Thinking About Safety

Larry Vickers is thinking about safety:

larry-vickers-appendix

 

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

7-June-2015-Burro-Canyon-Gunshot-Wound-Incident

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

Instructor (and aidman) Stan Lee’s conclusions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

37 thoughts on “Thinking About Safety

  1. Trone Abeetin

    And having served in the Navy, Stan was very qualified to survey another mans testeclees. (sorry, couldn’t resist. it’s an Army thing.)

    1. Jim Duke

      Ban guns because a few have had accidents, Dimwits everywhere.

      So much for being an EXPERT

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  3. TFA303

    I carry AIWB, but for me, the gun goes in the holster BEFORE it goes in my pants. That way, the trigger is completely covered, and my finger, shirttail, belt or belly can’t pull the trigger at all while the gun’s pointing at my delicate irreplaceables.

    I can see this being difficult in a class environment if you use a holster that threads or snaps over the belt, as it would really slow things down.

    1. DAN III

      TFA303,

      I too carry AIWB with a XD Mod 2 .45 ACP. Just as you, I too have the gun in the holster when I put the holster in my waistband. The thought that concerns me is not the placing of the weapon in the holster prior to putting it in the waistband. Rather it is the draw from the AIWB holster that I think about. Especially under the stress of an emergency situation.

      Perhaps that grip safety many folks complain about on the XD/XDm pistol series has more value than folks realize.

      1. looserounds.com

        indeed. the grip safety is not something to be feared

        I personally would never carry something like the glock, ( with that thing some call a safety on the trigger) I will stick to manual thumb safeties and grip safeties on my 1911s and use a holster that does not position a loaded gun’s muzzle almost on top of my favorite toy

        never have I seen any advantage to the appendicit carry. and I surely never thought it was anything be scary

  4. Harold

    I follow the advice in Massad Ayoob’s LFI Handgun Safety video (start here, then Products, Police Bookshelf, then Massad Ayoob – Videos & DVDs or just page through, there’s lots of interesting stuff; I have no relationship with his outfit besides being a happy customer since the ’80s).

    He recommends keeping your thumb on the hammer of your handgun as you holster it; single action, you can catch it as it falls, double, you can detect it rising. Of course this doesn’t work for striker fired handguns, I avoid those like the plague. I helps that the M1911 fits my hand like a glove since I was a teenager; it limits your selection, but there’s still plenty of good guns out there with external hammers.

    1. John Distai

      The HK LEM series allows you to thumb the hammer. It’s kind of like a DAO with a light trigger when charged.

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  6. AuricTech

    In airborne operations, we found that when airborne units started doing a formal, stylized prejump briefing that everybody (especially devil-may-care skydivers) laughs at, the number of errors (and jump injuries) declined.

    I always thought that a video of pre-jump sustainment training would have been a winner on America’s Funniest Home Videos. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take it seriously.

  7. Gray

    Whatever you do regularly, is what you will do inevitably. Using any type of holster and/or presentation technique that causes the muzzle to cover (point at) any part of your body is a violation of basic safety.

    The premise that the firearm is peremptorily placed in the holster (prior to mounting the holster) does not preclude putting it back into the holster after a presentation. You eventually have to put that thing back into its sleeve, either during training, or during use.

    And, if you are not training in the manner in which you carry, what is it that you are training to do? IMO, the entire premise of all of the various permutations of “tactical” (has there ever been a term that has been so bastardized) kit that are not what the student/practitioner then uses every day is farcical. What is it that you are training to do?

    I do not place my finger on any part of the trigger or trigger guard until I am immediately willing to shoot. During any presentation, and especially upon re-holstering (is there ever a need for speed there), I very carefully ensure deconfliction with anything (clothing, seatbelt, kit, etc) that could operate the trigger. (Glocks are not unique here; I started with wheelguns in the same manner.)

    As a brief aside, I have had and heard putative instructors scold students for looking down at their holster when re-holstering, telling them that to do so causes a loss of SA. My response is that if there is still danger why are you re-holstering; the raison d’etre for that thing is to end the danger.

    I have carried concealed (both during and off-duty) for more than 4 decades with at least 50% of that carry (and presenting with shooting or not) being in plain-clothes (again, either on or off-duty). I do not point a firearm at anyone, man or beast, that I am not immediately willing to shoot. That includes me, with all attendant parts.

  8. Andrew

    Reholstering?
    Needs to be S-L-O-W. Careful.
    I never understood when people say “but reholstering”.

    After an actual “Gun Use”, more than likely, the gun is going to get “holstered” in an evidence bag by the local authorities for a few months.

    If you’re “practicing” draws at the range, think about that when reholstering. No need to be “fast” putting the pistol away unless, you’re say, in Zimbabwe and carry isn’t allowed at all.

  9. Wes

    Good article & thanks for posting. I’ve AIWB’d with a Glock for years but won’t get into that debate; I respect those instructors’ decisions to do what they feel they need to – their house, their rules. But it might be timely for a reminder about RE-holstering, whether under the duress of peer observation/being timed, or a real-world threat that you lived through.

    RE-holstering needs to be done deliberately. If the particular training evolution has ended, or there is no more threat because it ran away or you eliminated it, then you have time to be deliberate in re-securing the weapon. BREATHE. And then breathe again. If those conditions don’t exist, then WTF are you doing putting your gun away?

    Thanks WM for the sudden image of The Duke as LTC Vanervoort in a wheelbarrow… :)

  10. Buckaroo

    That after-action report neglected to reveal one critical piece of information: did the ND occur during presentation of the pistol from the holster, or upon returning the pistol to the holster?

    People seem to be assuming the latter, but the former is an even bigger training fail. Keeping your finger OFF the trigger until you have reached count four in a five count presentation-from-holster process is critically important, otherwise you are violating at least three of the four safety rules.

  11. TheSpartanMonkey

    The safety briefing described by Stanton sounds a lot like that given by Southnarc. I’ve taken several of Southnarc’s classes and he always starts out with the same safety brief. Unfortunately, most other instructors never give one that’s even remotely as detailed and well thought-out.

    It goes like this:
    1) Ask if you have any doctors, nurses, EMT’s, etc. in the class. Of those, determine who has the most current trauma skills and experience and designate them as primary. Assign a secondary.
    2) Designate the CASEVAC vehicle and leave the keys in the ignition.
    3) Ask who knows the area, and can drive to hospital. Assign that person as primary driver. Assign an assistant driver. If the vehicle is manual shift, ensure the drivers know how to drive a stick..
    4) Have a strip map to the hospital in the CASEVAC vehicle, and ensure both drivers examine it and ask any questions.
    5) If you decide to call 911, don’t tell them someone was shot because the EMTs will wait for police to clear the scene. Just say there was an accident.
    6) If you decide to call 911, and your location has physical security like a gate, designate who will go to the gate to open it for the ambulance.
    7) Have the trauma kit in a well-known, constant place throughout the course.

    Sweat the details!

  12. Tom Kratman

    “old dinosaurs like Tom Kratman and I went in”

    Welllll…we were a different society then. Sort of like the AK makes sense, if you’re a Soviet and plan to fight the Soviet way, but not so much for us for most purposes or most of the way we do things, back then a more cursory approach (though note: it was still about 7% of OSUT in 74) made sense when the country was apparently still willing to bleed en masse to win. Now….now we give up over what would be trivial casualties once upon a time, and break the bank on everything imaginable to avoid those casualties. And winning? What’s winning? “Thees word pippples is usink; i’ do not seem to mean wha’ they thin’ i’ means…”

    1. Hognose Post author

      On (and in Lyme Bay, off) Slapton Sands in Devon in the spring of 1944, some 750 US Army men and another 200 naval personnel died in one of the rehearsals leading up to D-Day. The news was released after the invasion, and nobody really reacted. It’s hard to imagine how much drama would arise if that happened nowadays.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Oh, yeah. The two casualty producing incidents were the Army going on the wrong side of the white safety tape during the naval gunfire live fire (ouch), and the S-boats catching a convoy of, IIRC, engineers and their vehicles and burning and sinking a transport and 2-3 LSTs. There were actually more naval casualties at Slapton in the e-Boat fight than all day long on all five invasion beaches in the real deal.

          One of the Slapton s-boats (S-130) survived, against all odds, and is under restoration in the UK.

          ISTR it was s-Boats that sank the Leopoldville, too. If you go to the wall of the missing at the US cemetery at Omaha Beach, you’ll see that many of them are from a single infantry regiment with a date of loss of 24 Dec 44. The Leopoldville was waiting for a chance to dock.

  13. Tom Kratman

    Safety…aaaaa….

    You know, I may have run, as a company grade, more platoon equivalent live fires*, with fewer safety constraints**, and in flat violation of the safety-fascisti diktats***, than anybody in the Army (to include people from the 75th, because for several years, in Panama, I spent 2-4 weeks a month running live fires for them, too. We used to sell training for under the table, off the books, expended as issued, ammunition). And, no, never had a reportable accident of any kind. Came close, occasionally, to be sure….

    But I just don’t think safety briefings and all the other glittery hoo-haa shit the safety-fascisti inflict on the line do anything but increase the risk to the troops, while reducing the appearance of risk, and protecting careers.

    *One platoon, undergoing one problem in using force to overcome force, until it meets the standard. Something around 500 or so of them, anyway. One company would be three. Three squad LFXs would be one.

    **And I’ve never given anything anyone would recognize as a safety briefing, either. They don’t work. They add risk, rather than reducing it. Backbrief rehearsals, that’s the ticket. And clamp down hard once the problem is over and the troops start coming down from their adrenaline rush.

    ***No on site rehearsals, either. “Yes, lieutenant, that means there is a trench system over there, recently captured, that is similar to but not the exact one you will be LDing on in 6 hours, over _there_…” And no fucking crawl-walk-run with 53 dry and 76 blank fire renditions before you allow a bunch of safety NCOs and officers to take all power from the squad leader. That’s not running; it’s still crawling but on a moving sidewalk. And…well “you should never have let me begin, begin…” Yeah, it’s a personal peeve. See, forex: http://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/magazine/issues/1985/MAY-JUN/pdfs/MAY-JUN1985.pdf at page 10.

  14. Raoul Duke

    Reference re-holstering speed: An old, crusty instructor once asked me: “How fast did Billy the Kid put his gun back in his holster? How ’bout Wyatt Earp? Nobody knows…because nobody cares! All we care about is how fast they drew, got on target and made their hits!”

    In my opinion, a successful re-holster can take five freaking seconds, and you can look at it. Who cares? Success is measured by a retained gun and no extra holes in yourself.

  15. Aesop

    The advice after-the-fact regarding the OSh*tKit and having a Medevac plan aren’t bad, BUT:

    A 24-hour ER is NOT what you want.
    You want a TRAUMA CENTER.
    Do you even know what that is, or where the closest actual one is to your range/location??
    Hint: If this question set is puzzling to anyone, you’re already in too deep to address this problem.

    I have shot at Burro Canyon. There aren’t any decent places for medical care within 20-30 minutes, in most any direction, at most times of the day or night, given average traffic around that area of SoCal. Let alone actual trauma centers you’d want to go to, that you could reach within the Golden hour, on your own, in a civilian vehicle. Period.

    So the absolute STUPIDEST thing to do in those circumstances is “put Mr. Smuckatelli into a cobbled together half-assed unofficial ‘ambulance’, and go charging off like you know WTF you’re doing and whereTF you’re going.”
    That’s Five-Star Shitheadedness, Above And Beyond The Call.
    It probably also meets the legal definition for criminal negligence, and almost certainly invalidates immunity from prosecution under any state’s Good Samaritan Law(s), because it’s NOT what any reasonable, prudent bystander would do.

    Instead, after (or better, concurrently) with stabilizing the victim, and preparing them for transport, EFFING CALL 9-1-1.
    Which gets you actual trauma-trained bonafide paramedics, with hospital base station medical contact 24/7/365, a plethora of medical supplies that you don’t have, and a gorram RADIO to summon Lifeflight to the scene if necessary, together with their own personal knowledge of which hospital and where is best qualified to treat the patient, and more importantly, not already jam-slammed with other patients and thus closed to ambulance traffic, to best care for potentially life-threatening self- (or any other kind) inflicted GSWs.

    If this is difficult to understand, go back to the square marked “Learn basic first aid.” And stay there.

    What anyone or club should do instead of half-ass a “designated evac vehicle, with the keys handy or in the ignition” (great recipe for car theft from ranges, geniusii) is CLEARLY MARK THE RANGE ENTRY from the nearest paved road, designate someone(s) – as many as necessary – to direct 911 responders from that point to the actual site of the victim, and if possible, know/plan for the nearest potential helo LZ in case that option becomes necessary. Real whiz-bang folks might even have the range owners/operators do this in conjunction with a visit and discussions with the first (second, and even third) most likely responding emergency services for your area, and LISTEN TO WHAT THEY TELL YOU.

    Otherwise, when Victim Smuckatelli’s partially severed artery rips loose in your Jackass-inspired “ambulance”, and you have no training, supplies, nor second/third/fourth attendant(s) to render en route care, you’ll be delivering your corpse to the wrong ER, and yourselves to the clutches of the local D.A. for manslaughter and negligent dumbassery of epic proportions, and you’ll deserve the tender buttlove of some lifer named Bubba for the 5-10 years that you’ll earn.

    Don’t compound someone else’s Stupid by a factor of ten, and add your own.

    I yell because I care.

    1. staghounds

      Real whiz-bang folks might even have the range owners/operators do this in conjunction with a visit and discussions with the first (second, and even third) most likely responding emergency services for your area, and LISTEN TO WHAT THEY TELL YOU.

      Word.

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    1. Hognose Post author

      Thanks Stan, I *assumed* from your level of med knowledge that you were a Corpsman (we know how *assume* goes). I picked up your USMC vibe from somewhere. My apologies to both groups!

      Please note the comments by Aesop on evac plan. He is a really real ER nurse. (Also a vet).

      1. Stan

        Thanks. I’m not going to get into it with Mr. Aesop as he only has/told part of the picture and is not very good with his words but here goes:

        *Burro Canyon Range is on top of a mountain range and 30 minutes from town
        *Range management was in 100% in agreement with my decisions and actions.
        *After initial trauma treatment was done, waiting an additional 30 minutes for an ambulance sounds like an even greater and more dangerous waste of time than doing a private movement.
        *Taking said patient to an ER first for better stabilization then have them move him to a trauma center if necessary (on their decision) sounds like a better idea
        *There were a lot of what-ifs that could have happened. He could have died instantly. He could have died 5 minutes after treatment. He could have died then rose from the dead. Someone had to do something.
        *The patient survived and was released from the hospital the next day.

  17. epnurse

    Good story and good early intervention by the author. The only thing I disagree with is having someone drive him to a hospital. He probably needed an ambulance as wounds that don’t seem life threatening at first can suddenly become life threatening. I’ve seen this first hand with GSWs where there actually is a massive injury that is masked by the patient’s position. The patient might seem fine in one position but the vessel damage is being contained by contact with other structures internally. Later, the patient shifts position and the damaged vessel bleeds freely–leading to uncontrollable hemorrhage. This is extremely difficult to manage even for highly trained prehospital (or also in-hospital) personnel–let alone a guy driving frantically to a hospital with a patient in the back seat of his car. If he must be moved, move toward an ambulance intercept with hopefully trained people from the scene of the incident with that patient to reduce the wait time. I take a lot of classes in very remote areas (the classes are always out in the boonies, aren’t they?) and this is usually the plan we have. TDI in Ohio actually has a designated LZ for air medical on site–which is probably the best plan of all.

    Besides, the police need to document the incident anyway. A 911 call is a must.

    I’m trying not to Monday morning quarterback. In the heat of the moment you need to make a decision and run with it–I absolutely appreciate that. Been there, done that, and hindsight continues to be 20/20. I just wanted to mention another possible course of action!

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