Monday, December 8, 2014

Gun Safety, The Remington Decision

This past week saw the announcement by Remington that as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit, Remington would replace the trigger/safety units on what essentially amounts to almost every Model 700 rifle made. That's about 8 million rifles.

In the long, drawn out affair that is the Remington 700 trigger we've been made privy to a lot of sad stories of people who were killed or maimed by their friends and relatives in accidents that a bunch of folks have sourced back to the trigger safety. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching at the best and soul crushing at the worst. It is without judgement on these folks that I present the following. This is not a piece written as a "coulda, woulda, shoulda" type piece or condemnation of those folk's skills or even an implication that they lacked skills. I've done some stupid stuff in the field, and so have most other folks if they'll own up to it- the only difference is that we're all still vertical.

So I'll present here the "4 Rules of Firearm Handling" for about thousandth time in my career and for at least the 5th time in print. Why? Because no matter how safe you think you are- you need to read it again. You need to teach it, again. Until you recite it in your sleep. I don't take credit for the 4 Rules, they are widely attributed to Jeff Cooper, the inventor of the Modern Technique, which is really a fancy way of saying he taught us to fight and kill with something other than a musket or a Colt Single Action revolver.

So here they are.

1. All Guns are Always Loaded- this does not mean, as has been widely disseminated, that you keep all guns loaded, all the time. It means that you treat every gun, in any condition like it has live ammo in the chamber. What Rule 1 establishes is uniformity of purpose. You don't have to memorize rules for loaded and unloaded guns. Just treat them like they are all loaded, regardless, because some of them are and some aren't and the single most frequent thing heard after a negligent discharge is "I didn't know it was loaded." Rule 1 dispenses with that- they are ALL loaded whether they have ammunition or not.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy- to further simplify this rule is to say, don't point a gun at something you don't intend to shoot. This rule encompasses a prohibition against all kinds of acts- horseplay, "scoping" for game with the riflescope, and general inattentiveness to where you are pointing a weapon. It is this rule that makes the whole "faulty safety" concept so infuriating. If the weapon was managed as to not point at other people, then the material condition of the safety is irrelevant. That is not to alleviate a maker of responsibility for their wares, but guns are mechanical devices and can, for a wide variety of reasons, become broken, jammed, dirty, ill adjusted and just flat fail- but when the safety fails Rule 2 keeps us alive.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target- this one suffers the most. When many people pick up a gun, their finger moves to the trigger as if by forces as inevitable as gravity. I've seen this one cause a negligent discharge in an action pistol match. Luckily for the everyone around, the shooter was observing Rule 2 and the shot hit the dirt several feet downrange. The Range Master was not understanding- disqualified from the match and unable to return to the facility until he completed a hunter education or range safety course. Keep your "booger hook off the bang switch" until you're ready to shoot. You see this one so commonly broken by the Hollywood action star it has become modus operandi for the masses. Bad show.

4. Be sure of your target- even in this advanced age of safety training and an endless stream of information at our fingertips, you still hear the occasional moron talking trash at the hardware store about "brush shots" or "sound shots". Often people chuckle at such foolish, I wish it was an immediate "Get out of jail free" card to whip the bejeezus out of them on the spot. You simply must positively identify your target and, furthermore, what is behind it before you put your finger on the trigger and fire. Hunter education has done much to hammer this home and blaze orange requirements make it easier but there is room to improve as "hunting accidents" still happen.

There are the 4 Rules (with commentary by me)...can you improve upon these? Certainly, but adherence to these 4 will prevent most injuries.


Alaska Custom Firearms said...

Muzzle control is the biggest issue I stress in gun safety with my children. I approach gun safety with an almost religious zeal.

I don't have any problem with the remington triggers, even the old style triggers. When properly set and maintained they extremely rarely have any problems. Too many of these "failures" are the result of poor maintaince and improper adjustment. Everyone should check to ensure a safety passes a bounce test, bounce the rifle but on the ground several times fairly hard to ensure it is holding. WD40 is not your triggers friend. You wouldn't believe the sticky hard varnish left on trigger parts from years of WB40 or similar spray lubes. It's no wonder they fail in those situations.

As to safeties in general I rarely have use for them as I don't normally hunt with a round in the chamber until ready to shoot and always follow rule 2 and 3.

hodgeman said...

Well said A.C.F.- I didn't get into the aspect of carrying with an empty chamber but it's something I do unless I'm hunting upland game or sitting in a duck blind. Backcountry hunting on foot or vehicle just subjects the rifle to so many dynamic situations I'd be leery of even the best safety...the empty chamber is pretty tough to beat for safety and quickly readying the rifle to fire.