Serious Mistakes – Unintentional Discharges (Part II)

The Unintentional Discharge (UD) into the Florida Representative’s office Bullet fired into Representative’s district office, which caused six people to UNsubscribe from my blog, provides a good backdrop for further exploration of the topic of Unintentional Discharges. Part I Serious Gunowner Mistakes – Unintentional Discharges (Part I) began the discussion of definitional issues. This post will explore the categories of UDs in Serious Mistakes and make some observations about preventing this undesirable phenomenon.

Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make divides Unintentional Discharges into three categories. There’s a fourth category that needs to be added because of its implications and long term effects. The first category in Serious Mistakes is UDs that cause some kind of property damage. The shot into the Representative’s office is an example of this. No one was physically injured but there was obvious property damage. Coming into your office and finding a bullet hole in the wall is not how anyone wants to start their day. Such a discharge can occur in tactical situations with undesirable results. The LAPD Board of Police Commissioners refers to these as “Tactical Unintentional Discharges (TUD).”

According to Officer A, after stopping his/her police vehicle near the location of the call, he/she utilized his/her left hand to open his/her door and remove his/her safety belt while simultaneously utilizing his/her right hand to unholster his/her handgun. Once the handgun was out of its holster, he/she held it in front of his/her body in a close-contact position, while simultaneously using his/her left hand to grab the top of the pistol’s slide. He/she did this in order to safely control the handgun with his/her left hand while freeing his/her right hand to place the vehicle in park and turn off the ignition. After turning off the ignition, Officer A began exiting the vehicle while simultaneously transitioning the handgun back into his/her right hand. As he/she did so, he/she unintentionally placed his/her finger on the trigger, causing the handgun to discharge a single round into the driver’s door.

LAPD Board of Police Commissioners

Don’t think that TUDs are limited to POlice service only. The recent episode of the attempted home invasion in California where the assailant peed his pants is a good example. While narrating the video of the incident, the homeowner stated “That was a misfire” when referring to the first shot of the gunfight. It wasn’t a ‘misfire,’ it was an Unintentional Discharge and it escalated what had been a verbal confrontation into a gunfight.

The second category is self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The pictures and videos of such unfortunate incidents are so numerous that they can’t even be listed adequately. This article lists nine celebrities who unintentionally gave themselves lead injections. Within the gun community, Tex Grebner is one of the most famous self-shooters. Tex deserves credit for admitting his mistake and posting a cautionary video about it.

The worst of these three categories is Unintentional Shootings. This doesn’t mean Mistaken Identity Shootings but rather when an Unintentional Discharge results in injury or death to another person. The repercussions of such an incident can be severe. A very sad incident recently occurred in Oklahoma in which a boy was ‘playing with a pistol’ in his living room and had a UD. The bullet travelled through the wall to the adjacent room and struck his mother in the head, killing her instantly. The boy was so distraught that he then went outside and killed himself with the same pistol. Interior walls in most homes are as bullet resistant as a sheet of paper, which is to say, not at all.

A fourth category needs to be added to the Second Edition. It is UDs that cause no reportable property damage. For instance, at a range into the walls, ceiling, backstop, or off into the sunset. This is probably the most common UD of them all, occurring thousands of times EACH DAY. The major problem with these non-reportable UDs is that they insidiously create a ‘practice scar.’ That scar is the subconscious thought that UDs don’t have consequences. The scar is a bigger problem than is generally realized.

Best Practices to prevent Unintentional Discharges and minimize damage

Practice keeping the finger outside and above the trigger guard whenever you’re not prepared for the gun to fire. Rule 3, keep your trigger finger above the trigger guard as a default position. Placing the finger on the front of the trigger guard used to be considered acceptable but we have come to understand that it’s not much better than being in the trigger guard.

“That was a misfire” from the California ‘Home Invader Pees His Pants’ incident most likely resulted from having his finger in the trigger guard while chambering a round.

For guns that are not carried in a holster, some form of tactile indicator, e.g., Velcro, is worthwhile as an aid to keeping the finger in the proper position.

Velcro applied as tactile indicator for correct trigger finger position.

Smith & Wesson’s SD9VE is factory equipped with a tactile indicator above the trigger guard. This is a feature more manufacturers should emulate.

Muzzle direction is the primary safety. Always has been, always will be.

–Bill Rogers

Practice muzzle awareness at all times. Rule Two, keep guns pointed in the safest possible direction. Parts of your body or other people’s bodies are not on the list.

Complacency injures and kills. Many otherwise good and informative videos are ruined by lack of muzzle awareness.

The recent video of a Fourth World person shooting his hand during a wedding is an excellent example of why keeping the muzzle away from our hands is a best practice. The aftermath shown in the video is gory but this is the moment that immediately precedes the UD.

He removed the pistol from the holster, chambered a round, and then fired a shot in the air immediately before this. Most likely because he uses chamber empty carry, he forgot that removing the magazine after firing a round does not clear the chamber. As a consequence, his left hand will never be the same again.

Firearms are relentlessly unforgiving of carelessness, just like electricity. We don’t stick our fingers in electrical sockets “even when it’s not plugged in” because we learn at any early age that electricity, while a useful servant, can also kill. Firearms need to be given the same respect for the same reason.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Note that Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make is included with the purchase of any other book.

One response

  1. Very similar to the triangle in industrial occupational safety and health. For every 3000 near misses there are 300 minor injuries, for every 300 minor injuries there are 30 serious injuries, for every 30 serious injuries there are 3 that result in loss of limb, for every 3 losses of limb, there is one fatality. Statistics work every time. Teach, teach, teach and teach some more. Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: