Category Archives: Safety

It’s all fun and games until your static line seizes up

Dateline Mexico. This guy gets towed, and instead of either pulling him in or cutting him loose, the JMs and safetys seem to convene a Knesset in the airplane while he spins around out there. The video doesn’t show what finally happened to him. Commenters said he was OK in a longer version of the video, but the only longer version we could find was the same video with another copy of itself pasted on the end.

Getting towed is one of the nightmares of static line jumping. Usually what happens is the SL seizes on some piece of equipment. We had a guy get hung up by an entrenching tool, clipped onto his ALICE pack with two of those flimsy ALICE clips. He said the worst of it was that it was hard to breathe, with the parachute harness constricting his chest and the thin air in the slipstream behind the airplane (C-130 in his case).

In the US, jumpers are trained to put their hand on their reserve and the other on their helmet to signal to the crew they’re ready for cutaway. We doubt Mexican procedure is very different. If the jumper is unconscious, they won’t cut him loose, but they try to bring him into the tailgate, or at least get him close. The aircrew may call ahead to have the fire apparatus spread foam on the runway so that a guy trailing behind the big iron bird doesn’t get a terminal case of runway rash.

Just to show you Army SF can screw up jumping, too, here’s a 5th Group JM exiting a wee bit early. He was OK, apart from the embarrassment of the thing.

He got the usual result if you accidentally activate a reserve in the tailgate area — an instant exit, and descent under two canopies (with very little directional control, but a soft landing guaranteed). It’s a different matter if you pop the reserve near the door whilst doing a door jump. There, the doorframe impedes your exit, and you hit it at ±130 kt or so. SF strongly prefers tailgate jumps anyway, but the 82nd has lost a couple of guys to near-door activations.

If you pop the reserve a bit deeper inside the airplane, everybody tries to dive on the pilot chute and control it before it can catch the wind.

Military parachuting is a harsh environment and there are frequent arguments over whether it is worth the vast expenditure on it. Most major and regional powers (like Mexico) think it is. It is another way to project power, and forces certain defensive dispositions on an enemy even if it isn’t used. And it also provides an important gut check and confidence builder for troops. Elite forces that are not parachute trained are relatively rare worldwide.

Gun Safety Lesson for Kids — from 1908

Here’s The Hole Book, by Peter Newell. New York: Harper & Brothers, October 1908. In verse and illustrations, Newell tells the story of Tom Potts, who was “fooling with a gun” when, “bang! the pesky thing went off.” The shot he recklessly fires a shot causes all kinds of mischief. The gun is naturally a revolver, and not one of those newfangled Browning things:


You see a cross-section of urban society at the turn of the last century, as seen by, we suspect, a middle-class New Yorker. The book pokes gentle fun at such stereotypes as an Irish house-servant; a goateed artist; a black family; immigrants from Russia, Germany, and the Netherlands; various hard-of-thinking workmen; and such newfangled contraptions as airships and motorcars.

The bullet’s path, illustrated in the hard-copy book by an actual hole drilled through the pages, miraculously intersected no human being and no living thing that wasn’t a menace to man, and might have wound its way all round the world to threaten Tom himself, but something fortunately intervenes.

Tom, and the readers, are left lightly entertained and perhaps somewhat inoculated against “fooling with a gun.”

You can read it online at this link or at You can also download it as .pdf, or ePub (iBooks) or .mobi (Kindle) formats at OpenLibrary (several other formats also).

A Mess of Accidents, Early August Edition

Item: Pittsburgh, 5 August 2014: “The Bra Went Bang!”

ND-shot-in-footThe story is so bizarre all we can do is repeat it. Note that the agency is assigned to the gun (“the gun fired”), and the headline was even worse: she was “Shot By Gun in Bra.” Those wacky guns!

Pittsburgh police plan to charge a married couple after the woman was accidentally shot in the arm when her husband reached for her cellphone — which the woman carried in her bra along with the gun — during an argument on the street.

The Associated Press is not naming the Carnegie couple because police had yet to file charges Thursday.

The incident occurred about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

That’s when police say the 35-year-old husband reached for the cellphone, accidentally hitting the gun in the process. The gun fired, wounding the woman in the arm. She ran to nearby Allegheny General Hospital for treatment.

Police intend to charge the man with aggravated assault under Pennsylvania’s domestic violence laws. The woman will be charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm.

via 2 To Face Charges In Pa. After Wife Shot By Gun In Bra « CBS Philly.

We realize holsters are not that well adapted to women’s fashions, but we know women who cope. If any of them bra carry, we don’t know about it — only the TSA knows for sure.

Item: Meriden CT, 3 Aug 14: “Cleaning his gun.”

You don’t want to have an ND in anti-gun Connecticut. Not only will the press blame the gun (“The gun accidentally went off!”) but the whole thing will end with you, and your guns, in police custody:

Police said Khaled Elmorsy was cleaning his gun Sunday night when the weapon went off at his condo on North Colony Road.

Elmorsy’s downstairs neighbor, Tom Hollowell, said his 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter was sleeping in her room when the bullet flew by her bed and lodged itself in a closet door about three feet away.

Hollowell and his girlfriend noticed the bullet hole the next day and called police in a panic.
“We didn’t know what happened,” Hollowell explained. “We couldn’t even comprehend what went on.”

Police said Elmorsy never reported that the gun went off. They arrived on scene to examine the damage and promptly arrested him.

“He could have hurt someone, and no one would have known because people were sleeping,” Hollowell said.

Elmorsy was charged with unlawful discharge and reckless endangerment. Hollowell said his neighbor was shaken up and apologetic.

The 2nd Amendment being a dead letter in anti-gun Connecticut, Elmorsy was able to bond out of jail but he appears to have lost his guns for good. He’s lucky he didn’t hit the kid, or he’d have lost his liberty, too. But since it is Connecticut, he may be able to get away with blaming the gun.

To understand how Connecticut politicians get elected, parse this statement by the aggrieved resident: “He could have hurt someone, and no one would have known because people were sleeping.” Of course the same guy came out with the doubtless truthful, “We couldn’t even comprehend what went on.” We’ll bet.

Item: Mexico City, 3 Aug 14. “He didn’t know the gun was loaded.”

As the title suggests, there are no new gun accidents, just new fools having the same old gun accidents. Oscar Aguilar was a fan of selfies, and thought a gun was the perfect prop for a Facebook memory. Instead, he’s the memory now.

Oscar Aguilar showed off on Facebook by posting photos of himself in front of sports cars, sitting on motorbikes and hugging attractive women.

But the Mexican’s desire to impress proved his downfall when he borrowed the gun and snapped himself waving it about.

Neighbour Manfredo Paez, 57, said: ‘I heard a gunshot and then I heard somebody screaming.’

The 21-year-old died on the way to hospital in Mexico City.

He had failed to realise the gun was loaded, police said.

The British paper Metro was a rare example of media understanding the agency of gun accidents: it said Aguilar “died shortly after shooting himself in the head by accident.”



Physical Security: 6 Facts about Safes

vault-door-family-imageHaving just been through the rodeo of safe-buying, and about to do it again, we came away with some wisdom we’re willing to share with you. If you learn from our pain, you will experience less of your own when you do this, so we’re putting it out there.

  1. An expensive safe is usually better, but a cheap safe now beats a perfect safe in the indistinct future.
  2. The best safes aren’t “gun” safes, but commercial safes that might be too heavy for your floors.
  3. A safe that can be walked off with is not a safe, it’s a gift basket for your burglars.
  4. How you install the safe is as important as the safe itself.
  5. Electronic locks are a single point of failure.
  6. All safe manufacturers lie about their products’ capacity. A lot.

Also: customer service counts, and it might not be where you expect to find it. Make sure you know, in muscle memory, the combination. And once they’re locked up inside, don’t put your guns out of mind. We’ll also tell you which accessories we like best.

An Expensive Safe is Usually Better, But…

If you have no safe now, go out and buy the biggest one you can reasonably transport, and then come back and read this article. Very cheap safes don’t seriously deter or slow down burglars, and provide minimal fire protection. There are ways to save money on a safe. For example, summertime is usually good, as dealers have incentives to move last year’s model. Craigslist can be a source of old safes, but most of the safes we’ve seen there are home-store junk. Some brands make only junk. For example, Stack-On sells nothing but crap under their own name. They make higher quality safes under house names for some sporting-goods chains, like the anti-gun gun store, Dick’s (Dick’s brand is “Field and Stream 1871″. These are Stack-On safes, but better built than the ones Stack-On puts its own name on).

An old jewelry-store or bank safe can sometimes be found at business supply store or antique shops. These may or may not provide the burglar and fire security one hopes to gain from a safe, but in most cases will actually be better than a new “gun safe.” To understand why, read this website:

The Best Safes Aren’t Gun Safes.

Two things have been driving the design of gun safes for years: relentless competitive pressure to lower prices, and customer demand for more volume and lower weight. This adds up to thin sheet metal safes that burglars can brute force in minutes. The commercial safes that jewelers, for example, have long relied on, provide much better security. But a long-gun-sized one may be hard to install in a home — their weight can be reckoned in tons.

A Safe That Can Be Walked Off With isn’t a Safe.

Imagine you’re a burglar, and you are looking through YOUR house for whatever can most rapidly be turned into the largest quantity of heroin and meth. (The last thief to steal to feed an orphan was Jean Valjean, and he’s a fictional character. Since then, thieves steal to stay stoned, and because they’re too lazy to work). A burglar that finds a safe is sure he is having a happy day. IF that safe can be physically removed, that’s what he’ll do with it, to work on opening it at his leisure. There are several ways to make sure the safe is still there when you come home:

  • Make it heavy. Your typical burglars work solo or in small crews. You do not want a safe that three men can remove, loaded, using the tools available in your building and grounds. They may be stupid but they’re sly and cunning and very creative when it comes to the TTTPs of stealing. So on top of the weight of the guns, some heavy weights (for example, discarded gym weights) in the bottom of the safe can complicate the burglar’s target solution.
  • Anchor it down, and make it impossible to get a pry bar in, attack the sides, or knock over the safe. More on this in the next item.
  • Welding is your friend. Three safes in a row? Tack ‘em together. Just one? Put it on two eight-foot sections of railroad rail — and weld it to ‘em. Now they have a safe they can’t get out the door, unless the burglar is also a dab hand with your welding/cutting gear.

Remember, the strength of the safe is in the time and effort burden it imposes on a burglar (and the time and temp resistance it offers a fire).

How you install the safe is as important as the safe itself.

Just about every gun safe on the market comes with a couple of bolts and instructions on how to bolt the safe to the concrete floor of your basement. Hardly anybody does that. That’s a mistake. When you bolt down the safe, you limit the burglar’s options. He now has to break it in situ, or give up.

Your installation can also create other limits or complications to his ability to remove or attack it. Corners are good because he now can attack only two sides. Installed in a narrow passageway (or maybe one created by two facing safes), he now can’t get a very good mechanical advantage with a lever. This also limits his ability to attack it in situ. Burglars are lazy men; otherwise, they’d get a better living by working. So keep any or your tools that might help them break in well out of sight of the safe.

If your collection will not fit in one safe, consider multiple safes in multiple locations. Burglars know to hit certain locations first — like the master bedroom and associated closets.

Finally, there’s camouflage, concealment and deception. Given the size of the typical gun safe, and the need for regular access, any sophisticated concealment is not an entirely practical option for most people, but at an irreducible minimum you do not want your safe visible from a window. When we’re going to be away, a parachute canopy goes over the banks of safes, and moving boxes full of papers and old clothing are stacked in front of them.

Our deception plan includes a small, man-portable safe that contains nothing of value.

Electronic locks are a single point of failure.

These are currently trendy. They were, and are, a bad idea. The better-designed ones fail closed and lock you out of the safe; the worse-designed ones fail open. But sooner or later they all fail. The mechanical lock will fail, too: when it wears out, in 1000 years’s worth of opening. It won’t be your problem then.

What happens when your e-lock fails closed? You call a locksmith or safe-smith and he comes expensively to your premises and drills the safe open. If the safe has the latest anti-theft features, it’s irreparable at that point; if it’s a little more old-fashioned, it can then be repaired. At even more expense.

You don’t want other electronic gingerbread like power outlets, AC-powered lights (battery LED lights are OK, put the batteries on a replacement schedule) or powered dehumidifiers. You don’t want anything that requires a wire to go through the perimeter of the safe. (Where wire goes, fire goes).

All safe manufacturers lie about their products’ capacity.

If you have 16 guns, you think an 18-gun safe gives you room to grow. But that’s because you’re unaware of how safe manufacturers figure guns. In their world, long guns have no scopes, magazines, or bolt handles. You can get 32 guns in a 32-long-gun safe if they’re 32 H&R Toppers (single shot break-action shotguns). If they’re anything else, rotsa ruck. An “18-gun” safe is probably good for 8 to 10 guns. As a rule of thumb, deflate the manufacture’s claim by 50%.

Capacity isn’t all that the manufacturers lie about, either. You’ll notice that no gun safes have a GSA rating, and very few of them have an Underwriters’ Laboratories rating. That’s because the manufacturers don’t submit them to testing. This may be because the testing is expensive, and few buyers look for these certifications.

But it may also be because the manufacturers know their safes would not pass the stringent GSA or even the looser UL standards.

Some Closing Comments

We went to Famous Shooting, Hunting and Fishing store, complete with a pickup and tie-downs, for a safe.  We didn’t want to buy something so major online, and the store offered attractive discounts on last year’s safes. We thought for sure we’d be better off with this place’s renowned customer service. But that was not the experience we had.

In fact, on a slow weekday, in a store teeming with workers, we couldn’t get anyone to talk safes. “Not from here, it’s that department,” they offered with a desultory wave in no particular direction. After talking to four workers and a manager, we concluded they just weren’t in to selling the $2k safe we’d selected, and we went elsewhere. (And bought a less expensive safe, in keeping with Fact About Safes #1 above). Remember: secure enough and now is better than loose now and more secure next month, maybe.

There are ways to recover a lost combination, assuming your safe maker stays in business. But the best way is not to lose it, and the way to do that is to drill it into your muscle memory. All of the Schools of Education in the USA insist that drill is unnecessary and kills motivation; all of the football coaches at those same schools’ universities insist that only by drill does learning become real. Who has the better of it? Simple to answer, is a typical state university better known for its Ed.D output, or its team’s gridiron performance? So practice with the combination until you get so your fingers work the lock intuitively. (This gets harder to do when you are older, and have lots of safes). Then, open and lock the safe frequently to make sure you don’t forget. You should be doing this to inspect the firearms, rejuvenate moisture-removing silica, etc, at least weekly.

Accessories we have found useful include a canister of silica (you can refresh it by baking out the moisture, using your kitchen oven) and battery-operated LED lights. Many other accessories are crap.

The whole point of a safe or safes is to keep your property safe (what else?) and secure. A good safe should cost you about what a year of homeowner’s or renters’ insurance goes for. And keeping your guns out of criminal hands might just save a life.

Cop Lets Daylight through his Hand

ND-shot-in-footA Hewitt, Texas policeman had a rather embarrassing injury last month while conducting some firearms training for his family, the Waco Tribune reported.

Sgt. Heath Vanek will miss at least two months of work while rehabilitating from surgery to repair a wound from his personal 9mm pistol, Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said.

The incident occurred July 15 on Vanek’s family property near the McLennan and Falls county lines and did not involve any Hewitt-issued guns or equipment.

Devlin said Vanek, 35, declined comment Friday about his accidental injury.
Devlin said there will be an internal police investigation into the incident that will comply with Civil Service procedures. Because of that process, he has limited information about the incident because the chief said he must allow the system to work before he gets involved.

But, in speaking briefly with Vanek, an 11-year Hewitt department veteran, Devlin said Vanek was teaching his family to shoot a pistol and was teaching them how to clear a semi-automatic pistol’s chamber in case the gun jams.

He was shot in the hand during the demonstration, Devlin said.

“He said, ‘I made a classic mistake,’ ” Devlin said. “We are human, too. We are not infallible. We make mistakes, and when we mess up, we mess up and do our best to correct it and get back to giving the public the best service we can.”

via Hewitt police firearms instructor shoots himself in hand – Hewitt.

We were going to write a long exegesis on this, but why, really? He knows what he did wrong. He won’t ever do that again. And, as surely as the sun rises, someone else will. Or, as my man Rudyard put it:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man-
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:-
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!


‫Allah hu Fubar! FOOM!

Oldest trick in the guerrilla warfare book. A little something extra in the occasional mortar round, or in this case, 7.62 x 39mm cartridge.

The US did this as a psychological operation in the Vietnam War, designed to shake the NVA’s confidence in their Russian and Chinese weapons suppliers. The Germans did it to the Russians in World War II.

Now, is someone doing it to the jihadis? Or did this guy just get a bad ice cube in his cocktail of death-to-whomever this morning? We can’t say. Certainly, Comblock ammo manufacture was a bit dodgy, and some of the Arab and Iranian ammo plants make Vodka Friday at Soviet State Arsenal No. 5376 look like a routine day shift at a Swiss medical device factory.

Of course, in 2014, when your AK reverts to kit form in your very hands, somebody’s got you on GoPro or cellphone video. Smile, Hadji, you’re an intertubes celebrity. Pity he didn’t get this on Ian’s new high-speed camera.

Physical Security: the Importance of Inventory


A section of a Firearms, Ammunition, Parts and Optics inventory spreadsheet (details redacted).

How many guns do you own? If you only have one, that’s an easy question to answer. What if you have fifty-something? Over 100? Hundreds? There are people like that. You might just be one of them.

We’ve heard a few horror stories about guns that went walkabout when the owners thought they were secure in a safe. Until they turn up at a crime scene, and it turns out the gun’s been in the criminal gun pipeline for years. That could be you, and you could go for years without knowing that the handyman’s helper boosted one of your less-frequently-handled guns.

In a way, the tendency to lock guns away in safes and vaults and such containers actually exacerbates this risk. If it’s hanging on the mantel, you notice when it’s not there.

The military, especially its reserve components (the military Reserves, which are Federal formations, and the National Guard, which have State and Federal duties), used to be casual about weapons security, and got embarrassed repeatedly by criminal elements who exploited that carelessness. Gunsels like Dillinger and Bonnie & Clyde frequently ripped off National Guard (and police) armories, and 1960s radical terrorists did the same thing. For example, the M2 carbines beloved of Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army comrades came from a government gun stash. Indeed, burglarizing armories has been a main source of weapons for insurgents and terrorists always and everywhere, especially in extreme anti-gun regimes. (Remember the campus cop that Flashbang and Speedbump murdered in Boston? They wanted to steal his gun). So the Army and the other services tightened up physical security in the 1970s. Many of their policies and procedures are overkill for the private citizen, but some of the basic principles include:

  • Keeping weapons locked up multiple ways;
  • Keeping weapons storage under surveillance;
  • Alarming and (often) surveilling that weapons storage;
  • Using the “2-man rule” to guard against the insider threat;
  • Conducting periodic inventories, and less frequent but periodic 100% by-serial-number inventories; and,
  • Conducting no-notice inspections to ensure in integrity of the inventories.

Today, we’re talking about inventories.

Two Kinds of Inventory

There are two basic kinds of inventory: in one, weapons are simply counted and reconciled with a master list by eyeball. “84 M4A1s on the register, two signed out for repair, nine signed out with a deployed team, we count 73 M4s in the racks, we’re good.” This is done, in the Army, every time the arms room is about to be shut, and on a periodic schedule. For a lot of private gun owners, this kind of inventory is good enough, because unless you’re an advanced collector each of your guns is different enough from the others that you won’t confuse them.

The second kind of inventory is the by-serial-number inventory. This is required, under Army regulations, at specific times and intervals, and must be done in certain ways. (For example, a reserve component unit closing up shop after a weekend drill is supposed to require a by-SN inventory of the stored arms by two officers or NCOs of the rank of Sergeant First Class or higher). In this inventory, every single weapon’s serial number is matched to its paper (or computer) record. Any discrepancies are resolved on the spot, or, if irresolvable, reported forthwith.

How to Adapt this to Civilian Life

You probably don’t need to by-serial-number inventory your firearms often, but you ought to think about doing it at least once, to establish a baseline; after that, do it again at long intervals or when a major change (acquiring or divesting a group of guns, moving house, changing or modifying storage arrangements, etc.) seems to call for it. Use the judgment God gave you, and make the inventory a tool that works for you, not some check-the-block finger drill that wastes your time (and tempts you to cheat).

For example, our inventory was triggered by the installation of a new security container, which was going to change the cross-loading of stored weapons. Good time to get eyes on every one and its serial number.

If you don’t know for sure where each and every one of your weapons is, it’s time for an inventory.

A Computerized Inventory

Computers make inventory a lot easier, unless you do it the stupid Army way, by printing off the property book on an impact printer in nearly unreadable type on a sheaf of hundreds of pages of paper. Instead, keep the inventory in soft copy on a laptop, and store a copy in an encrypted offsite repository (the burglars who steal any of your guns will certainly take your laptop, which is even more readily convertible to cash; and then where are you, if that’s your only copy?)

While a very large collection may call for using a relational database, you can manage a collection of hundreds or thousands of weapons with a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice (a free MS Office knockoff), or Apple Numbers.

Here’s the Excel sheet we use, with some data dummied into it so you can see how to use it. It’s free to use or share, just preserve the copyright information. Suggestions are welcome, also.

Firearms Inventory Sample.xlsx

Some Discoveries during an Inventory

An ongoing 100% inventory of firearms, ammo, optics and parts has produced some interesting discoveries.

  1. We made a list of firearms before starting the inventory, a list we figured was comprehensive. Until we stumbled on three different firearms we’d forgotten we had. D’oh!
  2. Getting eyes on every single firearm let us catch creeping tarnish, that would have been rust if left unchecked, on several of them, and full-blown rust on several more.
  3. We determined that one serial number in all our records was wrong — it had two digits transposed. (We had this happen, once, on an auto VIN when a Registry clerk fat-fingered it, putting an impossible VIN into title and registration records. What a nightmare that turned into! Fortunately, we don’t have to register guns here, so our records are our own).

Likewise, a review of current values — in our spreadsheet, there is a column for the cost-basis value of each firearm, and one for its current mark-to-market value — showed that we had several valuations miles off from the market.

Finally, working with the spreadsheet made us realize that it contained an error that exposed us to considerable risk. The column after “Value, Cost Basis” and “Value, Mark to Market” was labeled “Unrealized Profit,” which is not only technically incorrect, but also might suggest, were we ever to discuss this inventory with ATF, that we were dealing without a license. We think the term “Unrealized Appreciation” or possibly “Unrealized Gain” is a better fit, both because it is more financially accurate * , and because it is less likely to convince some ATF Ahab to make us his personal white whale.

Note that if you are a Federal Firearms Licensee or Special Occupational Taxpayer, you have records-keeping requirements that a simple spreadsheet may not meet.

Setting a Schedule

Our next inventory is likely to be a more routine check by eyeball, just checking quantity by type, without the serial matching. So if we see two Johnson M1941 rifles, we know we’re up on Johnsons, without doing the Army OCD thing of checking the serials to see if some prowler has substituted his Johnson for ours.

We’ll now do some kind of inventory every month, and the serial number inventory at least annually.

The other tabs of our spreadsheet let us track Ammo, Parts and Optics, by serial number where that’s possible.

We find that maintaining positive inventory control over our firearms is rewarding in terms of personal comfort and peace of mind.

And there’s a side benefit. Since there’s only one number to remember, we can now answer the question, “How many guns do you have?” without resorting to the smug and nonresponsive rejoinder, “If you know how many guns you have, you don’t have enough.”

Not that we have enough, yet.



* It is more accurate because there is no profit in a gun collection; if you think there is, you are either not accounting for the Opportunity Cost of your time, or the Time Value of your money, properly; or because you are cherry-picking high-appreciation guns from your set without factoring in the dogs, or all of the above. This is true of almost any collection of anything, from Paterson Colts to Picassos to double-strike Pennies — collect it because you love it, not because you’ve conned yourself into thinking it’ll pay the kids’ way to Harvard or Stanford. 

Three Reasons Not to Use the Blackhawk Serpa Holster

100 of these wound up in a landfill. Not doing that risked a lot more of the taxpayers' money.

100 of these wound up in a landfill. Not doing that risked a lot more of the taxpayers’ money.

It is our considered opinion that you should not use this product. Last SF company before retirement bought 90 or 100 of them circa 2003 (an SF company has 84 officers & men if at full strength, plus operational floats) and we discovered the same thing everybody else has: the Serpa has three serious safety-of-use problems, either of which alone would be enough to recommend retiring and destroying the holster and using anything else. Even Mexican carry.

We understand why the Serpa holster was designed. Pistol retention is a serious problem for anyone that tangles hand to hand with hostile persons. The police are more likely than armed forces to throw down mano a mano, but any soldier or Marine in ground combat can wind up in that place, the good old unsought fist fight or grapple-for-the-gun game. Many police forces, and some military units, specify a retention holster for just that reason. But there are a number of ways to design a retention holster. There are three reasons that the Serpa is the wrong way:

Safety of Use Issue #3: Stuck Pistol Syndrome

The Serpa does provide positive retention — sometimes too positive, especially if grit, sand, gravel or mung in general gets into it. If it gets into the retention release mechanism, Jesus Christ Himself isn’t getting that thing open. That’s rather a problem, because if you’re like us, you don’t generally go to unholster a gun until the situation has already gone uncomfortably nonlinear. The only thing worse than pulling your gun too soon is pulling it too late. The only thing worse than pulling it too late is attempting to pull it, and then failing to pull it at all, after signalling that you were going to. This problem by itself should be enough to disqualify this holster family.

Safety of Use Issue #2: It’s Slow

No matter how much you drill, the trigger-finger release is going to be slower than some of your other options. Worse, it’s going to be less consistent, because from time to time you may address the holstered firearm a little differently, and it doesn’t take much change in alignment to miss the flipping catch. If you miss the catch, you have to grope around, all while the clock is ticking. There are holsters that don’t make you do all this, so this problem by itself, also, should also suffice to disqualify this holster family.

Safety of Use Issue #1: Increased ND Risk

This is the biggest Serpa problem that people talk about. By using your trigger finger to disconnect the gun, and then having that finger fall on your trigger you great we increase the odds you’ll touch off a round with the pistol aligned somewhere other than at the proper target.

This video (NSFW but understandable language) shows an experienced shooter having a very typical Serpa ND. In the slo-mo at about 0:57-59 you can see exactly how it happened.

In this case, there was a combination of negative transfer of training from the more conventional 5.11 holster that this shooter used with another pistol, and the Serpa putting his index finger too close to the projectile initiator, too early in the draw sequence. Tex says he doesn’t blame the holster, he blames himself; fair enough, you can’t have an ND without human input. But his tools made the ND easier, instead of raising obstacles to an ND.

As we’ve said, every one of these issues is serious enough to warrant discarding the Serpa holster (and any holster that works like it, with an index-finger release paddle). But the increased ND risk with the Serpa is, in our opinion, the most consequential of these issues and the one that, even if you dismiss the other two, needs to sink in before you have a mishap like Tex’s.

We’re not sure even he knows how lucky he is. Mere inches from the channel that .45 slug dug in his thigh is one of the superhighways of the circulatory system, the femoral artery. A bullet in that artery would have led to his incapacitation in minutes, and ultimately, death, unless the right first aid was available extremely rapidly. He seemed to us to be alone on the range. How often have you shot, alone? It’s a calculated risk.

Doing it with a Serpa makes the calculation all wrong.

It’s not just us

We aren’t the only ones who just say no to Serpa. For example, Paul Howe wrote in 2005:

Another problem … a recent student …. exerted excessive pressure from his trigger finger to the unlock button and when drawing the weapon, drug the finger along the holster and into the trigger guard, discharging the airsoft weapon prematurely into his leg during his draw sequence.

Trigger fingers are just that, for the trigger. I think it should remain straight and have one function, to index the trigger.

Larry Vickers says:

I have banned for almost two years now Serpa style (trigger finger paddle release) holsters from my classes – several other instructors and training facilities have done the same. …. I understand many shooters use Serpa holsters on a regular basis with no issues whatsoever. However an open enrollment class environment has its own set of challenges … and a trigger finger paddle release holster is asking for trouble.

Todd Green in 2011:

At this point, is going to follow the lead of other instructors such as Larry Vickers and ban the SERPA (and the various cheap knockoffs on the market) from classes beginning in 2012. I have been suggesting to students that they bring something else to classes up until now and will continue that for anyone who is already registered for a class in 2011.

And earlier that year, in reference to the Tex Grebner accident video posted above:

[T]he SERPA retention mechanism certainly lends itself to such accidents more than most other holsters. Instead of keeping your trigger finger well clear of the gun during the initial part of the drawstroke, the SERPA and its clones require you to press your trigger finger toward the trigger as you draw.

A lot more instructors say about the same thing. Travis Haley, Chris Costa, and a lot of guys you never heard of but that have seen these things cause one problem after another even on what should be a routine flat range. Rational Gun has a list of some of them, but Google will find you even more. (For example, RG has a link about the FLETC ban, but we don’t believe he mentioned the IDPA ban on the Serpa).

Yet this thing is still on the market, and people (and worse, agencies) are still buying them. Don’t Be That Guy™.

Cops (etc) Behaving Badly

We hate reading these things, don’t you? If only the cops hated doing these things, we wouldn’t have to write anout these things. But the cops gotta do ‘em, we gotta write ‘em, and you gotta read ‘em: that’s the way the world works.

  • ITEM 17 Apr 14: Cop assaults Air Force officer in his own home. A Monterey County Sheriff’s Office deputy responding to a suspicious man call walked into a home uninvited, and seeing a man there, beat him into submission. He was Air Force captain Nicolas Aquino, the legitimate renter. The cop left, albeit without an apology. Weeks later, the cop and the DA charged Aquino with, we are not making this up, obstruction of justice.

At least seven weapons, large amounts of ammunition and firearms magazines were purchased over several months, with orders often placed in coded conversations over jail telephone lines, according to an investigation by a task force led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The weapons turned up in local crimes, and agents said they are not discounting the possibility that more guns will be traced back to the straw purchasers or another cell of buyers associated with the group. Federal authorities said Wednesday this is the first large-scale conspiracy case involving the straw purchase of firearms to be prosecuted in Minnesota. They described it as unique because of the specific and repeated purchase requests that gang members passed along to the school employee and the corrections officer, who is now a fugitive.

As a rule of thumb, if your prison guard is a fugitive, someone’s not doing it right. It turns out she did it for luuuurrve. Details:

The corrections officer was identified as Jacquelyn Burnes, 29, of Maple Grove. ATF agents served an arrest warrant at her parents’ home in Osseo on Wednesday morning but didn’t find her there. She was fired in late March after authorities were alerted to her involvement with the gang members. Burnes allegedly purchased three firearms in January and February for her boyfriend, Diontre Hill, whom she met while working last summer as a guard at the county workhouse in Plymouth, according to authorities. Burnes and Hill developed a romantic relationship while he was in jail and it continued after his release.

As a rule of thumb, again, felons aren’t supposed to have access to weapons. When they’re getting gunned-up by the “only ones,” it kind of makes the gun controller’s bleats about the doings of legit citizen gun owners look pretty weak. The two indicted straw buyers were buying for boyfriends who were already felons. One of them had an 8 year old daughter who survived being shot in the eye by Diontre Hill.

(Helpful hint: if your boyfriend is shooting your kids in the eye, it’s past time to pick a new guy. Maybe this needs to be an Ad Council PSA or billboard campaign).

While the ATF argues that most gun crime is driven by the law-abiding gun owners, the average “time to crime” — the time between first legal retail sale of a firearm and its use or recovery in criminal hands — is a matter of years. The guns these airheaded women bought their thug boyfriends were used in crimes in as little as eight days from the girl signing for them.

Not to get all nautical (or at least joint), but BZ to the ATF for this one. These are the busts we like to see them doing. Hell, talk to the field agents, these are the busts they like to be doing.

Proof positive that even if you’re a cop, you ought to read Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self-Defense. If you’re not going to do that, take a word from us on when is the best time to fire a “warning shot”: never. And this Deputy reportedly fired the shot because local JD’s rang his doorbell and ran off. Proportionality, amigo. It got a bad rap thanks to Macnamara and Rusk and all those clowns, but it’s not just a good idea: in most jurisdictions, it’s the law. He’s suspended, charged, and might even be fired, all because of the dumb-ass shot he fired when he let his temper override his prefrontal cortex.

He’s damn lucky he didn’t hit one of the kids. He’d be another one of the self-defense Thou Shalt Not stories even more than he already is. With great power comes what, again?

  • ITEM 15 May 14: Let’s blow up a baby!

burned baby Habersham county(Because this post sat in the queue for weeks, this is old news. Still….) The Habersham County, GA, SWAT team had the right address, at least according to the criminal they were running as an informant. (They made no effort to cross-check his information). But they now say that they didn’t know the suspect had moved on to another residence. Because he was a meth dealer who might flush the drugs if he was given any warning, and he had a history of carrying guns (in fact, he was on bail on a felon-in-possession charge) they made a combat assault at 0300 — rounding up the family that had moved in after their house burned down. Unfortunately, their fangs-out approach led one of the less astute among them to throw a flash-bang grenade inside a baby’s folding crib. The 18-month-old is in an induced coma, and may or may not survive, but if so is likely to have crippling and disfiguring injuries. But hey, all the cops made it to Miller Time unscathed!

At first, Sheriff Joey Terrell suggested that his men were upset about this outcome and didn’t want it, but within hours, cursory “investigations” by the District Attorney and Georgia Bureau of Investigation had cleared his men, and he changed his tune: the baby had it coming. Because it was in a “known drug location.” And now he wants your prayers — for him and his cops, as well as the baby. True, nobody has blown any of the cops’ faces off, unlike what the cops did to the baby, but people are saying mean things about him on the internet.

Terrell didn’t find any drugs. The suspect was arrested with no drama at his new home — in daylight, without grenades. Now they want to charge him with the injuries or death of the baby, because their overreaction was a predictable consequence of his dopery.

They have more than one kind of dope in Habersham County.

(To see the best reasonable case for the cops, see this post by Patrick “Patterico” Frey, a Los Angeles area ADA).

Flash-bangs were developed for extremely-well-trained SOF to use in counter-terrorist hostage rescues. Can a small-county band of Deputy Dawgs deploy them safely? Doesn’t look that way. A lot of things are very, very different in a CT raid. One of them is that you go in with intent to kill all the terrorists, and ideally none of the hostages. (And we’re not always successful. A JSOC element inadvertently killed a captive reporter with a frag in Afghanistan, in a confused night operation).

  • ITEM 27 May 14: The city of Bridgeport, CT agreed to pay $200k to an incarcerated felon (who’s doing time for drug dealing and felon-in-pos-of-firearm) for the violent stomping three officers gave him while he was tased and down on his arrest three years ago. The city, the department, and the three officers, Joseph Lawlor, Elson Morales, and Clive Higgins, denied any wrongdoing until someone brought to the city’s attention citizen video of the incident in January, 2013. The video demonstrates conclusively that the felon was telling the truth about the beating. (Hey, it’s rare but it happens). The officers have not been reprimanded or otherwise disciplined, and at first remained on the beat, but they have been on free fully-paid vacation since the video was posted over a year ago.
  • ITEM 30 May 14: Ardmore, OK sergeant Barry Antwine is charged with poisoning dogs in his neighborhood with anti-freeze. 6 dogs died and others were injured. (Apparently he’s not the K9 handler). He’s on the usual extra vacation. Amazingly, he was a school resource officer until last year, when his 1996 record for rape and child molestation was discovered (the case was handled by pretrial diversion. He got hired after that, how?). This video, shot by a neighbor, shows one of the dogs — a little puppy — expiring at a veterinary hospital, and the anti-freeze left in Antwine’s driveway:

It defies description, just how wrong that is. Helpful hint: if you’re thinking of hiring a kiddie diddler as a sworn officer, keep thinking forever so long as you never get to doing. Repeat after us Hognose’s Five Laws of Criminality:

  1. For some men, “crime” is just flat their job. For others, “criminal” is their identity. Good luck expecting anything different from them.
  2. The best guide to future behavior is past behavior. (Exercise for the reader: What 8-year-old in your third grade class was definitely destined for prison? How old was he when he first went?)
  3. The only thing that has ever made a child molester stop doing it is sustained cessation of respiration, blood flow, and brain wave activity. This is true for a lot of sex criminals, too. (Real ones, not guys who said something nasty about a fat chick at their college).
  4. No one ever stops after one crime. He only stops when he is stopped.
  5. Most crimes go unsolved, but all criminals get caught sooner or later.

If you consider those to be immutable laws, as we do, you would organize a criminal justice system rather different from the lawyer- and judge-conceived loony bin we have today.

Holstered gun fires itself? How is this even possible?

ND-shot-in-footThat’s the way the AP, no doubt retyping a press release as is their usual wont, reports it:

A South Florida police officer is recovering after his holstered gun fired while he was chasing suspected thieves, wounding him in the leg.

Authorities said Monday that Officer Joel Basque of the Sweetwater Police Department was responding to a report of shoplifters at the Dolphin Mall near Miami. Basque and another officer tried to chase down the four suspects, who fled in different directions. They did catch one 18-year-old man.

via South Florida officer shot with own holstered gun.

But he has company walking the Limp of Shame, as a Columbus, Ohio cop also managed to shoot himself with a holstered gun on the way to work this morning.

Police say the officer was struck in the leg by a bullet around 6 a.m. in northwest Columbus, near I-270 and 33.

“He was on his way to work, was in uniform and the way our duty belts fit, if you have a car with leather seats, you won’t want to wear the duty belt while driving – because it will really mark up your vehicle. So a lot of officers will just take the belt off and put it on the seat or the floor,” said Sgt. Rich Weiner of the Columbus Police Department.

Weiner adds that the weapon – a Smith & Wesson MP40 – did not have a safety.

The Columbus officer, an 18-year veteran of the force, drove himself to the hospital and was not expected to stay there overnight. If he was not violating department policy, he won’t be disciplined for the ND.

We’ve heard of a few freak accidents with Glocks (and such Glocklike pistols as S&W M&P’s) and the pull-tabs on jackets, but the first incident was in South Florida in July — nobody’s wearing a jacket unless he’s a gangster trying to conceal a Desert Eagle or something. And we’ve heard of some accidents involving exposed-trigger and other badly designed holsters (cough Serpa cough). But generally it takes an application of force to the bang switch to produce a bang (and, in this case, a limping, and we suspect cursing, policeman).

We understand that the reporter in the first story wrote, “his holstered gun fired.” (The second story’s reporter got it right, describing what happened as the unlucky officer, “accidentally shooting himself.” True, that). Now, reporters may believe that holstered guns can just up and fire themselves, given the general level of hoplodementia in the trade, and the fact that what they think is the great education they got in J-School was shallow, narrow, and tendentious. Reporters can believe dumb crap like that, but for those of us in the physical world where Newton’s Laws remain, well, laws, guns don’t exercise their own designs on their own volition.

If they did, they’d probably clean themselves, like cats.