In the last entry here, I detailed my screw-up on a firing range, in hopes that others could learn from it. There has been some interesting commentary on it elsewhere, but the most valuable of that comes from two men who were actually there when it happened. John Johnston hosts the very useful shooter’s podcast Ballistic Radio. John and his co-instructor Melody Lauer are rising starts in the private firearms training industry, and they’ve put together a class called The Armed Parent which has drawn so many accolades that Significant Other and I traded them each one of our courses for one of theirs later. Here’s John’s perspective: http://ballisticradio.com/2018/05/26/what-do-i-think-about-the-nd-at-mag-40/
Next, Paul Carlson of Safety Solutions, who hosted the class. Paul is in my opinion one of the best of the current crop of firearms instructors: https://safetysolutionsacademy.com/lessons-from-a-negligent-discharge-at-mag-40/ .
First, though John and Paul seem to feel they bear some responsibility for what happened, I need to repeat that I was the one who pulled the trigger, I’m the one who effed up, and I think the blame for it rests entirely on me. As to Paul’s comments, I can say that fatigue wasn’t a factor, at least on my end; there was some arthritic discomfort going on but not enough to distract. Rather than being tired, I was if anything a little hyper, because as Paul noted we had a thunderstorm closing in on us and it was imperative to get the shooting done before we had 20-some people standing in an open field holding metal objects and attracting lightning. Anyone who has trained with me regularly know that if I perform a dry-fire demonstration with a functional weapon I normally clear it with the muzzle toward a backstop, check it by sight and feel, and have the nearest two or three people “confirm unloaded.” Knowing that the person I took the revolver from and her range officer would have both checked the weapon (an assumption later confirmed) it was probably time pressure that made me take the short-cut. My fault. So, yes, haste was definitely a factor too, and a significant learning point from this incident.
Some critics seem to think I believe it is safe to point a loaded gun skyward and pull the trigger. That’s a total misinterpretation. I have probably published more condemnations of warning shots and “celebratory gunfire” than anyone else in the business. Pointing at the backstop, most of the people I was demonstrating for would not have been able to see the demo without breaking the 180 degree safety line. Upward, with a gun that had been confirmed empty by three people, was the least unsafe direction. It was in the confirmation process that the failure occurred, which is what made this incident such a “black swan event” and particularly worthy of discussion.
I don’t see “hot range” (guns always loaded) versus “cold range” (guns loaded only on command) as relevant here. On a hot range, the gun would have been unloaded and checked all at once; on the cold range, as here, the protocol would be a previously unloaded gun checked again, as was done.
Paul mentioned one of our students, an elderly gentleman with some significant physical issues including deafness. On day 3 he had become dizzy and, thinking he was going to pass out, turned on the firing line with his unloaded pistol crossing another student. He was taken off the line, given medical attention by an EMT, an MD and an RN, and sat out the rest of the day without being allowed on the firing line. Back on the last day on probation, and moving slowly due to his physical condition, he found himself approaching the firing line while other students were already there with guns out. He began to draw before reaching the line. Paul and I were both on him and stopped him while the muzzle was still pointing into his holster. I allowed him to continue, not because the gun was unloaded, but because it had not broken the plane of the holster. He successfully completed the course under strict supervision, chiefly by Paul.
In conclusion, the shot that left the range is on me entirely. I have no excuses. I can, I hope, offer analyses and explanations that will be useful to others.