10 Feb 16

Muzzle Up or Muzzle Down?

In our Urban Rifle (UR) and Armed Response to a Terrorist Attack (ARTA) Classes, students come to us from numerous divergent training backgrounds.

We, of course, run a hot range, so rifles carried by students are loaded (round chambered, manual safety “on,” fully-charged magazine inserted) continuously. All drills start, and finish, with loaded rifles. There is no specific command to reload at any particular moment, so all students are expected to keep rifles they are bearing continuously loaded, magazines charged.

I have adopted a universal “muzzle-down” doctrine for all our Courses.

A “safe” direction in which to point a gun is mostly imaginary! Even on an established firing range, a “safe” direction, such as at a dirt berm, is only “relatively” safe. When any gun discharges in any direction, intentionally or accidentally, a bad outcome is always a substantial possibility! Of course, some directions are blatantly unsafe, and these need to be recognized and carefully observed.

So, on shooting ranges (and all other places), we endeavor to constantly keep muzzles pointed in “relatively safe” directions. We call this practice and philosophy “muzzle consciousness,” and every student is expected to be continuously aware of the direction in which his weapon is pointed. The ostensible “condition” of the weapon never relevant. Sloppy gun-handling is, at no time, tolerated!

With the foregoing in mind, which is safer, muzzle up or down? Logical arguments are made for both practices, but I see muzzles inadvertently pointed in unsafe directions must less often when “muzzle-down” is the prevailing and accepted doctrine.

Our rifles are always slung (one-point or two-point) with the muzzle down. The rifle is never allowed to come up to horizontal unless the student is on the line or otherwise facing a “safe” direction.

Even when facing downrange, we don’t do “port arms,” nor do we allow the rifle’s muzzle to point upwards during reloading. It is always, “Heads up! Muzzles down!” A muzzle-up posture during reloading is a “gun give-a-way,” plus it greatly increases your profile, particularly when you’re behind cover.

Sending a rifle bullet over the berm and off the property is a real danger on any shooting range. NDs are always the result of poor finger discipline, but an ND into the dirt downrange of the shooter is always preferable to one that sends a bullet high enough to clear the berm!

There is nothing we can do, and no policy we can implement, that will guarantee nothing bad will ever happen during training. Any “training,” worthy of the title will always be (1) painful, and (2) dangerous. “Risk” can be “managed,” but never eliminated. I believe a “muzzle-down” philosophy and training doctrine represents appropriate “risk management.”

Thus, “Heads up! Muzzles down!” is, in my opinion, the correct philosophy during serious rifle (and pistol) training, and should be universal.

“The pervasive expansiveness of the (Roman) Empire which we see today did not come about as a result of accident nor precipitous good fortune. These (Roman) Legionaries do not sit around congratulating themselves in the wake of every victory, nor are they idle in peacetime. Rather, they are constantly training and refining their warrior skills, so as to be ready at a moment’s notice.

Indeed, they seem to have been born with weapons in their hands!”

Josephus Flavius, circa 90AD