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Don’t be Lulled into Firearms Complacency

Chances are, you have heard someone say ‘complacency kills!' But this statement is hyperbole. Not meant for us to take literally … right? Well, sorry to break it to you, but complacency does kill. It is something we should guard against in all aspects of our lives.

Complacency Blinds us to Real Dangers

When we have an inflated opinion of our skills or knowledge, we either ignore or don't see actual risks and danger. Find an incident where someone was inadvertently injured or killed with a firearm. You can bet, complacency was a factor.

Complacency affects us without our even knowing it, and plays on our sense of ego. Because of this, it is only in retrospect that we realize our error.

Complacency and Firearms

Most of us learn firearm safety rules upon our introduction to firearms. For years, we staunchly follow this safety dogma. Exposure after exposure without a single negative incident, allows us to gain confidence.

Enhanced confidence and competency are great attributes, and what we strive for. But this is where we can also open the door to complacency.

When complacency creeps in, our brain attributes our lack of negative incidents to our experience, and skill. We don't realize that skill and competency is only part of the equation. Only by applying our skills while following safety concepts, will we reduce the likelihood of incurring an injury.

But behind the blindfold of complacency, safe practices we lived by are now, mere suggestions. Silly sayings for newbies and idiots who don't know any better. We tell ourselves …

‘I know what I am doing, I've been around guns my whole life and never injured myself.'

We have to fight complacency, especially when handling firearms.

You Have seen Complacency

Ever seen someone shoot without safety glasses? I am guilty of sometimes not wearing safety glasses. When I first started shooting I wore glasses, but over time, I justified taking the risk of shooting without them. The thing is, I know I am safer with glasses, but I have become complacent in my actions. If I were to catch a piece of ricocheting lead in my eye, it is due 100% to my complacent behavior.

What about when you clean your firearm? We know we should not have any ammunition in the area. This is obviously a safety mechanism to ensure we don't have a live firearm while at the cleaning bench. Yet I am sure many of us violate this practice. The countless documented incidents of ‘accidental shootings' while cleaning a gun reflect this.

Then there are the people who can't seem to keep their finger outside of the trigger guard. Aimed in on the target or not, their finger rests on the trigger. They haven't had a negative incident related to keeping their finger on the trigger, so they continue the practice. Only when they almost shoot themselves in the foot do they think of avoiding this practice.

Gun Safety Mistakes Others

Don't turn your back on poor gun safety

The above instances are clear to see. But think of a person who is attempting drills or techniques that they haven't mastered. Drawing from the holster is one of those techniques that come to mind. There are hundreds of incidents where people injured themselves while drawing their firearm. Why does it happen?

Complacency gives them a false idea of their skill set. Their ego creeps in and instead of realizing their limitations, they feel nothing can happen. They feel like this because nothing bad has happened in the past. But sure enough, they try to move too fast or haven't practiced enough and something does go wrong.

Chalk all these examples up to complacency, because they are not accidents.

How to Guard Against Complacency

We all need to fight the siren song of complacency. There are a few things we can do to stay on our toes and keep from falling into a dangerous habit.

1. Not only be able to recite the safety rules but actually understand their purpose. Comprehending why we want to ‘keep our finger off the trigger until we are ready to fire' allows us to see how important and far-reaching this rule is. For example:

On the surface, following this rule will remove the possibility of firing the gun when we do not intend to. But it goes beyond this. Keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to fire, allows you to translate this to your draw stroke. It should be obvious why keeping your finger off the trigger during your draw is critical. Additionally, having your finger along the slide/frame, instead of on the trigger reduces the possibility of firing an unintended shot during the physiological response known as sympathetic squeeze.

2. Be open to constructive criticism. No one likes someone telling them that they have been doing something wrong. But when it comes to safety, we have to be all ears. We may not be aware of our dangerous habit. Or, (like my safety glasses) we know we're not being safe. Often times someone calling us out on it keeps our complacency in check.

3. Every so often, assess your gun handling habits. Especially be aware of how you handle your firearms away from the range. It is during the times when we are in our comfort zone, that we may cut corners and do things we should not. Plus, chances are you handle your firearm much more at home than at the range. This creates a prime opportunity to become complacent.


Understand that no human is perfect. We can only try our best to do what is right. But just because we do something wrong without a negative outcome, doesn't make it right. Take these ‘non-tragic' mistakes and learn from them.

Being safe doesn't make you a newbie or less experienced. Being safe makes you … well safe!

Don't take safety for granted. Remember:

‘guns are neither safe nor unsafe on their own.'

I truly value your feedback. Share any instances of complacency you have experienced, or tips you use to fight complacency that I may have left out.

Becoming complacent is one mindset we want to avoid. Check out this list of 55 other concealed carry mistakes, and how to avoid them.

God Bless.

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5 Responses to Don’t be Lulled into Firearms Complacency

  1. Jacob Paulsen September 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    Great piece Matthew. I have a personal policy that I don’t go shooting alone and that those who are with me are part of my anti-complacency team. We have a mutual and spoken agreement that everyone will watch everyone and not let anything slide!

  2. Doug October 4, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    Whenever I take someone to the range at my gun club (we ride in one vehicle due to access control), I make the topic of conversation the 5 safety rules. You might be thinking, I thought there were only 4 or 3, depending on where you learned, but I always include “Don’t try to catch a falling/dropped gun.” With newbies, I print out the list and hand them a copy. By adding the 5th rule it creates discussion, as well as thoughts of personal experience.

  3. George Bollhorst October 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    Thank you. You are never too old to learn something new or over…

  4. Mike October 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    You are right about not being complacent with firearms. Hundreds and thousands of times
    we all remind ourselves point gun in a safe place
    then remove magazine first, then rack the slide back
    to retrieve remaining ammo but also rack slide more
    to make sure gun is empty and finally point gun in a safe direction and squeeze trigger. However, I got home one late afternoon, took pistol out of the holster
    racked slide back to retrieve ammo then took magazine off but immediately I realized something was not right, my mind and hands froze and within
    nano seconds I racked slide back again and one final
    ammo came out in which to be triple sure, pulled slide back several more times to be sure before pulling trigger and be empty. I now have a reminder
    stuck on the basement door before opening,
    MG FIRST (magazine first)!!! I thank you for your article regarding complacency which affects even us
    veterans in the firearms world. Be safe.

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