Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A loud ringing in the ears.

It can happen to any of us, at any time, if you let your concentration slip.

If you drive a car long enough, chances are that you're going to be involved, somehow, in an incident where there is bent metal and scratched paint.

If you carry a gun long enough, it's very possible that you will have a lapse resulting in a circumstance that will arise, in which you hear a loud Bang, when you didn't mean to.

Without going into unnecessary detail, it's happened to me. No, not recently, but it has happened. My ears rang, and I suddenly felt a very cold sweat, as I rethought my actions and figured out what I had done to make this happen.

While I'm ashamed that I have had this happen committed this act of negligence, I can tell you that The Four Rules work. Although I had violated one (All Guns Are Always Loaded), I had not violated the other three. I had intended to point the gun in that direction, and had intended to pull the trigger. I had considered the target an object that it would not be a TRAGEDY to put a hole through.


I was amongst a little gathering of friends recently, and was enjoying the company. We got to talking guns, and I asked my friend about his* handgun, and the trigger. He unholstered, unloaded it, and handed it to me. I looked it over, quick-checked the chamber, and aimed at a spot on the floor as I began to squeeze the trigger...

And I stopped.

What had I really seen when I "quick-checked" the chamber? Well, it was empty, of course. Hell, I had just seen my friend unload it. But hadn't I just seen a glint of bright metal where I should have seen black void?

I checked again, and was rewarded with the ejection of a quality hollowpoint round, which I had been about to discharge into the floor, amongst a group of friends. I gave it to my friend.

Now, I believe that I had it pointed in a safe direction. I believe that I wouldn't have hurt anyone, excepting their hearing. But I know that I would have had to have left that gathering, tail tucked, and might not have been able to look some of those people in the eye again, for a long time.

I thought a lot about this incident. I think of myself as a safety person. Well, so does a cabinetry-maker friend of mine who is missing some distal digits. He's obsessive about his methods of keeping the rest of them, and gives direct instruction in his shop. Well, I'm a firearms instructor, and this blog is my "shop," so I suppose I'd best give direct instruction. I have found that personal experience stories are instructive, which is why I told you about this one, today.

What do we learn?

1. Practice all of the Four Rules. If one slips, the others should keep a tragedy from occurring.

2. When you are handed a firearm, or pick one up, check its status, and see what you are looking at. Don't just go through the motions. Better yet, be redundant in your check: RACK the slide back, or push the ejector rod through the cylinder three times. You might not get an ejection, but you're not going to miss seeing it three times in a row.

3. Avoid fiddle-farting with guns among others, except with a designated backstop that you all face, and only handle them at the firing line.

This last one sounds harsh, I know.

There are harsher things to hear, though.

* The name will be anonymous, and don't assume anything by the masculine pronoun; I flipped a coin before deciding which gender to portray my friend as.

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At Monday, March 08, 2010 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. said...

Good on ya Matt!

It's tough to admit that it's happened, heck it's happened to me too. But we do learn from our mistakes and hopefully share our hard earned knowledge with others so that we can try to prevent them from doing the same. At least we can hope so.....

At Monday, March 08, 2010 8:12:00 PM, Blogger Comrade E.B. Misfit said...

BT, DT, but with the loud ringing. Only injury was to my pride.

And that is all.

At Monday, March 08, 2010 8:22:00 PM, Blogger Sean said...

When I came to this job from the prior experiences the range instructor at the time taught us a rule I have kept to this day - you both look AND physically check with your booger-catcher the chamber when you do this. That way you have a back up for that "well I didn't expect to see anything" moment, plus you build that redundancy if you're in a low-light issue.

Just a thought, and well-said sir.

At Monday, March 08, 2010 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Chip said...

My first firearm instructor instilled that point to me the first day of class. He asked for a volunteer so I stood up ( stupid me)
He handed me a rifle and as I took it he pulled the trigger and the blank he left in it went off. He did it to demonstrate that ALL WEAPONS ARE LOADED. But because it was me it was a lesson a never forgot.

At Tuesday, March 09, 2010 7:42:00 AM, Blogger Hecate said...

And why we always hand any gun to another person with the action open.

At Tuesday, March 09, 2010 9:04:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Matt, BTDT, similar situation... Thankfully it WAS a the range. Not an excuse, but the light was not good, and I didn't rack the slide completely... I 'saw' what I wanted to see, not the reality... These days, well I at least double check, if not triple check... sigh...

At Tuesday, March 09, 2010 6:28:00 PM, Blogger Rabbit said...

I had a new Ford with a fist-sized hole through the passenger's side floorboard because my brother didn't think he had a round in his bird gun.

Tacking a piece of sheet metal to the underside wasn't as bothersome as trying to get the smell of urine out of that seat, though. At least he had a wide stance.


At Tuesday, March 09, 2010 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Tam said...

"3. Avoid fiddle-farting with guns among others, except with a designated backstop that you all face, and only handle them at the firing line."

If there were a fifth rule, this should be it.

At Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5:38:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Well, I'm basically paraphrasing you from our last conversation, Tam.

At Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5:48:00 PM, Blogger John B said...

I've Had 3 ND incidents in my lifetime. By incident I mean where gun go bang. I've probably had a couple dozen times where I've found a round in the chamber. After the second -or third- check.

At Thursday, March 11, 2010 5:48:00 PM, Blogger Justthisguy said...

Oh, and never be afraid to say, "I'm not familiar with this weapon. Would you show me how to make it safe?"

At Thursday, March 11, 2010 5:52:00 PM, Blogger Carteach0 said...

Long ago, in a former lifetime, I did some minor gun tuning for folks.

One customer invited me to a get together he was having, and wanted his friends to meet me. At the party, one of his buddies was asking what I could do about smoothing the trigger on his Smith 645.

'Buddy' fetched his pistol, pulled the magazine in front of me, and short cycled the slide where I could see it. He handed it to me and said 'try the trigger and see what you think. It was pointed at somebodies gut when he said that.

I worked the slide myself, with the muzzle pointed at the floor. A hot round fell to the floor. I stripped off the slide, laid the big pieces on the counter, and left without saying a word.

I never spoke to any of them again, and I have never... ever... forgotten how close that was.

At Thursday, March 11, 2010 9:43:00 PM, Anonymous Seth from Massachusetts said...

I have been handling guns for over 40 years. In that time I have witnessed several "neglent discharges" as we call them. None, however, caused any injury or damage because in each case the safe direction rule was being carefully obeyed.

At Thursday, March 11, 2010 10:21:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

FWIW: The person* who had handed me his pistol wrote a comment here, owning his actions. I declined to let it post, because this isn't about a single person, and I'll not let a person's perceived personality be associated with this. I want you, gentle reader, to feel for a second what I felt, which was that it wasn't he who had screwed up, but me. For a second, I had assumed.

We ALL own our own actions.
*I'll continue here to use the male pronoun.

At Monday, March 15, 2010 12:00:00 PM, Anonymous Boat Guy said...

One of the many things I learned from Clint Smith is something to the effect that "The Four Rules are for always", not just the range, the shop etc.
I had my ND when I was much younger; only Rule Two prevented it from being worse than it could have been

At Thursday, March 18, 2010 8:31:00 PM, Anonymous ka9vsz said...

I never heard of the four rules until discovering this blog. When I was about 18: I finished plinking at a paper plate target with a .22 tube-feed rifle. Worked the bolt a couple of times. Yep, empty. Walked home. Just before hanging the gun on the wall, worked the action once more just to be obsessive, er, safe. Imagine my surprise when an unfired shell hit the floor. It had hung up in the tube. If I ever own a weapon, it'll be after some proper training. Thanks for your blog. Keep it up.

At Sunday, April 04, 2010 12:50:00 AM, Blogger Will said...

A bunch of us were watching a movie with the lead actor trying out a .454/ scope on body armor. I went to my bedroom and grabbed my Redhawk/scope, swung the cylinder open and dumped the ammo on my bed. Went back and handed it to a roommate who proceeded to sight-in on the new big-screen tv. He then passed it to the next guy, who did the same, until it had gone around the group. I returned to my room, and turned on the lights to find that sixth round that wasn't on the bed. Hmm, well, lets load up the five in my hand to start with. Holy !**!, it's still in the cylinder!
Gravity not as positive an unloader as the extractor designed for it. Sticky chamber.
No one pulled the trigger, but no one checked the cylinder, either. Probably the least expensive, yet very important, lesson I've learned.

At Monday, April 05, 2010 2:44:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Will, that's a decent enough example of my third lesson:
"3. Avoid fiddle-farting with guns among others, except with a designated backstop that you all face, and only handle them at the firing line."


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