Blog : Training

Four Cardinal Rules of Firearms Safety-Expanded

Depending upon which trainer, what range, or the particular gun related video that you may be watching, there will sometimes be more “rules” than these, but there should never be less.  Especially at sporting events involving firearms usage, there will likely be many restrictions that are counterintuitive to “practical” usage.  This is as it should be.  At open enrollment events, the proficiency of those in attendance cannot be underestimated, regardless of “profession”.

The following is aimed primarily at the serious firearms practitioner who recognizes that there are no reset buttons regarding defensive firearms handling and usage.  You must handle your firearms properly, all the time.  These rules, when fully committed, and ingrained, into your default behavior when you handle any firearm, will preclude virtually all negligent discharges and if you should have a legitimate accidental discharge, the consequences will be minimal.

These rules are equally as, if not more, important in “tactical” settings whether or not you are a police officer serving a high-risk warrant, warfighter moving to contact, or homeowner investigating the sound of broken glass at your residence.  You must not shoot things, or people, that you don’t intend to shoot.

The firearm you are handling is a tool.  It will act only according to input onto the operating and control mechanisms with which it has been designed.  This means ANY input on the trigger or other mechanisms, human or otherwise, will cause that part to operate in the manner in which it was designed.  Control the environment of that tool, and the opportunities for anything to interface with it, whether it is in storage in your safe or on your person in a ready condition.  Foolish and careless handling or behavior is the mark of an idiot that is soon to become a tragic injury or death.

The rules are purposefully redundant and overlapping.  To negligently discharge a firearm, you must violate two or more of these rules.  Don’t be that person.

The Four Cardinal Rules of Firearms Safety-EXPANDED

Treat all guns as if they are ALWAYS loaded, all the time. 

    • This rule, all by itself, will eliminate any situation-specific or variable decision making that may serve to confuse you.  In your mind, you will only handle firearms in one manner whenever you handle them at all.  No confusion, no uncertainty with variables, i.e., “I handle guns this way when “at the range”, or this other way when I’m “tactical”, or yet another way when I’m “just at the gun store”.
      1. Guns are supposed to be loaded.
      2. From a defensive perspective, they are no good to you unless they are loaded.
      3. Just like your car is no good to you unless it is fueled.  You expect the car to be fueled, and otherwise functional, to some level or other because that is the normal condition of a functioning car.  When you activate the ignition system, you reasonably expect your car to start.
      4. When you activate the fire control system on a firearm, it is reasonable to expect it to function as designed.
    • A Negligent Discharge (ND) refers to anytime a firearm discharges through negligent handling.  It is always a result of mishandling the firearm on the part of the person doing the handling.
    • An “Accidental Discharge” (AD) pertains to some sort of mechanical breakage or system failure that occurs internally, that the shooter had little or no control over, and causes the firearm to function without direct input to the trigger mechanism.  Accidental discharges are exceedingly rare.
    • Almost all unintentional discharges are preventable by proper gunhandling.
    • If you think a firearm is unloaded, and you are compelled to handle it, the first thing you should presume is…it is loaded.
      1. If you don’t know the proper clearing procedures for that firearm, leave it alone unless there is some overriding reason to do otherwise.
      2. While following ALL of the 4 Cardinal Rules of Firearms Safety, perform Unload and Clear Procedures.
      3. No one knowledgeable in firearms handling will be offended by you double checking a firearm, at any time.
      4. This will, in fact, demonstrate your emphasis upon safe handling procedures
      5. Anyone who objects to your emphasis upon safety is displaying their disregard for proper gun handling, and by logical extension, everyone else’s safety in the area.  They are quite possibly dangerous due to this lack of concern.  Do not allow their recklessness to affect your safety protocols.  Conduct yourself accordingly.

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Tactical Combat Casualty Care-Class

After Action Report

Took a 2-day Tactical Combat Casualty Care TCCC class from Covered 6.  It was long overdue for me and very well spent.

Too often those of us in the tactical training world fixate on our own lane and neglect to expand our horizons a bit.  My experience and knowledge in the emergency medical care provider world has been limited to the check-the-box CPR and First Aid training.  I never even got an AED class.  However, I have long recognized the need for advanced training in emergency first aid skills especially in the occasionally kinetic environment of my former life.  But you can only get so much value from “self-education”.  Even in the “civilized” environment of the USA with the usual availability of advanced emergency medical services, there is still a critically short length of time where layman’s level knowledge and skills could save a life.  Accidents at work, highway, and the home all have the potential to cause a life-threatening injury that could be easily treated if you know how.  Timing is everything.  Even so, the human body can lose a critical, and unrecoverable, amount of blood in as little as 3 minutes…but if you know what to do, you can save that life.


TCCC is focused upon saving lives under battlefield conditions.  The scope of practice of a combat medic or corpsman is vastly larger than a civilian EMT or paramedic.  When was the last time you heard of a local EMT or paramedic being authorized, and expected, to perform a cricothyrotomy…in the field…in 90 seconds?  Nonetheless, some other life-saving techniques  that “may” be performed, depending upon who you work for or your level of comfort in exercising your Good Samaritan limits, were less invasive.  Your mileage may vary.

A realistic emergent scenario that everyone may likely encounter is simply a significant laceration or puncture wound that severs an artery.  A traffic collision, falling off the roof of your house with the resultant open fracture and bleeding femoral artery, a sharp tool injury at home, school, work, etc. are all reasonable environments for an injury of this nature.  The time clock starts immediately.  Depending upon the severity of that wound, the body may lose half of its volume of blood in 3 minutes or less.  Catastrophic system failures start to happen fast and there is no reset button.  Having the knowledge and a modicum of training to apply an effective tourniquet may stop the leaking and save that person.  You don’t have to be a police officer, warfighter, or medic to have the proper training and equipment to do this!  The body doesn’t care how it got injured or who/how it’s getting treated.  Just stop the leaking and maintain the airway!  The whole point is to stave off the preventable things that you can while you are stabilizing the casualty in anticipation of med-evac to a higher level of care.  You’re not doing emergency surgery…you’re just making sure your patient gets the chance to have that surgery in the first place.

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Defensive Shooting “Standards”

What is the context?
Nice group, mediocre group, or Heroic group? What is the context?

What is Good Enough?

Quite often in the learning curve of any new endeavor, and especially after the newness wears off, the new student will begin to inquire as to what level of competence will suffice for their needs; what is “good enough”.  Usually the answer entails entails something along the lines of, “well, what is your goal…right now?”  Then, the rest of the evaluation and answers develop from there.

What is the skill level of the shooter in reference to the featured picture?  What were the marksmanship, mechanical, and mindset problems for the shooter to manage?  Time, distance, distractions, the “goal”, shooter and/or target movement all matter to provide context.  This shot group, all be itself, tells very little.  What is the rest of the story?

I ran across this post, Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol from “Stuff from Hsoi” and wanted to summarize and share the high points with you.  There is quite a bit of detail about some of the evolutions of defensive shooting standards from some very well known trainers, some of their variants, along with the reasoning and pros/cons of developing “standards” in the first place.  This is certainly one of the many areas where I absolutely acknowledge that I am benefitting from the expertise, wisdom, and experience of others so that I might improve myself, and by extension, improve my students.

Read the whole article.

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DFI’s Use of Force and Self Defense Laws Class

DFI UoF & Self Def Laws Class
DFI Use of Force & Self Defense Laws Class

Defensive Firearms Instruction conducted a Use of Force and Self Defense Laws Class at Angeles Shooting Ranges.  This class was an introduction into the world of criminal law and law enforcement procedures that is not often taught.  However, in this increasingly litigious world where even the most righteous acts of self-preservation are microscopically criticized with vicious social bias, it is imperative that a personal defense plan include more training than came in the gun box.  When contemplating the legal aftermath and potential consequences of a deadly-force incident, the knowledge on how to become “hard to convict” is most valuable.  Jeff Cooper referred to this as the Second Battle.

The class started off with a video clip of a couple out for a walk in a semi-remote park area.  When they are suddenly targeted in a “knock-out” style attack the realities of violence immediately grabbed the DFI students’ attention.  Even though the video clip was a planned and supervised stress inoculation training exercise, it graphically demonstrated how fast and how violent people can be to each other.  The audience was then challenged, with their present level of legal knowledge on the topic, to justify the actions of the defender in this “pre-quiz”.  Some tactical answers were proffered, but this class was more about the legalities of a defender’s actions, not whether or not the tactics were “good”.  This set the tone for the remainder of the day where vigorous student-instructor interaction was a constant theme.  Learn the laws of use of force.  Be able to legally justify your use of force.  Stay out of jail.

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Brandish Your Gun, Go to Jail

Carry Professionally
Carry, and act, professionally or face legal consequences
Don’t settle for the defensive training that came in the box with your gun.
Your concealed handgun is NOT a talisman, or a “warning sign”, or a “shield”, to be flashed when you get a bit scared of, or uncomfortable with, the smelly transient who is begging for money in the parking lot or at the gas station pump.  Your fear must be REASONABLE before you may use force…not just to you, but to a reasonable person.  And yes, merely displaying your firearm can be considered a use of force, also known as assault.  There are a host of other legal elements and crimes that you may inadvertently commit through your ignorance of the law as well.  You must not violate any ONE of them to be able to legally claim self defense.  Your actions will be judged and evaluated by reasonable people (the jury of your case) who will be told, through jury instructions, that you should have known the various elements of the laws of use of force.  Your opinion, if not reasonable, does not count.  If you cannot support your claim of fear of death or great bodily injury with evidence and facts, and you threaten someone with force, you are at risk of criminal prosecution.

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Black Belts Train with DFI

Congratulations to the newly promoted #Krav Maga Unyted Black Belts! ‪#‎JarretWaldman‬ treated his Krav Warriors to introductory handgun and shotgun familiarization on the Tom George private range at Angeles Shooting Ranges with DFI as the Firearms Instructor. All shooters demonstrated open minds to learning new tools and techniques along with safe tactical gun handling skills. Well done, gents!

Jarret is a vigorous proponent of the complete combat professional and encourages his Black Belts to become proficient in various armed skills as well as the unarmed combatives of Krav Maga.  Stress Inoculation Training is a valuable experience for all who understand the need to truly training as you intend to fight.  You will NOT rise to the occasion under stress…you wil default to your level of training.  Stress will degrade whatever skill level that you have.  If you can perform the skill under duress, then you truly have committed it to your subconscious

DFI has also participated with Krav Maga Unyted in providing KMU Intermediate Level members with realistic stress training drills that blend unarmed combatives with armed, live-fire drills.  You won’t see this type of training too often outside of specialized military or law enforcement units.  But you will see this if you train with KMU.

Congrats again to the new Black Belts of KMU.  Hope to see you back at the range soon.16d34c_a4ff0b973d00474da70be1d289783aa7


Tiger McKee writes for The Tactical Wire.  His column on mental control during and after a violent confrontation is absolutely a must read.  Your emotions must be controlled, while you make appropriate defensive decisions/actions thoughout the violent encounter.  Having said that, it bears noting that merely “reading” about a topic or watching a video of a skill does not adequately commit that experience into the subconscious mind for use during a stressful encounter.  Vigorous, first hand experience does that.  Read the entire article.

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Learn the Law, Stay Out of Jail


Be hard to convict!!  Just doing the “right thing” may seem simple TO YOU at the time you are being attacked, but the reality of an uncaring and politically motivated prosecutor bearing down on you from the comfort of an office, complicates your world immensely.

You may have noticed during recent publicized events that the defender in a use-of-force incident can come under withering scrutiny and criticism.  The attacker…not so much.  No, it’s not fair, but these are the cards we are dealt with and this is the table at which we are playing.  What to do?  LEARN TO BE A BETTER PLAYER.

DFI regularly conducts a seminar on the California specific Laws of Self-Defense at Angeles Shooting Ranges.  You will be given an in-depth view into the criminal justice system of California, the applicable statutes, case law, and jury instructions by which YOU WILL be held to account if you use force to defend yourself, your family, or an innocent third party.

Current events, and social “attitudes” will also be discussed.  Even if you are tactically correct in your resolution of a deadly attack, if you make one misstep, one mis-spoken word or action, in any one of the parts of the ensuing criminal investigation, your actions may be found to be “legally incorrect” and you may face criminal, financial, and social ruin.

DO NOT rely on the lifetime of misinformation from television, movies, and sensationalistic news reports to which you have been exposed to justify your actions.  Learn to make yourself as legally invulnerable as possible within the confines of the laws of self-defense.

You will learn the elements of an impending crime and the elements of legal self-defense that must be present for the law to agree that you have used legal force to defend yourself.  This is mission critical knowledge you must have to protect yourself from the second battle…the courtroom battle.

Fees are $125.  Sign up at Use of Force & Self-Defense Laws on DFISOCAL.COM

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:  Riley Schrader is not an attorney and does not practice or offer legal advice.  There is no privileged or confidential relationship generated in this seminar.  This seminar is an educational event that will provide general information on the criminal legal system specifically related to the legal use of force.  You will learn when your specific legal circumstances will require consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your legal jurisdiction.