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LAYERS OF FIREARMS SAFETY: A TEACHABLE MOMENT — 92 Comments

  1. Words have meaning. I abhor the practice of calling an accidental discharge, or an unintentional discharge, a Negligent Discharge. As a legally educated (law school) firearms instructor, I know from my education that in order for an act to be “negligent” there must be an identifiable potential plaintiff (in the case of a civil tort) or an potentially identifiable victim. If as Mas says, there was virtually no chance of the bullet striking someone, then I would argue the incident should be re-classified as either unintentional, or accidental, or perhaps even inadvertent.

    My other point, “is let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I have had two accidental discharges of firearms while teaching classes. Learning points both of them, but since no-one was even remotely placed at risk, they were not “negligent.”

    • Mr. Hayes, just wanted to say I appreciate your post and reminder to all of us that, yes, words have meaning. I’m sure you are well aware of how “accidental discharge” turned into “negligent discharge” and it didn’t have anything to do with how we use the English language in this country, but rather how the slang is in England. Your education in the law certainly trumps mine (as in none), and your reputation well made. Accidental it is, and rightly so.

  2. A similar incident convinced me of visual and tactile checks of “empty” and “loaded” weapons, be they semi-autos or even the humble revolver. As noted, the redundancy of Cooper’s four rules have saved many people from tragedy even when a bullet accidentally/negligently lets loose.

    Thank you for sharing what was undoubtedly a humbling and humiliating experience. Your handling of this is an example of all of us. Learn from mistakes and own them. It’s the only way.

    Not that it needs to be repeated, but none of us are perfect. Even Cooper had at least one ND of friend of his told me about. And, as the story goes, Cooper sat in stunned silence and finally said, “These things don’t happen to me.” Ah, but they do. Again, the safety rules saved anyone from getting hurt.

  3. Thank you so much for this post, Mas. I’ve been well aware of the brain’s (especially the one I have) ability to see what it expects rather than what is actually there, but it never occurred to me that this could happen when doing a safety check. I’ve always felt sort of silly and/or paranoid for the MANY times I check the cylinder before dry-firing at home, but no more. And I’m likely to remember your story every time I handle a gun now, which is yet another reason to be thankful for knowing you. 🙂

  4. Mas, This incident speaks to the near sanctity of Cooper’s four rules of firearms safety and the importance of their redundancy. You were following them and it prevented a tradgey. Don’t forget that you still did a lot of things right in this situation.

  5. During a local IDPA match, a shooter had his finger ‘roll’ in on the trigger during the re-holster of LAMR and a ND occurred. A DQ was given. The shooter stayed and helped with the rest of the match. Later I went up to him and thanked him for the reminder. He looked at me puzzled. I went on to explain while we compete, train, etc. for fun, it is a deadly serious instrument which provides this entertainment/hobby and we MUST be on our toes at all time completely focused on the task at hand. A lapse of a millisecond can have serious, fatal consequences. Thanks Mas for that reminder once again.

  6. Mas.

    Curious what would have been the consequences if one of your students had done the same thing?

    • With a gun that had been triple checked and determined to be empty? Hard to imagine a situation where I would have students dry firing into the air.

    • Well now, there’s the conundrum. Personally, I had a ND privately in 1992. Will never forget it. I wasn’t an instructor at the time, just some schmoe learning stuff. Fast forward to today, IF I had a ND in a safe direction OF COURSE, how would that error affect me psychologically. Professionally. Ethically?

      Guns are perfect machines, humans aren’t. Redundancy can save you, complacency can get you killed.

      To your question Mark Andriani, at the time of this post, it is a good chance the student would be put in the penalty box of sorts. If I recall, Mas’s policy was if you eff up, you can stay, but you can’t handle guns for a period of time. I may be confusing it with another training resource, not sure.

      None-the-less, in ALL of the competitions I shoots, ND is a boot in the butt.

      Under my supervision, if a student has a ND, I will question MYSELF as to how the hell it could have happened.

      The consequences of a ND could be a shared responsibly in the overall picture, ESPECIALLY if THREE people checked the gun for ammo.

      Stay safe.

      • I am an Ayoob student twice over. I am also an accomplished instructor with 1000’s of students and zero ND’s (yet). I train instructors, I taught at the LE Academy at the college, and many Marines from Lt. Col. rank and down. Unfortunately, ND’s happen. I’m competition, at home and obviously places not expected.

        I had my first and hopefully last ND not in competition nor instructing, but in my own home with a .38 Special K frame revolver. To my luck, the bullet went through the wall, traveled into the garage and was stopped by my then husband’s collectible Scotty Cameron putter. Since I was on live cam with my ex, he saw it too in a live public stream. I shut down the camera first, deleted the eff up and ran outside. If the bullet would not be stopped by a Scotty Cameron, irreparable, who knows what would have happened. I had been recovering from major surgery and my thinking was awry. I made a careless assumption to test a live cam stream only to show me making a stupid move.

        I count my blessings. I also do not handle guns during times of recovery that included a long surgery with anesthesia. My memory takes a while to work. My recent surgery was 6 hours, just as it was when I had 2 Mayo surgeries 2011 and another surgery in 2012. I will only carry in my car until I’m back 100% for fear I will leave it somewhere a child may have access to it.

        My learning moment, this article and Paul’s article reinforces so much that they are jewels of wisdom and enforces more safety when I instruct. Thank you for owning it.

  7. I’ve stopped reading Stephen King ever since he went full leftwing retard.
    But in one of his books he describes something that has stuck with me and I’ve repeated it several times to others. I paraphrase:

    In ever guy there lives a demon. He is a very patient demon, willing to wait a hundred years or more for someone to make just ONE SINGLE mistake.

    Keep in mind the demon.

    A friend who is a retired Army Colonel took a couple young men who were related to a friend of his to the indoor shooting range one afternoon.
    None of the men were overly familiar with firearms but I am ASSUMING (knowing what that word means) that my friend the Colonel, in addition to his military service is a life long hunter and firearms enthusiast, gave them instruction in addition to whatever safety orientation the range gave prior to shooting.

    One of the young men was shooting the Colonel’s High Standard Victor .22 target pistol. As he pressed the trigger for what he thought was his final shot, nothing happened. No click, AND the slide had not locked back, BIG CLUE HERE. Not being overly familiar with guns he walked out of the shooting area and handed the pistol to the Colonel, WITHOUT CHECKING THE CHAMBER. The Colonel took the pistol and laid it down on the counter WITHOUT CHECKING TO SEE IF IT WAS CLEAR. Third big mistake. Upon being laid on the counter the pistol discharged and the bullet entered a case of shotgun shells that was on display. This gun probably had not been fired in over 30 years or so and was undoubtedly dirty and any residual grease or oil may have solidified and impeded the action of the pistol. Not cleaning your weapons, fourth big mistake.

    No incident ever takes place in a vacuum. There are always a series of steps that lead up to the final incident taking place. Identify one of those steps and remove it and the final incident never takes place.

    I’m not going to chastise Mr. Ayoob, no doubt he’s done enough of that himself. But every time I hear of an AD or ND if you prefer, I always wonder how the hell that can happen. Look, look again, if you hand the gun to someone else after you have looked and they do not look themselves, avoid that person.

    There is no calling back a bullet once it starts down the barrel.

    • Should say, “In every GUN…” NOT, guy.
      Proofread, proofread, always proofread.

  8. Mas, This comment is off topic ,but it is the only way I know to get in contact.I frequently want to re-post your thoughts on the current witch hunt by the prohibitionist to bring a voice of reason to the people that are blindly following the anti gun movement. I have quit doing so because to me your Cheshire Cat grin while holding an AR (Assault Weapon to our enemies) in this blog would play into their agenda. In my opinion you are the best voice of reason we have and your views,knowledge and experience should be seen by as many people as possible. Keep up the good work , David

    • @ Glenn Finley – In my opinion, also, the writer of this article is onto something. I think that it is true that a “Culture of Mass-Shootings” has been created. I also agree that this culture has lowered the bar for other marginalize individuals.

      It attracts the disaffected losers, among the young white men of this county, who have been marginalize by leftist propaganda all their young lives. They have been continually told that their “Whiteness” is a problem and the American Left has “guilt-tripped” them by telling them that they are the children of racists who oppressed the other peoples of the world.

      You take young men who have low self-esteem already and then drive it further down by telling them (from the first day of school and with every TV show made in Hollywood) that they are nothing but white, racist scum.

      Then you add in this culture of mass shootings. Anytime one happens, you have the leftist media glorifying the killer and running his name on the tube 24/7. A young white man (with his self-esteem already shattered by the Left) is wildly attracted to that attention. He may have been thinking about suicide anyway. Why not go out in a “Blaze of Media Glory”?

      Left-wing ideology is an acid that is corroding and eating away at the very soul of America.

      • It’s sad to live in a world where the bad guys win so often. Imagine if, during the Holocaust, Hitler had had 10 million first-degree murderers executed, instead of 10 million innocent people. Imagine a mass murderer breaking into a prison, then shooting the prisoners on death row, or breaking into Guantanamo and shooting terrorists. No, the bad guys shoot school students instead.

  9. When it comes to revolver clearing, I started several years ago to physically work the ejector rod even if visually I don’t see any brass in the chambers. I was never trained that way, but it gives me additional peace of mind before doing any dry fire practice, prior to storage, or cleaning. Just another layer of safety.

  10. Hmm. In reading these comments all I can say is I wish I could be as perfect or clairvoyant as some. Pretty sure when Mas checked the cylinder he was putting faith into the student and the others to re-check him. Something failed, maybe it’s just part of being human? As for my experience, the last two things I do with a wheelgun is hold the gun vertical and plunge the extraction rod twice, then have a double check before closing the action. Pretty routine for everyone here, I’m sure.

    I don’t know the circumstances Mr. Ayoob was in, but I have trained with him and when I read his admission to the error he was ultimately responsible for, he manned up and used it as a training point for all to learn by. ALL TO LEARN BY, even the “experts” who think it will “never happen to them.”

    • Larry McClain,

      Yes, and Mas had gone from 1977 to 2018 without a negligent discharge, while handling firearms nearly every day. That is a safety record, probably unmatched in the history of the world.

  11. Mr. Ayoob: Thanks for sharing some of the details of what happened. What your article doesn’t, however, do is get to the root cause of WHY the ND happened. I can only come up with three scenarios where three people could have missed a cartridge in a K-frame revolver: utter incompetence, confirmation bias, or extreme fatigue.

    Given your experience level, the stated experience of the RSO, and the likely experience of the gun owner, utter incompetence is not on the table. Lacking an outside factor, the likelihood of three people simultaneously experiencing confirmation bias and missing a cartridge in the cylinder is very unlikely (otherwise we would see a much greater number of NDs in training classes and competition).

    You stated that the ND was at the end of the training day, just before the qualification. I’ll speculate that everyone involved was tired. This fatigue is what caused an otherwise obvious cartridge to be missed by three different people.

    We stress to the Instructors and RSOs that we train that they must watch carefully for signs of fatigue in their students AND in themselves. Students are likewise taught to watch for signs of fatigue in themselves and those they are on the range with. When fatigue sets in, learning declines or stops. The same goes for safety!

    This incident spurred me to write my own article on fatigue and how it can create a safety mirage leading to an ND.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful commentary, Doug. All three of us who handled the gun have extensive experience. I don’t believe fatigue was a factor. I was the guy on the trigger who did three of the four checks, and didn’t feel tired. It was around 1 PM. The qualification came before a lunch delayed by an oncoming thunderstorm, and before the deadly force exam review and written exam which culminates that particular program. Confirmation bias? I think you are probably spot on there.

      • Mas, another possible reason why you (but probably not the others involved)did not see the cartridge in the cylinder when you looked at it is that you were distracted because you were trying to demonstrate something & you were concentrating on what you were saying rather than on what you were doing while performing a routine check of the cylinder. This has happened to me many times although, thankfully, never with a firearm. I have found that it is very easy for me to make a mistake of some kind while performing a routine task when I’m talking to someone, explaining something, or answering a question at the same time. This happens to me fairly often at my place of work, fortunately with no serious consequences. I do not know for sure why this happens to me, but I suspect that because I’m only a couple of years younger than you are that it has something to do with aging (no offense). A quick glance revealing five empty chambers could easily be mistaken for six empty chambers when you are thinking about something else, especially since so many revolvers only hold five rounds to begin with. A possible solution in the case of swing-out cylinder revolvers might be to rotate the cylinder slowly as you check to see if it’s loaded (or unloaded)so that any difference between one chamber & another would be more likely to catch your eye.

  12. Extractors can break.

    Many semiautos will still work just fine with no extractor at all. (that’s why old-style Bergmann ammunition didn’t even have an extractor groove!)

    Just because you racked the slide, doesn’t mean the chamber is clear.

    No ND from that (yet…), but close enough to a pucker moment to get remembered.

  13. …and I used to think that stainless steel revolvers and nickel plated ammo were all good with no downsides. Thank you for sharing this story. Among other things already mentioned, it provides a vivid antidote to those who insist that “the best safety is between the ears” without allowing for human factors like fatigue. Finally, I think that one important book that covers these pesky human factors, yet is not part of the reading canon of firearms literature, is The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman. I don’t know where this industrial safety investigator turned human factors engineers and product designer stance is on firearms, but he’d make a great interview subject.

  14. When I was working for a large gun store, our safety protocol was that all firearms brought into the store by customers, for sale to us or for service, had to be checked in at the customer service counter at the front of the store where the customer would be asked if the firearm was unloaded. If it was not unloaded, he would be asked to take it back to his car & unload it outside before bringing it back into the store. If the customer said that it was unloaded, then the firearm’s action was to be opened to prove it & the gun would be put in a gun case to be carried back to the gun counter. When the firearm was received at the gun counter, not one, but two firearms employees were to inspect the gun in the gun vault to be sure it was unloaded & to sign off on it in a notebook before proceeding any further with the customer’s request.

    One day, a customer brought in a rifle which he wanted to sell to us. I couldn’t do the appraisal because I was in the process of filling out paperwork & submitting it for a background check for a different customer who was buying a gun from me. The store manager, along with another employee, received the gun, appraised it, & bought it from the owner. I did not see what they did, except for the payout to the customer, because I was working on my transaction the whole time.

    After I completed my transaction, I went back into the gun vault to see what kind of gun we had just acquired because it might be something of interest to me. When I located the rifle, I was immediately attracted to it because it was a very nice looking custom gun. I picked it up, looked it over admiring its many nice features, & put it to my shoulder pointing it at an outer wall so that I could look through the rifle scope. I was impressed. Since I was alone, I decided to dry fire it to test the trigger pull, but before I did I lowered the gun & pulled back the bolt to be sure it was unloaded. Imagine my surprise when a live round was ejected from the chamber & landed on the floor! At that point, I removed the magazine & discovered that it, too, was fully loaded!

    I was absolutely shocked by this because it meant than no one, at any time, had followed any of the safety protocols which we had in place. It also meant that the store manager, who did the actual appraisal, not only failed to ensure that it wasn’t loaded, but also that he never inspected the bore, cycled the action, tested the safety, or did anything else to see if the gun was functional before he bought it! Apparently, everyone (including me), had just assumed that someone else had inspected the gun to make sure it wasn’t loaded.

    I am very thankful that I checked the gun out of habit to see if it was loaded before attempting to dry fire it, although in hindsight I should have checked it when I first picked it up instead of waiting until after I had shouldered it. If I hadn’t, any one of our employees could have had a negligent discharge, & it’s even possible that it could have reached the sales floor where it might have been presented to a customer while it was still fully loaded, even though our safety protocol required that the action be opened before handing it to a customer (which may have been overlooked, also). Needless to say, the consequences could have been tragic.

    When I called the store manager & asked him to come back to the gun vault so that I could show him something important, he refused, saying that he was busy. So I took the gun to his office, told him that it had been fully loaded when he received it, & I placed the loaded magazine, as well as the round that had been ejected from the chamber, on his desk. His face turned white & he was completely speechless.

    Lesson learned.

  15. Mas,

    Thanks for sharing that story and understanding any potential embarrassment in sharing it is far overcome and by using it to help us all be safer in our gun handling habits. Personally I do not believe in “all guns are always loaded”. Safe direction trumps all in my book. It’s like telling someone that “all stoves are always hot” when it’s easily provable they are not. And human nature is to become complacent when adherence to Cooper’s first rule is not observable and therefore correctable.

    I know it’s an old argument but safe (or safest direction) first prevents tragedies; implying people can treat guns differently whether they “know” they’re loaded are not can lead to tragedy. Never, ever point your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy. First, foremost, and always.

  16. It seems some cartridges get blocked by the grips. I’ve had to carve the rubber grips away from the left side of all my revolvers. This is because I load with speed loaders, and the rubber (plastic) prevents the tips of the bullets from lining up straight with the empty cylinders. Since the plastic is carved away, the cartridge cases eject clearly MOST of the time. When checking, I also try to see daylight through the chambers.

    • Looks like the cartridge was at 1 o’clock or so when the cylinder was last closed. The one most likely to be missed when the revolver is viewed from the left side. Luckily you weren’t holding the gun next to your face where the side flash could injure eyes. A light bullet falling from a near-vertical angle shouldn’t cause much of an injury to the top of the anyone’s head or shoulders, other than a sharp sting and a bruise. Obviously a lower angle could make a bullet lethal. I would like to know the angle of trajectory of the bullet that killed the Shannon girl in Arizona, that led to a new law.

  17. I had something similar happen when I wanted to show my son the new Talon Grips I put on my Gen-2 Glock Model 19.

    I’ve been shooting since I got my Concealed Carry permit in 1983 and have never had an accidental discharge in all that time.

    Something (maybe reading your stuff Mas) made me stop and check again.

    I’m so glad that I did. There was still a round in the chamber and my son may have paid the price.

    I love my son and I believe he came out of my stupidity unharmed only because of what I’ve read published by Massad Ayoob.

    Maybe an article about how reading your stuff could help guys like me that can’t attend your classes is in order…

  18. FWIW, IMHO, is one of the things I learned at Mag40…
    Dont just look at the magazine remove and nothing in the spout.
    Touch, actively engage movement that makes you see…
    Annnnnd have little experience today with revolvers so learned something else to watch for….

  19. If it can happen to someone as experienced as you, it can happen to anyone.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  20. I have been shooting for many years now and, yes, I also did have an example of an “unintentional discharge”. It occurred about 10 years ago.

    I was at a local range and I was shooting a S&W Sigma pistol in 9 mm caliber. For those who don’t know, the original S&W Sigma was infamous for having just about the worst trigger pull on the planet. That was certainly true for my Sigma. I don’t even know its original trigger pull weight because I did not have (at the time) a trigger pull gauge that measured that high. I estimate that the trigger pull was about 16 lbs.

    On top of that, the trigger was gritty and stacked badly just before it broke. Anyway, I was heaving on this trigger and shooting this pistol at a target when the gun failed to discharge. I suspect that I simply did not release the trigger far enough to re-set which is why it failed to fire.

    I was surprised at this “Non-Bang” so I released the trigger and, with the gun still pointing downrange, I looked sideways at the gun. Without even really thinking about it, I pulled on the trigger again and BANG.

    No harm was done since I had kept the pistol pointed downrange. However, the truth is that I was not expecting that BANG when it occurred. It was an unintentional discharge and I felt like a fool when it happened.

    Needless to say, I did a “Trigger Job” on that Sigma after this incident. I polished parts and replaced factory springs with aftermarket ones. The result certainly was not a target trigger by any means. However, the pull weight was dropped to about 10 lbs., the pull was smoothed up and the stacking largely eliminated. It is now a trigger that can be managed.

    I learned a couple of lessons on the day when I had the unintentional discharge. I learned that a trigger that is too heavy can be almost as dangerous as one that is too light. I also had the value of the rule to always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction clearly shown to me.

  21. Somewhere in the process of teaching vast multitudes of folks of varying abilities, I’m told a leading tactical instructor started teaching to verbalize each step of the clearing process. I know he teaches that the chamber/cylinder be checked (if possible) both visually and by touch. This not only provides dual verification of empty, but teaches you what an empty chamber/cylinder feels like. This may come in handy should you have a malfunction at night and can’t whip out a flashlight.

    Neither process makes it impossible to screw up, but at least you’ve provided yourself with a checklist and hopefully double checked the chamber/cylinder.

    A friend (honestly!) did something similar to Mas’s oops. She depended upon cartridge weight to extract the rounds and didn’t verify an empty cylinder. Right after that I started teaching the use of the extractor rod each and every time a cylinder is unloaded. Plus the visual and tactile verification.

  22. I witnessed an incident at a local range during competition when shooter detached magazine, ejected last round, rso visually inspected it, and then rifle did bang when trigger was pressed as a last step. RSO caught .22lr round midair when it was ejected, and had it in his hands during bang. Imagine everybody’s surprise! After some confusion how it was possible it turned out RSO caught a screw from a failing scope mount and last round was never ejected.

  23. Sir,
    What goes up must come down. You said “Pointing the muzzle 12 o’clock high” didn’t you have a concern of the bullet coming down hitting someone?
    I think I may have told everyone…RUN!
    It’s good to know for those of us who are not as experienced as you, that you too can have a mistake. I’m glad you are man enough to tell your story.
    Thanks,

    • As I think about this, maybe one of Cooper’s four rules was violated. RULE II: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY. Taking into account the “Law of Gravity”, maybe the muzzle was pointed at Mas and the students. Maybe I’m just overthinking this.

      • You are correct, Alan,

        Up is not a safe direction. Mas has been written about this before:

        “When you raise the gun and blindly fire, you don’t know where that bullet will land,” says Massad Ayoob, a longtime cop and widely respected firearms trainer. “A few decades ago I followed a case in New England where the guy raised his gun, fired what he thought was into the air, and the bullet struck and killed someone on the top floor porch of a nearby tenement building.”

      • Rob, you might want to keep in context: I strongly recommend against INTENTIONALLY firing into the air. Holding a firearm muzzle up when we reasonably believe it to be unloaded is another matter entirely.

      • Mas, “Destructors” like Rob Pincus has always had a problem with staying in context and being humble. He is a bully on social media and can’t be taken seriously. He is supposed to be working with the USCCA who does not allow their Instructors to act this way toward their peers, not that Rob is your peer, he couldn’t hold your ammo can

        I applaud you for admitting you are human. Again, Rob is obviously better than everyone else at least that is what his ego tell him, but we all know he couldn’t pass your qualifications at single speed, let alone double, triple or quad speed.

  24. Mas, It takes a lot of courage to admit to the mistake you did in your column. Without that courage the rest of us would never know and learn from your experience. I am in my late 60s and to the best of my memory, have never had a ND in my life (though I was around others who did). I know very well that NDs don’t happen to only the neophytes and that’s what scares me and hopefully keeps me from becoming complacent. If it can happen to you, Mas, it can happen to any of us. Thank you for your post.

  25. Thank you, Mas. I’ve been around guns, teaching and carrying, for over 30 years. Had a customer come in to have some sights put on his gun. He handed it to me, saying, “it’s empty”. I looked into the chamber. seeing that it was, indeed, empty. I dropped the slide, pulled the trigger to pull the slide off. BOOM. I checked the chamber. I didn’t look down into the mag well.

  26. This is a great example of good habits preventing a tragedy. A lot of tragedies require multiple violations of good habits and/or defective mechanical systems. Just one good habit prevents the embarrassment from becoming the tragedy.

    I remember teaching a family member to always turn into the near lane when driving instead of looking for oncoming traffic and deciding to turn into the far lane ‘because nothing is coming.’ Why? Everyone spaces out once in a while. Everyone. Turning into the near lane allows the oncoming vehicle which didn’t register on the driver’s consciousness to swerve into the far lane if it wasn’t there already. Turning into the far lane gives the other guy no place to go except t-bone. Good habits usually get you through the inevitable goof.

    Never point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy: good habit, not a decision. Decisions get people killed.

  27. Been around guns for more than 65 years and still the other day almost put 357 into the corner of the bedroom ’cause the gun was unloaded. Little voice said”Don’t pull that trigger!” For once I listened. Don’t care how “professional you are, it can happen to you.

  28. I hesitate to relate the following, but it fits the topic, and shows the tragedy that can result. First, I stress that the actions of the officer involved were wrong on so many levels it defies comprehension. There is no defense for his actions, yet the very thing Mas experienced was his attempt a defense in both the investigation, and later his trial.
    The officer had answered a burglary call at a business in which coin operated machines had been broken into, robbing them of their coins. The officer felt that he knew who had done it as a young 15 year old Hispanic male who lived close by had been handled in the past for the same crime and M/O at the same business. He went to the home of his suspected burglar, requested he step out to the squad car to talk. At some point the officer made a decision to scare the young man into confessing by “playing Russian Roulette” with what he believed to be an empty revolver. The second trigger pull blew the young man’s brain all over the back seat of the cruiser.

    Even though the investigators felt that he was being truthful when he said that he thought the gun was empty, he was booked into the county jail and charged before the sun came up that morning. The quick action of the department to arrest and charge the officer did not prevent the largest “civil disturbance/riot” in the city’s history.

    The officer’s defense was that his duty weapon had the larger “magnum grips” which had prevented that one cartridge from completely ejecting when he thought he had removed them all. As I recall, the officer ended up doing 5 years in prison.

    I never heard one officer try to defend his actions that led up to the tragedy. Several, myself included, felt his assertions of it being an unintentional discharge due to the very reasons he asserted were truthful, but that he deserved everything he received because of his lack of judgement.

    I’m sure the incident can be googled. The victim’s name was Santos Rodriguez, the city was Dallas.

  29. Mas – Thanks for being willing to write about something like this and for your honesty in doing so. I appreciate the detailed analysis of how it happened. Definitely a very teachable moment for us all.

    Thanks for all you do and for sharing your knowledge.

    Regards,

    Jack

  30. Amazing !
    I am astounded that one got past you.
    I have always opened the cylinder when checking a revolver.
    From now on I will eject the chambers as if it were
    loaded…EVEN IF I SEE IT IS EMPTY.

    This account of this ultra rare event should be part of EVERY
    gun safety course.

  31. Thanks for coming forward and sharing this Mas, it just might save someone from something worse than a beet red face. In fact, I attended an active shooter seminar at a local church last night and the very first thing we were told was to leave our sidearms in our holsters before class began. The instructor btw is retired military, SWAT, and teaches around the world. I learned a bunch.

  32. OFMG! Thank you sharing that Mas. It’s been said that any fool can learn from their own mistakes, the wise learn from other peoples.

    Wise words about people looking and seeing what they expect to see too.

    And finally there is a reason why the “always point a firearm in a safe direction” is one of the *basic* rules of firearms safety.

  33. Cooper’s laws save the day. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve also heard “familiarity breeds contempt”.

    Glad no one was hurt!!

    • How did “cooper’s laws save the day” ??

      The only thing that kept someone from getting hurt was LUCK. Up is not a safe direction, as Mas has stated many times in the past.

      • Rob Pincus,

        Up is not a safe direction. However, if Mas pointed the revolver downrange, no one could view his trigger pull, which he wanted to demonstrate. If Mas pointed at the ground or floor, the bullet could shatter concrete or even a rock, so that direction is not perfectly safe either. Maybe there is no such thing as perfect safety, maybe there is only relatve safety.

  34. Loudest sound in the world, ain’t it? Right up there with “click” when it’s supposed to be “bang.”

    Glad everyone is okay. Thanks for the reminder.

  35. We all make mistakes sooner or later. The last time I was at the range there were a couple guys who denied it was possible to have a negligent discharge, at least for them. Those are the type of people I give a wide berth. My last negligent discharge was approximately 2002 or 2003. Man did it happen quickly. I still shudder 15 years later.

  36. As a pharmacist I used to explain to students and others that a pharmacist, doctor or nurse who says they have never made an error is either just not aware, just not on the job long enough … or a liar. And that we need to share and learn from errors. If you make that mistake, I can also! So thank you Mas. Thank you for sharing!

    With guns there is usually a loud bang to announce a negligent discharge. And consider: The instigator of such may not always be present for the bang.

    Anyway Mas, your recent experience calls to mind a discussion I had with an active duty officer during a low light class he was teaching a couple years ago.

    He asked the small group what was the most important safety rule. I answered ‘keep finger off trigger- AND ‘keep pointed in safe direction’ until on target. “What is more important” he asked? I answered they were equally critical. He explained that as an officer, maybe in an apartment building during a weapons out incident for example, there may be no ‘safe’ direction. Point taken. However, I still hold to reality. I always try for the best or safest place to point the gun. Your example confirms this imho.

    There could have been a plane overhead & in range. Unlikely. I also suspect you would have taken any observed or heard low flying craft into consideration. On the other hand, there were definitely others ‘targets’ well within range.

    I have been forcing myself to look & feel. Being an old school shooter (60+), we just looked at the action and likely manipulated it back in the day. I can certainly tell you from experience that we often see what we expect to see. It is all to easy to not really see what is there.

    Sometimes it is a neurologic issue and sometimes just a lack of focus or attention. The body can play tricks on us just as it does with tunnel vision or auditory exclusion or dilation.

    The act of opening the action, manipulating it if need be (ex: spin the cylinder) and letting others reaffirm may offer additional opportunity for avoidance. However, there is no guarantee. Things happen.

    Hence: Treat All Firearms as Loaded Always. I get into this argument all too often. See someone with poor muzzle discipline, point it out (regardless of where it occurs), and they always say something to the effect of ‘but it ain’t loaded!’

    About that … smh

    Thanks again for another learning & ‘refreshing the learned’ opportunity.

  37. I have a Redhawk 44M. Went to aftermarket rubber grips to tame it a bit. One round will hang on these grips and only 5 eject most times. Gotta rotate the cylinder to eject #6. I stay away from aftermarket anything unless well investigated.

  38. I once read (in fact it was only two weeks ago after reading about this for over 35 years). “You should not be looking for cartridges, you should be looking for empty chambers. If you look for cartridges and see any it may not register, as that is what you are looking for.If you look for empty chambers and see any cartridges you are more likely to register it.”

  39. Does not surprise me Mas. Now thankfully I have not had a ad/nd since college (and that was a looonnngg time ago!) But I’ve seen ’em on cold ranges since then.

    I’ve seen a security chief (not a cop but a security organization he was in command of) at a CHL class, my class, wave his gun at where one of the others went (yes wave it in my direction!!) when I asked him where they were.

    And a long time ago I was on my private range (parents land) and I was tempted to shoot. Then I noticed a head bob up and down behind the target. It was my little brother. God saved me that day. I could have shot him. Did I get mad? No. I walked up to him and he was digging lead bullets out of the backstop. So I told him that was ‘cool’ but from now on could you kick down all the targets before doing that. Plus I always inspect the range now before I shoot!!! If I had shot my brother I just don’t know what I would have done. Every time I see him I think back to that day… and my parents don’t even know that happened.

    Yes, ad/nds can happen to any of us, but if one follows the safety rules then it will just fire in a safe direction.

  40. I ALWAYS hit the ejector rod when checking even when it looks empty. Habit I developed a long time ago.

    • A good habit to develop.

      I don’t do a lot with wheel guns. When I do I look for daylight through the cylinder. I guess a reflection off a nickle case head could be deceiving …

  41. Wow, thanks for sharing, Mas. Murphy is laughing his head off, because his Law rules the known universe. With all of those checks I can’t believe this happened. How bizarre! If I was living in the 1600s I would blame this event on witchcraft or the Devil. Good thing you know where to safely point a gun.

  42. I did the same thing 20 years ago with a nickel-plated Model 19 and a nickel-plated cartridge, except I was practicing dry fire when I shot a .38 round into the floorboard of my truck. That particular revolver had the recessed cylinder chambers, which made the rounds even harder to see. The Good Lord watches over fools.

  43. Thanks Mas,
    I’ll bank this one for my safety lectures as well!
    Along with many other Aayoob pearls of wisdom I incorporate into my personal training and to those I teach

  44. Hi Mas,
    Muzzle control saved anyone from harm. This is a great example of why guns should always be treated as if they are loaded and not pointed at anything you don’t wish to destroy. I hope to make it to your MAG 40 class soon.
    Mike

  45. A wise comment I read somewhere on a forum (could have been this one) was: “Accidents only happen with unloaded guns.”

    It’s the perfect way to describe the feeling of *knowing* a gun is unloaded and then being surprised that it isn’t. It’s also the reason for all the pedantic rules.