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Kalispell, Montana is beautiful country. The Flathead Valley is home to a burgeoning niche firearm industry, and any of my uncles could tell you the hunting and fishing around there isn’t bad either. I try to take my daughters there every summer for a week away from video games and Instagram. It’s solid Gun Country. Unfortunately there’s one fewer gun owner there today, after a man accidentally shot himself in the face while examining an AR-15 . . .

Edward Schramm was handling an AR-15 last weekend, and apparently ignoring every single one of the rules of gun safety. To put it delicately, he blew his own brains out. Ironically, he’s probably one of the only people ever to die from a gunshot wound from an AR-15 in Montana.

A friend witnessed the accidental shooting and immediately called 911, but nothing could be done. “He was examining a rifle and it accidentally discharged and shot him in the face,” said detective (and part-time coroner) Dick Sine. I would disagree with the passive construction of Detective Sine’s statement, because guns don’t do anything unless they are made to do it by a human operator.

But I shouldn’t be too harsh; at least nobody said “the gun just went off.”

Mr. Schramm’s story is more tragic than most IGOTDs, but this award might help drive the lesson home: the four rules were written for a reason. If his entirely-avoidable tragedy can be a lesson or a reminder to others, maybe it will have served some purpose.

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  1. this type of thing is little more understandable with a handgun, but to manage that same trick with a rifle boggles the mind.

    • It is never even a little bit understandable to violate every safety rule and common sense when negligently shooting yourself or someone else, regardless of firearm design.

      Remove ammo
      Cycle action multiple times
      Lock action open
      Visually and physically clear chamber
      Keep fingers well away from trigger and action controls
      Use a mirror, camera, or disassemble until non fireable.

  2. I feel sad for Ed’s family and especially for the friend that had to witness this. I am sure that is a memory he didn’t ever want to have.

  3. I am NOT making light of this in any fashion, but could it be possible that he actually had one of those incredibly dangerous “assault weapons” we constantly hear about from DC? I certainly hope that thing is destroyed!

  4. Well duh…Daffy Duck moment? I hope none of the firearms pointed at me in the several gun shops I frequent aren’t loaded. Lots of new people with NO CLUE how to handle a gun.

  5. Condolences to his family; it’s very sad.

    The story said he was cleaning his gun at 3:55am? (Obviously) a better plan would be to wait until fully rested.

    • Speaking as someone who has cleaned weapons in the middle east with almost no sleep in three days, whatever. Simple ignorance killed him, not a lack of sleep

      • Umm… other possibilities at 0355 include:

        1) Drunk.
        2) Suicidal.
        3) Drunk.
        4) High.
        5) Yeah…sleepy.

        • From my prior law enforcement days three decades ago, the general, unspoken rule was that if there is no explicit evidence to indicate a suicide, it was always deemed an accident. Most life insurance policies do not cover suicide, so if you conclude it was a suicide without proof, there will be challenges.

  6. How does a person accidentally shoot himself in the face with a rifle? This is more like that scene from “Full Metal Jacket.”

  7. “because guns don’t do anything unless they are made to do it by a human operator.”

    Well-designed, maintained, and fully operational guns don’t do anything unless they are made to do it by a human operator.

    Hence the 4 rules and safe handling and inspection practices.

  8. Write it up as you will, but the irrefutable facts of the matter are that a) he pointed the rifle at his face and simultaneously b) pulled (or pushed) the trigger, without checking said rifle to see if the chamber was loaded or not. Probably dropped the mag and assumed it was unloaded. He assumed fatally. Either that or it was an intentional act, pure and simple. No less tragic for his friend, but that’s as far as I’m willing to extend my sympathy. This IGOTD award is well and truly earned.


  9. About 30 years ago, I walked into my favorite gun store just after a police officer somehow managed to put a .45 caliber hole in the palm of his hand while “examining” a 1911.

    • That’s impossible…

      Everyone knows simple possession of the 1911 will bestow upon it’s holder all the firearms wisdom and bravado that can be contained within this world…

      No 1911, nor its possessor, is capable of such a thing due the 1911’s ingenious safety functions. Why shooting one’s self with the 1911 is a well understood and universal, mathematical impossibility.

      But, Glocks on the other hand… pun intended.

      And, I think it would go without saying that after a hand shot with the venerable .45, the man’s entire arm would then be gone.

      You, sir, are a charlatan.

  10. This is a sad story for sure, I feel for his family.

    I always thought that “NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY” should be the first rule. “Be sure of your target” is really an extension of that rule. People are fallible, arrogant, and sometimes willfully ignorant by nature. They have these things happen even though they were sure it wasn’t loaded, Mr. Schramm thought it wasn’t loaded I bet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man, woman, or child I’ve seen them all slip that finger onto the trigger. I think because it’s the natural mechanics of the human hand, when you grasp something you fully close your four fingers. People do it so often it’s hard to resist, like with a frying pan, a knife, a ratchet or a steering wheel. It’s hard to un-teach this everyday thing. You really have to drill it into some people.

    When my father taught me he decided to show me what a .308 Win does to a piece of steel, then he reminded me that I’m made of something much less sturdy! As a 9 year old I put my finger on the trigger rarely, I would have got my butt whooped. It’s hard to instill that kind of fear in grown-up folks though, because “Damn it, I know what I’m doing because I’m a grown ass man/woman!”, not to mention the lack of respect for the awesome power a firearm has. I don’t think I could ever be an firearms instructor, not enough Pepto in the world for the ulcers I’d get. This will always be remembered as an avoidable tragedy, unfortunately it’s one that’s soon forgotten by most.

  11. The last thing that went through his mind was………. a 55 grain bullet. Thank you, I’ll be here all week, please tip your waitress!

  12. While I feel sorry for the family of the person, I find one thing particularly interesting. It is strange how many “pointed the gun at their own head and pulled the trigger” *accidents* there are. As someone that had a family member choose the gun route I find it a little suspect that anytime there is a witness it is nearly the same story. The other side if there isn’t a witness is family members claiming “it had to be an accident because he/she wasn’t suicidal” You never know you family as well as you think you do. =(

    • Should I decide to shuffle off the mortal coil, I certainly wouldn’t do it where someone I loved would find anything or have a nasty surprise. I’d just disappear one day, with my bank account empty and (ideally) never be seen or heard from again.

  13. I have a headlight in my gear box. Any time I want to check the loaded status of a gun I put it on and then look down the barrel. To be double sure I then pull the trigger. It’s safe, I have the time it takes for the bullet to travel the length of the barrel to get my head out of the way.

  14. Sincere condolences to the kinfolks.

    I note, with interest, that Kalispell, MT is the location of the importer of a CZ-75 that I bought in 1985 as a (then) FFL. It never sold, so I transferred it to my personal inventory when I surrendered my license.

    The Kalispell CZ-75s are a fine piece of pre-Soviet meltdown Slovakian workmanship!


  15. If you MUST look down the end of the barrel, here’s a simple tip: Point the gun at a mirror and look down the barrel image IN THE MIRROR. Never point a gun at yourself for any reason!

  16. If you’re gonna do that, at least make sure the gun’s not loaded and a round’s not chambered…Or better yet, DON’T! Oh and Safety first…


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