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Thursday, July 30, 2009

HOM: MisFired: Mostly Jim

I've made more than my share of errors with guns, which should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me. ----- My first pistol was a little Ruger Bearcat .22, and I was sitting in the living room unloading it one afternoon when Mom walked in. The proper way to unload one of these little single-action revolvers is to put the hammer on half-cock, a sort of safe position, then punch the shells out. I was too dumb for that -- I was holding the trigger back with my finger and the hammer back with my thumb while I punched the shells out. When Mom walked in carrying a pair of shoes, she startled me and my thumb slipped. The Bearcat went off, the bullet went into the ceiling, Mom threw the shoes and fell backwards through the kitchen door, and I dropped the gun. When we met in the door and I found out I didn't shoot her and she found out I didn't shoot myself we had a very happy reunion, but once the relief wore off I was in BIG trouble -- and I patched the hole in the ceiling before Dad got home or I would have been in even worse trouble. Nope, he never did know about that little episode. ----- I was sixteen and hunting with my new Winchester Model 12 Magnum shotgun back along the river when I heard a flock of geese. They sounded low and close, so I flipped the safety off and crouched down by a stump, hiding in case they came in range. They didn't, so I got up and sat on the stump, killing some time while waiting to see if they'd come back over me. First I was impatient, then bored, and then fidgety, and unfortunately one of the things I fidgeted with was the trigger. NOTHING relieves boredom like having the recoil from touching off 1-7/8 ounces of shot from a shotgun knock the wind out of you and shove you backwards off a stump and on to your dog, who assumes it's being attacked. Yeah, I'd forgotten to put the safety back on, and yeah, I thought it was funny -- several years later. ----- I was sitting here in my office looking at a little .380 auto pistol I had been given and fiddling with it -- trying the trigger pull, working the action, cleaning it, etc. Finally I loaded it up and set it aside. Yeah, by the time I picked it back up I'd forgotten it was loaded. When I "tested" the trigger again, it put a hollow-point slug right into my computer monitor at a range of about six inches -- and it bounced off without even cracking the glass! I lost a bit of faith in the efficiency of pocket-sized automatics and a lot of faith in my memory after that little oopsy. I shared the episode with a LEO friend of mine and he said, jokingly, maybe he better stop charging people with assault with a deadly weapon if they used one of the little .380s. ----- The one consolation to me, and the one universal law that really applies, is that if a person handles enough firearms, eventually one WILL go off accidentally, and that there is no real shame in the event as long as the cardinal rule of firearm safety is observed: ALWAYS keep the muzzle aimed in a safe direction whether the gun is loaded or empty. These accidental discharges happen to everyone eventually. It is a pretty safe bet that most barracks and every police station has a stray bullet hole or six from accidentally fired rounds, and for sure our local cop shops have them, though I won't name any of the officers involved. ----- I will mention one LEO that was a friend of mine, now deceased. He was a highway patrolman, and one of the better ones, an expert shot and a highly skilled driver. One day he pulled his duty 9mm off of his belt and went about locking it up in the glove box of his car, but when he shoved it in, it fired. To add insult to jury, the bullet hit him in the right cheek. He never really did live that PITA down. ----- I won't mention the incidents involving the sheriff, or the deputy that put a round through the nameplate on his buddy's locker and ALL the uniforms that were hanging in it, or any of the other FCSO & KPD stories I've been entrusted with, though I am sorely tempted. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)