When I was 17, I nearly shot myself in the head.
This isn’t a tale of teenage angst and attempted suicide – this is a tale of (very) poor gun handling skills. You see, when I was a teen I had access to guns but not responsible adult supervision. This story isn’t very long but highlights the potential danger in getting your gun handling skills from the movies…
One day I was shooting a 9mm pistol at some targets in the woods with some friends. We knew enough to not point loaded guns at each other and that was about it. Anyway, when it was my turn to shoot I stepped forward and did the simple thing – pointed my pistol downrange and pulled the trigger. It was a Baby Desert Eagle in 9mm with a 15 round capacity. It had some work done on it so the trigger was very light. This is a double-action / single-action gun so the first trigger squeeze is pretty heavy and after that, it is lighter. In this case of this particular gun – VERY light. This gun also has a safety but since I was a macho teen boy, I didn’t flip it on when I was done firing (who uses a safety?!?).
From my recollection, I shot a few rounds out of the gun in excellent Hawaii-Five-O form with my left hand cupping the bottom of the gun. I’m sure I didn’t hit a darn thing but that wasn’t the point – the point was that I was shooting! For whatever reason, I didn’t finish the magazine so I still had rounds in the gun. Of course, I didn’t flip on the safety nor drop the mag and empty the chamber. Instead, I did what I saw on TV. I brought the gun up to my face pointing upward – the same way I saw them doing it on cop shows in the ’90s.
I’m sure you can already see the issue here: light trigger, rounds in the gun, safety off. Of course, the main issue is that I didn’t have any trigger discipline at the time either so when I brought the gun upward after I was done shooting my finger was still on the trigger.
A friend of mine who was standing a few yards behind me at the time thought I blew my head off.
When I brought the gun up, my trigger finger naturally started to squeeze the trigger. When the pistol was at about eye level, the tension in my finger was enough to trip the trigger. The blast right in front of my face was a surprise and my head jerked violently to the rear away from the source of the blast (which is why from behind, it looked like I shot myself in the head).
That was scary. If the angle on my arm had gone much past 90 degrees the bullet could have entered my skull and ended my life right there in the woods.
It was at that point that I realized I needed real training in how to handle a gun. Watching cop shows on TV doesn’t count and maybe because he is bulletproof, Chuck Norris has terrible gun handling skills…
Professional Firearms Training
It was a few more years before I could afford the time and money for true firearms training but I took my first 4-day course at Front Sight in 1997 and have taken many courses since.
Sadly, as the years rolled by and time and money again got short, I neglected to seek out any new training – content in my skills and occasional practice in the desert plinking at paper targets.
I would say only recently, in the past two years have I again started to take my firearms training seriously. Time and money are still tight but I have simply made it more of a priority in my life. One of the biggest factors for me is that I carry a gun daily as a concealed weapons permit holder. If I walk outside without my gun, I feel naked. If you carry a gun daily you know what I mean.
Our first foray back into training was a 4-day Tactical Shotgun class in Front Sight in 2017. You may recall seeing the blog post: Shotguns and Disneyland (not mixed together!). Where we mentioned that Danielle and I took our family to Disneyland and then to Front Sight for vacation. The kids did a 4 day Youth Program and the wife and I took the Shotgun course. That was a lot of fun and upped our skill with the tactical shotgun – something I just haven’t had a lot of time with in the past.
Last year Danielle I joined a local training group called Forward Movement Training here in Boise. They are a great outfit that works both the physical and mental aspects of shooting. During the past year, we had twice-monthly sessions where we worked on video simulations, the force on force scenarios, and of course actual shooting at the range – all in an effort to test our abilities and up to our skill level.
Personally, I consider my pistol skills above average but my rifle shooting is ho-hum at best. Danielle can outshoot me with a rifle on just about any day that ends in “y”. Since I couldn’t leave my manhood blowing in the wind like that, I took a rifle shooting clinic in May put on by Project Appleseed. It was me and the girls (literally because I brought my three daughters) while the wife stayed home to relax without us in the house. I can say that I did pretty well with a 10/22 and open sights and scored my Rifleman patch – which I’m told is like scoring “Expert” on the Army Qualification Test (AQT). We’re planning on taking another run as a family in September – this time I’ll try it with an AR15.
My latest adventure in training was with Rockwell Tactical Group who came out to Boise this month. I signed up for their Pistol 102 and Carbine 102 courses which were held over a Friday and Saturday. Even though the temps were around 100 degrees it was a great couple of classes and I walked away with more practical knowledge than I walked in with. I won’t go through any of the training lessons here – you’ll need to take a course to get that, but I will tell you one of the most important things I learned: you need to test your gear! Even if you feel like you can’t learn anything more (which is a dangerous mindset btw) you can always use training as an opportunity to test your gear.
When a Green Beret Weapons Sergeant can’t fix your gun – you know you are in trouble!
One quick lesson here then I’ll wrap up:
For the rifle class, I took my sweet (or so I thought) homebuilt 300 Blackout. This is the rifle you might have seen on Instagram. It is a legal SBR with a 10.5 barrel. I built it up from parts so it isn’t a specific manufacturer’s gun. I also have a Gemtech suppressor for it and brought it along as well. During the sight-in process, I had a failure to extract that I thought slamming the buttpad on the ground would fix. 15 minutes and a bent cleaning rod later my gun was in pieces with the bolt jammed in the receiver.
I had Jared Ross from Rockwell Tactical take a look and attempt to perform some armorer’s voodoo magic but the bolt was jammed tight and I was unable to continue the course with my 300 Blackout. (Luckily I brought my wife’s 5.56 BCM and finished the course without a single hiccup – much to her amusement I might add.)
In summary, what have we learned:
- Television is a TERRIBLE way to learn gun handling skills!
- If you don’t have any training at all, stop what you are doing, and get some. Don’t buy a gun or single round of ammunition until you have signed up for a course on basic gun handling skills. It could save your life or someone close to you.
- If you have already taken training in the past, how “up to date” are you? Is it time for a refresher?
- Have you tested your gear in a semi-stressful situation? You should run it hard to make sure it performs up to your standard (whatever standard that is – it isn’t the same for everyone or every piece of kit you own).
- If you are deciding between buying another gun or getting more training – opt for more training. It will pay dividends down the road should you need it.