Firearms Safety

Sailors have received a refresher course on the basics of gun handling during a firearms safety training session aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1).

“There are four rules that you must observe at all times when you have a firearm in your possession,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class (SW/AW) Reginald Allen, the lead instructor for the session. “The first is to treat every weapon as if it were loaded; the second is to never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot at; the third is to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire; and the fourth, is to make sure your weapon is on safe until you are ready to fire.”

For Allen, the training session also offered a chance to remind Sailors of the basics of checking out and returning guns to the ship’s armory, a process that is just as important as standing the watches themselves.

“When checking out a 9 mm handgun, you must ensure that you have 15 rounds in your magazine,” said Allen. “If you come back to the armory with only 14 rounds, they’ll think you lost one of them. When checking out an M-16, you need to make sure your magazine is firmly inserted. If it’s not, it could fall in the water if you are standing watch on the flight deck.”

While standing watches, Sailors must be vigilant about keeping their weapons in the proper, non-firing condition, said Allen.

“A shotgun can easily go into Condition One (ready to fire) if you push its slide with your elbow,” he said. “A small mistake like this can lead to tragedy.”

Allen also reminded watch standers that before assuming control of a weapon, they must be in the proper state of mind.

“If you are tired right before you go on watch, you need to let your section leader know, because he can switch you out with someone else if necessary,” Allen said.

The major goal of the training was teaching Sailors the importance of standing their armed watches in a proper manner, said Allen.

“Weapons are not toys; they don’t kill people, those who fire them do,” he said. “Whenever you are handling a gun, pay close attention to what you are doing because you don’t want it to be on your conscience that you hurt or killed someone.”

For Sailors working in Wasp’s armory, ensuring proper gun-handling procedures during weapons check-out and return is paramount and a never-ending job.

“We tell them not to do anything until we instruct them to do so,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Aaron Anderson. “If they try to skip ahead, we stop them.”

Having watch standers follow exact instructions could mean the difference between life and death.

“The worst thing that could happen would be a negligent discharge,” said Anderson. “If a gun is not placed in the clearing barrel and it goes off, someone could get killed.”

Because of this risk, the armory is very stringent on the safety measures it has laid down, said Anderson.

“For the safety of everyone involved, only one person can be down here at a time loading or unloading their weapon,” he said.

Many Wasp armed watchstanders describ their job as one that requires the utmost attention to detail.

“You need to know the different weapons conditions, when it is all right for you to use your weapon, and how you should use it,” said Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class (SW/AW) Brandon Staples. “If you know all of these things, you should be able to do your job correctly.”

Article by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Koons –

U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler

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