At the ranch in Arizona, I keep water trickling to maintain a water hole. It’s the only reliable water for about three miles in any direction. I keep a game camera there and sometimes get interesting photographs, like the bobcat and coyote interaction, above, from a couple of months ago.

My brother and I were at the range recently shooting 170 grain cast lead .40 caliber projectiles at a half silhouette steel target. After watching me fire a few rounds, my brother heard a hissing noise. Following the sound lead to discovering that water was spurting out of cracks in the half-inch schedule 40 water pipe nearby. The pipe was originally covered by dirt, but had gradually become exposed over the years.

I expected to find a hole, but closer examination revealed that no projectile had penetrated. Instead, the fragment had hit the pipe and bounced off, leaving the lead smear shown above and cracking the pipe in the process. The point of impact was about ten yards from the steel target.

The fragment had ricocheted nearly 90 degrees from the line of fire. After the repairs were made, I made sure the pipe was re-covered with dirt.

The incident reaffirmed the importance of wearing eye protection. I’m convinced a pair of good shooting glasses would have stopped that fragment every bit as well as the PVC pipe did. But what happened reinforces the old saw that if anything can go wrong, it will. Be safe out there.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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47 Responses to A Water Hole, Murphy’s Law and a Lesson in Gun Safety at the Ranch

  1. Eye pro and ear pro are very necessary, I was siting in my pcc at the range the other day, being left handed my right eye is near the ejection port. My poor memory and some shitty ammo conspired to eject a cloud of half burnt powder and refuse directly at my face, it also bounced the casing right off my glasses. That’s why I always wear eye pro.

  2. That bullet fragment connected with that pipe with enough steam to crack it. Glasses may have turned it from your eye. But you would have really felt that impact. Eyes and ears, always.

    I had a shot at a cat like that one evening calling in yotes. Missed completely.

  3. I am horrible about eye pro. My excuse is that they become scratched so quickly that I use a new pair each month. If anyone has a suggestion for a durable set, I would certainly appreciate it.

      • Agreed. $5/month (or less) on cheapos that can be disposed of as soon as they become scratched is a real way to fix the problem.

    • Spend big $$$ on a pair and you’ll think twice about mistreating them. Smith Optics are a great starting point.

      • I buy a pair of smiths each year. But by the end of the year they are toast. I generally buy two or 3 pairs of quality sunglasses each year.

        • jwtaylor have you tried mil surp eye pro? You can a set pretty cheap (relatively) from your local store. Or pick up the cheapest at academy that way if they do get scratched you can throw them away. I actually have a shit ton of eye pro, some cheap ones for running and gunning ect and then my nicer sets for bench shooting, everyday stuff. Military eye pro comes with extra lenses and you can get replacement lens pretty cheap as well.

        • Joe, not a bad idea. I still have my issued eye pro in my truck. The clear lenses are scratched to hell but the tinted ones (which I rarely wore in combat) are still ok.

    • I wear prescription eyeglasses. I always pay extra and get them shatter resistant. Seems to work well for eyepro.

      • +1

        I wear prescription shooting glasses, double thick. They won’t stop a bullet, but they have stopped fragments, sprayback and a wayward case or two. And with the coating on the lenses, they remain scratch free.

        Expensive as hell, but I’m worth it.

        • Amongst others I’ve had a .45acp cases spit right out of the ejection port on a Glock(perfection my ass) and into my right lens. Not even a scratch.

          I’m a tight bastard. But some money is well spent.

        • @jwm, I caught a case ricochet from a .50AE a couple of years ago right in the lens. The case then glanced off my glasses and cut my forehead, drawing blood. The lens was completely unaffected, as was my eye.

          Like you, I’ll never skimp on eye pro. That would be like boxing Gerry Cooney with a paper mâché cup.

    • I used to buy cheap sunglasses and lose them all the time. Then I was comped a set of ESS glasses at the Shot Show. I liked them so much that I still have the original set and purchased another to have set up for dedicated motorcycle use. I use them all the time, now for about two years. Shooting, motorcycling, and everyday use. There is seldom a day that I do not use them.

    • I used to have that problem. Then I bought a nice pair of ESS’s “Suppressor” glasses. I keep mine in a rigid case attached to my bag. And I keep the other lens in a lens pouch.

      The ESS have super thin temples with no tips. They’re designed to fit comfortably under earmuffs without leaving a gap, or putting pressure on your temples.

    • I’m fond of my ESS Eye Pro Crossbow or Crowbar glasses. They are not cheap but they have survived a 9 year old and a 5 year old with not a scratch on the lens. I’ve taken hits to the face while playing with the kids (I also use the crowbar as everyday sunglasses) as well as a few falls off a mountain bike when my pride carried me down a trail my skills couldn’t match.
      http://www.esseyepro.com/

    • I generally roll with a lightly tinted pair of sunglasses with shatter resistant glass lenses. Works well with optics, irons indoors or out.

      Currently I use a pair of Maui Jim Peahi’s with their MahiMahi tint.

    • My glasses came from Wal*Mart. I like this pair because the ear pieces are flexible enough, earmuffs don’t dig them into my skull.

      Anyway, I kept the blister packaging they came in, and use it to store them in my bag. They have lasted me a couple years without a scratch.

    • JWT – Just for grins, I threw ‘scratch-resistant safety glasses’ in Google, and found this –

      ANSI Z87-approved safety glasses with extremely scratch-resistant glass lenses.

      They don’t have the impact resistance of a polycarb, but they may work for you:

      http://www.phillips-safety.com/safety-glasses/glass-safety-glasses.html

      As for scratching up the ones you use now, how are they getting scratched? By you wiping them, or by shooting debris peppering them?

      To keep from being scratched while cleaning, keep a spritz bottle of something like a weak ammonia solution to flush the crap away, and then, this is the important part – *Blot* them dry, don’t rub them dry.

      One trick I use to keep them from being scratched when not in use is to store them in a plastic tube of a diameter that won’t let the lens *surface* touch the wall of the tube, just the top and bottom edge. The one I made I use a used cat treat tube with a screw top. That works well if they get tossed into a vehicle that gets bounced around a bit, like a car- truck.

      EDIT – A follow-up on the tourniquet article a few days ago – Can you use para-cord from one of those para-cord bracelets and a metal flashlight as a windlass for that use? Is that enough *oomph* for the job?

      • Thanks Geoff, they mostly get scratched setting them on tables, the ground, equipment, and falling on the ground or falling with me when I’m on the ground. Sometimes I get brass or debris from the gun or the target at them, but that’s pretty rare. I shoot every day, and rarely standing still. I also regularly shoot black powder guns.

        The cord is so thin that it does a good amount of tissue damage. A braided cord 2″ wide would work. A flashlight as a windlass works very well. The best improvised windlass I’ve seen is an M4 BCG.

  4. Once while acting as scorekeeper at a bowling pin match, I was standing behind the shooter and RO with my clipboard. A handloaded 225 grain .45 hollow point slug whizzed back from the target area and thumped me soundly on the collarbone. I’m pretty sure that kind of impact would have severely damaged an unprotected eye or chipped an exposed tooth.

    I’ve also watched slugs bounce off steel targets and arc up into the sky to land somewhere behind the shooters. Apparently, the bullets are slowed enough by their impact with the steel that your eyes can track them against a bright sky.

    Strange things happen when projectiles are in the air. Take all possible precautions, especially with steel and bowling pins!

    • I was running a timer for a 3 gun match. Was standing right behind a guy clearing a plate rack with his sig in 9mm. The round bounced back almost 180 degrees and hit me in a VERY VERY sensative area. Thankfully it didnt penatrate but did cut me pretty good. The issue was the plate rack itsself. The deflector was loose and it sent multiple rounds back at people that day. Strangely its not used anymore. Know whenever i shoot there im known as they guy that took a round to the nuts and lived.

    • I think it was an adolescent, one of last year’s pups. All the coyotes that I am seeing in the pics now look bigger, with a lot more fur. Pretty sure I saw that one with another, slightly larger sibling, earlier.

    • There’s probably a little distortion from the lens as well. It’s kind of a fish eye effect, just not super pronounced.

    • Sometimes they just have weird faces.

      There’s one by my parent’s place that we call “Isosceles” because of it’s face.

  5. Tires as backstop? Doesn’t these ensure you will have ricochets rather than absorbing the projectiles as a wall of sandbags will?

    • I have not noticed a problem, but those tires seldom get hit. I cannot think of a time that they were. I have another set at 100 yards, and another at 300 yards on the rifle range. The rifle range tires get hit quite a bit. The tires are filled with sand. I see lots of bullet holes in the front of the tires. Because of the geometry, if they are hit at much of an angle the bullet would be directed between two tires if there were a ricochet. I have not noticed ricochets, though. Some commercial ranges use shredded tires for a backstop.

      • My gun club had old truck tires as backstops when I became the CRSO. I immediately started working with the board to replace those with something less dangerous. That happened when I fired a .45 handgun, from about 25 yards, and the bullet came back – hitting me on the shoulder. Hard. No damage, but it sure scared me. If it had hit my face, I’d probably have been cut or bruised at the least. Or broken teeth… Anyway, we hauled them all away shortly and have no more problems with such ricochets. There are steel gong targets up on the hill, 300 yards from the firing line, and those are fun to shoot with a rifle. No more steel or tires at handgun range.

  6. That picture is really awesome.

    And big thanks for sharing the lesson. Could’ve been better, could’ve been a lot worse.

  7. I have been near sighted all my life. I thought about expensive prescription safety glasses optimized for seeing my front sight until I realized that my near sightedness already takes care of that. All I needed was a pair of $10 safety glasses from Home Depot with thin temples to fit under ear muffs.

  8. Just yesterday, I was checking out a freebie .22 raven derringer that was given to my mother-in-law as a gift. Wary that might fly apart in my hands, I passed up the .22 mags that came with it and started with .22 CB shorts.
    The first shot went nowhere near the steel .22 popper about 10 feet away. The 2nd barrel fired after three tries, hit the target (amazingly), and came straight back. It sounded like an angry bee, and bounced off my Carhartt jacket directly over my liver.
    I put the derringer back in it’s box, and told my mother-in-law she wasn’t getting it back, for her own safety.

  9. I am the Rang Master at a very small club range. Most of my activities consist of sweeping up empty cases lying on the floor.
    Members have their own key and came come and go as they wish. There is seldom more than a few shooters at any one time, and for most of the day the range is void of shooters. I try and get up there every day, and when I am there, I act as a safety officer along with being the head sweeper.
    You would be surprised at how many shooters do not have glasses of any kind, much less safety glasses. I try and tell them, even though they are only shooting a small rim fire cartridge, they need eye protection. Same thing with ear protection. I try and keep a few pair of the cheap foam plugs in my car, so I can give them to the “non believers”
    This range is open air, and we have places to post your target at 25, 50, and 100 yards. Another problem I frequently encounter is that shooters seem to have a hard time accepting the hard and fast rule, that they must unload and keep the action of their weapon open while down range. And most importantly, no one will handle any weapon while someone is down range.

  10. I’m at the range one brisk morning, wearing a zippered sweatshirt. Its my turn to spot, so I’m at the scope, and my buddy desperately trying to hit the paper plate at 100 yards ( n00b ). After about 4 10rd mags ( in CA ) I smell something burning, like synthetic fiber. A moment later I notice my back is warming up. I throw the hoodie off to find that probably 4 or 5 cases left the chamber of my buddie’s AR and landed red hot, right in my sweatshirt hood. It didn’t catch fire, thank goodness, but it did melt my hood into a significant ball of… something.

    Later that same day, we moved to the pistol range, and there was a fella there shooting some gigantic revolver. My buddy was on my left, while “Dirty Harry” was on my right. Every time Dirty Harry would pull the trigger, my buddy would flinch. I assumed it was because of the terrific muzzle blast this ported pistol barrel had, although it didn’t affect me as much, I am a vet and i’ve been around guns my whole life, while my friend is newborn. When we were cleaning up for the day, my buddy walks over and looked like he was shot with birdshot. He had small red marks all over his face and arms. He claimed the revolver was ejecting lead out of the cylinder gap, but I was standing directly between them and didn’t get hit. We worked out that Dirty Harry was shooting steel targets that were in my lane, and his rounds must have been exploding on impact and some of them peppering my friend.

    I thought it was karma for him burning up my hoodie. He didn’t feel that way. Dirty Harry collected his brass, so I don’t know what caliber his cannon was, but it looked mighty impressive.

  11. Sir where in AZ are you? Been warm lately, hasn’t it? Was watching the Weather Channel and seeing people in the North East digging out of 30 inches of snow. Got to love this state. And to those who say it’s too damn hot in the summer, well, like adult diapers, depends. On your altitude. Lots of high country here that is pretty comfortable in June,July,Aug.

    And the gun laws ain’t bad neither.

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