21 Sep 98, Monday, 3:29PM


We are now teaching modes or conditions in which a defensive firearm can be, depending upon its role and the degree of readiness required. Students find it easy to associate a mode with a particular set of circumstances. Modes can then be changed as circumstances change. The governing principle is: SAFETY AND READINESS ARE MUTUALLY ANTAGONISTIC. You can’t have it both ways. Wisdom is found in the selection of the best compromise.

STORAGE MODE Storage mode is appropriate for weapons being prepared for non-accessible storage, such as in a gun safe or any other storage situation where rapid access and/or employment is not a requirement. In storage mode, the gun is unloaded, and the magazine is removed or voided if it cannot be removed. All springs should be at rest, so the hammer is down (dropped) on an empty chamber.

TRANSPORT MODE Transport mode is intended for weapons which are kept close at hand but not carried on the person, such as would be the case of a shotgun carried in a car. Since it is not being carried on the person, the weapon is not under the shooter’s direct control, but it is still intended to be readily accessible and available for defensive purposes on short notice. In transport mode, the chamber is empty, and the hammer is down as is the case with storage mode, but the magazine is locked in and fully charged. The manual safety (if the weapon has one)is in the Aoff position. The gun is thus inert, but it can be quickly rendered ready to fire by simply reciprocating the bolt/slide. With the shotgun, this is also called the Aloader’s safe condition.

CARRY MODE Carry mode is appropriate only if the weapon is being continuously carried on the person and is thus under the person’s constant, direct control. In the carry mode, it is intended that the weapon be immediately ready for use. A holstered pistol or a slung rifle or shotgun should be in carry mode. Some weapons, like most pistols and military rifles were designed for carrying, and the correct carry condition for these weapons is fully loaded, with the manual safety (if the weapon has one) in the Aon position.

ENGAGEMENT MODE Engagement mode is the condition the weapon is in when it is mounted and about to be fired or has fired and is about to be fired again. With most military rifles, the only difference between carry mode and engagement mode is that the manual safety is pushed off as one goes from the former to the latter.

With most shotguns, carry mode and transport mode are the same, because these weapons are not drop-safe and therefore not properly carried with a round chambered. That is why we say shotguns should be carried in Aloader’s safe. Loader’s safe is both the carry and the transport mode with most shotguns. The same is true with submachine guns which fire from an open bolt.

With revolvers and self-decocking, autoloading pistols, carry mode and engagement mode are also the same, since nothing need be done to the pistol (except pressing the trigger) in order to get it to fire when there is a round chambered.

At the end of a day of training, be it with handguns, rifles, shotguns, or several weapons, I ask all students what condition or mode they want their weapons in as they are preparing to leave the range. The important point here is that it is solely the student’s decision, within certain parameters.

When weapons are put away, longarms are always first. Handguns are always the last to be put away (for those who do not carry regularly). Handguns may be carried off the range on the person (in holsters). All longarm must leave the range in cases.

With rifles, I first have all students on the line, facing downrange, with their rifle cases on the ground in front of them. I then have them unsling and then unload. As with all weapons, the unloading process is not complete until the weapon has been inspected, then dry-fired in a safe direction. Once all rifles are unloaded, I announce that rifles may be returned to the case either as they are (storage mode), or in the transport mode. That is, students may put them in the case as they are, or they may insert a magazine and then put them away. Neither the carry mode (round chambered, manual safety on) nor the engagement mode (round chambered, manual safety off) is an option at this point.

The procedure with shotguns is similar, but not identical. Since carry mode and transport mode are the same with most shotguns, I allow students to either case the weapon as it is carried (loader’s safe), or they may void the magazine tube first (storage mode) and then case the weapon. Once again, the weapon may be cased either in the transport more or in the storage mode at the discretion of the student. The engagement mode is, of course, not an option.

When leaving the range with a pistol, I offer students two options: The pistol may be in the carry mode and in a holster, or it may be secured in a case in either the storage, transport, or carry mode. There are two other alternatives where are not allowed: Students may not carry the pistol off the range in a holster in either transport or storage mode, and they may not carry the pistol off the range in their hand, in any mode.

Once again, the purpose for the entire foregoing is to help students to organize their thinking, so that poor judgement and blunders, born of confusion, can be reduced.