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GUNS Magazine December 2010 - Page 12
• MASSAD AYOOB • REFlECTiONS ON SAFETY o there I am, holding my S friend’s finger. Unfortunately, my friend is a room away. In the plastic specimen bottle I’m holding, I can see, through the cloudy Formalin, the second and third digits of his pinky finger. He accidentally put a 200-grain XTP .45 slug through the median joint a couple of weeks ago, and arrived at the hospital with only a shred of flesh holding the mangled finger to the rest of his hand. They couldn’t save it. He had ridden much of the way to the hospital pointing the index finger of his other hand at himself and saying aloud, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” He asked the Emergency Room folks if he could keep the amputated remains, as a firearms safety reminder. Perhaps because emergency services personnel develop a morbid sense of humor in self-defense over the years, they granted him his wish. How did it happen? This guy is no spring chicken, and he’s been a shooter and hunter all his life. He never received formal training, and had developed bad habits here and there. Once or twice, I had watched him rack the slide of his favorite pistol, the 1911, from the front end. “Dude!” I remember saying to him, not in front of anyone else to avoid embarrassing him. “Look where your hand was! There’s a reason Mr. Browning and Mr. Glock and those guys put the grasping grooves on the back of the slide!” A couple of weeks ago, he was on his back porch dry-firing his Taurus PT1911 to practice resetting the trigger. He got done, inserted a magazine of .45 ACP carry loads, got involved in something else for a little bit, and then decided to dry-fire some more. In a little blurt of the cerebral flatulence we humans are all prone to, he forgot there was a live magazine in the pistol. His left hand went to the front of the slide from habit, pushing the slide back just enough to glance in and see an empty chamber. He pointed in a safe direction and squeezed off a 12 Common sense is the key. dry shot, and held the trigger back while his left hand worked the slide from the front to re-cock the hammer. With the little finger hanging out in front, he let the trigger come forward until he felt the click of the reset. Then he began to pull it to the rear. BANG! design has a barrel that moves back and forth, and when he smacked his hand onto the muzzle while fitting a new barrel, the old Remington Model 11 cycled up a live shell that had long been stuck unnoticed in its magazine tube, and slam-fired it. The muzzlecontact blast mangled the young shooter’s hand permanently, though he went on to become a highly skilled shooting competitor running the guns with his other hand. He told his story to Taylor and Front Sight in hopes of keeping someone else from making the same mistake. The gentleman added, “The night before I had read an article by a young Massad Ayoob, talking about an AD (accidental discharge) at an IPSC match with a .45 1911. Somewhere in there, he wrote ‘if you shoot enough, you’re eventually going to have an accidental discharge.’ The next morning, I did.” I remember that article well. It appeared in this space in the late 1970s, and if memory serves was titled “Anatomy of a Handgun Accident.” Required at a warm-up for an upcoming International Practical Shooting Confederation National Championship to draw weak-handonly from under a dinner napkin, and lacking an ambi safety on my Colt, I had lowered the hammer on a live round. On the signal, I grabbed 1-handed, but as I went to cock it the hammer slipped out from under the thumb, and BANG. The bullet went through the bridge table in front of me (on which the pistol had been staged) and into the ground a matter of inches from my foot. Keeping to Jeff Cooper’s Rule Two (“Don’t allow the muzzle to point at anything you are not prepared to see destroyed.”) had saved me from injury. No matter how much we shoot, no matter how long we’ve been doing it, we need to be constantly vigilant as to safety. It’s imperative to keep hands (and other body parts) away from that unforgiving muzzle. I thank my friend for sharing his experience… and no, I won’t share his name. Lessons Learned Don’t put your fingers in the working parts, and keep body parts away from the business end. It’s right up there with “Don’t eat the yellow snow.” An in-law of mine lost a big toe by trying to kick something out from under the running blades of a power mower. Same thing. In the March/April 2010 issue of Front Sight, the magazine of the United States Practical Shooting Association, Robin Taylor had an article on gunrelated accidents included a case where a man whacking the muzzle of an old Browning-pattern auto shotgun came to grief more than 30 years ago. That Workingtheslideofasupposedlyempty gunlikethis(above)tore-cockfordry fire,apinkyfingerwasleftinfrontof themuzzle,and…sufficetosay,Mas recommendsworkingtheslidefromthe rear!Aveteranshooter’slefthand(below), withthelittlefingershorterthanbeforedue toacarelessmomentwitha1911. WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • DECEMBER 2010