There are a number of "involuntary" responses that even experienced shooters will commit depending on the situation. These responses are not in our control. Of course the goal of training is to gain better control over our discipline, but there are simply some situations that cause our body to respond in ways that we don’t consciously expect. And this can lead to disaster if we are not handling our guns with safety in mind.
When I am on a range, I always wear a baseball cap. This keeps hot brass from lodging itself between my glasses and my eyeballs. People have actually lost their sight this way. Imagine someone with poor trigger discipline reacting in such a situation. Frightening.
Collard shirts easily catch hot brass. I have seen active shooters involuntarily squeeze-off a round as the hot shell of their ejected round makes its way down their shirt. Ladies, your cleavage is especially attractive to hot brass. Button-up please.
Think this can’t happen to you? Here’s a quick video of an amateur shooter discharging a round at a guy just cleaning the firing line.
I have even seen shooters attempt to pickup something from the ground or reach-up to adjust their headphones with a gun in their hand and their finger on the trigger. Hang around a range long enough and you will see plenty of situations where it is only a matter of time before an accidental discharge occurs.
You should only perform two tasks with your finger on a trigger: aim & fire. The involuntary responses that can occur are limitless, and none of them will result in a positive outcome.
THE FOUR RULES
There are the four basic rules that every responsible gun owner must follow without exception. Surprisingly, these are also the most common mistakes I witness every time I am at a range. Committed by novice and well-trained shooters alike.
These rules were created by Jeff Cooper who served in the US Marine Corp and is known as the father of the modern handgun shooting. He is a god amongst the shooter elite, and these rules have withstood the test of time:
1.) Assume EVERY Gun Is ALWAYS Loaded
There are ways of telling a gun isn't loaded, but few of them can be done without handling the gun itself. In the case of a pistol with a slide, if it is locked in the open position, and the magazine is removed, chances are it is not a hot gun. That said, this or any gun still needs to be treated as if it is loaded, which means it is capable of discharging a deadly round if it is not handled properly.
2.) Never Point a Gun at Anything you DO NOT wish to Kill
The muzzle of a gun - the end of the barrel where the bullet exits - should never be pointed at anything but the ground, the sky, or a target. The most frequent abuse of this rule comes with shooters, usually appearing overconfident, who have zero muzzle awareness. They set their gun down on a table with the muzzle pointed at other shooters. Or they sweep their gun, covering bystanders or an entire firing line, with their gun in hand. Imagine if they accidentally squeezed-off a round. Shooters who do not respect this rule simply have no business handling a gun.
3.) Finger off the Trigger until you have your Target in Sight
I see it time and time again, so many shooters pick-up their pistols with their finger in the trigger frame, putting pressure on the trigger before they are even preparing to shoot. This is just careless.
Simply put, always pickup your gun with your shooting hand and place your trigger finger on the trigger guard until you have your target in sight. Engaging the trigger before you have proper sight is irresponsible, and immediately displays a lack basic gun safety and poor trigger discipline.
4.) Ensure the Area around your Target is Safe
A 9mm bullet can pass through up to 6 interior walls before its inertia is diminished. Bullets go through people. They bounce off buildings. They pass easily through cars. They are powerful, fast, and unpredictable.
Depending on the distance, you can also easily miss your target, launching a round into the next neighborhood. Aiming the muzzle of a pistol just a fraction of an inch off target can result in a miss of merely inches or a couple feet, even at short distances this can be a deadly mistake.
Pistols are EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to shoot accurately for the inexperienced, even at short distances. And given bullets can travel thousands of feet before they fall to the ground, missing your target can be disastrous.
So unless you have proper sight discipline and accurate target acquisition, even on a range, you should never fire a round if there is a remote chance an unintended target could be impacted.