Guns are Dangerous, But So Is Life

By John Farnam

Smoking 45
Guns are dangerous! Some degree of danger will always attach to serious training with guns. I don’t know how else to put it.
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( “Unlikely” doesn’t translate to “Impossible!”

From a friend and colleague:

‘Last week on our outdoor range, while setting-up a pistol (G19) for a stoppage-reduction drill, it unexpectedly discharged when the instructor released the slide. No fingers anywhere near the trigger.

Of course, this pistol was pointed down-range.

The cartridge case in question fired while half-chambered. The bullet itself was in the chamber and went on down-range, impacting into the berm. The case (mostly unsupported) split-open and discharged hot gas out the ejection port.

The instructor handling the pistol received some singeing of his arm, but no serious injury. He was, of course, wearing safety glasses. The pistol was not “totaled,” but did suffer some damage.

As near as I can tell, and it is just a guess, the corner of the slide struck the primer and, in effect, functioned as a firing pin, although it is hard for me to understand how the two came into contact with each other.

It may have been something else entirely, but I can’t imagine what!

In any event, there was no significant injury, as noted above, and the pistol can be repaired and returned to service, so there was a “happy ending,” or as happy as it could have been.”


We teach competent gun-handling protocols and practice them assiduously on the range, and we expect our students to learn and adhere to them also.

However, I passionately explain to students and instructors alike that, no matter how “safe” we all try to be, no matter what protocol we follow, and no matter how competent I am in running a range, risk attaches to every moment guns are in our presence, and not all risks are “foreseeable,” as the above narrative illustrates.

Our job as trainers is to “manage” risk, and, of course, avoid extreme risks, but some risk is always present, no matter what we do or don’t do, and cannot be eliminated.

Our current generation of serious guns, particularly pistols, are about a “safe” as it is ever going to be possible to make guns, and still have them reasonably useable for their intended purpose.

Guns are dangerous! Accordingly, some degree of danger will always attach to serious training with guns. I don’t know how else to put it.

Who cannot abide the thought of personal exposure to even the slightest danger had better pass on gun ownership, and gun training!


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:

  • 14 thoughts on “Guns are Dangerous, But So Is Life

    1. Doesn’t appear we have ALL the details on this. The first paragraph states,”‘Last week on our outdoor range, while setting-up a pistol (G19) for a stoppage-reduction drill…” would lead me to believe (and I could be wrong) that the instructor was setting up the pistol with a “jam” scenario, i.e. artificially inputting a malfunction to demonstrate the proper way to do “immediate action drill” to clear the malfunction? If this is the case, he may have manually inserted the round in such a way as to simulate a “jam” so that when he released the slide, the round went off. Guess we’ll never really know unless we ask the instructor exactly what he did. Personally, I practice my “immediate action drills” using “snap caps” so something like this doesn’t happen. Just my two cents.

    2. Hey, FYI I don’t wear gloves when I shoot. I also work in the drilling and mining industry. Still have all my fingers. When I go to the range I train for as close to real world conditions as possible, that includes defensive and hunting situations. I car speak for anyone else but when I do to the movies or the bank or store etc I don’t constantly wear tac. gloves. As for a freak incident, what shooter honestly strips and checks there entire weapon and magazines before every shoot, also who checks every single round for saami level specs, never seen a bench covered with guns and a micrometer at any range. Hell I wouldn’t even have the time on one of my now rare 600-700 round days to check every single round

      1. OMG now you’ve done it!! DJ is NOT going to be pleased with your performance. UNACCEPTABLE!

        And as a side note to DJ – the only one who has “deficient comprehension” is YOU. In no way was I implying that your system of flags could have prevented the incident outlined in the article. How about you go back and reread my post REALLY slow you Gil wanna be.

        1. To curious again,
          So you should REread what you initially posted about “And how your flags would have prevented it?” I never said that. You did. AND implied it, too. And now correct your post as above. Obvious to any gil wannabe even with “deficient comprehension”. Point taken. Forgotten.
          Saw a couple of situations that were PREVENTABLE. Fatal consequences with one. Not forgotten. And to hopefully NOT to experience them or relive those circumstances again.
          For the record, I would rather NOT get in a pissing match. Wasted effort. Counterproductive.
          Hope you can appreciate my “enthusiasm” for prevention of tragedy.
          We are each responsible for our actions. So to each his on.

    3. The Center for Disease Control says that Heart Disease is the biggest killer of Americans every year. 600,000 die from obesity and/or smoking. The most dangerous weapons must be a knife and fork or a Bic lighter.

    4. From how the story is worded I don’t believe the words “stupid, careless” or any other adjective are appropriate here. It was a training exercise and with the millions of people trained every year there are bound to be a minuscule number of what I would call true “freak” accidents that no one could foresee. As happened in this case, the proper safety procedures were taken regarding muzzle direction so the round went exactly where it was supposed to, down range.

      True accidents can and do happen. We have squib loads that very rarely slip through the factory safeguards. That’s an extremely rare accident that no one can predict. We do the best we can understanding we’re human and we’re also dealing with machinery that can fail.

    5. All guns are LOADED whether they have bullets in them or NOT.
      All accidents no matter what type or circumstances can ultimately be traced back eventually TO human error.
      When anyone is shooting my firearms, there is a mandatory run through on its controls AND all chambers are flagged with the yellow Sinclair safety flags when not in hand. No 2nd chances or guesses. Particularly with multiple calibers and hardware on the table. And enthusiastic shooters and little helpers KNOW that it HAS to have a chamber flag. And little kids at my table can and will correct the adults AS EXPECTED.
      And I have a big bundle of bright zip ties to give away to others to preserve my sanity when such a trivial safety item is overlooked, especially when observed non chalant attitudes on the firing line are primed for a tragedy. Already saw couple of close calls. No more. Not when I’m in the general vicinity.
      Please use chamber flags when on the firing line. It does reduce the exposure to NDs and Murphys law.
      As above, guns are NOT dangerous. Stupid is VERY dangerous.
      So don’t cause a statistic. Or become one.

      1. you failed to READ and comprehend the text of the artiicle. At the time of this incident, since the handgun was IN THE HAND of the demonstrating instructor, the bore flag would have already been removed. The prepped bagazine was inserted into the mag well preparatory to firing for the demonstration. HOW the slide caught, then touched off, the top round from the mag before closing into battery is unknown…. I don’t see how stupid, more rules, extra careful, etc, would have changed a thing. Muzzle control WAS maintained properly. Thus, even in the face of a freak mechaincal malfunction no harm was done, no one was endangered. Unless a sudden adrenaline dump made someone’s heart go hypertachic, which apparently did not happen.

        1. At tiontico,
          I did NOT fail to read or COMPREHEND the text of the article. That apparently was lost to you.
          The detonation of the pinched round out of battery is why shooting glasses and the operators evident forgotten gloves are protective equipment. Fingers are precious,too. Even if they got a powder flash burn or two in this case. And hair grows back eventually. And this outcome mostly reflected THAT.
          The chamber flag still demonstrates SAFETY equipment. There is a difference, see?
          Especially when there MAY be UNKNOWN errant loaded chambers from hundreds of guns pointed downrange on the firing line when the range is “cold” when you are in front of them posting new targets. And if you call chamber flags “stupid, more rules, extra careful, ect. BLAH BLAH” then YOU are wilfully dangerous. And an accident and negligence waiting to happen someday with the Devil in the Details. So your ego says don’t use them. So be it. But I told you so, TODAY.
          All my NFA firearms WILL be flagged when on the table without exception. Always will.
          It’s the responsible, appreciated, considerate and MOSTLY courteous thing to do at the next machine gun shoot. Or anywhere there is an ND waiting to happen.
          Preventing a gunshot tragedy is expected. After the fact with a lot of tears. And haunting regret.
          A hundred yellow zip ties demonstrates responsibility. And a good freebie giveaway to a new friend with new hardware on the line. That never thought of that.
          “Common sense” is becoming so rare these days it’s becoming a Super Power. Amazing!
          Yes, chamber flags are safety equipment that I use spontaneously at ANY gun range. Required or NOT. And peace of mind is worth a LOT.

          1. Hey DJ, since you read and comprehended the article please tell us how the incident was human error? And how your flags would have prevented it? Actually, how this flag system has any relevance to the article you’ve commented on?

            1. At curious,
              As before, all incidents are somehow related and traced back to human error. The instructor somehow pinched the primer apparrently with the slide. Manipulating while it was cocked sideways on the feed ramp evidently out of battery forcing it to chamber may have come into play. The brass could have had a HIGH primer. The loaded brass could have been checked prior to loading in the magazine with a case gauge for out of specification dimensions. (I always check all rounds after the Dillon 650 SPECIFICALLY for THAT reason). As before it WAS operator error to some degree somewhere….. Guns don’t spontaneously shoot or detonate their ammo out of battery. But maybe for you……
              Also, your comprehension level is evident deficient if you are implying that a chamber flag could have prevented this incident. Even dimwit gil probably has a clue here. There are 2 separate issues…duh. Reread what i posted. REALLY slow. Again.
              Protective equipment compliments safety equiptment. Motorcycle helmet vs. seatbelts. Same thing. Different scenario. Reduced consequences in a collision.
              So the next time you are at a gun show and there is a ND beware that it is REALLY LOUD. And totally FREAKING unexpected. And everyone watching for someone else to fall. Same thing at any gun range. At least if it is flagged I know it is incapable of firing when any firearm is being passed around or on the line to the next shooter.
              Again, my use of flags does NOT have bearing on that particular incident which could have turned out BADLY. Use of chamber flags REDUCES the risk of negligent discharges. And any tragedy. To me, THAT is a really good thing.
              Saw the horrific consequences of a 220 grain BLK shot in a 5.56 last year. Needless to say, a max dose of H110 can and WILL swage a .30 cal down to a .22 cal in an instant. Near 3 inch bullet overall. Quite a conversation piece. AFTER THE FACT! Trashed the upper and hand guards, bulged the barrel, blew out the magazine and the bullet actually fell out of the barrel at the other end. Nice super deep lands and grooves. A souvenir for the genius that did it. At least he HAD shooting gloves on. I dug out a hanging piece of the brass at the base of his thumb and he went for sutures. Told him no bitching or griping becuz he still HAD a thumb. And fingers. At 100 percent today. And MUCH wiser. And appreciates that I already sequester my uppers with one caliber to shoot at a time. And they are chamber flagged caliber specific just becuz. Long time prior to that.
              There are LOTS of instances of incidents like these in the news that could have been PREVENTED with a tiny bit of forethought and pre planning. Too late after it HAPPENS. And makes firearms look bad for the uninformed and knee jerkers. No guns are NOT dangerous. Unpredictable, NOT thinking human behavior IS dangerous. Been there. Saw THAT.
              Might have had cause for pause if he had snapped that the chamber flag just removed did NOT match his ammo. After the slide pinches the primer or the trigger is pulled – too late.
              Safety glasses, shooting gloves and chamber flags are all recommended. Each plays a part.
              Never the less, for me, safe firearms handling is relevant ANYTIME. And chamber flags ARE a part of that relevance.
              If you curious are NOT prepared for an incident, so be it.
              Ignore the consequences. But not me. Or anyone touching my hardware.

      1. @ArtP, I agree guns are only inanimate objects. Guns are as dangerous as a rock. Our Second Amendment civil rights enemies are going to say “See, they admit guns are dangerous!”, based on this article’s title. And I agree that Stupid plus almost any other ingredient equals dangerous. Stupid plus a cotton ball can equal dangerous.

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