Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't muzzle me.

Yesterday, when Shootin' Buddy and I were at the range, we ran into an acquaintance of his who came down and chatted with us for a bit. When he'd returned to his own lane, I noted with a sense of amusement that he'd been wearing his orange Gunsite hat, while Shootin' Buddy was wearing a Thunder Ranch ball cap and I had on my Blackwater chapeau; quite the trio of tactical poseurs we were.

"I wish they'd gone to gun school," replied Shootin' Buddy, glancing meaningfully at the trio occupying the two lanes to our right. He had a point.

I can poke fun at "tactical golf vacations" 'til the cows come home, but in general I know that if the shooter in the next lane over has chosen to invest thousands of dollars in training rather than buying every Gun O' The Month from the cover of Guns & Ammo, I'm probably not going to have to divide my attention between my front sight and his.

The threesome next to us exhibited the entire panoply of gestural tics that spell, in my mind, "accident waiting to happen":
  • Walking in with a Henry Golden Boy held at the balance, muzzle casually sweeping the line.
  • Whenever a gun malfunctioned, it suddenly ceased being a firearm, and muzzle discipline went out the window as they attempted to reduce the malfunction.
  • Whenever a pistol was picked up, the booger hook leapt to the bang switch as though drawn by a magnet.
  • Rifles were held in the "beginners lean" (ie. with the head held erect and back over the shoulder instead of in a good cheekweld, as though they feared the rear sight might jump off the gun and bite them) and pistols held "cup & saucer" in the reverse-lean isosceles, muzzles jumping skywards with every shot.
"Now wait a minute, Tam," you say, "that last part is just technique..." Yes, but it is technique that is indicative of a very casual relationship with shooting and gun-handling. People who do these things are people who do not have an involved relationship with firearms and shooting. A gun is just something they own, the way they own golf clubs or a snowmobile, and while they may mean well when it comes to safety, they simply lack the awareness of anything wrong about their actions. These are the people who will say "But it's not loaded!" to you when you dodge away from the rifle they point at you at the gun show.

Sometimes as you reflexively twitch away from the gun muzzle, they will actually laugh as they tell you it's not loaded. I usually respond "Yes, but I try and make a habit of dodging away from guns pointed at me, just like you should make a habit of not pointing guns at people."

I know folks who get all worried when "gang-bangers" (which all too often seems to be a code word for anybody younger and darker-hued than the speaker) come on the range, but silver-haired flannel-shirted Uncle Cletus doesn't get so much as a second look when he strolls in with the loading gate closed on his Colt Cowboy and his finger casually inside the trigger guard. And then he turns the muzzle so that it points straight down the firing line to load the pistol...

Folks, it's Uncle Cletus that'll kill you, not Ice Dog and Ray-Ray, because you kept an eye on the latter's gun handling while ignoring the former. And the last words you'll hear will be "Oh, gawd, it wasn't loaded! It must've broke, it just went off! I'm sorry!"


Anonymous said...

Hmm. I had to deal with Ice Dog and Ray-Ray this weekend, myself.

Couldn't see them, but I'd lay dollars to donuts the pistol was held askance during the rapid fire phase.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"Yes, but it is technique that is indicative of a very casual relationship with shooting and gun-handling."

It's showing gun ignorance. It isn't a sin, but it is a sign. It can be corrected if the ignoramus will only listen. The safety precautions often require regular drill to work on.

I know folks who bought kevlar strictly to wear to the range. Thankfully my range is well administered so I've never really felt the need for that.

Matt G said...

Thankfully, *MY* range is private, and I've not had to deal with such things for quite some time. (Usually when the creek washes out, or the very rare time when the owner's sons decide to use it, which is their right and privelidge.)

My girls and I went out to shoot rifles yesterday evening, and I never had to worry about their muzzle discipline, though I was watchful. (I owe it to them to be so.)

ajdshootist said...

We have one old boy who has been there got the tee shirt etc he has used more guns loaded more ammo and taught more people to shoot than i have had hot dinners trouble is that was in the past and these days the word is forgeten most of it when he get on the firing point i leave he scares the S**t out of me trouble is he is such a ledgend nobody will say anything and when i tried to bring it up at the club got told to shut up and i do like him and respect him what do you do?

Les said...

We ran a manufacturer shoot (drink the kool aid) near Chicago and one of the guys acting as an RSO was a cowboy action shooter...

Now, I love CAS, but a fair percent of those guys forget that their guns really are, you know, GUNS.

And large caliber ones at that!

Anyway, he got bored sitting on the line and started playing with his loaded SAA replica at which point he ND'd a downloaded .45 LC into the the cinder block/cement wall.

Nobody was hurt, but my buddy who was running the event sure was miffed!

perlhaqr said...

ajdshootist: I'd recommend a solid helping of punctuation. Or a slightly smaller number of espressos in the morning.

To address the subject of your query, I'd say: Sometimes you just have to be the asshole. It doesn't matter how good somebody used to be. If he's waving loaded guns around, or gesturing at people with his finger on the trigger; Be polite, but tell him he's fucking up and how.

If the people who run the range won't back you up when you call someone on safety violations, it may be time to find a new range. One where they care more about physics than feeeeeeelings.

The Raving Prophet said...

I tend to frequent a public range run by my state's department of conservation. Their ranges are known to have rather strict rules, some of which are unnecessary for experienced and safe shooters (like no more than one shot every three seconds). However, those rules (which are much griped about by many) exist because of idiots like Uncle Cletus.

I have found morons like that (who get yelled at rather often) to be useful examples when teaching others how to shoot- "You see that idiot? Don't be that guy."

Anonymous said...

Caleb has a similar point re: safety, but with competition as the guiding factor.

Me? I saw we should watch out for our own, or someone will do it for us.

Anonymous said...

About fifteen years ago my oldest adult son was shot by a friend of his who was showing off a .25 auto.

My son had told him not to point it at him and was told the classic "Don't worry, it's not loaded." and then the idiot pulled the trigger.

Fortunately, my son was getting out of the chair and out of the way when the pistol fired and the FMJ skimmed about an half inch under the skin of his thigh before exiting. If he hadn't moved, it would have hit him in the lower gut.

I still get pissed when I think about it.

Anonymous said...

I was at the range a few weeks ago and was letting my 12 year old son shoot a revolver. He doesn't like to shoot it double action so he cocks the hammer for each shot. Twice I stopped and corrected him to remove his finger from the trigger guard while cocking the hammer. On the the third offense I made him set the gun down, walk away and go sit a watch.

I had been planning on leaving soon, but stayed around shooting for another hour anyway, just to drive the point home.

A friendly SASS shooter from two stalls over and I had been chatting all afternoon and letting each other tryout our various firearms. When he hauled out a rock island 45acp my son got very interested watching me shoot it. When the owner offered him the chance to try I told him "No, he's learning about trigger management."

When the old gentleman tried to convince me to let my son try anyway I pointed out that it was his life, and his grand-daughters life that I was trying to save that afternoon.

My son discovered a week later that he got off lucky when he watched his sister spin around with the loaded buckmark still pointing out in front of her. She turned through 180 degrees to ask what was for dinner tonight.

She was immediately packed up, taken home, lectured all the way there about muzzle management and then sent to bed without dinner just to teach her that questions about dinner aren't nearly as important as pointing a loaded gun at dozens of people.

Yeah, I'm "that guy" at the range. I'm that guy that pisses off his kids because I don't want them killing anyone.

Anonymous said...

You should print out the four rules and then when they go downrange to check their targets, you just simply drop off a copy of it on their shooting booth anonymously. If they read it an get insulted and leave, problem solved. If they read it and abide by it, problem solved.

Anonymous said...

One afternoon in 1933, my mother and her toddler sister watched from the back porch as their father and a hunting buddy checked the choke spread on their shotguns. For reasons that no one ever satisfactorily explained, the buddy turned 180 with shotgun mounted, let fly at the porch, and shot my mother's sister out of her arms. Blew her to pieces.

My mother passed on two years ago, having never gotten over that. That is why I never got to go hunting as a youth. I am a safety instructor, and some days rather a strict one. In the coaching manual, we are taught never to touch an athlete without requesting permission first; I have been known to violate that rule in certain circumstances.

On the other hand, my son set a new national record in Phoenix yesterday. His muzzle control is excellent, and he has the Expert ribbon on his uniform to prove it.

Joanna said...

My sister does this sometimes - points the muzzle at me or holds her finger on the trigger - and when I complain she gives me grief because "It's not loaded." The situation is complicated by the fact that while we both own firearms, she has been shooting (with two (now ex-) boyfriends) and I have not. I think next time I'm going to tell her that either she shows more care, or she doesn't get the guns out when I'm around.

CastoCreations said...

My husband should know better. I get pissed when he points his rifle or gun at me. Not on purpose necessarily...sometimes I just walk in the room when he's cleaning and it is pointing my way. Or he moves and it moves with him toward me. He thinks I'm being paranoid as it's always unloaded. But I DON'T care! Keep that nozzle pointed away thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Boy, do I know where Tam is coming from, and I'm no stranger to the things you folks mention. It seems as though "That Guy" becomes even more of a problem when he has gained some recognition as a "good feller" at the club. Or he could be a ranking member... with a bad attitude about everyone's conduct but his. Like I say, some folks have some strange ideas about safety. And if they are the latter type, it becomes a real problem.

Yeah, I have stories, and when I talk to other club members, they have a few to share. Luckily I joined a club which decided that their primary focus would be maintaining an active population of safe shooters. We are required to challenge anyone doing something stupid or against the bylaws. I have questioned club officers on this a few times, and I was still strongly encouraged.

I could write quite a few words on this topic, but mainly I've found that any club 1) whose primary focus is not shooting, 2) does not have a duty to accept new members established in bylaws, and 3) does not prefer volunteerism over fund-raising, ends up being the type of club where Those Guys accumulate--and the rest of the membership suffers under a barrage of rules such as, "Rule #157 - Do Not Point Gun at Face And Pull Trigger".

Also, to a address a couple of points by posters above:

* I've never been to a club or range where the Four Rules weren't conspicuously placed on a huge, expensive sign, and in addition to the range rules. They're about as effective as Gun-Free Zone signs.

* One way to stop trigger finger magnetizing (heh) while cocking the revolver is to use the thumb on the supporting hand. This eliminates the reflex to use the trigger finger for leverage, since the grip remains the same.

However, the above is in my Strange Ideas of Safety list, since some of us would like to do (simulated) slip-hammer work with our SAAs. We figure if the LL Bean Commandos can rapid-fire spreader-load patterns with their hi-cap 9s, we should be able to do a little slip-hammer.

Anonymous said...

"quite the trio of tactical poseurs we were"

Poseur? Bah! Speak for yourself, devushka!

Back in my law enforcement days, I had to work the mean streets (well, it was the prosecutor's office) and one time . . . we were all out of coffee AND the copier jammed AND my secretary called in sick.

No shit, there I was, no coffee, jammed copier and a stack of phone calls to return. That's when I knew that everything they teach on THE TEAMS is bullshit . . .

Shootin' Buddy

José Giganté said...

To paraphrase an old poker saying.

"If you look around the range and don't see the moron sweeping people with their muzzle, that moron is you."

I've seen my share of bad muzzle control, but most of what I see is at the gun store or gun show or at public ranges like Pop's.

I've shot CAS for better than 7 years and while I've seen bad muzzle control, the offenders are pulled aside and corrected, no matter what age or stature. Say what you want about CAS matches, I feel safer there than any local range.

Anonymous said...

This annoys me no end, and I will SCREAM at people who I see doing this shit.

At first, I got grief about this, but now, the rangemasters at the ranges I frequent encourage me to do so.

My new private range assigns KP for the first infraction. KP being "gather the brass" Which could take a SUMMER. The second infraction is banning. I love those guys.

Be safe, Tam. God, find a vest that fits and we'll hit the tipjar for it.

ajdshootist said...

Perlhaqr,thanks for the comment,i dont drink coffee im in the UK also i am starting to use another club,the thing is this guy is 80 and we watch him like a hawk and over here rather thought of in the Elmer Keith vein,he taught me 40yrs ago and was very skilled,yes he has shot people but that was in his line of work (think hey Gunny)if he had to stop shooting it would kill him so as i said watch him like a hawk.

Anonymous said...

What bothers me even more than the noobs who don't know any better yet, are the self-assured who feel they have the [i]right[/i] to point "unloaded" guns in other people's direction by virtue of their greater gun handling experience. "Don't worry, it's unloaded, what's the problem?"

There was a thread on THR the other week in which a few shooters who should have known better argued for 6 freaking pages why they think it's acceptable to point "unloaded" guns at other people. Aaargh.

Tango Juliet said...

It's all about developing and reinforcing good habits. Regardless of the shooter's assurances, it's LOADED!!!

Put the egos aside and follow those 4 simple rules.

Anonymous said...

Ajdshootist, what Perlhaqr meant to say was "use correct punctuation."

It's kind of hard to read what you want to say when all your thoughts are rolled into one, long, run-on sentence.

closed said...

Orangeneck: The three Rs are university level these days. Unless this young man seriously self-trains, this is the best he can do.

Don said...

Uncle Cletus used to nuzzle me, too, but then . . . .

Oh. I think I read that wrong.

perlhaqr said...

I usually just tell people who insist "It's not loaded!" that my ultra-ninja kung-fu training has it ingrained in me to nut-punch anyone who points a gun at me, and they're best not tripping that trigger.

Being gigantic, this gets the point across pretty good. ;)

WV: "magnon", "Why yes, I think I'll have the bacon wrapped Filet Magnon."

Anonymous said...

Castro Creations,

Remind hubby what the repercussions would be if it just "went off". Esp. if someone he loves is on the receiving end. Remind him it only takes once.

staghounds said...

Mrs. Creations, "not on purpose necessarily" sounds a bit scary to me. The gun is in his own hand.

Or does he occasionally, by accident and without thinking, forget where the fork is pointing and stab himself in the eye? Light the end of his finger instead of the cigarette?

I hate to say this, and may be way off the line, but think hard about what else is going on.

"STOP POINTING THE GUN AT YOUR WIFE" seems learnable in one lesson, especially if followed by a week on the couch.

Might he be sending some message?

And on the rule one violation story front, I have now had FIVE CASES in which the owners of guns handed them to others with a command to "Go ahead and pull the trigger on me, it's not loaded/the safety is on." Three fatal, two woundings.

Yes, I know that sounds like three murders or suicides, but no- all were truly examples of profound stupidity.

Tango Juliet said...

We just had a young man who killed his young wife of 3 months with an "unloaded" shotgun here in Nebraska.

So sad in so many ways. :(

Gun Shy Tourist said...

Excellent commentary Tamara. I did my own soapbox on this topic a while back here:

Just so you know, I liked yours so much, that I linked to it:

Xavier said...

Yep. Cleetus is one dangerous sonovabitch.

I class him, Ice Dog, Bubba and Joe the girlfriend's shooting instructor in the know-it-all category.

A know-it-all is dangerous anywhere, whether you are shooting, using a chainsaw, throwing knives, driving through the Bronx, or doing an exploratory lap. With inherently dangerous activities, we owe it to ourselves and others to be students as well as teachers.

Hunsdon said...

"When people point guns at me, I am tempted to shoot them."

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine probably still has imprints of my of my Size 12s in his behind for turning around to ask "how was that" with the weapon still in his hand.

It really got through to him one day when he started to turn around and saw that I hand my hand on my pistol and thumb ready to open the thumb break, as I had already told him that only my friends got to do that twice, the third time I was drawing down on him.

Anonymous said...

"trichie" -- most appropriate.

Found this Tam-post to the point. It was referred around, and well rec'd.

J t R