One of the four rules of firearms safety is to keep your finger off the trigger until you’re on target and ready to shoot. However, from my experience many people are confused as to exactly what this means, so I thought I’d clear it up (especially since if I’m ever training with you I’d prefer not to get shot.)
So here we go: What this rule means is that until you have identified your threat and have made a conscious decision to use deadly force, you do not put your finger on the trigger. For instance, two weeks ago I had a guy arguing with me about how if he heard a bump in the night at 3am he would absolutely have his finger on the trigger from the moment he picked up his handgun. He told me that if he ran into a prowler while searching his house he wanted to be able to immediately stop him. And that if his finger wasn’t on the trigger he might not have time to shoot before the guy got to him.
In short, I told this fellow that this was a terrible idea and that one day he would end up shooting his wife who got up for a late night snack or his 16 year old son sneaking in from his girlfriend’s house.
You see, as you’re walking around your house at 3am you’re already a little nervous.
And if you see someone you’ll be startled and that startle will cause you to flinch causing your fingers to tense up. And if that finger happens to be on the trigger it’s going to pull the trigger and you’re going to shoot whatever startled you.
That’s why you never put your finger on the trigger until you’ve identified your threat and you know that it’s a person who you need to use deadly force against. In fact, about two weeks ago I heard something fall in my basement. I grabbed my gun and slowly walked downstairs.
As I was clearing the downstairs I forgot about a large cardboard box that loosely resembled a person. When I saw the box I flinched a bit and I felt my finger tense up against the frame of the gun. (My finger is always straight. Had it not been straight and had it been anywhere near the trigger, it likely would have pulled it.)
Let me give you a non-firearms related example that happened to me last night.
Every night I get up to go to the bathroom about 4am. Well, last night I got up to go to the bathroom as usual. As I opened the bathroom door in my half-asleep state to go back to bed, my wife was standing there and she about gave me a heart attack.
I shouted “geeze” and asked her why she had decided to sneak attack me and she said that she was simply waiting to go to the bathroom too. I offered her the suggestion that standing directly in the doorway like a serial killer was probably not the best way to greet me as I left the bathroom in the future.
But my point is, if for some reason I had a gun in my hand, with my finger on the trigger when I came out of the bathroom I would probably be a single man right now. (Insert hilarious jokes here.)
So from now on, whether you’re clearing your house of a potential intruder or carrying a gun for any reason, please keep your finger off the trigger until you’ve made the decision to use deadly force.