Fighting Safely

Most everyone who studies using firearms for combative purposes should be familiar with Jeff Cooper’s four basic safety rules:

All guns are always loaded.
Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target.
Be sure of your target.

We apply these rules when we’re belting on our pistol at the beginning of our day. During training and practice we use them to provide us a safe environment to operate in. These rules apply when unloading your weapon to clean or store it. In other words, anytime there is a firearm present we use these safety rules. What most people don’t realize, and the connection we all need to make, is that these rules also apply during a violent confrontation.

In a dangerous situation, always be aware of the where the muzzle is pointing. There will probably be people in the safetyenvironment surrounding you; you don’t want to point the muzzle towards anyone not considered a possible threat. At home there are a family members in the room next to you. In urban areas there are bystanders, houses or business surrounding you. With law enforcement and military applications, you  have partners or teammates assisting you. You also need to insure you’re not pointing your muzzle at your hands, arms, feet or legs. Don’t point the muzzle at someone in order to intimidate him or her. It may not work. Plus, your hands, arms, and weapon will block you from being able to see their hands, which is very critical. And, there have been situations when officers using this “technique” have negligently shot non-threats.

Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the threat, meaning you’ve made the decision to shoot. Once your sights come off the threat, or you eyes come off the sights, your finger comes off the trigger. (Exception is firing from a retention position.) Having your finger on the trigger too soon won’t make you quicker in firing a shot, and it makes you dangerous to yourself and others.

Finally, in a fight, always be sure to identify your threat. Be aware of who or what is around the threat. If you have to shoot and rounds miss the threat, or punch through them – both a possibility – you don’t want those rounds injuring someone else. You may have to move to get a clear angle of fire on the threat, or reposition yourself to create a backstop to stop or trap errant rounds. We have a legal and moral responsibility of insuring where every round we fire will go. If you can’t predict where that bullet will end up you probably shouldn’t be pressing the trigger.

Memorize these rules. Apply them anytime there are firearms present. If you see other people breaking them then correct the problem, or leave before you become involved in the trouble they’re going to create. If you have to fight, fight safe.  During combat it’s good tactics not to create any more problems than you already have by being unsafe. ~ Tiger

Tiger McKee
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama.  He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns” - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 -  McKee’s new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite’s website: