Category Archives: Safety

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.

Two Incredible Safety Stories

ND-shot-in-footWe have two incredible safety stories that both end with no one dead, but largely because of the fortuitous intervention of plain dumb luck (or celestial Powers, take your pick).

First, let’s go to Pennsylvania, where a lady managed to get shot at a gun show while trying out a new carry gun and holster.

Bloomsburg Police have released information on the accidental shooting today at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. At 11:43 am the Bloomsburg Police Department responded to the Eagle Arms Gun Show being held at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds for the victim of an accidental shooting.

Upon arrival police spoke with the victim Krista Gearhart, age 25, from Orangeville, PA. Gearhart reported she had been shot in the right leg by a vendor demonstrating a concealed wallet holster. Vendor and owner of “In Case of Emergency” Geoffrey Hawk, age 44, from Warminster, PA reported while demonstrating a product holster he accidently shot Gearhart in the leg. Gearhart was transported to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville where she was treated and released. The show hosted by Eagle Arms will continue until Sunday.

Here’s the upshot — Nobody was arrested, and everyone agrees it was an accident, with the only disagreement coming over whether it was a boneheaded accident or not (we’re going with “boneheaded”). Ms Gearhart is going to make a full recovery. Mr Hawk has stepped up to cover her expenses.He had been using an “unloaded” gun for the demos. (This is where you use a rubber duck, people). According to a commenter at a blog, she actually wanted to go back and buy a Ruger .380 like the one she got shot with, but her husband said no. At least not until she heals. (That’s probably a good policy: one should never drive, operate heavy machinery, or buy a new gun while on pain medication).

(Note: we thought the comment was at Lee Williams’s The Gun Writer, but when we went back there we couldn’t find it. We hope a reader can aim us in the right direction).

Gun shows are usually as safe as flower or cat shows, for the same basic reason: the hobbyists and vendors that attend them are the bottom 1% of society, if the scale you’re using is “criminality.” But occasionally there is a mishap at a gun show and it’s a cause of considerable delight among our enemies.

Then, let’s got to Oklahoma for the Mother of All Ricochets. Imagine this happening to your home, as reported by a local TV station:


Homeowner Gene Kelley could not fathom what he found after hearing a large crash inside his home.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kelley said.  “Unless you were here to see it or see the pictures I’ve got, you would not believe how huge this thing is.”

Yeah, it’s also incredible how far away it came from — three and a half miles as the crow, or the four-inch projectile, flies.

A 105 howitzer artillery shell, 14 and a half inches long and 3 and a half inches across, was lying on his bedroom floor.

wyandotte__ok_projectileThis slightly blurry picture contains a ballpoint pen or mechanical pencil for scale. A 105 shell is just over 4″ in diameter, so the TV reporter is a no-go at the weights and measures station. The HE version of the shell weighs an impressive 33 pounds, almost a quarter of a million grains for you reloaders, but this one is clearly empty. The hole in the empty shell demilitarizes it — otherwise the shell would have to be registered as a Destructive Device. The gun has to have that registration regardless, unless it is demilled in very precise ways.

It entered from the outside wall, hit the ceiling, and damaged another wall, all while he and his wife were home.

“Fortunately, nobody was hurt,” Kelley said.

When we first heard that this happened in the Sooner State, we thought for sure it had to be related to Fort Sill. But it turns out the couple’s shelled home was near a private range that was having an MG and DD shoot. The gunners put the 105 on high ground, and aimed it down at a target, in front of a hill as a backstop. They weren’t expecting a ricochet.


Even the Army is finding it hard to find places to safely fire artillery. Development creeps up to the edges of range areas, and then NIMBYs who like being secure, but don’t like loud bangs on the weekend when reservists and Guardsmen train, get all up in their Congressman’s grill over it.  So, while it’s neat to live in a country where a guy can own and fire his own 105, it’s pretty hard for him to find a place to fire his gun. Assuming the 105 was an M2 / M101 (the most common US 105), it has a max range of 12,200 yards or about 7 miles in indirect fire; an Army range fan requires a larger safety area than that. (A good post on that gun is here by X Brad TC).

The unnamed owners of the gun have apologized and taken responsibility for the restoration of all damage to the Kelleys’ house. Unfortunately, this mishap has put Mr Kelley into the class of people who say, “I’m not anti-gun, but…

Accidents have many second and third order effects. However, these accidents, thank a merciful God, killed no one and caused no severe injury or permanent disability. A scare, and a gunshot wound to the flesh of the thigh without vascular involvement, are things you can recover from. The public black eye may take longer to heal.

Why do we report on accidents? Well, aviators talk about accidents all the time. They study them in depth; bright young folks do PhDs analyzing statistics. And their accident rates have been declining for fifty years. (You wouldn’t know that if you read USA Today, but then, if you form your worldview based on USA Today you deserve to be deceived). We could use a little of that, and we’ve been getting some — gun accidents and hunting accidents are at historically low levels today. (If you read most of the mainstream media, you wouldn’t know that, either. Doesn’t fit the prefab Narrative). So let’s keep talking about accidents, in preference to having them.

Hat Tip, Jeff Soyer.

Update 1000R 1 Jul 14

In our attempts to track the comment down, we still came up dry but did find this story courtesy of Lee Williams (it was on his Facebook page).

Geoffrey Hawk, 44, of Warminster, should face a reckless endangerment charge, Bloomsburg police Officer Brad Sharrow said Monday. The Columbia County district attorney still has to approve the charge.

Krista Gearhart, 25, was shot in the thigh on Saturday at the Eagle Arms Gun Show at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds in central Pennsylvania. She was treated at a hospital and released.

Gearhart told the (Bloomsburg) Press Enterprise on Sunday that the vendor was “doing his job” and her heart goes out to him for what she called the “horrible accident.”

But Sharrow told The Associated Press on Monday that Hawk displayed “gross negligence.”

“He admitted it was his fault and certainly feels bad about what took place. But the guy’s a firearms instructor so he should’ve known better than to pull the trigger on a weapon” without checking to make sure it was unloaded, Sharrow told the AP.

Hawk did not immediately return phone messages Monday.

Reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Authorities said the dealer told officers that he thought the gun was unloaded, and that he had done the same demonstration about 20 times without incident before the shooting. He said he had left the gun on display while he completed background checks on several customers, and that it was possible someone loaded the weapon when he was busy.

Do Read The Whole Thing™ as it has more details about Mrs Gearhart’s condition and her attitude. (Hint: instead of going back to the gun show, they went to church Sunday, but she’s “still in the market” for a compact carry gun and doesn’t blame Mr Hawk).

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guy wires

Amanda Ezra selfie, while she still had a head. Dead of easy access to handguns and drunk driving, but mostly drunk driving.

Amanda Ezra selfie, while she still had a head. Dead of easy access to handguns and drunk driving, but mostly drunk driving.

For all the sturm und drang over the hazards of having a gun around your family, the evidence of daily life never ceases to prove the real hazard is having drunk, stupid, or reckless people around your family. And in this case Amanda Ezra lost her head (literally) to a guy wire, because Kyle Papa was drunk, stupid and reckless.

Investigators soon learned that Ezra, Early, Niles, Bowers and Papa had been at a party when they left in the minivan owned by Ezra.

Niles was in the front passenger seat with Ezra on his lap, while Papa was driving.

Police say the five left the party and headed down Chestnut when Papa realized he had turned the wrong way when he reached the cul-de-sac.

Papa drove quickly around the cul-de-sac, according to court documents, and over shot the curve, driving into the grass.

At the time, Ezra was leaning her head out the window to vomit, according to investigators. When Papa drove the vehicle in the grass, he drove between a utility pole and guide wire.

Ezra struck the guide wire, which caused her head to jerk back and also strike the side of the van.

via Man charged in death of Mishawaka woman after freak accident in Osceola | Local – Home.

Kyle T. Papa mugshot. Stupid is as Kyle does, apparently.

Kyle T. Papa mugshot. Stupid is as Kyle does, apparently.

“Stupid is as stupid does.” Nothing you can fix with legislation, however well-crafted or positively intended.

Of course, the ol’ Judgment Juice™ was a contributing factor in Kyle Papa’s decision to drive like a bozo, and Amanda Ezra’s decision to puke out a window, to the permanent detriment of her head-neck interface.

Giving another drunk the keys to your car is not “defensive driving.” It’s more like begging for doom. Stupid is… the thing that inevitably lights the fuze of its own undoing.

A Mess of Accidents, May edition

ND-shot-in-footHollywood, FL, 20 April 14 “Cleaning the gun”

So there he was, cleaning his .38, which he dropped. BANG. The press gives him the benefit of a cop-style passive voice: “[T]he firearm dropped to the floor and discharged, hitting the man in the backside.” Yep, shot himself in the gluteus, which makes you wonder what his cleaning protocol is. If your gun-cleaning approach has potential to shoot yourself in the rear end, you need a new approach.

And another one that just “dropped” and “discharged.” Geez, what those guns get up to if you don’t keep an eye on ‘em.

Ormond-by-the-Sea, FL, 22 April 14 “You keep using that word, accident…”

An Ormond-by-the-Sea woman who told neighbors that she shot her husband accidentally, told her mother the shooting occurred when she walked in on her spouse, saw him holding the weapon to his head and tried to wrest it from him.

“He told her he was going to kill himself,” Barbara Barrells said Tuesday afternoon outside her daughter’s house on Seabreeze Drive. “He had done that before. He was an alcoholic.”

If you’re going to do weird stuff with guns, you might as well be named Barrells. 

Alcohol plus Gunpowder, plus a Really Stupid Safety Demonstration

The Detroit Free Press has covered this well:

As he stood an arm’s length away from his girlfriend in the bedroom of their new home, James Jewell pressed a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office says the 39-year-old committed suicide.

His family disagrees, saying he died in a horrifying mishap when the weapon discharged unexpectedly, during a safety lesson gone wrong. They want his death reclassified as an accident.

Police also have said the shooting was accidental.

“I was there. I know that’s not what he wanted to do,” said Jennifer Jackson, 36, Jewell’s girlfriend of nearly four years.

What Jewell was trying to do, she said, was convince her to keep a gun for her own protection. He meant to show her that guns are safe.

Go Read The Whole Thing™, complete with photos of the grieving girlfriend and, from happier days, the deceased would-be safety instructor — they look like the mugs next door in any working-class neighborhood in America. The beef is that the coroner says it’s suicide, and everyone else says it’s a stupid accident. A distinction with a very small difference, in terms of the ultimate products of it.

Needless to say, a Safety Demonstration that involves a gun pointed at your temple is never a good idea.

Unintended Consequences always loom large when you’re handling guns. You need to keep your wits about you. It is one thing to live in a free country where you can demonstrate gun safety any way you like (or tap a keg on the firing line at an MG shoot, something Small Arms of the World, the website, recalls seeing in the eighties), but far from absolving you of your need to apply common sense, it puts a greater burden upon you. Q.E.D.

Anderson, SC, 14 May 14. When Testing a Bulletproof Vest:

Two things you ought to do: (1) determine conclusively that it is meant to stop bullets, not light fragmentation. You really don’t want to get that one wrong. And (2) determine that the person shooting you has the marksmanship skills to hit you in the vest as opposed to, say, in the neck or through the fringes of the thing. Blake Wardell, 26, was a Darwin Award level no-go at this station. His designated shooter, Taylor Kelly, 18, plugged him in the heart. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest’s mama.

UPDATE: It turns out that Kelly is not only stupid, she’s real stupid. Cops are now saying she didn’t even shoot the guy, a third “friend” did. She stepped up to take the rap for him. Awwww. Ain’t that special? Of course, now he’s charged with involuntary manslaughter, and she’s charged with accessory to involuntary manslaughter.

The family that fails together jails together, we guess. These three are all no-goes at the friend selection station.

Memphis, TN, 20 May 14 “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or did the film excite you?”

We suppose a two-shot .38 derringer is better than no gun at all. And loading just one chamber is better than loading no chambers. Unless you’re going to drop the gun and ND in a Victim Disarmament Zone, and right in front of an off-duty cop. D’oh!

Police said [63-year-old George] Gholson took a .38-caliber, two-shot Derringer into a movie theater in east Memphis. The gun, which was loaded with one bullet, fell out of his pants pocket and fired the round.

Police said none of the 18 people in the theater were hit. An off-duty police officer who was in the theater at the time took Gholson into custody.

San Angelo, TX 23 May 14

There was a little too much of the store’s namesake at Action Pawn in this West Texas city, when a regular customer retrieved a .45 he’d pawned… and promptly shot himself with it while loading up.

That’ll leave a mark.

“He was handling the gun and apparently didn’t know that it was loaded. He was handling the gun and it discharged. It was an accidental discharge,” Keeling said.

The bullet went through his hand and he was taken to Shannon Medical Center. Sgt. Keeling said the man was in the process of loading the gun before he left the store and accidentally fired it into his hand.

The gun was a .45 caliber handgun. Sgt. Keeling said there was no criminal intent.

The man is 53 years old and a regular customer of Action Pawn. The store will remained closed for the forseeable future to allow staff time to clean up the blood.

That is one of the weaknesses of the 1911 system, in that the safety has to be off to load the firearm. Still, what about the rule that starts, “Never point the firearm…”?

Chicongo, 18 Feb 2009 (hearing 23 May 14) “I feel terrible for my mistake”

How “accidental” this one is depends on your point of view, because the decedent killed herself. But one of the things that cops are not usually eager to talk about to muggles is the way a few cops see “damsel in distress” calls as a chance to… score. Sergeant Steven Lesner met a woman named Catherine Weiland (and got her number) at a domestic disturbance call, and that night met her for booze, TV, and whatever else came up.

“Whatever else came up” was Weiland shooting herself with Lesner’s service pistol while he was in the bathroom.

“I urinated. I washed my hands and heard a pop, a bang,” Lesner testified.

He said he came out of the bathroom and saw his gun — which he said had been in an ankle holster when he set it down — on Weiland’s lap.

“I realized she wasn’t moving,” Lesner testified. “She looked DOA . . . I saw blood dripping out of her ear. I called 911 immediately.”

Weiland was not specifically reported to be suicidal, but testimony suggested that she suffered from bipolar disorder.

Five years after the incident, Lesner’s still on the job, and the case is unresolved. The case appears not to have even been investigated until the media got hold of it years later. His attorney insistes that Lesner is “not responsible for her death.” He might have a point if he moved the period three words to the left.

Edgewater, FL 27 May 14:  Cop has Negligent Discharge with AR-15

If he was in Ranger Battalion, he’d be dragging his duffel bag across post to a line unit already. But being a cop means never having to say you’re sorry, and an Edgewater patrolman was saved by a converging department after he negligently broke a round “while investigating a possible hostage situation.”

If there had been a hostage, that probably would have been the end of the hostage, but Officer Butterfingers (he hasn’t been named… he’s a secret policeman) has a great flimsy excuse: his keychain did it.

Police said an internal investigation found the officer was carrying the rifle while investigating a possible hostage situation on Kumquat Drive when it got caught on a key ring attached to the officer’s duty belt and discharged.

Note the passive constructions: “it got caught” and “discharged.”

The patrol rifle was pointed toward the ground when a round fired and didn’t cause any injuries.

And “a round fired.” Ah, those willful rounds!

Police said officers will no longer be permitted to wear key rings on the exterior of their uniform to prevent another accidental shooting.

At least the guy wasn’t muzzling anybody when he popped off.

Some Threat Mitigation Theory

threat_modeling_shostackThis ties in very loosely to the physical security project. Perusing a book on network and communications-systems security for an unrelated project (Threat Modeling: Designing for Security by Adam Shostack) we discovered a few concepts worth lifting and sharing.

The lift is from his Chapter 9, and it addresses something that bosses and managers seldom “get” about threats: once you’ve figured out what your threats are, you need to figure out how to mitigate each one. And each mitigation has certain trade-offs involved; in fact, the title of Shostack’s Chapter 9 is: “Trade-Offs When Addressing Threats”.  He suggests you make a matrix or table with each threat listed along with your mitigation strategy, when you execute that strategy, and how. 

The three questions to answer about each threat are:

  1. What’s the level of risk?
  2. What do you want to do to address that risk?
  3. How are you going to achieve that?

He identifies the Classic Strategies as:

  1. Avoiding Risks
  2. Addressing Risks
  3. Accepting Risks
  4. Transferring Risks
  5. Ignoring Risks

Avoiding risks is not always possible, but you might decide, for example, not to do something if the risk is greater than the reward. For example, you can avoid the risk of burglary by not owning anything of value, or keeping all your valuables in a safety deposit box. But you can design to avoid certain risks.

Addressing risks means making design or operational changes – doing something to forestall the risk. For instance, if your neighborhood is at risk of smash-and-grab burglaries, you can harden your doors and windows and add an audible alarm. If you’re at risk of being mugged, you can carry a gun (well, in some places you can. Sorry, Chicagoans).

Accepting risks means you accept all the consequences of the risk coming to pass. This is best used when the risk is both highly improbable and rather inconsequential. It’s also sometimes necessary in combat. For example, the Navy SEAL element deployed as a reconnaissance and surveillance patrol on Operation Red Wings went in accepting the risk that if they were compromised, they were in deep doo-doo. They addressed that risk also, or tried to, with communications and backup. They also accepted the risk that if their QRF was interdicted (as it was, in the end), they were not just in deep doo-doo but in over their heads. As they were, in the end. But you have to accept some risks. If your risk analysis concludes you have avoided, addressed or transferred all the risks, there’s a high probability that you’re actually ignoring a risk you haven’t considered (see below).

Transferring risks is what happens when you fob a risk and its consequences off on another party. For example, GM with its faulty little Chevies transferred the risk to the motorists who bought one (or really, rented it, ’cause who buys those shitboxes?) The trial lawyers of America are salivating at the prospect of transferring the consequences of the risk back to GM.

Ignoring risks is the default position, and what it defaults to is unconsciously accepting the risk. This can take place by denying the risk, or recognizing it but trying to keep it secret (“security through obscurity.”) While obscurity can add an additional veil to any security posture, it’s far too weak to depend upon as a stand-alone method.

This book illustrates how almost any literature on safety and security has something you can take away from it for your own personal purposes. Much of the book is specific to hardening your network protocol stack against bad actors, protecting against spoofing, tampering, repudiation, information-disclosure, denial-of-service, and elevation-of-privilege threats (the STRIDE that network security weenies worry about). Some of those things have zero application to meatworld. But those that do, do, and reading outside your own comfort zone, or at least outside your area of greatest familiarity, can often kick free some unexpected ideas. Another concept from the book that might be a good example of something transferable to protecting you and yours, is the elaboration on the use of Bruce Schneier’s concept of attack trees in Chapter 4. That’s a post for another day, and Shostack’s discussion (and Schneier’s) are probably too academic for the individual looking to protect his family, home or business. But it’s an example of what you can find when you look beyond the bookshelf at Gun-Mart.

A Mess of Accidents, Police Edition

ND-shot-in-footWe haven’t done one of these in a while, and here’s one that’s a little more targeted than most: cops shooting people they didn’t intend to shoot, which is a bit of an epidemic right now. Police Mag has a category of negligent discharges (which they call “accidental,” because Thin Blue Line)  but hasn’t updated it since last year.

But, unfortunately, the police of America are updating the ND count this year at a breakneck rate. And while there may be some training lessons to be learned, the principal lesson seems to be “training is a good thing, and these guys ought to get some.”

Item: Detroit, 4 December 2013.

The date for the retrial of Detroit publicity-hound cop Joe Weekley came and went without comment in the local media. It may be the 2010 incident, in which Weekley shot 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in the head at point-blank range with a H&K MP5, is being swept under the rug. Jones’s family has been involved in crime, but since testifying against Weekley, who used to be featured on the A&E network, the family claims to have been subject to continued harassment. (Note: in a story on Aiyana’s father’s sentencing 18 April 14 for providing a murder weapon to another criminal, we see that Weekley’s retrial has been pushed all the way back to September). Jones’s mother, Mertilla Jones, was initially blamed by Weekley and other police and prosecutors for his ND, and arrested, but ultimately released. At Charles Jones’s sentencing, she bitterly complained that prosecutor Robert Moran didn’t “fight… hard for Aiyana.” Of course not. Even though he’s nominally the prosecutor, he’s on Weekley’s side.

Item: Bridgeport, CT, 11 Feb 2014.

This isn’t exactly news, but we’ve previously covered the case of Juan Santiago, a Bridgeport cop who broke a round in a donut shop while playing with his pistol December 17th. Correction, bagel shop. We regret the error. We have an update in this case thanks to the Connecticut News.

Bridgeport and Connecticut pro-gunners were outraged that Santiago who recklessly launched a bullet into a crowd (hitting no one but Santiago himself, proving that if you’re stupid, it’s better to be lucky than to be good), was not charged or punished while the Bridgeport PD landed with both feet on a mere citizen, Ken Sullivan, who committed an ND in the privacy of his home. Sullivan was charged with a string of felonies and misdemeanors, and the PD and prosecutor originally intended to let Santiago entirely off.

After two protest rallies at the Bridgeport PD HQ and a lot of negative media coverage, Santiago was charged with a single count of “unlawful discharge of a firearm,” a small subset of the charges facing Sullivan.

But hey, he’s back on the mean streets of Bridgeport. We bet the citizens feel more protected already.

(Update: thanks to GBS in the comments, a video of crack, trained police firearms usage).

Item: Denver, 30 March 2014.

Can't have half-trained cops mistaking light switch for bang switch. Denver PD.

Can’t have half-trained cops mistaking light switch for bang switch. Denver PD.

Two Denver cops in a week broke rounds negligently, one of them wounding an innocent citizen, but Police Chief Robert White (a political appointee, naturally, and fiercely anti-gun for you) has an explanation: it’s the flashlight that made him do it. A Denver Post story explains the latest:

The latest incident happened Sunday night near the intersection of South Federal Boulevard and West Alameda Avenue. An officer chasing several car-theft suspects unintentionally fired his gun before taking one adult and three juveniles into custody. No one was hit.

And the even worse preceding incident:

That incident came less than a week after another in which an officer’s gun accidentally went off while he was chasing a man suspected of a probation violation. A bystander was wounded in that incident, though it remains unclear whether she was grazed by the bullet or debris from its impact.

(Is it just us, or does everybody, reading the Post’s shallow reportage, miss the Rocky Mountain News?)

Last year, Denver cops broke at least three negligent discharges that produced negligible discipline (written reprimands and one four-day suspension). And the banning of SureFire weapon lights, and any lights with a pressure switch on the pistol’s front strap.

Item: Riverside, CA, 16 April 2014.

A Riverside County deputy, terrified by a barking pit bull named “Precious,” that was actually on the other side of a chain-link fencem pulled his firearm — and shot himself in the right knee (warning, autoplay video).

Some assclown from the Sheriff’s Department says he fired in self defense. “Large pit bull breed dog attacked the deputy. In defense of himself, he shot, he fired one round at the dog, and inadvertently struck himself in the leg.” This was the result of the usual momentary investigation of a police negligent discharge.

The video at the link does show them loading Officer Tough Guy, complete with scowl and Oakleys, into an ambulance. Animal Control declined to seize the dog, which is seen in a video (at the link) playing with little kids.

Item: Farmington, UT, 17 April 2014.

The mystery of the missing M-16, that shut down DOD resource-sharing with Utah police for a month, has been solved. The stray assault rifle turned up in a policeman’s personal gun safe, where he’d placed the department-owned weapon in 2006, and promptly forgot about it. (In his defense, he’s a reserve soldier who then deployed overseas). But hey, at least this guy didn’t shoot anybody, which puts him miles ahead of some of his brother officers here. Despite that good news, his superiors seemed to be taking a dim view of his firearms inventory practices.

Item: Raritan Township, NJ, 17 April 2014.

A police officer from Flemington Borough, a city at the center of, and contained entirely within the borders of, Raritan, shot himself while parked at a take-out foot joint. Police and EMS swarmed the area, and removed him to the hospital with non-life-threatening wounds. They close the strip mall for hours “investigating”. (Really, what’s to investigate? Dude shot himself. Fire him. Case closed).

A Flemington police officer was wounded this afternoon when his service weapon accidentally discharged inside a parked police vehicle, authorities said.

The officer, whose name is being withheld, suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was taken to the hospital in stable condition, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office and borough police said in a statement.

Police and emergency personnel responded about 2:45 p.m. to a parking lot on South Main Street in Raritan Township, authorities said. It was in the area of Cook to Order, a restaurant at 299 S. Main St.

It appears the officer, who was on duty at the time, was inside a parked police vehicle when his service weapon went off, authorities said.

via Flemington police officer wounded when gun accidentally discharges in vehicle, authorities say | Second news story:

It’s interesting to see how, when it’s cop ineptitude that leads to a negligent discharge, the PD bends over backwards not to criticize Officer Butterfingers, and the press just picks that up, using the passive voice. He didn’t “shoot himself,” at least as far as this news story goes; he only did that in the real world. Instead, “his service weapon accidentally discharged inside a parked police vehicle” and he “was inside a parked police vehicle when his service weapon went off.”

You’d think they do that all the time. You ever have one “just go off?” Us neither. While we didn’t find Flemington PD’s website in a cursory search, a page on Raritan’s reminds us what hoops a New Jersey subject has to jump through to purchase a handgun, which he then can’t carry under just about any circumstances, because he hasn’t got the eee-leet skills of Butterfingers here.

UPDATE: Flemington’s page (home page) has an even more threatening and draconian anti-gun web page. So it’s a case of a guy from an anti-gun extremist department wounding himself in a negligent discharge. Righteous, that.

In a follow-up the next day, the local prosecutor, who still hadn’t talked to Butterfingers, gave him a good wrapping of Thin Blue Line. He refused to name him, noted he was with a second officer (who also is a member of the Secret Police, going unnamed) and wouldn’t characterize the shooting as accidentally self-inflicted, but did say, “It all involved the officer (who was shot), no one else. It is limited to this officer.”

Ah, if it only were.

Update 24 April 2014

(2 days after this was published). This hits keep on coming. In bucolic Hampton, Iowa:

A northern Iowa police officer is recovering from hand surgery following an accidental shooting at a gun range.

The Hampton Police Department says the accident occurred last week during night handgun qualification. The department says one of the officers had a weapon malfunction. Firearms instructor Al Brandt, a Hampton officer, tried to clear the malfunction but the gun fired, and one of his hands was struck.

We wish Officer Brandt and all the other wounded cops (and bystanders) speedy recovery. And… we bet they never make that mistake again.

There’s Safety, and then there’s “Safety”

This bit of bozosity emanated from the subgeniuses at Bloomberg's latest coin-op astroturf gang. He pays these minions who do this stuff.

This bit of bozosity emanated from the ids of the subgeniuses at Bloomberg’s latest coin-op astroturf gang. He pays these minions who do this stuff. Hat tip Miguel.

Everybody’s talking about John Richardson’s post listing some of the homes of anti-gun extremists Mike Bloomberg (who became a billionaire as some kind of Wall Street speculator or peculator) and seasoned Democratic Party PR dolly Shannon Watts (who became a many-times-millionaire by marrying some kind of speculator or peculator, and sells herself as “just a mom” while her kids are raised by nannies). It’s hardly a new development that crushing the autonomic aspirations of the plebes is an amusement for the .01%, but John writes about it well, including his conflicted feelings about bashing them for their success:

When you live in a million dollar plus home in a plush neighborhood, your view of the world is just different. You don’t have crime at your doorstep and you really don’t have to worry about home invasions. And if you are Mr. Bloomberg, you have your own private armed security detail made up of ex-NYPD cops. I don’t know if Mr. Bloomberg provides armed security personnel to Mrs. Watts when she travels around the US on behalf of the Demanding Mommies but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

However, the populist streak in me is offended about being told that I should support gun control for my own good by people who live in a well-protected environment. Moreover, my liberal arts education makes me cringe at the perversion of the word “safety” by those who really mean prohibition and control by it. If you are going to be for gun control, at least be honest about it, like it was when the Brady Campaign was called Handgun Control, Inc.

And that’s what people have fixed on, from John’s post. Well, that, and the picture of the mostly tastless McMansions of Bloomberg, and John’s amusing coda about Shannon’s and her meal ticket’s futile attempt to bring are the modern-art light of Manhattan to the benighted rubes of Indiana. But we thought the most worthwhile part of his post was this (our emphasis): 

When it comes to real gun safety, it is the NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and other gun rights organizations AND their members who do the grunt work of promoting gun safety. We are the ones running the Eddie Eagle classes, we are the ones teaching kids how to handle a firearm safely at home and at camp, we are the ones who invest our hard-earned money into safes, locks, and other security devices, and we are the ones providing classes to abused spouses so that they can learn how to protect themselves. And we are doing it every day in everytown at the grassroots level.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money: The Houses Of “Everytown”.

Bingo. The media, ever anxious to lap up any Bloomberg spillings, has billed his latest money dump as a “grassroots effort,” which shows that you can get a degree in English or Journalism and lack a ninth-grade grasp of connotation and denotation. Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be journos.

The real grassroots are people you’ll never see in the press, like our friend Steve, who has taught many thousands how to defend themselves safely and legally since his Army retirement; our go-to FFL Mark, who does the same, and partners with a lady instructor to bring self-defense how-to to women in a comfortable environment; all the dads and uncles we know that take kids to the range; and the range masters that accommodate youth shooting to the extent that their insurers let them.

We originally wrote that, “the real grassroots are people you’ve never heard of,” but unlike journalists, we’re concerned about the meanings of words; you may live in California or Arizona or Europe and will never meet Steve, or Mark, or our local rangemasters, but you can put names to other people who toil away in this sort of anyonymous service in your town. This is what “grassroots” means if you are not a journalist.

The real grassroots are people that journalists never get to know, let alone write about. It seems that the prime take-away from j-school is an in-group morality that demands that they tread upon the afflicted and fellate the comfortable,  And, after all, safety is never a news story, unless some zillionaire is using the mere word as a fig leaf for giving his inner Nazi what it wants.

One Way to Make an AR go Kaboom

One really good way is to fire a .300 BLK in a 5.56mm rifle. Here’s a story of such an event, from a bystander who talked to the lucky (to escape serious injury) shooter, who was transformed in milliseconds from an AR owner to a former AR owner in possession of some scrap metal.

Once we determined the shooter was physically OK, I wanted to get out of their business, so I didn’t get any photos of the rifle, but I can describe the damage. In short, it was pretty much totaled. Perhaps the Magpul front hand guard, rear stock and trigger group can be salvaged. That’s about it.

The magazine blew up, along with spring and follower. And you can see what happened to the other rounds in the picture here. I *believe* the fact that he was using a polymer magazine may have saved the shooter from additional injury. The explosion clearly took the path of least resistance. Perhaps a metal magazine would have allowed more pressure to go in other directions in addition to out the magazine well.

The magazine well on the lower was bulged out. Kind of like an Elmer Fudd cartoon shotgun. The upper receiver was also bulged out from the explosion.

The bolt and carrier were both trashed – bent all to hell and completely stuck in the upper and barrel extension.

I assume the barrel extension and barrel were trashed, but as everything was fused together, there was no way to tell for sure until they rip things apart. Shoving a .308 inch diameter bullet into a .223 inch hole is asking for damage I would think.

While I was not shocked at the damage to the aluminum upper and lower, I was surprised at how much the bolt carrier and bolt were trashed. That’s hard stuff there.

Yeah, it’s hard stuff, but a 5.56 NATO load is already creeping close to the limit load of the system, with respect to chamber pressures. Eliminate the possibility for that load to be tapped off by a gas route out of the chamber and down the barrel, and bad things happened.

With the brief opportunity I had to look, that’s about all I could tell. But now I was curious. Would similar rounds allow the .223 rifle to go into battery? I decided to try under much safer conditions.

via R.I.P. One AR-15 Rifle – Another 300 Blackout / .223 Kaboom.

And what he did was remove the BCG from a 5.56 rifle and see if a .300 BLK would drop into the chamber. The answer was what we think of as The Universal Answer to Everything™: “It depends.” In this case, it depends on the bullet; any .308 bullet can be loaded in the Blackout, with the lighter projectiles for maximizing velocity and heavier projectiles for subsonic use with a suppressor. Result of his experiment: A small, high-velocity bullet in the .300 would chamber, at least, most of the way; a large, subsonic bullet (200+ grain) wouldn’t.

In case you’re wondering why the US .mil doesn’t use the .300 BLK, this is one answer. Captain Murphy’s law always was, “if anything can go wrong, it will,” and while the original Murphy was a flight-test engineer, he sure as dammit could have been a weapons man with an insight like that. If it is physically possible for Private Joe Snuffy (or his Marine opposite number, Lance Corporal Schmuckatelli) to assemble a firearm improperly, or load it improperly, he is absolutely going to do it. Like the poor bastard in the example above, who was fortunately not seriously injured.

People I know who do use ARs in many calibers don’t take advantage of the capability to reuse the mags with multiple calibers. It’s just asking for trouble — better to dedicate mags to special-purposes like .300 or, say, blanks. (It is very embarrassing to fire a live round with a blank-firing adapter on the rifle, and it usually totals the rifle).


Blue=Inert, standard NATO/US code color. You can get anodized mags in several different colors. As long as you pick a system and stick to it, you won’t fire the wrong thing in the wrong place.

Go ahead, whine about magazine prices. What about replacing a whole AR like the fellow whose misplaced .300 round trashed his rifle?

One last thought. We are not fond of the Forward Assist, a gadget that was added to the M16A1 very late in the adoption game, at the insistence of armchair ordnancemen who had actually used the same reason (“lack of positive bolt closure”) to reject the T48 (FN FAL) in favor of the T44 (developed Garand that became the M14). And here is one reason not to be fond of the FA.IF you are forcing the bolt carrier into battery, why are you doing that? It just might be that you have the wrong round chambered.