifleman than a handgunner, so I practice accordingly. Going to the range to only practice the things you're good at is wasted time and effort. Do the things you aren't comfortable with, then circle back to two handed/strong side shooting. Also when dry firing, spend some time with your dominant hand out of commission. Practice drawing and shooting weak hand only (yes, you'll have a time drawing cross body when your holster isn't set up for it, that's the point.) It may just be an opportunity to look foolish, or a life saving skill in a gun fight. 

I'm sure my cohost will have his own additions to this list, and many of you may as well. I hope you'll all lend me your feedback here in comments or over at Facebook. I do believe this list is an excellent starting point for novices and a reminder for the more experienced among us. Phil Rabalais

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