On Instruction and Risk Management

1156423_19045308If you’ve taken training classes, or spent much time at a range, you’ve doubtless seen instructors – or gun owners who are teaching newbie shooters but who aren’t actually trained instructors – do stupid and potentially dangerous things. I know I have.

I’ve seen people pointing muzzles at themselves or putting their hands in front of the end of the gun. I’ve been swept with the muzzle of a gun in a training class. I’ve seen negligent and unintentional discharges that ended up in the berm rather than the shooter’s leg because of accident more than intent. I’ve seen guns malfunction in potentially dangerous ways, including an AR-15 with a malfunctioning trigger group; bumping the trigger while the safety was on would cause a round to discharge when the safety was subsequently disengaged.

I get it – accidents happen, and novice shooters don’t always have the experience and knowledge to know what’s safe and what’s dangerous. But I’ve also seen instructors who do careless, stupid, or even outright reckless things with guns and think that, because they’re the teacher, the safety rules don’t apply to them.

This is my public service announcement to you: Get with the program. You are responsible for your students’ safety, and for managing the level of risk they face. If one of your students shoots themselves, or someone else, saying “they didn’t follow the safety rules; it’s not my fault” isn’t going to be nearly good enough.

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All Guns are Always Loaded

If you’ve been shooting for any length of time at all, you’ve doubtless had the Four Safety Rules drummed into your head over and over. And rule number one is simple: All guns are always loaded.

By which we mean, of course, that we should always treat all guns as though they’re loaded until we personally have verified that they aren’t, and that we should check them again if they’re out of our direct control and observation for even a second.

I’ve noticed a trend that some people seem to think their level of experience with guns exempts them from these safety rules. I’ve come across two examples in the past day of why this is not so, and I’d like to look at them from the standpoint of how we can be safer with our guns and prevent needless, stupid tragedies.

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A Teachable Moment

I’m going to be shooting an IDPA match this weekend, and my teenage daughter (whom I’ll refer to here as Nutmeg, one of her nicknames) will be attending with me. For a variety of reasons, this will be her first trip to the range, so we spent some time last night talking about safety. We talked about the four basic rules of gun safety, and I added a fifth. “When we’re handling guns, if an adult tells you to STOP, it means you’re doing – or about to do – something unsafe. If that happens, you need to freeze right where you are, and wait for the adult to tell you what’s happening that’s dangerous.”

After we talked safety, she wanted to learn a bit about gun handling. It happened I had a Glock Blue gun nearby, so I grabbed that and we did a brief lesson on the basics of gun handling – stance, grip, sights, trigger. While Nutmeg was practicing aiming, I noticed her finger drifting to the trigger. “STOP!” I told her.

She obediently froze. “Where’s your finger right now?” I asked her.

“On the trigger.”

“And is your gun pointing at your target right now?” The target was a 1/3 scale IDPA target I’d cut out of a cardboard box for practice.

“No…” She paused for a moment. “I know the safety rule says keep your finger off the trigger until your gun’s pointed at the target…but that’s silly, because this isn’t a real gun. It’s just a piece of plastic!”

Inwardly, I smiled. Nutmeg was about to experience what they call “a teachable moment”.

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