Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Formative experiences...

You want to know why I'm a little OCD when it comes to chamber checks on firearms? Allow me to share a story:

At the first gun shop at which I worked, which was also a pawn shop, we had a relationship with a pawn shop owner down in the city. Every few months, he'd drive out to see us with a briefcase containing a few old Colt Police Positives and Smith .38/.32 Terriers and Browning Vest Pockets and suchlike and we would swap him a big box of Lorcins and Hi-Points and Jennings and cash to make up the difference.

One time he came up, the sticking point in the negotiations was a PPK, an early Interarms-marked stainless example. Initially he was thinking about keeping it. Then he wanted too much for it. Then he relented and we added it to our side of the pile.

He handed the Walther to me, and I locked the slide back and checked the chamber, and passed it to a coworker over at the computer. She printed a trigger tag out for it and handed it, slide still locked back, to one of the other salespeople, who put it in the showcase.

Then our buddy the pawn shop owner crawfished. I sighed and pulled the gun from the showcase, removed the trigger tag, and laid it on the counter between him and my boss. About the time pawn shop guy was leaving, I was walking out of the store to cross the street and get lunch for everybody.

When I came back, there was the PPK, sitting on the counter by the computer. "Arthur changed his mind again?" I asked, and was told that, indeed, he had sat in his car for a moment and then came back in and threw the Walther in on the deal at the last minute. Sweet! I still had the trigger tag handy, so I put it back on the gun and passed it to the salesman who put it back in the showcase with one hand while eating his hamburger with the other.

I wandered off to a far corner of the showroom where I could eat my burger in peace, back turned to the sales floor, when *KA-BAM!*

A customer is standing there with the PPK in his hand and an appalled look on his face, smoke wisping theatrically from the barrel and a divot in the linoleum at his feet containing a flattened Winchester Silvertip.

That's right, Arthur had loaded the PPK back up in his car, and then brought it back in to add to the trade, and not one person who handled it from the time I picked it up and put the trigger tag on it to the time the customer made the loud noise had bothered to inspect the chamber because, hey, we had already done that when he brought it in the first time, right?

Lesson learned: I don't care if I set the gun down and just look away for a second; that gun gets checked again when I pick it up. Period. Unless it has been in my field of vision the whole time, I don't know what might have happened to it while I wasn't paying attention.


Carteach said...

Yup. Some lessons come in unhappy ways. Been There, Done That.

Mine didn't actually get to be fired, but it was close... and it was pointed at some guys gut. A man had pulled the magazine, handed it to me his 645, and said "Tell me what you think of that trigger". We were in a crowded party.

I chamber checked, found a round, and I could feel myself go white as a sheet. I field stripped the pistol, left it on the counter, and left the home.

I ALWAYS check. and the I check again.

Tango Juliet said...

First thing I do when pulling any firearm out of the vault is to perform a chamber check, even I KNOW it was unloaded when I stored it.

Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

Blackwing1 said...

Habits will either get you killed, or save your life.

A bad habit, like pointing firearms that you "know" aren't loaded at random objects and pulling the trigger, that's one that will get you or somebody else killed.

A bad habit, like picking up a firearm you "know" is loaded and depending on it to save your life, only to hear a "click" when it should have gone "bang", can get you or someone else killed.

A good habit, like doing a physical and visual chamber check EVERY TIME YOU PICK UP A FIREARM, can go a long ways towards minimizing the risks of being otherwise stupid.

I've tried like heck to inculcate good habits in myself. Every time when I pick up my carry gun, a quick press-check shows me shiny brass in the chamber, and I can go ahead and safe it, holster it, and put it on my belt. Doesn't matter if I just took it off a second ago to change clothes...it's such a routine, and takes literally just a second, that there's no point in NOT doing it.

I've only had one ND in my life, and that was at the range, with the pistol pointed at the target, when a brand-new-to-me .45 with a touchy trigger fired before I expected it to. I hit paper...but it startled the living daylights out of me, and was probably the cheapest ND lesson I could have. I don't think even the guy in the bay next to me noticed that it was not a deliberately fired shot.

I hope I never get dumber than that.

Tim Ellwood said...

Great story Tam, one everyone should read.
I look forward each day to reading your site.

They say there are two kinds of gun people, those that have had one and those that will.

I have seen a few and had a dozy.

Years ago ( Pre AW ban) I had worked in a shop in Fl, 5 days a week, bell to bell with a gun show every weekend that added up to about 70 hours a week handling firearms.
After 3 or so years I got burned out and took a "real" job. I stayed away from the shop as long as I could, but returned about a month later to get my gun fix.
On the wall was a poly-tec side folder ak. I asked to look at it and was handed it by a SO deputy that worked part time in the shop and was very safe with firearms.
He cleared it two or three times by pulling back the bolt. I pulled back the bolt a few times, looked it over,decided I would rather buy the Gwinn arms bushmaster arm gun and went to hand it back, but wanted to relive the hammer spring from tension so I pulled the trigger.
The loudest bang I ever heard filled the packed shop ( two weeks before xmas) of 15 or so people.
Everyone froze, I did not even want to look up and break my stare that I had on the smoke coming from the receiver.
I knew I had killed someone, time slowed, just like the movies. I did look up and saw the shocked face of the owner, I slowly scanned around and saw no blood, heard no screams and no one was down. I couldn't believe it, no one was hit. A Lt from the local PD was standing by the propped open door sticking his finger though a hole in leaf on a potted tree we had to hold the door open.
The bullet traversed the length of the shop, went out the open door and then traveled at about head level across the most congested street in Orlando Fl at 4 pm ( two blocks from the mall).
I knew if I looked outside that I would see a crashed head shot driver of a bus full of orphans that had hit a car full of nuns.
The owner and I went to the door and saw a guy across the street staring at a hole in the window of his restaurant.
We made it across and commiserated with him about the sad shape our city was in with these drive by shootings, he had just closed the restaurant from his lunch crowd and was getting ready to reopen at 5, the bullet went thru the entire empty dining room and lodged in a table leg.
The AK had been traded in at a gun show two weeks before, it had sat on the table at two shows and had been on the wall and handled many times in the shop.
It had a broken extractor.
You could not see far enough into the chamber to see the dark head of the cartridge that was stuck in there.
Always, always, check the chamber, even if you have to use your pinkie finger on a ak.
Years and years later I was working for S&W and at a shop in Jacksonville Fl. Waiting to talk with the owner I listened as someone at the counter regaled the shop with a story about a AD in Orlando ( the guy was way to young to have been there). Everyone was amazed at how stupid the guy was that pulled the trigger, the owner remember I was from Orlando and asked if I knew the guy, I muttered, "ya, what a dumbass" and wandered out the door to find drinking establishment.

Always check the chamber, always

Mark Alger said...

I like your take. Lemme add a mnemonic tag to it.

When I was a sprat and undergoing informal enfamile arms training, Stranger in a Strange Lande was new in mass market paperback. And, like many families, ours adopted memes and themes from what we-all were reading at the time. (What!? Yours doesn't? Poor thing.)

Don't remember if it was Mom or the Colonel, but one of them glommed onto the concept of Fair Witness -- very literal-minded testimony as to observed/able facts.

Whenever this kind of discussion arises, I always get a mental image in my mind of Anne -- the Fair Witness -- at the moment Heinlein is introducing the concept. Jubal directs Anne's attention to a neighboring house and asks her what color it is. Her reply: "This side is white."

Kind of encapsulates the whole thing in a way that tickles the mind.

As Mark Levin puts it: Thank me.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I know it all- I ALWAYS check the chamber and have never had a ND, and yet I learned something from Tim's story. Of course, this is why we have the rule about not pointing a gun at anything (and pulling the trigger) you are not willing to destroy. Nonetheless, just pulling the slide/bolt back is insufficient if it has a broken extractor. Look into or feel into the chamber. Thanks Tim.

Guffaw in AZ said...

The ONLY TIME I don't pick up a firearm and automatically check the chamber is if it's been in my hand or holster on my person and never out of my control.

TJIC said...

My grandfather, in WWII, saw one friend crease the forehead of another buddy using a projectile fired out of an unloaded rifle.

I've had this lesson thumped into me for years and years I even bought my first firearm.

Bruce H. said...

Rule 2 saves the day!

Boat Guy said...

Most of us have had "our" ND and like others mine is still a vivid memory though it occurred 30+ years ago and was relatively benign - EXCEPT for the fact that is WAS an ND.
The physical chamber check is a final defense against a chamber that is unintentionally empty as well as unintentionally full.
I stopped into a large chain-store over the weekend to buy a loader and watched one moron flag a half-dozen people at the counter as well as the salesman without anyone else seeming to notice. I was 180-out and fifteen feet from the muzzle. Nearly left without getting my purchase - except another sales guy came from behind me and asked to help me, so there's another lesson; extreme asshattery can be very distracting. I shoulda followed my first instinct and just left.

TomcatTCH said...

I don't remember why I got into the habit of checking Mr chamber. It's not due to my own personal ND, and I've never had an interesting one happen while I was in the vicinity, I just check check check.

It drives me nuts when a gun store clerk doesn't check, even though I will check when whatever is changing hands ends up in mine.

John Farrier said...

Then our buddy the pawn shop owner crawfished.

I've never heard of this word used as verb, but I love it. Now I must work it into conversation at least ten times today.

I follow your rule, too. If my rifle is out of my field of vision, even briefly, I check the chamber.

og said...

Happy is the man (or woman) who has a bad experience, survives it, and learns from it.

Wise is the man who learns without needing the experience. Listen to Tam, folks.

WV: calitamb the other Tam, out in California.

staghounds said...

There was an incident a couple of years before you came to Knoxville that did not have a happy ending. Customer brings .45 into gun store, hands it to clerk, gun discharges, out front window of gun store, across 5 lanes of Broadway, through front window of business, through internal wall of business, into brain of man at work, fatally.


Them bullets ain't got no eyes.

staghounds said...

And, it is only a matter of time before some slug decides it would be funny to start loading guns at gun shows or places where guns are sold.

Tim Ellwood said...

There was a spate of "loaded guns" in the 80's at gun shows in Fl. For 3 or 4 weeks people were finding 22 rifles on their tables loaded and no one knew how. Some one saw a guy fumble a few 22's out of his hand while looking at a rifle, a hue and cry was raised, but he slipped away. didn't happen again though. Always wondered if he was an anti, a reporter or just some demented individual.

djmoore said...

I was dry firing with snap-caps in my living room (brick wall backstop) when I got a phone call, ironically from a hoplophobic friend. I put the gun down to get the phone (no cell in those days; my house phone was at the end of a 25 foot cord, and came in two pieces, so I needed both hands to carry it).

As the conversation settled in for the long haul I picked the gun up and pointed it again at the target, put my finger on the trigger...and stopped and checked the chamber, wherein I found a live round.

The call had come just at the end of my practice; I'd already reloaded, but the distraction of the call let me forget.

That was my lesson in keeping the practice area area sterile of live rounds during dry practice.

No, I never did tell my friend that she was almost a witness to an ND. I would never have heard the end of it.

Cincinnatus said...

These stories give me good fodder for my lessons in Hunter Education classes I teach.

Mostly so I don't have to be embarrassed telling my own AD story ...

Atom Smasher said...

When I was a kid, first time my dad showed me his rifle, now downstairs in my gun room, he showed me the "open bolt, lock back, stick finger in, look down barrel" method of checking the chamber. It always feels weird staring down the barrel of a gun, but every time I see my pinkie tip waggling I KNOW it's clear.

Anonymous said...

It's a simple (but deadly serious) rule: The Gun Is Always Loaded.

Full stop, as the U.K. cousins say...

Anonymous said...

The range I worked on had two ND's:
one skipped a round off the deck into an employees leg, the other put a round into the cash registar.

The owner drilled in to us always drop the magazine and lock back the slide, open the bolt or cylinder and see(not look) to make sure the firearm was empty. Same thing with handing a customer a gun from the show case.

I would say once a year I would hand a round back I took from someones empty gun and I only worked there part time.


45er said...

"I don't care if I set the gun down and just look away for a second". So true. That's exactly how it happened to a friend. Lesson learned: I can load a revolver pretty quick. It was unloaded, then it wasn't. It happens so fast, too. I didn't even have a chance to say "no" and I was watching it happen. It was an unfortunate day for the transmission in the car. The good news is if you're smart about muzzle safety, these can just be learning experiences.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's Schrödinger's cartridge!

The gun is both loaded and unloaded until you check the chamber.

It's especially loaded if a customer's going to pick it up, or you're going to clean it, etc. and unloaded if it's oh-dark-thirty and there's the sound of forced entry coming from downstairs.

Check the chamber!

Tam said...

Anon 10:31,

"It's a simple (but deadly serious) rule: The Gun Is Always Loaded."

So, do you check the chamber? Ever?

Do you dry-practice? Function test after cleaning and reassembly?

The four rules are handy guideposts for life. Where problems arise is when they get treated like some mantra that can be chanted to ward off the bad things.

Woodman said...

"When I was a kid, first time my dad showed me his rifle, now downstairs in my gun room, he showed me the "open bolt, lock back, stick finger in, look down barrel" method of checking the chamber. It always feels weird staring down the barrel of a gun, but every time I see my pinkie tip waggling I KNOW it's clear."

You stick the barrel of the gun in your face?

Ummm. What if you don't see your pinkie? Or since your pinkie won't fit in there because there is brass in the way you drop it and go to catch it with your other hand and you catch the bullet in your face?

I would not ever do that as a standard practice. I don't walk all the way out into traffic to see if anyone is coming either.

I know it's unlikely that anything would happen, but aren't you checking in the first place to prevent unlikely accidents?

og said...

You confirm that the chamber is empty with your pinky first. Then you look down the barrel to check for OTHER obstructions. (Dad used to keep a wad of 20's in his 870 barrel. It was his hunting money.)

I tend to use a borelight on 22's and small caliber stuff instead of my pinky.

Tam said...


"I tend to use a borelight on 22's and small caliber stuff instead of my pinky."

I keep forgetting that you own the occasional gun smaller than .404 Jeffery. ;)

...and, come to think of it, would a scaled-down double rifle, about 10/22-sized, in .22WRF not be just awesome?

Anonymous said...

20 years ago I went into a gunshop. A man was looking at a 300 winchester magnum sighting through the scope at a woman across the street. Good sense kept him from pulling the trigger. He took the forearm down and worked the bolt and found one in the chamber and two more in the box magazine. He, the gun store owner and myself were shaking. Someone had traded that firearm in that morning and neither the owner of the weapon or the gunshop owner had checked to see if it was loaded.

Tam said...

"A man was looking at a 300 winchester magnum sighting through the scope at a woman across the street."

No. Just no. Never. Don't. Ever.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Woodman: If the bolt is open, it's not going to fire, even if there is a round in the chamber. Especially if your pinky is in the way. If, by some miracle, it does fire with the bolt open, I seriously doubt it will be able to push the bullet out of the barrel anyway, since all the force will vent out the open chamber (path of least resistance). Your finger will be a bit worse for wear, but your face is probably pretty safe.

If you forgot to open the bolt, you'll realize that when you try to get your pinky in there - and if you don't, well, Darwin just may deserve to win that one.

og said...

"about 10/22-sized, in .22WRF not be just awesome?"

I guess the time has come for me to make you drool again, and direct you to Peter Hoffer Jagdwaffen.

og said...

"No. Just no. Never. Don't. Ever."

I stopped hunting on public land for this very reason; I yelled at the offender to "Buy a nine dollar pair of binoculars"

CAR said...

Wow, thanks for sharing your experiences people.

I am one of that class that has yet to have an ND, and stories like these will hopefully help prevent it from happening to me for a few years more.

Tirno said...

I've yet to have my ND, I suppose. But I've been awful close to one.

My tax accountant was having a April 16th (or so) shooting event. Once the tax deadline is past, the pressure is off him for a while, and everyone else just forked out to Uncle Sam, so that's an ideal time to get the guns out.

So he and a bunch of his invited clients go out to this gravel pit in Forestry land, and we have ourselves a time.

Some time later, his son and myself are downrange setting up a course of fire when we hear *BLAM*. Well, we both freeze, our blood turned to ice, and we look at each other, then we look at ourselves, and then in unison turn back to the firing line and yell, "HEY!"

It was the tax accountant. His Helwan had jammed, and he was trying to work the action to free it, and somewhere along the line it seemed line a good idea to unsafe the weapon and jiggle it around some more, then maybe pull the trigger... and the bullet hit the ground about 6 inches from his foot, with the slide going right back into his thumb. The chiropractor scheduled him in for a check-up on the spot.

So the accountant's son and I finish setting up our targets, and then we head back to the line.

"Any more dumbassery, today, Bill?"

"Nope... I'm done."

Cond0011 said...

Whew... that was close.

Its funny how "near misses" are burned into your brain so clearly and permanently.

Mikael said...

I guess I'm lucky, I never had a ND, which I can attribute to three factors: 1) When I was learning to shoot, I was taught properly. 2) I read blogs like this. 3) I don't get the chance very often(and when I do, I'm OCD about checking).

In fact, at the local gun club, where I was considering going for membership and earning my pistol licence(didn't happen, clashed with travel plans, once a year course), I'd even double-check the gun handed to me, even though the slide was always locked back and had a plastic flag inserted in the chamber.

Woodman said...

I was three years active duty infantry and five years nasty girls infantry. Never saw a ND that didn't go down range. Couple guys here and there that shot just before they were told to trying to anticipate the command, or resting fingers on triggers. But no one ever fired in any direction but downrange.

Of course, we were trained, and drilled and drilled to always have the rifle down range with the bolt locked back, and the ejection port visible. Any time someone went to move any other way they were jumped, mostly verbally, but I've seen a weapon taken from someone before. We all took it pretty seriously.

And I guess that's one of the things that may be missing from civilian interactions with firearms. Some mean bastard breathing down your neck about proper firearm safety. It took so well we were pretty self policing too. Had a medic point a 1911 at someone "gansta" style. He got creamed, yes we were all cleaning weapons and there wasn't a bullet to be seen anywhere, but you don't play that game.

As far as the pinky thing goes, I get it now. I had this image in my head of doing it all simultaneously and it just seemed dangerous.

Never had to worry about it too much on my M249.

Tam said...


"And I guess that's one of the things that may be missing from civilian interactions with firearms."

In the military, unless you are deployed in the sandbox, you hardly ever have a loaded weapon in your hand.

When you do, there is adult supervision right there.

The lady who puts a .38 in her purse every day handles a loaded firearm far, far more often than any stateside 11B. Aside from the absence of any angry msn with stripes to pounce on screwups, the window of opportunity is simply much larger.

Unknown said...

"Then our buddy the pawn shop owner crawfished.

I've never heard of this word used as verb, but I love it. Now I must work it into conversation at least ten times today."

The movie Tombstone. And yes, I'm a dork.

No ND on my end, thankfully, but when I was a kid I was point in a single file group of hunters walking down into the woods for a deer drive. A kid six feet behind me with a 12 gauge, side-by-side, double hammer shotgun tripped and fell foward on his face, and the shotgun slung across his back let go with both barrels right at my back. I didn't get hit, and after all the men that were behind me were done checking me for holes, the boy's dad smacked him in the head and sent him back to the truck. Don't know what set both barrels off, but he shouldn't have had both hammers cocked.

A few months ago I also witnessed a clerk at Green Top in VA eject three high brass shells out of a Browning that some moron had brought in and set on the counter. Oops. He had to flag the clerk to lay it on the counter like he did.

Windy Wilson said...

"I was three years active duty infantry and five years nasty girls infantry."

I've never heard that phrase used for National Guard before, but I have heard variants directed at the Scottish Regiments.

As for ND's, I haven't yet had that misfortune, but I did go (twice!) to an indoor range that advertised as catering to Police and Hollywood stars that looked like there had been major shootouts in the lanes, as the partitions all were RIDDLED with bullet holes at every possible angle.

Anonymous said...

Back in the service, our tank gunners used to practice by tracking passing cars with the 105mm main gun. Yes, the breech block and Coax or some was locked up in the arms room, but the passing local nationals didn't know that. Eventually we were prevailed upon to not do that, because of the surpassing rudeness.

Anonymous said...

I used to run a .45 ACP "Grease gun" familiarization range. It took 90 rounds per man to run the course. That worked out to 3 each 32 round magazines.

The grease gun's only safety was the ejection cover which had a metal flap that stuck into a corresponding hole in the bolt. Fired from the open bolt. Dropping it would nearly always make it fire.

We ran everyone through the course at least twice. First time empty, so that they would practice and succeed at keeping the plumbing up and down range as they turned to move to the next station. A very large sergeant (thank you Curdy D.)was assigned to every shooter to grab the gun and push it back down range when the shooter turned, like they nearly always did at first, with his SMG pointed down the line of firing positions.

As for my ND, I will note that I am always reminded that for a revolver, I have to always clear all the chambers.

Woodman said...

Tam, very true. I had a lot more time with blanks loaded 24/7 than real bullets. Still had to maintain muzzle discipline since the potential damage was more cone shaped then too.

While I was more comfortable with my machine gun than a lot of people may be with their weapons I did indeed handle it less while loaded.

As far as tanks using cars for practice, our TOW gunners used to light up cars driving along the beach on Kamehameha Hwy. Though it isn't exactly hard to tell when a TOW is loaded, I can't imagine an ND with one.

I did see a guy turn around with a 202 Flash once. That was a more than a bit scary. We were going up to the range one at a time and he only made it about just over half way back to us before the line NCO slapped him back around.

I guess it helps to keep in mind the testing to carry a firearm for the military doesn't have much to do with brains.

David said...

Throughout my childhood, my grandmother had an old bolt action (missing the bolt handle) 22, heavily rusted, with a broken stock leaning in the corner of her upstairs bedroom behind some old curtain rods, yard sticks and other misc stuff. I handled it a lot. Often had to move it to open the cabinet door near it. Because of the frozen bolt, trigger and broken stock none of us ever paid much attention to it.

After over five decades of her kids, grandkids and great grandkids playing, living, sleeping in that room, that rifle was handled hundreds of times by dozens of people.

When grandma passed, the house was being cleaned out. My Mom came down stairs with it, and asked who wants this?

My uncle said what we all knew, "who would want that, the bolt won't open and the trigger doesn't work and the stock is taped together with masking tape."

No one else spoke up, so I took it. I took it into the basement, and after digging through several jars of old screws I found one that would screw into the bolt. I aimed the rifle into an old box of rags, and tried working the bolt and trigger several times. Just like every time I had tried that when younger - nothing happened. So I sprayed it down with WD-40 and left it to soak while I went back upstairs to help with the packing and hauling.

Later I went back down to the rifle and tried pulling on the bolt again. No luck. I got a hammer and was ready to give the bolt a good whack when I suddenly changed my mind, walked over to the box full of old rags, pointed the barrel into the box and pulled on the trigger.


The damed thing went off.

I can't call it a ND, I was pulling the trigger on purpose.

Several minutes later while we were all standing around the kitchen table staring at the rifle laying there, there was a knock on the back door - an older police officer responding to a neighbor reporting a gun shot. When he saw the rifle laying on the kitchen table he looked at my Uncle, paled at bit, and asked "That thing went off?" Uncle nodded, and the officer shivered. "Do you know how many times you and I pointed that thing around your room and tried to pull the trigger?" Uncle smiled and nodded. The cop joined us for some coffee and a long discussion of good ole days.

Then he went downstairs with me and we tried to pound the bolt open - no luck. He was still curious so I let him take it home with him. I really should get a hold of him some day and find out what happened to that gun.

Stuart the Viking said...

Years ago I taught a girl that I was dating how to shoot. She had never touched a gun before and was instantly, completely, HOOKED. She ran out and bought herself a 9mm as soon as she could. She was one of the only people who I have taught to shoot that I regret teaching. She was a safety NIGHTMARE. One of those "WOW I HIT IT!" then sweep everyone on the range congratulating herself types. No matter how hard I tried to drill into her the 4 rules (she could recite them) and correct her when she made an error she wouldn't listen. She did eventually get a little better about it, but even then constantly scared the crap out of me. I eventually stopped taking her to the range.

As things happen, we had a parting of the ways and she moved to a town 100 miles away. Years later, I got a call and she showed up to say hi because she was in town and wanted me to meet her new boyfriend. When she arrived, said boyfriend had a rather large bandage around his hand and walked with a limp. Seems, he was a gunny. "Far more of a gunny than you!" is what she said (because she was impressed with the number of guns he had). Eventually, the subject turned to the bandage. It seems that he had recently had an ND while cleaning a completely unloaded gun and managed to shoot himself in both the hand AND the thigh.

I think they are perfect for eachother... as long as they stay living 100 miles away.


Matthew said...

"...and, come to think of it, would a scaled-down double rifle, about 10/22-sized, in .22WRF not be just awesome?"

Ah yes, for the fearsome Cape Ground Squirrel.

"Kukhulu Amasende"

"Cute Death"

"The only animal on earth that looks at you like you owe it a snack."


Tim Ellwood said...

"...and, come to think of it, would a scaled-down double rifle, about 10/22-sized, in .22WRF not be just awesome?"

I had a nickel 22lr double barrel ( with hammers) side by side pistol, I had always wanted to stock it and have a set of 16" barrels made, that would just be cuter than a bugs ear.

elmo iscariot said...

When I run people through the basics of gun safety, I like to add Rule 6: "You are shadowed at all times by a quartet of elite ninjas whose only job is to load your gun while you aren't looking."

holdfast said...

The comment about the military not actually having guns to hand on a daily basis except on deployment is a good one. As part of a pre-deployment workup were required to live with our weapons 24/7 like we would overseas, except with blank ammo. Clearance bays outside the buildings, etc. An ND into the clearance bay was $500, anywhere else was $1,500.

Charlie Foxtrot said...

I've had my ND: a .308.

I had just shot several rounds from a friend's HK 91. I was discussing the trigger with him, talking about how much travel it had before let off -- with my finger in the trigger autonomically aping my words. BOOM! Fortunately, I had the weapon pointed down range and all that got hurt was my self-esteem. Thank you, Jeff Cooper!

God smiled upon me that day: I don't think I'll be that lucky again. I'm anal about the Four Rules, insistent that others follow them, and I don't care if I'm known as the Safety Nazi. I don't want anyone to ever have to pay for my stupidity.

Anonymous said...

You're OCD is more trusting than my OCD. When I pick up a gun I'll check *even if it has been in my sight the whole time*.

You never know when elmo's elite ninjas might come equipped with a cloak of invisibility...

Kristophr said...


Last time someone did that to me, I put down my binoculars, took cover, and put his head in the crosshairs until he lowered his rifle.

And then he had the colossal gall to try to confront me for covering him.

Shortly after that, I started hunting black powder seasons only.

NotClauswitz said...

Thank you Tim!

Anonymous said...

I like the story from Florida. Sadly, mine went into my leg (ex-friend pulled trigger) & traumatized me so that I was an "anti" for 25 years. I'm better now & have a collection. But, I'm anal about safety, too.

Ulises from CA

Old Radio Cat said...

Excellent advice and reminder to us all and especially to those who handle firearms frequently. It's easy to get complacent and complacency will kill ya'

Thankfully, I've personally never had an "Oh, sh*t!" moment like that.

The closest call for me was a shooting partner's son turned around on the line with a loaded SKS to ask his dad a question. The barrel was pointed right at me. Thankfully his dad slapped it down and gave his son a good chewing-out.

I think the young man learned some gun safety that day. Plus, he was very apologetic to me. I forgave him.

Dan said...

1) All guns are always loaded.

2) Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy.

3) Keep your finger OFF the trigger until your sights are on the target.

4) Always be sure of your target.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

I always do a chamber check each time I pick up and each time I put away one of my pistols. In addition after each chamber check I point the gun in the safest available direction and pull the trigger with the expectation that the gun will fire. So far it has not.

Baddog said...

My "Oh S@#t!" moment came when showing some of my guns to an interested friend in the garage. She was handling each gun as I gave them to her from the safe. I had loaded one for a house gun but, had returned it to the safe. She (fortunately) pointed it away from me and my wife, looked down the sights and pulled the trigger. She put a hole through the garage door. I said, "That's my fault" as I took the gun. We were all shaken. I think she thinks I'm a total idiot. I think she's right.

Tim Ellwood said...

Coconut Grove gun show, the pachmyer "grippers" had just come out. SO deputy walks up to a table one row over from my set up. Draws his duty 686 and asks for a screwdriver. Installs grip. I guess he was going to check and see how it changed the trigger pull, so he pulls the trigger. Silvertip enters the back of a 11 or 12 year old boy at the show with his dad. EMT's one row over there in seconds. Kid was DRT, Deputy was in tears screaming that he didn't mean to do it. I will never forget that. Brain fades happen to all

Old NFO said...

All guns are ALWAYS loaded... Thanks for the reminder Tam.

Anonymous said...

Well, you my good man have no sense of adventure!

RightWingNutter said...

Re. the broken extractors, I've gotten in the habit of pointing the muzzle at a light fixture when the weapon gets handed to me. If I don't get some light on the action I look, or feel, further.

Larry said...

Saiga .223, first time on the range with it, when I pulled the trigger nothing happened. Muzzle pointed downrange (on purpose, thank you very much) when we dropped the mag, cleared the chamber and cycled the bolt...and the round still in the breech fired. That round we cleared from the receiver was a stray that had gotten jammed up and was keeping the bolt from seating all the way, but the first round in the magazine fed just fine (although the extractor couldn't grab it when the bolt was pulled back because the bolt never went all the way forward). When we took that stray round out the bolt was able to slide all the way forward.
Loud noise, surprised looks, no harm, good lesson for the day.

Anonymous said...

No ND here yet, but my lesson from the mid-60's is this. At the time I wore a Colt Cobra snub at work. There was a youngster in the house, so I followed this habit: Unholster, open cylinder, drop rounds in hand, count six rounds, put rounds in pocket, count six empty cylinder holes, look through six all cylinder holes, put gat on top shelf, hang up pants.

This worked as intended for about three years, when one morning I saddled up, pulled rounds from pocket, and there were only five. I checked the floor, rechecked the pocket, checked the other pocket, checked the last unpossible place it could be. I was not pleased when I found the sixth round had overnighted in the cylinder.

I have never known what to make of this experience except following the Four Rules is much more than a slogan. And that looking is not seeing.

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

I once offended an gun shop employee who took a gun out of the case for me to handle. He checked the chamber, then closed the slide and handed it to me. I took the magazine out, pulled the slide back, checked the chamber, let the slide close.

He said, "I just checked that."

I said, "I know, but I'm holding it now."

Dann in Ohio

Tam said...


Don't let robot rules replace using your brain. Safety is not a mantra you can chant.

Mike Thiac said...

And people wonder why I am so anal on that. When I was looking at an AR -15 a few months ago I noticed when the young man (looked early 20's/college age) was handing me the rifle with the bolt closed. I asked him how long he had been working with guns and he said he had been hunting for over 15 years. I locked the bolt back, checked the chamber and handed it over with the open breech towards him so he vould see it.

"That is how you hand a rifle to a man..."

Dom't think he got it...and I think he was a little annoyed I told him. But hey man, a quarter century some good men learned me that!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
clark myers said...

"....If the bolt is open, it's not going to fire, even if there is a round in the chamber. Especially if your pinky is in the way. If, by some miracle, it does fire with the bolt open, I seriously doubt it will be able to push the bullet out of the barrel ......"

At least one person has died in those circumstances. The bullet didn't go anyplace but the case shot backwards out the back of the receiver and into an innocent passing by. Of course it takes some work to fire the primer in such circumstances but it has happened. The top half only of a Luger and a few other bits and pieces of other firearms can fire when partially disassembled too.

Old Country Boy said...

In Germany in the early '60s, our battery was in an old German SS barracks that had a basement with a 2-meter ceiling. We used it as an arms room. One day after returning from an alert, our colonel's driver brought his M1911 .45 back to the arms room and, as per regulations, supposedly cleared it, cocked it, pointed it at the ceiling and pulled the trigger. It sounded like a small nuke in that enclosed space and every weapon in the room was covered with concrete dust. I removed the pistol from the specialist (soon to be slick sleeves) and called the colonel. Within a few seconds, he was in the arms room conducting an inquiry among the deaf artillerymen. He asked his driver to show him exactly what happened. You guessed it! After another loud noise and much dust, a second hole magically appeared in the ceiling. True Story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all. You taught me a lot!

Daniel in Brookline said...

I'm very lucky; never had an accidental discharge. I had a close call or two, but no more than that.

I have become fond of the gun discipline at a store I've visited. Ask to take a look at a weapon; it will be handed to you OPEN, so that it can't fire and it's obvious to everyone who looks that it's unloaded. Once, I picked one up (and checked it myself, natch) and worked the action a few times... then carefully placed it back down on the counter. The store clerk immediately picked it up, opened it again, and set it back down, all without a pause in the conversation. I never forgot it.

I'd think this would be standard at gun stores, but from the stories I'm reading here, it apparently isn't.

I also learned at this store that, if I want to check the sights, (a) I obey Rule 2 and make damn sure I'm pointing it in a safe direction, and (b) I make sure it's open and obviously harmless first. (So I sight down a revolver with the cylinder out, or a semi-auto with the slide locked back. So what?)

And yes, The Rule is The Rule -- if the gun leaves your hand for a split second, check it again. As some have pointed out here -- even if it's been in your hand, and you let yourself get distracted (and might have "loaded it in your sleep"), check it again. Let's hear it for OCD!

Anonymous said...

When I was a teenager, a buddy and I went out plinking with our .22s, and exchanged weapons. When we went home we each took our own weapon back. I had cleared his weapon, but he did not clear mine.

At home that evening I cocked the .22 and aimed at a point on the wall. My younger brother reached over and put his hand over the muzzle. I said, "Don't do that!" and he replied "You would never have a loaded gun in the house," and he reached down and pulled the trigger of the weapon I was holding.

The slug passed neatly between his middle and third fingers with minimal damage, and scared us both shotless.

Anonymous said...

I'm a retired AF cop, and have handled and been around firearms my entire adult life...then I retired, and became a federal investigator. About a year ago, I went to interview the grandpa of someone being considered for a national security position. When I arrived, he had two S & W revolvers on his counter in his retirement suite. He was a retired Warrant Officer, and had obviously been around weapons before. He handed me the .45 and asked me what I thought. The first thing I did, was clear it, then handled it, and handed it back to him. He then picked up the .38, and waved it across the room, saying..."they don't make 'em like (BOOOOOOM). Turns out, he still had a round in the chamber, and he dropped the hammer on it. Fortunately, it exited his suite via an external wall, and didn't hit anyone. After I cleaned up the burn wound on his arm, we did our interview, bid adieu, and I sped to the local watering hole to calm my frayed nerves and ears...gotta love it!

Revolver Rob said...

When I pick up a gun, I chamber check it. Sometimes I want it to be unloaded, sometimes loaded. I want to know what condition it is in.

I keep every gun in the house loaded, because an unloaded gun is useless. It also tells me that ANY GUN IN MY HOUSE IS LOADED. If any gun I own is loaded, EVERY GUN IS LOADED.

I just scream it in my head over and over again. In fact, my version of the Four Rules actually is 10 rules:

1) The Gun is Always Loaded
2) Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
3) Always point it in a safe direction or towards something you want to destroy.
4) Know your target and what is beyond it.
5) The gun is always loaded.
6) The gun is ALWAYS LOADED.
10) The gun is always loaded.

Rules 5 through 10 generally drive the point home for novice gun handlers. Once they realize they have a loaded gun in their hands, people get pretty dang smart with it.


Cond0011 said...


Congratulations, Tam.

Tam said...

Daniel in Brookline,

"I'd think this would be standard at gun stores, but from the stories I'm reading here, it apparently isn't."

It has been in every shop I've ever worked in since that day. Including that one.

ILTim said...

I tend to learn things the hard way, but sometimes the 'hard way' is not survivable. I usually check the chamber again after looking away for a few moments, even if the gun hasn't left my hands. Never trust a fart, don't stake your life on an assumption.

diamond dave said...

Found you thru Instapundit. I knew there was a reason why I too was OCD about checking chambers, and you just confirmed why. Plus (without reading any previous comments) I question why "Arthur" would load up any firearm he wasn't ready to use. Not smart in my book, and exactly why we should always be checking chambers.

Stay safe.

Geodkyt said...

I had the Ammo Fairy come and pay me a visit. Yes, Virginia, the Ammo Fairy is real.

I had been checking out a buddy's new acquisition, his house gun that lived in the living room.

I cleared it, and dry fired it. While he went to go put a tea kettle on, I placed the (still unloaded gun) back on the shelf while I took my coat off, turned around, and laid it across the back of the chair.

Turned back around, picked up gun, racked slide to cock the striker, pointed it at the floor, and tried out that nice crisp trigger one last time.

I was rewarded with a nice, crisp noise.

It seems that when I turned around for just a few seconds, he decided to stick the magazine back in, so he didn't forget after brewing tea. He preferred that the house gun stay chamber empty, figuring that under the circumstances, that extra step added more safety than it cost him in speed.

Shag carpet + slab foundation + smoothbore muzzleloading hunter = very quiet footsteps. Six feet away, I did not hear him come back or the magazine click home over the evening news.

Ambulance Driver said...

My formative experience was dry-firing a Ruger P89 that, unbeknownst to me, my friend had reloaded and set back down on the coffee table.

Somehow, at the last moment, Rule #4 flashed in my head, and instead of dry-firing at Whitney Houston on the tee vee, I snapped at the ceiling fan blade and shot a hole in the ceiling.

Probably kept me from killing his neighbor sitting on the other side of that wall.

At Phlegmmy's blogmeet a few months back, someone took note of the fact that every time a gun was passed around, the new handler chamber checked at least twice, even if they just watched the last handler do the same thing.

The important things are ingrained.

Anonymous said...

Warning not heeded:

Anonymous said...

Tam, you said this:

"It's a simple (but deadly serious) rule: The Gun Is Always Loaded."

So, do you check the chamber? Ever?

Do you dry-practice? Function test after cleaning and reassembly?

The four rules are handy guideposts for life. Where problems arise is when they get treated like some mantra that can be chanted to ward off the bad things.

I'm surprised by this response! Yes, a gun is loaded, even when you dry-practice or after you re-assemble a gun. This is why, when you dry-practice, or test the gun after reassembly, you point your gun at a back-stop--i.e., something that can stop a bullet--before you pull the trigger.

I, for one, would never dry-fire with a person as a target, or point a just-reassembled gun at a person, and then pull the trigger--but these actions are fine and dandy, IF your gun is unloaded--which it ISN'T.

Indeed, there have been a couple of stories here, where someone was working on a gun, or dry-practicing, and had an unexpected discharge.

A gun is ALWAYS loaded. Always. This is a VERY good mindset to have, because it develops a healthy respect towards these tools. Anything less than this, and you put yourself in danger of killing someone with a negligent discharge.

-- Alpheus (who's too lazy to deal with the login headaches Google now inflicts on me, so I'm posting as Anonymous today).

Tam said...

But you can't dry-practice, since every time you pull the trigger, the gun goes "BANG!"

Unless there's a special kind of "loaded" where it doesn't go "BANG!" and that's the kind of loaded it is when you dry-practice.
If so, you probably perform some function, like a chamber check, to verify that the gun is this special kind of loaded before dry-practicing (and observing the other three rules scrupulously while doing so.)

Ask Clint Smith what Rule #1 is. (He'll point out that he painted the first sign at Gunsite. ;) )

I have no problem with the currently fashionable zen-like wording of Cooper's Rule 1, but I'm beginning to see the beef that some people have with it. It can encourage parroting. "Yes, I'm saying the gun is loaded, but I know it's really not *wink, wink* and so now I'm going to dry-fire..."

Anonymous said...

In the case of dry-firing, there is a special "BANG" that goes "click". I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be considered a special "BANG", especially because, even after carefully making sure there's nothing in the chamber (or at least, we think we're being careful), the gun can still go "BANG" when we think it should go "click".

Besides, there's a certain Taoist principle that there's a certain power in "nothing". Thus, I can say the gun is loaded, even when it is loaded with nothing. :-)

(Does this mean that, not only do you have Zen against you on this issue, but you also have the Tao? Probably not... :-)

In any case, I think that the mindset of "the gun is always loaded" is a good one--and it's much easier to say than "The gun isn't always loaded, but you should always treat it as if it were."

(Come to think of it, if I weren't anonymous today, I'd be signing in as Epsilon Given, so I should sign my name off as that.)

-- Alpheus, aka Epsilon Given

Anonymous said...

A caveat:

I'm a mathematician--and so that might be a reason why it's not a big deal for me to assume that the gun is loaded, even when it's taken apart and in pieces before me. All I have to do is to accept it as an axiom, and everything else follows!

After all, wasn't it the Queen of Hearts who suggested to Alice, that she believe in six impossible things before breakfast? :-)

-- Alpheus, aka Epsilon Given

John B said...

My Brother in Law shot his foot off 'cleaning' a shotgun. I like to think I'm very careful.

Three ND's in my 35 years of gun handling. First, I had loaned out an H&R Defender .38 and blanks to a theatre troup. I was tweaking the trigger after a reassembly. Somehow a blank round was in the cylinder.

The last two were with Makarov ammo. I had some lead ammo that I didn't quite trust, and it fired on a touchy trigger. The last one was entirely my fault, a transposition of the pull magazine, rack slide steps.

The bright side is, I was able to use the hole to route a co-ax cable into the kitchen for Television use!