Range Accident – After Action Report

By John Farnam

Fort Devens Firing Range Facilities
Fort Devens Firing Range Facilities
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-(Ammoland.com)-  “Existence is random. Has no pattern, save what we imagine after staring at it too long.” ~ Alan Moore

Range Accident!

On the East Coast last week, during a live-fire, state-sponsored, police pistol training exercise, two experienced and competent instructors were handing-off a G23, one to the other.

Both were standing next to each other, on-line, and facing downrange. One, holding the pistol by the slide (muzzle downrange), handed it to the other.

A lanyard with a whistle on the end, worn by the first instructor, fell through the trigger guard. The whistle then turned and would not come back through. As the second officer grasped the pistol by the grip, the now-jammed whistle caused the pistol to suddenly redirect, and the lanyard somehow became wrapped around the trigger-guard and put sufficient pressure on the trigger to simultaneously cause the pistol to discharge.

The result was that the second instructor was struck in the abdomen by a single round. It did not exit, but penetrated to just under the skin on the opposite side. Fortunately, it was hardball, training ammunition, not high-performance, duty ammunition.

I was not there, so the foregoing is merely the scenario that was explained to me by friends who were.

Good news is that other instructors there had competent TTGSW (Tactical Treatment of Gunshot Wounds) training, had their trauma kits with them, and immediately went to work on the wound.

They quickly stuffed the entry wound with combat gauze and then applied an IBD (Israeli Battle Dressingover it. Trauma surgeons subsequently credited their quick and correct actions with saving the life of this injured instructor!

The wounded officer was helicoptered to a local hospital, but was discharged the next day, and he was back on the range and instructing the day after that, displaying little discomfort!

Lessons:

1) I am persuaded that most shooting accidents are preventable, but not all. Risk attaches to all training we do, no matter how careful we try to be. A maniacal preoccupation with the utter eradication of all risk will merely neuterize everything we are trying to accomplish, and as noted above, is doomed to failure anyway.

As an example, some suggest that all guns should be unloaded before they are passed from one person to another, but that generates much unnecessary gun-handling, a process that is great source of accidents by itself.

Such a rule thus wastes training time and merely exchanges one plague for another!

2) Lanyards, integral with clothing, or worn around the neck, represent a significant risk to gun-handlers.

  • Lanyards and draw-strings, integral with clothing, need to be eliminated from the wardrobe of gun-carriers.
  • Many instructors find whistles indispensable, particularly on outdoor ranges, where it is often difficult to talk loud enough to be heard by everyone. Without a whistle handy, range instructors will often go hoarse by the end of the day!

However, when range instructors wear lanyards around their necks to hold whistles, a two-inch snap-ring needs to be interposed between lanyard and whistle, making it impossible for the whistle to drag the lanyard through the trigger-guard on most rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

3) Range instructors need to have competent TTGSW (Tactical Treatment of Gunshot Wounds) training, and have their Trauma Kits (read Are Trauma Kits Missing From Your Range Bag? ) with them when on the range, so that they can be accessed immediately when a shooting injury occurs.

Trauma kits, no matter how complete and elaborate, when back at the station or in a car parked some distance away, may as well not even exist, and even competent trauma kits in the hands of the untrained are all but useless!

4) All range training needs a competent stabilization/evacuation/transport plan that is understood by all present.

5) What we are on the range to accomplish must never by lost in a sea of risk-aversion and interminable, irrelevant, incomprehensible “rules,” designed more to protect careers than to provide students with life-saving skills.

Gun Safety Rules
Gun Safety Rules

With regard to gun-handling “rules,” the four we now have will suffice!

Ultimately, it is impossible to write a “policy” or “set of rules” that will specifically address every conceivable set of circumstances that could ever occur. Such a project would consume an entire lifetime just to write it, and another to read it. And after all that, it would still be pitiably incomplete anyway!

The best we can do is provide competent guidance (the briefer the better), depending upon students and instructors to use good judgement and discernment as they fill-in details as necessary.

Obsessive risk-aversion is the path of cowards! Seeking “guarantees” is the path of naive fools!

Conversely, we Operators have to be bold and audacious heroes, and we have to train and inspire heroes, acknowledging and accepting all risks, known and unforseen, that attach.

A leader leads! You can’t ask men to courageously confront personal risk when you’re not willing to confront it yourself.

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” ~ F Scott Fitzgerald

/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

10 Comments
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Steve
Steve
5 years ago

The muzzle was still pointing at a human, not downrange, when the firearm discharged a round. A whistle got stuck in the trigger guard? Ok. So what? That doesn’t stop you from clearing the weapon while keeping it pointing in the safest direction, and then unfucking yourself.
This wasn’t “unintentional”. It was negligent. Just because there were mitigating circumstances doesn’t release anyone involved from responsibility.

Rick
Rick
5 years ago

While I realize that there wasn’t a finger involved, I prefer to have “keep your finger off of the trigger” as the first rule. As guns in good repair cannot “go off” without some sort of trigger manipulation, that should prevent the majority of “it just went off” events. While I hate to nit pick, the “always loaded” rule would prevent guns from being made, transported, sold, or cleaned. After all, if they are _always_ loaded, what can you do with them besides shoot them in the appropriate context/situation? Obviously, I wasn’t there either so I can’t envision how the… Read more »

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Instead of a whistle why not a light or multiple lights that would flash etc to warn people the range is now cold or hot especially for the hearing impaired. Didn’t the military use a flag system?

james
james
5 years ago

I never hand any firearm to anyone.

I place it action open or cylinder moved out of the frame and place the firearm on the table.

Eric_CA
Eric_CA
5 years ago

“Holding the pistol by the slide (muzzle downrange), handed it to the other” seemed odd to me. Maybe it’s just me.

Brian
Brian
5 years ago

Was this some kind of relay shooting exercise? Maybe a reverse pitch then shoot? Why would passing a loaded firearm to someone else be a part of any training exercise? Maybe the students aren’t allowed to load their own firearm.

This is a case where an instructor needs to be terminated.

bill
bill
5 years ago

I always unload the firearm before handing it to anyone.

Even if that “generates too much unnecessary gun handling” at a minimum the safety must be engaged
(or is putting the safety on also ‘too much unnecessary gun handling’ ?)

WFA
WFA
5 years ago

Ah, was there a manual safety on the firearm, or was that determined to be “unnecessary” by the manufacturer?

Matt in Oklahoma
Matt in Oklahoma
5 years ago

Interesting article with the issue, the fix, what went wrong and what went right.

Ken
Ken
5 years ago

Rule # 5 Murphy’s Law is just waiting.
Rule # 6 O’Toole’s Law…Murphy was an optimist.