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"A violent attack can happen in 5 seconds or less, would you know what to do? Let us show you how to legally defend yourself with or without a firearm."
- Lead Instructor Jay Vandegriff | Marine Corps Veteran
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Handgun Grip - Full 360 grip will assist with natural point of aim.
Trigger Finger Placement - Trigger placement near the first crease of the trigger finger will minimize muzzle movement.
Sight Alignment and Trigger Squeeze are two of the six shooting fundamentals that will greatly improve your accuracy.
TIP 2: Finger on Frame
For Safety - Keep the trigger finger on the frame until ready to fire, after firing, clearing a malfunction, or reloading.
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It’s very unpleasant and sad read or hear about near miss, injuries or fatalities because of a Negligent Discharge (ND) that was avoidable in the first place. Some narrowly escape injury to themselves or others when a ND happens. Break one or more the four firearm safety rules and disaster can strike. This can happen if we become too comfortable with the firearm, lose discipline of the task at hand, lack of experience, unfamiliar with how the firearm operates, or while under stress to name a few. We will always revert to the lowest level of our knowledge, training and experience no matter what. For this reason, the four safety rules are very important.
Before moving on, let’s review the four firearm safety rules: 1. treat all firearms as if they're loaded, 2. always point the firearm in a safe direction, 3. keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire, and 4. know what your target is, what is in front of and beyond. These rules do not stand alone, work together, and they are not the only rules used to prevent or avoid a near miss, injuries or fatalities from a ND.
Breaking one or more firearm safety rule is dangerous. If a crew let their boat pass too close to an iceberg, this mistake that could have severe consequences (the Titanic comes to mind). Firearms are like an iceberg, they can be dangerous. Consider the top of the iceberg, the smallest part or the four basic safety rules, something above the waterline, easily to identify and on top, we must follow these rules to avoid danger. What lies under the waterline is the large part and the most dangerous. This is where experience, knowledge, and training can help mitigate the danger. What is under water, and not easily seen or known, and could easily rip through the haul of a boat. So, the crew (you) must be on the lookout (follow the safety rules) to remain vigilant against carelessness or ignorance when navigating around icebergs.
The two primary causes of firearm NDs: carelessness or ignorance. Before going forward, we should define carelessness and ignorance. Carelessness is the “failure to give sufficient attention to avoiding harm or errors, negligence” (Webster). And for as ignorance, there are two states of ignorance we should unpack, conscious and unconscious. Conscious ignorance is when we should know better or we think nothing is going to happen to us. Unconscious ignorance is when we are not aware of the danger due to the absence of experience, knowledge and/or training. In this article, I’ll share the most common causes of ND’s and will provide examples of carelessness or ignorance, and a little bit of both.
Whenever pressing the trigger, you should expect a bullet to come out of the barrel unless you have personally ensured all ammunition has been removed and verify the specific firearm is unloaded. This should be your mindset from now on, that is “Every time you press the trigger, a bullet will come out the barrel.” If you are not intending to fire on target, this may force you to double check to ensure the specific firearm is unloaded. A friend of mine once pressed the trigger of a pistol without checking to ensure it was unloaded, the pistol when off in the basement of his house, no one was hurt because the pistol was pointed in a safe direction. Things could have turned out much worse, taking place during the ND, just above the basement ceiling, was a birthday party for his four-year-old son, with relatives, family, and friends.
Cleaning and Maintenance of Firearms
This is shocking and surprising how often NDs occur during cleaning or maintenance of firearms. I suppose this is one reason why Marine Corps boot camp was intense about verifying the rifle was unloaded every time we cleaned, disassembled, or handed our firearm to someone else for inspection, we had to verify the rifle was unloaded. Before you disassemble any firearm for cleaning or maintenance, verify the specific firearm is unloaded and remove all ammunition from the cleaning or maintenance area and store securely. When it comes to maintenance with Glocks, it’s very important to ensure unloaded. They are considered by some to be “unsafe” because they must be dry fired to field strip. This is not a problem, before crossing the street we look both ways, we just don’t walk out in the street. Anytime someone is field-striping a loaded Glock and shoots their finger off or through their hand, and blames Glock, I have very little empathy. Someone I know once told me about their father who had pressed the trigger of his shotgun while cleaning it in his apartment. The shot went through the ceiling and nicked one of five elderly ladies during their bible study. Fortunately, everyone was okay and the judge ordered the father to take a Gun Safety class or Concealed Carry class, in addition to fines and probation. Don’t blame Winchester.
Handing a Loaded Gun to Someone
Whenever we hand a loaded gun to someone, we are asking for trouble. The trigger guard will not protect from someone inserting there finger inside and pressing the trigger or dropping the rifle and it goes off. You’re almost guaranteed to set be setting yourself or someone else up for ND. If it’s a revolver, open the cylinder or cylinder gate, verify and ensure there’s no ammunition. If it’s a semi-automatic, remove the magazine, and lock the slide/bolt to the rear, and verify and ensure there’s no ammunition. We should not hand loaded guns to each other, period (war zones and a gun fight, that’s another story).
Loaded Gun Handled by Someone
Lack of administrative control of the firearm is the most common time for an ND. If a person is being careless by pointing a loaded firearm in an unsafe direction or covering themselves or another person, an ND is likely to result in an injury or fatality. What we are talking about here is loading and unloading, holstering and unholstering, where the majority of this take place in your residence. This is the most likely time and where most NDs occur. The best way to prevent an ND is to keep you finger off the trigger and on the frame when loading or unloading. When inserting the firearm in a good working holster, go slow, extend your trigger finger way from the opening of the holster, ensure there are no obstructions, if stuck do not force, clear anything that may be blocking the opening and continue. Clothing and plastic toggles (used to cinch drawstrings) can get stuck in a holster cause an ND. Cut off any plastic toggles and ensure clear, secure, and safe access to your holster. A good practice, if feasible, is to safely take off or put on an already holstered firearm. (You should always test your holster with an empty gun before doing so loaded with ammunition).
Managed Loaded Firearms
A mis-managed firearm is the most common cause of an ND. A loaded firearm should be a managed firearm, it is not left unattended or outside of your direct control. There's a substantial ND risk if an unauthorized person picks up the firearm or the firearm owner forgets the firearm is loaded and the trigger is pressed. I will not go in to the stories here, but most of the outcomes from this negligence are truly devastating and a tragedy. A loaded firearm must be under authorized physical control or stored securely always. Sleeping in the recliner or on the couch with a loaded firearm may be in physical control, however, you must be awake to manage the firearm, especially when you have little ones about. Setting down a loaded firearm out of physical control, not storing it securely, or leaving it somewhere and forget to secure it, is failure to manage a loaded firearm and is substantial risk for a ND. As is loading a firearm and walking away, this is guaranteeing a likely hood of an ND when the gun owner returns and picks it up and forgets its loaded. A firearm instructor in Ohio shot one of his students in the arm because he did just that. Manage your loaded firearms, and when they are not in your direct control, even if the firearm is unloaded and ammunition is accessible, secure them.
Dry Fire Training
Snap caps that allow us to dry fire and cycle a firearm like live ammunition, without the bang. Some many even not use snap caps and press the trigger on an empty chamber. (Are you sure it’s empty, you verified the specific firearm was unloaded, right?) The common danger of an ND here is loading snap caps on top of ammunition in a magazine or mixed in with ammunition in a revolver and not verifying the firearm is unloaded beforehand. This is a guaranteed ND and there have been numerous injuries and fatalities as a result. Check and re-check all magazines and cylinders, and chambers, for ammunition and store securely in different area before practicing dry fire. Keep snap caps in a separate container, verify no live ammunition, was mixed in by mistake, and always ensure the firearm barrel is clear of any obstructions after training with snap caps. I had a student share with me he was dry firing with a revolver using a mirror to practice his draw. On the second draw, he pressed the trigger the revolver fired one shot into and shattered his mirror. Luckily no one was injured.
These are just some the most common errors that can set you up for a ND and by no means do they cover all potential causes. Many safety lessons were learned from the sinking of the Titanic (training being one of them) and I hope these stories and knowledge shared server as safety lessons to help you avoid a ND. For safety, practice at the level of your training, apply the four safety rules during the safe handling, storage, and shooting of firearms. Stay constantly vigilant against the primary causes of NDs, carelessness and ignorance. Reading this article alone is not a substitute for hands on training, experience, or consistent application of the four safety rules. Find a certified firearms professional if you are new to firearms or before making a firearm purchase. Ensure you know your gear and it is in good working order. A NRA basic pistol safety, hunter safety, or concealed carry courses are an excellent source for training opportunities.
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