Safety and Training

Gun Safety Violations — The Ramblings of an ‘Experienced’ Gunwriter

Holding a lever-action rifle with the finger outside of the trigger guard

There is always sadness following a firearms accident, but that does not lessen the damage that was done. I am fed up and disgusted with the breadth of the accidents I have seen reported in the news during the past few months that could have been avoided with a little gun safety. Several children have died. A grandmother dropped a pistol from her purse. It fired and struck a toddler in the head. In a different incident, a child found his father’s gun and shot his sibling.

Another person was visiting a home and left his loaded gun on the couch with predictable results. A fellow who was aware of his wife’s severe mental problems — she had been in a psych ward for weeks — did not change the combination to the gun safe. The wife murdered her children.

Bob Campbell drawing a handgun from a holster while performing a shooting drill at an outdoor range
No matter what drill you are executing, keep your finger off the trigger as you draw!

Let me say it, for God’s sake, some people just don’t need guns! I am all for freedom and carrying handguns for protection, but there is responsibility and due diligence to be considered as well. Negligent homicide is what I call these incidents. I believe the persons involved should pay the price with legal charges.

After years of education, folks still have firearms accidents and morons still leave their children in running vehicles on a hot day, with predictable results. I am not certain a gun safety class would help them. They would probably sleep through it. I have lost count of the folks that cried and became angry when they failed my basic handgun course. Paying the fee isn’t a rubber stamp!

Sure, they were a small percentage — about three to four percent, but that is alarming. Let’s look hard at gun safety and think about why it happens to the ‘best of us.’ Professional gun handlers, like professional drivers, have problems and occasionally get careless. The problems must be addressed.

Safety Stories

There are basic gun safety rules when handling firearms. Like many of with significant experience, I have stories to tell of those who mishandled a firearm. The results are sometimes embarrassing and often something is damaged — hopefully only property. But truly tragic events have occurred from poor gun handling.

I handle a lot of firearms, ammunition, and tools. I approach each with healthy respect. Some godawful incidents have occurred among some of the smartest people. As an example, one of the finest craftsmen I have known was making a knife on a grinder, as he had done hundreds of times.

He was moving gently and perhaps not holding the knife quite as rigidly as he could have. The knife was grabbed by the sander — perhaps the sander hit a rough spot — and it thrust upward. The knife was taken from his grasp, flew into the air, and came down point first. The blade took a run into his back, sticking. He trudged to his house (like many of us the workshop was behind his home), and had his wife pull the sticker out and render first aid.

man wearing his hat backward aiming an AR-10 rifle with his finger outside of the trigger guard
The finger must be off the trigger until you fire!

With sufficient gauze taped to the wound, they rushed to the hospital. I cannot recall how many stitches were needed, but luckily, it was minimal. And his wife was asked a number of embarrassing questions by hospital security — the poor woman. This could have been much worse. While an extreme example to graphically make a point, injuries to the eyes and extremities are more common, and just as preventable.

Another example was a conscientious gunsmith who was working on a SIG P226 handgun. Somehow it escaped from his grasp. While he was certain the handgun wasn’t loaded, he did not wish an expensive handgun to land on the concrete floor of the shop area.

He caught the handgun on his foot. His foot was badly bruised through his tennis shoes. Perhaps, we should all wear steel-toed shoes for this reason. I know another ‘smith that slipped and let a rifle butt hit his big toe. He ended up losing the nail and it was pretty painful.

If something is falling, let it. Don’t try to grab the object, particularly when sharp edges are involved. The potential of an injury is likely, if not guaranteed. I understand that most grab out of instinct or habit, not a conscious decision, but the results are just as bad.

Man opening the bolt on a rifle
The Canada Rangers got it right, and this Ranger is clearing his issue Sako rifle. (Courtesy Canada Rangers.)

Children and Firearms

Once the basics are handled, we must consider children as well. Small children have no business around guns. My boys grew up with firearms in the house, and so did my daughter. They all learned common-sense gun safety very early.

Guns should be locked away at all times. While I have been guilty of leaving disassembled guns lying about the worktable, I try to do one project at a time. If I am waiting for parts, I lock the gun in the safe. This is especially important if children are in the home, and you work from home.

Ammunition should never be in the work area near a firearm. If I walk out of the house or go to lunch, the safe is locked. The loaded sidearms travel with me. I have taught the children — now 26–40 — to never to touch a gun or gun part.

As an aside, I once had a particularly rough Hi-Power clone I was working with. I could not convince the trigger to jump back into the gun. I left it on the living room coffee table and went for a walk. My son returned home from high school. He spotted the Hi-Power clone in pieces and put the gun back together for me.

While this was pretty cool, it was poor gun safety on my part. I should have locked the gun away even though it was in pieces. Matthew was a young man, not a child. Teaching children not to touch gun parts has a practical aspect besides the safety aspect.

We do not need to lose parts. We can misplace enough parts without anyone’s help. Children are not mature enough to exercise good judgment. We may not realize that children pick up on our safety and what we do. As an example, when my daughter was very young, she knew guns were in the house. I thought I was very safety conscious.

One day I was developing film, back in the days of 35mm, and I found a perfectly framed and backlighted shot of her water pistol. My four-year-old had copied my work. I did not know she had borrowed a very expensive camera. While not as dangerous as a firearm, it taught me a lesson. Children are very observant. If you think you have hidden it, it may not be. Hiding isn’t the same as secured.

Holding a lever-action rifle at port arms with the finger outside of the trigger guard
Testing shows that once you have decided to fire, it takes no more time to move the finger to the trigger guard than beginning with your finger on the trigger. Keep your trigger finger out of the guard!

Tip: I went through the Blue Book with my daughter when she became old enough to handle a firearm at the range. I pointed out that the value of a firearm went down with wear, scratches, or a damaged stock. Don’t drop the gun be careful. It is as valuable as mom’s jewelry — she gasped when she heard that. Sometimes you have to tailor the messaging to the audience.

Gun Safety

When working with a gun, no matter what we did the previous day, it is time to check the firearm again. All guns are always loaded — that is the primary rule. Another rule is never to cover anything with the muzzle you do not wish to see destroyed.

Always clear the firearm and check for ammunition in the magazine, cylinder, and/or chamber. I think we all may be aware of the stuck cartridge in lever-action tube magazines and rimfire feed devices. A rimmed cartridge and a tubular magazine are not always a good combination.

A word on danger. Friends working security at gun shows tell me that they have never worked a show without at least one loaded gun coming into the booth to be checked and tagged. At most shows, it is several. Friends and people working the gun store all have similar stories. People often bring in loaded guns to trade or pawn.

loading a revolver with a speed loader
Keep the hand well clear of the muzzle when loading and unloading. This is more difficult with short barrel firearms.

Know how to clear every type of firearm — it is essential for gun safety. One shop I visited as a youth had a special clearing station at the far end of the shop just for this purpose. The firearm was pointed in a safe direction as the owner checked the unloaded the firearm.

My grandfather pointed out a bullet hole (pockmark) in the concrete wall of his country store from someone who thought they unloaded one of those ‘damn automatics.’ This made an even bigger impression on me as a child. A friend who runs a gun shop had a fellow fire a shot into the ground of his parking lot while unloading a firearm. It happens, but it shouldn’t.

An unfortunate incident was related to me. An individual of great experience was firing a lever-action rifle. The hammer fell and the rifle did not fire. He worked the lever forcefully. As the bolt ran forward, the rifle exploded! The first cartridge was not caught by the extractor. While chambered, it was protected from the firing pin. The shooter did not check the chamber and as he levered the second round. The point of the next bullet caught the cartridge already in the chamber causing the cartridge to discharge.

Lever-action rifle malfunctions are very rare. However, that was a big one. The shooter caught a storm of metal shards, Fortunately, there was no permanent damage.

Handguns with Project ChildSafe cable locks
Kids are more perceptive than many people realize. New guns are sold with a safety lock. Otherwise, you can order a lock for free at https://projectchildsafe.org/safety/get-a-safety-kit/.

Another fellow tragically lost the tip of his finger in an accident that occurred in a similar fashion. He was attempting to repair an older handgun that really should have been scrapped. It was junk. The first round failed to fire. He jacked the slide and pressed the trigger. The handgun exploded and took off a fingertip.

The fellow — an experienced shooter — had been firing .380 ACP in the 9×18 handgun. He had gotten by with it — until then. The smaller round was in the chamber but not under the extractor for the first shot or attempted first shot.

It remained in the chamber as the second cartridge, which caught under the extractor, was fed into the chamber. The .380 ACP round was forced forward. Many old handguns will fire out of battery as well. This was a painful, and somewhat expensive, lesson.

In case you were not aware, it is common to see idiotic information on the internet. As an example, there’s all types of advice as to firing a different caliber in a 7.5 Swiss, and more. One fellow discovered a 9mm Luger would fit in the chamber of his 9×18 but not feed through the magazine, so he carries a 9mm Luger round in the chamber. I would hate to gauge the pressure as the longer case struggles to open in that short chamber. You sir are a tragedy waiting to happen.

Inserting a cartridge through the loading gate on a revolver
Whichever type of firearm you use be certain you know how to load and unload the firearm safely.

Common problems are ammunition-related. This may be a revolver with a squib load that has a stuck bullet in the forcing cone. The cylinder will not rotate and cannot be opened. Then there are rifles that have suffered a swollen case and the bolt will not open. Never assume the cartridge in the chamber isn’t a live round — even when you can see a dented primer!

These handguns and long guns should be handled carefully. As an example, one customer described a single-action semi-automatic pistol that had failed to chamber fully. The cartridge case was stuck in the chamber, and the slide would not close. (It was an off-spec handload.)

The hammer was cocked. I informed him that he traveled at his own risk with this firearm. If it was to be brought to the shop it should be locked in the trunk of the vehicle in a proper case that did not allow movement of the gun. When he arrived at the shop, I agreed to meet him at the vehicle and remove the firearm myself. That way, I could carefully take it to the work area. I have a fixture that handles such things.

While a dowel must often be placed in the barrel to exert pressure to the rear, I do so at an angle. That way, if the cartridge ignited, it would send the bullet toward a backstop. It has not happened, as I spray penetrating oil and WD 40 liberally in the chamber to kill the primer and powder, but it could happen.

revolver with the hammer cocked to show the transfer bar
The Ruger single-action revolver features a transfer bar ignition and will not fire if dropped with a live cartridge beneath the firing pin.

The point is the firearm must be taken safely to the shop. I am experienced and was well paid for firearm repair at one time. Today, I no longer have the patience and there seems to be no end to fools with guns. A decade ago, a fool a week was average. I cannot take more than that. Understand, I do not say this as an indictment on the gun community, but merely to show that what many call ‘accidents’ are most often negligence that could have, and should have, been avoided.

Some folks manage to get hurt working on guns. Choose the right tool for the job. You might believe you’ll save time using the same tool for different tasks, but you could increase your chances of injury. It is common for a screwdriver to slip. You may mar a finish or gouge yourself. Scratches, gouges, and damage to the firearm aren’t as serious as getting shot, sure, but they may be avoided.

The rules of geometry tend to support the theory that anything that flies from the firearm will strike the eyes. Fluids, solvents, and oils are spilled or squirted out in many operations, and we tend to rack the slide or bolt at eye level — at least I do.

There is no shortage of Instagram reels and TikTok videos of idiots firing guns without safety glasses and without hearing protection. You occasionally see this in gun magazines. Not long ago I saw a fellow demonstrating self-defense tactics while pointing a real gun at a woman! Absolutely no mistake! I am certain it was a firearm and his carry gun.

Locking a handgun slide to the rear while holding the magazine
Take care in loading and unloading, the hand should be away from the ejection port.

I use fake guns, rubber guns, or plastic guns in training. They don’t cost much. A plastic Glock from the flea market is fine. I also use fake knives. I have a railroad track of stitches and knife scars and while most were inflicted by someone else there are some I managed to inflict.

My single gunshot scar was inflicted by someone else. Most who assault peace officers have poor aim but not all. I hope to keep the score down to the present level. That reminds me, always keep a first aid kit on hand.

A common and avoidable problem is discharging the firearm as you holster or draw. Keeping the finger off the trigger is simple enough. The stress of competition is real but nothing compared to a gunfight.

When you draw, keep the finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire — not when you think you are ready to fire. When holstering, be certain the holster’s mouth is open. A quality holster should not collapse after the handgun is drawn.

Hunter with the rifle muzzle pointed at the ground while walking
Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction goes a long way in gun safety.

When holstering a service pistol, the trigger sometimes contacts a safety strap, and the pistol fires. More common is having the finger on the trigger as you holster. The trigger finger contacts the holster and is forced to the rear, firing the pistol. A leg shot is the usual result. If you carry appendix style the situation is even worse.

When you unload the pistol, do not follow the old school habit of unloading a pistol. The old school was to drop the magazine and place it in the lower fingers of the hand. The weak side hand racks the slide and the cartridge, formerly in the chamber, falls into the hand. While a neat and easy routine, I gave this up many years ago.

Several gun safety incidents occurred with a cartridge primer jamming into the ejector and the pistol fired. (An extended ejector is not a heaven-sent gift.) I slingshot the pistol. When the cartridge is ejected it may hit the floor. As a result, I try to unload the pistol over a shooting bench or table.

When I began writing, gun writers were actually vetted. Now, many are on the internet who have never broken an egg for real and have no qualifications. Some have just been to a lot of schools, others dub themselves ‘influencers’ and are looking for free stuff.

Loaded revolver with the cylinder open
The author doesn’t recommend using spent cartridges during dry fire. It is far better to use snap caps.

The point is, we have a world full of inept folks promoting dangerous practices and questioning the work of experienced authors with a long history in law enforcement, training, teaching, etc. This would not have washed years ago and does not wash as of this post.

Why do experienced shooters make mistakes?

Perhaps we forget. Our brains tend to delete older memories and information. We archive useful information every day, but we sometimes get sensory overload.

There is a lot of irrelevant information. A lot of the information we learn is voluntary, we strive to learn, and much is involuntary or muscle memory. All this is to say, we need to always practice safe gun handling. All guns are always loaded. Get this built into your muscle memory, and never forget.

HUnter wearing blaze orange shooting a McMillan rifle from a prone position through sage brush.
When hunting or shooting, it is important to select the correct ammunition for the firearm to avoid damage to your firearm and possible injury to yourself.

Poor skills and poor preparation are the major causes of gun accidents. True mechanical failure is a one-in-a-million chance. I am not chastising the reader without reason. Nor am I setting myself above the victim and saying, “Well, Joe was stupid.”

I refuse to believe in the stupidity of trained and experienced people who make mistakes. Psychology certainly plays a factor in avoidable accidents. A split second is all that is involved. Perhaps we all need is to simply slow down and think about what we are doing before we do it.

Do you have a story from personal experience or observation of a gun safety violation? Share it in the comment section, so we can all be safer.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (37)

  1. @Vincent, when you talk about hot brass, I am reminded that during my Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) back in 1971, when we were getting ready to go to the range to begin training with the M16A1, the Drill Sergeants took a poll to determine who was left handed with left eye dominance. There were several guys who were left handed but right eye dominant so they were instructed to shoot as if they were right handed. On the other left handed guys and the right handed but left eye dominant, they were told to button up the top button of their fatigue blouse (that is what the fatigue shirt was called back then) in order not to have hot brass ejected directly down the neck of their fatigues. I was right handed and right eye dominant so it did not apply to me.

    As background for the incident I am relating, our BCT began in late July and went through the first of October. We were informed that there were record setting high temps and several companies experienced several trainees having heat stroke and severe heat exhaustion. We had several guys who, probably because of the heat or they just forgot, anyway, they DID NOT button up the top button. Sure enough, they had hot brass going down their fatigue blouse, and more than one, began firing indiscriminately as they tried to get the brass out without setting their weapon down. One of the Drill Sergeants ended one firing spree when he kicked the trainee in the steel pot, the trainee was knocked to the side of the concrete foxhole he was in and busted his face on the concrete, but he dropped the weapon. He was only down a couple, three foxholes from me on my right.

    As he was shooting to his left, he was shooting in my general direction; that was the very first time I heard a bullet pass by my head. I did not initially know what it was, and I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I was not a butter spreader so I did not have to be told to duck down into the foxhole immediately after the first round went close by me. One of the other Drill Sergeants saw me drop down and was afraid I had been hit. I was just a bit shaken. Unfortunately, that was the first of too many I heard/felt during my time in the Army. I still have a sphincter response just thinking about it, 50 years later.

    The guy began to threaten to sue the sergeant until he was told that he could be court martialed for failing to obey an order (to button his blouse) and for endangering the lives of everyone on the firing line. He was placed on KP duty and gone from our unit by the end of the week, never to be seen by any of us again.

    You say you are a chef. If you are also a deer hunter, I highly recommend a cut of meat that very few, if any processors will address, the flat irons. That is but one reason that I process my own deer, I get the cuts I want, not what they decide to do. Unfortunately, deer only have two front shoulders and that limits the availability of this cut of meat. For my money, I would rather eat the flat irons over backstrap any day and I do like backstrap. Salt, pepper, maybe a touch of garlic powder and cooked to rare/medium rare, heaven on a plate. If you have never tried it, you should. Anyone who hunts deer should. You will not be disappointed.

  2. John A- if it makes you feel better the single most experienced and valued mentor of my life also shot his dog. His wife worked with a vet= but it was still expensive even in the 1980s. The dog had become used to gun fire and ran between a target and the man’s .22 rifle.

    Rockit

    That is a Pedersoli Boar Buster. Watch for a feature on it at the Shooters Log soon.

  3. Lee Weber === The fellow with the .38 is a fool on and moron who should have been jailed. He pointed a loaded gun PLAY! at a person he did not intend to shoot. Loaded or unloaded the rules are the same. The person shot also has some part in this debacle.
    William = the incident you described is mechanically impossible unless the grip safety was deactivated. Even then- after one shot the 1911 would have jammed without sufficient base to recoil against.
    Las Vegas Bret The finger is off the trigger until you fire. Not when you think you will fire but when you are firing.
    John A As for the Bauer .25 messing with junk guns pays off poor dividends.
    Thanks for reading and your comments
    Bob Campbell

  4. Re comments by LasVegasBret:
    Just for clarity, my remarks related specifically to the placement of the trigger finger in the context of Safe Gun Handling.
    In contrast, I understand your comments to be related to such placement at the point when a gun is being deployed in a tactical setting.
    I do stand by my remarks re the advisability of training to place the trigger finger ON THE FRAME as the default position, to avoid accidental discharge.
    Those individuals lacking any training in gun handling likely view the space within the trigger guard as a sort of “finger hole”, so that when picking up a gun, they believe their index finger should be placed within the trigger guard, as an acceptable way to pick it up. I believe that initially gripping the gun in this manner can result in unintended discharge.
    Experienced individuals know to keep their finger OFF THE TRIGGER, and OUTSIDE of that space, when initially grasping the gun.
    So I think we are largely in agreement here, just describing different aspects of gun handling: general safety vs. tactical deployment.

  5. A friend had an old .22 saddle gun that he had not utilized in quite a while. I offered to clean it up for him in trade for letting me fire it a few times. He accepted the offer so I took the rifle home. About a week later I was in the dining room and going through the motions of cleaning the rifle. Some of the cartridges I took out of the tube were actually green. I lubed up everything I could reach and since I was sure it was empty I went through some 5 or 6 dry fire routines.
    I do not know if I got a glimpse of brass or if it felt diferent but the last time I racked it seemed different. I immediately stopped the routine and retracted the bolt. I was stunned when a live round popped out onto the table. I was one motion away from putting a hole in my ceiling and potentially my water bed! That round had been there for the previous dry fires, but had been so gummed up it hadn’t fallen out of the tube with its companion rounds. Use extra caution when handling older or neglected weapons.
    Likewise, only use replacement parts that are cleared for firearms use.
    I worked for the DOD police in Michigan for awhile. We were training on shotguns and I was on the line with other Officers. The second time I fired that shotgun the stock and the barrel separated violently. We had a sling on our weapons at that time so the barrel went out and then right back to me. I was struck across both shins but had no other injuries.
    Turns out the armored had used off the shelf hardware bolts when the correct parts were not available. With a few rounds through the weapon the bolt had sheared and completely failed.
    My fault, being a new Officer I failed to check the weapon properly, assuming that the Armorer new what he was doing. Never assume.

  6. Awesome looking lever action. What is it? Unsolicited advice on small pistols: NEVER shoot a gun that is shorter than your finger. I recently purchased one of the Blackhawk Close Quarter Tactical holsters for a Glock. The one where you have to push the button with your trigger finger, which also has to be straight to push it, and then when continuing to pull the gun from the holster it keeps the straightened finger on the pistol frame, just above the trigger. It is a great reminder for trigger finger control, as if the gun is pulled first, by your or someone else, then you cannot even push the button, and the gun stays put in the holster until you abide by the safe procedure.

  7. “The finger must be off the trigger until you fire! ” (caption of picture of man pointed in and on target)

    Negative.

    Your finger is OFF the trigger while you are OFF the target.

    Your finger is ON the trigger while you are ON target (i.e. pointed in), and trigger slack out, ready to shoot.

    Do NOT instill the bad habit of being pointed in on target with finger off the trigger. Your quality of shot accuracy and performance will suffer. Dramatically. And it could actually endanger the lives of others (innocents) due to completely missing your primary target.

    In short: off target, off trigger; on target, on trigger.

  8. The best guiding principle for preventing accidents I believe is one word: “STOP!” Take a moment. Review the situation. Check to see if you overlooked anything.
    We’ve all likely experienced that moment where, when you’re about to drive off from the gas station after filing up, you might have neglected to remove the hose from the tank. One additional moment to stop and review the situation can make a huge difference.
    I’ve enjoyed the cable TV show “Air Disasters” where actual airplane tragedies are re-enacted. Half the program is devoted to the in-depth analysis of WHAT CAUSED that event. In many cases, sadly, the root cause is “human error” and even outright negligence.
    We can all learn from the actions and precautions adopted by pilots and the aircraft industry in preventing tragic events.

  9. Colonel K, re your comments, I too retired my S&W Bodyguard from service, in favor of the much safer Centennial. I concur that the exposed hammer nub on a 2” revolver was a “solution to a nonexistent problem”, paraphrasing ( the other Colonel ) Jeff Cooper.

  10. RJ, that is scary. I’ve owned a couple of Bodyguards but never liked the hump, nor saw the need to thumb cock a DA revolver in a gunfight. I replaced them with a Centennial and and its Taurus clone.

  11. I can’t count the number of just plain dumb mistakes I’ve seen with firearms. There several very nice, well intended folks who wondered why I would no longer hunt or shoot with them. And, if asked I would as gently and patiently as possible tell them exactly why.
    And, yes, I’ve caught myself doing something I should not have. Hot brass down the back of your shirt will make you jump around and not think about what you are pointing the muzzle of your pistol at. Luckily, I was at a small rural public range with no one else there. And no real damage other than some minor burn marks on the back of my neck.
    As a chef, I have had my share of minor cuts with my knives. Worst gave me 6 stitches across a finger tip. Jumped in to help the dishwasher and found some one put a sharp knife in the sink and I found the blade end.

  12. About or 4 years ago, I did something incredibly foolish that resulted in a negligent discharge that struck my poor dog. Thank God that, three days and three thousand dollars later, my dog was up, running around, and more or less recovered with no lasting disabilities, and continued to live to an old age when we had to finally put him down.

    I have had a .25 ACP Bauer pistol since the 70s. This is a stainless copy of the Browning Baby. It is ALMOST a part-for-part copy. Since day one, this pistol was a Jam-O-Matic. I could never get through a 6 round magazine without it jamming. I’d had a gunsmith polish the throat, tried different magazines, all kinds of different ammo, and nothing helped. I was trying to clear a jam without paying attention to where my dog was, and it went off. I rushed him to the emergency pet hospital, and they fixed him up. They kept him for a couple of days to watch him, but he was soon running and playing.

    I’ve never forgiven myself for this and never will. I did, however, finally diagnose and fix the problem. Buried deep in the internet I found a post from someone who had a similar problem. The striker wouldn’t catch on the sear, so the firing pin would protrude as the slide moved forward, trapping the cartridge in an awkward position as the cartridge was being stripped from the magazine. I took it to the range and with my cell phone camera (no way I was looking down the barrel of a jammed pistol) confirmed that this was what was happening in my pistol. I then noticed that the striker/firing pin on my Bauer was NOT machined the same as on the Browning Baby; its design made it prone to this failure mode, skipping over the sear rather than catching on it. I replaced this with a Browning part… and trouble went away.

    It kills me that one moment of carelessness erased decades of accident-free firearm handling. I am sure that the Good Lord directed the path of that errant projectile through my poor dog in such a fashion as to completely avoid bone, blood vessel, and nerves, and not leave my dog dead or permanently injured.

  13. Old habits of safety. My neighbor and i had been shooting multiple 1911’s. At end of day before leaving l was cycling and dry firing several guns, had one we had put a loaded mag in. Reflex memory, pulled slide, fired/dry into plywood at my feet over concrete driveway. Didn’t hear the loud blast, but thank God it was an extrme bullet. Fragmented in below concrete and could not come up through plywood. Don’t take common habits for granted, danger in repetition makes me, (us) victims.

  14. I have a friend who experienced the worst kind of gun handling accident. He and his sone were looking at the son’s new 38 revolver. It was unloaded and they were in the living room with their families. My friend left the room to go to the bathroom. While he was gone, his son loaded the revolver and put it on the fireplace mantel thinking they were through. When my friend returned he picked up the gun and planning to continue the play, shot his son in the belly. The bullet lodged in his spine and remains there to this day. The son was critically wounded, but survived. Both were devastated by this senseless accident. I learned and reconfirmed my training that guns are ALWAYS loaded and NEVER point a gun at something you don’t want to destroy. I think of that accident every time I handle firearms realizing stuff like this can and does happen when disregarding those simple rules!

  15. Several years ago I heard about a man who carried a 1911 cocked and locked in an own holster. He was in a public restroom and went into a cubicle. Before getting on the stool he removed the gun and tried to hang it on the coat hook. The safety had been accidentally been bumped off. The trigger was bumped against the hanger and the gun fired. As the gun bounced around the coat hook it kept firing until the magazine was empty. The only injury was to the cubicle, the ceiling and his ego.

  16. Great article. Thanks for the safety reminders and scenarios I had not thought about.

    I was reminded about my Remington Model 700 .270 caliber hunting rifle and how it inadvertently fired.I had removed the clip, but had to take it off safety to open the bolt. Due to a manufacturing defect, which Remington denied for years, it fired when the safety was moved. I was practicing safe handling, gun pointed toward the ground and fingers away from the trigger, so no harm was done. I was very upset and skipped the rest of the weekend hunt thinking I had done something wrong. I checked with several gunsmiths and no one was aware of any issue with that model. I never loaded it again and traded it in the next week. About six months later Remington had a recall.

    One never knows what dangers lie ahead and you must be diligent at all times.

  17. Outstanding article. I have scars on my left index finger because I didn’t do what I knew to be the proper procedure. Take special care with the NAA mini revolvers.

  18. “Perhaps we forget. Our brains tend to delete older memories and information”

    Well, my memory generally sux, But the one time I had a AD, or ND, is well etched in my brain. Was out hunting and trail carrying my shotgun, without the safety on, and a branch found my trigger! Scared the crap outta me, and thank God I was alone and not following someone. Gun also flew about 6 feet behind me, thankfully it was a pump so no chance of a second shot firing!
    Taught me to always have the safety on!

  19. Great anecdotal stories and wonderful advice from an obvious professional. Unfortunately no class, YouTube video or training can teach common sense. I especially related to your disassembled gun story (but for a very different reason) as I knew of a family member who left his .38 out on his bench for cleaning, failing to place it in his safe prior to having a Cable TV repair person come to his home to conduct some “trouble shooting” on their cable. When the tech left the .38 was gone. Just one of many reasons to practice consistent safety 100% of the time a weapon is being handled. Thanks for driving that message home.

  20. Many years ago, safe gun handling technique once saved me from a fatal injury.
    First, the “stupid” part: for a quick visit to a local convenience store, I tucked an old S&W Bodyguard into the front pocket of my jeans. This model has a small nub on top of the hammer; the rest of the hammer rides in a channel in the frame ( allowing single action fire ).
    Upon returning home, I reached into my pocket – INDEX FINGER ALONG THE SIDE OF THE FRAME – and removed the pistol. To my horror, I discovered that the action of inserting it into my pocket had pulled the hammer all the way back!
    Only very slight pressure on the trigger, now in single action mode, would have been needed to discharge the gun.
    By being trained to KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER saved my life. Given the placement in my pocket, the round would have torn thru my right inner thigh, severing the femoral artery, and most likely would have resulted in my bleeding to death.
    SAFE GUN PRACTICES SAVE LIVES.

  21. I am surprised you javen’t bern called on your observations that “some people don’t need guns.” I will say some people shouldn’t have guns. Now, we have 23 states that require no training, no permits, nothing before carring a gun concealed in public, just about anywhere they please. Talk about a disaster… Like you, I am all for freedom and support the 2nd amendment, but allowing the unregulated carry of firearms is stupid, dangerous, and will result in dead innocents, including children. Another thing I don’t understand is all of the gun “experts” who convince people they don’t need a safety on their striker-fired gun. They act as if the miniscule amount of time it takes to engage or disengage a safety is likely to mean life or death. Please. Gun safety is one of the most important things my Dad every taught me.

  22. Bottom line… you can’t fix stupid. Some people are born to be examples to others of what not to do.

  23. Russ

    Just my two cents.

    If the gun is falling and you grab it= you may jerk the trigger. Depends if it is merely a fumble or a full fledged drop. The thing is all quality firearms have firing pin blocks and drop safety feature. But there are still a few junk guns that do not. So research your own firearm. Another concern= in long guns a major PD did a study some years ago. Mossberg, Remington, High Standard, Winchester pump action shotguns- about half of the time they all fired when dropped from six foot height! Dont drop the gun. If you do dont grab it! You may pull the trigger, you may turn the pistol toward yourself. The geometry of the drop is such that many pistols when dropped had to be dropped dead on the hammer to fire- and this is before drop safe handguns- and as a result the person who dropped the gun was shot just below the belt. I prefer drop safe firearms.

  24. Thanks for another informative & relevant article. Let’s suppose someone is shooting a gun at a range. He/she has received solid training, etc. In fact, this could even be an instructor. While handling a known, loaded weapon, the weapon slips out of the shooter’s hands, like the fellow with the Sig you mentioned. What is the best response: let the gun drop to the ground, and risk discharge, or try to catch the gun on the way down to avoid discharge? It’s a bad scenario, but certainly possible. It could be intensified in an indoor range. No one at our indoor range has said to let a loaded gun drop to the concrete floor.

  25. As my carpenter brother once put it, “It’s not the beginning woodworkers who lose fingers. It’s the experienced ones who get caught up in routine and stop paying attention.”

  26. Mr Campbell;

    Excellent article.

    You have the basis of a book sitting right in front of you. It wouldn’t have to be a terribly long book, but you could easily cover the basic and advanced concepts of safety, along with anecdotes and behavior-based analysis of what went wrong, and what was the root cause.

    You could easily end up with the bible of gun safety, and it would perhaps be not much more than 60 pages. The only suggestion I would make is to remove the emotion and make it a Joe Friday just-the-facts these-are-the-consequences. A few shocking photographs could drive your points home quite well.

    I am in industrial safety (OSHA, DOT, etc.) and hope I can greatly encourage you to take on this project.

    Thanks again for a great article!

  27. …now if we could prevent stupid people breeding,starting wit the politicians.To me,the FIRST rule is to keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction,followed by ALWAYS regarding a firearm as being loaded and chambered-unless proven otherwise

  28. Great article, Bob. It is always good to be reminded of those things. Back in the day, those kinds of unintended discharges were often referred to as “accidents” but now, fortunately, they are labeled as what they really are, negligent. Negligence kills people, and not just with guns.

    What you said about knives also bears repeating, in my time in ER, I saw too many people who suffered grievous injury caused by misuse, read negligent handling of a knife. Several could easily have lost their lives were it not for immediate access to emergency medical care. A friend of mine who is a chef has stated on more than one occasion in my hearing that falling knives have no handle. Do not try to catch it and move your feet out of the way. BTW, I have seen and treated people who dropped knives and found them sticking out of the tops of their feet, or even losing toes.

    Back to the discussion on negligent discharges, I believe there are two kinds of people in this the shooting world, those who have had negligent discharges and those who will have. Most of the time, those who have them learn a great deal from the experience, such as how did I screw up that badly? After much soul searching, they formulate a concerted plan to prevent it from ever happening again. They seek out where their process went wrong and actively practice techniques to retrain their mind and their muscle memory to NEVER do that again.

    Then there are those who will say “that will never happen to me.” I was in that category many, many years ago. I had a lack of attention that led to an ND. Fortunately, no one was injured or in any danger, but it was a life changing experience for me.

    As an ER nurse, I have known too many new nurses who stated they would never fall victim to med errors or getting a needlestick. In today’s world, it is more difficult for those things to happen, but there is this thing about the human psyche that tells us that we are different and we are not subject to the same failings as other mortals. The only nurses that I am aware of who never made med errors at any point in their career were nurses that seldom or never gave meds. It was another life changing experience when I made a med error and I learned from it. I never made that mistake again. I irritated some docs because I would repeat back the verbal order twice before I would write in on a scrap of paper and go do it. One doc got in my face over it and I told him that not doing that had led to me making a med error and I was not going to go through that again. Later, I heard him talking to another nurse and asking her to repeat the verbal order back to him. That made me smile. As far as needle sticks, if you hand needles for any length of time, you will get a stick. Most of them were as a result of unforeseen situations, but some were a direct result of someone else’s negligence or inattention to detail. I have tested positive for Hep C, probably as a result of one of many needle sticks. Very few of those were the result of anything I did wrong. The actions of others can affect you in negative ways as well as what you do affecting others.

    As far as gun use, back in, oh, ’76 or ’77, I was at a gun range for some practice. There was a guy already there who had a Colt Gold Cup, a spotting scope, and a big fancy special case to hold all his stuff. He would shoot one round and look downrange through his spotting scope to see where he hit. He was in the far right lane. I was setting up my stuff and was about to send my target downrange when I saw that he was a southpaw. That was not so much an issue as after his last shot, he was absentmindedly pointing his weapon to his left as he looked downrange. He was pointing it directly at me, completely unaware that he was doing it.

    Now, having been on the receiving end of incoming rounds several years prior to this, I was not happy with this situation. I moved out of the firing field and called out to him to watch his muzzle. He looked at me and redirected his weapon downrange. I told him he needed to keep his weapon pointed downrange. His response was something like to put my big boy pants on because his finger wasn’t on the trigger. I resisted the urge to grab large heavy blunt instrument and beat him about the head and shoulders with it.

    A short time later, he did it again. I just put my weapon down, went to the front desk, and told the owner of the range what this guy was doing. He immediately went to the gallery behind the lanes where people could watch the shooters doing competition. There was no one else on the firing line and when he saw the guy repeat the action of directing his weapon to the left behind the firing line, he turned the lights off in the shooting lanes, went to the door, told the guy, to get his stuff together and get out. He added, “don’t ever come back.” I don’t think the guy ever saw that his behavior was unsafe for anyone around him. Some people should not play with guns.

  29. There are so many potential ways to get hurt when handling firearms that I’m still learning about new ones. Your incident with the customer’s pistol slide jammed out-of-battery is very similar to a situation I had with a Taurus PT1911. There was a round in the chamber and the slide was wedge partway shut. l could neither open nor close it without resorting to brute force. I opted to remove the slide stop, which had to be pried out with several small screw drivers. In the process I marred the finish on the frame, but there was no accidental discharge. Better safe than sorry.

    The closest call I ever had was with an Army Special Forces Colonel. He was a highly experienced match shooter, but when he offered to show me one his old Hi Standard match pistols, he did not remove the magazine first. Instead, he locked the slide back and swung it around. As he did, the slide stop gave way, the slide slammed home, and the pistol fired without him pressing the trigger. A .22 bullet whizzed past me, and entered the wall behind me. He was profusely apologetic, but it all happened so fast that I had no time to react or even display any fear.

    Nobody is immune from the danger. Even the great Bill Jordan had to live with the memory of killing one of his friends with an “unloaded ” revolver. It serves as a constant reminder to me to practice safety at all times.

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