DGU Chronicles: Learning From the Mistakes of Others

I’m forced to keep track of defense gun uses and firearm-related accidents as part of my job. I keep an eye out for issues that become “learning moments” for me as well as for others. One way to do that is to subscribe to blogs, news aggregators and to follow people who, like me, see a need to keep and eye out for trouble.

An asset I follow is Stephen Wenger’s “DUF Digest” (that’s “Defensive Use of Firearms”). As he notes, it’s a “free digest of news and other material on tactics and defense of our rights.”

That’s where I noted a recent “rules violation,” a firearms incident that led to a negative outcome (in the words of our Tactical Professor who, likewise, keeps an eye out for mistakes by gun owners) and a “failure to do right” in terms of safe firearms use.

The rules violation was a “Rule 5” issue. Rule 5 is a concept I first noted from Wenger’s work. In my own lingo, it’s a failure to maintain control of defense equipment. In the present case, it’s the wrong gun, in the wrong place at the wrong time…and a lack of awareness of the threat it posed.

A 13-year-old girl was fatally shot by accident in the Nashville area.

Her mother was attempting to take keys out of her purse when she said she accidentally triggered an unholstered .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol in the purse, according to police.

“She said it went off as she was attempting to retrieve her keys from the purse,” police said in a statement.

Off-body carry — a bad idea — is made far worse when the gun is carried loosely in the container — a purse, backpack, briefcase, whatever — without a holster covering the trigger guard. Even a clip-on IWB holster inside the bag is better than nothing. Wearing the gun on your person is always vastly better.

No charges have been filed in the incident, but the investigation continues, as they say.

This was clearly a Rule 5 violation. Having control of your firearm means that the muzzle is maintained in the safest available direction and the trigger is protected from being touched by, well, anything.  One rules violation cascaded into others, as it too often happens.

Why is a purse a lousy place to carry a handgun? Let me count the ways. First, it could have been any off-body container such as a briefcase, a backpack or camera bag…anything that would be a prime target for muggers.

As Wenger notes, there are ways to secure guns in bags. Let’s start with a dedicated purse that’s designed for carrying a gun, with holster that covers the trigger guard area. This is (should be) basic stuff.

Some people who carry off-body handle — with our without a proper holster — figure they’ll cover themselves by carrying without a round in the chamber, also known as “Israeli carry.” Apparently there are still those who believe that they can predict when things will get dangerous, so they insist on carrying a pistol half-loaded. In his latest digest, Wenger notes an “empty chamber fail.”

Do people really think they’ll have time (and two hands) to draw and chamber a round under stress? Perhaps. But what will they do you do when the fight is over, with people possibly milling around, responding officers, or armed citizens? Are they going to clear the chamber before tossing the gun back in their backpack or purse?

The handgun is an emergency rescue tool. It’s only useful in a very few situations, but if it’s truly needed, there’s nothing else that will do the job. Making it more difficult to get it and use it is a sucker’s bet.

For that empty chamber fail, we go to Memphis where a shopper got into an altercation with a man who hit a woman in the face. When he he inserted himself into the situation, the offender struck him. That was followed by the Good Samaritan being shot by the attacker. The victim took nine shots, seriously injured.

When asked by a reporter what happened, the defender explained . . .

[Lemonte Grandberry] told me his gun wasn’t ready for any exchange of gun fire.

“Yeah, I had a firearm on me, but I didn’t have it engaged. I had just left home, didn’t feel a need to have something in the head. And that’s how he was able to shoot me. And I wasn’t able to shoot back,” Grandberry said.

Smith & Wesson 642 Airweight
You don’t need to carry with an empty chamber with one of these and it’s vastly better than nothing. In some cases, it can even be the best choice. (Courtesy Harry’s Holsters)
I’m detecting a pattern here. If you’re so worried about the semi-auto pistol you’re carrying “just going off,” by all means get a revolver. If you have to carry the gun half-loaded, staying at home combined with minding your own business could prevent a number of surgical interventions.

For those who recall their military service with an empty chamber over five rounds of ball in the magazine and for those who are fond “Israeli carry” (“it works for them”), I recommend rethinking your tactics.

It helps to learn from the mistakes of others…and to thank God we didn’t make those same mistakes. And this isn’t intended as dumping on the victims. It’s paying them back for teaching us the lessons they’ve (hopefully) learned.

11 Responses

  1. Off-body carry is not a bad idea if you’re paraplegic- power wheelchairs offer a LOT of great off-body carry choices…

  2. “Do people really think they’ll have time (and two hands) to draw and chamber a round under stress? Perhaps.”

    More likely, probably not.

    Saw a DGU video about 2-3 weeks ago (?) here or the, *cough*, other, *cough*, blog where homie extracted his firearm, and tried to rack it. He repeatedly botched the maneuver.

    Fingers turn into flippers during a massive adrenaline dump, and there’s no way to accurately train for that, no mater what you might think.

    I recognize that, and keep my carry guns chambered, hammer down, and let the long, heavy trigger pull be my safety…

    1. Generally agreed. A round in the chamber is optimum.

      However, carrying a striker-fired in AIWB is a bit different than hammer-fired, or OWB, or such. SFAIWB presents a situation in which the muzzle, by nature of its positioning, is pointed at the bearer’s manfruits or femoral artery when in a seated position (think driving, working at a desk, sitting in church). Of my two primary EDCs, one has an integral trigger safety lever (CA model gun), and the other does not (non-CA roster gun). The latter offers a superior trigger and higher round count in its mag, but has no safety when carried AIWB. When I carry the former, the thought of an ND while seated is never on my mind due to the trigger safety, but would always be a concern with the latter, so with that one I carry it “Israeli”.

      As I’ve mentioned in the recent past, my training includes draw-and-rack. For the uninitiated or those who seldom go to the range for practice, I do not recommend Israeli. But once you begin training, the action from concealed holster to full draw becomes smooth just as with any other gun. I liken the additional step of racking to the additional step of pulling back the hammer on a heavy-triggered revolver. You get to the point where only a half second is added to the full draw.

      TEHO. I prefer the peace of mind, and the super-miniscule chance of that extra half second costing me my life is worth the trade-off of the security I give myself while constantly having the muzzle pointed at my nutz. I offer no derision to anyone who chooses to carry their own EDC otherwise.

        1. I never feel “safe” with any muzzle pointed at my body in any fashion, but simply “safe…er” with the trigger safety.

          Welcome to the conundrum of AIWB.

  3. “However, carrying a striker-fired in AIWB is a bit different than hammer-fired, or OWB, or such.”

    1,000 percent agree, that’s why I don’t carry striker-fired, I consider it potentially too perilous to risk.

    Car guns, home guns, striker is just fine, but not for carry, IMO.

    Actually, I might carry a Glock if it had that horrid 14 lb. trigger…

    1. Geoff PR,

      I carry a striker-fired semi-auto pistol with a round in the chamber–and I carry it “outside the waistband but inside the belt” at the “3 O’clock” position (on my hip) in a holster which covers the trigger. That pistol should NOT go bang in the holster on my hip. And even if it did for some odd reason, it is pointing down at the ground and away from my body, even when sitting.

      In a perfect world, I would carry a semi-auto pistol with a hammer and decocking lever (e.g. the CZ-75 platform)–and I would carry it in a holster which covers the trigger, with a round in the chamber, safety off, and hammer down. Unfortunately I was experiencing economic hardship when I purchased my striker-fired pistol and could not afford something like the CZ-75 platform.

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