USGS Home Page

U.S. Geological Survey Manual

Appendix 29-C
Part 445-2-H Chapter 29

USGS Minimum Firearms Training Standards


These minimum standards are general guidelines for anyone instructing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS or Bureau) employees, volunteers, and those working under USGS funding/direction, in the safe handling and employment of firearms for defense against wild animals and during specimen collection.

All firearms training conducted under the auspices of the USGS will meet or exceed these minimum standards and those stated in Chapter 33 of the USGS Occupational Safety and Health Program Requirements Handbook, 445-2-H. Anyone trained under the USGS firearms safety program will realize that firearms safety is an individual responsibility. The most reliable form of firearms safety is the correct mental attitude of the firearm user. Anyone trained in firearms safety is not only responsible for their own safety but is also responsible for the safety of fellow field partners and team members.

All questions concerning USGS Firearms Policy and Regulations will be addressed to the USGS Firearms Safety Committee. This committee has authority over the USGS firearms safety program and is comprised of the Bureau Firearms Manager, representatives from each regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Management Branch. Below is an outline of the various topics that will be covered in any USGS Firearms Safety Certification Course. Most of the training standards apply to both the Defense Against Wild Animals and Specimen Collection Training Programs; however, standards that are restricted to one program are noted in parentheses.

Minimum Training Standards.

1. General Firearms Safety.

a. Compulsive behavior in firearms safety and safe gun handling will always be stressed and encouraged.

b. Firearms safety needs to stress being in control of the firearm at all times.

c. Firearms safety training will be taught to be reflexive (i.e., automatically reacting safely with a firearm without deliberate thought). Teaching reflexive safe gun handling is particularly important for employees who carry firearms under potentially stressful field conditions.

d. Instructors will demonstrate the principles of firearms safety and safe gun handling at every opportunity.

2. Four Rules of Firearms Safety.

Rule 1 - Treat all firearms as if they are always loaded. There are no exceptions to this rule. Assume that all firearms are loaded until you have verified otherwise.

Rule 2 - Never allow a firearm to point at anything you are not willing to destroy. Experience has shown that this is the easiest rule to violate. More than half of the fatal firearms accidents are a result of neglecting safety rules 1 and 2.

Rule 3 - Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are on target. This rule is absent in many firearms safety training programs and is particularly important to staying safe while carrying a firearm under stress, while moving, etc.

Rule 4 - Be sure of your target and what lies beyond. This rule is about target identification. Identify the target and what is in front, beside, and in back of their target before firing.

These rules should be repeated a number of times throughout the lectures and during range exercise. Students should be taught that they are ultimately responsible for whatever happens when using a firearm, and that it is imperative that they fully understand the “four rules of firearms safety” and make them a part of reflexive behavior.

3. Proper Use of Mechanical Safeties.

a. The mechanical safety is a manufacturer engineered safety device. It provides an extra level of safety if the user breaks one or more of the safety rules.

b. Mechanical safeties will remain engaged until the decision to fire has been made.

c. Use of the mechanical safety is one of the key elements in the field ready condition, and its use provides consistency of training and increases familiarity with the firearm.

4. Firearms Safety in the Field.

Employees should fully familiarize themselves with their firearm before going into the field. Much of the discussion concerning firearms safety in the field is common sense, but fatigue associated with field work can diminish common sense. Guns along with alcohol or drug (including certain prescription drugs) use are bad combinations that can lead to serious injury or death.

a. Field and camp policies.

b. Transport of firearms and ammunition on commercial airlines.

c. Field aircraft (helicopter and fixed wing).

d. Watercraft.

e. Government vehicles.

f. Personal carry.

g. Hazards of terrain.

h. Extreme cold.

All employees will follow State and local laws concerning the personal carrying of firearms. State-issued concealed carry permits are not recognized by the USGS and do not apply as long as the employee, volunteer, etc., is on official duty.

5. USGS Regulations and Policies.

a. Employees required to carry a firearm, as a part of their official duties, will have their supervisor to complete and sign a Certificate of Need.

b. It is the direct responsibility of the supervisor to approve the Certificate of Need and have direct knowledge of the employee's current training in firearms safety.

c. Employees, volunteers, and those who work under USGS funding/direction who use a firearm on official business will fill out a Qualification Inquiry self-certifying that they have not been convicted of domestic violence crimes prior to approval of the Certificate of Need or participation in firearms safety training. 18 United States Code 992(g)(9) makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence to possess firearms or ammunition. A new Qualification Inquiry will be submitted for each new Certificate of Need or firearms training course request.

d. Employees will ensure that all firearms used for official business are stored, handled, carried, and used to eliminate the possibility of an unintended discharge of the firearm. All firearms and ammunition will be stored in a secure area under lock and key. Additional requirements for storage and security of firearms/ammunition are found in the USGS Physical Security Handbook, 440-2-H.

e. Firearms used by USGS employees will be under lock and key when not in use according to the June 16, 1997, Department of Interior Memorandum entitled “Child Safety Locking Devices for Handguns.” The firearm will also be locked during transit or when not under the direct control of the cognizant person.

6. Responsibilities Associated with Firearms Training, Issuance, and Use.

a. Employee responsibilities.

b. Supervisor responsibilities.

c. The armed employee: how to act in the field.

d. Importance of working within scope of employment and the Federal Employee Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988.

7. Firearm Types, Parts, and their Function.

Proper operation of the firearm type used in field operations will be taught and understood.

8. Effective Ammunition Types and Performance.

Various types of ammunition, bullet construction, and their terminal ballistics for required field applications will be discussed.

9. Safe Firearms Manipulation.

a. Proper stance and presentation.

b. Safe loading, unloading, and reloading the firearm. Teaching how and when to reload a firearm under stressful field situations is an important element in safe firearms manipulation.

c. Elements of marksmanship.

d. Center of mass concept (defense against wild animals only).

.e. Field-carry condition: chamber empty, magazine full, safety on. The mechanical safety will be employed when the firearm is in the field-ready condition.

f. Safe use of slings.

10. The Defensive Mindset/Mental Conditioning for Defense Against Wild Animals (Defense Against Wild Animals Only).

Personal, moral, and ethical decisions concerning the use of lethal force on potentially dangerous wild animals will be discussed.

11. Collector Ethics (Specimen Collection Only).

12. Animal Habitat and Behavior and Methods of Avoidance (Defense Against Wild Animals Only). The odds of avoiding a hostile encounter with wild animals will increase the more the students know about the wild animals they could encounter in their field area. Always attempt to employ passive tactics before elevating to potential lethal force.

a. General wild animal characteristics.

b. Animal signs.

c. Animal range and habitats.

d. Animal behavior (aggressive and nonaggressive).

e. Potential confrontations and proper responses.

f. Methods of avoidance.

g. Camp etiquette.

The needless killing of wild animals can only be avoided through a combination of firearms safety training, proper defensive mindset, and animal awareness and habitat/behavior training.

13. Nonlethal Deterrents (Defense Against Wild Animals Only).

a. Proper use of nonlethal deterrent.

b. Description of the various nonlethal deterrents.

c. Ranges, effectiveness, and limitations of common deterrents.

d. Safety and liability issues associated with nonlethal deterrents.

14. Firearms Maintenance.

Proper methods of cleaning and maintaining firearms and ammunition will be discussed.

15. Range Exercises

a. Appropriate range and field exercises to begin the development of firearms proficiency and to test skills in the application of the four rules of firearms safety.

b. Range exercises will stress the application of the four rules of firearms safety and the process of verifying and reverifying the condition of the firearm.

c. All range exercises will test the elements of marksmanship.

d. When on the firing line, always use range commands that are simple, explicit, and consistent from instructor to instructor.

e. Always follow a range progression that introduces and teaches no more than one new firearms handling technique at a time.

f. Both written exams and range qualifications will be given to test the student’s application of the four rules of firearms safety and safe gun handling principles.

g. Range qualifications will be scored. The student must score 70 percent or higher with each firearm that they are authorized to carry and use. A score below 70 percent will be considered unsatisfactory for the purpose of firearms qualification, and the employee may not perform duties which require the carry and use of a firearm.

SM 445-2-H Table of Contents || Handbooks || Survey Manual Home Page
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
Contact: APS, Office of Policy and Analysis
Content Information Contact:
Last modification: 10-Aug-2016@14:05 (kk)