How To

The Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: An Undisciplined Muzzle

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Muzzle-discipline-laser

Imagining a giant lightsaber extending from your muzzle helps you think about where that muzzle is pointing!

Discipline is one of those words that, more often than not, conjures up unpleasant thoughts.

When you’re trying to enjoy a quiet dinner date at Applebee’s, undisciplined children at nearby tables can ruin the ambiance and atmosphere you tried so hard to obtain with your careful choice of a romantic restaurant. Of course my own children were never undisciplined in public places. Just ask them about the “you better stop that tantrum right now because we’re in public” secret pinch. As soon as they get out of therapy, they’ll be more than happy to tell you all about that.

Most disciplinary issues are simply annoying. When it comes to gun muzzles, disciplinary failures can be really, really bad.

So what is muzzle discipline? Simply put, it’s making sure that the muzzle of your gun obeys your safe intent–at all times–no matter what. It can never, ever, ever point at anything you’re not willing to destroy, not even for a split-second.

Every time I take a new shooter to the range, I give them a lecture about Obi Wan Kenobi. I have them pretend that their gun has an infinitely long lightsaber inside the barrel. This lightsaber is always on and swishes through the air as an extension of the barrel, destroying everything it crosses. Besides being cool fantasy, this imagery seems to help people understand that “pointing” a gun at something is more than just aiming deliberately. Pointing involves every movement of the gun. That means every movement from table or holster to shooting position and back. And removing the gun from a case and putting it back. And handling it for cleaning. And showing your buddy. And any other movement.

Like disciplining children, muzzle discipline relies on you, the shooter, to be consistent without fail. If you’re inconsistent while correcting your children at Applebee’s, they will continue to annoy nearby smoochie couples as they have learned they can get away with it–at least sometimes. If you’re inconsistent with muzzle discipline, even once, you might hurt or kill someone.

I frequently see three very easy-to-fix undisciplined muzzle scenarios:

Slide racking the wrong way

Holy guacamole Batman! There are TWO sins happening here! Finger on the trigger and racking the slide with the gun pointed at the poor sod to my left!

The “Side Slide Swipe”

Last week, we got into a potentially touchy subject: inappropriate racking. The first type, the Needle Point Technique, is a simple misdemeanor infraction that doesn’t even warrant a ticket, much less a summons. It just makes things more difficult for the shooter. The second type of inappropriate racking can easily be considered a capital felony as it presents a serious safety issue.

I call it the Side Slide Swipe. If you use a solid slide racking technique that leverages your big arm muscles, you need to be sure to keep the muzzle pointed directly downrange. It’s surprisingly easy to orient the pistol sideways, pointing the muzzle right at your firing line neighbor.

While no one really wants love handles, having yours shot off by the person next to you at the range is not a recommended weight loss practice by the American Fad Diet Association of America.

The “Look What I Did!”

I love to see new shooters get excited when they make good hits on a target. It’s fun, satisfying and infectious. It can also result in everyone at the range hitting the deck like a troop of hoplophobic spider monkeys. Yes, packs of spider monkeys are called “troops” and sometimes “missions.”

Handguns are small and short, which means it’s easy to turn around, with gun in hand, to tell your friends about that great shot you just made. We’re happy for you! We’re even happier if you put the gun down first before turning around to share your success!

The “It Doesn’t Matter Because I’m Done Shooting”

It’s amazing how many folks think muzzle discipline applies only when a gun is in firing position. They’ll be oh-so-careful when actually shooting, then wave that muzzle around like mad when putting the gun away or setting it on the bench. If I had a nickel for every time a shooter in a different lane left their gun on the table, pointing right at me, I’d be able to afford that one-way ticket for Piers Morgan. First class complete with a special order of kidney pie.

While I like to have fun to make a point, I’m not picking on new shooters. In fact I love to take new shooters to the range and teach them (in a fun and exceedingly polite way) not to make these mistakes. And if I’m focusing on teaching them to be careful, that also helps me think about improving my own muzzle discipline.

How about you? What undisciplined muzzle mistakes do you see out there?

This article is the sixth part in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting. To learn more about how not to shoot, check out last week’s article on inappropriate racking here.

Images by Tom McHale

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • Oz

    This is a good article and advise. Staying focused and disciplined while at the range should keep all of us safe in that respect. No matter how many years we’ve been shooting.

    • Oz

      I meant advice, “doh!” I should of used that focus on my proof reading.

  • Raven

    This is really good advice…Even with all my years of shooting, I made the cardinal sin of getting complacent recently and got called for it at a competion. Luckly they didn’t DQ me, but It gave me a serious wake up that I had been way too complacent…I was shooting a steel challenge and went to move an empty magazine on the table so I didn’t accidently confuse it with my full mags. I reached up to put it in the upper right corner of the table (my full mags were on the bottom left) and shoop! crossed my forearm right in front of the muzzle with a round in the chamber. The RO pointed it out and I was like…oh man! Stupid stupid stupid….As a result, I have been much more careful about watching my muzzle and constantly reiterating the rules of firearm safety in my head…

  • xDean

    I agree, This is a Great Article and cannot be taught or emphasized enough.
    I teach this to new and old shooters so much they think I’m a nut.
    Even WITH the practice of muzzle discipline and Safety procedures, accidents can and WILL still happen, even with the “Pros” ! ….., and it is because of the safety procedures and (what should be EXTREME muzzle discipline practices) that when an accidental discharge does happen , BAD things or Death does not occur. Fortunately, or not, I have witnessed accidents happen and tragedy was averted due to MD. Stay Safe Guys!

  • hubcap

    THIS should be Rule #1 of ANY and ALL gun safety instruction. That way, even if there’s an negligent discharge, no harm, no foul. The Side Slide Swipe method not only endangers nearby persons, but also the gun handler–too easy to point the muzzle at one’s own arm/elbow with destructive results. It’s happened!!

  • Dylan

    As an instructor years ago, I can echo all of yours mentioned…and would only add:
    While there are several scary reactions to a
    weapon/round failure, the scariest is when
    they decided to look DOWN THE BARREL
    for the failure!!!!