Category Archives: Safety

Breaking: More Pistol Pain at the Pennsylvania State Police

Pennsylvania_State_PoliceWe’ve reported in the past at great length on what we’ve called the Pistol OCD of the Pennsylvania State Police (link is to a Google search of Weaponsman for PSP stories, not all of which are pistol-problem-related). They’ve been through more pistol models and calibers in fewer years than any group of two or three statewide agencies you care to name, but they’re reporting a new problem with their new Sig 227 pistols.

They have found that if they load the pistol per spec — 10+1 — they have jams, to be specific, stovepipes. They have directed the troopers to load the pistols 9+1, neither chambering a round to load a full mag, nor replacing a round and inserting a 10-round mag after chambering from the mag.

We haven’t heard of anybody else having this problem with the 227. The New Jersey State Police had such stovepipe problems with Smith & Wesson P99s that they returned to the HK P7M8 briefly before going to… drumroll please… SIGs (in 9mm, in their case).

As we mentioned, this is a new problem. The P227 already has had a troubled rollout at PSP. In an initial introductory class, an experienced firearms instructor had a negligent discharge that struck and killed one of his students, Trooper David Kedra. Later, the instructor, Corporal Richard Schroeter, would be charged with a much lighter charge than a non-trooper would face in such a killing, reckless endangerment. The Kedra family was not amused, but their concerns were blown off in a mealy-mouthed statement byDistrict Attorney Risa Ferman. (Ferman presented the case in such a way as to sway grand jurors to sympathy for Schroeter, so that Schroeter could face a mild misdemeanor, and keep his job). Some details on the grand jury testimony here.

The four other troopers who trained with Kedra on the day of the alleged shooting testified to the grand jury they did not see Schroeter make sure his weapon was not loaded, nor did he show the weapon to two other troopers to show it was unloaded. The presentment said firearms instructors in the Pennsylvania State Police typically show an unloaded weapon to at least two other troopers to verify it is unloaded.

Schroeter is such a class act that he’s refused to even apologize to Kedra’s family. He continues to insist that he checked the weapon and he was sure it was unloaded.

Systemic problems with firearms selection and training? Nah, that can’t be it.

Ironic that the P227 was selected in large part because of a rash of negligent discharges with Glocks soured PSP on the brand in general, and its pull-trigger-to-disassemble procedure in particular.

Previous WeaponsMan coverage of the PSP:

That may not be all of them, but it’s enough to give you a picture of this agency’s gun follies.

This is not a Defensive Gun Use, either

It wasn't his foot this time.

It wasn’t his foot this time.

See if you can follow the whole who-shot-John in all this:

One man from Tuesday night’s downtown Portland shooting remains hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his leg, while the 40-year-old suspect is being treated for an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound to his testicles, police said Wednesday.

An apparent robbery attempt between the two men who were neighbors led to the shooting just before 8 p.m. in the parking lot of an apartment building in the 1400 block of Southwest Park Ave, police said.

During the dispute, the 40-year-old man pulled out a gun and shot the other man in the leg, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said. The wounded 32-year-old man ran over to the Safeway on Southwest 10th Avenue and Columbia Street for help. He was later taken to the hospital with a leg injury.

As the suspect fled the scene, he accidentally shot himself in the groin, police said.

via Suspect in downtown shooting being treated for self-inflicted wound to testicles, Portland police say | OregonLive.com.

Yep, John shot John (or whatever the perp’s undisclosed name is), right in the reproductive tackle, right after nailing some other Sumdood for not coughing up his cash. Because “groin” in this case and story is a euphemism for “testicles.”

So now you know the answer to the trivia question, “How can you win the Darwin Award, and live to collect it?” It’s simple: stick your firearm in your waistband gangsta-carry style, and kinetically geld yourself.

Like John (or whatever his name is).

This happened in Portland, OR. We’ve tried to follow up in the Case of the Bullet-battered Ballsack, but the suspect in question appears to be keeping his punctured private parts private.

Winchester SXP Shotgun Recall

We don’t have one of these things, but if we did would be concerned:

Fortunately, Winchester has a recall program for the affected shotguns. They are the SXP or “Super-X Pump” shotgun. If you do have an SXP, check to see if it’s one of the problem guns. If so, check it. First, is it a 12 Gauge with a 3½” chamber? If not, you’re OK (well, your shotgun is, anyway. Only you can vouch for your general okay-ness). If you have a 12 Ga. 3½” SXP, and it’s one of these submodels, you need to get your serial number out and call Winchester.

  1. SXP Waterfowl Hunter, 26″ or 28″ barrel;
  2. SXP Black Shadow, 26″ or 28″ barrel;
  3. SXP Turkey Hunter, 24″ barrel;
  4. SXP Long Beard, 24″ barrel.

If you have one of the affected guns, call Winchester at 800-945-5372 and they’ll take it from there. (Alternately, you can email to SXP@winchesterguns.com). First, they’ll check the serial number against a list they have (they know when they began fixing this on the production line… if you gun is really new, it might not have any problems, or if it dates from before the manufacturing problem began). Assuming Murphy is still your co-pilot and you have an affected firearm, they’ll walk you through how to return your shotgun for inspection and, if necessary, repair. We suggest that you retain the paperwork involved for the convenience of the next owner. (Although he should always be able to call Winchester and confirm that their records show that the fix has been applied to this particular serial number).

Details of the Winchester recall in a .pdf on the official site:

http://www.winchesterguns.com/support/files/images/wfa/2015-All/2015-Recall-Info/SXP_Recall-Notice_2.pdf

The guy in the video (whose name we don’t know) makes an excellent point: this is why we observe gun safety rules and control muzzle direction at all, repeat all times. If this fellow had shot his kid or hunting partner, our first instinct might have been to say, “Yeah, right, sure he had the safety on, and yeah, he didn’t have his booger hook on the bang switch. Riiiight.” But as you can see from the video, this particular firearm could and did discharge with the shotgun on Safe and no finger anywhere near the trigger. Even six sigma quality control lets a non-zero number of defective products through, and even Remington and Winchester, who make millions and millions of safe guns, have shipped a few lemons. Like this one.

The difference is, a lemon Chevy is a problem for its owner (usually a low-budget car-rental firm). A lemon firearm is a matter of

We doubt our readers are big upland and waterfowl hunters, that’s its own thing, but even if you don’t have one of these firearms, the safety message is universal.

Hat tip, Lee Williams. Spread the word to anybody who’s bought a shotgun lately, and make sure the owner of your local gun store knows about it. These shotguns were intended to kill ducks and turkeys for the table, not unwitting hunters.

A Mess of Accidents: April 2015

Item: 6 April 15. Ocala, FL. “It accidentally discharged!”

A devastated Chief Greg Graham briefs the jackal pack

A devastated Chief Greg Graham briefs the jackal pack

Ocala, FL Police Officer Jared Forsyth has died in a hospital after being mortally wounded in a training accident during a routine semiannual firearms training exercise. Chief Greg Graham says (in video at the link, hasty transcription):

At the conclusion of our training, one of our officers was unloading his weapon and it accidentally discharged. The round ricocheted off a bench, and struck another officer, Officer Jared Forsyth, who was standing  — probably 25 to 30 feet away. That’s a guess on my part.

It hit him in his arm, entered his chest… he was transported to the hospital and he didn’t survive his injuries. Out thoughts and prayers are with Officer Forsyth’s family… and with the officer involved in the shooting.

In response to a reporter’s question, a visibly crushed Graham says, “The last line of duty death we had was almost 60 years ago.” An indicator of how the guy who ND’d feels about is Graham’s request, to reporters of all people:

…to lose one officer… I just hope I don’t lose two. So, please, pray for the officers… pray for the one who didn’t survive, and pray for the one who hopefully will.

He’s onto something there. After our unit’s near-fatal ND, a thorough investigation could not determine who, on that live-fire immediate-action range at night, fired the round that penetrated a teammate’s MICH — and skull. Several of the team members thought and feared it had been them. But one guy was sure it was him. (The investigators took his statement down, but couldn’t match the physical evidence to him or anybody).

He left the unit. We didn’t make him.

He was always a drinker. And so, he drank, and smoked, and second-guessed himself to an early grave, leaving behind a devastated family as well as shocked former teammates — including the wounded guy, dealing well with his disability and possessing all his marbles, who didn’t even know the other fellow had blamed himself.

“If I knew, I’d have told him, ‘Stop beating yourself up. You did me a favor! Life is sweeter now.'”

Anyway, there’s just nothing good about the place Chief Graham and the Ocala cops are in now. Been there, done that.

Item: 4 April 15. Indianapolis. The gun did it!

Those guns! You have to watch ’em like a hawk sometimes, or there’s no telling what mischief they’ll get up to:

Crime tape has been strung up in an area around Cavanaugh Hall on the school’s campus. The incident, which was reported as a gunshot, happened around 9:45 p.m. Friday.

Police say the officer was on patrol when his gun accidentally discharged. He was taken to Eskenazi Health, where he was listed in stable condition.

Destination of that “discharge” — Officer Friendly’s own leg.

Lee Paige, call your office.

IUPUI (Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis) is the “urban” campus co-owned and operated by IU and Purdue; given its location on 500 mugger-tempting leafy acres in downtown Indy, one can see why the cops might be quick on the trigger. One of ’em got a little too quick, or maybe he was practicing das Gefingerpoken where he shouldn’t ought to.

Or, alternatively, we can believe what the spokesman said, and the gun just “discharged.” Like a teenager approaching Third Base for the first time, or a wayward capacitor.

Yeah, the gun did it. Keep telling yourself that, officer.

Item: 30 Mar 15, Gaffney, SC. Who’s the Turkey?

wild turkeysYou know, a hunter safety course tells you not to do this, even if your common sense doesn’t.

It appears [42-year-old Brian] Gilliam was in a deep ravine on the property and was attempting to climb out of it on unstable rocks when he slipped,” Fowler said. “The muzzle-loaded shotgun discharged, striking him in the right arm and shoulder.”

After being shot, Fowler said Gilliam was able to walk to a clearing, where he was found.

“My investigation indicates Gilliam and a friend had trespassed onto the property together Friday evening to illegally hunt turkeys but later became separated. A flashlight was located in the on position nearby on a tree stump pointing upward. It appears Gilliam used the light to alert his friend of his location,” Fowler said.

via Coroner: Trespassing hunter falls, gets shot by his own gun | Local News – WYFF Home.

Gilliam died of hypovolemic shock, which is to say, he bled out. His poaching pal wins the not-quite-a-stand-up-guy award.  If the friend bugged out, how did poor Gilliam get found? Another news outlet explains:

Coroner Dennis Fowler says the land owner notified authorities Saturday that he had found a body, who was identified as 42-year-old Brian James Gilliam of Gaffney.

Wandering around in the dark, on someone else’s property, with your weapon off safe. (If it had a safety, it must have been a modern muzzleloader — vintage ones depend on the operator’s common sense). At some point it’s more of an “inevitable” than an “accident.”

If you’re planning on hunting like that, don’t. Call us, we’ll send you a jeezly turkey.

29 Mar 15, Dayton, OH: Hold my beer and… hey, this gun does work!

ND-shot-in-footSo, he was “testing” the gun when it jammed. And then…

Police responded to Miami Valley Hospital around 2 p.m. Saturday to check on the condition of a 36-year-old patient with a gunshot wound.

The patient told police he bought a handgun for $150 earlier in the day and wanted to test it to make sure it worked. He said he went to the back of Norris Drive, jumped a fence, and then walked into the woods near a creek. He told officers he wanted to get away from people so he could test the gun.

He said he loaded the gun, but at one point it jammed and when he tried to get it unstuck, he accidentally shot himself. He told police it startled him and he threw the gun in the creek. The victim said he ran to his sister-in-law’s house nearby and she called his wife. His wife then drove him to the hospital.

One suspects the cops didn’t get the whole story. They didn’t find the gun where Deadeye Dick said he threw it. Thus far, he does not seem to have been charged.

The Gun Safety Rules: not just a good idea, you know?

29 Mar 15, Council Bluffs, IA: Who You Gonna Blame, Me or that Lying Holster?

One suspects this was the well-known combination of Serpa and striker-fired gun, but the story doesn’t make it clear.

Marvin Naggatz, 21, was treated and later released at Mercy Hospital for a gunshot wound to his hand, Council Bluffs Police said in a press release.

Naggatz was in a parking lot on the 2300 block of West Broadway at 4:30 p.m. Sunday when he moved his holster. The .40-caliber handgun discharged, hitting Naggatz in the hand.

How do you “move your holster” in such a way as to discharge your firearm? Something’s wrong with holster, handgun, or handler, and we know which one Occam’s Razor says it is.

 

ITEM: 30 Mar 15, Virginia: Legal Guns Threaten Troopers, says Guv… About Cop Killed by Felons’ Negligence

Virginia Governor Terry McAulliffe, one of those guys who “supports the 2nd Amendment, but,” in the specific case of but the 2nd Amendment part, recently vetoed a bipartisan bill that would pre-empt some local anti-gun ordinances. (McAuliffe, a committed gun banner, has vetoed 14 pro gun bills this season). His reason? For the Troopers.

I veto Senate Bill 1137, which … ignores long-established firearm safety procedures and could endanger law enforcement officers in the line of duty. In 2006, a State Trooper was killed while responding to a vehicle crash. As the crashed vehicle was being loaded on a wrecker, the loaded rifle discharged killing the trooper. No one at the crash scene knew that the loaded rifle was in the vehicle.

In using the trooper as a political football, McAuliffe didn’t even give him the slight respect of using his name. His name was Kevin C. Manion. He was 27 and had been a trooper for under three years.

He also makes it sound like the person whose negligent handling of the firearm led to Manion’s death — we, unlike McAuliffe, are not too ennobled to say his name — was some random citizen with a gun in a car and bad gun safety practices. He doesn’t exactly lie, but he misleads. (Well, he is a politician, one who became a multimillionaire via renewable-energy rackets. Sure he lies).

Here are the facts on the Manion accident, from the Officer Down Memorial Page (a great resource for keeping alive the memory of cops who die on duty, whether by mishap or crime):

The automobile accident occurred when a pickup truck went into a ditch and overturned. During the accident investigation a rifle inside the pickup truck discharged as the pickup was being moved. The round struck Trooper Manion in the chest in an area not protected by his vest.

Trooper Manion succumbed to his wound after being flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax County.

The truck’s two occupants were arrested at the scene on alcohol related charges stemming from the automobile accident. Investigation revealed that the rifle had been stolen earlier in the day during a residential burglary. The driver of the pickup truck was subsequently charged with second degree murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, larceny of a firearm, and daytime breaking and entering. He plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in December 2006 and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years.

Not really the story McAuliffe told, was it? Gee, turns out it wasn’t Suzy Selfdefender and it wasn’t Elmer Fudd on his way to thin the Dominion’s herd of Sylvilagus floridianus either. It was a couple of career criminals who were already convicted felons.

Our shock knows no bounds, eh.

The responsible dude’s still in prison (well, given the weak sisters who populate parole boards, maybe he isn’t, but he should be) but McAuliffe blames you, (and Suzy, and Elmer), not that guy. If VA gets felon voting, he should have that constituency all locked up. (No pun in– ah, you guys will never believe that)

Item: 2 Mar 15, West York, PA: They’re Calling it an Accident

The police called it an accident, and after an autopsy and looking over the range video, they can’t say the shooting range death of 22-year-old Keith Twiford wasn’t. Twiford rented a 9mm pistol and bought ammo, and fired over 50 rounds. No one else was present inside the range, and the camera couldn’t see through the inter-stall partitions, when Twiford suffered a single shot from that firearm to his head.

An autopsy was inconclusive. Twiford did not appear to have a history of depression; he was about to start a new job; and the range has a good, safety-oriented reputation with the local police.

Our local ranges that provide rental firearms have strict rules about new shooters and non-members with rental guns: generally, they have to have one-on-one supervision by a trained safety officer or instructor. This is because a couple of them have had suicides, and the news of a range suicide often generates a flurry of wannabe copycats. Those precautions, of course, are not advertised as such, and they have an additional benefit of ensuring safe practices.

We bet the range owner in West York wished he had something like this in place.

And, if the police can’t make the call, neither can we, on why young Keith Twiford, with a life spread out before him, died. So we’re going to give the young man and his family the same benefit of the doubt the cops did: it was an accident.

Serial Number ID10T: Negligent Discharge Edition

There’s a show on TV somewhere called Doomsday Preppers. Based on the clips we’ve seen, It’s dedicated to the Hollywood proposition that anyone taking measures to be ready for natural or (to use that wonderful DHS locution) “man-made disasters” is (1) an inbred, mouth-breathing moron, and (2) an irresponsible “gun nut.” The actors on the show seem intent on proving these propositions, in the limited set of clips that we’ve seen. In this one, Tim, one of the on-camera “talent” in the show, grapples with the consequences of a negligent discharge:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qth1k962_9A

Unfortunately, the camera picks up the “writing” but is not on time to snag the ND. Still you can figure it out by parsing out the lame excuses: 

  1. 0:10: “Damn thing uh, just misfired on it.” Er, no it didn’t. Misfire is what happens when a gun that is commanded to fire does not.  In this case, the problem was where his left hand was when his right hand commanded the firearm to go bang. 
  2. 0:31: “As soon as Tim’s gun misfired and hit his thumb…” Er, no it didn’t. See above. Well, it did hit his thumb… that we’ll concede.
  3. 0:45: “It was one of those… malfunctions…” Er, not it wasn’t, Tim. Man up. The gun functioned perfectly and did what your trigger finger directed it to do, which was, in this case, blow out most of the bone between the first and second knuckles of his left thumb. Guns are stupid, but generally obedient to humans’ commands. Humans, conversely, are just stupid. Q.E.D.
  4. 047: “My thumb went in front of the barrel…” Gee, no idea how that happened! It just went. Er, no it didn’t. Thumbs generally respond to motor impulses generated deep inside the brain housing group. Yes, it was dumb to do, but you did it, and you’re gonna own it.
  5. 0:49: “…and, uh, it went off.” Funny how guns owned by bozos have this propensity for just going off like that.

Now, this is not mere entertainment TV, where we’re meant to jape at Tim’s buffoonery and chortle at his pain and suffering. (Although it would take a heart of stone not to do that, and we’re not in that much of a granite state that we won’t). This is also meant, by its Hollywood impresarios, to educate and uplift people away from taking care of themselves, and towards Letting George Do It, or, perhaps, these days, Letting Big G Do It. That’s an insidious message, and you would do well to reject it. It is never a bad idea to look out for you and yours.

There’s being prepared, and being a “prepper.”

You don’t need to define yourself as a “prepper” to see the sense in being prepared for interruptions in the just-in-time flow of food, water, fuel, and electricity to your home (not to mention interruptions in Rule of Law). Two nice young Mormons came by yesterday; they didn’t sign us up for Latter-Day Sainthood, but their visit did remind us that their neighborly faith asks its votaries to be prepared, much as the Scout’s Motto does; their people tend to be prepared to weather hard times, even though it’s been a long time since their opponents put their ancestors to the sword and drove the survivors to Utah.

On survival, the best is the enemy of the good. It’s easy to get started by laying in a weekend’s, then a week’s, then a month’s worth of water and food and fuel. You may never need it (a fine thing, yes?), so use things that you can rotate through your daily life, not bizarre “survival” stuff. Interruptions in any normal traffic tend to be short; long interruptions are vanishingly rare. Preparing for a short loss of supply availability (or rule of law) will get you past most probable risks. If we descend into Mad Max Universe, yes, you may need to be like Tim (except, we hope, less stupid — imagine what happens to a guy who shoots his thumb nearly off in a situation without an EMT on hand and an ambulance and hospital on call). But that catastrophic outcome is a highly improbable one. Fire, flood, and extreme weather events are all much more likely than nuclear war or any of the environmental extinction-porn causes that generate over-CGI’d propaganda from Hollywood.

Now for the Gun Safety lesson

ND-shot-in-footThere was a guy years ago who loaded a .45 and put a webcam on it for years, waiting for it to “just go off.” It never did. (I think his hosting company went out of business, which ended the experiment).

However, we bet if you gave an empty, clear and inspected firearm to “Tim” here or to his gang of Dumbsday Preppers, it would not be long before “kaBANG!” echoed across the land, as Tim almost literally realized the last line of Kipling’s brilliant The Gods of the Copybook Headings.

And the lesson there is: guns are machines. It is incumbent on you to master your machine, and not be dictated to by it. Lest you wind up on TV making lame excuses for your lack of opposable thumbs.

“Smart” Guns: Potemkin Safety

space invadersThis dumb idea keeps regenerating itself like respawning enemies in a zombie game, or, given the age and technology behind this dumb old idea, like the bad guys in Space Invaders, the ancient arcade video game (if you recognize the screen on the left, “the hill” is something you’re officially “over”).

Fortunately, not everyone is as weary of battling this issue as we are, and comes Herschel Smith with what it would take to convince him, or any of us, that these things work:

[L]et’s talk yet again about smart gun technology.  I am a registered professional engineer, and I spend all day analyzing things and performing calculations.  Let’s not speak in broad generalities and murky platitudes (such as “good enough”).  That doesn’t work with me.  By education, training and experience, I reject such things out of hand.  Perform a fault tree analysis of smart guns.  Use highly respected guidance like the NRC fault tree handbook.

Armatix iP1: bulky, underpowered, and unreliable. And they say it's the wave of the future -- if their coin-op politicians command it so.

Armatix iP1: bulky, underpowered, and unreliable. And they say it’s the wave of the future — if their coin-op politicians command it so.

He’s got a good point there. If you run an Ishikawa diagram of potential faults in a Glock 17, there are not a hell of a lot of branches on your fault tree. There are more on the venerable 1911 (and the 1911’s general reliability illustrates how dogged engineering can sometimes overcome baroque design). Now imagine the fault tree diagram for an Armatix iP1. Don’t forget the various modes of battery failures, radio frequency interference, need to use a weapon weak-hand or by a third party, etc. (The diagrams may suggest why the failed iP1 never seemed to exceed about 90% reliability, failing at a rate of about one round per magazine, and that may suggest why Armatix’s honcho, Ernst Mauch of HK’s you-suck-and-we-hate-you days, tried to get governments to order people to buy the piece of dung. But we digress).

Assess the reliability of one of my semi-automatic handguns as the first state point, and then add smart gun technology to it, and assess it again.  Compare the state points.  Then do that again with a revolver.  Be honest.  Assign a failure probability of greater than zero (0) to the smart technology, because you know that each additional electronic and mechanical component has a failure probability of greater than zero.

Get a PE to seal the work to demonstrate thorough and independent review.  If you can prove that so-called “smart guns” are as reliable as my guns, I’ll pour ketchup on my hard hat, eat it, and post video for everyone to see.  If you lose, you buy me the gun of my choice.  No one will take the challenge because you will lose that challenge.  I’ll win.

Yep. What he is asking the Smart Gun proponents to do is resolve an asymptote to zero, which is mathematically impossible, and probably, in this non-mathematical but real-world-physical case, functionally impossible. If you want to know why adding “Safety Technology” to firearms has never banished mishaps, a good book is Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents.

Now, Perrow wrote the book as an anti-nuclear jeremiad, which may turn off some readers, especially those aware that a nuclear-power reactor control room is historically a safer environment than a Senator’s Oldsmobile, but he notes a very interesting thing: when you get the low-hanging fruit all plucked, that is, say, when the Air Force addressed items in the 1950s flying culture that had them pranging 1000 planes a year, you get a safety system that’s so optimized that adding anything more to it produces new, unintended and unanticipated points of failure.

We see this in aviation safety. American Airlines was concerned about loss-of-control accidents and so encouraged its pilots to seek “upset training” in aerobatic competition airplanes. One such pilot then tried the control inputs that worked in an Extra 300 (stressed to ± 12G in all directions, IIRC), in an Airbus whose tailfin was stressed to ± 1.5G. The result was a disaster, one caused by trying to increase the airline’s already very-high levels of safety!

Likewise, attempting to add safety features to firearms has led to fatalities and injuries. A classic example is the Glock “New York Trigger,” unquestionably a factor in several recent incidents of dreadful cop marksmanship, including incidents where bystanders were shot in addition to and even instead of armed criminals. The NY and NY2 triggers can be shot accurately by experts, but they greatly increase the dispersion of shots fired by average cops, and mandating them is tantamount to ordering your cops to shoot a few random citizens over the next decade or so.

But it looks like safety, to a superficial view (journalism, anyone?), and therefore it’s likely to spread. The “Smart Gun” is another example of this Potemkin safety. If it is discussed in your legislator (or, God forbid, your local police consider something like it), real experts need to come forward to counter the antis’ and interested manufacturers’ paid pushers.

A Taxonomy of Safeties

There are several kinds of safeties that are used on service weapons to ensure that only the proper and deserving people are shot. They generally interface in some way with the firing mechanism of the firearm. They may act on the trigger, the hammer or striker, or the sear, or (in some fiendishly clever arrangements) more than one of the above. It is generally thought better to positively lock the striker or firing pin than merely to lock the sear or trigger. If the mechanism fails due to parts breakage, it is easier to design a fail-safe mechanism if the striker or firing pin is immobilized.

Safeties Classified by Operator Volition

Safeties can be classified based on the degree of volition required to use them. An applied safety must be consciously put on, in most cases. An automatic safety is unconsciously applied as the pistol is taken up. Examples of automatic safeties include:

  1. the Glock Safe Action trigger and its many copies and derivatives;
  2. the grip safeties characteristic of many Browning designs, such as the M1911 .45 and the FN M1910 pocket pistol;
  3. similar grip safeties on open-bolt submachine guns such as the Madsen and the Uzi. (An open-bolt SMG poses peculiar safety problems);
  4. transfer-bars and other means to ensure a weapon can’t fire unless the trigger is pulled;
  5. mechanisms that hold a firing pin back until a weapon with a locking breech is fully in battery (the disconnector often does double-duty as this part);
  6. Firing-pin immobilizers as in the Colt Series 80 and newer M1911s (an earlier firing pin safety, the Swartz Safety, was used in commercial Colt 1911s from circa 1937 to 1940, and is used by Kimber today);
  7. A heavy, smooth trigger pull such as that on a traditional Double Action revolver or a DA/SA autopistol can prevent unintentional discharges. However, some heavy triggers (like the Glock NY2) have a bad enough effect on accuracy as to threaten bystanders with unintentional shooting.
  8. Magazine safeties, an obsolete European concept;
  9. Half-cock notches (in British/European English usage, these may be called half-cock “bents.”)

Contrasting with these automatic safeties, that do their work without conscious application by the operator, there are Applied or volitional safeties. Applied Safeties are usually classified by what part of the firing mechanism they work on, and so examples of Applied safeties break down into:

  1. Safeties that lock the trigger. The simplest of these are the crude trigger-blocking safeties on an SKS or Tokarev SVT. More complex trigger-locking safeties are found in the AR series of rifles and the FN-FAL;
  2. Safeties that lock the firing mechanism (which may be further divided into those that lock the firing pin, like the Walther P.38 or Beretta M92, and those that lock the hammer, like the US M1 Rifle, or
  3. The bolt holding notch in many 2nd-generation submachine guns. (These are reminiscent in a way of the safety of the Mosin-Nagant rifle, which requires the cocking piece to be rotated and caught in a notch). The case can be made that this is a firing mechanism lock, because the bolt with its fixed firing pin is the firing mechanism.
  4. Safeties that lock the sear. Examples include the .45 M1911, its younger brother the BHP, many other auto pistols, and most general purpose machine guns. Some require the weapon to be cocked to lock the sear, others allow locking the bolt forward (the RPD LMG and the Sterling SMG are examples of this).
  5. Safeties that disconnect the trigger from the sear. This is found in the Bren gun and many other Czech designs, historically. The ZB 26 and its derivatives were quite cunning: in one position, the selector brings the trip lever to engage the semi notch, which is in the upper side of a window in the sear. In the other position, it engages the auto notch in the lower side. In the intermediate, “safe,” position, the  trip lever clears both notches and the weapon does not fire.

Note that automatic safeties, too, can be broken down as working on the trigger, the firing mechanism, and the sear, also. So safeties can also be Classified by Operation.

Safeties Classified by Operation

It is possible to classify safeties in the first place by their means of action:

  1. Trigger safeties
  2. Firing-mechanism (striker, hammer, firing pin) safeties
  3. Sear safeties
  4. Disconnecting safeties.

This is true, obviously, for both automatic and volitional safeties, and classifying them this way puts their mode of action forward as more important than their mode of engagement, which (applied/volitional or automatic) becomes a secondary trait.

One More Trait: Must the Firearm be Cocked?

It is only possible to engage many safeties when the weapon is cocked or ready to fire (presuming a chambered round). Familiar examples include the AR series rifles and the 1911 pistol and other Browning hammer designs. Other safeties engage regardless of the energy state of the striker or hammer, for example the AK, the Remington Model 8 (a Browning-designed trigger mechanism that was deeply influential on 20th and 21st Century firearms designers, including Garand, Kalashnikov and Stoner), and the RPD light machine gun.

Combination Safeties

While a weapon may have multiple safeties that do different things (or multiple modes that engage the same safety, as in the safety lever and grip safety of early Lugers), it’s possible for a single cunningly-designed safety to disable multiple points of the firing chain at once. For instance, the Lee-Enfield safety is a model of versatility: it locks the striker, locks the bolt closed (preventing the chambering of a round), and disconnects the striker from the sear. The M1911 or Browning High-Power safety locks the slide closed as well as locks

It’s also possible for a volitional safety to be combined with other functions. The most common example of this is the combined safety/selector switch of most modern assault rifles, like the M16 or AK-47.

To Sum Up

There are a great but finite number of ways to design safety features on modern firearms. Careful study of prior art allows today’s designer truly to stand on the shoulders of the giants in the field. John Browning left no memoir or technical book, nor did John Garand, John D. Pedersen, Gene Stoner; and the many memoirs of Mikhail Kalashnikov are disappointing to the technical reader. But each of these geniuses spoke to us in the art of his designs, and they are still available for us to study and to try to read what their art is trying to tell us.

We have not, in this limited post, attempted to discuss “best practices” or the pros and cons of any individual safety design. Very often, the designer will be limited by the customer’s instructions or specifications. (For example, the grip safety of the 1911, which 1970s and 80s custom smiths often pinned in engagement as a potential point of combat failure, was requested of John M. Browning by the US Cavalry. The other military branches didn’t feel such a need, but the horse soldiers did, and Browning first added it on his .38 caliber 1902 Military pursuant to a similar request). Thus, even as a designer, your safety design decisions may not be your own.

Notes and Sources

  • This post has been modified since it was first posted, to expand it.
  • This post will be added to The Best of WeaponsMan Gun Tech.

This post owes a great deal to the following work:

Allsop, DF, and Toomey, MA. Small Arms: General Design. London: Brassey’s, 1999.

Chapter 13 is an extensive review of trigger mechanisms, including safeties, and while their classification of safeties is different from ours, their explanations are clear and concise.

Thanks to the commenters who not only recommend this long out-of-print book, but also sent us a link to a bookstore that had it (it’s a copy withdrawn from a military library, as it turns out). This out-of-print work is less technical and deep, but considerably more modern, than Balleisen; its examples are primarily British.

 

The Press vs Remington: Fable vs. Fact

Remington Outdoor LogoA series of lawsuits have been pursued by a variety of ambulance chasers against Remington over the model 700 rifle, thanks to TV publicity about some accidents. In most of these accidents it seems that someone was careless with the gun ,but after negligent-discharge remorse, came to forget the carelessness. Instead, they conveniently blame the gun, its safety and trigger, and since you can’t slake your greed by suing yourself and your own property, Remington’s deep pockets. It was a case of mass hysteria like the Audi “unintentional acceleration” cases — imagine the Salem witch hunts of 1692 with an added profit motive.

Well, that’s what makes “class actions” go. Class actions are a racket in which lawyers, supposedly enjoined by “legal ethics” (ha) from suing on their own behalf, grab some token “plaintiff,” and… sue on their own behalf.

The plaintiff’s insignificance in the whole lawyer-driven thing is clear when you see how class-action settlements generally go. The lawyers get millions, and the class members get, generally nothing — the people who were allegedly wronged get nothing from the courts. It’s just a form of legal extortion by the lawyers.

Remington recently settled a class action suit about Remington 700 (and just about every other bolt-action Remington) safeties. As is usual with these settlements, those who are supposedly victims get next to nothing (there will be a way to send your Remington rifle for new parts and a new, heavier trigger) and the lawyers get piles of sweet cash, which is what you worship instead of God if you are a lawyer.

The lawyers are evil, but not stupid. They know that sooner or later any going concern will pay the Dane-geld. Remington is not stupid either: they calculated the least costly way of making the lawyers go away and clearing this problem from the balance sheet. Shot made.

So, who is stupid? That would be… the press. Who have been, after misreading this story, trumpeting it as a recall of all Remington 700s ever made.

It isn’t, but that didn’t stop Scott Cohn at CNBC from writing an unsupported report claiming the guns were being recalled. CNBC and Cohn have been the happy PR venue for the plaintiffs’ attorneys for years, and they both wave the bloody shirt. (Note that Cohn’s report has been dishonestly stealth-corrected to insert Remington’s and the attorney’s corrections on the “recall” language, subsequent to another story giving — and dismissing — Remington’s point of view).

Is gun. Is not safe. Tell us what’s wrong with this picture:

Among the deaths was nine-year-old Gus Barber of Montana, killed during a family hunting trip in 2000 when his mother switched off the safety on her Remington 700 rifle and the gun went off.

A brief refresher: Rule #1: all guns are loaded; #2: never muzzle anything you don’t intend to destroy; #3, finger off the trigger until sights on target; #4: be sure of your target. Even giving the best possible interpretation of facts, that this was a safety failure and not an inadvertent trigger activation, why was the gun pointed at poor Gus? Why did she take the gun off safe when pointed at her son? And why does Remington get all the blame for that irresponsible and negligent action, the proximate cause of Gus’s demise?

It turns out, she seems to have been perfectly innocent in this case. One of the best reports (i.e., not based on CNBC’s) described the accident in a way that makes us much more sympathetic:

 Model 700 rifle fired when Barber’s wife, Barbara, released the safety as she prepared to unload the gun, the family says. The bullet went through a horse trailer and hit Gus, who, unbeknownst to her, had run behind the trailer.

That makes Mrs Barber’s actions look a lot more responsible, and highlights why The Rules can’t always save you, and a mechanical safety — a reliable mechanical safety — is an essential belt to wear with the suspenders of The Rules.

Remington called Cohn’s report “fundamentally inaccurate” and said that, “once again, CNBC did not comply with the most basic tenet of reporting – fact checking.” We’re not sure how Remington got the idea that reporting involves fact checking. For today’s media, it includes finding a story that’s “click-bait that pops” and that meets the “consensus media narrative” on a subject, and then sourcing a few quotes and details to give the advocacy a sheen of truthiness. Most reporters not only refrain from checking facts, they’re not interested in collecting facts and we reckon that eight out of nine of them could not identify a fact in bright sunlight at seven yards.

Remington also had the jaws that CNBC bad-mouthed the 700’s sales record:

[C]ontrary to CNBC’s story, it is undisputed that the Remington Model 700 is the best-selling American-made, bolt-action rifle of all time. The Model 700 has also been and continues to be the tactical sniper rifle of choice for the U.S. armed forces and special operators and is widely used by state and federal law enforcement agencies.

It does appear that some of that language has also been inserted in Cohn’s report.

The original Cohn report was picked up (usually uncredited) by:

And many more. Not all reporting on this settlement sucked, though. The Missoulian of Missoula (where else?), Montana, had by far the best report on the settlement, with a fresh interview with Mr Barber, who comes across as a pretty righteous guy, magnanimous in his long-sought victory; and some details on the settlement.

Who Gets What in the Settlement

Because the settlement is being badly misreported, we thought we’d read it and tell you who gets what — and who doesn’t.

  1. Nobody gets anything until the judge approved the settlement. This is normally a formality, but judges have been known to demur in cases where all benefits accrue to the attorneys. However,
  2. “Class Members” — Remington owners — get a replacement trigger at Remington’s expense, and a gun-safety DVD. Except…
  3. Some 700-based actions can’t be retrofitted with Remington’s new trigger. Owners of those guns (600, 660, XP-100, 721, 722, and 725) will get a token “settlement” — a worthless coupon. Oh, they do get the DVD.
  4. “Representative Plaintiffs” — the eight named plaintiffs who lost family members in gun accidents — get $2,500 each. No, that is not a typo. (We believe that most have previously won other settlements or awards).
  5. The nine law firms who represented the eight named plaintiffs split $12.5 million within seven days of the approval. This is who the suit benefits, and this is who it was always going to benefit. However, Remington is reserving as much as $17 million for the trigger fixes. They took a charge of $29.5M against earnings last quarter.
  6. Contrary to several of those media reports, government purchasers at all levels get no trigger repairs. They’re explicitly excluded from the settlement class. Of course, we teach our snipers not to point their M24s at each other, in mistaken trust of the safety catch.  (Is gun. Is not safe).
  7. There are two separate settlements, one for the previously recalled post-2006 XMark Pro trigger, and one for all other 700 series guns going back to the 1940s, but they differ primarily in the technical fix required. The XMark Pro was already recalled to fix assembly problems.
  8. If current owners don’t put their gun in for repair within 18 months of the judge’s OK, they have no further benefits — and no further right to sue for a trigger or safety failure. Basically, these nine law firms get the money for all potential plaintiffs, for which the potential plaintiffs lose their personal right to sue. That’s how a class action works, and why it’s great for companies and lawyers, and lousy for injured people.
  9. You only have 21 days from the judge’s approval to file to preserve your personal rights.
  10. Guns don’t have to go to Remington, there are a large number of authorized service centers that can do the trigger work. Remington will set up a website to direct you to the most convenient site. (Shipping of the firearm is also Remington’s concern).
  11. If the gun is irreparable, Remington will return it with a notice it is irreparable; or if the gun needs other work to be safe, Remington will notify the owner and ask him to pay for them to proceed. A master gunsmith named Chris Ruger has been named to mediate any disputes that may arise. Since lots of covered guns are Social Security age, they’re probably going to see a few rust ranches and soiled farm implements in those rehab shops.

How common is this problem?

After a decade plus of publicity, the attorneys had eight named plaintiffs and claim to have identified 75 cases of Remington 700s that fired without trigger command, including 24 fatal accidents, in approximately 70 years. Given the sales of the 700 are about 78 million, that is about one ten-thousandth of one percent of Remington 700s, and the likelihood of it happening in any one year is about 1.4 millionths of a percent.

Not common, but extremely serious if it happens to you. Watch your gun muzzle, and watch your backstop. Remember Barbara Barber, who thought her 700 was safe when she flicked the safety on fire to permit unloading (as the old Walker trigger design used to require).

And if you hunt with a 700, like half the hunters in America, you might want to get into the queue as soon as the website is live. It may appear here.

Hat tip, Miguel at Gun Free Zone.

 

 

A Mess of Accidents, Black Friday Edition

ND-shot-in-footItem 21 Nov 14: Two-year-old Trigger Man?

In Marion, Kansas a precocious child combined with a badly-stored handgun to give everybody a good scare.

According to Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft, the parents of the boy alerted authorities about the incident around 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21.

“We were advised they were transporting their 2-year-old son to St. Luke Hospital in Marion,” Craft said.

“When officers arrived (at the hospital), they found that the two-year-old had a single 22 caliber gunshot wound to the upper inside arm and rib area.”

The investigation, he said, revealed that the child gained access to the handgun being stored in a gun-safe.

While the door was open, and a parent was accessing some of the safe’s contents, he said, the child grabbed the barrel of the pistol hanging on a hook inside the safe door.

“While pulling on the barrel of the pistol, it discharged and the bullet struck the child in the upper inner arm, then the rib area,” Craft said.

So. The pistol either had no safety (sorry, Glock fans, a “trigger safety” is no safety) or the safety was not on, and it was loaded, and it was hung from a hook by the trigger. There’s at least three inflection points where better decisions could have prevented the little guy from shooting himself.

After striking the rib, the bullet fragmented with only a small portion of the fragment entering the child’s chest causing minor internal injury.

Fortunately, the kid is going to be okay, the sheriff is not going to charge anybody in what was an accident. This is a good call. Like most accidents, it was preventable and there are lessons learned; like most accidents, nothing would be gained by persecuting people who have already had a lesson they will never forget.

Item 25 Nov 14, FL: “Give me the lighter or the dog gets it!

Emery MugshotDennis Eugene Emery, 57, issued that threat to his wife Francisca, pointing a revolver at one of the couple’s pets. He was angry because he couldn’t find a cigarette lighter, which from the looks of him was not going to be used for cigarettes.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, he cocked the gun when he pointed it at the animal. It was when he went to lower the hammer that instead, he lowered the boom — on his crank-bugged face.

What Emery was doing with a gun was an open question, as he was a career criminal of remarkable versatility. The Times reports:

Emery has had 34 contacts with Pinellas Park police since 2012, the department said. He recently was arrested three times in six days: Oct. 12 for domestic battery; Oct. 15 on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest; and Oct. 17 on a charge of leaving the scene of a crash. Those cases were pending at the time of his death.

State records show Emery was convicted of drunken driving in 1977; carrying a concealed weapon in 1978; and disorderly conduct and public intoxication in 1983. He was charged with domestic violence in 2013, but the case was dropped, according to records.

Well, that’s only the beginning. The paper also has these recent stories about Emery, who won’t be down for breakfast:

Just in case you were worried the local rozzers will have nothing to do, now that Emery is no longer cluttering up the court dockets.

The dog is okay.

ITEM: 22 Nov 14, NJ: If it Can Take Game it Can Take You

A goose hunt turned tragic for a father-son hunting team, after the son apparently shot himself while setting decoys.

On Saturday, it was initially reported that the man may have been shot by his own father, a man in his 70s , but the investigation revealed that the victim died of a single gunshot wound to the head and neck from his own firearm.

According to West Windsor Police, the man and his father were hunting Canada Geese when the accident occurred. The incident occurred around 4:16 p.m. in a patch of woods where the men had Canada geese decoys spread out in front of a blind at the Tindall Farm property at 1201 Old Trenton Road.

Police said that the pair were properly licensed and were the only people in the hunting party. The man’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, though they have released information that he was a Chesterfield resident.

“Although incredibly tragic,” Lt. Matthew Kemp said in a release. “It is believed that the incident was solely an accident and condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim.“

No gun is safe, no matter how familiar, no matter how innocent and pleasant your shooting sport may be. It’s a gun, and that means you must never give it an opportunity to take your life. Or it will.

ITEM: 9 Nov 14, MN: Only one Hunter per Deer Tag, Please

In Minnesota, opening day of the deer season wound up with two hunters tagged (but not cleaned and dressed, we think), one by himself and one by persons unknown.

A 69-year-old man was found dead from a gunshot wound in Carlton County Sunday morning, according to the Northland News Center. The hunter was pronounced dead at a deer stand northwest of Moose Lake, near the Kettle River, the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff’s officials added that foul play is not suspected in the man’s death, although they’re still investigating the circumstances, according to the News Center. The man’s name has not yet been released.
The second man died on opening day, Saturday, in Mahnomen County in northwestern Minnesota. Authorities say Paul Scholl, 50, of Laporte, was shot while coming out of his hunting area about 16 miles southeast of Mahnomen, the Associated Press reports. The shooting was reported about 5:30 p.m.

The article points out that last year’s bag was only one hunter for the whole season for all game, although 17 more were injured, but most of them weren’t shot; they fell from their tree stands. There’s a rather staggering statistic from the State DNR:

he DNR says one of every three hunters who use a tree stand will fall out of it and be seriously injured. Doctors and nurses at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester prepare every year to respond to such accidents, KAAL TV reports.
The Mayo’s Dr. Donald Jenkins tells the station that the clinic treats at least three or four hunters every year who fall.

You might want to secure yourself to the stand, Elmer.

ITEM 20 June 14, FL: Shoot Straight is Good Advice, not just a Proper Name

This is the accident mentioned in the second bullet point of the 25 November 14.

A man suffered minor injuries at the Shoot Straight gun range in Pinellas Park Friday afternoon.

Pinellas Park police said they believe a round discharged in the chamber of a rifle and fragments struck the man in the hand and face. The man said he pushed the bolt forward, heard a bang and felt pain in his hand.

Wonder what he “pushed the bolt forward” with, and against what resistance? It does sound like an out of battery ignition, but you never know with news reports.

If you wonder why ranges where they don’t know you treat you like you’re going to shoot one of their range officers, or yourself, stories like this are one of the reasons why.

If the ranges where they do know you still treat you that way, maybe your problem isn’t stories like this after all.

In Conclusion…

That’s enough of these for now. Any more of them would be depressing; never forget to take care out there, and never forget than the people in these stories were just like you. They might even have been just as safety conscious, except for that one time. And that was all it took.

 

Impairment and Accidents

send boozeWe were reading an FAA safety bulletin that’s completely unrelated to the subjects of this blog — or is it? Because we saw an interesting factoid in a column by the Federal Air Surgeon, James Fraser, MD:

As the Federal Air Surgeon, one of my lesser known responsibilities is running the FAA’s drug testing program for FAA employees and industry aviation professionals. Since Congress mandated drug and alcohol testing of many aviation professionals in 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 121 and 135 operators, roughly 2,000 individuals per year have failed a DOT drug test. That number has been stubbornly stable through the years. While we don’t have the statutory authority to randomly test GA pilots, forensic toxicology tests after accidents show a similar use pattern.

That’s pretty amazing. Two thousand people who know they’re subject to drug testing have pissed hot anyway. Every. Damned. Year. It kind of puts hophead Hunter Biden and his two dope-waiver siblings in perspective.

But it made us wonder: everybody understands that drugs impair your ability to operate an airplane, and people do it anyway. How many of the dumb-ass gun mishaps we’ve heard about happen because someone got into the Judgment Juice or lit up a home-rolled sample of Mexican Mood Mellower before picking up the firearm? We don’t know what the number is, but if 2,000 pilots and/or FAA officials (like Air Traffic Controllers! Feel safe?) blow the whiz quiz, year in and year our, the number of doped-up negligent shooters has to be… nonzero, at least.

Patrick J. Donovan

Patrick J. Donovan

Drugs are a dirty little secret in police work, too. Sometimes it’s not so secret. Patrick J. Donovan was a former Marine and a Boston Police officer who had received a high honor, the Sergeant Richard F. Halloran Medal of Honor for heroism, for safely taking a gunman into custody in 2005. But that was before an on-the-job injury led to a narcotics addiction that prescriptions for Percocet couldn’t slake. His life fell further and further apart:

Donovan, whom Massachusetts authorities alleged had an addiction to Percocet, allegedly took a police cruiser without permission on July 4 and drove to Revere, apparently to the home of a former romantic interest.

He was charged with unauthorized use of a police vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

In an interview with police, Donovan allegedly admitted to taking the cruiser, according to published reports.

Donovan, who became a Boston police officer in 2002, agreed to check into a substance-abuse treatment program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., as a condition of his bail release in July, officials said.

He was placed on paid administrative leave in September 2013, following charges that alleged he placed a stolen license plate and stolen registration sticker on his own vehicle.

In the end, a shadow of his former self, Donovan checked out of the net. Donovan:

…was found dead in the woods off Meredith Neck on Oct. 25….  …found by a hunter that morning. Donovan apparently committed suicide by hanging.

“We believe that he killed himself,” [spokesman] Chance said. “It appears that he was having a lot of trouble in his life, and this was the way he dealt with it.”

A Boston police spokeswoman confirmed that Donovan was found dead in Meredith, saying Donovan had a large family, including a small son.

That’s one way to get out from under a drug addiction that’s destroying your life. Beat it to the punch. How very sad.

[Anecdote deleted, on careful consideration].

Returning to the FAA and its air-accident data, the Air Surgeon browsed fatal mishaps between 2000 and 2013, and found out….

Of the total 3,756 fatal accidents during the period, CAMI found that 976, or nearly 26 percent of the total, were positive for disqualifying medications, drugs of abuse, alcohol, or some combination of the above. While I discussed some of the disqualifying medications in a previous column, in this issue I’d like to focus on the other categories. Drug abuse was detected in 202 accidents and alcohol was present in 115 accidents. There is some overlap, as some people tested positive for multiple substances. CAMI also provided data to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for a longer term study that focused on over-the-counter (OTC), prescription, and illicit drugs for the period between 1990 and 2012. This study found that of the 6,677 pilots who died in aircraft accidents during the study period, the percentage of pilots testing positive for potentially impairing drugs more than doubled — from 11 percent to 23 percent.

ND-shot-in-footAgain, we’re looking at the FAA’s data about pilots and accidents. Obviously, a pilot can’t refuse a blood test when they pick up his dead body (or parts of it) out of a debris field. And it looks like roughly one quarter of them have some forbidden substance in them. Now, in the context of flying, some of these substances are the sort of over-the-counter cold medicines that make you drowsy, but others are your common everyday drugs of abuse. And also note that we’re talking ¼ of the pilots that failed to complete their flights safely, which doesn’t really prove that ¼ of all pilots are doing it.

Still, if people are doing this stuff and taking off in planes, some of them are doing it and hitting the range. Given the fact that any firearm, like any airplane, can kill a person stone cold graveyard dead, this is a really bad idea. Like New Coke bad. Pontiac Aztek bad. Wile E. Coyote bird-hunting-scheme bad. That bad.

If you’re wondering about what effects common drugs of abuse have on people, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (their aviation safety investigators, like our NTSB) did a literature review a few years ago and produced two excellent papers on what alcohol and cannabis do to the sort of motor and judgment skills needed to operate aircraft. As we’ve stated, we think there’s a lot of parallels between what’s happening cognitively when you fly, and what’s happening when you shoot.

First: Alcohol and Human Performance from an Aviation Perspective: A Review (.pdf)

Some key elements from the executive summary:

Alcohol has many widespread effects on the body, and impairs almost all forms of cognitive function, such as information processing, decision-making, attention and reasoning. Visual and vestibular functions are also adversely affected. The performance of any demanding task… is thus impaired by the effects of alcohol.

Many studies have consistently shown significant detrimental effects of alcohol on … performance, both in the acute stages and in the post-alcohol period for up to 48 hours. Even low doses of alcohol can lead to reduced performance.

Now, whoever taught you the safety rules probably also taught you, “Alcohol and gunpowder don’t mix.” But we’re inclined to think the percentage of gun accidents involving Judgment Juice is… well, we already copped out at “nonzero,” so we’ll stick to that.

Second: Cannabis and Human Performance from an Aviation Perspective: A Review (.pdf)

Some key elements from the executive summary:

The adverse effects of cannabis on behaviour, cognitive function and psychomotor performance are dose-dependent and related to task difficulty. Complex tasks such as driving or flying are particularly sensitive to the performance impairing effects of cannabis.

We’re guessing that putting holes in the 10-ring, defending your home (and you can expect a blood test after a DGU), and getting the cups and cones in the right order when reassembling a BAR would all count as “complex tasks.” Both are laden with cognitive and motor skills demands.

Chronic cannabis use is associated with a number of adverse health effects, and there is evidence suggesting the development of tolerance to chronic use as well as a well-defined w ithdrawal syndrome. There is also evidence that the residual effects of cannabis can last up to 24 hours. Significantly, the modern dose of cannabis is much more potent than in the past, when the majority of the research was conducted. As such, the reported adverse health effects may well be conservative. Although only a limited number of studies have examined the effects of cannabis on pilot performance, the results overall have been consistent. Flying skills deteriorate, and the number of minor and major errors committed by the pilot increase, while at the same time the pilot is often unaware of any performance problems.

We’ve also noted a decline in judgment among chronic cannabis users. And they’re unaware of it. “No man, I drive better when I’m stoned.”

This anti-gun broadside from the University of Washington (.pdf) notes that drug and alcohol intoxication are correlated with being a victim of a firearms assault of homicide. (Duh). But we’re unaware of any studies on alcohol or drugs in gun accidents. Anecdotally, the connection seems to be strong.

Of course, it’s Hognose’s Law that, for every scientific study there is an equal and opposite study. University of Illinois-Chicago epidemiologist Lee Friedman notes that alcohol increases your risk of being injured, but it increases your chances of surviving the injuries your drunkenness causes you. And a followup study shows that it reduces your chances of cardiac complications, too.

We’ll drink to that!

Just not before hitting the range.