Are Negligent Discharges Inevitable?


An “accidental discharge” is more accurately known as a negligent discharge (ND). One second you’re admiring a brilliantly designed and executed piece of wood (or plastic) and steel and the next, your ears are ringing, you’re blinking furiously, you’re surrounded by smoke and the unmistakable odor of gunpowder. Your first conscious thought: “Oh s**t!” If you’re fortunate, the only holes present are in furniture, walls and appliances rather than yourself or someone else. If it was a rifle round, there will tend to be rather more holes than if it were a handgun round. If you’re really fortunate, no one else was aware of your ND, somewhat minimizing the damage to your self-image . . .

Police officers are often thought to be experts in the handling of firearms. This is, as I explained in a recent article, not necessarily so. Police agencies are severely handicapped by being limited to recruiting solely from the human race, as these anecdotes reveal:

A Sweetwater, Fla., police officer was recovering Monday after his holstered gun discharged and hit him in the leg while he was chasing shoplifting suspects at Dolphin Mall.

The officer, Joel Bosque, was responding to a shoplifting report at the mall when he was injured. He was taken to the hospital and is “doing fine,” police spokesman Jorge Fernandez de Lara said.

Bosque, who has been with the department for a year, will likely be placed on administrative leave while Miami-Dade police investigate, the Miami Herald reports.

Ah yes; another of those mysterious cases of a holstered gun going off all by itself.

The Winchester (Va.) Police Department is taking a close look at its officers’ weapons holsters after an officer’s gun accidentally went off in a special needs school bus.

The incident occurred Monday morning when a middle school student reached for a police officer’s gun, reports TV3Winchester. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The officer had been dispatched to the bus to calm down the student. While the officer was sitting next to him, the student reached over and put his finger on the trigger of the weapon. The bullet went through the seat and hit the floor.

A close look at holsters? Good idea.

The veteran Lloyd (N.Y.) Police officer  who accidentally fired his service weapon in a high school hallway has resigned after an internal investigation faulted him for the incident.

Sean McCutcheon, a school resource officer at Highland High School, had been placed on leave following the March 5 incident.

A departmental investigation concluded that the discharge was unintentional and a result of “officer error,” reports the Daily Freeman.

In professional law enforcement agencies, there are consequences for NDs. Unfortunately, the consequences aren’t always so benign:

A Dallas Police Department officer fatally shot himself while cleaning his service weapon at home on Monday afternoon, the department announced.

Officer Christopher Pasley died as a result of an apparent accidental discharge.  Officer Pasley, a five-year veteran, was assigned to the Central Patrol Division.

“The department’s Employee Relations Team has been activated to coordinate assistance to the family during this traumatic time,” said Chief David Brown in a release. “I request the citizens of Dallas keep Officer Pasley and his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

This case is particularly painful:

Police released the identity of a pregnant woman accidentally shot to death Friday afternoon in Montgomery County, Pa., by her husband, a state trooper.

JoAnne Miller, who was 22 weeks pregnant, was taken to Mercy Suburban Hospital with a gunshot wound to the upper body. She died soon after she was admitted. Doctors performed an unsuccessful emergency cesarean. “The baby never had its own breathing or heartbeat,” Montgomery County coroner Walter Hofman told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The shooting in the home on the 3000 block of Stony Creek Road in East Norriton occurred around 2:30 p.m. Friday, police said. The officer pulled the trigger while taking apart his .45-caliber handgun for cleaning but did not realize the gun was loaded, police said.

“He’s been distraught, cooperative,” said Kevin Steele, Montgomery County first assistant district attorney.

I’m not picking, particularly, on police officers. Citizens have more than their fair share of NDs. However, when police officers make that mistake, there tends to be no hue and cry for citizen disarmament. Anti-liberty forces take maximum advantage of the NDs of citizens, citing them as clear evidence that Joe Average American is too untrustworthy to be allowed to keep and bear arms. Since a substantial part of the foundation of the anti-liberty argument is that guns should only be possessed by the police–the “experts”–they can hardly capitalize on police NDs, which tend to remind those paying attention that every one of us is all too human.

This raises the question at the heart of the issue: are NDs inevitable?

There is a venerable saying among those who carry guns every day, which goes something like this: “There are two kinds of gun owners: those that have had a ND and those that will admit to having had a ND.”

Full disclosure: mea culpa, but if you’re looking for true confessions, try Oprah or the Hallmark Channel. Most, if not all of us, can tell a ND story, or know of those of friends or acquaintances who’ve had one. Another way of phrasing the question is to ask if NDs are preventable.

Theoretically, of course, they are. Absent mechanical faults that virtually defy the laws of physics, a holstered handgun with its trigger and trigger guard completely covered by the material of the holster, as long as it remains holstered, is not going to “go off” by itself. A semiautomatic firearm with no seated magazine, with the chamber checked visually and physically, will not fire a bullet if the slide is closed and the trigger is pulled. Similarly, a revolver with all cartridges ejected, its cylinder carefully visually and manually checked, will not fire if the cylinder is closed and the trigger is pulled. Yet, supposedly cleared firearms somehow manage to shoot all the time.

Following the basic rules of firearm safety such as keeping one’s finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until a millisecond before firing, always keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, never pointing the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy, physically and visually clearing any firearm before handling it, and doing the same before handing it to another, etc., will, if followed, absolutely prevent NDs. Yet they happen every day.

It’s human nature, of course. One of the first things I tell my students at the beginning of every school year is they must, from that moment, pay attention to paying attention. It’s a life-long pursuit. From the moment we’re born, we spend about 1/3 of our life asleep. If we live to 90, we’ll have slept 30 years. How much more of our lives are we willing to miss because we’re not able to be in the instant, we’re not able to focus solely and intently on what is right in front of us?

When what is in front of us is a potentially loaded firearm–and all firearms must always be handled as though loaded at all times–we cannot afford to become complacent. We cannot afford to give that firearm anything less than our full, intense, and focused attention. If we have a ND, and we follow every other gun safety rule, we may not shoot ourselves or anyone else, but we always shoot an enormous hole in our self-image, and hopefully, we fill that hole with a new resolve to pay attention to the basic safety rules, and to what is happening right in front of us.

That’s all it takes: a momentary lapse in attention, failing to do what we’ve done hundreds, even thousands of times, handling a gun when we’re tired, when we’re upset, when our minds are elsewhere, thinking about anything else but containing the enormous power we hold in our distracted hands. We–for the most part–know better. Yet we do it anyway.

When it occurs, our explanations are incredibly inadequate. A fellow SWAT troop who managed to shoot a hole in a locker room wall with his AR-15 could only say: “I thought it was unloaded.” A fellow detective who, while Elk hunting, shot a woman in the arm, said, with horror in his voice, “I thought she was an Elk.”

Isn’t this an argument for restricting gun ownership? If even highly trained and expert police officers have NDs and they kill themselves, their wives and children, aren’t guns just too dangerous? Such thinking ignores the enormous positive benefits of gun ownership and use, which benefits are easily discoverable by those willing to do a bit of honest research.

If acknowledging the failing of human nature were sufficient cause to deny technology, there would be no motor vehicles, for far more people are killed every year in motor vehicle accidents than by gunfire, accidental or intentional. In fact, considering that driving a car is the most complex thing most people ever do, we should be talking about banning cars far more often than banning guns. The margin for error, as illustrated by the numbers of injured and dead, is far greater.

The truth is, if we are to live in an advanced, technological society, we must accept some degree of risk. We must acknowledge that due to negligence, which is a part of human nature, some people will be injured and some will die. We must always do whatever we reasonably can to minimize such consequences, but they are inevitable.

It is when we turn over to government responsibility for our very lives that life becomes very dangerous indeed, and bad consequences for the individual become inevitable.



  1. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    NO. Unless you’re careless with your GLOCK brand GLOCK….he he

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Apparently they are with winchester now too (SXP).

    2. avatar steel says:

      Glock = 1911 cocked with no safety.
      How many of you would carry a 1911 cocked and un-locked?

      1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

        Except that this isn’t true. Many 1911s in the “locked” configuration will still discharge if dropped on the muzzle. And we won’t even discuss 1911 sear engagement on a “bubba” trigger job.

        A Glock if dropped, in any orientation, cannot fire.

        I would carry both firearms in the same condition. Round in chamber, safeties engaged. Only difference is the 1911 safety disengages with the thumb and the Glock safety disengages with the trigger finger.

        A negligent discharge in either is a training or discipline issue.

        1. avatar James J McGrath says:

          A series 80 1911 has a firing pin block and will not fire when dropped.

  2. avatar Drew says:

    They are with Glock

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      1. avatar S.CROCK says:

        Please TTAG make them stop!

        1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          They won’t. Neither will the people that keep calling my cell phone when I’m working because they want to lend me $250,000 or they want me to invest in west Texas oil drilling. These people are the mosquitoes of our society. If we could figure out how to kill them all it would probably result in an unforeseen ecological collapse.

        2. avatar Jeff in CO says:

          Gov, they only wanted to lend you $250,000? You got the wrong call! They were able to lend me $380,000, and it is only 198.3% interest compounded annually for 37 years! It has forever changed my life! 😆 I also was offered some good beach front property in downtown Denver. I’m thinking about jumping on it . . . :rolleyes:

    2. avatar Sian says:

      Glocks and other manual-safetyless striker fired guns only go off when you pull the trigger.

      you simply have to be AWARE of WHAT you are DOING.

    3. I consider pressing the trigger on a gun with a safety on as negligent.

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Yes, as soon as you say they aint.

    1. avatar hobbez says:

      Agreed! The moment you start thinking you can’t have one, you can.

      1. avatar mk10108 says:

        Almost had one a month ago. Dam near killed the toilet I was dry fringing at. Fiddle-in around and somehow got a round in bang hole, finger discipline (out of the trigger) looked down and saw the that pesky CA chamber flag raised. Gasped an almost had a heart attack. Cleared the chamber and put it away.

        This from a former Marine schooled at the temple of ND is reduction in rank.

        1. Then you were not dry firing.

    2. avatar Joe R. says:

      ^ Ya, know whatcha mean.

      & an ND can be used by 50 as an invite to raid your safe and house.

  4. avatar Paul says:

    Individually yes they’re avoidable.

    If you give everybody a gun or two, then I promise someone somewhere will screw it up and have an ND sometime.

    1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

      Agreed. Law of large numbers– considering the number of people handling weapons even though all are preventable, they will continue to occur due to human nature. Lack of training, poor supervision, fatigue, complacency etc. etc. means someone somewhere will have one.

    2. avatar AndrewinDC says:


      Gun owners are “severely handicapped by being limited to recruiting solely from the human race”

      I feel 99% confident that I’ll avoid a ND, but I only keep my two primary carry guns loaded, and they remain holstered unless I’m shooting or giving them their monthly once over. Also, it helps that neither of these guns require that I pull the trigger to disassemble them. Glocksters can feel free to hate on me for that last comment.

  5. avatar mike oregon says:

    As humans we do get ill, injured, tired or just distracted. But if your know and follow the 4 rules of gun safety, no N.D.s are not inevitable.

  6. avatar BDub says:

    1. Lie (hidden negligence)
    2. Lie (hidden negligence)
    3 Open Negligence! Yay!
    4. Institutional Lie (suicide)
    5. Unlikely Negligence (probably Murder)

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      ^ I second that motion.

    2. avatar NJ2AZ says:

      definitely thought the same thing about #4 as soon as i read it

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        If that weren’t the case, they would have mentioned where he was shot.

    3. avatar Aaron says:


      nobody points a gun at their pregnant wife “accidently” while cleaning it.

  7. avatar Data Venia says:

    Hickock 45 said something along the lines of “we not only show safety- we exaggerate safety”. I like that attitude and insist on more exaggerated safety than many. If I’m shopping for a gun, the unloaded gun that the shop owner double checks is unloaded and hands to me- I still confirm that it’s empty before getting a feel for it. I’ve been told that’s excessive. To which I say- I don’t have a NG. I have had a bolt action develop a slam fire in my hands but that’s purely mechanical and was pointing down range.

    I also triple check that DVD’s and CD’s are in the correct cases before returning them to the library. A little care goes a long way.

    1. avatar Chris from IA says:

      If it saves just one life…

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I disagree on that “excessive”. I have always checked, personally, every gun ever handed to me, by anyone, for around 55 years now. And guess what? I also have never had an ND. Accidental once, but never negligent. The difference was an old gun went off with no finger on the trigger, was instantly retired forever. No injuries, but as a hundred-year-old single shot .22 it was not worth fixing.

    3. avatar Grindstone says:

      Safe is safe. What some might label “excessive” I call “following the 4 Laws”. I don’t fuck around with guns and safety.

    4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      You know, I like to think of myself as a safety Nazi and I never considered a mechanical malfunction enabling slam-firing. I will absolutely, positively, without fail make it a point to ensure that my barrel is pointed in a safe direction when cycling the action.

      Clarification: I have always intended to keep the barrel in a generally safe direction when cycling the action of a firearm. Now I will make sure it is accurately pointing at a safe backstop when I cycle the action.

    5. avatar Aaron says:

      OMG! you still use DVDs and CDs?!

      1. avatar Grindstone says:

        From the library??

  8. avatar arsh says:

    If you have a gun without a proper safety mechanism … Looking at you GLOCK … it will continue to happen. Glock owners constantly say, this safety works fine blah blah blah, well how many XD’s with a grip safety are negligently discharged vs a glock which only has a trigger safety. Any gun with 2 safeties is likely to not have the issue, any with only one will.

    1. avatar jake from detroit says:

      It’s impossible to know. The statistics aren’t there to support that assertion. The raw numbers would be meaningless anyway: how many glock users had an ND per capita vs how many XD users had an ND per capita would matter. There are simply many, many, many more glocks than anything else, which is why you hear about them being involved with more RAW ND’s than other brands.

      Personally, I’ll take a glock that *might* be easier to ND for an idiot over a XD which is unreliable crap any day of the week. GRIP ZONE!!!

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        A grip safety interrupts the shooter not at all, if there is a shooter. There is no reason to not have one except cost, and that cheaper gun is also less safe. Statistics have nothing to do with it, a twig can pull the trigger and the difference between the gun firing or not is a grip safety.

        1. avatar seans says:

          If grip safeties didn’t interrupt the shooter in any way. than why did the world premier 1911 shooters CAG(Delta Force) tape down their grip safeties on their 1911s in Iraq before they transitioned to Glocks.

        2. avatar SteveInCO says:

          I tried out an XDs once. Felt fairly good in my hand. but one time I set it down on the little tray at the head of the lane, intending to do a bit of a fast drill. So picked it up, aimed, squeezed the trigger, and… nothing. I had to hold it JUST RIGHT and picking it up in haste buggered it up.

          I have new respect for people who complain about grip safeties. It’s a nice idea, but execution can really be bad.

        3. avatar Sian says:

          There was a rather well-spread around defensive shooting posted on arfdotcom where the poster could no longer return fire after the opening salvo, vs perp who simply decided it was a good day to murder some white boys, because his gun hand was hit and he was mechanically unable to grip his 1911 properly to disengage the safety. Luckily, he had already hit the murderous perp (who was using a revolver loaded with, for once, high-end hollowpoints) by then and it came to a good end.

          I want my defensive pistols to go bang when I pull the trigger, Period. The more mechanical business between me and projecting hot lead is more that can go wrong when everything has already gone wrong.

      2. avatar Gruney says:

        I happen to like XD pistols. What I don’t like is that except for the XDs, the grip safety also locks the slide. But they lost a lot of cred with “Grip Zone”. It’s really not any worse than Ruger painting the LCI red and engraving it with “Loaded when up”. Besides, Croatians need jobs too.

        Grip safety or thumb safety, you should always be able to manipulate the slide with the safety ON. That’s where a manual safety can provide an extra measure of protection during administrative gun handling.

      3. avatar S.CROCK says:

        “a XD which is unreliable crap”

        I am very curious to know exactly how many malfunctions you have personally experienced with an XD. I have handled 4 separate XD pistols and have not experienced any malfunctions.

        1. avatar jake from detroit says:

          I had a first generation XDS that experienced consistent failure to feed issues and extraction issues.

          My primary shooting partner, against my advice, purchased several XD’s to use in classes. We’ve taken three classes together, two high volume (>750 rounds) and one low volume with a local PD. The XD failed so many times in the high volume classes, including an eventual recoil spring breakage, that my buddy was unable to finish the class with it. He finished it with a Glock instead. The XD made it through the 200 round PD class fine (one hang up, acceptable).

          They don’t stand up to abuse. For the record, I use M&P’s, not Glocks, but M&P, Glock, and HK are the only three manufacturers that consistently fire 1000 rounds plus without cleaning and in bad conditions and continue to function. People get all butt-hurt when you mention that, because they want to defend their brand choices, but it’s the truth. Drop your gun ego, pick up a truly reliable gun, and protect your life.

    2. avatar TravisP says:

      Sorry but if you depend on some form of manual or grip safety on a modern weapon you need to go to a remedial weapons handling course. Guns are safe people are not

  9. avatar Mark N. says:

    Yes. Even apart from the stupid things people do, there are many inadvertent mistakes, mistakes that have consequences. It’s like the saying goes, “shit happens.” Like the woman killed by her small child because she decided to carry in her new carry purse, or the guy who shot himself with his Glock when a part of his (old) holster caught the trigger. Why, I almost has a ND last night..but fortunately I was only dreaming.

  10. avatar jake from detroit says:

    Finger. Off. Trigger.

    Easiest thing in the world. The glory of the 3 (4) rules is that more than one need to be breached in order for there to be an issue. I feel that it’s disingenuous to try to break them down more than that. But if there is ever a single rule that could be followed without hesitation, all the time, no matter the circumstances, keep your finger off the trigger and you will never have an ND.

    I rest my finger on the side of the garden hose or windex bottle unless im actively spraying. It’s good habit.

    1. avatar Bevan says:

      The problem is triggers are not just depressed by fingers. Ergo holsters with stray straps, coats with strings, and even a stray stick while navigating the woods can get in the trigger guard area. I had a ND of a rifle when I set the butt down too hard climbing over a fence.

      1. avatar seans says:

        Why was your rifle off safe when climbing over a fence?

        1. avatar Wellthen says:

          If the safety didn’t block the trigger and the firing pin was free floating, it wouldn’t matter if the safety was on.

          An AR15 can discharge if a round is chambered and the muzzle hits the ground with enough force, because the firing pin is allowed to freely move around inside the bolt.

        2. avatar seans says:

          Yes, but then it would fall more into the category of a AD than ND.

        3. avatar Grindstone says:

          Same thing can happen to a 1911, Wellthen.

          That’s why “muzzle discipline” is still important.

      2. avatar Joel from PA says:

        +1….this is why I carry a DA/SA. Yes it can still happen but it takes a lot more to make the first DA pull accidently go off. A little practice and I’m good to go in idpa with a DA first shot. I’m actually faster this way than flicking off a safety. I feel safer and more confident. Others may feel differently but this works for me.

        1. avatar MarkPA says:

          I carry a SA in Condition 2. From childhood I became habituated to recognize the position of the hammer and to use it in lieu of a safety.
          I’ll grant that it takes a fraction of a second more to cock the hammer than flick off a safety; but a small penalty in time for the peace-of-mind carrying for the rest of my life. Hammer spring tension is a variable; there are hammers I can’t cock; I don’t carry those. I carry a gun with a hammer I can cock easily.

          The only serious safety issue I can identify is that – upon loading the gun – I have to carefully lower the hammer without incurring a NG. I don’t have to do this often; so, I do it very carefully and consciously. Moreover, I’ve made myself a little teflon tool with a slit that I insert between the hammer and the firing pin. If my thumb were to slip the hammer would fall on the tool without depressing the firing pin.

          I invite anyone to point out any risk I might have overlooked.

        2. avatar Sian says:

          Mark, I hope that’s not a 1911 you’re carrying condition 2. The only SA gun I know of that’s actually designed for Condition 2 carry is the P7. Aside from having to manually lower the hammer on a loaded chamber after you’ve loaded it, If the hammer is pulled most of the way back and released (like if it catches on something) it will fire. I’m also not sure about the drop safety in that condition. Finally, it’s probably harder to thumb back that hammer under stress than you have fully accounted for.

        3. avatar MarkPA says:

          Thank you for responding to my invitation. It’s not a 1911 or variant; it’s a Colt Pocket Lite.

          I had not thought of the possibility of pulling the hammer most of the way – not all the way – back and then slipping such that the hammer falls on the firing pin. Normally, that is NOT much of an issue. The only time I pull the hammer back with my thumb is when I’m at the range and I’m aiming down-range. Granted, I’m not aiming at the bull’s eye while cocking; I’m aiming at the backstop. That distinction doesn’t matter enough to worry about. (Nevertheless, it’s a good point. I should take care to be roughly on-target when cocking the hammer, not aiming at the floor or ceiling or wall.)

          I called Colt and asked if the Pocket Lite was drop-safe in Condition 2. I was told it is drop-safe.

          Granted, it probably IS HARDER to thumb back the hammer under stress than I have fully accounted for. If the spring tension on the hammer were relatively tight then the stress factor would be serious. I don’t experience the spring tension to be the least bit annoying when not under stress; therefore, my conclusion is that under stress there won’t be enough difference to result in a failure to cock. Nevertheless, it is another consideration for which I am grateful.

        4. avatar Aaron says:

          the Colt Mustang pocketllite is a 1911 variant. what Colt Pocketlite are you referring to?

        5. avatar MarkPA says:

          Yes, it’s a Colt Mustang Pocket Lite. I suppose it’s a kind-of 1911 variant albeit it lacks a grip safety. In any case, it’s a SA so the outward control operations are the same as a 1911 (ignoring the grip safety). That, however, is not to say that the internal mechanisms are identical. I imagine every SA has its own complement of internal mechanisms with its respective vulnerabilities.

        6. avatar Aaron says:

          I have one. I carry it loaded with the hammer cocked and safety on, the way it was designed to be carried. It is insane to lower the hammer on a loaded chamber with a 1911 variant, because it is NOT safer yet it is harder to employ.

        7. avatar MarkPA says:

          “. . . it is NOT safer yet it is harder to employ.”

          How, precisely, is it NOT safer? Are you saying only that it is equally safe? Or, are you saying it is less-safe? Are you accounting for the fact that:
          – I don’t lower the hammer often?
          – when I lower the hammer I do it very consciously?
          – I use a tool so that, even if my thumb slips, the hammer can’t fall on the firing pin?
          – I aim the muzzle at something I am prepared to put a hole through?

          Harder to deploy? That is purely a matter of the strength of my thumb vs. the spring tension on the hammer. I assume – since you have a Colt Pocket Lite of your own – that you are aware of the spring tension of the hammer on this make & model. I’m not a big tough guy but my thumb is strong enough that I have no difficulty cocking the hammer; even repeatedly during dry-fire practice.

          I’ll grant you that it probably takes a fraction of a second longer to cock the hammer vs. flick-off the safety. I’m willing to forego that fraction of a second. As for my training, I’ve been using the hammer down since i was 8 years old; that’s my habit and I’m not going to re-train to use a safety at 63.

          I can see the hammer from any position. If it’s cocked when I didn’t just cock it deliberately I’d be shocked and recognize that it’s not in the Condition it’s supposed to be in. If the safety gets flicked off inadvertently (or I’ve left it off negligently) I’d not notice it.

          I’m genuinely interested in learning anything I might have overlooked. However, I need a specific mechanical explanation, scenario or line of reasoning. Simply calling my practice “insane” doesn’t tell me anything new or useful (I’m not insulted; I’m married).

        8. avatar Aaron says:

          You state that you don’t load and de-cock often, and you use a tool to block the hammer when you do. I guess using a tool to block the hammer makes it safer than it otherwise would be. But why bother with an unnecessary step, that requires an extra tool, that uses the gun in a manner different from the way the vast majority of people use it?

          plus, when you say you don’t load and de-cock,it often, it sounds like you don’t shoot it often. Do you practise with your gun? You should – and that would require you to go through your process after every range session.

          If you have a good holster that covers the safety and trigger – pocket, IWB, whatever – then the gun is safe loaded and cocked. Why add unnecccessary steps, steps that require extra care and extra tools to prevent an accident, to the situation? Complexity increases the risk of error and makes it more dangerous.

        9. avatar MarkPA says:

          “But why bother with an unnecessary step,[?]” If I want to carry in Condition 2 then it is a necessary step. I don’t want to carry in Conditions 0, 1 or 3 where lowering the hammer would not be required. To characterize the step as unnecessary requires that you assume a fact that is rejected by definition.

          “. . . that requires an extra tool[?]” The tool cost me just a few dollars and a half-hour of time. Now, I have the tool (and extra material should I lose the tool I’ve made” I keep the tool handy so its there when I need it. A small investment and inconvenience to make my preferred practice safer.
          “. . . that uses the gun in a manner different from the way the vast majority of people use it?” I take seriously that I am out-of-step with the vast majority. That’s why I’m soliciting criticism. I do not, however, subscribe to the thesis that I should necessarily march in lock-step with majority practice simply because it is a majority practice. I am a pretty determined individualist.

          “. . . when you say you don’t load and de-cock,it often, it sounds like you don’t shoot it often. Do you practise with your gun?” Alas, here you have me. I should shoot more often. And, I should dry-fire more often. Most of us should. Reality is, nevertheless, that the vast majority of us are in this unfortunate situation of not shooting weekly or dry-firing every few days. I suppose there are two ways of dealing with the situation. First is to take an “Only-Ones” attitude; i.e., that only intense amateurs and police are qualified to carry guns because they practice up to the standards these few establish as the bar for entry into the “Only-Ones” club. Second, to accept that if the 2A is to survive, the class of PotG needs to expand to men, women and youngsters who will practice only occasionally.

          “You should – and that would require you to go through your process after every range session.” At the range, the extra care is not so important. When I reload my carry ammo then I need to lower the hammer before holstering, packing and departing. I’m also obliged to aim down-range during the “hot range” interval while performing the delicate operation. A ND in such circumstances would damage my ego, but only put a bullet in the backstop.
          The relevant context is after a dry-fire or cleaning session. Then I have to re-load my carry ammo. These events occur somewhat more often than at the range. They are never hurried occasions; I have time to maintain consciousness and use my tool.

          “If you have a good holster that covers the safety and trigger – pocket, IWB, whatever – then the gun is safe loaded and cocked.” I do have a pocket holster that covers the trigger guard. If I never overlooked putting the safety on and if I never inadvertently flicked it off without realizing it then carrying in Condition 1 would be just as safe as carrying in Condition 2. As I’ve explained, the safety isn’t as conspicuous as the hammer. It’s also easier to inadvertently flick the safety off than cock the hammer.

          Where we seem to differ is in mind-set. If you practice carrying in Condition 1 then your mindset is that the hammer is supposed to be cocked when the gun is “in use”; i.e., when it’s at your side in the holster or on the night-stand. This is your normal. Conversely, my mind-set (established for 55 years) is that the hammer is supposed to be down until the moment before taking the shot. If ever I observed the hammer cocked other than in the moment before taking a shot an alarm bell would go off in my head.

          “Why add unnecccessary steps, steps that require extra care and extra tools to prevent an accident, to the situation? Complexity increases the risk of error and makes it more dangerous.” To carry in Condition 1 the operator must set the safety after chambering the first round. To carry in Condition 2 the operator must lower the hammer after chambering the first round. One step in each case. My tool isn’t “required”; it’s simply an added precaution. It’s no inconvenience to me. Whether I have the tool or not, I take care to aim at something I’m willing to put a hole in. My risk of error is lower than your risk of error because my hammer in the wrong position is more conspicuous than your safety in the wrong position.

        10. avatar Aaron says:

          you sure spenda lot of words to justify something that is just plain dumb, and unneccessary. You are using the gun in a manner for which it was not designed.

        11. avatar MarkPA says:

          Your response is void of substance.

        12. avatar Aaron says:

          don’t mistake your wordy justifications for you doing something that is unneccessary and dumb as “substance”.

          Any unneccessary, non-value-added action is dumb.

          decocking a pistol is more likely to cause a ND than using the pistol the way it is designed, because you have to pull the trigger and manually stop the hammer from falling. Racking the slide and flicking the safety of cannot cause a ND.

          And manually cocking it with your thumb in a self defense situation is more likely to cause a ND than flicking the safety off, because your thumb can slip. Flicking the safety off cannot cause a ND.

        13. avatar MarkPA says:

          “. . . manually cocking it with your thumb in a self defense situation is more likely to cause a ND than flicking the safety off, because your thumb can slip.”

          Thank you for this point; I hadn’t thought of it before.

          If the spring tension on the hammer is strong then you are absolutely correct. I have one gun (which I don’t carry) that is so hard to cock that a slipping thumb is a distinct possibility. Conversely, on the two guns I do carry, the spring tension is quite mild. I don’t have the least bit of difficulty with my thumb not being strong enough to control the hammer.

          Nevertheless, in the heat of battle, I can still see your point that the thumb is more vulnerable to slipping off the hammer relative to the safety.

          Notwithstanding your point – which I’m grateful for – I’m still comfortable with my choice of carrying in Condition 2. Were I a cop in the inner-city (with an expectation of having to fire in anger any day I go to work) then I’d probably reconsider my options. I might carry a Glock with no safety and no hammer. That’s not my life. Staying away from stupid: people/places/games/times, I have a negligible expectation of needing to fire to defend myself.

          So, I – like the cop – am balancing two risks:
          – that of an error when i need to fire my gun; vs.
          – a ND.
          Given the difference between our respective probabilities of an error when needing to fire, we are apt to make different decisions. Similarly, given differences in expectations about the risks of a ND, we are apt to make different decisions.

          Some cops have an infallibility complex; a prime example (I suspect) the PA State Trooper who killed one of his students when he pulled the trigger in a training class while neglecting muzzle discipline (to say nothing of neglecting to treat all guns as-if they are loaded). Some cops might also be inclined to rely (unconsciously) on the immunity given to cops who are policed by themselves. (My point here is NOT to bash cops; instead, it is to heighten the clarity around the point that different people in different situations will rationally reach different conclusions about relative risks of different practices.)

        14. avatar Aaron says:

          don’t manually lower the hammer on a 1911!

          It’s unnecessary, the gun wasn’t designed to require it, and it is far more dangerous than just carrying loaded and cocked.

        15. avatar MarkPA says:

          Hi Aaron,
          Thanks for your reply. As I responded to Sian, I have a Colt Pocket Lite, not a 1911 per-se or a 1911 variant.

          I acknowledge that the 1911 wasn’t designed to be carried in Condition 2. Nevertheless, Condition 2 is defined just as it is the case that Conditions 0, 1 and 3 are defined. I need an explanation for WHY – precisely – there is a danger to carrying in Condition 2 (other than those I identified for myself and identified by Sian). Without some explanation which I can understand (or which a gunsmith can explain to me) I don’t see why I should infer that it’s Condition 2 is more dangerous than Condition 1 (or 3 for that matter).

          Bear in mind that I’m a civilian, not a soldier or a cop. I expect to carry for the rest of my life carrying without ever having to fire in anger. Can you explain why carrying with the hammer down is dangerous? If not, then the argument against Condition 2 needs to be based on those few occasions where I have to cock the hammer or lower the hammer (without firing).

        16. avatar Aaron says:

          it is more dangerous because you have to manually decock the hammer, which requires the safety to be off. If the hammer slips off your thumb, it might fire.

          It also means that to employ it, you must cock the hammer, which means you have to grip the gun tightly and take your thumb off the grip. you are much more likely to pull the trigger inadvertently.

        17. avatar MarkPA says:

          As I explained from the outset, I am aware of the potential for the hammer to slip off my thumb when I lower the hammer after loading. I don’t load and decock often; and, when I do so I’m very conscious of what I’m doing. Moreover, I’ve made myself a teflon tool with a slit. I put the tool between the hammer and the firing pin so that the slit is over the pin. I lower the hammer on the teflon tool. If my thumb should slip it will hit the teflon without pressing on the firing pin. So, I’ve identified and covered this risk.

          “. . . grip the gun tightly and take your thumb off the grip. you are much more likely to pull the trigger inadvertently.” I’m unconscious of my grip whether I’m shooting or not; in other words, I never grip the gun tightly. I’ve never had a limp-wrist experience firing. Doesn’t change when I take my thumb off the grip to cock the hammer. I certainly don’t have my finger in the trigger guard when I’m cocking the hammer.
          I get what you are describing. I have a couple of OTHER SA pistols where it’s just about impossible for me to cock the hammer using my thumb. I wouldn’t consider – EVER – carrying these guns for self-defense. My EDC Colt Pocket Lite doesn’t have much spring tension on the trigger; not much more than a kid’s cap gun.

          Anything else you can think of?

        18. avatar seans says:

          @Mark from Pa. Does your gun have a firing pin block. Cause if it doesn’t it is extremely dangerous to carry a SA gun in condition two if it doesn’t.

        19. avatar MarkPA says:

          Colt’s web page mentions: “firing pin safety block” which I take to mean the “firing pin block” to touch you refer.

        20. avatar Sian says:

          Ok, PocketLite has the firing pin block so you’re good from accidental hammer shenanigans.

          Still carrying that condition 2 isn’t something I’d do for reasons stated earlier, but it’s not a ‘WTF ARE YOU DOING’ unsafe situation like it would be with an older 1911.

        21. avatar MarkPA says:

          Thanks guys for your inputs.

        22. avatar Joel from PA says:

          Mark, Manuel lowering of the hammer is no big deal. Thousands of shooters do it with DA/SA guns using a safety instead of a decocker. When shooting SSP, I manually decock all the time. I grab the hammer between my thumb and index finger, pull the trigger and lower it. Never had a problem, and you won’t either…if you’ve done it that way since you were 8,/I’d say you have your system down, go for it.

        23. avatar MarkPA says:

          Thanks Joel for the point about DA/SA; hadn’t thought of that. De-cocking mechanisms are doubtlessly a recent improvement on DA/SA.
          I’ve not tried using thumb & finger to grip the hammer; probably a better idea than thumb alone.

  11. avatar Philippe says:

    The new policy among police departments should be “no round in the chamber” period. That will also solved the so called “taser gun mistake” and save some embarrassments. Or maybe they should all go back to revolvers.

    1. avatar jake from detroit says:

      I wonder what their policy was on body side carry? Our local PD has a policy that the taser must be carried on the weak side of the body for all uniformed officers to prevent this exact problem.

      Unchambered carry for police officers seems like a fantastic idea though. That, and any other policy our betters wish to enact on the population first.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Off body carry. IOW, in the car.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      Even if it was policy to carry without a round in the chamber, I wouldn’t follow it.

    3. avatar Sian says:

      The most recent ‘taser mistake’ was with a revolver.

  12. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    “That’s all it takes: a momentary lapse in attention, failing to do what we’ve done hundreds, even thousands of times, handling a gun when we’re tired, when we’re upset, when our minds are elsewhere . . .”

    Exactly. And the hole here in the baseboard is a constant reminder. I grew up around guns and believed that something like this would never happen to me. It takes just one time to learn that over-confidence is every bit as dangerous as rank ignorance. Bullets don’t care one way or the other.

    1. avatar DrewN says:

      Yeah, I drew a big red circle around the hole in my pegboard with a large red “Idiot!” next to it for emphasis.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I think you’re referring to complacency, as opposed to overconfidence. You can’t get more confident than I am concerning my ability to handle guns safely. I can’t HIT squat with them, anymore, but safe? I am. But while I carry every day, I do not handle my weapon every day, or even every week. There are many of us who are required to holster, draw, load, unload, etc, several times a day. When I get ready to remove my weapon from my holster, it is a special event, I set aside everything else and give it my full attention. I can, because it’s rare. People who have to handle their weapons several times a day get more and more complacent, less and less attentive. The process gets faster and faster. It is human nature, and those folks must fight it every day.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        “Confident. Cocky. Lazy. Dead.”

        — Tad Williams

  13. avatar JasonM says:

    I love that DEA agent…
    I wish more feds would follow his lead.

  14. avatar B Realio says:

    Only time I could see as accidental is if there was some defect in said firearm.

  15. avatar Chris. says:

    Yes – Much like car accidents, they are inevitable. Even when Humans are going to be completely out of the loop as far as driving – There will STILL be car accidents. There will be mechanical failures, there will be software logic failures.

    Crap happens. You pick up the pieces and continue. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t TRY to be safe. Just like looking both ways before crossing the street.

  16. avatar Ralph says:

    The only things that are inevitable are death, taxes and taxes. And also, taxes.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      Traffic coming to a stop in LA is inevitable. Yet it surprises people every day, especially people on their cell phones.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:


        Thank you, thank you, tip your waitresses well, folks, he’ll be here all week…

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          My awesome humor is free of charge – because nobody’s going to pay for it. Better a cop with a sense of humor than steroid rage, anyways.

  17. avatar Minnesota Nice says:

    If we always treat every weapon as if it were loaded, why would we need to visually and physically clear a weapon before handling it or handing it to others??

    1. avatar foodog says:

      Trust but verify…

    2. avatar Lucas D. says:

      Because using a belt and suspenders helps your pants stay up twice as well, if you follow the logic.

      The more margins of safety you bring into handling a weapon, the less likely you’ll ever find yourself whispering terrified profanities over your friend who’s dying of a lungshot because, whoops, I guess it was loaded! If you obey all the rules for gun safety, such a thing will never happen. Guaranteed.

      1. avatar Minnesota Nice says:

        Great points. However, every time you needlessly manipulate (clear) a safe and stable weapon you increase the potential of an ND. Particularly an SA semi-auto in condition 1.

        So again, if the weapon is loaded and stable, and you treat it as such, why do you need to clear it visually and physically to handle it?

        1. avatar Lucas D. says:

          I think that’s well covered under “Keep your finger off the damn trigger.” NDs are an impossibility for me no matter what I’m using or carrying because I consider the fundamentals of gun safety 100% non-negotiable. Anyone who wants to argue me on that is free to wrack their brain coming up with a scenario where the little bastards can still go bang when I don’t want them to.

        2. avatar seans says:

          Cause the vast majority of NDs happen with unloaded guns. Or what the person thought was a unloaded gun. The 4 rules are a guideline. There are times when you will have to break them.

        3. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Depends on your definition of “handle”. I include dry firing in that description, unloading would be good. Duh.

    3. avatar Robert Kling says:

      Stop it with the common sense. Don’t you know logic becomes immaterial as soon as someone says “In the Name of Safety…”

    4. avatar LarryinTX says:

      To demonstrate to those others, and put them fully at ease.

  18. avatar Art out West says:

    Maybe the police shouldn’t be trusted with striker fired semi-autos like Glocks. Perhaps they ought to go back to using double action revolvers. “Accidents” like these seem to happen much less frequently when using revolvers.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      “Cleaning” accidents happened then, as well.

      1. avatar Gman says:

        Larry – WOW, a cleaning accident with a wheel gun? That’s when it’s time to change your Depends and sell all your guns.

      2. avatar MarkPA says:

        I remember, when I was a kid, hearing reports of people killing themselves “while cleaning his gun”. In those days Christians regarded suicide as a straight ticket to hell; as such, survivors regarded a suicide in the family as a great moral shame. I remember thinking that most – probably all – such cases were probably an excuse to explain-away a suicide. Either “cleaning his gun” was the story the family told; or, the suicide spread some newspaper on the kitchen table and got out his gun cleaning kit before offing-himself.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I’m on record here at TTAG that cops should be required to go back to S&W Model 10’s, with two speed loaders allowed.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Well I’d either upgrade to a Smith 686, or I’m not going to vote for DG.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Oh, alright.

    3. avatar Kendahl says:

      The local PD used to carry S&W model 10s. An officer shot himself in the leg on stumbling while in foot pursuit. Keep your booger hook off the bang switch applies the DA revolvers, too.

  19. avatar damarius ilion says:

    One of the best articles I’ve read in a while, very well put! As long as people stop being complacent when they have a weapon system in hand there wouldn’t be any concerns. When I was a army weapon armorer, the first thing I was taught was to treat every weapon as if it was loaded. When other soldiers have a weapons malfunction before I do anything I drop the magazine,charge the charging handle and observe (I pretty much perform what the army call S.P.O.R.T.S) . Remembering that simple procedure has never steered me wrong and keeps me aware and also show a certain level of professionalism, that thanks to the army I’ll never forget………

  20. avatar Aerindel says:

    Yes. But I am biased. Fifteen years ago an ND put me in the hospital for three days, on crutches for six months and left me with pain every single day. First and only ND in 30 years but it happened and it was bad. And yes, it was a Glock.

  21. avatar Rokurota says:

    Glocks have the best safety feature of all — they are homely-looking. No one unholsters his Glock to admire it and show it to his friends. I’d bet many more custom 1911s get NDed that way.

    1. avatar Kendahl says:

      A local guy did just that. Hauled out his EDC Glock in a restaurant to show a friend. Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured. A few caught fragments after the bullet hit a hard surface and broke up.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      In my experience, you have it exactly backwards.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Word. Cops and Glocks are big time ND culprits. 1911s are probably more safe than GLOCKs due to the grip safety. I wouldn’t mind a double stack 1911 STI Tactical 5.0 9mm for a duty gun one bit, although the cheapest I could find one is for $1899.

        1. avatar Anon in CT says:

          Check out the BUL M-5s. A little cheaper than the STIs and better than a Para. And you can get Mec-Gar mags quite cheap.

        2. avatar Geoff PR says:

          Someone needs to make a double Glock…

          (running like hell)

        3. avatar Rokurota says:

          Is it the cop or the Glock that’s the culprit (or the combination)? If 45% of PDs use Glocks, then of course more cops will commit NDs with Glocks.

          I don’t understand why anyone would show off an unmodified Glock. The only gun I’ve ever unholstered in another’s presence is my Smith 640, and that was only to demonstrate the fit of a holster I was selling. Emptied the cylinder first.

        4. avatar MarkPA says:

          “If 45% of PDs use Glocks, then of course more cops will commit NDs with Glocks.” Excellent point!

          Moreover, it seems to me that a cop and a CC’ing civilian are in much different postures when out and about. The cop is advertising himself as a target in his blue uniform. He is recognized to have a duty to intervene in situations that are threatening. He is open-carrying so he is the immediate threat to a disorderly person. He is obliged to maintain a status of Condition 0 – or as close thereto as possible.

          In contrast, the civilian CC’ing is no such target. Assuming he is not conspicuously printing and minding his own business he can be in whatever Condition he feels comfortable in; perhaps Condition 3.

          Cops are more apt to have an “attitude” issue if they aren’t screened-out for this risk. I fear that recruits are screaned-IN; i.e., Chiefs want candidates who will be extensions of their own authority complexes. Civilians are keenly aware that the judicial system is not likely to be the least bit forgiving.

          So, naturally, we are going to have a different distribution of NGs and bad-shoots across such disparate classes of individuals.

          Where – exactly – is the problem? What – exactly – can be done about it?

          An argument could be made that Glocks or SA pistols carried in Condition 0 is a problem; carrying in Condition 1 (or carrying any pistol with a safety) is a wiser compromise of safety considerations. A countervailing argument could be made that the greater part of the problem is with cops’ attitudes; and, if so, debating hardware won’t have much (if any) effect.

          The one thing we seem to have a consensus about is the “four rules” and habituating their implementation. Whether the individual is a cadet cop or a civilian newbie, the academies/PotG need to be vigilant for signs that the individual is taking seriously the habituation of the four rules. This affinity group surveillance and enforcement is critical. If fellow officers/range-shooters observe an individual is resistant then these fellows need to take individual responsibility to reinforce the training. When that doesn’t work, escalate up the chain-of-command.

          Self-regulation of our fellows in in our own best interest.

  22. avatar Billy the crib says:

    Imo they are avoidable. You have to be a bit ocd and rack to slide randomly to make sure it’s empty or if it’s full be ocd about keeping your booger hook off of the bang switch.

    1. avatar Sian says:

      Yep. If you think a gun is empty, it is not empty. It is only empty if you KNOW and verify that every time you pick it up, otherwise you could get a surprise.

  23. avatar Jon in CO says:

    Maybe I’m just different, but I feel much more gun safe around something like a glock, as opposed to something with a safety/DA-SA. Makes me much more aware of handling the non-safety gun than it does handling a manual safety.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I see that, but the fact that YOU act more safely does not make the GUN more safe. I can only imagine how safe I would act if determined to fire a black powder/percussion handgun, loading and firing, but that does not mean the firearm is safe. And Glocks are not safe.

      1. avatar seans says:

        How are Glocks unsafe. If the gun is having ADs, the gun is unsafe. If the shooter is having NDs, the shooter is unsafe. Don’t pull the trigger, and use a proper holster. Its that simple. If you have to have extra safeties to prevent a ND the problem is you, not the gun.

      2. avatar Grindstone says:

        Glocks are safe. Idiots aren’t.

        1. avatar Mark N. says:

          The world is full of idiots. It is the human condition. Remember that the mean IQ is 100, and the standard deviation is 15 points+/-. Two thirds of Americans have an IQ between 85 and 115. And a lot of them own guns.

      3. avatar Sian says:

        The trouble with a gun with any sort of extra safety is — it can quite easily be safe when you really, really need it to be dangerous.

        I’ve watched way too many security camera videos where a gun is pulled but it doesn’t go off because in a life-or-death situation, the user had not disengaged the safety, burning several vulnerable and potentially lethal seconds to correct the error.

        I don’t like it.

  24. avatar Vitsaus says:

    Inevitable with striker fired guns.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Why is that? I’m far from an expert, but I’ve fired striker fired guns and hammer fired DAOs, and can’t much tell a difference. I thought the concept of safeties was what we were discussing, where do strikers fit in, here?

  25. avatar CentralIL says:

    Minor point: I’m not sure the “I thought she was an elk” example meets the traditional definition of negligent discharge. The individual involved obviously was negligent in his violation of Rule #4. However, he pulled the trigger expecting to hear a bang and he heard a bang.

    I think for the sake of clarity we should only use the term “negligent discharge” to refer to unexpected bangs. These are usually the result of someone violating Rule #1 or Rule #3. (Rule #2 exists to mitigate the damage caused by NDs, not to prevent them.)

  26. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Accidents happen and they are almost always caused by someone’s negligence. I personally still believe in ‘accidental discharges’ even though they may technically involve some level of negligence. If you look at a situation and think that could happen to anyone it’s ‘accidental’. If you look at a situation and think, ‘what an idiot’ it’s negligent.

    For instance the cop that shot himself when he got the drawstring from his windbreaker caught in the trigger well when he holstered his weapon. Perhaps he should have been more careful. Perhaps his department shouldn’t have issued windbreakers with drawstrings. But it happened because even the tiniest slip can lead to an unintended discharge. This is why we should pay attention to every story and make ourselves aware of unnoticed dangers. If we discount all of these incidents as the handiwork of idiots we won’t learn anything and will be more likely to be the victim of our own unintended discharge.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      A grip safety would probably have prevented that discharge, and a frame safety would definitely have prevented it, so would a DA trigger pull identical to a revolver. But we continue to have people say that requiring the trigger to be pulled is safety enough. The silly gizmo in the center of a Glock trigger is like a joke, my LC9 has no such silliness, but the firing pin is blocked unless the trigger is held all the way to the rear while the hammer drops. Just like my Python did. Just like my Detective Special does. The level of excuse-making in order to keep advocating accurate, dependable, inexpensive, dangerous guns is amazing.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        No argument here, I carry a GP100 but I’m a fan of manual safeties where applicable. I just have a hard time labeling that guy as being ‘negligent’, especially when I think it was his duty weapon and probably didn’t have the choice to carry a non Glock. Sometimes terrible accidents just happen. Usually they can be prevented though.

  27. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Only in that stupidity is inevitable.

    I will say that some guns (especially the striker-fired pistols without any secondary mechanical safety) are more prone to discharge-by-stupidity than other designs.

  28. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    ‘The officer pulled the trigger while taking apart his .45-caliber handgun for cleaning but did not realize the gun was loaded, police said.’

    This was either a Glock or murder. Still pretty damn irresponsible if it was a Glock, you’re supposed to point it in a safe direction when you do that.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I suspect murder, but it is not absolute. But as a cop, nobody will even look.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        Even with a Glock (or non-Glock brand Glock) the only way I can see it is if he had a complete brain fart and forgot to drop the magazine before he racked the slide and was ‘sure’ the chamber was empty then pointed the weapon at the floor, not realizing his wife was in the basement directly in front of his muzzle and pulled the trigger. Generally when I hear ‘accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun’ I think suicide. I think I’ve even heard that the PDs will rule it as such to keep the widow from losing the pension. Same thing with these situations, my first thought is murder.

    2. avatar Sian says:

      “What’s the first thing you do when you disassemble a Glock?”

      “You clear it. Idiot.”

  29. avatar Hannibal says:

    In the sense that anything that can happen will happen given an infinite amount of time… sure.

  30. avatar Bobiojimbo says:

    “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.

    The same rationale can be applied to negligent discharges – especially considering the large number of people who or use firearms on a regular basis.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      yeah, but you can hasten the inevitable by being stupid or careless.

      If you are careful enough, you,will probably expire from natural causes before having a ND or AD.

  31. avatar MoveableDo says:

    The phrase always associated with negligent discharges is, “The gun just went off.” How many folks have been convinced that guns are volatile and dangerous just sitting there? After all, at any moment any gun can just go off. We gun owners MUST stop saying that “it just went off.”

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      We gun owners MUST stop saying that “it just went off.”

      We gun owners never say that, because we understand how guns work. The only people who claim that “the gun just went off” are liars, reporters or people who have never owned a gun.

  32. avatar Grindstone says:

    I have NEVER had an ND, or even an “AD”. I follow the Four Laws like they’re my religion. Well, I suppose they ARE my religion, since I don’t have any other. Every facet of safety I made a habit of so it is within my muscle memory. So much so that my finger stays off the trigger on my cordless drills and weed sprayer. I don’t believe at all that NDs are “inevitable”. Stupidity, complacency, and laziness are avoidable.

    1. avatar NewGunAddict says:

      I never believed people could be so naive as to think a trigger could not be manipulated by anything other than their own intentions, but a lot of them have weighed in here saying just that. “I keep my finger off the trigger, so I will never have an AD/ND”. . . . Uh-huh, right. These are the ones most likely to have a humbling experience that “no one could have ever planned for or expected”. I pray for their sake no one is hurt if it does happen to them some day.

      The mantra “shit happens” is not a joke, people. It really, really does – – and oftentimes in the oddest and most unexpected ways.

      1. avatar Aaron says:

        Well, that’s true. You need to keep your finger – and everything else – off the trigger. Lots of “NDs” occur when something other than a finger depresses the trigger.

        And don’t slam a loaded weapon butt-first into the ground. And don’t buy cheap guns that fire when nostld.

  33. avatar Kendahl says:

    An accidental discharge is one that results from a malfunction of the firearm. If you were following the basic safety rules, the worst that will happen is property damage. Everything else is negligence. When handling firearms, paranoia is a safety precaution, not a mental disease.

    I like the grip safety and frame safety on a classic 1911. Cocked and locked, it won’t fire unless the gun malfunctions or you drop it off the roof onto its muzzle. Certainly, it’s possible to safely carry a striker-fired pistol that has a light trigger and its only safety inside the trigger. But the margin for error is smaller with them.

  34. avatar racer88 says:

    The vacuous disparagement, derision, and finger pointing for Glock brand pistols in these “discussions” is the only thing that is “inevitable.” (rolling my eyes)

    My first pistol was a Glock – over 20 years ago. I still have it along with two other Glocks. I also have a variety of other types and brands of handguns. I handle firearms by the book. No NDs.

    Because I cut my teeth, so to speak, on Glock pistols, I do not use the traditional manual safeties on my other firearms. They are superfluous and serve no purpose other than to intervene in the case of the user violating at least 3 out of the 4 Rules. To use the manual safeties (in my hands) is unnecessary and requires a CHANGE in how I handle firearms. I prefer to be consistent (in using the Four Rules). When it comes to the Four Rules, I am “OCD.”

    I agree that the stories behind the police ND incidents are exactly that… STORIES. Untrue stories.

  35. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    I was taught not to blindly fully trust safeties nor the mechanical condition of guns. I did deliberately get a Marlin 39A to go off in the half cock position after bringing the hammer down from the full cock position. I do not have the guns loaded with rounds in the chamber. I am very cautious and conservative with checking the condition and status of guns. I did have next door neighbors who shot their unloaded gun, luckily nobody was hurt.

  36. avatar Aaron says:

    Fatigue is likely a factor in true NDs. I’ve made more bad decisions, had more close calls, and got laid less when fatigued than when drunk.

  37. avatar jsallison says:

    I was the armorer for a cav troop just prior to our AGI. For those who don’t know, back in the ’70’s an AGI was a proctological exam with no vaseline and my particular unit, C/2-1 Cav/2AD had not passed an arms room AGI in something like 10 years. Finding a weapon in the arms room that was cocked was pretty much an automatic failure. Aware of this, about 2 days before the inspection I pulled the triggers of all (162) rifles in my racks. About halfway through there was heard a loud ‘BANG!!!’. Fortunately my armored door was closed and the round in question was a blank from a recent field problem. I blame my newbie arms room officer. Yes I do.

    Oh, and moi passed with NFN (no faults noted) in all areas. My S-2 was beside himself and wrote me up for one of only 2 ARCOMS that I saw awarded in a 20 year career.

    I was a lowly e-4 and the S-2 sent over his e-5 fair haired boy from B troop for a ‘courtesy’ inspection. He advised painting my wall lockers and floor so I looked pretty for the inspector. I told him to go away and leave me alone, I got this. The S-2 spent the next week hyperventilating until the inspection. B Trp’s freshly painted lockers and floor failed, don’tcha know?

    1. avatar jsallison says:

      I offered to help him out next year. It wasn’t taken up and I went back to my first love, tanks.

  38. avatar Mark says:

    I had an unintentional discharge a few years ago. It scared me bad. It taught me, however, a very important lesson: if you get in the habit of always observing ALL of the rules of firearms safety, in the event that you accidentally break one rule, and have a negligent discharge, you will still be following the other rules, and it will be unlikely that anyone will be hurt.

    I fired my rifle when I did not intend to, but it was pointed at the ground, so no harm came of it.

    1. avatar CM says:

      +1 this. If you fail one rule, hopefully the other three will still prevent a tragedy.

    2. avatar David says:

      I thought of myself as a ‘super responsible guy’, very intelligent, always in control, very aware of firearm safety rules, don’t drink etc., yet I just had a ND a few hours ago. Fortunately, at that moment I was pointing it in a safe direction and just blew a hole in the wall, but it could just as easily have been far worse.

      Ironically, when it happened I was literally busy watching firearm safety handling videos on YouTube, to try teach myself to be more aware of things that ‘could go wrong’. Immediately before that, I’d just finished cleaning the gun and had just been dry-firing it, and somehow my mind thought the gun was still unloaded (yes, stupid, I know, but somewhere inbetween dry-firing it and starting to watch gun safety videos I’d inserted the magazine I guess out of habit and without thinking … my mind somehow tricked itself into thinking I was still in dry firing mode) .. I cocked it to test some potential trigger snagging scenario shown in the video, and somehow the next moment it was all smoke, gunpowder, and ringing ears.

      I forgot one safety tip that might have helped: If you’re cleaning or dry firing, don’t just take out the magazine: Put the magazine IN ANOTHER ROOM.

      I’m going to keep that shell with me to try remind myself that I too can do stupid things, and to be less complacent and more vigilant.

    3. avatar David says:

      ^ Also +1 this.

  39. avatar Paul says:

    No they are not unavoidable. Some background, I spent 18 months in Desert Storm (before, during and after combat operations), multiple deployments, all sorts of weapons and live ammo….I never heard of an accidental discharge during any of those “real world” events. Although, it is true that I know of folks who were shot at accidentally- the other guys had deliberately pulled the trigger.

    In contrast: Peace time Army maneuvers, 1 accidental discharge I know of….An M-60 came off a range, and discharged a round on the other side of a motor pool from me. Shot a hole thru a Black Hawk helicopter. Thank God it wasn’t me, my guys or my unit. Huge stink made about that.

    I mention this because I dealt with a full spectrum of people who had a variety of weapons and ammo. In a lot of regular, mundane, boring jobs, and high stress, high energy jobs. Yet, I can only think of 1 accidental discharge, involving a belt fed weapons system, and the complete failure of all known range procedures. I know of more lost weapons than I do of accidental discharges, and I still think someone deliberately shot that helicopter and blamed it on an AD.

    I believe a huge volume of accidental discharges are a direct result of a major difference between how the Military trains and operates, and how civilians do….In the military, you do not run around in Condition 0 or Condition 1 unless combat operations are imminent/on-going. Most of the time, you’re in Condition 3 (mag in, no round chambered). I take a lot of crap from some people now because even as a civilian, I’m still carrying Condition 3 most of the time.

    Training is the other component. Just an opinion here, but Military ranges are highly disciplined. You’re not allowed to fire unless you get the order to fire and it’s a highly structured course of fire. It’s almost completely trained me to delay pulling that trigger, until I know there is a target in front of me. In contrast, we train to keep our fingers off the trigger until it’s “Boom Stick” time.

  40. avatar TX Gungal says:

    Informal first rule of safety is read the frigging owner manual for your pistol. Some will not fire if mag in out but some will if there is round in the pipe. I have probably shot more rounds with snap caps than live rounds, to familiarize myself with a pistol or revolver, practice clearing drills . Since often pocket carry in holster or not from time to time, recently added a trigger block from Amazon, Quick Release Conceal Carry Micro Holster Trigger Stay by Garrison Grip (BLACK) for my Ruger LCR .38
    I’m not a life long shooter, came late to the party when purchased my first weapon in 2009, a Ruger LCR .38 still EDC and probably always will be. Since getting bit by the gun bug have an extensive collection of pistols and revolvers (both modern & vintage)
    Have never had a ND

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:

      Good for you on all counts.

      I don’t believe I even shot a handgun before I was 25. (I believe I did get to shoot a .22 rifle once as a tadpole, I don’t recall finding it particularly exciting or rewarding, and don’t even remember how well I did.) Now I’m almost never without a handgun anywhere where it’s not expressly forbidden.

  41. avatar Scott Krueger says:

    I can bounce my DA/SA triggers on my finger, yank it around and it never goes off (Unloaded & Triple Safety Checked to be empty 1st of course). My Glock not even close… The Long Heavy 1st Pull is the Safety that requires a I reall mean this pull. Follow up shots are nice and short and light.
    You can say “Finger Off Trigger” all you want, but handling everyday breeds the possibility for accidents. My DA 1st Pull makes feel much better than the Hair Trigger on my Safetyless Glock 26, which is why a P30SK will be replacing my Glock in my Carry Arsenal. Now my Glock will be an undersized range gun. I agree that a Glock is like carrying a 1911 cocked and unlocked.

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:

      I’ve never measured the pull, but my subjective feel is that Glocks do have a slightly heavier trigger pull than a stock 1911. It’s certainly a LOT heavier than the hair triggers a lot of people deliberately put on their 1911s. For those I would insist on some sort of safety control were one not there to begin with, and this goes for my CZ (non-decocker model) as well. If it’s to be carried in single action hammer back, it needs a frigging safety lever at minimum.

      I think it’s a matter of personal preference as to whether you find that Glock trigger too light for not having a safety; Glocks to me are borderline and I can see going one way or the other. Certainly some people have a harder time keeping focused for whatever reason, and they probably shouldn’t own the things.

  42. avatar Jeremy B. says:

    Not that anyone is reading down this far, but….

    “Are negligent discharges inevitable?”
    – Yes. As a race humans are fallible. If we have auto’s, we have auto accidents, negligence, manslaughter, etc. If we have quarterbacks, we have interceptions. If we have firearms, we will have negligent discharges. It’s worth noting we are at a time when there are fewer overall “accidental” firearms deaths than EVER. Not just a lower rate, but a lower overall number.

    “If it was a rifle round, there will tend to be rather more holes than if it were a handgun round.”
    – Not in my house. A varmint style .224″ projectile will go through about half as many obstructions as a .400″ fmj and even jhp.

  43. avatar Don in PA says:

    I have never had an ND and don’t know of anyone I shoot with that has an ND. Maybe they are keeping it a secret but I don’t think it’s an inevitable thing.

  44. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

    Yes, ND’s are inevitable. And yes, they are also avoidable. The two are not mutually exclusive. If they weren’t inevitable there would be no need for Cooper’s 4 Rules.

  45. avatar fsilber says:

    I find it more difficult to avoid auto accidents. But I’ve found one tip that has served me well, and that is: Never dry-fire a gun I intend to carry shortly. If I’ve come home, unloaded the gun and dry-fire before putting it away unloaded, fine. If before going out I dry-fire a gun I’m not going to take with me, fine. If I’m about to go out, I do not dry-fire the gun I am going to carry. Because most accidents occur when you play with a gun after you _forget_ that you just loaded it.

    1. avatar David says:

      @” I do not dry-fire the gun I am going to carry. Because most accidents occur when you play with a gun after you _forget_ that you just loaded it”

      Wow, indeed, that is EXACTLY what happened to me a few hours ago (ND, hole in the wall but fortunately nobody/nothing injured). It sounds really strange and stupid (I’m not stupid) but it was as if I loaded it almost subconsciously out of habit immediately after dry-firing it, and right after that, it was as if my mind momentarily ‘forgot’ I had loaded it and went straight back to thinking in that mental ‘dry firing mode’.

      I’ll follow your tip also.

      1. avatar fsilber says:

        The only disadvantage of my tip is it assumes you store the gun unloaded. I suppose, if you feel the need to store it loaded, then buy two guns; keep them in separate lock boxes, rotate them once a month maybe, but then keep one always unloaded and that’s the one you dry fire. You dry fire the one you keep always empty.

        If you can only afford one gun, and feel the need to keep it loaded, then I guess what you need is a special room allocated to dry firing, and you never bring the gun loaded into that room.

        1. avatar David says:

          I usually store it in a safe overnight in ‘condition 3’ (i.e. loaded but no round in the chamber), as if someone breaks into our home, I want to be able to respond quickly … also, I carry almost daily. (I’m mostly trying to balance ease of access if I need it for self-defense, against the risk of any sort of accident … we live in a high crime area.)

          I like your idea of a ‘special room allocated to dry firing’. If you walk into that room, double-check you’re fully unloaded and leave magazine/ammo outside the room entirely. (Then of course still continue to try stick to the safety rules even while dry-firing.)

          I know that having a ND is obviously very serious – but the funniest part of my experience yesterday – my first thought was, ‘am I injured – hm, no’, but my second thought was, ‘shit, my wife’s going to be worrying what the hell just happened’, so I rushed upstairs to tell her I’m OK .. and she was snoring away peacefully! Somehow she didn’t hear a thing. So I tiptoed out again .. on the balance, I think I’d rather she didn’t know, as I don’t want her to worry.

  46. avatar JetJockChunk says:

    My name is JetJockChunk and I have a confession:

    I am the not proud owner of a ND (GASP! There, I said it)

    For time saving sake, I will cut a lot out. Happened when I was about 12. I’m now 30. Thank god no one was hurt! It happened in the living room and the shot went into the TV. Let’s just say that ever since that day I have been a staunch firearms safety proponent. I have to say that I believe I am probably the biggest safety advocate amongst my shooter friends. I’m always preaching firearms safety and can’t stress it enough. It is something that is way too easy to mess up. You don’t realize how easy it is to screw up until you actually do it. Maybe one day RF will ask me to write a piece on it for TTAG.

  47. avatar James J McGrath says:

    The fact is that we’re all human, We/you will all have “brain farts” at one time or another. That’s the moment when you do something you had no intention of doing and even you say to yourself “why did I do that”. That’s why THE most important thing is to KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER! It is not only possibly but proven that given the nature of the human nervous system, you can unintentionally pull that trigger.

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