Category Archives: Safety

A Tale of Two Parachute Mishaps

Military static-line parachuting is, as near as we can figure out, substantially safer (in terms of loss of life) than civilian skydiving; and military HALO jumping is, as near as we can figure out, somewhat more hazardous than civilian skydiving.

This situation would be completely different if the military did not use mind-numbingly rigid procedures for everything from pre-jump planning to how to open the aircraft door or tailgate to assembly on the drop zone. Still, it’s an inherently dangerous act: to exit an aircraft in flight, and ride a piece of cloth and a bunch of strings (that were all made by the lowest bidders), to contact with terra firma.

We’ve been reminded of that this month by two horrifying acccidents.

2 Sep 15: Non-fatal Mishap, MT

In Hamilton, Montana a free-fall parachutist with a US Army Special Operations unit became badly entangled in his main chute, as this photograph by eyewitness Mike Daniels shows:

Mike Daniels photo of Hamilton MT accidentThe jumper landed in a residential area and was evacuated by Army helicopter.

The area is frequently used for rough-terrain jump training and deliberate tree landings (under the auspices of the Forest Service’s smoke jumpers, the undisputed experts at this technique), but the jumper does not appear to be equipped for a deliberate tree jump. He landed hard in a residential street. In the configuration shown in the photo, he was probably descending at about 70 miles per hour, but his chute snapped to full canopy just 100 feet and less than one second from a bone-jarring impact. Instead, he was able to reduce speed some before he hi.

The jump Blackhawk, an MH-60 of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, dived after him and landed in the street; the injured man, who was conscious and responsive,  was given first aid and flown to the trauma center in Missoula.

He was a very fortunate man, saved from probable death when the chute inflated, and he was out of the hospital and back with his unit in days.

11 Sep 15 Fatal Mishap, WA

A soldier assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was found dead late Friday, 11 September 15, after being missing for about ten hours. The Special Forces soldier was last seen trying to deploy his reserve parachute.

The case remains under investigation; 1st SFG(A) commander Otto K. Liller has made a statement of condolence to the dead man’s family. The name of the victim will not be released until family notification +24 hours under Army policy


Sources (Montana Accident)



Ravalli (MT) Republic:

Sources (Washington Accident)

Seattle Times:

NBC News:

KING-TV 5 Seattle:



When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Tanks

The M5 Stuart was a late-war update of the M3 Stuart light tank. Hazardously obsolete in Europe, it was more effective in the Pacific, where Japan's tanks were few and also light. This is a file photo of the one operated by the American GI Museum in Texas, not the mishap tank.

The M5 Stuart was a late-war update of the M3 Stuart light tank. Hazardously obsolete in Europe, it was more effective in the Pacific, where Japan’s tanks and AT guns were few and also light. Stuarts were also supplied to allies under Lend-Lease. This is not the mishap tank, but a file photo of the one operated by the American GI Museum in Texas.

The guy was from San Francisco, where guns are pretty well outlawed. That, however, didn’t save him. Indeed, it was a demilitarized weapon from World War II that chewed him up and spat him out, much the worse for wear and no longer in operating condition.

It happened on a hobby tank ride during a family reunion. Poor guy fell off and that was game over, man.

The property in the city of Fairfield, about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, belongs to Jelly Belly Chairman Herman Rowland, according to family spokeswoman Holly Carter.

Carter said the tank’s driver, 62-year-old Dwayne Brasher, is married to Rowland’s daughter and the current Jelly Belly chief executive officer, Lisa Rowland Brasher.

“The gentleman involved in this accident was a passionate person, always ready to lend a hand and we shared the same deep rooted love of history,” Herman Rowland said in a statement. “There are no words to describe the grief we are experiencing.”

Police said neither drugs nor alcohol were believed to have factored into the incident.

via Man dies after run over by tank at Jelly Belly chairman’s California property – Yahoo News.

There are no safety belts on the outside of a tank (and in a tank of this vintage, none inside, either). Before you ride on a tank in the Army, to the extent the Army permits it at all, you’re expected to have some training on it. Where and how to mount and dismount makes a difference. You’re shown where to hang on, so that if you fall off, you’re not in the path of the treads. You’re taught how little visibility the driver and TC have, even if the tank is not buttoned up (and buttoning up is so restrictive to visibility that it’s only done when under accurate fire).

Tank drivers are trained to stop the tank in an emergency, but even the lightest tank doesn’t stop on a dime; it has a lot of inertia. Tankers are also aware of the hazards of the tracks; indeed, they’re trained to exploit the tank’s treads as weapons to crush enemy soldiers and fortifications. (If you know a tanker, get him to free-associate the term “pivot turn,” or react to the command, “Neutral left!”) It’s unlikely a hobbyist “tanker” has had any of this training at all, and safety procedures that the worlds’ armed forces have built over decades would be terra incognita to him, and certainly to his passengers.

This is a sad outcome. The small coterie of hobbyists who preserve and restore these vehicles did so when the military and the nation’s museums had no institutional interest in doing so. (Indeed, well into the 90s we were destroying WWII tanks, half-tracks and armored cars as range targets). It’s unfortunate to have an accident taint this perhaps eccentric but very valuable hobby in the psyche of the public.

Of course, the greatest misfortune is that that befell the victim and his surviving friends and family. If you operate some unusual old piece of equipment, it’s very wise to seek out its former operators (or, when they are too far removed in time for any of them to be alive, their writings, which are a poor substitute for a living person) to see what safety precautions were considered de rigeur, back when the gadget was new and its hazards were taken seriously.

If you are an expert in a field, you may not even be conscious of the safety precautions your experience guides you to take. How many equestrians have seen someone unfamiliar with horses line himself up perfectly for a kick? One startle response away from a fractured cranium. You can yell, “Hey, don’t stand there,” or something, but you didn’t warn the person beforehand because it didn’t occur to you that somebody would come up behind the horse like that. A lot of what we know we only know because someone taught us, and the frightening bit is that they may have taught us so long ago that we’ve “always known that” and don’t think to teach it to people lacking our tribal knowledge.

These Soviet troops invading Czechoslovakia in 1968 apparently didn't get the memo. The guys on the front of the ASU-85 are taking a hell of a risk.

These Soviet troops invading Czechoslovakia in 1968 apparently didn’t get the memo. The guys on the front of the ASU-85 are taking a hell of a risk.

If you look at WWII pictures of tank riders, relatively few of them are hanging on the frontal aspect of the tank. You wonder how many dead GIs, Landsers or Red Army motorized rifle troops it took for them to evolve that procedure.

By the 1960s (US war in Vietnam and Russian mostly uncontested invasion of Czechoslovakia) this tribal knowledge seems to have been largely disregarded.

Technology Can’t Save Kids from Guns. What Can?

Ah, detroit.

Ah, Detroit. Had Shelley found you instead of Rameses’s head, what would Ozymandias have been like?

In the failed city of Detroit, never recovered from the militant mayoralty of Coleman Young that set it on the path to perdition, there are so many shootings that the local papers do not report them when they’re the usual kind: hood-rats blasting hood-rats over the finer points of recreational pharmaceutical market share, or minute gradations of “respect” among a class of losers that merit the actual respect of no man. In order to make the paper, the shooting has to be gruesome, accidental, strike an unintended or child victim (real child, not a Bloombergian up-to-24 “child”), or be one of the real rarities that has a police officer or a white person involved. Especially if it’s a white police officer.

Recently, there have been a spate of apparently unintentional shootings of children, often by other children. Here’s the grim coda of a Detroit Free Press article.

The 3-year-old, who was shot in the face, was found in the front seat of a car that had been parked behind the home, a source familiar with the investigation said. The source said it’s unclear whether the 11-year-old boy, who told police the kids had been playing with a gun, pulled the trigger.​

The 11-year-old has been charged with manslaughter. The gun was in a case and possibly unloaded. The kids took it, cased, to a car in the driveway and played with it, with the results noted — the younger boy died.

There have been other recent accidental shootings involving minors. In January, a teen boy shot and killed his friend while the teen’s father was out of the house, getting pizza. The father, Ivan Berrien, 45, was ultimately convicted of second-degree child abuse and a felony weapons charge, and is scheduled to serve at least two years in prison, court records show.

And in December, a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed by accident on Detroit’s east side.

Now, you may dismiss this as the children of hood rats finding momma’s latest baby-daddy’s gun, but that’s not always the case (and it doesn’t appear to be the case here: the shooting of the three year old happened in a nice neighborhood, with a legal handgun belonging to the kids’ uncle or aunt). It can happen to anyone. It can happen to you. Here in NH, a police chief was charged and tried because he always took his duty gun off at home (many cops do; do you wear your gun around the clock) and his daughter’s distraught teenage boyfriend found it and implemented a final solution to the transient sufferings of adolescence. (The cop was acquitted, but the process is the punishment; we do bet he secures his firearm now).

We just tell that story to hammer upon the point: it can happen to you.

SentinL trigger lock2Some morally-destitute entrepreneur saw the Detroit crime as a great marketing hook for his still-undeveloped gun-denial (in his words, “smart gun”) technology, which is based, he says vaguely, on his experience in airbag engineering and on fingerprints. He rushed a timely op-ed into the Free Press to promote himself and his company, SentinL, which is, they say modestly, The Future of Gun Safety.

Hey, sometimes opportunity knocks in nine millimeter, you know?

There are two separate issues here: we’ll deal first with whether technology will save us, and then talk about what you can do so the next heartbreaking paragraph in the Detroit Free Press, or in your local paper, does not reference a child of your friends and family or an incident that took place in your house.

What We Know About Airbag Technology

First, we have a lot more data available on airbags than we do on any kind of gun denial technology, principally because there are a lot more motor vehicle accidents in a month than there are shooting accidents and deliberate shootings in a year.

And airbags fail. Frequently.

Even simpler, and therefore more reliable, mechanisms fail. We were in a violent motor vehicle accident where the seatbelt inertia reel failed, resulting in a Come-to-Jesus meeting with the dashboard and windshield at about 35 mph. And there are few things that are mechanically simpler, or theoretically more reliable, than an inertia reel. (The worst thing about the accident was the plague of lawyers begging us to sue the other motorist, the car maker (BMW), and the university on whose lawn the two cars came to rest. There’s no parallel experience to that, although rodent and carpenter-ant infestations come close).

Airbags have both types of failure, false positives (the thing goes off for no reason) and, more commonly because the engineers have biased their function this way, false negatives.

A 2005 study found that airbags are associated with slightly increased probability of death in accidents. Air bags have been mandatory in all cars in the USA since 1998, and the bags have directly produced hundreds of deaths. University of Georgia Professor of Statistics Mary C. Meyer explained the paradox using an analogy:

f you look at people who have some types of cancer, you will see that those who get radiation treatment have a better chance of surviving than those who don’t. However, radiation is inherently dangerous and could actually cause cancer. If you give everyone radiation treatments, whether they have cancer or not, you will probably find an increased risk of death in the general population.

Making everyone have airbags and then verifying the effectiveness using only fatal crashes in FARS is like making everyone get radiation and then estimating the lives saved by looking only at people who have cancer. Overall, there will be more deaths if everyone is given radiation, but in the cancer subset, radiation will be effective.

This is reminiscent of some of Bastiat’s economic arguments: you can’t get a good measurement from a biased data set. NTSB’s admitted death toll of 238 from airbag activation only included accidents at very low speed, where there was not enough energy to have killed someone. It’s quite possible that airbags are killing people who would have survived higher-speed impacts too. Statistically, they seem to be a wash, except in low-speed impacts, where they’re four times deadlier that not having them. Meanwhile, the same study found that seatbelts save lives across the board, airbags or not. (So the best survival strategy would be to wear your seatbelt and have your airbags disabled, which is what racing drivers who risk very high-energy crashes do).

The crossover speed where having an airbag and no seatbelt is more survivable than nothing at all is about 25 kph, then there’s a crossover at 39 kph and from there on up, nothing at all still produces fewer deaths than airbag alone. Here are the charts from a paper of Meyer’s & Tremika Finney’s at the American Statistical Association.


Note that these are results with airbags that have worked nominally, not with the failure-prone Takata airbags that have been in the news lately. Airbags kill more people than they save, and you’re not only better off with nothing than an airbag, you’re way better off with a properly worn seatbelt than that.

And let’s not even get into the accidents caused by the loss of visibility that recent A-pillar airbag installations produce. (The basic difference between helming a Chevy HHR, for example, and a submarine is that they have thoughtfully provided a submarine with a periscope so you can see out). So why did we wind up with mandatory airbags? Because activists, who were not engineers or scientists but lawyers and lobbyists, pushed for them. Joan Claybrook was not the equivalent of Zora Arkus-Duntov; she was the automotive version of Shannon Watts, an uneducated but firmly opinionated armchair expert.

Here’s a rather chilling page on forensic evidence in airbag deaths, including x-rays and a gruesome pair of pictures of a dead four-year-old boy. The remarkable thing is how light the damage is to some of the cars in these fatal mishaps.

Tentative conclusion: omeone steeped in the culture of the airbag industry, which is a technological approach to to safety based on activists’ quasi-religious beliefs in direct contradiction to the data, is probably the wrong guy to design a firearms-safety application.

What We Know About Biometrics

That airbag stuff is depressing, but surely the biometrics stand on more solid ground? After all, Apple uses a fingerprint to let you lock your iPhone.

The basic problems with fingerprint biometrics are these:

  1. You can’t keep your personal “password” secret. Once it’s blown, it’s well and truly blown, and it’s never private again. In other words, any compromise is permanent.
  2. You can’t revoke or change your fingerprints (or iris scans, etc).
  3. Biometrics are easily compromised or spoofed. Especially for anyone who ever goes outdoors.
  4. The uniqueness of these data points appears to have been overstated.
  5. It takes time to process this data. All known biometric technologies are slower than comparable token/password systems.

See, for instance, here, here and here for some of the theoretical background, and here for how it’s really working already (or not working) in the US-VISIT Visa system, a hotbed of fraud and corruption.

What We Know About SentinL

We know very little, because they reveal very little. Their website is not live yet, just a placeholder where you can send them your email. But we do know that their system is basically a rotomolded trigger sheath (made like the case that came with your new M9 or Glock) that is locked and secured with a fingerprint biometric sensor. Using your fingerprint, you can open the sheath.

Many rotomolded cases include holes for applying a padlock. That’s probably a more effective way to secure the firearm, although you have a problem with Junior guessing the combination (a key padlock on a defensive firearm case is a very poor idea).

A rotomolded case otherwise can be brute-forced readily, in most cases. There’s no doubt that SentinLs trigger sheath will simply keep the honest and incurious kids out.

Waiting for SentinL is a bad idea, then.

What, then, Can you do?

  • Keep only ready guns loaded
  • Keep the minimum amount of ready guns. For most people in most circumstances, that’s one. If you live in a place where you need to keep a long gun ready to go 24/7, do your kids a favor and move. 
  • (Best) Keep any ready handgun on your person or in sight AT ALL TIMES.
  • Keep all non-ready guns under lock and key, as secure as possible. A real safe (like a GSA or jeweler’s safe) is better than most “gun safes,” but a gun safe is better than a locked glass-front gun cabinet.
  • Keep non-ready guns and ammo separate. Your ammo should not be in the gun safe anyway (for fire protection, too. A fire-resistant safe is wasted if it’s full of inflammable stuff, so keep everything with a low flash point out of there and your guns might survive a home fire). But most people wouldn’t buy a second gun safe for ammo. What we do is use a job box with combination padlocks. A burglar will just take the box, of course, if you don’t bolt it down, but you’ve just squared a kid’s problem in getting a loaded gun (the kid, unlike the burg, will care to do it without destroying anything).
  • Keep kids and guns separate. For instance, visiting kids here can be in the yard, the ground floor, the Kid’s bedroom, or the music/exercise/play room. There are no guns in those places (unless they’re on an adult’s hip). Kids are not admitted to the gun-containing parts of the house without adult eyes on. Yes, this is hard to do in a small house or apartment, but it’s belt-and-suspenders to drill into kids not only you don’t touch a gun, but also, you don’t go into grownups’ rooms. The flip side of that is, we don’t cross Kid’s door without his permission. It’s just one more layer of standard practice between the kids and the guns.
  • Never assume your kid “won’t.”  Remember all the mischief you got into? Remember how down you felt when you had your first breakup? Kids live in a world of melodrama, surrounded by a popular culture that rewards “authenticity” (whatever that really is) and minimizes or denies consequences.

And remember your fundamental safety rules.

How Many Kinds of ND Can There Be?

ND-shot-in-footHere’s a simplified extract from the FNH 3 Gun rules, as relates to Accidental Discharges (as the rules call them). It’s Section 2.4 but we’ve binned the numbers for legibility.

A participant who causes an accidental discharge will be stopped by an Event Official as soon as possible, and shall be disqualified. Examples of accidental discharge include:

  • A shot, which travels over a backstop, a berm or in any other direction deemed by Event Officials to be unsafe.
  • A shot which strikes the ground within 10 feet of the participant, except when shooting at a target closer than 10 feet to the participant.
  • [A shot that] would have struck the ground within 10 feet of the participant had it not been deflected or stopped by [a] prop.
  • A shot which occurs while loading, reloading or unloading any firearm.
  • A shot which occurs during remedial action in the case of a malfunction.
  • A shot which occurs while transferring a firearm between hands.
  • A shot which occurs during movement, except while actually engaging targets.

That’s seven different ways to screw up, in our book. It’s actually a lot simpler than that. You can safely assume that any shot not fired while physically on the range engaging a target, or physically facing an enemy, engaging him, is an ND.

Any shot fired without a certain backstop is an ND on this range, but in the real world it’s just gross negligence. Any shot addressed “to whom it may concern,” instead of being precisely aimed at an intended target, likewise.

Note that by this standard, the majority of shots fired by the majority of police in the majority of engagements are negligent. So are most military combat shots! (Of course, military shooters need be less concerned about collateral damage than their police opposite numbers).

It’s a high standard, but we think it’s a good and eminently fair one. Certainly someone has to hold the police responsible for the shoot-first aim-later, spray-and-pray, recon-by-contagious-fire ethos that has permeated police firearms training over the last 30 years.

Bubba Was “Out of Battery”

This really happened on an indoor range. A (presumably nearsighted) elderly gentleman got his pistol stuck just barely out of battery. The gunshop guys rodded the gun to clear the jammed round… only to find out that it was a battery that was out of battery.

9mm energizer2Yep, that’s an Energizer, all right, probably in his gun bag to power a gun light, that instead got crammed into a 9mm mag in between 9mm rounds. And so much for truth in advertising: instead of keeping “going… and going… and going,” the S&W M&P stopped, hard, when it got to the battery… unable to quite force it into battery.

Here’s a close-up, again, after rodding the stuck “round” partway out:

9mm energizerDoing this on the range is embarrassing, but doing it in a gunfight could be terminal.

9mm para dimensionsThe battery is an A23, a compact 12v battery (.pdf) used in a lot of weird places like gun lights, red-dot sights, and garage-door remotes. It’s a manganese dioxide-based battery made up of 8 small cells in series, and it’s from 9.7 to 10.3 mm in diameter, and slightly shorter length overall as a 9mm round at 27.5 to 28.5. As you can see from the image on the right (which shows the European CIP max dimensions), the A23 is destined to get stuck outside the chamber if its diameter is on the high end of tolerances, or somewhere down it if it’s near the lower end.

40 SW dinensionsOn the other hand, it might have gone all the way in to a .40 S&W chamber, as you can see on the image to the left (again a Euro CIP max-dimensions diagram. It seems likely an A23 would drop all the way in a .40 chamber. As batteries generally lack extraction grooves, it could be an unacceptably tense moment or two in a real-world gunfight. So it’s just as well that our visually-challenged gentleman selected the parabellum instead of the .40.

In this case, no permanent harm was done to the gun, the battery, or any personnel or installations. The battery was extracted, a bit beat-up perhaps, and the pistol had no problem going back into battery, without the battery. Presumably Mr Magoo then returned to the range.

And you know the ROs keep a bit of a closer eye on him, now that they know he sees no lights a-flashing, he plays by sense of smell.

The shop worker notes, “You work at a range long enough though and you see all kinds a stupid stuff.”

Hat tip, this thread in /r/guns and the photos from the original poster there, on imgur.



Handbag Carry: Just Stop Doing It. Now.

As fans of the female shape (on females, of course; don’t look for us to go the way of Bruce Jenner anytime before the Sun goes nova) we’re sympathetic with women’s complaints about fit and comfort problems with conventional designed-for-dudes holsters.

But we’re not so sympathetic that we’re about to sanction handbag carry. It’s a great way for a carrier to get separated from her firearm, which is bad enough. But even worse, this can happen:

Elizabeth Green’s 3-year-old son, Marques, died at a hospital June 11 shortly after the shooting woman in Hamilton, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. The mother told an emergency dispatcher amid screams that he apparently took her handgun out of her purse.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said a grand jury heard evidence in the case before deciding not to charge Green.

“The sheer enormity and permanency of this loss to the mother far exceeds the power of the state to punish the mother for her inattention under circumstances that should have been obvious to her,” Gmoser said in a statement.

At least Mr Gmoser managed to bring the investigation and grand jury to a close pretty quickly — it’s not unusual to see a case like this drag on for years, hanging like the Sword of Damocles over a person who’s already shocked, bereaved, and feeling incredible guilt.

On a word-nerd aside, it’s nice to see someone using the word enormity in its traditional sense; not just “really big” but “really horrible.” But it’s beyond awful that something like this ever had to happen.

In most cases where a kid whacks himself, or a playmate, with mommy or daddy’s gun, the state piling on doesn’t really serve an articulable public purpose, unless you’re the sort of state’s attorney who believes that your self-aggrandizement is the highest of public purposes.

The investigation was necessary to determine the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death and any criminal conduct that may have been involved, Gmoser’s statement said. He said the investigation confirmed the boy died accidentally from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest and the mother failed to secure the firearm from her purse, where it was kept for her self-protection and found by the child.

via No charges for mother whose 3-year-old killed self – CBS News.

We’re not lawyers, but we’d guess that there’s a lot of jurisdictional variance here, and a lot of shaded area between the white of simple negligence and the black of criminal culpability. Reasonable people can disagree about whether to prosecute the gun owners in cases like this.

It’s unlikely anyone will disagree that this was a terrible tragedy, of the sort that should be avoided.

Yes, it’s hard to make a service pistol, a female form, and womens’ fashions fit together. And handbag carry is a temptation that just sits there smiling at you. When it reaches out to you, remember that the same convenience seduced Elizabeth Green. It’s impossible to imagine what effect this one single error — that she may not have known was an error, even though she’d had training — and the resulting tragedy has had on her now, and will have on her for life.

Don’t make it possible for a story like this to be about you. 

Thinking About Safety

Larry Vickers is thinking about safety:



Hat tip Miguel at Gun Free Zone, who wonders if one of the mishaps Larry’s writing about is this one. You can click the link if you like (and it’s a good tale of real-world first aid), but for most of you, the illustration will remind you what can go wrong with appendix carry.


That cat was danger close to living to collect the usually posthumous Darwin Award, but apparently the projectile did not connect with anything vital in his junk. Good luck, though, explaining that scar to dates. (“Go ahead and kiss it. It’s just a chancre!” probably won’t fly).

Instructor (and aidman) Stan Lee’s conclusions:

Briefing of the four firearms safety rules is of course a given, after that the first aid/gun shot wound treatment and medical evacuation plan should be thoroughly briefed as if an emergency incident had already happened to you.

He then runs through an emergency kit and emergency plan. It’s a good idea, for reasons we’ll cover in half a moment.

Someone should be able to brief all of the above in detail. That someone should be with the party from the beginning to the end. I think it’s acceptable to have the GSW kit centralized but extra credit points for wearing it.

Stan learned his first aid in the Navy. All the services teach much better and more effective first aid than they did when old dinosaurs like Tom Kratman and I went in, and even better than my old unit had on our first Afghan tour. Didn’t happen to our battalion, but in and around our time, other SF units lost guys because they exsanguinated, or developed tension pneumothorax, and the non-medics on site weren’t skilled enough to treat them. (Well, that, and medevac was weak until 2004 or so — too few frames and crews, and it’s a big country). That would never happen now; even support units get pretty decent combat life saver training.

Still, it’s a lot better to use your superior weapons handling skills so as not to have to demonstrate your superior first aid skills.

Stan makes another point (and another reason to Read The Whole Thing™ on Miguel’s site) in that simply briefing safety rules and plans at the start of a class is a Real Good Thing. In aviation, we found that when aircrews began briefing an instrument approach procedure-by-procedure, the number of errors (and mishaps) declined. In airborne operations, we found that when airborne units started doing a formal, stylized prejump briefing that everybody (especially devil-may-care skydivers) laughs at, the number of errors (and jump injuries) declined. It’s great that an American paratroop officer can command his battalion, regiment or division from a wheelbarrow pushed by one of his privates, but he’d probably rather not go down in history for that. 

IWB and particularly Appendix Carry holsters introduce risk factors that are not present in an old-fashioned outside-the-waistband holster. (We also think that schools’ focus on quick-draw engagements is usually misplaced). You can have an accident with any holster, but unless you’ve got a lot of experience, choose one that adds minimal risks.


As Larry notes, if you use a safetyless (“trigger safety”, “safe action”, anything that would have scared the horse out from under a 1909 cavalryman who had the grip safety added to the 1911) firearm you need to be extra careful about holstering and reholstering. Or, well, look at the picture.

Now, you can choose any firearm, and every one has its own risk factors. You can operate any handgun safely (we do not believe Larry has ever had an ND in God-knows how many Glock rounds), but you have to know it and its properties and operate it either with your mind on it 100%, or with skills drilled and drilled until you’re always, instinctively safe with it.

ND-shot-in-footAs the graphic we usually use with safety posts says, if you shoot yourself in a training class,  “Your [sic] Doing It Wrong.” Like this fellow in the ‘burbs of Orlando, Florida:

23-year-old man accidentally shot himself during a gun safety class at a pawn shop, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

It happened at Instant Replay Pawn Shop and Shooting Range on Colonial Drive between Dean and Rouse roads, said Lt. Paul Hopkins.

The gun went off accidentally and the bullet grazed his leg, Hopkins said.

Amazing how this guns just “went off.” No wonder newspaper guys all want to ban guns, they think of them as malevolent presences, stalking training classes and firing ranges, bent on bringing their primordial evil to bear on their hapless bearers.

Of course, that’s all bosh and nonsense. They’re simply machines, slavishly obeying the laws of physics and the input human operators apply to their user interfaces. In all history, the gun that “went off accidentally” is rarer that a comet sighting. He should admit he “set it off accidentally.”  He, too, is going to live.

He’ll probably never make that mistake again. But you know, we’re supposed to be able to learn from his mistake, rather than only learn from our own.

Tam Goes in for Quick Kill… Involuntarily

So there she was at a shootin’ school, and her trusty M&P inspired, shall we say, “trust issues” by shucking off the upper half of the rear sight.

Hey, as we’ve demonstrated with our Quick Kill reporting, you don’ need no stankin’ sights at pistol ranges. Still, they’re kinda nice to have.

Basically, when the slide assembly reached the rear limit of its travel, the back half of the sight decided it wanted to keep going and it had enough inertia to do so. I don’t recollect it actually hitting me, but always wear eye pro, kids! .

via View From The Porch.

Thinking about the physics of it, a rear sight ejected from the rear of a firearm is unlikely to hit the eye. Because even as it moves eyeward at a speed equal to recoil speed minus the velocity lost shearing the molecular bonds inside the (probably metal injection molded or sintered) sight, it’s also seeking the center of the earth at 32 feet per second per second (unless you’re outside the USA, in which case it does it at 9.81m2.

So you’re more likely to take it on the chin, cheek, or shooting vest, than in the eye. That’s why actual eye loss from such catastrophic dumbassery as firing 7.62 Tokarev ammo in an old Broomhandle is quite rare. The broomhandle bolt breaks the dummy’s cheekbone or knocks out a few teeth, instead of sailing through the orbit and turning his not-too-splendid brain into mush.

And back in the days of Broomhandles, they had never heard of metal injection molding.

How to Make a Revolver Go kB!

There’s the old double-charge. Since this late, lamented Colt Anaconda is… er, was a .44 Mag (which is hard to double-charge without obviously spilling powder) a more likely explanation is an oversized load of something fast-burning.

Overconfidence + Handloads + Revolver =


The Anaconda is a rare piece, rare enough that it isn’t even mentioned in R.L. Wilson’s doorstop, The Book of Colt Firearms (2008), but it was introduced in 1990 as the first large-frame Colt DA since the discontinuation of the New Service to enable war production in World War II, and discontinued in 1999 as a result of weak sales. Leftover parts were assembled into more Anacondas by the Colt custom shop. It has a reputation as an extremely strong .44 Magnum gun (especially the Kodiak model, which dispenses with cylinder flutes).

Another Way to Blow Up a Revolver

Then, there’s a short-cut to blowing up a black powder revolver: load it with smokeless powder. Imagine a load that that beefy Anaconda could have survived, transported back in time to a Civil War .44. It isn’t going to work, is it? It would be like coupling a modern 5-liter Mustang V8 to the planetary transmission of a Model T — for one bright shining moment, you’d be your state’s largest distributor of transmission parts. That’s what one European shooter did by loading smokeless powder in his revolver.

This video, from the outstanding Hungarian-based YouTube channel, shows the before-and-after of a Remington 1858 replica.

It could have been much worse: only one chamber of this revolver-turned-grenade was loaded. One thing to note is how much thinner the chambers of a cap and ball Army .44 are, than of the modern Colt seen shredded above.

It is not an exaggeration to say that whatever sprite of caution kept the shooter from loading all cylinders quite directly saved his life.

It’s interesting to see the failure modes in these guns. If you look at them carefully, you can see that while the metal near the point of detonation shatters, other metal then peels, bends or flexes, ultimately failing in tension as it is stretched in directions its designers never envisioned.

Steel, the principal material from which we built guns, seems indestructibly solid, but when forces exceed its plastic strength it will deform, and when forces exceed its ultimate strength it will fail. Q.E.D.

Suppressors: 40-state-legal; two more “Maybe Soon”

Last time we looked at suppressor legality, it was up to 37 of the 50 United States. (They’re banned in DC and all the Territories if memory serves).

But that was months ago, so it was time to check again, just in time to learn that Minnesota, which banned suppressors for many years, legalized them, becoming State #40 to allow citizens who comply with the Federal National Firearms Act to own them.


Even Minnesota’s anti-gun, anti-2nd-Amendment governor, Mark Dayton, signed the bill.

A similar bill is on Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk. It is a very small change in the laws in this idiosyncratic, left-libertarian state. The current provision of Vermont law is almost laughable in its lack of consequences for the violator:

Section 4010. Gun silencers A person who manufactures, sells or uses or possesses with intent to sell or use, an appliance known as or used for a gun silencer shall be fined $25.00 for each offense. The provisions of this section shall not prevent the use of possession of gun silencers for military purposes when so used or possessed under proper military authority and restriction.

But its real effect is that NFA Branch will not license suppressors to Green Mountain State residents because of this state law. (We have not ever heard of a case of 4010 being enforced). Nobody knows what Shumlin will do. But if he signs the bill, Vermont will make 41.

Iowa has an omnibus gun-rights bill wending its way through the legislature, with both the Senate and House having approved different versions. It is a mix of good and bad, extending the duration of (but not eliminating) purchase permits, and creating an electronic owner-registration database, the purpose of which is to help anti-gun law enforcement agencies and officers in places like Maryland and New Jersey to harass out-of-state travelers. But it also legalizes suppressors and turns CLEO signoffs into a must-issue item. It is likely to change again before enactment (if it’s enacted at all). But with the suppressor language, Iowa could be 42. The Iowa Firearms Coalition has updates.

In addition, legislation was filed in Illinois this year, but seems to have perished. It will be back next session.

If those states pass, the only states west of the Mississippi to ban suppressors would be California and Hawaii. Several Northeastern states such as NY, NJ, DE, RI and MA remain holdouts, and the other New England states are still behind on permitting suppressed hunting, which is otherwise allowed in almost all of the states that allow suppressors.