The Cornered Cat
Reholster without looking? Grab for a falling gun?

So here’s a surveillance video of an off-duty cop in an elevator, talking to his wife. Apparently, the gun riding in his holster just behind his right hip felt uncomfortable to him, so he took advantage of a private moment inside the elevator to adjust the way the gun was riding.

[Link for watching the video on YouTube.]

You see him chatting with his wife as he fiddles with the holster. He’s got an armload of packages in his other hand, and he’s clearly quite comfortable with both the gun and the situation. Not nervous, not worried, not a new gun owner. Just a relaxed guy talking to his wife while he settles his gun to ride more comfortably.

But something’s not working. He fiddles and fumbles with his clothes while he talks. Just can’t seem to find the right spot. No big deal.

A few moments later, you see him take the gun entirely out of the holster. He’s still not upset or even concerned. He’s just talking to his wife, paying attention to her. He glances briefly at his gun hand as he talks and you can clearly see his finger is off the trigger at that point. Then he moves to put the gun away.

It gets tangled in his coat. He bobbles the gun, fumbles, and …

BANG.

His wife first grabs for her ears (in an enclosed elevator … ouch!), then kneels down to see if he’s okay. He’s not, not really. Shot himself in the stomach. In the news reports, his injury was described as not  life-threatening, but if you’ve ever had an abdominal problem that required hospitalization, you know just how painful and serious a “non life-threatening” wound to that area can be. Bad juju.

When I came across the video on Facebook, several of my acquaintances opined that the unintentional discharge was a “booger hook and bangswitch” problem. If only he’d kept his finger off the trigger, they said. Obviously a bad gun handling habit, they said. Darn those poorly-trained cops anyway, they said.

From my watching of the video, I don’t see it.

The one clear glimpse we get of the gun in his hand, at 0:25 on the linked video, you can clearly see his straightened trigger finger alongside the frame as it should be. Of course, he could have casually allowed his finger to drift to the trigger a moment later as he was putting the gun away, as so many untrained shooters do. But given that brief glimpse of excellent finger discipline we do see on the video, and also given that this well respected officer has been on the force for a number of years, I don’t think that’s what happened.

I think he reflexively grabbed for the gun when it got tangled in his coat.

Does that mean this was just one of those things that happened to happen, and there was nothing he could or should have done differently? Not exactly. He definitely made some serious mistakes, and some of them look to be ongoing bad habits. As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than an embarrassing mistake, is an embarrassing mistake nobody learns anything from. So let’s learn from him.

Lessons:

  • Stop touching it. Unless you need to use it to shoot someone other than yourself, the safest place for your gun to stay is inside your secure holster. Keep it there. Don’t take it out of your holster unless you really, truly need to do that.
  • Pay attention to the gun. If you do absolutely need to handle your firearm for whatever reason, pay attention to it! It’s a deadly weapon. Give it the respect a deadly weapon deserves. Don’t multi-task. Unless you have something more urgent demanding your attention right freaking now (by which I mean, someone is trying to kill you), the gun is the only thing you should be thinking about whenever you handle it. Not the packages you’re juggling in your other hand, not the friend you’re chatting with on your cell phone, not the road in front of you as you’re driving. 1 Just, you know, pay attention to the thing in your hand that could kill you if you disrespect it.
  • Look before you holster. When it’s time to put the gun back into your holster and it’s reasonably safe to glance down (by which I mean, nobody is trying to kill you right now), take a moment to look at your holster to be sure it’s clear of obstructions. Yes, it’s really nifty if you’re so familiar with your equipment that you don’t have to look every time. Now that you’ve learned that skill, forget it unless you absolutely positively need it or need to practice to stay good at it. Most of the time, there won’t be six ninjas prepared to attack the moment you glance away. But there will always be a distinct improvement in your focused attention on good gun handling if you use your eyes to keep your hands out of trouble.
  • If something goes wrong while you’re holstering, STOP! Don’t keep moving, don’t shove the gun in harder, don’t just flip the obstruction out of the way without thinking about it. Just … STOP. Breathe. Think. If for whatever reason you weren’t paying 100% attention to your gun and gunhandling before, take a moment to reset your brain now. Take a deep breath to oxygenate your brain cells. If there’s something in your other hand, set it down or hand it to someone else so you can deal with the gun without distractions. If you’re having a conversation — on the phone or in person — stop talking so you can think about what you’re doing. Do this by habit, every time, as a lifetime habit. Fight the temptation to get complacent or lazy with the gun in hand.
  • Never grab for a falling gun. This includes guns that are slithering down inside your clothing, guns that are almost-but-not-quite still within your control, and guns that you think  you can probably catch. No matter how embassed you might feel if you drop your firearm (and given some surroundings, that can be very embarrassed indeed!), nobody has ever yet died of embarrassment. We can’t say the same about  grabbing for a falling gun.

So there you have it. Stay safe out there, friends. 2

Notes:

  1. Protip: Don’t handle firearms while driving. It’s a little like texting while driving, but noisier.
  2. As always, like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers. More information may come out as the investigation goes forward. My blog post is based on the news article linked above which reflects information available to me on 1/5/2015, not on anything that may come to light in the future.

3 Responses to Reholster without looking? Grab for a falling gun?

  1. larryarnold says:

    Another “private moment” that ended up all over the internet.

  2. Daniel in Brookline says:

    From time to time, I catch myself doing something stupid — something that could be dangerous, even though I (of course) know that I’m perfectly safe, because *I* would never lose control. Not me!

    At times like those, I try to remind myself of other times — times when Something Bad has happened, because I was careless or clumsy or inattentive, and, while I struggled to deal with it, I wished fervently that I could go back in time, just five minutes, and Make It Not Happen.

    Then I remind myself: “Your wish came true. You’re here. The Bad Thing hasn’t happened yet. Now cut it out.”

    It doesn’t always work, because people are stubborn. But sometimes it helps.

  3. Pingback:Thumb, Finger, Anchor … H-o-l-s-t-e-r | Cornered Cat

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