Shooting yourself by accident

I’m not so sure about the empirical reality of the Farnham [sic] idea: “The person most likely to shoot you is YOU. Why? Because you’re always there.” It just seems incorrect to say, so I am wondering what the broader idea he is conveying is supposed to be.

Since John’s statement generated some incredulity, I will elaborate on it. His comment referred to the often atrocious gunhandling he sees, not people committing suicide. Improper and dangerous gunhandling regularly results in gunowners turning themselves into casualties, although not necessarily fatalities.

The reason I included John’s quote began with a statement he made in the first DTI class I took. The statement was “Eighty percent of police officers who are shot shoot themselves.” Once again, he was not referring to suicide but rather negligent shootings where the officer injured himself or herself. Whether that is still true, I don’t know. I do know that holster manufacturers are sued numerous times each year, unsuccessfully, by police officers who shoot themselves in the process of drawing or holstering. However, given the multiplicity of reports I have about private citizens who accidentally shoot themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised. It happens a lot more often than we like to think. The two casualties I have had on ranges I have been running were self-inflicted non-fatal wounds. One was a highly trained and experienced police officer who had a momentary lapse of concentration and technique.

Here are a few recent examples:

Man shoots himself in hand while driving in Portsmouth

Utah teacher accidentally shoots self in leg at school

Woman Accidentally Shoots Herself While Scaring off Intruder

This is an excerpt from a detailed incident report by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners.

Incident Summary

Officer A was off-duty and inside his residence. Officer A was seated alone in the living room of the residence cleaning and putting tactical lights on his personally owned handguns. Officer A indicated that he had completed cleaning his .40 caliber Springfield Arms semi-automatic pistol and during this process he had inadvertently seated a partially loaded magazine and released the pistol slide that chambered a round. Officer A mistakenly believed the weapon was not loaded, so he pulled the trigger and caused the weapon to discharge.

Officer A received a through and through bullet wound to his left hand just below the little finger. The bullet traveled through Officer A’s hand, then through the back of a couch [the interior decorator in me thinks it was a sofa and not a couch], and the living room wall adjacent to the couch, entering the garage and striking the metal back of a clothes dryer before falling to the garage floor.

Officer A was treated and released from the hospital the day of the shooting.

The BOPC found that Officer A’s use of force was negligent, requiring Administrative Disapproval.

Unfortunately, some incidents prove fatal. Gunshot wounds to the upper leg can sever the femoral artery, resulting in rapid death. RIP Sgt. Davis, who was an experienced officer with 8 years of service, including on SWAT.

This video of Tex Grebner shooting himself contains explicit language. I give him credit for taking responsibility and showing how easily this can happen.

There is an image I see used on Internet websites that makes me cringe whenever I look at it.


That’s a good way to shoot yourself in the support hand. The number of beginners I see doing this at IDPA matches is legion. I warn them immediately to stop doing that. If your holster doesn’t allow you to draw from it with one hand, then you need to stop using it immediately and get a new holster.

If IDPA and USPSA Production Class do nothing else other than to train people to draw their gun without putting their support hand on the holster, that’s a great contribution to the shooting community. For those who say IDPA isn’t training, I would counter that it’s excellent training in safe gunhandling. There’s nothing like getting disqualified for a safety violation to make the point that someone’s gunhandling needs work.

So the point of John’s Master Lesson is twofold:

  1. Proper gunhandling has to be at the forefront of our minds anytime we handle a firearm. Firearms are mechanical devices; they do no more and no less than we make them do. Consequently, they are relentlessly unforgiving of carelessness and/or stupidity.
  2. Pointing your weapon at yourself can have serious consequences. Some holsters force us to point our weapons at ourselves. But placing your hand in front of the muzzle when the pistol is out of the holster is a prescription for an unhappy outcome. One of my personal peeves is the devices that shotguns shooters put on their shoes to rest the muzzle on. I have some really nasty pictures of feet with holes from shotguns in them. Those people are unlikely to ever walk right again. Similarly, taking a high performance anti-personnel bullet in the hand at point blank range is unlikely to enhance your ability to play the piano.

17 responses

  1. I often think that I’m most likely to be harmed by a firearm at the range by a like-minded, well-meaning person who has a bad moment. There is one range I am very reluctant to shoot at, no matter how convenient their hours and location, because I consistently see unsafe gun handling. I generally only go if I have a day off during the regular work week when it’s likely to be empty or very sparsely populated.

  2. To second the comment above, I too have stopped going to public ranges due to the ridiculous lack of safe gun handling on the part of the general public. I finally just joined one of the local clubs and have found that, while not perfect, the gun handling of club members is dramatically better than that of the general public. As an aside, I agree with your comments regarding IDPA/USPSA being great training. The only thing in that training that sometimes concerns me is the clearing proceedure at at the end of a stage that requires you to pull the trigger to prove an empty chamber. While great at a range facility, with a safe backstop, I now find myself doing that same clearing procedure at home as well where, perhaps, just decocking or gently setting the hammer down would be a better option. Just one mans point of view.

  3. I, too, have often seen shooters at ranges who consider themselves “experienced” shooters who do not seem aware of how dangerous some of their actions are. In Michigan, the law required concealed pistol license candidates to have, at a minimum, 8 hours of combined classroom and live fire range instruction. As a trainer of these candidates, I often had to share range time with non-students who shot on adjacent lanes. I can’t tell you how many times I saw a shooter on an adjacent lane fire his pistol and then casually turn 180 degrees to walk back to some gear about 15 feet in back of him, gun in hand, blithly covering everyone as he moved from his firing point to his gear. In correcting this behavior, the invariable response was “Don’t worry. It’s not loaded.” Well, a whole lot of people have had a surprise with a gun that “wasn’t loaded.” I also saw 4 older guys, probably in their late 50s, sharing 2 lanes. Two shot while their other 2 buddies watched. Problem was that the watchers were directly in back of the shooters and had their pistols in their hands, actions closed, pointing at their buddies backs. When rebuked for this behavior, they simply looked at me like I was some kind of nut. And let’s not forget the guy who has a malfunction and turns the muzzle from down range to rack the gun to find out “What’s wrong with this thing?” as the muzzle points to the guy in the next lane. One guy did this and when the action closed, he decided to check it by pushing on the muzzle. He ended up with a 9 mm hole through his support hand.

    Scott Reitz, a former LAPD SWAT offier and trainer for many years, often advises his students that complacency kills. You may do stupid things 10,000 times and get away with it, but the 10,001 time it will come back and bite you in the butt. It either gets you or someone else. Either way, Ooops, or “I’m sorry” doesn’t get it.

    I advised my students to learn and follow Col. Jeff Cooper’s safety rules. If they ever were around those who didn’t follow them, share the rules with them so they learned safety. If they refused to follow the rules, leave. And, even though very few followed my additional advice, I urged them to get additional training to help ingrain safety and develop gun handling skills.

    1. Some of the most unsafe shooters I’ve encountered on the range almost always say something to the tune of “I been shootin’ fer forty years!”

  4. Play stupid games with guns and you will silly prizes.
    I am one of the most dangerous people on the range. I can shoot, and I handle guns daily, my gun, student guns, rental guns and backup guns.
    I have to be turned on mentally at all times. Fighting the comfortable and complacent nature due to familiarly with guns is a life style now, not just a hobby. Just today, A lady turned around on the range with a gun in her hand, instructor went to stop her, told her to turn back down range and then she came to close contact and pointed the weapon directly at his abdomen…. After lunch and on the last day of the class is one of the most dangerous times on the firing line.

    Violate two safety rules at one time and someone is wearing an extra hole.

    Be safe.

  5. Reblogged this on RealDefense and commented:
    Great article!

  6. […] Shooting yourself by accident | tacticalprofessor ______________________________________ Forum Rules ● Classifieds Rules ● INGO FAQ CLICK HERE FOR TRUTH! MORE TRUTH Reply With Quote […]

  7. Reblogged this on Women and Guns and commented:
    I couldn’t agree more…

  8. As a DTI alumnus, I appreciate and applaud the use of John’s quote to extend the teaching moment. Those three days of training were the best I have ever received, including plenty of coaching on safe gun handling. One of the students never quite “clicked” with John’s methods and voluntarily withdrew on the second day after a ND into the dirt on the firing line.

  9. Reblogged this on West Coast Shooting Stars and commented:
    Superb article!

  10. Regarding the picture of the woman. I saw the picture and thought she was RE-holstering. So much so, that I think that’s the international hand signal for “I’m re-holstering my pistol”

  11. “The government does, however, keep a database of how many officers are killed in the line of duty. In 2012, the most recent year for which FBI data is available, it was 48 – 44 of them killed with firearms.”
    John Farnham “Eighty percent of police officers who are shot shoot themselves.”
    So according to this INSTRUCTOR 80 percent of the 48-44 LE shot themselves.
    461,000 (2012) sworn police officers in the USA. As A Police Officer and Civilian. firearm Instructor teacher I find this incredulous. I was looking for information pertaining to Women and guns training. After reading the above quote and members accepting this as FACT from this PERSON I decided to move on. Unbelievable. is all I can or want to say.

    1. No, TKM, you didn’t read the post very well or even at all. It would appear you read one quote and then ‘decided to move on.’ The next sentence is: “Once again, he was not referring to suicide but rather negligent shootings where the officer injured himself or herself.”

      So to reiterate, what Farnam was referring to was officers who unintentionally shoot themselves, negligently, in the line of duty. This is a number far larger than the 44 murders you mentioned. He was not referring to Officers who are Feloniously Killed in the Line of Duty. The statistics gathered by the FBI represent only a minute subset of police activity in the US. They are so often misinterpreted, I wrote an article on Personal Defense Network about those misinterpretation.

  12. There have been several unintentional discharges in the agency where I served ( 25 yrs) each involved one or more violations of the Cardinal Safety Rules. Blessedly, none were fatal. In nearly every instance the (officer) tried to blame it upon an equipment failure. If you leave or place your finger on the trigger of the handgun, do Not try to blame [it] for doing what it was designed to do…anymore than you would blame your car for moving when you press your foot on the accelerator. I am now incorporating this video into my CHL classes…the students are suitably shocked by the video…I hope they remain “shocked”

  13. “One of my personal peeves is the devices that shotgun shooters put on their shoes to rest the muzzle on.” … if that’s a big pet peeve, you don’t understand that used correctly, these are no problem. I’ve shot shotguns competitively for 13 years. Try standing in 80, 85, 90 degree weather in bright sunshine and humidity for hours and hours at a time for practice or competition while carrying a heavy shotgun and ammo … and a blazing hot gun barrel, at that. Believe me, you grow to appreciate anything that makes your life a little easier. The key is, as always, safe gun handling. Responsible shooters have their gun with action open and unloaded – as a matter of fact, this is actually part of the rule book and no other behavior would be tolerated on the field. Yes, there will be people who do it incorrectly but as illustrated in the comments above, it’s unsafe handling – not a device itself, whether it’s a toe tag or something else – that should be your pet peeves.

  14. […] Werner addressed this topic some time ago on his Tactical Professor blog. So did I, here and here. In one of those earlier posts, I wrote […]

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