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By Brandon Curtis of

Something that gives all concealed carriers and firearms enthusiasts a bad name is a negligent discharge. Few things give the gun-grabbers as much ammunition – pardon the pun – as reports of people injuring themselves or others with a negligent shooting. People can’t carry guns safely, they’ll say, which is clearly wrong. In fact, it’s relatively easy to safely carry a gun without ever suffering a negligent discharge. Here’s how to make sure that you stay ND-proof.

Treat Every Gun Like A Loaded Gun And Check The Chamber

Ever hear of or see a news report of a person who was cleaning a loaded gun and negligently fired it or something to that effect? It could happen to anyone, and much easier than you’d think. Often enough, you’ll even see headlines where it happened to a police officer; some cop was cleaning his pistol when it “went off.”

This happens when a GLOCK, or other firearm of similar design, is taken down for cleaning without checking the chamber. The trigger, you see, has to be pulled in some guns in order to strip it down. Someone forgets to check the chamber first and…bang.

Likewise, a good deal of other negligent discharges occur because the person handling the firearm assumed it wasn’t loaded. As we all know, the first rule of gun safety is to treat every gun as if it’s loaded.

If you’re about to handle a firearm and don’t intend to discharge a round, don’t rely on assumptions or anyone’s word that it isn’t loaded – check the chamber. It only takes a second.

Wear A Concealed Carry Holster That Covers The Gun’s Trigger Guard And Keep It Clear

Another good tip is to invest in a quality concealed carry holster that completely covers the trigger guard. A gun that doesn’t have a manual safety or a grip safety can be fired simply by pulling the trigger. While that normally requires a finger pull, there are a number of negligent discharges that have occurred because something entered the trigger guard, snagged the trigger and discharged the pistol.

For instance, a number of minimalist belt slide holsters have caused NDs when the leather softened to the point of curling into the trigger guard. Such holsters are normally safe – though they were primarily designed with a 1911 pistol in mind, rather than more modern firearms with fewer safety devices. But they have a sell-by-date.

In other instances, clothing has gotten in holsters, snagged a trigger and caused a ND. Pocket carrying without a pocket holster has, too – something in the pocket or the pocket fabric itself has touched off a pocket gun on numerous occasions. One should avoid pocket carry if possible, and employ a pocket holster if they must carry in this fashion.

How can this be resolved? First by making sure the trigger guard is completely covered by a holster. Secondly, by taking pains to ensure nothing can get in the trigger guard except for the gun.

In fact, Concealed Nation fans, you can even order a special Concealed Nation Holster from Alien Gear, featuring the Concealed Nation logo, blue neoprene backer and orange spacers in line with Concealed Nation’s color scheme.

Avoid Drop Fires with Holster Retention and Sound Carrying

Another cause of negligent firing is drop fires, when a firearm is dropped and discharges a round. This has become somewhat less of a risk in the modern era, as drop safeties have been a common feature on guns for some time now, and in many states are mandatory. Transfer bars and other firing pin safety features, though, don’t always work (any mechanical system is subject to failure at some point) and not every gun has them.

To avoid drops and potential drop fires, there are several strategies one can employ. First is to carry with a good quality holster. One with adequate retention that doesn’t allow a pistol to travel while holstered. A gun that isn’t going anywhere can’t be dropped from a holster. A gun that isn’t properly secured may.

Likewise, avoid off-body carry unless it’s not possible to carry on body. Purses, fanny packs, messenger backs and briefcases can all be dropped, and there are a number of news reports of purses going “bang” when dropped. Not only that, but they can also be stolen.

Therefore, to avoid a drop fire, carry in a secure holster.

Remember The Four Rules Of Gun Safety

Lastly, follow the four rules of gun safety. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot. Don’t let the muzzle cover anything you don’t want to destroy. Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

For instance, don’t put your finger on the trigger and pull unless you intend to fire, or unless you’ve made sure the pistol is clear. Keep it pointed in a safe direction, especially if manually decocking a gun.

If you follow these rules, you should avoid any negligent discharges.


This post originally appeared at and is preprinted here with permission. 

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  1. I lost a friend (who survived two Vietnam tours) about 20 years ago to a combination of alcohol (function alcoholic) and it isn’t loaded pistol.

    My personal rule is never any alcohol with firearms. After hunting or range sure but never with.

  2. Lots of jobs require loaded firearm. Being overconfident or too casual with a minimum of “training” is usually what happens.

    Never happened to me or any of my soldiers in the army

    But I have been told several times my state police hold the world record for self shooting with glocks. Not sure if it is true but fairly common. A combination of cheap holster designed for another pistol as noted by author and under half the training time required for civilian license in Australia doesn’t help

    • A retired policeman and friend of mine told me that the types of wounds most commonly received by police are foot and leg wounds. So, you’re right.

  3. Something-something keep your booger hook off the bang-switch…

    EDIT – Ultimate Schadenfreude – Check out what Obama says at 25 seconds in this vid:

  4. EVERY gun is loaded. As an adult, that has been my rule, always, irrespective of ANY assurances given me by others. Thankfully, I have ALWAYS ignored “she’s empty”, as that statement has been incorrect more than once. I personally ensure the firearm is clear, then I/we proceed from there. I would much rather see the “WTF” look on someone’s face when I remove/eject a round, than allow for any tragic outcome. Over the years, only one person has disagreed to hand over the firearm in a safe manner so I may verify, and that person was never dealt with in ANY manner again. This all comes from a time at the age of 16, working in a supermarket when I found a revolver under the register counter and treated it as unloaded. Played around cocking and letting down the hammer, until negligently shooting a hole through the counter and damaging some floor tiles (thankfully, no one was injured). The owner of the market accidentally left the gun when I relieved him, but I foolishly began to play with it instead of informing him when I found it. Yes I did lose the job that day, but I learned two very important lessons right then and there. Guns are not toys to be played with, and unless absolutely confirmed otherwise, EVERY GUN IS LOADED.

    • Many years ago after being told a gun was empty by a good friend of my brother, I dropped the empty mag and racked a very live round out of the chamber….nice enough guy buy careless. He later put a black tip .30-06 through the freezer in his basement and through the water heater before it went through the wall and into the dirt behind the house. He was the source of many of my cautionary tales.

      • Another cautionary tale: never attempt to edit a post on this site until the clock says less than 4 minutes left to edit it, otherwise it will tell you you do not have permission to edit it. Software really needs to be fixed.

  5. I take a bit of an issue with this article. The only way to ensure you never have an ND is to never handle a firearm.

    Top tier operators and SWAT guys have ND’s. “On a long enough time line the survival rate for everyone drops to zero”, well on a long enough time line everyone who handles guns regularly is very likely to have an ND.

    • They get complacent because they believe they “are too tied SWAT guys”. There is no excuse except excuses.

      • Ummm… no. Well, yeah, until it’s your ND. Then I bet we’ll hear all sorts of excuses.

        People make mistakes. All people make mistakes. If you handle guns long enough you’ll make a mistake and it may well result in an ND.

        You have to break multiple rules to harm someone when you make a mistake. That’s why the rules are redundant. So that if you break one you still don’t hurt anyone.

        This “there is no excuse” nonsense comes from people who think they’re so badass that they’ll never make a mistake. You’re human. You make mistakes in everything you do. Don’t get all holier than thou about it. That attitude is the first step towards exactly the complacency you think other people have fallen victim to.

        Oh, and BTW, no I’ve never had an ND

        • Strych9,

          I agree with you. An ND is not excusable, but people are human and humans make mistakes. It’s really a bummer that cops tend to screw up more than taxpayers, but I don’t believe a non-injury ND should end a career or cost a taxpayer his gun rights.

          I’ve never ND’d a firearm either, but a lot of TTAG commenters seem to have a “no forgiveness” ND policy.

  6. I just finished cleaning up my workroom.

    I have a simple rule … no live ammo in the same room where I clean guns.

    So guess what I found in my workroom? Yep. Sigh. My “safe space,” wasn’t. And my own darned fault.

    This is why we have multiple, overlapping safety rules. Even though I messed up and had ammo in my workroom; even though I could have screwed up and loaded a live round instead of a snap-cap to function test; if I follow the rest of the rules, nobody gets hurt.

  7. I believe that a sizable portion of “accidental gun deaths” are actually suicides. Especially when police or military are involved.

      • AFAIK, Some companies will pay out, some won’t. Some states, like MO for instance, don’t allow for the specific exclusion of suicide on a policy. Most states have a 1 or 2 year window of non-contestability – so one should wait a year or two after you buy insurance before offing yourself. And you can’t be planning to do it when you buy the insurance either, that’d be like knowingly not disclosing that you have cancer – grounds for denial of the claim. Of course proving state of mind is always difficult….

    • Yes, this is absolutely correct. Even the most incompetant gun owners generally don’t point the gun at their head when “cleaning” it.

      A LEO friend of mine said most “accidental shootings” are suicides — person was alone when it happened, shot to the head, no cleaning supplies/tools around, etc. But also no suicide note and the distraught family says the victim wasn’t suicidal. What is he supposed to do? Easiest thing for everyone is to say it was an accident.

  8. I was taught the 4 rules at an early age, 6 or 7 years old. I have handled firearms on nearly a daily basis since. I have never had a negligent discharge I treat every single weapon as if it were loaded. There is honestly no excuse for an ND. You make the decision to handle the weapon, you take full responsibility for anything that happens afterward. Period. If you choose to take that responsibility without taking proper precautions, you are just too irresponsible to continue stealing oxygen.

  9. Also if you do drop a loaded gun don’t try and catch it. Also for us hunters open the action or unload the gun before you jump the barbed wire fence. Re learned that lesson today when the shotgun slid over and I had a 20ga pointed directly at my balls…

  10. Yeah, well, I have issues here. If you treat every gun as loaded, you could never clean it, walk up or down an open stairway with people below, never carry in a horizontal shoulder holster, never appendix carry, etc.. As any handgun safety mechanism could fail, it could “go off” within the holster.

    This seems like a 9mm vs .45ACP subject to me. But what do I know.

    Yes, I have had 2 NDs in my life. No personal injuries, minimal property damage.

    I prefer:

    Trigger finger off the trigger
    Every gun is loaded unless YOU check it. Again. *
    Muzzle in an appropriate direction.
    Be aware of your target and what’s beyond.

    * I store most of my guns unloaded and I am the only one with access. I STILL check a gun when I remove it from its pouch. It only takes 2 seconds.

  11. I show my son by example and on the drive to and from the range we repeat the “4 rules” several times.

    He is probably more tuned to gun safety than most adults.

  12. The author fails to include two practical IMPORTANT items.

    1) If you carry. Take your holster off and leave the gun in it. Eliminate the need for administrative drawing and reholstering. Take your holster off at night. Put it back on in the morning. Leave the gun in the holster.

    2) If you begin to drop the gun, STOP. Every time I hear of a gun like a Glock, M&P or XD going off because the user dropped it, I know exactly what happened. The user grabbed at the falling gun and depressed the trigger. Its virtually impossible for these guns to go off if dropped. So if the gun slips, LET IT GO. Your ego might be bruised, the gun may get dinged. But nobody will get shot.

  13. super blackhawk, hi- power, deagle, p938, mkll, single action all. fell into the cz camp a couple years ago. i’ll just say that after admiring that pistol many times, the double action pull was shorter than i remembered. i knew damn well it was loaded. hearing loss, wall hole, etc.
    stupid games, just reward.

  14. Firstly, aside from being bogus, this is not a good tip: “Another good tip is to invest in a quality concealed carry holster that completely covers the trigger guard.”

    Carrying a modern revolver for with the trigger guard and trigger and hammer and most everything else exposed is much much safer than any semi-auto. This gun cannot fire without the hammer being at full cock AND the trigger pressed completely and continuously.

    Secondly: This foolish statement “One should avoid pocket carry if possible” does not in any way apply to the millions and millions of wise folks that carry snub-nosed revolvers 100% safely in their pockets.

    Thirdly, what the hell does this mean: “Secondly, by taking pains to ensure nothing can get in the trigger guard except for the gun.” ?

    • “Thirdly, what the hell does this mean: “Secondly, by taking pains to ensure nothing can get in the trigger guard except for the gun.” ?”

      There have been instances of people holstering or putting in their pocket a gun and a jacket pull loop, car keys or other pocket crap pulls that trigger…

  15. Is No one Going To mention “Israeli Carry”?
    Empty chamber guns cannot Go off
    I am ready for all the hate that I’m going to get, but it works for the entire nation of Israel and the American military
    The Israelis have stopped plenty of terrorist attacks with a population carrying empty chamber style
    Everyone has to make their own decision between safety and readiness for action
    I have a gun with me every single day but the chamber is empty
    It takes me two seconds longer and takes two hands to get the gun into action, but I accept that for the added safety

    • With you on Condition 3 carry, thats how my G27 rides IWB with a Clipdraw. Never did trust a chambered Glock bouncing around near my sack. Walking around Walmart that one extra second to rack the slide is no sweat. Now, if were talking about full blown meltdown streets on fire riots, its Condition One G22 in a Serpa, with AK as primary.

  16. I’m a long time instructor and for a long time I have told my students that there is no such thing as an “accidental” discharge. Then in the last few years I decided I wanted to be more decisive about talking about those kinds of situations and began referring to them as “negligent” discharges. The word “negligent” has negative and judgemental overtones so I eventually decided that did not work for me. I now refer to those situations as “unintended” discharges. First because they are, in fact, unintended. But most importantly because I need to ascertain whether they were accidental, for example, a broken part, which caused a failure and therefore the unintended discharge. Secondly, I may determine, on closer examination, that the discharge was the fault of the gun handler and was in fact negligent. The main point is that as undesirable it is to have your gun go off unexpectedly, there can several reasons for it to happen and until we know all the facts we should not label the occurrence.

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