No Such Thing As An Unloaded Firearm, Ever.

No Such Thing As An Unloaded Firearm, Ever.
No Such Thing As An Unloaded Firearm, Ever.

I can hear them now; ‘what do you mean all guns are loaded all the time?!’ ‘That’s stupid!’ ‘I have guns at home right now that are not loaded’! ‘Hell, I was at the gun store the other day, none of them guns behind the counter and on the wall rack were loaded’! I say, yes they are, they are all loaded, every gun at your house, every gun in that store, and everywhere else, they are all loaded. ‘Your Crazy, They Are Not’!…. If you don’t have the mindset that they are all loaded, and ready to fire, you are a prime candidate for a firearm accident, you assume too much, take to much for granted.

Even people with a high level of firearm experience can get ‘lazy’, over confident, are even more susceptible to accidents, when that happens they become ripe for an accident. And I will go so far as to say they don’t take firearms as seriously as they once did, they need to pause and ’regroup’. They have become a distinct danger to themselves and others with that lackadaisical mindset.

The NRA now says the first rule in firearm safety is: Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction,(muzzle discipline). That was not always so, and I will never agree with that change. As a kid, I distinctly remember the first rule being: Treat all firearms as loaded at all times. It conveys a far sterner, and implies a much stronger sense of urgency to safe firearm handling. And I still have my little red Jr. Rifle Handbook from the mid 1960s to prove it. Even though I will agree that pointing the gun in a safe direction is a key to safety, if you treat every single gun you come into contact with as loaded, you had better point that muzzle in a safe direction! No exceptions! That will, and should, naturally, always follow suit. Just handling a gun and keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction does not lend to the situation the same grave responsibilities as having the mindset of handling a loaded gun will impart.

All additional gun safety rules revert back to the number one rule: Treat them all as loaded. If you live by this you should never do anything unsafe with a firearm, that is why this is the most important rule. It governs all my actions with firearms, as it should yours. So, from this moment forward, for the rest of your life, all guns that you ever come into contact with will always, with no exceptions, be loaded (proper mindset) and treated accordingly.

A safety on a firearm does not give you license to carelessly handle that firearm, you are the best safety on any firearm. NEVER trust anyone that tells you a gun is unloaded while trying to hand it to you! Make that person show you that it is unloaded before you will accept it from them. Then, you must still handle it exactly like it is loaded! EVERYONE must show you the gun is unloaded, from your mother, to the gun shop owner, to the head of the NRA. Agreed? If all people did this, firearm accidents would damned near cease to exist, we can all live with that. If anyone has a problem with that, it is not your problem, but theirs, they obviously treat firearms far to nonchalantly, assume too much, and are accidents waiting to happen…..

Maybe you think that I am to ‘hard line’ on this issue? No. Firearms are very unforgiving of careless people, your first mistake could be your last breath on this Earth, or maybe someone else’s last breath due to your negligence. I do not believe there can be such a thing as to ‘hard line’ in regards to firearm safety.

{Note, If you agree, and I sincerely hope you do, please pass this on to the people in your life.} Thank you. And remember, Firearm Education Will Save Lives, Firearm Ignorance Can Take Lives.

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I am a MA. Basic Firearms Safety Course/NRA Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, also a Nuclear Security Officer at Pilgrim Station since 1987, was Safety Officer here for 17 of those years as well as a former President of Local 540 SPFPA. I have been a Merchant Marine, a painting contractor, a mason, a ditch digger, a water mechanic, installed many a foundation pump by hand, did my share of work in the woods, rode dirt/street bikes, have been involved in the shooting sports since 1964. I like to hunt when I can find a couple of spare minutes. Mark can be reached at MA Firearms Safety.
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Gilbert Porter



Alright, a couple of things . . . first your statement that “Police accidentally shoot themselves on a fairly frequent basis”, is pure BS.    I was a law enforcement officer for a major department for three decades and I can flat out tell you that cops don’t FREQUENTLY shoot themselves.   Yes, there are accidents and since officers handle firearms daily one might expect they might have more accidents than say a librarian.   But slanderous statements like you just made serve no purpose other than to demean and degrade a proud profession and you should be ashamed for saying such a thing.   You make it seem like we’re all bunch of Barney Fife’s.    We are not.   Perhaps the officers in YOUR agency regularly shoot themselves, but please don’t speak for the rest of our agencies.

Secondly, when you further demean and degrade a college education as being little more than a left wing indoctrination center (as your closing bio states).     That pretty much tells me the rest of what I need to know about you.   I can assure you many of us have attended college or are putting our kids through a college and we do not appreciate colleges in general being so flagrantly flamed as being nothing more than left wing indoctrination centers.

Finally, your basic premise that all guns should be considered loaded is correct and is already extremely well known by those in the firearm world.   Thank you for repeating the obvious, but be assured we’re all on board with that and I suppose it doesn’t hurt to repeat it as you have done.    As for the other things I mentioned.    Grow up!

Michael Rowe

I couldn’t agree with your article more, but I would have to argue semantics. You use the word “accident”, but I don’t believe in it. “Accident” implies that there is nothing you can do to avoid it. “Negligent discharge” much more aptly describes the unintended consequences of foolish gun handling.

Just Wondering


True “accidents” with firearms are very few and far between. Most things referred to as “accidents” are indeed due to negligence and failure to adhere to the RULES of gun safety. You pretty much have to ignore all of them.


I agree. But I have always heard it referred to as “Premeditated carelessness”


Accident: an undesirable or unfortunate happening; casualty; mishpap; anything that happens unexpectantly, without design.  The word accident can be used as long as we recognize that 99.9% of accidents can be prevented.  The best accident prevention we have is between our ears.  Failure to prevent a preventable accident is negligence, negligence often results in disaster.  I don’t consider accidents to be premeditated carelessness, accidents are the result of lack of meditation or knowledge.

This Is My Display Name

No, “accident” implies that it’s something that wasn’t intended.

No, wait, it doesn’t just imply it–it means it, as that’s the definition of the word.


I was raised by a Marine and I grew up with the same core rules and discipline to adhere to them. Well said, sir.

Joe Sobotka

Agreed! And I’m going to post this on my Facebook page.


Don’t assume an ejected round means the chamber is empty. If you forget to take the magazine out, you may be buying some plaster and paint, or worse…

Alan N Ward

I handed my daughter an “unloaded” 357 last year. When she opened the cylinder she found that I had missed 1 cartridge. I nearly had a heart attack. I still get sweaty even as I write this. I have no idea what distracted me for removing the last cartridge. As far as I am concerned now every gun is always loaded. You are right on target. Alan, Prescott AZ


Dick Cheney!  ‘Nuf said.


 100% agree. Now that my grandsons are getting older thats the first thing I tell them everytime.


Even when I have watched someone clear a firearm, I always double check myself and still mind the muzzle because you always act the way you train.


I do multiple checks of every firearm that I handle.  I lost my best friend about 50 years ago who began cleaning his empty gun which somehow managed to discharge and end his very young life.

Iron Goat Guns

 That is what we tell everyone who comes into our gun store: Until you see for yourself assume the gun is loaded, even then never point a gun at another person.


Funny, just this morning I broke down a 1973 870 Wingmaster I bought about a month ago. Guess what I found stuck in the magazine follower? That’s right, a shell. The previous owner had put the follower back in backwards and the shell had lodged in the hollow end. I’d racked the slide and checked the chamber dozens of times, but it wouldn’t have mattered if that shell had come loose. My gun was loaded even when I knew it wasn’t. 


Oh. and by the way, neither I nor the gun shop I bought it from nor the the three other people that looked at the gun thought it was loaded.


I guess that it makes since now that newer shot guns have a red magazine follower to show that there are no shells left in the magazine tube. 


I know this to be true. My son knew the gun was empty, he is now serving 10 years for manslaughter. His best friend is dead. He will never forgive himself. If you can’t see the empty chamber IT IS LOADED. He was well trained and he knew it was empty. If you think this can’t happen to you, your just like my son and on your way to a very bad time.


Agree 100% treat all of them as they are loaded and that enforces your muzzle displine

A Critic

“No Such Thing As An Unloaded Firearm, Ever.”

You say that, but it isn’t true. When a firearm is unloaded then it is unloaded. Your perception of whether it is loaded or not may be accurate, or it may be inaccurate, but if it is in fact unloaded then in fact it is unloaded.

“If you don’t have the mindset that they are all loaded,”

If you do have that mindset you can never clean, disassemble, repair, or dry fire any firearms.

Safety is important, but there is no reason to lie about whether guns are loaded or not.

David James

Good luck with that theory but it’s the recipe for an “accident”   The whole idea here is to ensure the safest possible handling of a firearm.  To many people have been shot and killed accidentally with “unloaded” firearms.  As for cleaning, and disassembly well you’re physically verifying the condition of the weapon as a part of the procedure (if done properly).  It isn’t a lie.  It’s a precaution.


I agree with you and Mr. Shean, but, call me picky, I wish you guys would use correct spelling. When you say “to many people…”, it should be “too many people…”. There’s a big difference in meaning.


You have to be kidding me. It is the internet, people are typing off comments, not submitting them for a grammar check. We all know what he meant. We all make the spelling mistakes like to/too, your/you’re, there/they’re….it HAPPENS.


stupid runs in your family doesn’t it?

Ab9kt Scott

You missed the point, Critic. It isn’t about the wether the chamber is full or not. It’s about your mental picture of the firearm as an inherently dangerous object. If you let down your guard for a instant, it can bite you. The idea of “Always Loaded” keeps you on your toes.

Responsible gun owners who clean, dissasemble, or repair their firearms always keep them pointedin a safe direction with finger off the trigger while doing so. Those who dry fire are always aware of where a bullet would go and so treat it as loaded.

I don’t care if your guns are “Unloaded”, keep them away from me.

T Hack

I think maybe you are missing the point here. What they are trying to say is you should approach every Firearm as if were loaded until you yourself determine that is in fact unloaded. That way you will probably not accidentally shoot yourself or anyone else. Did that make it pretty clear for you?


Im sure points have a habit of going right over your head, huh?
The article covered it all very well. There are guns in my safe that I know are unloaded. Yet I still quickly check the chamber every time I pick one up. Why? Again, the article already covered it….but it is to be in the habit of it. Actually it is so you never develop the BAD habit of handling any firearm as if it was unloaded.
Safety is important? Not to you, with your dense mindset. People like you cause gun accidents, which in turn have people screaming for more laws. Get unstupid already.

Old and hope to get older

I’m just your average “Joe” on the street. I carry a firearm every day. It’s loaded, it’s always loaded. No ifs, ans, or buts! Carried it for 20 years. NEVER had an accident. 


I understand and I appreciate the mindset you have, but I simply can’t totally agree with you. If a gun is unloaded, then it is. Pretending like it’s loaded isn’t going to change that fact. There are many other things in this world that can kill just as quickly and easily if not more-so than a firearm, but we don’t afford them this incredible amount of overkill when using them. I KNOW I’m in the minority here and I KNOW that terrible things can and do happen, but they’re very, very rare. Accidents (even due to negligence) happen everyday with all sorts of things. I feel like part of the reason so many people fear guns or disagree with them is because we – as gun owners – put this bubble around them saying “don’t ever touch this thing because if you do, it’ll kill you dead.” No wonder we get so much opposition.
Now – I’m certainly not advocating irresponsible gun ownership any more than I’m irresponsible car ownership or anything else that can be deadly if not used and inspected properly; but I am saying that there’s such a thing as overkill and I think that many people practice that with guns. 
Again; I KNOW that things happen and I KNOW that many people had something happen in their lives involving situations like this and have a story to tell, but the same can be said for cars, chainsaws, microwave ovens, pocket knives, etc. 
Be cautious with your weapon. Teach others to be cautious with weapons. It’s our responsibility to do so, but I personally will stick with an approach that assumes that in general, folks have a reasonable amount of common sense and will be careful if for no other reason than the fact that getting shot seems to be a pretty horrific ordeal and they’d rather not deal with it if at all possible.

Just my opinion. I guess let the flames begin. 🙁

Steven Carlino

The only problem with this is dry fire practice.  If the weapon is always pointed in a safe direction then you can dry fire practice, clean your weapon, and so forth.  Of course you should always treatt every weapon as if it is loaded until it isn’t.


It’s a safety thing folks.  Quit taking the simple rule of treating every weapon as if it were loaded as a reason to argue semantics.  While I would not use the author’s exact words when teaching someone new to firearms about basic weapon safety his general message is sound.


I agree 100%. Quibbling over the semantics of the statement defeats the mindset you speak of. In my mind a gun is loaded until I verify that it is empty with my own hands. Muzzle dicipline is first, trigger dicipline is second; don’t touch it! until you’re ready to fire the gun.

The Man in the Arena

I disagree- my version of Rule 1 is as follows: every firearm is loaded until I pick it up and verify that it is unloaded. As soon as I put it down, it’s assumed to be loaded again.

Otherwise, I could never clean my Glock, which requires pulling the trigger to disassemble.

I could never do dry fire practice drills (when I do, all ammunition is in a SEPARATE ROOM, gun has been triple checked and checked again).



I assume that every firearm that I pick up, or that is handed to me, is loaded until I personally clear the chamber. If you clear the chamber and hand the weapon to me, I will still clear the chamber. It’s a mental habit that is good to have.


Glad to see the initial posting that you had was “cleaned up”.   I can now totally support the article as written now.


I always tell my students, “a gun is never unloaded unless YOU say it’s unloaded by looking into the chamber!”  Even if you or someone else did it a few minutes ago, it’s again considered loaded.


The only time a firearm can be treated safely as unloaded is when it has been taken apart, (firing mechanisms, such as bolts, slides, and for a revolver the cylinder).  The “unloading process” for cleaning or maintenance is one of the most dangerous processes………this it one of the times an unloaded gun can fire.


As “A Critic” and “Tommy” both said, your logic is well-intentioned, but wrong.  You won’t find a responsible gun-owner that disagrees with your IDEA, that a firearm should ALWAYS be checked and double-checked – but to pretend that every gun is always loaded all the time? That’s fantasy world.  And a liberal’s dream because then ALL guns are dangerous, by themselves.  Guns really do, in fact, kill people.  But I will go on  record and say this – no one has ever been shot by a truly unloaded weapon.  Guns aren’t magic.  If it’s truly unloaded, well, leftover powder and leftover lead aren’t making a baby bullet inside the weapon.  Wouldn’t we be better served by teaching safety using the truth instead of trying to make people pretend? Like others said, if I use your logic, then I cannot ever clean a gun or dry fire a gun.  It’s extremely sad and unfortunate when accidents happen – but in EVERY instance a LOADED weapon killed someone, NOT an unloaded one.  The gun didn’t kill or injure them, a bullet did.  A gun with no bullets is a paper weight.  How silly do we appear if we’re handing someone an unloaded weapon, but swearing that it’s loaded??? Again, let’s teach safety, let’s be diligent in teaching safety, let’s be BORINGLY REDUNDANT in teaching safety – but let’s do all of that WITH THE TRUTH, not some pretend concept that’s only true in our imagination. 

Nathan Merrill

Guns ARE dangerous by themselves, because the only way to know if it is loaded or unloaded is to check it personally (and then, only if you know what you’re doing). If someone else says a gun is unloaded and hands it to you, GUESS WHAT? You should consider it loaded, and check to make sure it is unloaded. Hand your unloaded weapon to someone else? They should check to make sure you unloaded it properly. When they give it back to you, you should check it again to make sure they didn’t load it. If you always treat guns as loaded, you greatly, greatly reduce the odds of an accident happening.

It isn’t a dream or a fantasy, and your lack of comprehension of this shows a lack of fundamental understanding of the nature of preventative safety. Such measures are common to many professions. Similar rules exist elsewhere; for instance, I had a job where we used a fairly nasty chemical in chemical hoods. You, and everyone else, was expected to always clean up after yourself when you used it. Guess what? We treated those hoods as if they were always contaminated, even if they were clean – even if we ourselves had just cleaned it. We NEVER touched ANYTHING in that hood without wearing proper PPE. Ever. Basic safety. If you treat it with respect, bad stuff is much, much less likely to occur.

As far as the whole “No one has ever been shot by a truly unloaded gun” thing – that depends on whether or not you count a gun with a squib load as “truly unloaded”, as people have died from such. Brandon Lee was a victim of a squib load, though there it was a result of someone firing a blank with a squib load.

If you are dry firing a gun, you should be pointing it at something you are okay with shooting – if you are not, then you are being unsafe. Thus, even though it is unloaded, you should still be treating it as if it were loaded.

If you are cleaning a gun, you should have just made sure it was unloaded immediately prior to cleaning it. If you ever let it out of your sight, or let someone else handle it, it is loaded again until you have unloaded it personally.


I agree if you “know” that all firearms are loaded all the time you have a healthy respect for the potential damage you can do by “mistake”


I agree wholeheartedly with the points the author makes, but the endless string of grammar/spelling errors make him difficult to take seriously.

Bob Illinois

4, that’s FOUR Basic Rules! Any more and folks won’t remember them anyway.

Let’s not get stupid with semantics as some previous comments are doing.  Those of us who care are trying to keep YOU and you FRIENDS alive!!!!!


Aftere serving 20 plus years in the aaaaaaaaaaaaaarmy, you sad it best.
Thank you


California’s “MOONBEAM” governor banned Open carry of firearms for that exact mindset, even though the law WAS that you could open carry UNLOADED ONLY.  It IS the proper mindset to have and I will ALWAYS treat every gun as though it is loaded, and verify that fact each and every time I handle one.  To “A CRITIC”, grow up.  You sound like a 5th grader with your argument, and I hope I am NEVER around you when you have a firearm in your hand, because YOU are the type of person that is careless enough to muzzle everyone around you and not think twice.  Do that to me, and you are liable to get an a$$ whoopin!


From one former merchant marine to another; I get what you are saying and why is was said that way. I have always felt the the number one gun rule should be a two part rule. The rule should read Treat each weapon as if it were loaded and keep it pointed in a safe direction. All bases would then be covered.


Like my grandfather always said, “More men have been killed by unloaded guns than by loaded ones.”  My kids grew up in a house where every gun was loaded.  And, I mean, REALLY loaded. (For the same reason we never had an empty fire extinguisher!)  They learned how to treat guns at an early age.  There was NEVER an accident.


I keep my Beretta loaded all the time with a round in the chamber so I KNOW it’s loaded!
BTW, there are no children around my weapon…ever!


The title of this article got my attention, at first I thought it implied a weapon is never unloaded even when all of the ammo has been removed. Then I figured what the author ment, you should NEVER consider that a weapon is unloaded until you have seen that the weapon in fact empty. I was taught in the Air Force that concept, NEVER ASSUME a weapon is unloaded until you have personally ‘cleared’ the weapon, my weapons instructor made us practice ‘clearing’ the weapon. I was taught never hand someone a weapon unless the chamber/action is exposed to reveal the chamber/action is empty. When I receive a weapon from another with the chamber/action open I will still ‘clear’ the weapon. I will instruct them to clear the weapon if the action is closed. I ALWAYS follow these steps when clearing any automatic weapon that I own to present to another for inspection.
1. I ensure the muzzle is not pointing at anyone/anything I do not want to destroy.
2. I remove the magazine.
3. I lock back the action to reveal an open action and an empty chamber, at that time the weapon is considered ‘out of service’ but I still follow the basic safety rules of not pointing the weapon at anything you do not want to destroy.
4. I retain all ammo in my possession until they are finished inspecting the weapon, when the inspection is complete I may at that time render the weapon ‘back in service’ if it is my carry weapon.
5. I NEVER hand over a LOADED weapon unless I am instructed to do so by a Law inforcement Officer, even then, I will ask if I may render the weapon ‘out of service’ just in case the LEO is not sure in how to ‘clear’ that type of weapon. 
6. In the case of a revolver, I open the cylinder and remove/retain any ammo, then I  present the weapon with the cylinder open.


I would not phrase it like this. There surely is a such thing as an unloaded weapon. I am holding one right now, but I am treating it as if it were loaded. That is how I am teaching my son to handle all firearms. There is a certain way to handle a firearm.


“but I am treating it as if it were loaded”

Sigh…that was the entire point of the article.


I’m a NRATC, (7) Tour Highly Decorated Combat Veteran (5) Vietnam and (2) Desert Shield / Storm and A Former U.S. Navy Gunner’smate to include (13) Years with Rock Island Arsenal resident Expert Armament Traveling with theTroops on a Gobal Bases. Also a CCWP Instructor for the State of IA / UT. Since and with all my training with a Firearm It’s been a life long practice to make ready lock and load your firearm. So if your running around with a round in the chamber upon a life and death situation your instine will be to load your firearm and if your have one in the tube you just lost a good round. I happen to live in a state where you must retreat, therefore you have time to load your firearm. and if the assualt happens that fast your really didn’t have a chance to begin with.




I have a statement: “If you play with a DOG long enough you
will get bitten”, explained = Even after 21 years in the Army, 8 years in
corrections, my buddy’s piece “Accidently” went off. While in my backyard
practicing speed loading with dummies I (A trained professional, over experienced
individual) speed loaded a full six rounds into my Model 15, instead of placing
in the holster I raised it and fired. I was astonished and brought back to the realization
that I was as prone to an accidental discharge as the “Clowns” who have had terrible
consequences for the unloaded gun in their hands. Live and learn, we never stop
learning or once we do we become instantly stupid and with the 15 rounds of
ammo in some guns now days we must not be so smart as to be dumb.


We have had 3 children shot with 2 dead in Washington state in 2 months. Every gun is loaded and many owners pay the ultimate price….sadly

Rochester Personal Defense,LLC

Great article Mark!

Frank New Mexico

As a young child, I was taught to treat all guns as if they were loaded until I had persoally verified the magazine or cylinder and chanber were empty., hence the mindset “consider all guns loaded.”
Following that, the rule was “never point a weapon at anything unless I intended to kill it.”
These rules have served me well as I’ ve applied them through my military career and civilian life.
Check , check and double check.

Dan Ess

As soon as I read the headline, I knew what it meant; do I win a prize? I’ve run into people at gun shops that do not check guns like they should, before they hand it to a customer. Pretty scary to see that actually. I know first hand about negligence; it happens when you are tired, but it CAN happen anytime you drop your safety first routine. Remove the magazine if it hasn’t been and check the chamber, and check it again. I had a round somehow get stuck in a semi-auto after I dropped the mag out. I would have sworn it was empty, but another round ejected out the magwell after I racked the slide. Good thing I did the double check, or I might have had an incident or become a statistic. All it takes is one distraction to detour your safety routine, and it could end your day. If you didn’t complete your safety check 100%, start over. Then clean your gun or practice trigger pull with your Snap Caps.


If “loaded” means having rounds in the chamber and/or magazine, then when a gun has no rounds in the chamber and/or magazine, it is unloaded. Maybe the author of this article does not know the definition of loaded, otherwise I dont understand why he would dare clean a “loaded” firearm.

Like it was said before, there is no reason to lie about whether a gun is loaded or not. 


and thank you for the back up


I, personally, don’t place the four basic rules of gun safety in an artificial hierarchy – all four are as important as any one alone!