Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Negligent Discharges Are No Accident

We throw around a lot of acronyms in the gun world but one I want to focus on is an ND or negligent discharge. I am aware that accidents happen. But a gun going off when you don’t want it to is not just and accident. Even if you have an 1861 shooting iron and drop it loaded and the jolt sets it off is that an accident? It’s still negligent to drop a loaded gun. If a gun goes off, especially a modern firearm, it goes off because someone, or something, pulled or pressed the trigger. This breaks a few gun safety rules. These mistakes can be avoided because they can be tragic.

Why do negligent discharges happen?

The reason negligent discharges happen is almost always because someone or something pulled the trigger when it shouldn’t have been. They are easily preventable and here are some easy ways to keep from ever experiencing one.

Keeping guns in a safe place or in a holster.

If a person is going to carry on their person, it has to be in a holster. Even if it is a pocket gun. There are many in-pocket holsters out there. I’ve carried in my pocket for years. You must always use a holster and make sure the holster covers the trigger guard. When I place the gun in my pocket is the time I am most careful. One habit I have is sticking my hands in my pocket. Sometimes I will touch the back of the gun. I am trying to break that habit because it can turn into a dangerous practice. When I carry in the pocket I make sure it is the same pocket and that nothing else is in that pocket. I don’t need a coin or keys getting into the trigger guard.

A big source of unintentional discharges is off-body carry, especially an area of concern for people with small children. There have been a number of incidents that have made national headlines where a gun was stored in a purse, messenger bag or briefcase that was accessed by a child and fired. These could have been easily prevented by the persons carrying storing their guns properly.

Likewise, a number of tragic accidents have taken place because a loaded firearm was improperly stored, accessed by a child and then fired. A gun safe, even a cheap lockbox put out of a child’s reach, can easily prevent these incidents from occurring.

One of the best ways to ensure that nothing like that happens? If your gun isn’t in your hand, put it in a safe or in a holster on your person.

Guard that guard!

One of the most common sources of negligent or accidental discharges is something entering the trigger guard.

There is a story from ITS Tactical that’s made the rounds for the past few years is a good example. The man involved was wearing a leather belt loop holster (the Yaqui Slide variety) and went about his business as normal when his gun discharged, seemingly randomly. The reason was that the leather had worn to the point of developing a fold, which entered the trigger guard and caused the discharge. Luckily, he only had a superficial wound.

There is another story of a Police Chief in Fayetteville, Ind., where he shot himself in the leg re-holstering his pistol, according to the IndyStar. His fleece jacket had dropped down into the holster, and the trigger was pulled by the garment. Luckily, all he suffered was a minor wound. That and hospital nurses laughing at him.

What could have been done differently? They could have made sure that nothing came close to entered or otherwise interfered with the trigger guard. It’s really a matter of paying attention to detail and buying a decent holster.

Respecting your carry gun.

Some may say the example above are proof for not carrying with a round in the chamber and buying a gun with a safety and always using it. That is pure bunk. With a gun that has the precautions built in, and a little sense, you can carry safely. If you rely on a safety then you are foolish. If the safety is forgotten or somehow in the “fire” position then you can have the same problems. And it has been my experience that some safeties fail.

In this time of the polymer striker gun with no manual safety and heavier trigger pull the need to keep the trigger safe cannot be understated. This means Glock pistols, and all guns with a similar design (S&W M&P, Sig P320, Walther PPQ, Ruger SR series, etc.) that have no other safety features must likewise be respected.

That said, having a manual safety doesn’t mean a person is absolved of having to observe proper gun safety either. A person who safely handles firearms can do so with any make and model.

Firearm handling.

I love my guns. I love the feel of a good grip in my hand and the “caress of steel” or polymer as the case may be. I like to look at the beauty of design and function, but I must remember safety every time all the time. The other day I was changing around some ammo in my and my wife’s guns and magazines. I can remember pointing one of them in a safe direction and pressing the trigger. It was not loaded and I remember thinking to myself “There was not need to press that trigger.” There was no reason and had I missed a round or not cleared the weapon, it would have discharged as it was so beautifully designed to do. It did not “go off” because of my habits of gun safety that I have developed over years. I’m not patting myself on the back, I should not have pressed the trigger. All the safety rules were followed but I still need to pay better attention to what I’m doing and why.
If there is no reason to handle the gun, don’t. If there is no reason to handle the gun DO NOT. I repeated that because it bears remembering. I’m not saying you cannot pick up a weapon and admire it, but for the most part, if there is no reason, don’t! If you lay a gun down it will not spontaneously start shooting, but the minute someone picks it up the risk starts.

A reason why a number of concealed carriers have an accident discharge is because they were handling their pistol when they didn’t need to. The usual culprit is adjusting a pistol, and often enough due to discomfort from not carrying in a proper holster.

There are many incidents where someone is adjusting their gun and it discharges. Don’t let it happen. Be vigilant. Always be thinking about safety and the rules. “Am I breaking any safety rules?” needs to be always in our minds. The rules are:
1. All guns are always loaded. Act accordingly with them.
2. Never let the muzzle cover (point at) anything which you are not willing to destroy
3. Keep your finger OFF the trigger and out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot
4. Always know your target and beyond
When I teach shooting I always start with reading aloud the 4 safety rules. I then talk about each one and inform my students that they will be quizzed at any time during the course on these rules. I have them write the rules down (this helps to commit to memory.) I explain that rule 1 is the most important. The other 3 rules are in support of rule 1:
“Why do you keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot?” “Because of rule 1.”
“Why do you keep rule 2?” “Because of rule 1.”
Then randomly through the class I “quiz” students on the rules. I make sure that during that class they know, and follow, all 4 rules. Some instructors add rules to this. I do not. I want to keep it as simple as possible so they can actually remember and apply these rules. I have certain policies that I emphasize. Use the proper ammo. Maintain your guns. Never shoot and drink. Use eye and ear protection always. These are some of the policies I use and some can be linked to the safety rules. “Always keep your weapon pointed downrange because of what rule?...”
“Rule 1 and 4.”
To help them to understand the seriousness of the rules I give what I call the “3 Strikes plus.” I will give you 3 infractions of the rules, after the 3rd you’re out of the class. The plus is up to the range safety officer or instructor. If I deem your violation to be of such serious disregard or negligence, you may be asked to leave right away without discussion. Generally, rules 2 and 3 are the ones that are broken, which of course breaks rule 1. If I see someone breaking a rule with total disregard for their or their fellow students I will expel. I’m not a jerk about it, and I’m not crazy strict, but sometimes you see people who are adults, and I know they know better, being stupid and dangerous. In my time of instructing I’ve only ousted two people for not being safe. Only a few more have received 2 strikes, and many have received 1 strike. Of the 2 expelled, 1 thought they knew it all and the other just didn’t care. I was actually caught once breaking rule 3. In my defense I had been handed a gun unsafely and was trying to manipulate it to be safe.
If you are serious about carrying a gun do it legally. Get trained and live and breath the safety rules. You are responsible for every round that leaves your gun even if it is a negligent discharge. You owe it to yourself and everyone around you to not let ND’s happen.

Semper Paratus
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