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Training with the Safety ON or OFF?

Training with the Safety ON or OFF?

I’ve been a little grumpy lately. You see, I received an email from a former police officer who professed that he works for an organization established for the nation’s law enforcement trainers. The name is even catchy, leading many to believe this is a group of experienced individuals organized to help law enforcement agencies with their training. It’s just a little disturbing to me, as you will soon read.

In his email, he states that I have advocated the use of certain techniques during past classes. The guy wanted me to make a video saying that I felt the same as he does about using the safety selector during a speed reload with a rifle. He added, “Obviously, if your stance is not in line with us on this topic, then you don’t need to do a video. But I have had training from all of you and, if I remember correctly, most of you, if not all of you, advocated for the use of the manual safety during empty gun reloads.”

In all honesty, if I advocated for the above mentioned technique maybe I would have overlooked the delivery, which isn’t the right answer. The last time I looked up and checked, Old Glory was still flapping in the wind and this country is still called “America.” We’re allowed to have different opinions. This freedom extends to the techniques we use on the range and in the practical world. After a little research, I determined that this individual never took a class from me.

Train not to win? 

During a recent course, I had a SWAT team commander tell me, “For training, we don’t allow our guys to scan their sectors during a room dominance drill. We only allow them to scan and collapse their sectors during a real-­world mission.”

OK, my head almost exploded on that one. Who in their right mind says that? That team leader has not trained his people sufficiently for the “real world.” Second, he was a person who was not willing to train to the level to win his next fight. Training is not just about learning to survive, but to win! Therefore, you must train as you fight because you will fight as you have trained.

Now, back to the offending email. The author told me that I must agree or be silent. Not cool, dude. Then, he cited case law, specifically that the “1st Circuit Court of Appeals denied an officer ‘qualified immunity’ for failing to put his AR-­15 safety back on ‘safe’ when he accidentally shot and killed someone even though that was how his department trained him.”

Do we engage the safety on our AR as we conduct an empty carbine reload? This has nothing to do with the case law he cited. The officer who took his carbine off safe was poorly trained. After the initial room was cleared, he pointed that same ready-­to-­fire carbine at a compliant individual that was lying face down. Then, he put his finger on the trigger. At some point, the carbine went off and the compliant person was killed, the final no-­no in the officer’s list of violations.

We’ve gotta think. 

Even when I hang with safety-­conscious members of training panels at the NRA Annual Meetings, it made me squirm to hear one suggest to an audience of NRA members that it is OK to point your shotgun at your foot when waiting between stations at a skeet or trap match. There’s even a special adapter that ties to their boot to hold the muzzle in place. Not to my surprise, I’ve learned that accidents happen there, too. Perhaps there’s a market for Kevlar socks or armored shoes?

Here’s another quote from the SWAT team leader: “If a rifle training program teaches that the safety should be on under some circumstances, but can be off under other circumstances, then it’s just another thought process that the shooter must think through when under stress. If it’s required to be on whenever the trigger finger is off the trigger and trained that way to the subconscious level, then manipulating the safety will never have to be a thought process.”

Yep, you have to think. And we want shooters who think! During a transition from a hot carbine to a pistol, put the carbine on safe — no problem. Make an attempt to sweep the carbine’s safety lever to the safe position as you are transitioning from an empty carbine to a hot pistol. Placing the carbine on safe as you are behind cover reloading the carbine with no target immediately available? Well, I’m still in agreeance.


The sticking point I have comes when there is an immediate threat, you have no sidearm, you have somehow lost it running after a suspect or you shoot your carbine dry. It is now a race to reload the carbine and get it back in the fight. I will not teach students to put their firearm on safe during this movement because we are in a race and I want them to win.

I believe that there will be a more dangerous act that happens if the firearm is placed on safe in this scenario. Under duress, those who have reloaded with the safety on will forget to disengage the safety when it’s time to point the gun at the bad guy and squeeze the trigger. That’s reason enough for me.

It is fine to disagree. It is also fine for me to make my point with these paragraphs since, obviously, any video I submit will not be used to express opposing views.

So, there it is. My boiling blood has simmered and you’ve heard my opinion. I firmly believe that there are many so-­called “best” techniques.

Keep an open mind, keep training and keep preparing for the worst in the next gunfight you might have a front seat to. This is my opinion. You need to develop your own and train with it. 

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