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You may wonder why I’ve chosen a man accused of capital murder as TTAG’s Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day. Judging from the description of his trial at, Courtney L. Lockhart is a bad, bad man who did a bad, bad thing. Although the story doesn’t reveal whether or not Mr. Lockhart owned the revolver used in the heinous crime, the chances of winning today’s Powerball are only marginally worse. Still, as we’ve said here many times, if you’re holding a gun, you own it. And Lockhart’s actions provide an important safety lesson for us all . . .

Lockhart maintained during the interrogations he didn’t intend to shoot Burk. He even asked police if she was dead.

But Lockhart approached her from behind with a loaded revolver. He told police it was cocked the entire time.

He claimed to be surprised when the gun fired unexpectedly and Burk jumped from the vehicle.

“Where did you shoot her? Where did you shoot her?” an investigator asked in the initial interrogation.

“I don’t know. I was holding the gun like this and it went off,” answered Lockhart.

Lockhart’s account is entirely plausible. The moment he cocked his revolver, putting the weapon into single action mode, the gun was only a finger twitch away from an accidental discharge.

Assuming (as we must) that Lockhart lacked any concept of trigger discipline and didn’t know how to safely decock his weapon, it was only a matter of time before the revolver revolved. (You might say it’s a shame the gun was pointed at his head at the time, but I couldn’t possibly comment.) This fact doesn’t appear to have made it into the trial:

Katherine Richert, director of the state forensic firearms and tool marks lab, testified the revolver was dirty, but functional. She said the pistol’s internal safety feature would have likely prevented a discharge unless the trigger was pulled.

Ms. Richert’s testimony implies that the trigger pull required conscious effort. Responsible gun owners must understand the extreme danger of thinking that way, and guard against the lethal complacency the thought engenders.

If you accept the idea that you might put your finger on the trigger and fire a gun without thinking about it, then you fully understand the importance of muzzle control. Few shooters realize that this safety rule applies to self-defense situations. Never challenge anyone with a gun with the weapon pointed at the perp. Point the muzzle in front of their feet.

I repeat: just as you should never put your finger on the trigger of a gun until you’re in the actual act of shooting, never point a gun at someone until you’re in the actual act of shooting them. Sure, you could change your mind in a split second with your gun pointed at someone with your finger on the trigger. But it’s not bloody likely, mate.

Equally important, practice drawing your weapon and NOT pointing the muzzle at the target. If you go to the range and practice drawing your weapon, aiming straight at the target and firing thousands of times, by God that’s what you’ll do when the target isn’t made of paper.

Finally, if you’re planning on using a revolver for self-defense, never shoot it single action mode. Never. Ever. Despite what the movies say, you don’t need to cock your weapon to show you’re really serious. Pointing a gun in front of an attacker’s feet or, if necessary, at them, is enough. Or, in this case, WAY too much.

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  1. I have to disagree with your advice to point a weapon at the perps feet. It's reckless, likely to cause a ricochet with your first shot (which may be involuntary) and injure a bystander.

    Also the time it takes you to raise the gun will increase the length of time it take to stop the attack if you have to fire. And seeing as you are not likely to get a "one shot stop" it may give the perp an extra second to do bodily harm to you, which may be all it takes to mortally wound you.

    Lastly, pointing at the feet show you are hesitant to shot your assailant ( i.e. Fear) and thus embolden the perp. If you draw and have time to discuss matters, issue warnings or whatnot then you HAVE TIME TO FLEE. Your LIFE is not in danger if you don't feel the need aim at center mass and fire. Besides it's illegal to brandish a firearm, if you take it out you'd better use it, or your just giving lawyers the ammo to use against you in court, and they will be going for head shots.

    • There are many scenarios where you might wish to brandish a gun, rather than shoot someone. (There are laws about brandishing, but the practice is not, in itself, illegal.) For example, when a potential perp is headed towards you without a weapon in his or her hands. If you brandish and aim the gun at center mass, you are taking a massive risk.

      Also, while I agree that escape and evade are options one and two, they are not always available. Sometimes, you may not be able to flee, constricted by your environment or the need to protect innocents.

      • "potential perp is headed towards you without a weapon in his or her hands"
        I'm sorry but I don't see that as putting my life in danger. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm 6'2" and 250. In that situation I would not even draw nor point my weapon at the "potential" perps feet or center mass. Someone is only a perp when they attack, and when TSHTF it's pretty clear what intentions they have. Criminals will more often than not have first mover advantage, even if you suspect them, your life is not endangered until they make they're move. Even if my environment precludes me from leaving a "potential perp" with empty hands is not a threat. If the have a weapon and I cannot flee well…………..
        Pointing at feet is just not good practice. It's why cops don't do it. Drawing and not point at the target is just bad muzzle control. So why advise people to practice that? STOP OR ILL SHOOT! is far better than drawing but not using. I'm sure you'll agree most of us do practice weapon retention skills. It's hard to grab a gun if it's firing at you.

  2. I am almost 60 yrs old and have severe arthritis in both hands . My thumbs are almost useless . If attacked by a so called Perp I plan to shoot the SOB . I cannot make a fist and can’t defend myself thus my handgun [ 1911 A-1 Colt 45 ACP ] serves to protect myself and my family . I’m not going to take an ass whipping from some thug who wants my wallet, watch or my vehicle . I would never point my weapon at anyone If I didn’t intend to shoot them . My finger will be on the trigger with the safety off if I feel threatened. Some of you may think I’m trying to be a bad ass and blow a little smoke but it’s dangerous out there in our city streets . There are thugs out there who will shoot you ,cut your throat kidnap , and rape your wife molest your children and hell knows what else is possible . I have a concealed carry permit issued by the State of Alabama and I obey it’s limitations to the letter . Without my firearm my life is in someone elses hands . With my firearm I do have some say so as to the outcome of the situation . I would explore every avenue of escape before taking a life . I cannot and will not leave my life in the hands of a crack head . Thankfully America’s founding Fathers saw fit to establish the second ammendment . In the event I ever have to make the decision whether or not to shoot I feel comfort knowing it’s better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by 6 . God Bless America .


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