Accidental Discharge – Terms and Language

By John Farnam
In my recent post I talked about Negligent Discharge vs Unintentional Discharge, now Larry Mudgett: gives us his take on Accidental Discharge .

Accidental Discharge
Accidental Discharge
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-(Ammoland.com)- More refinement of terms, from my friend and colleague, and a giant in our Art, Larry Mudgett:

“When none of our ‘Four Universal Safety Rules’ were involved in the errant discharge in question, it is correctly described as an ‘accident,’ or ‘ accidental discharge.’” It is not the result of negligence on the part of the shooter.

On the contrary, when the errant discharge in question was preceded by a clear violation of one of our Four Universal Safety Rules, it was ‘negligent

Since both of these events are sometimes described as ‘accidents,’ we must carefully distinguish between the two.

Both are correctly referred to as ‘unintentional discharges,’ or ‘UDs

Thus, there are then two kinds of UDs:

1) ‘Accidental Discharge,’ or ADs and

2) ‘Negligent Discharge,’ or NDs

These are the terms I came up with for LAPD, and they worked out fairly. When you violated one of our Four Rules, and that violation directly resulted in an unintentional discharge and/or an unintentional hit, you received some form of censure, along with re-training.

Conversely, when the event occurred through some mechanical failure, or other cause not related to the violation of our Four Rules, you were not penalized.

Our System worked well and was fair, but as you might imagine, most errant discharges, and the easiest ones to resolve, occur on our training range. Those occurring in the field, particularly under tactical circumstances, are much more difficult to settle.

In the field, ‘good outcomes’ don’t necessarily mean we’re all saints, nor do ‘bad outcomes’ necessarily indicate that someone was negligent.”

Accidental Discharge My comment:

Not much to add, but I should note, as I have before, that legitimate Accidental Discharge’s (AD) are extremely rare. The vast majority of UDs are NDs!

And, the foregoing is still not “absolute.” There will be exigent circumstances where a violation of one of our Four Rules may be unavoidable, and thus not necessarily negligent, such as when a marksman must shoot a felon out from behind a hostage. Active gunfighting continually challenges our imaginations and acumen, so no degree of adherence to a set of “rules,” no matter how well written, will ever absolve us from sound judgement and courageous, thoughtful analysis!

Whenever I’m asked to assist an attorney involved in a shooting case, I’m invariably required to inspect the gun in question and render an opinion with regard to its serviceability. In every case in which I’ve been involved (in over fifty years), the gun in question is “serviceable, and within factory specifications.

That is, it is not broken, nor subsequently “ modified” in some way that would make it “implicitly unsafe.”

Of course, some attorneys insist that the design itself of some guns is “inherently unsafe,” because they come without certain features (like a manual safety lever or button). Most of these cases are civil suits against the gun manufacturer itself, and I’ve never seen one involving a major manufacturer that has any merit. Just sleazy, amoral lawyers along with sleazy, amoral (and stupid) clients, looking for early retirement!

Again, “safe” gun-handling is probably impossible, but “careful” and “correct” gun-handling, as defined by our Four Rules of Gun Safety, is.

For those unfamiliar, here are The Four Rules of Gun Safety:

1) Treat all guns as always loaded

2) Keep the muzzle of the gun you’re handling continuously pointed in a relatively safe, or otherwise appropriate, direction.

3) Keep fingers out of contact with the trigger, and out of the trigger guard, unless and until (1) your sights are on target, and (2) you intend for the gun to fire immediately.

4) Be sure of your target and the area behind it.

Yet, like the Ten Commandments, our Four Rules, sound as they are, will still require sensible, levelheaded interpretation as they are applied to each new situation.

There are precious few “absolutes” No rule nor law, no matter how cleverly written, is fair to all people, at all times. Our Art continually moves forward, and we practitioners must never find ourselves victims of rigor mortis!

“Just when we think we’re arrived at the ‘ultimate solution,’ we discover that, as our telescope improves, more stars appear!” ~ Julian Barnes

/John

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor 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: www.defense-training.com

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Brian

One of the 4 basic firearm safety rules does not have to be violated for there to be a negligent discharge. Firearm malfunction due to worn parts, worn holster are in fact a negligent circumstance. Clothing or accessories that may cause a firearm to discharge is also negligence on the part of the operator. The four basic firearm safety rules are only designed to mitigate negligent discharges and to mitigate the damaged caused by them. We are humans and will make mistakes, but just because we did not mean for it to happen or did not know better does not… Read more »

5WarVeteran

“Author: Matt Comment: Maybe send it to the manufacturer for a thorough once over? No way they wouldn’t look at a weapon that discharged like that. Just a thought.” Matt, believe me I took it down to parade rest and checked every part nothing showed any signs of damage, you know like out of round or being bent in any way. I thought maybe the firing pin was bent or sticking but found absolutely nothing. It has not happened since but you know that just sits in the back of your mind. IT HAPPENED. and now the worry. So sending… Read more »

Matt

Maybe they’ll swap it out for a fee, and take our in as a core trade. I’d be interested in what they have to say.

5WarVeteran

I am not seeing all the posts soo. “Author: Stupid Comment: What would this be classified as? Be truthful, your can’t say anything I have said to myself. I was taking dinner weapons into a shop to put on consignment. I have a good relationship with the staff, so we started talking about the Sig that I DIDN’T want to sell. I was raving about the ergos of the weapon, the owner said that he’d never held this particular weapon before. Me, wanting him to do so, opened the Sig storage box, picked up the weapon, tracked it, aimed away… Read more »

Numbskull

That’s exactly what I did. Still can’t believe it. It bothers me mostly because our was second nature. With a semi auto, you pull the trigger when you want to return the trigger/striker.

Klaus Nietzschmann

I follow the “Gunsite Rules:
1, ALL guns are always loaded
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
4. Always be sure of your target

My definitions:
There are only three ways a gun can fire:
1. Deliberately
2. Defective
3. Negligence (not used as a legal term)

5WarVeteran

“Author: Stupid
Comment:
Why not send it to the manufacturer for a once over? I bet if you explained, they would really give it a good look. I don’t think a manufacturer wants their name on a weapon that discharges without explanation. Just a thought for your piece of mind.”

Now that does not sound stupid at all and I have thought about that. I wonder how BERSA deals with that process.
I am also a gunsmith but admit there are things I can learn.

Stupid

What would this be classified as? Be truthful, your can’t say anything I have said to myself. I was taking dinner weapons into a shop to put on consignment. I have a good relationship with the staff, so we started talking about the Sig that I DIDN’T want to sell. I was raving about the ergos of the weapon, the owner said that he’d never held this particular weapon before. Me, wanting him to do so, opened the Sig storage box, picked up the weapon, tracked it, aimed away from everything and squeezed the trigger. Boom! Right through the top… Read more »

Adam

You didn’t verify the weapon was clear before dry-firing it, which makes it a negligent discharge. Fortunately, because you pointed the firearm in a generally safe direction the outcome was merely property damage and some embarrassment.

Mike Murray

There are two kinds of people, those who have had an ND (mine was at age six), and those who will (or will again). If you think “I’ve never had one and NEVER will, it can’t happen to me” you are setting yourself up for failure. To avoid an ND you must be correct EVERY time, to have one it only takes one screw up. Those who handle guns often are at greater risk, simply because of statistics- and complacency. My last close call was because I assumed the chamber was clear. After all, I ALWAYS clear the chamber, right?… Read more »

JoeUSooner

When I was young and stupid (as opposed to being old and stupid, now) my one and only AD was in a jungle hut early one morning. [The armorer blamed a broken trigger spring, but refused to elaborate.] My 1911 was pointed down at the cot (with my finger off the trigger) as I racked the slide to charge the chamber. The bullet penetrated the mattress, and the hut’s floor, into the mud below… luckily missing the pigs, but annoying the villagers and my sergeant. My one and only ND was two years later, in Oregon, using a borrowed revolver… Read more »

5WarVeteran

You are definitely blessed.

2nd Amender

Long ago, and far away, I was in a situation where OJT was the rule for everyone, and every situation. Chaos and luck ruled supreme.
A brand new guy, first night on ambush, just lays his 16 down next to him, muzzle pointing at himself. He just cozily allows the rifle to slap the ground…..and shoots himself through both cheeks of his ass!

Unintentional and negligent at the same time. Luckily, he shot himself.

Wake_Up_America

Rectum hell, it will kill ya??

5WarVeteran

An expensive an painful lesson and a CHEEZY way to get out of combat. ANND it counts as wounded in action. Bloody Hell…

5WarVeteran

I had it happen once at the range. Did not have a finger on the trigger though. It went off as I let the slide spring forward after clearing a stovepipe on a BERSA Thunder 380. Took it totally apart and cleaned it but I never really found a cause. It has not happened again so I remain really leery of that weapon. I will not sell it because that happened.

Bob Cloninger

It would be really tempting to just destroy the firearm after a mechanical failure. Can’t trust it, can’t sell it, and it could kill someone unintentionally.

5WarVeteran

Agreed but I have always used it as a concealed carry. Being very careful is a requirement.

Stupid

Why not send it to the manufacturer for a once over? I bet if you explained, they would really give it a good look. I don’t think a manufacturer wants their name on a weapon that discharges without explanation. Just a thought for your piece of mind.

TEX

@5WarVeteran,I would have to get rid of that handgun ! I’m not familiar with Bersa Thunder .380’s at all but you might want to contact them (Bersa). They might replace it for you with a new handgun ! Don’t hurt to ask !

5WarVeteran

I need to contact them for sure.

Matt

Maybe send it to the manufacturer for a thorough once over? No way they wouldn’t look at a weapon that discharged like that. Just a thought.

Matt in Oklahoma

It’s usually a WHEN rather than IF. It can not be overstated enough.
I had an ND at 13 cause I had my booger hook on the bang switch and an AD where the rifle discharged while just holding it with the safety on. Rule #2 saved me and those around me both times. The recliner never was quite the same lol

TEX

I had one ND about 7 years ago at the deer lease. It was with my shotgun while unloading it. (In my defense I always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction) My buddies still rag on me about that to this day ! That type of stuff is very serious business in Texas and they never let you live it down !