Negligent Discharges – the Most Dangerous Activity When Pistol Training

By John Farnam

Negligent Discharges
Negligent Discharges
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( There are dangers inherent with having guns around. There are also dangers inherent with not having guns around.

None of us get a risk-free life, and, in the end, the bacteria win.

Not in dispute!

However, in studying gun-training/range accidents, there is little doubt that the most dangerous thing we do with pistols is reholster them!

You can find examples of Negligent Discharges (NDs) associated with nearly any gun activity, from cleaning, to removing one from its case, but replacing a pistol into a holster, that is being worn at the time, is the one activity that tops the list!

When the strong-side index finger (trigger finger) is inside, or even near, the trigger guard, the holster itself can push the finger into the trigger (as the pistol is reholstered) with enough force to cause the pistol to discharge.

The result, depending upon where the holster is positioned, ranges from a hole, usually several, in the shooter’s pants, or jacket (shoulder holster), to a hole in his foot, buttocks, or the foot of someone standing near him. In the case of appendix-carry, the hole is often through the shooter’s upper leg, sometimes producing life-threatening injury to a femoral artery.

We’ve documented multiple examples of all of the above!

In fact, I know few experienced instructors (including me) who have not had it happen on their watch, no matter how slow we try to go, nor how careful we try to be.

As I’ve suggested before, deadly weapons which are loaded and thus in a high state of readiness, cannot not be handled “safely.” We can handle them carefully, adhering to a sound set of handling principles, but an ND is never more than an instant away!

I’m not suggesting that NDs are “inevitable,” but they’re far from “unheard-of,” even among experienced Operators who carry every day.

I am trying to encourage all of us to resist the temptation to become complacent when we handle guns, not just during training on the range, but every time we necessarily touch them during the course of our day.

Trigger finger needs to know its position. All other fingers are never allowed above the trigger guard! Errors in this regard need to be pointed-out and immediately corrected during training.

Mistakes don’t need to be practiced. Mistakes need to be corrected!

During this election season, all gun accidents will garner a high profile, like it or not!

Shooting someone on purpose, when you have no choice, is a life-changing event, filled to the brim with unpleasantries of all description. Not something I’d wish on anyone!

Even so, imagine the way it will affect you when you shoot someone you never intended to shoot, like yourself!

Modern pistols, of reputable manufacture, are as safe as it is humanly possible to make guns, and still have them genuinely useable for serious purposes. But, designing and manufacturing “safe” guns is akin to making “safe” chain-saws, or “safe” hand grenades.

We can never forget what they’re for!

“Positive outcomes don’t necessarily demonstrate superior play. Superior play will lead to positive outcomes more often than will poor play, but even poor players sometimes catch lucky. It is when you confuse catching lucky with playing well, that demons sneak in!” ~ John Vorhaus


About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor as well as published author, John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

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Lots of people posting here seem to have a ‘holier than thou’ mindset regarding ND’s or AD’s,which ever flops your mop. The truth be told,I would venture to say that at least 50% of the people who have posted here have had at least one ! Of course,that’s with the truth being told !

Ed C

In addition to the safety measures mentioned by others, I use double/single-action handguns with a hammer so that I can hold the hammer down with my thumb while holstering. In the event that the trigger catches while holstering, I get feedback on my thumb and stop to fix the problem.


There’s one other instance of a negligent (?) discharge that wasn’t described. Loose clothing can get caught between the inside of a holster and a trigger, and while pushing into the holster, can pull back a light, safe action type trigger. I’ve treated the effects of a number of negligent discharges over the years. Two of them happened on patients who swore their fingers were clear of the trigger while holstering, and were using striker fired light DAO or safe action triggers. Both had serious leg wounds. I’ve used an inside the belt holster and an empty Glock, intentionally entrapping… Read more »

KC Cajun

I had my first formal firearms training in 1976 by a tough “by the book” gun instructor at LSU. Because of her training, I became a stickler for gun safety. She recommended me for my NRA Pistol Instructor’s rating in 1978. I have carried guns as a police officer and a civilian since. I have competed in 2700, pistol, and shotgun competition. I have witnessed every breach of gun safety imaginable and thankfully no one has ever been hurt. I have also never had a ND. If you follow Col. Cooper’s rules of gun safety you will never hurt someone… Read more »

deprogramming services

NDs don’t only happen to idiots, though it’s tempting to say they do. A person who is competent 99.999999999% of the time might have a brief lapse in concentration and do something stupid. None of us are perfect. That’s what I got out of this anyway, and it’s something I already knew, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it. One thing I would point out is that the possibility of an ND shows the wisdom in redundant safety practices: in case one line of defense fails, another line will keep a tragedy from happening. It’s why we keep… Read more »

John Ridlehuber

Ist I agree with the article
2nd True safetys will cut down on NDs
3rd the picture is not of a handgun but a shotgun discharge


The ‘safety’ is between your ears. NO safety can replace brain power (or lack of same).

Randy Crawfford

When re-holstering a semi-auto, it is safer if you keep your thumb firmly behind the slide so that it (oops!) doesn’t get grabbed by friction and negligently racked back. The more you are in a hurry, the more important it is to take this precaution, or better yet make it a permanent habit in the first place. “Unloaded, unchambered” guns have killed way too many people.

Christian Green



I have never understood the hurry in re-holstering your sidearm? When all threats have been neutralized, carefully re-holster your weapon, FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER!


Really? How in the world am I going to be able to blow smoke off the barrel, and twirl the gun with my index finger and get the gun in the reverse position? (I have been watching a lot of Westerns these days).

Clark Kent

Off target, off trigger. How difficult is that to understand and practice?


The following was posted our a local forum by a trained county Paramedic…

A man was scheduled for the concealed carry class that did not allow loaded weapons inside.
He was in his car when he attempted to clear his firearm and had a ND and shot himself in the leg.

At another class the trained instructor had several firearms on display for the students to handle.
He handed on semiautomatic to a woman and when she pulled the trigger ND. No one was injured.

Paul W.

Another chance for an A.D. is recent gunsmithing.
A gun too far gunsmith, or a gunsmith unfamiliar with
YOUR gun.
Just because he knows Colt revolvers doesn’t
mean he is familiar with a Charter Arms hammer block
when the cylinder is opened.
Please do not ask how I know this!


There are two very simple ways to prevent an accidental discharge when reholstering but few instructors mention them. One, the safest is all fingers wrapped around grip. Second is index finger pointed as far away from the frame as possible


If you keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times most accidents would not happen.


So the moral of the story is some people are idiots. Okay. We spend all this trying to fix stupid and you can’t. They vote, they take your money and they are some politicians dream. I have been around weapons for quite some time. I know of only one way to prevent stupid in my path. Well, actually reduce it. When doing some basic drills with someone and an unloaded weapon, they become disqualified if they don’t get it. One mistake could mean death for someone else. ZERO TOLERANCE! They are asked to leave and not return. For the small… Read more »


Just out of curiosity how long do they get before you dump them. And don’t you think you should keep them on until they do get it ? Unless they are truly retarded !!
These questions aren’t meant to be mean spirited It’s just that I hate to think their still out there un skilled !!


During a competition, any safety issue should result in a DQ. There is not time to provide training and move on. During a training session time must be spent correcting the problem. Problem is too many people do not take lessons and are self taught. They have no idea what they are doing wrong.