Category Archives: Safety

Tank Destroyer Fatalities — Caused by Bad Reloads?

Investigators on the site of the mishap that killed two M18 Hellcat Gun Motor Carriage restorers.

Investigators on the site of the mishap that killed two M18 Hellcat Gun Motor Carriage restorers.

An anonymous commenter using the name “Cannonman” has made some serious allegations about the cause of the deaths of Steve Preston and Austin Lee during a live fire demonstration of an M18 Hellcat tank destroyer in Oregon, previously covered by WeaponsMan here on 27 October and here on 29 October.

The folks were loading their own ammo, the only “correct” component being the M26 cartridge cases. They did not use long enough primer flash tubes. M30 smokeless propellant, triple-based, smaller grain size, was used vice large-grained M1 single-base propellant. Navy projectiles, having longer and larger-diameter driving bands as opposed to Army, were being used. Cases were loaded with 1/2 lb. black powder dumped in base of case, cardboard wad, then 3.5 lbs of M30 propellant.

Why is “Cannonman” using the comments here at to send this message?

I am putting this info here because authorities won’t release any info and the facts need to get out. The very dangerous load caused an extreme overpressure in the chamber shattering the breechblock and cracking the breech ring, sending hot gas and fragments into the occupied turret.

If that was really what they were doing, including using black powder as a sort of gaine in the ignition train, it’s amazing they ever got the thing to fire.

Right now, all we have on this is a single, anonymous source. We welcome further input in the comments or to hognose at network impossible dot com.

More Depth: TD Accident Fatalities

Thanks to more news stories and an informative email from a frequent commenter, we have more information on the individuals who lost their lives and the circumstances of the accident. The two men fatally injured were Steve Preston, 51, the owner of the tank and a Board member and Convention Chairman for the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, and Austin Lee, 22, a friend (or relative?) of Preston’s. Both were residents of Oregon CIty, OR; Preston owned Sergeants Towing in Portland.


As we noted, the vehicle was an M18 Gun Motor Carriage (tank destroyer). Preston bought the TD in Denver in 1999 and enjoyed displaying it — at car shows (“It’s a 1944 Buick!” he would say, parking it in the appropriate area) or for charity fund-raisers. He painted his wife’s name — Rachel — on the vehicle’s flank.

prestons vehicle name oregonianThe vehicle served in World War II for the US and had wound up back in the US after being surplused by the Yugoslavian Army. Preston, a school-trained mechanic as well as a pilot and philanthropist, also owned a DUKW amphibious truck, and, reportedly, an M5A1 Stuart light tank. He had owned a firearms dealership.

He old the Portland Oregonian once:

“The craziest thing I’ve ever done with it? At a car show in Portland, I showed up early and towed a 1984 Camaro with no engine in it into the middle of the grounds. Soon there were hundreds of cars there, and I had the announcer say: ‘Would whoever owns the 1984 Camaro, please move it, or we’re going to have it towed away.’ Of course, nobody moved it. With everyone watching, I fired up the tank destroyer and crushed that Camaro. The crowds loved it.”

Steve Preston in his M18's gunner's seat (Portland Oregonian).

Steve Preston in his M18’s gunner’s seat (Portland Oregonian).

For all his love of military vehicles, Preston never served in the military. He did take special pride in showing his vehicles to vets who had used similar machines, and giving them a chance to drive their old mounts again.

The other victim, Austin Lee, was an avid World War II buff who’d become fascinated by the great war as early as age 6 or 7.  He was a professional restorer of World War II vehicles, weapons, and equipment.

The two were firing live 76mm rounds for a film crew, making a film for an interactive exhibit. How the round exploded — if that’s what it did — inside the Hellcat’s open turret is under investigation. As the accident happened on the range of the Central Oregon Shooting Sports Association in unincorporated territory, the investigation will be led by the county Sheriff, L. Shane Nelson. ATF and Oregon State Police have provided investigative assistance.

An emergency call was made immediately. First responders found the victims in the turret; some stories say they still had minimal signs of life, but they were pronounced at the scene.

There has been no indication of whether they were firing continuously (which seems unlikely) or responding to a misfire at the time of the mishap. Overheating (cook-off) or a premature or mis-run misfire drill can produce out-of-battery firing, very bad news in an armored vehicle’s main gun. Mechanical failure can’t be ruled out, also: the gun was 71 years old, which shouldn’t matter much with a steel gun, but the ammunition may have been past its use-by date.

In the long run, this mishap may have consequences for every member of the small community that live-fires vintage Destructive Devices. In the short run, it is a tragedy for the families concerned, including Austin Lee’s parents and Steve Preston’s wife and two kids. May they find comfort, and may the accident victims find rest in peace.


The (Portland) Oregonian has especially good coverage:

The Wall Street Journal did a photo essay last month:

Additional media coverage:

Personal media:

Two Dead in Tank Destroyer Explosion in Oregon

tank_destroyer_explosion_bend_orHere’s a real puzzle. It looks like a mishap during an armored vehicle live fire has killed two people inside the fighting compartment of the vehicle. The vehicle was on a public firing range. Those slain have not been identified. Local TV:

Two people were killed Tuesday afternoon by an explosion inside a World War II-era tank at a public firing range 24 miles east of Bend, Deschutes County sheriff deputies said.

Deputies, Oregon State Police and Bend Fire Department medics responded shortly after 3 p.m. to the reported explosion, off U.S. Highway 20 East near milepost 24, said sheriff’s Sgt. Nathan Garibay.

via Two killed by explosion in WWII-era tank east of Bend | News – Home.

tank_destroyer_close-up_bend_orThe vehicle appears in this picture (see blow-up above), from its sloped armor and large road wheels, to be an M18 Hellcat tank destroyer. The road wheels look too large to be an M10 or M36. Technically, it was the M18 Gun Motor Carriage, but it was assigned to Tank Destroyer units and everybody called it a Tank Destroyer. It had a high-velocity 76 mm gun and very little armor. With a similar 975-cubic-inch radial engine as the one in many Sherman variants, it was fast, hard-hitting and had the armored-vehicle equivalent of a glass jaw; in the last years of the war, the 2500 or so M18s built fought in both major theaters of the war.

This picture of this next M18 was taken during a live fire in 2010 and may be a photo of the mishap vehicle. The vehicle in the photo is based in the West, but there are a number of M18s in private hands, at least one of which is known to be in Oregon.

M18 Hellcat Winter 2010 148 regrets the loss of life and continues to develop the story.


Jihadi go FOOM. Awwwww.

The Molotov Cocktail, so named in the 1930s as an insult to the then-foreign minister of the USSR, who was doing all he could to put the concept of World Revolution into action, is a deceptively simple weapon.

Naturally, anything so deceptively simple tends to deceive the simple. And no one is so simple as a violent Arab, the mathematically somewhat-short sum total of many generations of the cousin-marriage inbreeding that passes for mate selection in their boy- and goat-preference ranks. (The mean IQ of Arabs is in the 70s and 80s — from a full SD below the global mean, to on the threshold of retardation in the civilized world). Seldom has the typically low-IQ lack of safety culture been more apparent than in this image:


Burn, baby, burn! It’s a Disco Inferno!

Does he know any other dance moves? Well, yes; there are larger and other pictures of Hot Head here going around.

Kevin Williamson of National Review writes and provides credit to the photographer, who had to get his nose full of roast jihadi to get these pictures:

A news photograph from Hazem Bader, who chronicles newsworthy doings in Israel for Agence France Presse, inspired a good deal of guilty giggles on Tuesday: A Palestinian thug mishandled his Molotov cocktail and managed to set fire to his T-shirt and then to his keffiyeh, which had his compatriots scrambling to put out the flames dancing on his head. That was not the sort of halo that the holy warrior had in mind at all — martyrdom, yes, inshallah, but not right now. Like all decent people of good will, my first reaction was: Serves you right, ass. And then a smidgen of guilt: If you’ve ever seen a human being burned, you don’t wish it on anybody. Not even these Jew-hating jihadi bums.

via Palestinian Self-Immolation — Metaphor for Palestinian ExperienceNational Review Online.

We have to disagree with Kevin D. Williamson of National Review here; we do wish it on this scumbag, and all his family and friends. They can burn now with their ineptly produced and handled Molotovs, or burn later in their Iranian sponsors’ nuclear fires, or burn still later in the fires of Hell, for all we care. But while they’re dancing and burning before us now, we’ll enjoy the show.

And if he dies after a month in a burn ward — with some Israeli doctors working their hearts out to try to save him, probably — we’ll celebrate that, too.

Happy Jihad, crispy critter. You deserve every scar and every burning (see what we did there?) nerve ending.

This is not that rare an occurrence. Here’s one from 30 November 2013 in East Jerusalem.


The indifferent look of our flamer’s buddy on the left sums up Arab brotherhood. Oh, snap, there goes Abdul. Ah well, Allah willed it. The shaheed workout: feel the burn!

‘Cause it’s a disco inferno. More cowbell!

In previous Molotov cocktail coverage here (with updates, because we’re curious like that):

  • 04 Sep 12: Another victim of Hollywood special effects. We cover both the crime of the moment by a guy named Daigle and the history of Molotovs in general here. (Funny coincidence: here’s another molotov case with an NH angle and a detective named Daigle. The three firebombers all walked with probation — it was a MA court. The mastermind did get 15 years). Molotov Daigle later tried to escape while he was awaiting trial — like his other criminal enterprises. He pled guilty (that link has details on how non-mastermind his crime was — pro tip: the beer bottle that forms your assassination weapon should not match five in your trash can) and is probably out by now.
  • 22 Oct 12: When Guns are Outlawed… tells the story of two separate knucklehead Molotov attacks in California and Virginia.
  • 03 Mar 14: When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have Molotov cocktails. A brilliant but troubled Georgia Tech grad student of Iranian extraction seems to have used one in a grisly suicide attempt on 9 Feb 14. Saamer Akhshabi died from his injuries on 6 Mar 14. (We had noted short days before that “the odds are against young Akhshabi’s survival.”) Note that his professor’s page has been edited to remove the reference to Akhshabi’s possible mental illness that is in the pre-demise version quoted in the WeaponsMan post.

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.