I confess. I dropped my carry piece one morning last week. It slipped from my grasp and tumbled to the floor as I reached for it to holster it for the day. Fully loaded, it landed on some unfolded clothes in a laundry basket (procrastination really paid off in this case).
Despite my initial impulse to try to catch it, I pulled my hands away as it fell. I knew better than to try to catch a falling gun. The only damage was momentary and the only casualty was my pride.
For the past twenty-five years, my fellow trainers and I have always cautioned both new and experienced shooters not to try to catch falling guns. Clearly it’s very tempting to try recover a gun that’s slipped from one’s grasp. All of us have tried to catch dropped objects for our entire lifetime. When it comes to guns, though, it’s critically important to resist that temptation strongly.
Humans are fallible and dropped guns happen. Guns sometimes come out of holsters a lot easier than people expect when they haven’t gotten the proper grip while drawing. Other times they can fail to grasp the gat securely when accepting a gun that’s being handed to them. I’ve seen guns fall off tables on the firing line and others tumble as a disabled, older, or just plain clumsy shooter stumbles and falls during a movement drill.
Some people worry about dropped guns discharging when they hit the ground. If you’re using a modern handgun, outside of some older models, a few Derringers or a Cowboy-style guns, handguns will almost never discharge when they hit the ground, no matter the orientation. Even in the aforementioned groups of not-so-drop-safe guns, discharges when dropped are very unlikely.
But they can happen. Frankly, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun that might kill you if you drop it. Take the “gentleman” at a doctor’s office in Peoria back in 2019. He carried a Cobra Derringer in his coat pocket. As he was wrapping up his appointment, he dropped his coat and it landed with a “bang.”
The round went through the chair and narrowly missed his femoral artery as he was still mostly seated. Fortunately he lived, but the Illinois State Police pulled his carry license for a time.
If you’re using a non-drop-safe handgun at a range, you should be very careful with it, especially when it’s loaded. In Cowboy Action Shooting, they leave an empty chamber under the hammer to help ensure any dropped guns don’t go bang. That’s a good rule for all of us when using guns that don’t have safety mechanisms to prevent a discharge if a dropped gun lands on the hammer.
A far more dangerous scenario occurs when attempting to recover a dropped gun as it’s falling, inadvertently pulling or pressing the trigger while trying to catch it.
What’s the first rule of gun safety? Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Muzzle control is kind of hard to do with a falling gun.
What’s the second rule of gun safety? Keep your finger off the cotton-pickin’ trigger. With little difficulty someone can break both rules unintentionally with potentially horrific consequences in trying to catch a gun that’s falling.
So the next time you drop your piece, the safe thing to do is…just let it fall.