The 4 Rules

This is why we observe the 4 Rules studiously when we’re using firearms in a dynamic environment. The shooter in the video below enters a complicated shooting position, and when he exits he tries to get started quickly and loses his footing.

When you fall, your body does a whole bunch of stuff. Once your brain realizes that it is in fact heading towards the ground, it tells the rest of your body “OMFG BRACE FOR IMPACT”. Part of that involves clenching your hands and tightening the muscles in the forearms, as you’ll involuntarily use your hands to slow your fall. If your finger is in the trigger guard when this happens, you will have an ND. Not maybe, you will. If while you’re doing that you’re allowing the muzzle to cover something it shouldn’t, then you’re going to destroy something. In the video, as the shooter goes down his finger is off the trigger and the muzzle is indexed in a safe direction at all times.

This kind of finger and muzzle discipline doesn’t just come from plinking on an indoor range with your friends. It comes from years of practice and discipline with safe gunhandling; it stems from an awareness of the destructive capabilities of firearms and a healthy respect for other people’s desire to not get killed because you’re unsafe. The 4 Rules are not the 10 Commandments in that they’re dogma, but they’re a mindset. When you internalize those rules, and make the mindset part of your everyday gunhandling, you become a much safer shooter.

By the way, even with the fall he finished the Scrambler in around 50 seconds. That’s a pretty awesome run.


  1. A nearby club had an ND – the shooter was injured, but will make a full recovery – many of the other clubs are looking into it to see what they can learn from the experience.

    A lot of new people taking up the sports, especially IDPA and USPSA, without having the basic gun handling skills…

  2. I slipped and landed on my butt Saturday while shooting my new SKS for the first time. Finger was out of the trigger guard since I wasn’t ready to fire, so the only damage was to my pride from falling down.

  3. I watched Taran Butler fall on his, ahh, tookus in the middle of a run on stage 6 of the 2008 Area 2 Championship. He never lost control of his pistol, and in fact dropped two Alphas on the target in front of him as I he came up.

    I’ve also DQ’d people when they fire off an ND over the berm from reloading with their finger on the trigger, so I guess we still have some things to learn… 🙂

    1. Running a level 1 USPSA club is tough – there is a balancing act when brining new shooters in.

      We had a guy put one into the backstop on “unload and show clear…”.

      Sigh. That got sorted out real fast…

  4. This is why the Four Rules are so important and why they should be drilled into students’ heads until they recite the rules aloud during sleep.

    If you only have two rules or one or whatever the smartest kid in the room wants to change, the weapon could have discharged and possibly endangered the shooter or other students, directly or indirectly (rics).

    The Four Rules were not created in a faculty lounge or a lab; they were created right there at Gunsite by men with combat and teaching experience.

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