Reexamining Cooper's Four Rules of Gun Safety - Part III
by Kirk Lawson

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[Keep your booger-hook off the bang switch]

We have been reexamining Jeff Cooper's Four Rules of Gun Safety. In Part I and Part II, we looked at his first and second rule. In this article, we'll take a look at his third rule: "Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target."

A gun is not a living, breathing, creature. Barring a defect or failure of the machine, it cannot discharge unless the trigger is pulled. Therefore, unless the person holding the gun pulls the trigger, it can't make holes in things (people?) we don't want it to. This makes perfect sense. I like to phrase it as "keep your booger-hook off the bang switch." People remember that phrase.

Nevertheless, there are, again, contradictions in the firearms community and, naturally, the statement still lacks nuances.

If you patiently stayed with me through Part I and Part II, you already know I'm going to mention dry fire practice. You are right. You simply cannot do dry fire practice without pulling the trigger. Thus, there is a certain nuance which is not covered by the base statement.

But what of the supposed contradiction? I give you the Glock handgun. Step 2 in disassembling the gun for cleaning and maintenance is "Point the pistol in a SAFE DIRECTION [...], then pull the trigger." You certainly don't have your sights on the target when you do this. While Glock is not the only handgun where this is part of the disassembly process, Glocks are the most popular handgun in the world and are exceptionally common, particularly in the U.S.

So how would I modify this statement? I would add clarifying statements or clauses: When shooting, keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. If you must pull the trigger when not shooting, verify that the gun is not loaded and keep the gun pointed in the safest direction you can.