Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Unexpected Bang: Negligent Discharge

If you ever had one, you know. If you haven’t had one, you’re due. There’s just about nothing that scares the you-know-what out of you like a negligent discharge.

Simply put, this is any “bang” you didn’t expect.

Such unexpected shots are rightly alarming, and for a host of reasons. The most obvious is their spectacularly, intrinsically unsafe nature: They generally signal errors and oversights, and perhaps technique flaws as well. They also tell you a lot about the shooter who has one in terms of character, or at least that’s our opinion. I’d be concerned by anyone not shocked and shaken when it happens to them. Serious assessment on several levels is the only appropriate response, to say nothing of apology and recompense if possible. At the very least, it ought to be the place where firearms snobbery and arrogance go to die. Think about this, and when you think, act. If you ever have one, make sure you put things in place so you’ll never experience it again!

I’d also suggest prayer, frankly, especially if yours was only embarrassing and expensive. They can be tragically worse, of course, though this is thankfully very rare despite mainstream media hysteria to the contrary (medical mistakes, automobile accidents, poisoning, falls, suffocation, drowning and incineration are all many times more common). All the same, most are preventable, and responsible gun ownership certainly means reducing them to as close to zero as possible, before the well-meaning-but-ignorant reduce them for you, by the taking away your Second Amendment rights.

First, know the rules, and understand how they “interlock” to make true gun safety a reality. I’ve made it a point in teaching that just one rule can do the heavy lifting for all safety concerns if it is applied with sufficient vigor: Never let the muzzle cover anything you aren’t willing to destroy.

Think about this and perhaps you’ll understand. If you never broke this rule, but had multiple NDs, it would only be expensive and embarrassing: It’s all but impossible to seriously injure yourself or anyone else as long as you don’t let that muzzle cover what you really value (I don’t have to actually say “people,” right?). But break this rule in combination with any of the others and things go rapidly, horribly wrong.

An especially dangerous way of thinking where I’ve see this happen, is when people limit the “muzzle cover” notion only to things they can see. Bullets will pierce many objects or travel surprising distances, and it’ll still be your fault if on the other side of whatever (wall, hill, car door, etc.) is something you didn’t want to destroy. Therefore, a loaded firearm gets pointed at a target only, to say nothing of putting your finger on the trigger, and-or firing.

Second is clearing a firearm. Most NDs occur with firearms people thought were empty. Notice how this one becomes trivial, expensive and embarrassing only, if you don’t violate number one above.

I’ve observed that clearing errors can have several sources. The most likely is not knowing how to properly clear a given firearm. This is compounded by the multiplicity of action types because different methods, in mechanical terms, apply. The fallback in all such cases is simple: Ask, or leave it the heck alone.

A myth-lie the anti-gun media loves to perpetuate is “It just went off!” But in all my years, I’ve never seen this happen, nor even been able to verify an incident I’ve heard about. There has always been an explanation, and a mistake has always been made. Got that? Always, and I figure I’ve been within earshot of something well north of 3 million rounds, and several dozen NDs.

This is one of the reasons we urge everyone to compete at some point in their shooting life: Nothing improves the quality and safety of overall gun handling like the repetition of competitive precautions and enforcements. Yet, even the most active of these maintain safety records that are simply unrivaled.
So “It just went off!” never happens!

Third, haste is the enemy. Let me clarify that: Certain things in shooting, both in sport and defensive situations, require speed, but they always have a connection to the target-only state we discussed above. Nothing else can or should be done in a hurry. Simply, give yourself time to think about safety in everything. Be deliberate in your head, not automatic with your hands. I shudder at my own recollected close calls and note that all were the fruit of utterly unnecessary haste.

Like what? Well, how about holstering? A surprising number of self-inflicted injuries stem from this, though modern holsters and competitive rules are driving this tally down. What in the world can be the rush to re-holster, yet you’ll see it frequently. Where this gets dangerous is if trigger discipline and muzzle control haven’t yet matured, and the finger doesn’t leave the trigger as the sights leave a legitimate target. It’s easy to envision how a gun-gear collision of undue force during this act can result in a bullet horrifyingly near your own femoral artery. Life-changing in any event.

A rotten “sister” exists in the draw. The desire to get going quickly is understandable, especially in defense situations and training for them. But remember that touching that trigger can only happen after the muzzle is clear of the holster, parallel to the ground, and on its way to a target. Whether your draw is from the waistband, purse, ankle or wherever, don’t be hunting for the interior of the trigger guard and face of the trigger until this happens. Breaking this one will not end well either, guaranteed.

I watched a ND recently when two students were practicing “punching out” with their guns. Luckily the gun was pointed in the right direction, toward the target, downrange. But the yelp of the student told me it was a ND. The range was hot so it wasn’t dangerous in that it was pointed correct and no one was downrange. The ND was unintentional even though it could have very well been an intentional shot. Like I said, the sound and the red face was a give-away. We stopped, cleared all weapons, re-briefed the rules, and let the violator teach the rest of us why rule 3 was important.

Safety is something that should be serious but can be taught with a little fun. Be serious when you have to (I tell “war stories” of tragedy) but it can be uniquely taught. “Bill why do we keep Rule number 3?” Because of Rule number 1. “Jennifer what is Rule number 4 and why do we keep it?” Because of rule number 1. Being exact is what I strive for. Keeping these rules with exactness (not only the finger out of the guard, but the finger on the frame instead of next to the guard) will keep ND’s from ruining your day. Muscle memory is important in shooting but “rule memory” is imperative. Rule memory is the ultimate goal of shooting. It’s something that will make everything else fall into place.

A reminder:
1. All guns are always loaded.
2. Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Negligent discharges are the shooters responsibility. Just as every bullet that leaves your gun. Bear that responsibility well. Like situational awareness, you must always be cognizant of your gun and its location, position, and status. ND’s make us all look bad. Gun owners, shooters, and hunters must all be better. We must meet the standard and the standard is high. Every time I see people playing around with guns on You Tube I want to slap these idiots. I love guns and love shooting and having fun with them. But there are limits and a way to do it safely.
Be careful out there. Be safe and enjoy your right.

Semper Paratus
Check 6