Dr. Gary Klein, one of the world’s foremost authorities on decision-making, created the above model about performance improvement. Since much of my work is helping clients develop physical skills, I add ‘Knowledge and Ability’ to ‘Insights.’ Not enough effort is placed on ‘Avoiding Errors’ in our training despite the fact that Self-defense and Personal Protection are riddled with minefields we have to navigate.
Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make is all about avoiding errors. To gain different perspectives about the topic, I posed a question to several of my colleagues at the 2021 Tactical Conference. “What single piece of advice would you give to new and inexperienced gunowners about ‘avoiding errors’? ” The condition I imposed on their answer was that it couldn’t be a platitude such as ‘Get some/more training’ but had to be something that a gunowner could actually understand and do.
A fight avoided is better than a fight won.
Don’t think you’re better than you are. If you have no metric to measure your performance, you don’t know what you can or can’t do.
When in doubt, don’t shoot.
Dr. Klein’s little model has stimulated my thinking a great deal lately, so I’m going to be pursuing this line of inquiry more in the near future.
One of my colleagues who has retired from two different POlice agencies made the following comment when he finished reading Real Shootouts of the LAPD.
It’s interesting how even highly trained cops screw up when they get out of their familiar environment.
Thinking ahead about how to Avoid Errors is an important part of our defensive skillset.
I’m not so sure about the empirical reality of the Farnham [sic] idea: “The person most likely to shoot you is YOU. Why? Because you’re always there.” It just seems incorrect to say, so I am wondering what the broader idea he is conveying is supposed to be.
Since John’s statement generated some incredulity, I will elaborate on it. His comment referred to the often atrocious gunhandling he sees, not people committing suicide. Improper and dangerous gunhandling regularly results in gunowners turning themselves into casualties, although not necessarily fatalities.
The reason I included John’s quote began with a statement he made in the first DTI class I took. The statement was “Eighty percent of police officers who are shot shoot themselves.” Once again, he was not referring to suicide but rather negligent shootings where the officer injured himself or herself. Whether that is still true, I don’t know. I do know that holster manufacturers are sued numerous times each year, unsuccessfully, by police officers who shoot themselves in the process of drawing or holstering. However, given the multiplicity of reports I have about private citizens who accidentally shoot themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised. It happens a lot more often than we like to think. The two casualties I have had on ranges I have been running were self-inflicted non-fatal wounds. One was a highly trained and experienced police officer who had a momentary lapse of concentration and technique.
Here are a few recent examples:
This is an excerpt from a detailed incident report by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners.
Officer A was off-duty and inside his residence. Officer A was seated alone in the living room of the residence cleaning and putting tactical lights on his personally owned handguns. Officer A indicated that he had completed cleaning his .40 caliber Springfield Arms semi-automatic pistol and during this process he had inadvertently seated a partially loaded magazine and released the pistol slide that chambered a round. Officer A mistakenly believed the weapon was not loaded, so he pulled the trigger and caused the weapon to discharge.
Officer A received a through and through bullet wound to his left hand just below the little finger. The bullet traveled through Officer A’s hand, then through the back of a couch [the interior decorator in me thinks it was a sofa and not a couch], and the living room wall adjacent to the couch, entering the garage and striking the metal back of a clothes dryer before falling to the garage floor.
Officer A was treated and released from the hospital the day of the shooting.
The BOPC found that Officer A’s use of force was negligent, requiring Administrative Disapproval.
Unfortunately, some incidents prove fatal. Gunshot wounds to the upper leg can sever the femoral artery, resulting in rapid death. RIP Sgt. Davis, who was an experienced officer with 8 years of service, including on SWAT.
This video of Tex Grebner shooting himself contains explicit language. I give him credit for taking responsibility and showing how easily this can happen.
There is an image I see used on Internet websites that makes me cringe whenever I look at it.
That’s a good way to shoot yourself in the support hand. The number of beginners I see doing this at IDPA matches is legion. I warn them immediately to stop doing that. If your holster doesn’t allow you to draw from it with one hand, then you need to stop using it immediately and get a new holster.
If IDPA and USPSA Production Class do nothing else other than to train people to draw their gun without putting their support hand on the holster, that’s a great contribution to the shooting community. For those who say IDPA isn’t training, I would counter that it’s excellent training in safe gunhandling. There’s nothing like getting disqualified for a safety violation to make the point that someone’s gunhandling needs work.
So the point of John’s Master Lesson is twofold:
- Proper gunhandling has to be at the forefront of our minds anytime we handle a firearm. Firearms are mechanical devices; they do no more and no less than we make them do. Consequently, they are relentlessly unforgiving of carelessness and/or stupidity.
- Pointing your weapon at yourself can have serious consequences. Some holsters force us to point our weapons at ourselves. But placing your hand in front of the muzzle when the pistol is out of the holster is a prescription for an unhappy outcome. One of my personal peeves is the devices that shotguns shooters put on their shoes to rest the muzzle on. I have some really nasty pictures of feet with holes from shotguns in them. Those people are unlikely to ever walk right again. Similarly, taking a high performance anti-personnel bullet in the hand at point blank range is unlikely to enhance your ability to play the piano.