You CAN Be Too Safe

by Dave Merrill

We’ve all heard it, usually from helicopter moms and self-appointed internet safety experts. “You can never be too safe.”

So I’ll just say it: bullshit. You absolutely can be too safe.

Over the last couple weeks, some on the internet have taken it upon themselves to be extra ridiculous about gun safety (yes, I used “ridiculous” and “gun safety” in the same sentence). Tim from Military Arms Channel was one target of their ire. Unlike a lot of online blow-hards with good editing, Tim actually knows what he’s talking about. He recently posted a video and some pictures demonstrating a thermal optic. During presentation of its use, he pointed the optic (just the optic, not the rifle) at people (one of them being his own child).

Cue the outrage.

Since the optic is made for a rifle, even pointing the optic by itself at something is apparently breaking one of The Four Rules.

Mad Duo Minion Cowan posted 15 seconds of a drill on Instagram that caused some to have a heart attack because the shooters were not synchronized swimmers.

Another popular Youtuber had a video wherein a gun was pointed at the camera. Despite the fact that the gun was pointed in a safe direction and the camera was mounted on a tripod rather than held by a person, some were [apparently] virtually scared because, by extension, the Youtuber pointed a gun at them, the viewer.
Does this make you feel unsafe?

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Now, if this were in person, at the very least I’d expect some harsh language and maybe a breaking of leather. Right now, you’re looking at an artificial representation of a loaded gun. Heaven forbid if this model had a mechanical safety set to ‘off’. If this scares you I can only imagine what watching The Human Centipede did to your psyche.

Let’s overview The Four Rules:

Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
Never point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
Keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire.

There are variations on this theme (I’m using the Marine Corps version) but they all have the same common outline. For most individual weapons, if you apply all four rules you should be A-Okay (there are additional considerations for some crew-served weapons). Not every weapon is drop-safe and there’s at least one example of a pistol that fires when you shake it. However, if you follow The Four Rules all the time, you pretty much can’t even train with your firearms.

Dry fire at home? Out.
Draw practice? Out.
Transporting? Out.
Performing basic maintenance? Out.

The Four Rules weren’t given to man etched on a tablet nor do you have to perform seven Hail Marys if you violate one. Actually, you can violate each one individually and everything will be OK. Sometimes you can even violate two. Multiple rules have to be violated in order for an injury to occur in most circumstances. Mechanical safeties can fail, jacket drawstrings can get caught in trigger guards and so on, but so long as your gun is pointed in a safe direction everyone should survive. The redundancy of the Four Rules is what makes them so good.

Before you lose your mind, no, I am not advocating that you go around pointing loaded weapons at each other or shooting in random directions. Don’t be daft.

Of course, there are countless examples of people injuring themselves or others with firearms:
A mother killed herself when adjusting her bra holster.
A grandfather shot his granddaughter thinking she was an invader.
A police chief shot himself for the second time.
A tactical instructor shot one of his own employees.

Incidents like these are what make wannabe OSHA employees travel to the deep end of the Windex and make comments about pictures pointing guns at them. Their apparent belief is that any handling deemed unsafe is a slippery slope. But zero tolerance means zero thought or consideration (a kind of non-thinking in which employees of the DMV excel).

The real answer is proper training, discipline, and effective risk mitigation.

The Four Rules are like the Body Mass Index (BMI). Fact is, the BMI is a one-size-fits-most system, and 99% of the people that say “I have a healthy BMI—I just have [big bones/tons of muscle]” do so while scarfing down a Snickers bar. If you’re a legitimate body builder or NBA player, a good doctor isn’t going to lecture you about your BMI. A good doctor.
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Mad Duo Merrill About the author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Mad Duo Dave Merrill is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Dave is currently the operating manager and instructor for MilCopp Tactical. There he munificently promulgates superlative fighting advice. Translated, that means MilCopp teaches and advocates a constantly evolving, amalgamated method of military and law enforcement tactics. They leaven those TTPs with lessons learned from continued training and ongoing experience on the sharp end; these TTP’s are based on a combination of hard lessons learned and practical real-world results. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade.