The Safety Sin, Revisited

27-Jun-13 – 14:30 by ToddG

More stuff I didn’t write: Thinking Critically on Safety by Tim at Gun Nuts.

TL;DR version is that a guy gets on YouTube, shows video where he shoots himself while holstering at a USPSA match, then defends to high heaven that he wasn’t responsible. Next, Byron over at pistol-forum.com looks through a bunch of videos of the same guy shooting other pistol matches and finds countless examples of him putting his finger on the trigger when he shouldn’t.

Tim then goes on to discuss what I call the Safety Sin.

The shooting community, especially at the shallower end of the pool, tends to treat firearms safety less as logical guidelines and more as holy writ. This results in two related problems:

  • Any time someone makes a mistake, the Monks of the Holy Order of Self-Righteous Range Safety (HOSRS) jump up and down pointing at the offender as if he committed a mortal sin. The accused is instantly and irrevocably excommunicated from the Church of Guys Who Like to Shoot.
  • Any time someone makes a mistake, he has to try like hell to hide it or make excuses for it so he doesn’t get flagellated by said Monks of Self-Righteousness.

So we end up with an atmosphere where little scientific, rational examination of human error is conducted. Why? Because all human error when it comes to firearms safety is considered inexcusable and an affront unto Pope Jeff Cooper and the Gods of War.

Contrast this with, say, absolutely any profession in the world and you’ll see how backwards we are. When pilots screw up, other pilots try to learn from it and figure out ways to avoid making the same mistakes by changing procedures, equipment, or both. When military or LE teams get shot up, they write after action reports and then examine what went wrong so they can figure out ways to avoid making the same mistakes again. And so on and so on.

Shooters who admit they make mistakes tend to make fewer of mistakes, make less egregious mistakes, and correct their mistakes sooner than the guy who always insists he never made a mistake. It’s not about being without sin. It’s about being honest with yourself, being your own worst critic, and then changing what needs to be changed so you don’t make the same mistake again.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 9 Responses to “The Safety Sin, Revisited”

  2. Good post. This needs to be said, we’ve cultivated a terrible culture of shaming and shunning people in the name of safety instead of actually trying to achieve safety.

    By jellydonut on Jun 27, 2013

  3. I remember an instructor telling me once “There are two types of shooters, those that have NDs, and candidates.” He goes on to say that you shouldn’t judge a person by their ND, but what they do to attempt to prevent it in the future.

    Personally I have had a ND. During a Sig Arms Academy class at a local range, the unload and show clear came while I was doing a reload. This disrupted my normal routine so I didn’t check the chamber since I already had the magazine out. So when I had the loudest hammer down and holster command I’ve ever experienced. It struck the baffles down range so nothing bad happened (except for one or two people that had their ear pro off already).

    Since then I’ve become a Nazi about checking my chamber. I will rack the slide 2-3 times before locking the slide back.

    You know what the NRA could do is provide a “shooter incident report” similar to what the FAA collects. The NRA or a similar organization collects the safety reports. They then sanitize any identifying data, and provide statistics, and AARs of some incidents so the entire community can learn from it.

    By PPGMD on Jun 27, 2013

  4. jellydonut: (W)e’ve cultivated a terrible culture of shaming and shunning people in the name of safety instead of actually trying to achieve safety.

    I wish I’d written that.

    By ToddG on Jun 27, 2013

  5. Shunning people who make mistakes is bad, but I think loudly arguing about safety has its place. People who are not “gun people” could watch that video and conclude it really was the weapon at fault, not human error.

    By Chance on Jun 27, 2013

  6. IIRC even Jeff Cooper had a few NDs.

    I was told about one incident in which he let off a burst from an SMG and tried to play it off.

    By Chuck Haggard on Jun 27, 2013

  7. >>>>
    Shooters who admit they make mistakes tend to make fewer of mistakes, make less egregious mistakes, and correct their mistakes sooner than the guy who always insists he never made a mistake. It’s not about being without sin. It’s about being honest with yourself, being your own worst critic, and then changing what needs to be changed so you don’t make the same mistake again.
    <<<<

    I think that goes for just about anything and everything in life, not just shooting.

    By hsoi on Jun 27, 2013

  8. I’ve only recently been confident enough to admit to my ND. I use it as a confession to help explain why I’m so serious about safety. I had a friend’s children complain to him, after the fact, that they felt I was treating them like babies. I should have told them about that time I blasted one into the dirt during lunch at a training class…

    By JCarmody on Jun 27, 2013

  9. Great post. I think it’s part of the culture but I also think some people are just self righteous and unaware of their own flaws so they don’t accept them in others…….and boy they’re hard to be around. I typically shoot at our department range and it’s safe (not aware of any injuries due to negligence in the 17 years I’ve been there) but also professionally low key. I once went to a nearby public range when ours was closed for maintenance. I won’t go into it but the short version was I will never go back. It was horrible. There was nothing per se wrong with what the staff and regulars did…..but boy….they were annoying and treated adults like children. They didn’t say anything to me but what I saw would have been enough to turn me off shooting if that would have been the only place I could shoot.

    By Mark on Jun 27, 2013

  10. Great post, having suffered through my own ND that made me hypersensative about safety, I agree there is a way to handle things to help make safety better without “shaming” most shooters. Occasionally things have to go like this…

    SWAT Officer 1, Hey, will you point that HK machine gun somewhere else when you load it instead of at us?

    SWAT Officer 2, I’m a professional, I know what I am doing so buzz off.

    SWAT Officers 1,3,4 and 5. Ok, if you point your gun at us again, we will assume you are going to shoot us and will shoot you first.

    SWAT Officer 2, I didn’t point it at you!!!

    SWAT Officer 1,3,4 and 5. The hell you didn’t, and again, if you point it at us again, we will shoot you.

    SWAT Officer 2 got the point and became more careful about where he was pointing his weapon while loading it.

    Cops tend to shame other Cops into doing the right thing, which may or may not be acceptable for everyone.

    I agree that reviewing and learning from your incidents and making changes to minimize repeating bad behaviour or how we treat ND’s defines how we treat safety.

    Even with the stringest rules for safety and providing safety barrels for loading and unloading while off the line, we had an officer shoot himself in the hand while preparing to take his Glock apart for cleaning. He failed to follow the steps he was trained to do because he was in a hurry to go to lunch. Big ouch… Luckily he only suffered muscle damage that healed up pretty nicely. And after that, he and the others who witnessed the event, were meticulous in following the training without us having to say anything about it. Sometimes things are self correcting.

    The attitude of the shooter who you try to correct makes all the difference in how you need to treat them. Most accept the gentle reminder to be safer with their weapons and make the effort to do so and the event is over.

    A few think they are above having a ND, (and usually end up having one sometime) and changing their behaviour has to go up to the next level or even to the point of kicking them off the range for a day to get their attention.

    When the lives of others are endangered by someone’s actions, Range Personnel must step up and stop what is going on.

    Just my 2 cents.

    By KennyT on Jun 28, 2013

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