What does muscle memory have to do with firearms safety? Lots. Muscle memory is a biological function that allows the body to perform a learned movement somewhat involuntarily and automatically through repetition over a period of time. If safe firearms handling habits are learned so that they are repeated automatically, the chance for negligent discharges is greatly reduced.
Let’s focus, for example, on one of the four safe firearms handling rules: keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire. The repetitive motion of finding the same position for your trigger finger on the firearm stock or frame teaches your finger to “know” where to go when you’re not shooting without needing to “tell” it what to do; it becomes muscle memory.
To develop my trigger discipline muscle memory, I tend to press my finger tip gently into the frame creating “work” for my finger, giving it a purpose to be there. That way, whenever I pick up my gun, until I’m ready to fire, my finger naturally rests where that repeated motion tells it it should. An untrained finger, resting inside the trigger guard, may move in response to some stimuli, and pull the trigger unintentionally. When you hear someone say their gun “just went off,” poor trigger discipline is often to blame.
Creating good habit muscle memory when handling firearms may seem a slow-going process, but its easy enough to accomplish with a little awareness, and concentration. Developing good habits of safe firearms handling is not a replacement for firearms safety vigilance, nor is it an excuse to become complacent when handling guns. However, regularly practicing safe handling techniques and making them a part of your natural approach to firearms is easy and costs nothing, and, most importantly, can save lives.
Featured image courtesy of contributor boryak via istockphoto.com