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The Warden's Guide to Firearm safety and views (WORK IN PROGRESS)

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(Special note: Anyone who wants to critique and add anything is welcome to. I'm shooting from the hip here!).

In the past, I have had to restate my views over and over on firearm safety and their presence in general. So, I'm writing this so I can finally, FINALLY, stop having to repeat myself. We begin with my golden rule on firearms,  the rule from which most of my other rules, if not all of them, stem from. It is simple:


It goes off because of bad maintenance? You loan your gun to your drinking buddy and he goes postal with it? You leave your firearm unsupervised and your own dog shoots you with it? That's all on YOU. Just as you have the right to own the firearm, so too that such a freedom, like virtually all others, carries with it a responsibility to be smart with your firearms.

The following are rules that stem from this golden rule:

1a) Always assume the weapon is loaded unless you yourself unloaded it, and check again to be sure. Better to be overcautious, than having an accidental discharge.

1b) Store weapons and ammo separately, especially if you have kids. These should be locked away in a gunsafe when not in use. If you must use a pistol at your bedside, at least use a trigger guard unless it's just you or an adult

1c) Never point a gun, loaded or unloaded, at anything you don't intend to shoot.

1d) Never, EVER, leave the weapon unsupervised without rendering it safe first, under ANY circumstance.

1e) NATO doctrine works great on the battlefield. It doesn't work so well in home defense or law enforcement. Prioritize precision over volume. Too often, people will think they fired one shot, when they emptied the hogleg on someone. Don't let that happen to you, as moments like that mean hurt bystanders.

1f) ALWAYS know what's behind your target and what you're shooting at, no matter what Joe Biden tries to tell you.

I could go on about how good gun owners often get blamed for the stupidity of the idiots who play with them, or how I'm tired of seeing groupblame where there's no place for it, but instead, I'll point out that every person is someone's son or daughter, a nephew or a niece, grandson or granddaughter, and the consequences of bad decision making with firearms doesn't solely affect you or the victim.

So, respect the gun, or respect the courtroom (if you're lucky) or the morgue (if you're not).

Now, onto other rules.

2) Choose your firearms well. As any brief research will tell you, not all firearms are created equal. Avoid any "Ring of Fire" firearms at all costs (Google it), and do your homework. When at the gun shop, first, make sure it's a reputable vendor, and then make sure the firearm fits well. For personal defense, many prefer 9mm Parabellum, but even that varies. You'll want to go for comfort and ease of use  for a self-defense situation. Also, decide if you want to use a cliploader or a revolver. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Revolvers are easier to maintain and use, but have limited ammunition capacity (usually 5-9 rounds, depending on ammo caliber and the size of the revolver).  Semiautomatics tend to have increased capacity and tend to be lighter, but can be harder to clean or take apart, and are usually more expensive besides.

This brings in an addendum: Size isn't everything. Find a balance between stopping power and controllability. Just because you can get a .50AE round, doesn't mean you can use it in a home defense situation.

Newer models tend to vary this. Again, do your homework.

3) Choose your holster and storage well: Go for a holster that allows you to draw however you feel comfortable. And for pete's sake, get a gun safe, especially if you have kids. See the Golden Rule. Make sure it uses a combination if possible, or a key if you need to reach it in a hurry. If you can, get a gun safe that can be bolted down to the floor.

4) Learn to use and maintain the gun. Do target practice and know how to disassemble and clean the weapon. In target practice always wear hearing and eye protection, and make sure you know what you're shooting at and what's behind the target (The same is true in a self-defense situation).

5) Ammunition is not wine. It does not age gracefully. Check your ammo regularly for signs of corrosion or aging. When shooting, if you pull the trigger and nothing happens, DO NOT LOOK DOWN THE BARREL. It's a hangfire, and it may fire shortly or not at all. Stay where you are, keep your buddies behind you, and stay put with the weapon pointed away from everyone until the weapon either discharges or several minutes go by. Once it discharges, or that time goes by, render the weapon safe, and step away. Now,if it doesn't fire, odds are, there was a failure of the firing pin, or some other part of the mechanism. Clean the weapon and inspect the parts.

6) I call this the Adam Lanza Rule. If you suspect that someone in the household: A roomie, a lover, one of your kids, WHOEVER, is a danger to himself and others, GET THE GUNS AND AMMO OUT OF THE HOUSE, IMMEDIATELY. Leave them with a trusted friend or family member, or ask law enforcement to store them for you, and brief them on the situation. Has Adam Lanza's mother done this, the Newtown Massacre may have been prevented.

This is what I have for now. I'll update it and add more to it once I get this cold out of the way.

I'll suggest a couple of supplemental rules for basic ownership and handling and a few for knowing in case of an attack.

7: If your holster consists of your belt and the front of your pants you deserve it when you shoot yourself and make your happy place not so happy. Mexican carry is flat out dangerous and the only way you should do it is when you have a Mexican Carry Holster.

8: Any holster you get should provide trigger protection. If it doesn't cover the trigger, ditch it because it's an accident aimed at a body part.

9: Always remember: Joe Biden is wrong. If you feel threatened badly enough that discharging a firearm is the only option you have to avoid being attacked, you had better be damn sure of what you are shooting at. So, unlike what Shotgun Joe says, do NOT shoot through your door to keep someone away from your house. This is a great way to kill a visitor, a family member, a friend or the god damn mail man.

10: Always remember: Joe "Two Blasts" Biden is wrong. Remember the old saying, what goes up must come down. If you discharge a firearm into the air the projectile is not going to leave orbit and keep going until it hits Andromeda. It will return to earth, sometimes with lethal velocity. Now the chances might be remote that the round will actually strike a person, but it has been known to happen and there have been injuries and deaths attributed to it. Warning shots are good in theory but bad (and often illegal) in practice because of the danger associated with them. Your only warning shot should be "Stop, or I will shoot."

11: Always remember, Double-Barrel Biden IS WRONG! A load of buckshot WILL go through the wall and into the next room. So will .223, 9mm, .45 ACP, .357 Mag, .38 spl and many, many others. A projectile shot from a firearm is a heavy piece of metal flying through the air at high velocity and, as many of us know, Force = Mass x Acceleration. Always know your surroundings when discharging a firearm and this goes doubly if you're in your home. If you are using your firearm for home defense, purchase rounds designed for home defense. They are expensive, yes, but many are designed to reduce the risk of over penetration. And if it has less ability to go through a wall then get it.

12: Always maintain control of your firearm. If you have your firearm out, keep it with you. If you do not want it with you, lock it the fuck up. If you want it next to you at night, Stormwarden covered this pretty well, but they also make gun safes specially designed for keeping in your nightstand. They offer combination locks that open through the use of finger movements rather than keys or trigger locks, which helps in low-light or no-light conditions and they can run between $200 and $350 bucks.

13: Shotguns aren't I Win guns. If you fire off a shotgun then it won't make a brand new garage door in your garage door. The pellets spread in a fairly predictable pattern of about an inch per yard traveled so if you're shooting across the living room then the pellets may spread out to about the size of a clenched fist. This is important to remember because it could lead to carelessness and an inattention to what is behind the target.

15: Shotgun pellets go further than your think. Depending on the choke in your shotgun, they can travel anywhere between 25 and 40 yards. That is more than enough to hit the house across the street and, as has been said before, you are responsible for every round discharged from your firearm. Always, ALWAYS be sure of what is behind your target.

16: The magazine is not bottomless. If you squeeze the trigger and your firearm goes BANG! it will only do so as many times as there are rounds in your weapon. If you have a 17 round magazine, then barring malfunction or dud ammo, your firearm will fire 18 times (assuming you have a round chambered). If you're being attacked, once the hammer goes *click* you need to either replace the magazine or run the fuck away. Practice magazine changes. Practice them a lot. Run around the block and then start changing magazines when you're winded. Work yourself into a panic and start changing magazines. Stress yourself until your nerves are frayed and start changing magazines. Train yourself until you're hands and arms are doing it through muscle memory. If you have to think to do it, you've fucked something up.

17: Contrary to popular belief, it is not at all uncommon to be attacked by multiple assailants. This happened to my father during two different home invasions. If you feel the need to have a firearm for personal protection, then train yourself to use it and by the gods, carry extra magazines of good capacity. And don't ever assume that if you're attacked it will only be by a lone attacker.

18: You will miss. Some of us will miss a lot, others not so much, but none of us will have every round fired land on target. This is why it is so important to know what is behind your target and why you should have spare magazines on you. When people are stressed and hyped up on adrenaline they won't be able to hit their target all the time. But through training and practice you will be able to take in what is happening and what the background behind your target is.

19: An addendum to the Adam Lanza Rule: If you feel yourself slipping into a depression and have presence of mind to know what is happening, then get those firearms away from you. Hand them off to friends or family members or ask the police to take custody of them for a while, but don't put yourself in a position where you may act irrationally toward yourself or others. Some of us have bad days and then we're over it, some of us have much longer periods where we're not in our right minds. The best thing you can do to be a safe and responsible firearm owner is to know yourself. Know how you feel, know how you handle depression, know how you act when you feel like everything is going (or has gone) to shit. If you can take a good, hard look at yourself you will be able to tell whether owning firearms is the right thing for you to do.

I like every one of those rules, Damen, enough that I'll add your name to the credits as a cowriter.  Incidentally, do home defense rounds include glaser safety ammunition (not entirely solid, so it wouldn't even penetrate drywall or the back of an airplane seat? I heard they're illegal in some states). We should just do a special section just for Biden (BIDEN IS DEAD WRONG). I do respect the man to a point, but I wouldn't trust him with a cap pistol in my place.

 I do have a couple of additional rules and a kids' rules section that needs covered.

20) You will NOT fire "gangster style" (ie with the gun and trigger sideways). firearms are not built for that sort of shooting, and you wouldn't hit the broad side of a barn in that position. It may look cool to you, and let you talk some smack, but there's nothing cool about being dead because you decided looks are better than performance in a self-defense situation.

21) The second-most-important rule to firearms: CHECK YOUR STATE GUN LAWS. Check for Concealed carry permits, and which states will honor those permits. Be aware of certain limits to firearms in many states. NY State, for example, won't allow any firearm with more than seven rounds of ammunition per clip to be owned, and while they have grandfathered in existing sidearms of that type, they still will only allow seven rounds in them at any given time. So, if you're buying for home defense, you will want to consider revolvers more strongly than you would otherwise.

Also check for restrictions on hunting rifles and shotguns, and don't do illegal mods.

22) Don't drink and shoot, or shoot up and shoot. Drunken shooting has killed many an otherwise responsible gunowner. If you wouldn't drink and drive, then you should never drink and shoot. As said before, you're responsible for every round you discharge.

What follows now are some rules for those with children. All the above applies, and then some.

23) Maintain control of the firearm at all times. While stated earlier, this rule is doubly important here. I have read too many stories about kids killing themselves or someone else because the parent turned their back and let their kid take hold of the firearm, or worse yet, failed to control their weapons. Think accidental death would make you feel bad? Well, try living with killing your own child because you didn't take the gun from him. When you're not going over the facts with your kid, keep the guns and ammo locked up, and make sure your kid can't find the key by accident.

24) Educate your kids. Show them what a gun can do, but remind them that it can hurt or kill someone too. By all means, take them shooting when they're old enough (I started around 10, but only under supervision). Make sure they pay attention, make sure they understand that guns are not toys, and aren't to be readied lightly. If you can find one, get them enrolled in an Eddie Eagle program (one of the few things the NRA is getting right these days) and make sure to reinforce the lesson.

Lead by example, as more than almost anyone else, your kids will note your hypocrisy, and if they don't see you follow your own rules, they'll assume it won't apply to them.

25) The Columbine rule: If you see a firearm, ANY firearm on your kid's dresser, or anywhere else out in your place, notify the authorities IMMEDIATELY. Doubly so if you know that gun isn't yours, and/or was modded illegally. I name this the Columbine rule because one of the Columbine shooters' parents saw a sawed-off shotgun on his son's dresser, and failed to notify the authorities, or address the subject. His blind eye killed a lot of innocent high-school students. Had Harris and Klebold been caught before they could even start their plot, a lot more lives would have been saved.

If your kids are a danger to themselves and others, and you realize this, please see the Adam Lanza rule.

26) This one applies to kids and adults alike. LEAVE A FOUND FIREARM WHERE IT LIES. If you're on a fishing trip and you find a gun on the end of your line, or if you're on a hike and see it, or hell, if you find it while you're out getting groceries, call the authorities immediately, and leave it where it lies. If possible, stay at the scene and make sure no one else can pick it up either. Odds are, it's evidence of a larger crime, or otherwise illegal, and you don't know if it's loaded or not.

Now, if you find one in a storage locker you won in a bid, you need to notify the BATF right away if the firearm was made after 1896 (and odds are, it will be). They tend to get rather irritated if you delay in that decision. Especially seeing as it's federal law.

27) Make sure your kids don't try and take any firearms with them to school. Please. Bullets don't care what they hit once they're fired, and too often, we see stories of kids taking guns to deal with bullies to protect themselves, or to use on someone over the most trivial things. This can be curbed with community outreach.  In this particular situation, I find that the communities sometimes create their own problems by not putting an end to the circumstances that cause them. It does bring me to rule number 28.

28) Know when NOT to use the gun. You're not Rambo, you're not McClaine, and your enemies can likely shoot a lot better than your average Hollywood mook. Guns are a judgement call, and a lot of the time, = you're better off not firing it. The massacre at the theatre in Aurora, Colorado is a case in point. A lot of people yell at how "more guns would have stopped him." And that's rubbish. In that dark theatre, you wouldn't even see what is in front of the target, much less what's behind it. And a lot more people would have died in the exchange.

Just from a cursory glance, Glaser rounds would be some of the best for personal protection and use in the home. But there is a huge range of rounds for various firearms, from frangible rounds to less-than-lethal shotgun rounds.

29: The trigger is not a scratching post. One of the most basic rules in firearm safety is "Do not touch the trigger until you're ready to fire." There have been too many stories of people having accidental discharges because they were dicking around with a firearm and pulled the trigger. Until you're ready to fire, the trigger is a No No Button.

30: The barrel is not a telescope but it will let your brain see Mars. Stormwarden already touched on this but it is so important that it needs to have it's own rule. Granted, this seems like a "duh" moment, but you'd be amazed how many professional gunsmiths disregard this rule and end up with a brand new orifice. Do not look down the barrel of your firearm and this goes doubly and triply for a weapon you have not verified is unloaded beforehand. Sometimes, I will admit, it is a necessity but it is an action that should only be taken as a last resort. However, I feel it breeds complacency, so it is something best avoided if at all possible.

31: Verify that the barrel is unobstructed. How can you do that if you shouldn't look down it, I hear people wondering. Open the breach of the firearm and look at the light patterns that come through. There shouldn't be any shadows (aside from those cast by lands and grooves) and the light should be coming through freely. With a revolver, unlock and swing out the cylinder to see down the barrel. With a semi-auto pistol, open and lock back the slide and peer into the breech. With rifles and shotguns, open and lock back the bolt (or open the breach) and look at the shadows. And always, ALWAYS keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.

32: Keep track of your firearm. This falls into the basic instruction of You are Responsible For Your Firearm, but I am afraid that it needs it's own rule. In your home or when carrying in public, it is not that hard to forget about your weapon because, with many people 'out of sight, out of mind.' And what you have to remember is that humans suffer from a genetic flaw called "being human." This does not change with any amount of training, practice or anything else, so don't for one second think I'm just talking about normal citizens who chose to carry a concealed firearm. There are a shocking number of incidents where body guards, security guards, police, sheriffs, federal agents and even former Prime Minister Tony Blair's bodyguard have forgotten about and left loaded firearms in public bathrooms. Seriously, just Google "gun left in bathroom" and be amazed at how many results turn up involving trained professionals. If you are going to carry a firearm at home or in public, there are ways to help you remember not to forget your firearm after...nature calls. I would recommend starting here for tips.

33: Safe firearm handling is the same as how to get to Carnegie Hall; practice, practice, practice. Don't just learn about your firearm, learn how to use it. Practice handling, practice breathing, practice trigger control, practice sighting. Go to the range and put a box or four of ammo through your weapon on a regular basis. You need to know everything you can about how to handle your weapon and how it behaves when being fired. And remember, if you're using a semi-auto pistol and you have both thumbs overlapping behind your weapon, say good-bye to whichever thumb is on top. That slide will be coming back and will either break it or break it off.

34: Your children are not perfect and flawless and yes, they can and will hurt a fly. This ties in to the Adam Lanza and Columbine rules. If you are a firearm owner with children, be involved in your children's lives as much as you can without smothering them and educate yourself on what you can do to spot warning signs that things might not be all hunky dory. Sometimes warning signs are just kids being kids, but sometimes they are more serious. I can't tell you what to look for, but others can and please, find out what they are. And above all, accept that your kid might be a bully. Accept that your kid might not tell you if they're being bullied. Accept that kids have secrets they keep from their parents. Be a friend, but don't ever forget that first and foremost you are a parent and as such, you need to be alert for problems that would otherwise be overlooked.

35: Firearms are not battle armor. A lot of people get cocky when they're armed and some will start looking for a fight. A firearm gives you the means to better defend yourself; it does not give you carte blanche to instigate a fight. You have a brain, use it and remember that if you're acting like an asshole and it gets out of hand, you can still go to jail. And if you're acting like an asshole and get punched in the face, that does not give you free reign to start shooting.

36: Quoting SoA here: brains before bullets. Stormwarden already touched on this but a more accurate example would be the Tuscan shooting. There were CCW holders there that day but they had to make a judgement call. The shooter was right in the middle of a crowd and, as has been stated before, when handling a firearm you have to know what is behind your target. There were too many people in close proximity during that event to be able to safely discharge a weapon so they tackled him. They used their brains and made a judgement call. If you cannot be sure of where your round is going to go, do not fire your weapon. Carrying a firearm is all about making judgement calls and making heavy, hard choices in a very short amount of time. If you do not feel you can accept that responsibility, then don't carry a firearm. It is not something to be done lightly.

37: Humans are not bullet-stops. Watch enough movies and you'll think that humans are bullet sucking black holes and that you could fire a howitzer into a man's torso and it still won't go through a body. This is just not the case. Earlier I made mention of how bullets are small pieces of metal flying at high velocity. What I neglected to say is just how high a velocity they are traveling at.


A 9x19mm round can travel at a velocity of between 352 and 400 meters a second and hit with a force of between 461 and 596 joules. That is more than enough to travel through a body and still go for a ways longer at lethal velocity. A .45 ACP can travel between 275 and 347 meters a second and hit with a force of between 563 and 721 joules. With a rifle round like the 5.56x45mm round, it can travel in excess of 991 meters a second and still have around 1,750 joules of energy behind it. That will send it through two car doors and both seats and still kill the person behind them. For hunting and shotgun rounds, the numbers are even larger.


When you discharge a firearm you are releasing a huge amount of energy into your target so unless you are firing rounds designed specially to keep from over penetrating you have to know what is behind the object you are shooting at. This is why it is such a good thing the CCW holders at Tuscan should be commended; if they had taken out the shooter with the first shot they still could have hurt people behind him. Always be aware of your surroundings and do not assume that the round will stop in your target.

38: Never forget that you are carrying a weapon. A weapon can be used for good or evil depending on the intentions of the user, but they are always, always dangerous and should be respected at all times by everyone who handles it. The second you don't respect it, you'll end up killing or injuring yourself or someone you love.

39: If you are going to hand your weapon to another, always make sure they know the four cardinal rules of firearms:

* Firearms are loaded until you have verified that they are not.
* Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
* Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
* Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
Do not let the firearm out of your sight after you have handed it off to another and when it is returned to you, verify again that it is unloaded even if you're sure it already isn't and it doesn't matter a bit if your eyes never left the weapon the whole time the other person was holding it. Do not forget the golden rule: you are responsible for your weapon.


--- Quote ---With rifles and shotguns, open and lock back the bolt (or open the breach) and look at the shadows. And always, ALWAYS keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
--- End quote ---

This is why I like rifles like the Mosin-Nagant: you can remove the bolt in less than a second (hold the trigger and pull it out), which lets you look straight down the barrel from the rear without anything obstructing your view, as well as making the rifle 100% safe.

--- Quote ---Avoid any "Ring of Fire" firearms at all costs
--- End quote ---

It actually seems like a lot of the criticism of cheap Bryco, Jennings, and Phoenix pistols seems to either be parroted or come from people who don't take care of their guns. I know a guy with a Raven Arms MP-25, often maligned for poor reliability, which works perfectly fine. This is because he gives the gun the exact same level of care and maintenance as all of his other guns and makes sure that it's well-oiled and has proper ammo. A lot of the people who purchase cheap pocket pistols like these aren't shooters, which means that they don't even know how to take care of their guns. They let them sit in a desk drawer for months or years, the ammo deteriorating and the parts growing dusty and possibly rusty, and then the gun fails to fire when they suddenly need it. Which they promptly blame on the gun itself being made poorly.

Actually, the one major problem with the MP-25 pattern of pistol is that the retainer on the rear (which you need to push in to disassemble the gun) is made of brittle pot metal, and it's very easy to break it.


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