Safety is one of those things that is misunderstood as it relates to gunfighting. I hate the term “Big Boy Rules” because it is invariably followed by some retarded stuff that has no business on a range at the level of students its being taught to. We used the term frequently where I used to work, but it was understood there, that it didn’t mean a complete lack of safety for “reality based training”. It simply meant that we were aware that tough realistic training can have severe penalties should something go wrong and you were expected to bring your A game to work everyday to mitigate those risks as much as possible.
Here is my take on the traditional safety rules popularized and simplified by Col Cooper
1. You are responsible for knowing the status of your weapon 100% of the time. We know that all guns are not always loaded, you are required to give it respect due as an instrument of lethal force. People get killed by others doing dumb stuff with “unloaded” guns all the time. Be responsible about it.
2. Keep your finger off the trigger and the safety engaged until your sights on target and you’ve made the conscious decision to shoot. Every round you send downrange in a fight has to be the result of a conscious action on your part. If you don’t want to buy it, fix it or be responsible for it, don’t shoot it.
3. Never let the muzzle sweep anything you are not willing to destroy. In the real world, this is very difficult if not impossible to do, nor is it necessarily desirable. Sometimes you have to point your weapon at someone until you’ve determined if they are a threat or not. If they are, get to work, if they are not, stop pointing your weapon at them.
4. Be aware of your target, its fore and background and what is surrounding it. In a fight, there is going to be screaming non combatants running frantically in all of those areas. Understand the environment you are fighting in and adjust your position in relation to your target to ensure you’ve got the cleanest background you can get and don’t miss.
As you can see there is a great deal of ambiguity in those rules, just like a gunfight. They are a good system, and if you were to break one of them while maintaining the integrity of the others, you will be ok should something bad occur. Break more that one, and all bets are off. We had a couple of absolute no go’s that would send you packing from the assault teams if you broke them. Number One was do not muzzle a teammate. You muzzle should never come closer to a teammate than 1 meter. You generally have about a 15 degree spread off the muzzle to work with, depending on the environment. Muzzling a teammate was a quick trip to the job fair if you did it. Number Two was disengaging the safety without a target or sight picture. It was ( and probably still is ) common for new guys to try and shortcut the system to keep up with veteran assaulters by disengaging the safety when entering the room for the perceived speed advantage of doing so. This one you may survive the first time someone caught you, depending of whether or not they thought you were salvageable. There would be some painful and humiliating punishment to remind you of your failure to reinforce that this is not acceptable. Do it again and you were looking for a new job.
CQB is a thinking mans game, much more like chess than checkers. In addition to the safety rules ( always in effect, you have to fit them to the environment you are working in ), there is the structure, your teammates, non combatants, potential IED threats, victims, enemy combatants, and a thousand other things. You need to internalize the safety rules ( or principles really, because that’s what they really are ) and understand how to apply them and when. Put in the work to do it right, spend the time thinking about the principles and what they are designed for. Avoid the commercialized version of “Big Boy Rules”, it usually means something with little to no training value with a severe penalty for failure. Big Boy Rules simply means you understand the application of the safety principles and are ready to bring your best game to the show, while understanding the penalty for failure……..