OBSERVING just anybody going through the process of manipulating a firearm safely does not qualify as instruction.

This is because not all guns are the same and the safe manipulation of one type of gun may cause a discharge of another.

Whenever possible, new gun owners should learn the manual of arms of their gun with someone familiar with the make and model of weapon being used, repeating the process over and over until it is done right.

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A story I read from the internationally known firearms expert Massad Ayoob recently, highlights just how easily mistakes can be made. Hopefully, nothing of the sort will ever happen to us here.

The story is about a gun owner in the US who accidentally shot himself in the foot at a shooting range.

The gun owner was carrying a Taurus PT92 pistol which is made in Brazil and, in turn, is a clone of the Italian Beretta 92 semi-automatic firearm in 9mm.

The gun was an early model which had its safety lever mounted on the frame. To shoot double action, one had to rack the gun and then manually lower the hammer by hand.

The guy was shooting beside somebody who had a genuine Beretta 92.

The two guns looked alike, the first being a clone of the other, with the only difference being that the Beretta had its lever—which de-cocked the pistol—placed on the slide.

The guy with the Taurus noticed that the Beretta guy was able to place his firearm on double action quicker than he did and asked how to do it.

Beretta guy obliged. He loaded the gun and, perhaps to dazzle Taurus guy even more, thumbed the de-cock lever like his life depended on it. The hammer dropped, the gun did not fire and was now ready to be shot double action.

To Taurus guy, it seemed like Beretta guy simply thumbed the lever, which looked exactly like the safety lever on his gun, and then pulled the trigger to bring the hammer down.

It did not dawn on him that safety levers and de-cocking operate differently.

Taurus guy thumbed his lever down, which on his gun meant making it ready to fire, and then pressed the trigger.

Of course, the gun went off.

Unfortunately, while Taurus guy was doing all this, his gun was all the while not pointed in a safe direction. In fact, the muzzle of his gun was aimed at his feet.

According to the story, there was plenty of shouting and one leg hopping after that. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t that serious.

Taurus, so the story goes, later modified its PT92 to include a de-cocking function that operated off the safety lever which is still located on the frame.

However, up to this day, safe is up and fire is down on the Taurus while safe is down and fire is up on the Beretta.

There is no such thing as being “too safe” when it comes to firearms.

Watching videos on youtube or soliciting advice from forums may provide basic information but they do not substitute actual instruction.

Let’s take, for example, the issue of whether to carry firearms with a round inside the chamber.

Firearm instructors like Ayoob acknowledge that, whenever necessary to the situation at hand, not to mention legal, carrying a firearm with a round in the chamber is tactically sound.

Most of the guns I have--the SIG Sauer P250, the Smith and Wesson M&P, my Ruger GP100 and the SP101--are all safe to carry, chambered.

However, there are a host of other units that are not safe to carry with a loaded chamber. For example, my old 1911, despite having both manual safety and grip safety, will reportedly fire if dropped on the muzzle.

I have never seen this happen, though. And I do not wish to find out for myself.

(knrama@gmail.com)