Bryan wearing an inside-the-waistband ("IWB") holster on his belt, with Sig P232.

Firearms Safety During EDC Transition Points: How to Steer Clear of Hidden Dangers

Most gun owners with a level of training greater than zero have learned about “the four universal rules of gun safety.” (You can read a good introduction here.) From that watershed moment in our education, we develop the ability to snap into gun-safety mode when stepping onto the range, or when entering a classroom for gun training, or when preparing to clean a firearm. Some folks even go through a serious safety ritual to prepare a dry-practice environment.

We step up our cautionary measures in those contexts precisely because someone (instructor, author, friend, trusted youtuber, etc.) put those contexts on our radar. We know what we need to do, and we have been told where to do it. But in addition to where, we need to be mindful of when to do it.

Consider that the four universal rules of gun safety prompt us to think spatially. After all, the term “universal” denotes something of, or relating to, the universe. And if I ask you, “What is the universe?” you will almost certainly try to describe a very big place. So I would like to challenge you to examine whether you, too, have put yourself or others at risk by thinking spatially, when you might have been well served to think both spatially and temporally.

If you carry every day, then every day you go through transition points. These include times when you handle your firearm as part of a daily routine. These also include times when you handle your firearm in ways that are not part of your daily routine. The danger in both cases is that you may not really think these transition points count as “handling your firearm,” for a couple of reasons:

  • Because you have likely been taught to associate your highest cautionary practices with places rather than times (what I’m calling “transition points”), and
  • Because, I mean, after all, you’re not really “handling a gun,” right? You’re just moving a couple of things around in the safe and probably not even taking any gun out of its holster.

Gun Safety Focus Goes to Eleven

I’ll tell you from personal experience: you do not want to [eff] around and find out, whenever and wherever you may encounter a transition point. On the contrary, you’ll want to turn up your focus until the knob breaks.

I’ll share a couple of personal examples for you to consider, although I’ll wager you are already playing movies in your head of “the time that x, and the time that y…” (See?! Your brain recalls these events as times, probably because the pre-programmed spatial association failed and put you at great risk!)

Event 1

Kiddo and I were at home, packing for one of our frequent outdoor adventures in the forested mountains of Idaho. On my person, as always, was my every-day carry (“EDC”) gun. In the safe was my “woods gun”—a handgun system which I have specifically assembled for protection against potential foes up to and including bears. In this instance, I slipped the EDC gun off of my belt and placed it in the safe, and took out the much heftier woods gun, along with the woods ammo, magazines, and mag pouch. I casually tossed this armload into the packing queue on the mat by the front door. About ten minutes later, I found myself torn between wallowing in self-disgust over the fact that I had all but invited tragedy, and falling to my knees in gratitude for the fact that tragedy had left my invitation unanswered.

So, what happened?

First, an important premise: like a rifle that is properly “slung,” a break-action shotgun that is visibly open, or any firearm stored in a secured vault, a handgun is considered “safe” so long as it is enclosed within a holster made of rigid, high-quality material sufficient to keep a finger or any other reasonable source of leverage from activating the trigger. Therefore, to mitigate daily risk in my home while I don and doff my EDC gun, I almost always leave the gun in the holster, and move the entire holster with the gun still in it. This unit fits in any one of the several door pockets inside my safe.

Do you know what else fits in the door pockets inside my safe? My woods gun. Do you know what does not fit? The holster for my woods gun.

In the process of transitioning between handguns, I failed to to recognize that this time one of the guns was not safe—as in, was not tucked securely within a real-deal holster. I have neither a plan nor any desire to absorb a round from a .22 Derringer, so to see my Glock 20, loaded and chambered with full-house 10mm 220-grain hard-cast lead, sitting naked and un-holstered on the doormat…well, I still shudder to guess at what could have happened.

Event 2

Occasionally I work as a phlebotomist, and a while back I found myself needing new scrubs. On arriving at the uniform store, I realized that I would need to spend a moment in the fitting room. To keep things simple, I opted to leave my EDC gun in the car for the 5-10 minutes I expected to be in the store. So I parked directly in front of the store’s large glass windows where I could keep an eye on the car. And because a handgun in a holster is considered safe, I thought it wise to remove the holster with the gun still in it and place the whole unit into storage in my car. I loosened my ratcheting belt a couple of clicks, pried the IWB holster’s clips loose from the belt, and gave an upward tug. I then popped open the center console with my right hand and reached across with my left hand to position the gun inside. I then became very thankful for my right leg and an intact touch-screen in my car.

So, what happened?

The “upward tug” had not removed the entire holster from my belt; it had removed the gun from my holster. In transferring the bare, unprotected gun from right hand to left, I had muzzled my own right leg, wherein lies the massive femoral artery through which a person can bleed out in just a couple of minutes. And even if the muzzle was clear of all of my body parts by the time it settled into the center console, I was clearly violating a version of Rule 2 which states, “Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.” I had no interest in replacing the shift lever in my car, nor the touch-screen control panel. Plus, the sound of gunfire inside a car has caused lifelong hearing loss for a number of unfortunate people. Again, I was thankful that no harm came to me, any other person, or property.

The take-home message

If you have had similar experiences during these transition points, I would offer the following two remedial measures:

  • Add places where you encounter these daily transition points to your spatial consciousness as you apply the four universal rules of gun safety everywhere
  • Add times when you encounter these transition points to your temporal consciousness as you apply the four universal rules of gun safety at all times

Maybe we should revise the title; how about “the four universal, timeless rules of gun safety”? In any case, I’m thankful that my close calls weren’t so close that rounds were fired. While these were certainly not my proudest moments, I am pleased to still be here—fully intact, no less—to share with you the importance of paying special attention during your transition points. They may be routine (truly repetitive from instance to instance) in some cases, and routines can certainly play a role in preserving safety. But don’t let a sense of routine-ness infiltrate a novel situation and lull you to sleep, as nightmares may ensue.

If you handle guns and are unfamiliar with the four rules of gun safety, or if you feel like you aren’t as careful as you used to be and need a wake-up call, I would urge you to join us for MoD.Handgun.1 at the earliest possible time. Confidence. Competence. Proficiency. Safety.

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