By Mark S.
Well maybe that hole was already in the wall and I just never noticed. Then reality sunk in and my stomach slowly slid into my throat.
I have always been interested in firearms from a young age. My father, lamentably, stopped hunting and sold his guns before I was born. Hearing about his old Ithaca shotguns and .300 Weatherby Mark V still makes me cringe at the thought of him getting rid of them.
However, he still fostered my interest and purchased a classic Red Ryder BB gun for me for my tenth birthday. I loved that gun and still do. He taught me how to shoot and ingrained proper gun handling and safety. I shot as often as I could afford the time and looked forward to evolving my firearm ownership as I grew.
While my interest in firearms maintained and my support of the Second Amendment strengthened, I wasn’t a gun owner until about five years ago. I shot a lot thanks to gun-owning friends and as such I was able to try out a wide variety of pistols prior to purchasing.
I settled on a full-size Beretta PX4 Storm chambered in .40 S&W as my first firearm. I liked the gun and how it felt, but I also liked the idea of the manual safety and decocker so I could get more and more comfortable with my own firearms. After about a year and many, many rounds down range, I stumbled into my second gun.
One day at a local gun store, I happened upon a Beretta Stampede. It had beautiful walnut grips and a 4.75” barrel chambered in the smooth-shooting .45 Colt. I fell in love with it immediately and didn’t hesitate to throw some cash on the counter. I went home with some snap caps and studied my new addition.
I listened to the wonderfully timed action, rotated the smooth cycling cylinder, and pulled the zero-creep, zero-overtravel, crisp three pound trigger. I was in love with it and the caliber. The only safety on this gun was a simple transfer bar. I knew to be careful when setting down the hammer on a live round and always took time doing so safely. I got pretty good with the Stampede and very comfortable with its action, so I began to keep it bedside loaded with 185 grain Critical Defense rounds.
One night after a day of shooting, I was in the living room cleaning my guns. As I finished with the Stampede, I prepared it for night duty and loaded it up. I placed the final round in the cylinder, closed the gate, and then…BOOM!
I froze. Smoked wafted through the room and there was silence. And ringing. My dog looked at me and barked as if to say, “What the hell did you do?!” I looked at him and thought “What the hell did I do?!”
Shaking a bit, I placed the gun on the table and sat in disbelief. I had just experienced a negligent discharge. Yes, it was accidental and yes it was unintentional, but above all it was pure, unadulterated negligence.
My oily thumb slipped off the hammer when lowering it. It was 100% preventable. After all the times I performed that same action, I never once had an issue or even came close. This time, I allowed a single moment of complacency to enter my routine, which could have resulted in disaster.
This time however, it resulted in a hole in the wall and a shattered ego. After finding the bullet in the wall and verifying everything around me was safe, I sat down and soaked up the rude awakening of how quickly an ordinary action can have an extraordinary consequence. Lesson learned.
Life goes on, kids arrive, and extra money was necessary, so I unfortunately no longer own either of those guns, but I learned from that experience in a way I will never forget. It did not scare me away from guns or deter me from buying guns without safeties. I am not defined as a gun owner by what happened, but enlightened and renewed with the reality of what can happen.
I’m still a gun owner and always will be, especially now that I have children to watch out for and protect. Every time I shoot, or handle firearms, I still think about that evening and what could have happened.
That experience guides my attention with firearms to never become complacent with my actions. There are many axioms about gun safety that we’ve all probably heard and it all boils down to how you handle yourself and your firearm.
Could a manual safety have prevented it? Maybe, but that’s not the point. A negligent discharge can result in a catastrophe in the blink of an eye, even if you think you’re too skilled are overly trained. While I was fortunate, all it takes is one time for your life or someone else’s to be destroyed due to one stupid moment in time.
As People of the Gun, it’s our responsibility to promote the safe use of firearms. Guns are fun, guns are tools, and guns are protection.
As ambassadors to the hoplophobic masses attempting to restrict our access to our sports of choice and means of defense, we need to pay attention to what we’re doing and show them what responsible gun ownership is about. No matter what they think in Washington and in countries worldwide, safety cannot be built into a gun nor can it be legislated. It only lies within the user. Pay attention, keep training, and keep fighting the good fight.