Firearm Safety Rules and Weapon Carrying Conditions

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Remember these basic firearm safety rules – whether at home, at the range, or in the field.


The following rules apply to all weapon systems.

Treat every weapon as if it were loaded

  • Never trust your memory or make any assumptions about a weapon’s safety status.
  • Always confirm what condition your weapon is in if there is ever any doubt.
  • Check your weapon for ammunition whenever it has been out of your possession.
  • Never hand a weapon to anyone without clearing it. Clearing is a procedure for ensuring there is no ammunition in the weapon. Whenever you assume control of a weapon from someone, your first action is to clear it, even if you have witnessed its clearing.
  • Never move in front of a weapon held by someone else.
  • Never engage in or tolerate horseplay with or around weapons.

Never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot

  • Always be aware of muzzle direction and your surroundings. This ensures you will not unintentionally point your weapon at anything other than an intended target.
  • Be aware of the maximum range of your weapon. If you do not know what is beyond your vision in any unprotected direction, do not point your weapon in that direction.
  • Never allow the muzzle of your weapon to point at any part of your body.

Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire

  • Never be guilty of a negligent discharge.
  • A common reaction to a sudden shock or loss of balance while handling a weapon is an unintentional tightening of the grip. If your finger is off the trigger, you will eliminate the potential for firing a shot accidentally.

Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire

  • The SAFE position on the selector lever is a built-in feature that has only one function. That function is to prevent inadvertent firing of the rifle.
  • When patrolling or walking it is possible for the trigger to be unintentionally depressed by objects (e.g., branches, wire, gear) encountered en route. Keeping the weapon on safe ensures the weapon will not fire if the trigger is accidentally engaged.
  • Never trust anyone else regarding a weapon’s safety status.

It’s important to understand weapon carrying conditions.

shooting safety
An Iraqi army soldier shoots at a series of targets called pepper poppers using a 9 mm during the third event of the Tactical Conditioning Competition, Nov. 12, at Rawah, Iraq. As competitors completed this event, they raced over yet another sand berm to another shooting site as coalition forces advised, guided and cheered them on.


It’s also important to understand the definition of the weapon carrying conditions.

Originally described by Jeff Cooper, these are very well known standards that you should be fluent in.

Condition Four

  • Magazine removed
  • Chamber empty
  • Bolt forward
  • Ejection port cover closed
  • Weapon on safe

Condition Three

  • Magazine inserted
  • Chamber empty
  • Bolt forward
  • Ejection port cover closed
  • Weapon on safe

Condition Two

  • A round chambered,
  • full magazine in place,
  • hammer down

NOTE: Not applicable for the M16/M4

Condition One

  • Magazine inserted
  • Round in the chamber
  • Bolt forward
  • Ejection port cover closed
  • Weapon on safe


The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.