Fort Devens Firing Range (courtesy whdh.com)

By John Farnham [via ammoland.com]

Range Accident! On the East Coast last week, during a live-fire, state-sponsored, police pistol training exercise, two experienced and competent instructors were handing-off a G23, one to the other. Both were standing next to each other, on-line, and facing downrange. One, holding the pistol by the slide (muzzle downrange), handed it to the other . . .

A lanyard with a whistle on the end, worn by the first instructor, fell through the trigger guard. The whistle then turned and would not come back through. As the second officer grasped the pistol by the grip, the now-jammed whistle caused the pistol to suddenly redirect, and the lanyard somehow became wrapped around the trigger-guard and put sufficient pressure on the trigger to simultaneously cause the pistol to discharge.

The result was that the second instructor was struck in the abdomen by a single round. It did not exit, but penetrated to just under the skin on the opposite side. Fortunately, it was hardball, training ammunition, not high-performance, duty ammunition.

Good news: other instructors there had competent TTGSW (Tactical Treatment of Gunshot Wounds) training, had their trauma kits with them, and immediately went to work on the wound. They quickly stuffed the entry wound with combat gauze and then applied an IBD (Israeli Battle Dressingover it. Trauma surgeons subsequently credited their quick and correct actions with saving the life of this injured instructor!

The wounded officer was helicoptered to a local hospital, but was discharged the next day, and he was back on the range and instructing the day after that, displaying little discomfort!

Lessons:

1) I am persuaded that most shooting accidents are preventable, but not all. Risk attaches to all training we do, no matter how careful we try to be. A maniacal preoccupation with the utter eradication of all risk will merely neuterize everything we are trying to accomplish, and as noted above, is doomed to failure anyway.

As an example, some suggest that all guns should be unloaded before they are passed from one person to another, but that generates much unnecessary gun-handling, a process that is great source of accidents by itself.

Such a rule thus wastes training time and merely exchanges one plague for another!

2) Lanyards, integral with clothing, or worn around the neck, represent a significant risk to gun-handlers.

  • Lanyards and draw-strings, integral with clothing, need to be eliminated from the wardrobe of gun-carriers.
  • Many instructors find whistles indispensable, particularly on outdoor ranges, where it is often difficult to talk loud enough to be heard by everyone. Without a whistle handy, range instructors will often go hoarse by the end of the day!

However, when range instructors wear lanyards around their necks to hold whistles, a two-inch snap-ring needs to be interposed between lanyard and whistle, making it impossible for the whistle to drag the lanyard through the trigger-guard on most rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

3) Range instructors need to have competent TTGSW (Tactical Treatment of Gunshot Wounds) training, and have their Trauma Kits (read Are Trauma Kits Missing From Your Range Bag? ) with them when on the range, so that they can be accessed immediately when a shooting injury occurs.

Trauma kits, no matter how complete and elaborate, when back at the station or in a car parked some distance away, may as well not even exist, and even competent trauma kits in the hands of the untrained are all but useless!

4) All range training needs a competent stabilization/evacuation/transport plan that is understood by all present.

5) What we are on the range to accomplish must never by lost in a sea of risk-aversion and interminable, irrelevant, incomprehensible “rules,” designed more to protect careers than to provide students with life-saving skills.

Gun Safety RulesWith regard to gun-handling “rules,” the four we now have will suffice!

Ultimately, it is impossible to write a “policy” or “set of rules” that will specifically address every conceivable set of circumstances that could ever occur. Such a project would consume an entire lifetime just to write it, and another to read it. And after all that, it would still be pitiably incomplete anyway!

The best we can do is provide competent guidance (the briefer the better), depending upon students and instructors to use good judgement and discernment as they fill-in details as necessary.

Obsessive risk-aversion is the path of cowards! Seeking “guarantees” is the path of naive fools! Conversely, we Operators have to be bold and audacious heroes, and we have to train and inspire heroes, acknowledging and accepting all risks, known and unforseen, that attach.

A leader leads! You can’t ask men to courageously confront personal risk when you’re not willing to confront it yourself.

———————–

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

103 Responses to After Action Report: Range Accident at Massachusetts’ Fort Devens Firing Range

  1. Anyone know any good Tactical Treatment of Gunshot Wounds training courses that may be near or in North Carolina?

    Google gave me a couple results.

    • Here in Colorado I was unable to find one that was open to the public and remotely affordable. I mean, yeah, I could drop $3500, but I’m not going to. Also, the courses I found were really meant for a team of people. Everyone gets the medical training but you trade off who’s primary care, who’s assisting and the other people are covering you. Let’s be real here, in a terrorist attack or mass shooting, you’re not going to have a team with you.

      If you can’t find one a “tactical medicine” course near you that’s affordable take the EMT/Paramedic courses at your local Community College. Cheaper and the same information on how to treat people. Plus, if you take the test at the end and get certified you can now carry things other people might not be able to and have at least some immunity from lawsuits because you’re “licensed” (these things depend on your state).

      After that, just practice dragging a weight sled at the gym so you know you can drag people out of the line of fire and then treat them.

        • Better than nothing, but your average civvie needs at least a 7 day course, 10 preferably.

          2 day/16 hour courses are basically an “advanced first aid” course with some bells and whistles and grant no certification. In Colorado (and some other states) that certification is the difference between saving someone’s life and being thanked or saving their life and ending up in a heap of trouble and possibly sued too.

          The DARK Angel Class teaches people to use a decompression needle, that’s a big no-no here in Colorado. I know doctors that have simply walked away from a car accident because their insurance only covers them on the clock and they’re not willing to risk everything they have in life, including their children’s college funds over some drunk driver.

          Like I said, better than nothing, but a serious course for this sort of thing is 40-50 hours and it’s not cheap.

        • Easy question to answer I meant. Yea, the whole qualifying thing and then going through the training is a little more tricky 🙂

          Details, details.

    • Stay tuned. Proving the stopped clock theory, DHS actually has an intelligent “initiative” underway. Search on “Stop the Bleed”

      American Heart Assoc has lead to develop trauma training program for general public. Idea being will be as easy to access as CPR training. They are a bit slow getting it going.

      You’ll find some personal equipment sets already available.

    • Why would you want to take such a course? Let’s face the facts, a gunshot wound to the torso is a serious injury. Assuming that you don’t wish to invest the decade or more it will take to become a trauma surgeon, all that can be done for a serious gunshot wound is:
      1. stuff gauze in the hole(s) to help with the bleeding
      2. put a temporary dressing on it if you have one
      3. get the victim to hospital
      It doesn’t seem to me like one should need a course for such basic things as; staunch the bleeding as well as possible and get to a doctor ASAP. Without surgical skills and a fully equipped suite that’s about all that can be done.
      Assuming, OFC, that you aren’t alone with the victim on a desert island or something, and must decide whether or not to attempt meatball surgury with a penknife.
      And even then the victim would probably die later of infection or disease, even if he did survive the clumsy amatuer operation.

      • @wilson if you really know doctors that have walked away from an accident for fear of not being covered they don’t understand laws in place that protect them. Good Samaritan laws protect healthcare providers who in good faith offer medical aid within their scope of practice during an emergency situation.

        • Happens all the time sadly. Here in alameda, Ca there was a guy who died of drowning because the police were not allowed to save the guy. They would have been liable and not covered under any insurance or benefits had they been injured.

          They little stood on the shore and watched him die. They didn’t want to, they were not legally allowed to help.

        • ” they were not legally allowed to help.”

          “Legally allowed”??? Really.

          There’s a word for that: cowardice.

          What culture do we live in where “legally allowed” even starts to trump “morally right” in people’s minds?

          The Statist “legally allowed” mindset has to go. The State does not tell a man what he is “allowed” to do. It can TRY to punish him for it after the fact, but “allowed to” as a concept is Bull-Freaking-Sh1t.

          Guess I’m not surprised this story comes out of California.

        • “Good Samaritan laws protect healthcare providers”

          Absolutely. And after you spend a couple million on lawyers, the jury might even agree. Or, might not. I think I’d just keep trucking.

      • What good would that have done him? Their website gives no useful information about their services.

  2. It seems to me to be extremely unlikely that a whistle slipped through the trigger guard that quickly and wasn’t noticed. Something is very fishy here.

    • Yeah. A whistle should barely fit through a trigger guard, if at all.
      Also, if the gun was pointing down range how did the guy shoot himself (or the other guy) in the abdomen?
      And who hands a gun to another person? Person-0 places the gun on the table. Person-1 picks it up and chamber checks it.

      I think “experienced” and “competent” should probably be in quotes in the original.

      • “And who hands a gun to another person?”

        Who hands a LOADED gun, with the safety off, to another person? Or, conversely, can we all agree that the gun in question was produced by a certain, special firm, famous for light triggers with no safety?

        • Well, it seems to be this so-called ‘expert’ ‘instructor’s’ reccommended proceedure:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CLPKhgG-yc

          I guess it goes to show that having some pieces of paper on a wall, a website, and a bald head are not enough to acually make one an expert, but only an ‘expert’.

    • To make another point, let’s say that the whistle is small enough to fit through the guard just for grins. Does anyone here generally hand a weapon to someone else before turning on the safety?

      I probably have at some point, but I generally try to be a little more cautious than that. And that is something, using the safety, that I’ve tried to drill into anyone I have ever taught to shoot.

    • The “firearms instructors” took their eyes off the pistol and rushed the handoff; carelessness.

  3. “Lanyards and draw-strings, integral with clothing, need to be eliminated from the wardrobe of gun-carriers.”

    Was it the lanyard or was it the lack of care taken in the gun transfer from one to the other? Ban lanyards and next time it will be something else that becomes entangled resulting in an ND… Perhaps people should only be allowed on the range line naked.

      • Actually, if you were nude the brass would just bounce off you. Hot brass down the collar of a tucked in shirt is the pits…..
        Ask me how I know…

    • A gun range is a noisy place. How is the instructor to get the student’s attention if he can’t have a whistle? Yell himself hoarse all day long?
      Banning useful gear is not the cure for this, even IF the whistle DID happen to cause this UD as claimed…

  4. Passing a loaded gun person to person always gives me the heebie-jeebies. If there’s no place to put the gun down, at least clear the chamber and open the action before a hand-off.

    • I was taught:
      NEVER hand a firearm to someone else. You out it down; they pick it up.
      IF you can’t do the above: remove mag/empty cylinder, clear chamber and lock back/leave cylinder open, SHOW CLEAR, hand over firearm, hand over magazine/speedloader/ammo.

      You get the point.

        • Great idea…. not always possible.
          easier to apply with a semi auto pistol, pull mag, clear chamber..
          Revolvers not as easy especially if immediately needed. Passing in a holster at least gives measure of safety.

        • Wait, now, “if immediately needed” changes all the rules. I can see applying that term to a number of scenarios in which I might THROW you a loaded gun from an overpass! Discussions here are about fun shooting or training, not combat.

        • If at the range all the time in the world ( person to person). If a sudden need and a bit of a distance, I would hope for a controlled toss (preferably without exposed or external hammer – pistol or revolver) in a holster, but a throw if required.

          I was thinking more about passing a firearm between two people, in a quick safe manner to be used immediately (if needed). when things go Bump…..day or night, not as a laid back fun transfer of a weapon.

      • Also, like working around machinery, don’t wear LOOSE fitting clothing or dangling objects,
        due to getting tangled up.

    • Yup… I always wear a vest to any “tactical” shooting engagement. The 3Gun guys look at me funny, but I’d rather eat a few seconds on my course times than a bullet to something I need to keep non-perforated.

    • There are a lot of people who wear armor every day, even though they do not expect any problem. When you expect to hear hundreds of guns firing on a given day, it seems sensible to wear it if you have it.

  5. An external safety would also prevent this but risk management explains that some risks are not worth removing.

  6. Doc, I *swear* I have no idea how this happened. I just sat down on my couch, and *somebody*…….SOMEBODY……must have put that dildo sticking straight up between the cushions.

    And that’s exactly what happened. Swearsies!…..

  7. Bright red flashing lights should be going off in everyone’s head about now. The lessons learned Mr. Farnham appear to be none. How about “pay attention to the gun in your hand?”
    2 people handing a loaded gun between each other, and apparently neither one looking at the gun. How else could you explain how neither person saw the whistle stuck in the trigger well?
    “Accidents happen” sounds a whole lot “enshallah” to me, and it is not the watch phrase of a professional.
    Complacency Kills is.

    • I read a very good phrase this week:

      Insallah, but tie up your camels.

      Or the Christian version: God helps those who help themselves.

        • You’re right, it’s not. But here’s a relevant quote from the Bible. When the devil tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple because God the Father would protect him: “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”‘” — Mathew 4:7

          We are not to act recklessly even though God is perfectly and infinitely able to save us from all the consequences of our folly.

  8. “some suggest that all guns should be unloaded before they are passed from one person to another, but that generates much unnecessary gun-handling, a process that is great source of accidents by itself.”

    Bull!

    Handing a hot gun from one person to another, especially a handgun, is an accident waiting to happen. Set it down on the table and let the other person pick it up. Absent a table, clear it. Or vice-versa. Or both.

    Why would two police officers be sharing a gun, anyway? How about everyone brings their own gear?

  9. That’s why I prefer a safety on a gun if striker fired, and at the range I never hand a hot gun to someone, I lay it on bench pointed down range.

    • In a training environment (probably not the one referenced in this article) it is sometimes necessary to hand off a loaded pistol and/or help adjust the grip the student has on the pistol.

      Life is not without risk. Pay attention and be as careful as practical under the circumstances. Complacency is the real problem.

      • Any time i’ve had instruction and someone wanted to help me work on my grip they do it from behind. Picture it almost as the Titanic bow scene, without the desire to cop a feel. I do it the same way when instructing someone else, after getting their permission. Of course it can be a bit awkward when the instructee is a good foot taller than me 😀

    • That’s why I prefer a safety on a gun if striker fired, and at the range I never hand a hot gun to someone, I lay it on bench pointed down range.
      Good points.

  10. How much wasted time? Thirty seconds, a minute? I can’t hand off a gun, loaded, or not loaded, to someone in the next lane, unless it is placed back in it’s case. Range Rules. If someone wants to shoot my gun, we trade lanes. Wasted time is probably less than ten seconds.

  11. Why are they handing loaded guns to each other? How long does it take to pop a mag out? Or eject a boo-lit? Anywho I see an internet seller selling brand new gen 3 Glock23’s without reserve. Are these OK compared to gen 4? Anyone?

    • Clearly you don’t understand that only they are professional enough to carry the Glock 40 – er, 23.

    • Why are they handing loaded guns to each other? Because they are high speed low drag operators of whom only they should have guns because of their Specialized High Intensity Training ( also known as a certain acronym) as compared to lowly civilians.

      • Thanks for the non smart azz answer. And since I’m being generous these new Glock 23’s are on Gunbroker and Auctionarms sold by SportsmansSupply. Selling for under $400 new…

    • Gen 3 Glocks seem to hold up a bit better as far as finish goes from what I hear. I think I would prefer a Gen 3 over a Gen 4 personally.

  12. That’s like wearing a tie to work the industrial paper shredder. I don’t think unloading or activating the safety on a loaded weapon before handing it to someone is an unnecessary amount of gun handling, considering it would have prevented the incident.

  13. Something fishy going on here.

    If only there were some sort of group whose responsibility it was to investigate suspicious incidents…

  14. Just like on an indoor range, lay the gun down, muzzle in safe direction, and never pass from hand to hand.

  15. You can try to paint it as a freak accident all you want, but I’m not buying it. This was negligence and complacency. If there’s ever a time in life to pay very close attention to what you’re doing, it’s when you’re on either side of handing off a loaded, ready-to-fire handgun.

    This is also a good illustration of why those little trigger dingle “safeties” are a joke. If a foreign object can catch and pull the trigger back, it’s pretty likely to deactivate that device, too.

    • I agree. This was negligence. By definition, rule#1 was not followed or else he would not have been shot. Let’s not forget the implicit rule #0, pay attention! Both of these guys failed that one.

      John Farnam defending their “accident” has really turned me off to his message.

  16. While I do agree with lesson #1, all accidents are not preventable, I cannot help but notice that THIS particular accident WOULD HAVE been prevented had the pistol in questiuon had a proper safety. Or even an exposed hammer that could have been manually lowered before the manipulation. There are those who would say that they should have cleared the weapon before the handoff, but this ignores the fact that the more difficult the task is, the more prone humans are to shortcut it. Even trained and experienced humans.
    It is easier to lower a hammer or engage a manual safety than to completely clear the weapon, and just as safe. Therefore, such weapons are inherently safer.

  17. The gun should of stayed in stall and the cops should of moved instead of passing the gun. The gun range my family and I go to does not allow guns to be passed, the people move not the gun.

  18. At the ranges I frequent the rules are no person to person gun handoffs period. If you do the range officer will ask you to leave. The rule is set the gun down pointed downrange and let the other person pick it up. I can see adjusting someone’s grip but that is a lot different then a hand off. I can understand Mr. Farnhams objection to obsessive risk aversion. I am an aerospace engineer and I see millions of dollars wasted on repeated computer simulations that take years to complete and only gain you a tiny amount of extra safety. However spending a couple of extra seconds to clear a gun or set it down in order to avoid potentially getting shot or shooting someone else by accident seems to be a pretty good trade off.

    • I’vd heard of these range officers, but they must be wearing cloaking or camo, because I’ve never ever seen one.

      Any in WV?

  19. Im no sherlock homes….but there’s more afoot here wattson than what appears on the surface.
    Somebody knows the real story.

  20. My gun range requires that we have our badges visible while on-site.

    Maybe next time, I’ll just leave it on the bench.

  21. Accidental discharges might not be 100% preventable, but negligently allowing the discharge to strike human flesh in a controlled environment at the range is 100% preventable.

  22. First it be easy blame Glock say if it had external safety this would never happen. How ever if had pull out magazine from firearm rack slide in safe direction this event could been avoid all together, Only thing would happen if Glock gone off they shot back stop target witch did happen because they did use safe muzzle control. I see this a lot time on firearms rang people get to comfortable careless firearm next thing you know there cause negligent discharge. I personal had negligent discharge with Glock in past very same reason least point muzzle Glock in safe direction when had but I have 9 mm hole in door frame my house. Because I got to comfortable careless handle my Glock. Just because you never have had negligent discharge does mean it well never happen if you get careless with your firearms.

  23. I’m sure they go to work like that on every gunshot wound they encounter. Not! They just stand they waiting for you to bleed out.

  24. Sigh.

    Here’s the decision tree for when something goes wrong around dangerous equipment.

    If I DON’T do something immediately, will I or someone else get hurt?
    – Yes: DO something!
    – No: DON’T do something, STOP what you’re doing and THINK IT THROUGH.

    Not that hard a concept, really.

  25. Sounds like someone was not paying attention to the loaded firearm in their hand! Allowing a foreign object in the trigger guard is bad, but having so little control that you pointed the muzzle at another person (and shot them) is downright awful.

    The four rules are not that complicated!
    Control your dang firearm.

  26. Everybody cut yory lanyard ring off your “true” 1911A1s and split the hole in your Glock grip so you won’t be tempted to run a lanyard. Lol. I have a problem with this ND scenario: a whistle on a neck lanyard hangs against you chest/ sternum, passing a handgun would normally be at least a forearms length from both bodies as hands exchange the gun. So how does the whistle get in the trigger guard? I guess the Brass an PR Reps figure the non gun public would buy it, saying one professional shot another during training would tarnish theri reputation.

    I’ve been shooting over 50 years and a trainer and range master over 37 years and this is the first whistle & lanyard ND I have heard of. It is not the first improper handling one or the last.

  27. Violation of the Four Laws.

    Negligence, complacency, and incompetence. I have zero toleration for that, especially from those who label themselves as “instructors”.

  28. “As an example, some suggest that all guns should be unloaded before they are passed from one person to another, but that generates much unnecessary gun-handling, a process that is great source of accidents by itself.”

    Sorry, but the BS flag goes up on this statement. This is the ONLY way to pass off a firearm. There is no way I would EVER pass off a weapon I had not already cleared and I expect the person to whom I passed the weapon to ALSO clear the weapon because rule 1.

  29. Police training exercise, and ‘competent instructors’ used in the first sentence make the BS alarm start buzzing.
    When you get to ‘shot himself in the torso while taking a hand-off but it’s not a ND because he’s an experienced and competent cop instructor’, then it’s ringing loud and clear.

    Here’s another example from an experienced weapons training officer, who I’m sure everybody would have called competent the day before he did it:
    http://www.wbaltv.com/i-team/Police-ID-instructor-who-shot-recruit-in-training-exercise/18529760

    • Precisely. Experience breeds complacency. I’ve done this a thousand times causes more accidents than anything else.

  30. “Obsessive risk-aversion is the path of cowards! ”

    Right, because fear of getting perforated unnecessarily makes you a coward? Sorry, when it comes to firearm safety, having been the object of another’s negligence, I believe obsessive risk aversion through meticulous adherence to the 4 rules is the only path.

  31. “I am persuaded that most shooting accidents are preventable, but not all.”

    This was not an accident. This was negligence. The author tries to argue that passing off a loaded weapon is necessary. It is not, and therein lies the negligent act. There is no reason, in a training environ, to ever pass off a loaded weapon. This isn’t the time to argue about time, we don’t have the time.

  32. The author’s premise here is that he accepts “accidents” will happen. Really? Not when I’m around they don’t; not after having been the object of another’s negligence. And they are not accidents. They are negligent incidents caused by failure to strictly adhere to the 4 rules. I certainly won’t be shooting near this author anytime soon.

    This entire piece gets my blood boiling…

  33. Is this the point where I get pot shots to beat you over the head with my beliefs about guns to further a point?

    Like don’t use striker guns?

    • …or how about “Guns which are a trigger pull away from going boom have no place outside of active military combat”?

  34. There’s another option in there. Set the gun down on the table and let the other guy pick it up……..

  35. This sounds about as likely and plausible as the cops who manage to shoot themselves in the head “while cleaning their gun.”

    It’s more police corruption to cover up their misdeeds with guns. In the “shot while cleaning” case, the cop committed suicide, but stating that in a report negates life insurance payouts, so they lie about it.

    This will be a similar deal here. Whistle on a lanyard fell through the trigger guard? Riiiight. Look at the typical whistle you put on a lanyard. Now try to get that to go through a trigger guard with the trigger still in it. This is highly, highly improbable.

    Now hand a gun off between people with a lanyard looped through the trigger guard, and not notice it. If neither party noticed something like this, they’re both too stupid to be cops, and with the typical IQ limits set on LEO applicants, that’s saying someone is probably classified as mentally disabled.

    Cops wonder why no one respects them any more. Well, here you go. You’re insulting my intelligence by expecting me to believe this nonsense. These cops think that we’re even dumber than they are if we believe this. OK, I can understand this story being concocted for the general press, which is filled with humanities/liberal arts majors who lose bladder control at the mere sight of a gun. Those people are dumber than a box of broken hammers, and they’re gullible enough to believe 10 things dumber than this before breakfast (eg “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan…”).

    But for Farnham to peddle this codswallop to actual gun people?

    C’mon.

  36. How did we ever shoot glocks for 30 years without shooting ourselves or anyone else? And I had a 60/40 parka with cord locks those same 30 years. Never wore a whistle though. Maybe you have to wear a whistle and be wearing a parka with cord locks to have a glock AD.

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