I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately, and that trend is stories about people being shot on the news, and the reporters saying some BS line about the firearm “just going off!”. Sorry folks, firearms don’t “just go off”. They go off, when someone pulls the trigger.
When Plaxico Burress shot himself, it was all over the news about how his [gasp] Glock [/gasp] went off in his pants. I’d be willing to bet that his Glock went off in his pants, because he was carrying it without a proper holster, and he pulled the trigger when adjusting it.
There was a recent news article about a shooting that occurred at a shooting range in Concord, NC, where supposedly, a pistol had a hang fire, and someone ended up shooting their friend in the leg. I’m sorry, last time I checked, when you pull the trigger, and nothing happens, protocol isn’t to point the pistol at your friend until something does happen. I just don’t get it.
Firearms require strict adherence to 4 very basic rules in order to use them safely.
1. Always treat a firearm as though it is loaded.
This is one that I see violated fairly frequently. Gun shows, gun stores, places where guns are for sale, I see salesmen, and buyers flagging each other with muzzles of “unloaded” pistols frequently. For the record, it is NEVER OK to point a firearm at me. I don’t care of Samuel Colt, and John Browning themselves determined that it is unloaded, don’t point it at me.
2. Finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
This is another one that I see often, mainly among new shooters, with an “unloaded” pistol. Unless your sights are on target, your finger shouldn’t be on the trigger.
3. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
This goes without saying. Don’t point your firearm at anything you don’t plan to shoot. This goes for those of us who do a lot of dry-fire practice at home as well. Ya’ll know who you are…
4. Be aware of your target, and what is beyond it.
There was a recent thread on a North Carolina shooting web forum, where someone asked how much dense forest was needed to reliably stop bullets. REALLY?! So now it is OK to blindly lob bullets into the woods, out of your line of sight, and just hope that a tree will catch the bullets before they travel out the other side? I understand that there is a lack of nice outdoors shooting ranges in North Carolina that are open to the public, but firing bullets blindly into the woods, hoping that a tree will stop them is not an option.
Don’t think for a second that I am writing this as Mr. Holier than thou, 100% safe all the time hoity-toity nose in the air, as I am not. I have had a negligent discharge of a firearm myself. It was a scary situation, and it made a permanent impact on my life, and how I handle firearms. I was 15 years old, going deer hunting with my dad on Thanksgiving Day in northern Michigan (Missaukee County). It was very cold this morning. We got to the hunting spot real early, hoping to drop a buck and head home before Thanksgiving dinner. We parked the jeep, and unpacked our gear. The sun wasn’t up yet, and it was just starting to become light outside. I retrieved my Winchester Model 94 from the case, and proceeded to shove a bunch of rounds into the tube like I had done many times before. I then racked the lever, placing a round into the chamber. I then placed my thumb on the hammer, and placed my finger on the trigger in order to drop the hammer into the half-cock position. When I pulled the trigger.. BOOM. The rifle fired, discharging a round into the ground about 15 feet in front of where I was standing.
The rifle fired, because I hadn’t taken my gloves off to drop the hammer, which allowed it to slip out of my control, discharging the rifle.
The rifle was pointed in a safe direction, and the round discharged into the ground where it did not harm anyone physically, although my pride was severely damaged. Had I not been pointing the rifle in a safe direction, I could have put a round through the brand new Jeep Cherokee that my dad was driving from the dealership, or worse, I could have harmed or killed my dad, or myself.
This is why I take safety so seriously, because I have made a BIG safety error, and I recognize that safety is the #1 priority when it comes to firearms.
So, with all that said, I have one more part to my rant. This rant is for Safety Officers, Range Officers, and Range Safety Officers at competitive shooting matches. If you a Range Officer and you do not have the testicular fortitude to disqualify someone for an egregious safety violation, you shouldn’t be running the timer. Period. In the last year, I have seen 3 people with dropped pistols that were not DQ’d. 2 of these pistols popped out of a holster while the shooter was shooting a rifle on a multi-gun stage, and the other was dropped ON PURPOSE by the shooter. All of the pistols were loaded, with a round in the chamber. None of these shooters were DQ’d, when clearly they were not in control of their firearm. Sorry, but if you are not able to control your gear, or you don’t have the right gear (specifically a good quality holster) you are not ready to compete. This is why I specifically recommended a good quality holster for new shooters in my “So you want to get into competitive shooting, but don’t know where to start Part 1”.
As much blame as I place on the shooter, I also place on the RO’s in these situations. The RO’s should have stopped the shooter, explained that they made a large safety violation, and told them that they are done shooting for the day. That’s all that has to be said. I don’t expect the RO to jump on the shooter, and ridicule them into never coming back and shooting again, however I do expect the RO to enforce the rules, and if someone has broken a safety rule that potentially could have put someone else in danger, they need to be stopped and corrected. I’ve heard the excuse that the RO does not want to come down too hard on the new shooter, and turn them off to the sport, and I think that is a weak excuse. If the shooter does not have the maturity recognize their mistake, and take the DQ, and come back another time, then they may lack the maturity to participate in the shooting sports all together. When these incidents happened, I took the decision of the RO as the final decision, and didn’t speak up to anyone about it, and I regret it. I’ve decided that not getting shot means more to me than being nice, so next time, if there is a next time, I will be discussing it further with the RO and Match Director.
I did not name the matches/ranges where these incidents took place at, as I don’t feel it necessary. All of the shooting ranges that I have mentioned in this post, or others, I feel comfortable shooting at, and I certainly would not promote a range, or match if I deemed it unsafe.
That’s all I have for tonight. Be safe folks, shooting is fun, but its also serious business.