…Except when they are in a couple of very select circumstances.
There is much talk of late on the topic of Cooper’s Four Rules. Opinions range from the dogmatic, to the free-world-do-what-you-want-hippy-commune-shit, to the he who is without sin, to the call-it-like-it-is crowd.
Being the opinionated asshole that I am, let me throw in my two cents:
The rules are the fucking rules. Obey them or expect to be called out. If called out, admit and accept responsibility, or we have a personal problem.
1. All Guns Are Always Loaded: Yup. “What are you doing checking the chamber, I just cleared that pistol?” Good for you, I haven’t. The weapon is now in my possession and is my responsibility. Plenty of people have been shot with “unloaded” guns. Rule one is a fallacy, yet a necessity. It keeps the famous excuse of “it’s not loaded” from being in any way defensible. This is not a cat in a box with a radiactive vial, the gun is either loaded or it is not, but the point is to always act as though your weapon is loaded. Would you feel better if we tossed the word “assume” into the rule? Rule one is about removing any temptation to violate the others.
2. Never Let Your Muzzle Cover Anything You Are Not Willing To Destroy: Yup, with minor exceptions relating to rule 1. If the barrel is a mere pipe separate from the rest of the weapon, it is treated as a pipe. If I need to inspect a bore and can’t entirely remove the barrel, I triple check to be sure the weapon is unloaded, put my light in the chamber, and then inspect the bore. My light acts as a chamber plug/flag, I have verified empty, and once I see what I need of the chamber, I don’t hang out, I get my head out of the way. If I need to clean a weapon where I can’t remove the barrel/slide/swing out the cylinder/pop the bolt, I keep my eye on the chamber the whole time. The exceptions also only apply to you personally, it is never okay to muzzle someone else, ever. These are the only exceptions to the rule; no muzzling me or anyone around me and then responding with “It’s not loaded”, “It is okay because…”, “You weren’t there”, or any combination of the above.
3. Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On Target: Always, no exceptions. “What about a Mosin where you have to pull the trigger to get out the bolt?” “A GLOCK where you need to drop striker to strip?” Use a backstop that you wouldn’t mind dumping a bullet into, easy as that.
4. Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Beyond It: Absolutely, positively, always, no exceptions ever.
5. Never Try To Catch A Falling Gun: My Four Rules are like Adam’s Hitchhiker’s trilogy. No exceptions to this one, either.
“Hey, what about the military, force-on-force, blah blah?” The four rules do not apply to military in (actively in) essential training, as far as I am concerned. Even then, the Four Rules are only temporarily on hold when a shitload of safety checks are performed. Outside of essential training, the four rules go right back into effect. This training is not, never has been, and never will be safe.
“Do you honestly consider dropping a hammer on an empty chamber at the ground to be firing a weapon?” Yes, I do, whether or not lead screams out the barrel with a boom matters not to me. If I replaced “the ground” with “a little girl’s chest” would you still think you weren’t firing a gun?
“What about blanks?” In close quarters scenes in movies, flashpaper non-guns are used because blanks have hurt and killed people. Just ask Brandon Lee if you don’t believe me. If you want to make a movie, use the same care as the military should, and don’t be surprised if someone gets hurt.
“If all guns are always loaded, we could never dry-fire.” Yes, we can dry-fire, at an appropriate backstop, and we should not be surprised if the gun actually goes bang. I use snap caps when I dry fire, it helps keep live ammo out, helps me practice reloads and failure drills, prevents firing pin damage, and the gun is loaded, just with a different kind of ammo. Dry fire on empty brass/chamber, assume that the damn gun is loaded and you don’t get nasty surprises.
Are you an idiot, bad person, incompetent who should be disarmed, asshole for violating a rule? No, unless you did it intentionally, then you are a first-class asshole.
Are you an asshole for doing anything except say “whoops” or, in the case of anyone you muzzled, “sorry” when it is brought to your attention that you buggered a rule? Yes, and I do not want you near me.
Let’s review the above point:
You post a video in which you muzzle someone and it is brought to your attention. You say, “Crap, I should not have done that.” Life goes on.
You muzzle me, and get called out, you say, “Sorry man.” All is forgiven, life goes on.
You muzzle me, and with knowledge of the Four Rules, say, “It’s unloaded.” I go home, and we no longer associate with each other. One person got away with, in the sense that we are still friends, “It’s not loaded” and that was only because he didn’t know better and immediately responded to my very angry lecture on the Four Rules with, “I’m sorry man.” I no longer go to the range with, or hand a weapon to anyone before they know the Four Rules as a result of my friend’s unloaded comment.
I muzzle you, please call me out on it. I have muzzled people (plural) before in my younger years, and once somewhat recently*. I try my damndest not to, and if I fuck up, I need to hear it, even if it is from someone who just muzzled me.
People may not like the Four Rules, my interpretation of them, or both, but they don’t have to go shooting with me.
There, my chest, she feels lighter.
* I have become accustomed to carrying a slung long-arm muzzle down on my weak side. The day I pulled that boner, I had a 91/30 avec bayonet slung muzzle up on my strong side. I was picking something off the ground next to a friend and almost rammed my bayonet into his eye. He told me, and I said, “Shit-fuck-damn-it-to-bloody-hell, I’m sorry.”