You CAN Be Too Safe

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Safety is important but if congress had their way we’d all be performing assaults in EOD suits. Today, one of our biggest assholes tells you not to be an asshole. 

You CAN be too safe.

You CAN Be Too Safe

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?


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).

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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.


You cannot effectively train for violent encounters without some degree of risk. The level of risk is should be directly proportional to the intensity of the training and the experience level of the shooters.

Context is Key

Whenever possible, risk levels should be managed to meet the situation and should not be performed casually. Safety procedures need to be followed, intensity should be incremental, and hazards shouldn’t be present simply for hazard’s sake. There are training and instructional scenarios where it makes perfect sense to risk having a shooter downrange, most notably close quarters and team environments. In these conditions only one person has to fuck up for the situation to turn sideways in an instant, so planning, vetting, and vigilance is critical.

Modern warfighting has never been conducive to the fixed firing line. While it is still useful for static defense, individual skills construction or training large amounts of people, its practicality quickly dwindles when in an energetic environment or combining efforts with others. The Marine Corps takes brand new Marines and puts them in live-fire situations with people forward of each other almost immediately after Basic Training.

Speaking of Marines, some of the advanced Marine Corps infantry training during WWII involved getting shot at with live Japanese rifles and machine guns. The Marines would lay down in a shallow trench while instructors fired different weapons right over their heads from various ranges. They were taught how to identify the type of weapon, azimuth of fire, and estimated range–all without visual clues (and getting some inoculation for some stressors of a firefight to boot). This training allowed Marines to differentiate threats and more efficiently focus their efforts. And the cracking of rounds overhead isn’t something that can be simulated.

Each of The Four Rules has an exception in the right (or wrong) circumstances. Bear in mind that even under professional supervision, people can still be injured or killed during training. As previously mentioned, only one person has to fuck up. If you’re going to attend this kind of training, don’t be the corpulent cake eater pretending his BMI ‘must be wrong’.

None of this is to say that if you see something that is demonstratively unsafe that you should just keep your mouth shut, but please consider that you may not have the proper context or that you’re just being an asshole. You should pick your battles.  Losing your mind about an artsy picture of a gun with no one touching it probably isn’t worth your best efforts, or if you think it is, you should probably never leave the house.

Alternatively, you could start adding safety features to photos yourself.

“Man, Halle Berry looks soooo fricken safe in this photo”
“Almost right–but she should really be using her sights”
“mmmmm watersports”
“Are those reflectors on your protectors?”


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Emeritus Dave Merrill wrote for Breach-Bang-Clear from late 2013 until early 2017, including a year as its Managing Editor. He departed our ranks in May of 2017 to accept a well-deserved position as social media manager for RECOIL Magazine. He is a combat veteran of the Marine Corps who describes himself as a "...former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men." Merrill's articles are well worth the time it takes to read them - there's a lot of knowledge tucked away in that skull.

DFM has 78 posts and counting. See all posts by DFM

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