What every concealed carrier should have
Courtesy Bravo Concealment
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Earlier this month, a South Carolina man shot himself because he wanted to show a friend his new holster. As wmbfnews.com reports, “As the victim was dropping the magazine out of the firearm, he pulled the trigger and shot himself between his left ring finger and pinky, the report stated. In other words, he was handling his loaded firearm without a good reason to do so.

Negligence like this is why we can’t have nice things. It also presents an opportune moment to brush up on the importance of good gun safety practices.

You probably already know Jeff Cooper’s four rules of gun safety:

The Four Rules of Gun Safety

You have to break at least two of these rules for something bad to happen. Perhaps there should be the fifth rule: don’t touch your damned gun unless you have a good reason to.

Granted, if you follow Col. Cooper’s four rules fastidiously, you’ll never have a negligent / accidental / pick your adjective discharge. Still, the unofficial fifth rule bears mentioning. It’s kind of like driving; every minute you’re in a car, there’s a risk of an accident, either due to driver error on your part, or on the part of others.

Similarly, the more you handle a gun, the greater the chance that something will go wrong. Murphy, after all, never takes a day off. Observing basic gun safety practices — and leaving your gat holstered until it’s actually needed — minimizes those risks.

If you read reports of some famous negligent discharge incidents over the years, one of the common threads is that someone was unnecessarily handling their gun, either to show it off or because they were carrying in an unsafe manner.

Remember this guy? The one who was the only one professional enough to handle a GLOCK?

Then there’s the unfortunate case of Darryl Jouett, an off-duty officer captured on security camera shooting himself in the leg, which apparently occurred during a date night with his wife. He draws his pistol — for some reason — tried to reholster, but fumbled it and ends up sending a round into his leg.

Other examples abound, such as an October, 2015 incident in Kansas City when the person carrying a gun was adjusting his it in his pocket and it “went off”, wounding him and ruining a viewing of Maze Runner: Scorch Trials.

Negligent discharges seem to be fairly common in movie theaters, as other incidents fitting the same description – fiddling with a holstered gun because they were uncomfortable – are easy to dig up. Such as one this past October, in Norwalk, Connecticut or a 2012 incident in Sonora, California. Worse still, the corrections officer in question was a grown man at a showing of “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2.”

The takeaway here: keep your hands off your gun unless you have a good reason to touch it. As a corollary to that, make sure you’re carrying with a holster that’s comfortable and covers the trigger. That should eliminate any desire to to fiddle with or adjust your gun while you’re out and about. Be careful out there.


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  1. Good stuff. Also, clear that cover garment and never ever be in a hurry to reholster.

    • ^^Exactly this.

      Presentation from the holster should be the quickest move. Sharp and decisive. Return to holster should be the slowest. After all, if you’re returning to the holster, it should mean danger is no longer present, and there’s therefore no rush. Don’t be the next “ND to the thigh” guy.

  2. That was an easy way to catch a criminal with a gun, they rarely use holsters and if you watch them for a while they will adjust it giving you PC for a pat down based on your experience and training. I have carried a full size 1911 for over 24 hours straight and never had to touch it from the time I holstered it till the time I took it off. A good leather holster, a good belt and a comfortable position.
    I knew where I put it and I knew it would be there if I needed it, no need to check, fidget with it or show it off.

    • I don’t believe this for a second. Even with empty pockets and no weapon, I still adjust my pants several times throughout the day while laboring; even when working at my desk most of the day I still find myself adjusting once in a while.

      You might not touch the holster itself but idea that you never shift your clothing and by extension your CW is absurd.

      • May I suggest not everyone has the same body? I don’t fidget / shift / adjust my pants. Period. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Everyone is different.

      • What that dude describes is NOT PC to pat down anyone. Sounds like a guy that uses “I smell pot” to drag everyone out of a car and search it. (I’ve been on the road, driving, and had my car fill with pot stink from the car in front of me.)
        I have to adjust my belt when I get out of my car.
        I use a single clip kydex IWB holster that sits comfortably. Low profile, thinner than any leather holster can be. Easy to remove when I have to stow it due to a mandated GFZ.

        • I bought a single-clip Kydex for my Star BMs (I also have OWB leathers and a nylon OWB/IWB’s w/thumb breaks and leather shoulder holsters), the Kydex are great holsters particularly with the adjustable retention but just not for me, I find it “too stiff” and it jabs into me making it uncomfortable at times. This issue pmay have to do with me being “lean” as a result 99% of the time I’m rocking one of the Uncle Mike’s shoulder holsters with my one of my Star BM or Star PD.

  3. The media needs to stop this gun “went off” nonsense. It removes responsibility from the individual and places it on the inaminate object.

    Loaded gun + pointed at someone + finger on trigger = went off?

    • I thoroughly agree with you. My shotgun has never got up from the corner and ran outside and shot someone. I think I would be impressed if it did. People don’t want to take responsibility any more. They want the right, but not the responsibility.

      • Maybe more Law enforcement should read this!! The amount of brandishing deadly force when not justified is at an all time high with Law Enforcement.

  4. Being law enforcement doesn’t make someone an expert shot, an expert at handling firearms or a good person. Like any profession, there are good cops and bad cops. But all cops are pretty much guaranteed to carry every day and of course the lazy/complacent ones are going to account for the bulk of negligent discharges nationwide.

  5. I guess one way to see if it is loaded is to pull the trigger a time or two. Probably some kind of super police training that I haven’t heard about.

  6. This is good advice but I have to wonder about caveats.

    One of the things that anti-smuggling people have noted, and which as been studied by other groups including the guys who put together the USMC Combat Hunter program, is that people tend to touch things that are important to them at regular intervals and, often, not know they’re doing it.

    People pat their wallet, cell phone, keys, gun and anything else of importance that they carry on them. It’s a natural and unconscious thing that we do. It requires enormous amounts of training to avoid doing. I didn’t know I did it with certain things, most notably my wallet, and when I was told of this unconscious and basically universal behavior my initial reaction was “Bullshit!”. That was until I caught myself actually doing it. Now, years later, I still do it but I’m aware of doing it immediately after I touch the item. It’s a damnably hard habit to break because it’s hardwired into us.

    Of course, if you just pat your gun to make sure it’s still there under your shirt or whatever, it’s not going to go off if you have a 1/10th of the way decent holster. These examples are of people who are playing with the damn thing. That said, I think we should be a bit careful with our language on things like this so that we don’t encourage people to overreact to non-threatening behavior that people really can’t help.

    • I did not know the psychology of making sure items are where we have things on our bodies. I dont pat my knife,but I do do the “lighter dance” lol.

    • “people tend to touch things that are important to them at regular intervals and, often, not know they’re doing it.”

      That explains why Jeffrey Toobin was jerkin’ his gherkin during that Zoom meeting.

    • I do it with my car keys, and I don’t close the car door until I feel them in my hand. I’ve yet to lock myself out of my car. 🙂

    • Yes,
      Its also not a very far walk to realize why. As many, i pat my holster multiple times a day.

      Imagine if you didn’t periodically check for things and now imagine the time you do check and it isn’t there….. First thing to mind is, when was the last time I knew it was on me?!?!
      This is why we subconsciously check.
      This is a great thing to do to ensure you have not misplaced your firearm or left it somewhere or had it slipped off you by a slight handed crook.

      It would be irresponsible of one to ignore the fact they have one and try to go through life without being aware they have one. Then use excuses at airports and post offices like, I’m not aware i was carrying.

      Well, also not being in tune with what you have and where it is on your person also leads to lag and mistakes when its needed.

      as for all the Aholes who are so gun shy that if I rest my hand on my revolver while standing around makes you think im “going for it”, that is just creating a bad stigma and setting people up for failure to happen.
      Like arresting people before they commit a crime.

      It’s mine and I’ll touch it when i want.

      • “Imagine if you didn’t periodically check for things and now imagine the time you do check and it isn’t there….. First thing to mind is, when was the last time I knew it was on me?!?!”

        dunno man, sounds like a memory issue.

    • @strych9,

      “It’s a natural and unconscious subconscious thing that we do.”

      Sorry. It’s my grammar OCD kicking in. 🙂

      I EDC two blades on me. One inside the pocket, and a larger one OWB on the beltline. I never touch the inner item, but I find myself touching the outer blade all the time and am trying to break myself of the habit.

    • I do, I “Israeli-carry”, and always “Open Carry”, everyday, a Star BM or Star PD, in an Uncle Mike’s shoulder holster, I can draw and rack quickly, it, the shoulder holster, is the most comfortable for me. On rare occassins I’ll carry a Rossi .38 special “J-frame” snub nose in a Pusat (very nice) leather OWB holster.

  7. I like the part about “You have to break at least two of them [rules] for something bad to happen.” In the example case some ceiling plaster got busted, if I understood the story correctly. Students got scratched by falling plaster? In some sense the rules worked because no people got plugged.

  8. I always say treat your carry firearm like a working dog. Don’t pet it. The gun goes in the holster when it goes on duty and only comes out if it is needed or when you go to unload it at the end of its shift. Otherwise, hands off!

  9. Good article. It’s similar to brakes and a horn on your ride. Drive in a manner that you won’t need to use them very often.

  10. I don’t think that it takes a negligent discharge to ruin a showing of Maze Runner: Scorch Trials. The choice of movie is enough.

  11. I live in a mostly gun friendly state (AZ) though some areas are less friendly than others and a lot of businesses post “No Guns” signs. One thing I’ve noticed among open carriers and those concealed carriers who show off their gear is that many tend to buy an expensive firearm, then put in the cheapest holster they can find and hang it on a narrow, flimsy belt. I’ve also read that this is common among plainclothes and off duty cops, but I haven’t observed enough officers to form an opinion. Regardless, carrying approximately 2 lbs. of dead weight in such a shoddy manner is guaranteed to be uncomfortable and lead to the urge to frequently adjust it in search of that elusive sweet spot that will be comfortable.

    • Proper gunleather belts and holsters start out pretty stiff and need some breaking-in time before they gain enough flex to be comfortable.

      • Yup. Mine is made of stiff buffalo hide. Was tough at first, but after a time became more pliable. It’s perfect now.

        • Patting yourself down to make sure you haven’t lost anything is just normal. We used to pat ourselves down all the time when I was in the army. Rolling around on the ground makes you tend to lose things.

          It’s taking something out of your pocket when you don’t really need to, that’s when you lose it. It slips out of your hand and is lost.

          Do I still pat myself down after I’ve used a public restroom? You damn right I do. I want to make sure I still have my gun with me. It’s unfortunate that some people don’t do that. Which is why we find stories in TTAG about people that have left their guns in restrooms.

    • I have a good belt and a good holster.
      What I don’t have is enough butt to hold up my pants without cutting off circulation.
      Yes suspenders help, but how long can you wear carpenter suspenders?

      • Until they drive the last nail in your coffin. The older you get, the more people expect to see you wearing them. with no butt and a muffin top, things tend to slide a bit. Don’t ask me how I know. Actually, I haven’t gone that far…yet…but I’ve thought about it.

  12. was in a gun shop when a customer took a lever-action off the wall and cycled it, and it discharged. hole in the ceiling.

    what happened was some guy put his loaded lever-action in a closet and left it there for 20 years. two of the cartridges at the top of the magazine tube corroded a bit and stuck in the tube. the guy died and his heir sold it to the gun shop. the owner cycled the action and checked the breach and tray, no cartridge, passed it off as unloaded. the manager cycled the action and checked the breach and tray, no cartridge, hung it on the wall as unloaded. later when the customer cycled the action the cartridges finally dislodged and rode down to the tray and loaded up.

    • Sloppy on their part. You always slide a squib rod down any rifle’s barrel after opening the action to ensure it’s truly and dependably unloaded. Then you chamber flag it.

      • The cartridges weren’t hidden in its chamber, they were hidden in its magazine tube, having not been driven rearward to the loading gate by either gravity, or the follower under spring pressure.

        Yes sloppy, but the correct check would have been to verify the follower was visible at the back of the magazine – not a cartridge, and not empty air.

        • Term sloppy goes a long way. A used firearm as described should have been completely disassembled and inspected prior to any customer even knowing it was around. Shop owner needs different work.

        • Shop owners don’t have the skilled manpower nor the expertise to disassemble every gun that comes onto their books. Especially a lever action – it takes hours to tear down a Win 94 and it’s not recommended. Too many tiny screws and small parts.

          Looking to see the follower would have sufficed IF they had looked enough. Retail gun store clerks aren’t experts, and posters on boards rarely are, either. It would saying the same thing to assert every used car should be torn down – with a complete rebuild of the brakes, and correction of all the wiring under the dash. Nobody does that. If anything, people sell their junk off because they can’t or won’t spend the time or money and leave it to the next guy. Its up to us to check and recheck.

          Mas Ayoob had a particular way of describing how we shouldn’t handle firearms, and I guess you could say it this way: Do Not Touch Your Junk in Public. We might grab the seat of our pants or give a quick realignment in a unseen moment while out and about, what are talking about handling firearms in this case is the same as unzipping or pulling it out.

          Just what are we thinking?

          If your belt carried holster is so wriggly and uncomfortable you feel as if you are wearing a barb wire strap, time to reconsider why you use that method at all. Try a shoulder holster. You won’t drop it into the john, or leave it behind, or have it get tangled with a jacket or shirt hem, and you sure don’t need to get it out of the holster, either. If you aren’t on the job, an athletic type of shoulder holster stays put and doesn’t shift. If that is too deep carry for some I’d reassess their actual risk about time and if they should be thinking an immediate draw to discharge is a good tactical response. I get that if you do need to then the decision to fire would be made before it was even unholstered, and no hesitation once presented. However, there’s a lot of guys dropping, fumbling, and doinking around with their pistols in public, and for the most part, its belt carry that is the associated problem.

  13. I see comments on law enforcement that bother me greatly. Only the minute few of civilians and law enforcement make problems and that gets overblown to distort the reality that 99% of people are good and do right.

    Let us get back on track and off what media headlines to get more ad money. Take back the power by concentrating on the truly bad.

    • “Only the minute few of civilians and law enforcement make problems and that gets overblown to distort the reality that 99% of people are good and do right”

      their problem is not with bad cops, their problem is with cops as such. society and all its works presses in on them like a disease, and they wish to be free of it – no cops, no law, no society. what they wish is not good cops, but to be Alone. free at last, free at last ….

      • The freedom of the beasts. Yet even beasts live under a law. The law of the jungle.
        Too late will they realize it.

  14. I can touch my gun whenever I want. My weapon however is not touched once holstered until I remove it at the end of the day.

  15. Some years back, during the initial scare over Obama’s plans to take all our guns, I was at a dinner thing some friends had at their house. I’d say they fit the bill of “Blue Dog Dems”, including at that time the only person I knew who owned a tax stamped sub-machine gun.

    So the dinner conversation came around to gun control and the hosts mentioned that I’d been sitting there armed among them from before dinner began. The more liberal guests were a bit shocked. I was asked to show them what the gun was, and it gave me an idea.

    I went into the kitchen and following the Four Rules carefully removed the magazine of my S&W 59, cleared the action and, had an idea. Instead of simply locking the slide back I took a long handled wooden spoon and ran the handle thru the open slide and mag well. Gently closed the slide on the wooden handle. Then presented my “pistol on a stick” which went around the table and a lively discussion was had about walking around armed, including concealed, gun control, the real problems of criminality and mental illness, etc.

    A few of the guests had never been that close to a firearm, let alone ever touched one.

    Remarkably, no one got shot at that dinner. We all came away with our digits and femoral arteries intact. Somehow the four rules of gun safety actually worked. Who’d a thunk it!?!?

    Of course, having a long handled wooden kitchen spoon was a factor not commonly found on the list of gun safety rules, but it remains one of my favorites.

    Oh, and we did not talk about my “Blue Dog Dem” friend’s sub-machine gun, which few were privy too. He has since sold it and retired. Considering what he got for it, that gun was an excellent and wise investment!

  16. This why the anti-gun fringe is so eager to expand the size and number of victim disarmament zones: Because people are going to get hurt – mostly the kind of people they want hurt.

    Mistakes happen during administrative handling. With an increase in administrative handling, there will inevitably be a corresponding increase in mistakes. So by creating more places where people are forced to handle their carry guns before they can enter, they’re legislating a necessary increase in gunshots, property damage, hearing damage for everyone around, injuries due to shrapnel and ricochets when the bullet hits the parking lot pavement, and injuries and deaths due to being hit by the bullet itself.

    To increase the probability of mistakes, make people handle their gun while they’re seated in their vehicle, contorting to either draw or re-holster, trying to be discreet so they don’t spook the muggles, and so miscreants don’t break their window to steal their gun while they’re inside. Make them handle their gun while they’re already late to pick up little Suzie at school, or to meet the passenger at the baggage claim, or while the kids are yelling in the back seat.

    The anti-gun loonies who advocate for more and bigger “gun free” zones are delighted whenever a law-abiding gun owner slips up and has a lapse in safety. They’re even happier when there’s blood for their dancing – even better if it’s the gun owner’s blood. If one of their base happens to be nearby and catches some shrapnel, they’ve taken one for the team and now they get to join the Demanding Moms speakers circuit.

    The gunshots will never be credited to the “gun free” zone itself, because they happen just outside. The mistakes happen in the parking lot across the street from the post office, the courthouse, the airport, or the school. They pump up the numbers for the surrounding community, but the disarmamentors can claim their “no Beretta 92s allowed here” signs must have worked because there were no such shootings within the sanctity of their zone.

    They have no good-faith interest in safety for the people inside. Their only purpose is to increase the number of shootings outside.

    • I wish you were right but there isn’t any data showing more discharges because people are taking their gun out to enter a no gun zone. Let’s not exaggerate and get all hyperbolic about it.

      It’s complacency that drives the accidents. From the cop in class to the FBI agent on the dance floor they got complacent about their firearm because it was a daily part of them. Like their car keys or wallet.

      Stop that mode of thinking. Separate your firearm into being a dangerous tool that you are carrying in case you find yourself in worse danger. And all the while you are carrying it be aware of it. Not like your phone or a multitool in your pocket.

        • Larry:
          Yeah, it’s stupid. However, just imagine how stupid you’ll feel, if you get caught carrying in a post office and subjected to the draconian punishment the law allows for that little infraction.

        • Some of us simply don’t go into said gun free zone, ever. And my lifestyle hasn’t changed a bit making that decision.

          Of course, on the rare instance where I was leaving and noticed a sign, it was a situation where in that state 1) they would have to know 2) advise me to leave immediately 3) and I stupidly refused. In most retail situations a no gun zone is a joke.

          Keep in mind if there is no metal detector, the draconian punishment is pretty much just internet hot air. We willingly go along where there is enforcement and where there is none, there is usually no issues, either. Most adult males who have worn guns on the job understand there are signs, rules, and there is also the unwritten set of Big Boy Rules. Like when a shooter made his way to a strip mall to shoot up a recruiting station, and was surprised to discover the soldiers in semi dress uniform were armed and returned fire. The signs and rules said, No Guns, the reality was they lived and the Army had little paperwork to process, no bereaved family to inform.

          Draconian punishment would have been the calls to their legislative reps to complain why trained combat personnel aren’t allowed to defend themselves on the job. Decisons ahead of time were made and problem was solved and stayed solved. Don’t hobble into a no gun zone arrogantly demonstrating your 2A rights and nobody has to know or call the cops. Do YOUR job and we all get along just fine. It’s no help creating a problem where we really need to remove the mindset that any public place is actually protected by a sign, including schools and churches. They aren’t – unless there is an armed citizen to do it.

          People get soft and lazy thinking that a sign and a call to the cops will solve their issues, when the news is replete with examples of failure in that regard. Quit thinking your self defense is someone else’s job and do what you need to do.

          I have no doubt that any of the posters here ever speed, certainly never throw a gum wrapper out the window, and always keep their eyes on their spouse at the beach. Stop clutching pearls online about no gun zones online and nobody is the wiser. Those are the Big Boy Rules and if you haven’t heard them before . . .

      • Of course there are no data showing more discharges because people are taking their gun out to enter a no gun zone, because it’s unlikely there’s such a checkbox on any form. If the times and locations were known precisely enough, it might be possible to show proximity to a nearby “gun free” zone that could have been a destination (e.g. a post office during the hours it’s open), but that’s not strong enough to draw a causal connection.

        This is all about “common sense” vs. gun control.

  17. My favorite is the FBI agent who thought he was Beyoncés stage dancer.
    He shoots the Amazon guy in the leg.
    No bad dancing with guns even if you are the FBI.

    • What magazine is in the other hand? Penthouse or Guns and Ammo? Either way be prepared for discharge.

  18. Hi Sam, what a great and powerful reminder to all firearm owners. Owning a firearm comes with a great deal of responsibility. The number of folks at my gun club that have had multiple training classes from basic safety to advanced stuff is about 99.5% of our 2600 members. I wish it was 100%. In Illinois, a negligent discharge will usually result in a felony charge and obviously, the loss of the right to legally own a firearm. Thanks for adding rule # 5 to Jeff’s very important 4.


    • Being familiar with a handled object involves handling it and often. A young promising quarterback has a football in his grasp all day to Jimi Hendrix carrying a guitar on a strap around his neck in his apartment, on the street, visiting nightclubs all before he was well-known may not been the only thing that made him the best rock guitarist to ever have lived but he knew the guitar. He could swing it behind his back or head or under his legs and not miss a note. I myself being a picker advise any who play to keep their guitar handy, not in a case in a closet where one can grab and start playing. You won’t do that when it is in a case in a closet behind some other junk.
      A firearm is no different. Put a primed but spent shell in the chamber and handle your firearm fully cocked while watching TV and other sedentary activities. In the fear that unhinges you when an actual crime is directed at you you will be shaking and fumbling the gun and not knowing but trying to recall what is what because you played it safe and kept it locked in a concrete bunker across town for safety. Whose safety? The person who is ending your life is who.
      The govt has everyone in fear of their own imprisonment for violating the latest gun laws passed in the statehouse that morning but did not tell you. Ignorance of the law is not is no excuse but guess what-ignorance is no excuse for a law.
      If you need that firearm and it is not in your hand cocked and ready you are the loser. Don’t even try to practice quick draw. You have been picked out and and will be the victim before you even know you are, they come from behind quietly or in your face loudly. Either way you are startled and thus doomed.

  19. Well technically he was removing it for good reason. I assume he was going to unload it after he drew it and at that point if he screwed up and didn’t then he drew for bad reasons.

    You can’t say drawing your gun is automatically a bad decision just because you’re not drawing it to shoot someone as otherwise you couldn’t take the gun out to clean it or reload it according to your strictures.

    The plain and simple problem is that people get complacent. That’s what should be drilled into everyone. Not the boring and repetition of the 4 rules or 5 rules or whatever number your trainer thinks is good.

    What needs to be taught is that anytime you have your hand on your firearm, you and anything else around you is in danger. You are about to handle something that can explode and do damage. Just as you’re cautious around your table saw when you’re about to saw a piece of wood. Maybe we should have sound effects that if you draw your firearm a loud noise should be emitted as long as it’s loaded and out of the holster.

    I know I’m fully conscious of my table saw and other tools that can do me and others damage when I’ve got them running.

    A firearm should be treated the same way even tho it doesn’t make any noise when not in direct use and that’s how you prevent these discharges and shootings.

    Treat you’re firearm like a vial of nitroglycerin. You know it can go off and kill you. You think you have it under control but you’re not sure. Never get so sure and casual about your firearms. Or any other dangerous tools you may use for that matter.

  20. what the hell is this kind of discussion?

    The gun is just suppsoed to float around you untouchedu ntil you need it?

    You have to touch physical objects to move them, to manipulate them, and to put them down or put them in something.

    This article could’ve been written by AoC. Airhead.

  21. Right. The fifth rule is needed because many of us are so negligent that every time we touch our firearm, the chance that we’ll neglect two of the other rules increases. Hmmm… If I carry a pistol with a safety, can I touch my firearm more often 😎

  22. I get the jist of the article, but I think the issue is missed. You should know your weapon well enough to touch it, to reposition it, so touching should be fine The issue in this article is a lack of training and possibly complacency. These are ND’s caused by their owners. An ND isnt caused by touching your firearm otherwise we would all have a lot of holes in us. To me its a lack of training followed by not using your training.

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