We not even going to discuss all four, just the first two.
The reason I am bringing this up is this news article. A father and son had found a muzzle loading rifle in a trash bin. There aren’t a lot of details, but apparently they were trying to disassemble it and the barrel plug was seized or rusted in. They tried heat, and cooked off the powder behind the loaded round that they had not considered. The 28 year old son was standing in front the barrel at the time and was killed.
I feel for the father, he has lost his son. Nothing else that ever happens to him will match the pain and horror of watching his son die. If he, or anyone that knows them reads this, I can only offer my sympathy for his loss. But physics has no mercy. Those four rules are the result of hard earned wisdom. This incident is only unusual because of the type of firearm and the situation that lead to it’s discharge.
A muzzleloader can be loaded for decades, there’s no way to know by looking at it. The normal procedure for discharging a round is not well know any more, even to many people familiar with other firearms. Still, sliding a cleaning rod into the barrel and marking it’s length would have alerted them that there was something in the barrel. There are ways to extract a projectile from a muzzleloader, old tools designed for just that eventuality.
So, they didn’t know, they assumed, and paid the full price. Don’t let it happen to you. Always assume every gun is loaded, check the chamber, check it every time the gun is picked up. Assume somewhere out there is the evil gun gremlin that loads the gun when your back is turned. When you pick up a gun, check it. If you don’t know how, ask. If someone else picks up a gun, ensure they check the chamber. Then after you check it, after you all know for certain it is unloaded, still don’t point it at anything that you wouldn’t be willing to have a hole in. Point it at the ground, or a brick wall, or the berm down range. If you’re working on the gun, and it’s chucked in a vise, point the barrel at a sure backstop and don’t walk in front of it.
1. All guns are always loaded.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times: on the range, at home, loading, or unloading.
–Col. Jeff Cooper