Self-Inflicted GSW During AFHF

31-Jan-10 – 23:55 by ToddG

During the Aim Fast, Hit Fast class I was teaching in Memphis this weekend, a student shot himself in the leg while holstering his pistol.

I will not get into details — or answer questions — about the shooter’s identity, make and model of gun, etc. However, the incident and the class’s handling of it are worth relaying as it may hopefully be instructional for others.

Before the first shot is ever fired in any AFHF class, an emergency response plan is devised and then communicated to the students. In this class, two students identified themselves as having training/experience dealing with gunshot wounds. They were then designated the first responders. I described where I keep my IFAK (attached to the shoulder strap of my range bag) so anyone in the class could easily locate it and bring it to me. The range owner confirmed that the fastest emergency services response was via 9-1-1 and all the students were told calling 9-1-1 was the responsibility of anyone who was not immediately involved in treating the injury.

I’ve given that speech dozens of times and watched hundreds of students nod in the same way you nod at the flight attendant while she explains how the oxygen mask works when the plane loses cabin pressure.

But Sunday morning, we lost cabin pressure.

I was standing about five feet behind and to the right of the student when it happened. The class was shooting a drill that involved multiple draws from the holster. In the middle of the drill while everyone else was still shooting, the student turned towards me and very simply said, “I just shot myself.” He was perfectly calm. The slide on his pistol was locked back and just as he finished speaking he dropped it on the ground.

Immediately I called a cease fire and told the student to lie down. I pointed to another nearby student and instructed her to call 9-1-1. The two previously designated “first responders” immediately appeared and another student brought over my IFAK. Soon both of the first responders’ personal trauma kits were also in their hands.

Within a matter of seconds they had cut away his pant leg and exposed the wounds. The bullet had entered just below the knee, traveled through the calf muscle, and exited just above the ankle. Pressure bandages were applied to both wounds. The student remained lucid and even made some jokes. He calmly explained that he’d had his finger on the trigger as he holstered the gun.

The police and then an ambulance arrived and the student was taken to the hospital. Approximately two hours later, after x-rays and examinations, he was released and is expected to make a complete recovery.

After the police cleared the area and allowed us back onto the range, the rest of the class continued as planned.

The major lessons to be learned from this:

  • Accidents can happen to anyone at any time. This was not the student’s first formal training class and he had also participated in IDPA matches. He had drawn and reholstered his pistol probably a hundred times so far during AFHF this weekend alone. But a moment of inattention was all it took for a bullet to make two new holes in his body.
  • Make a plan before an accident occurs and communicate that plan to everyone. Literally less than 30 seconds passed between when the student shot himself and two trained people were attending to the wounds. There was no panic, there was no standing around trying to figure out who was going to do what. We had a plan, everyone knew the plan, everyone followed the plan.
  • If you are on the range, you should have a GSW kit with you. Even if you do not know how to use it — in which case you should learn — at least have the kit in case someone else has the know-how but not the supplies. An IFAK should be part of every shooter’s range kit.
  • Never be in a rush to holster your pistol. We all know it, we say it, we teach it. Not all of us do it.

I would like to commend all of the students in the class — especially our two medical responders — for their mature, professional, coolheaded behavior on the range today; and, the great staff at the range for their role in assisting with the student’s well being, the police investigation, and the aftermath.

And of course above all else, I hope the student has a swift and easy recovery.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 63 Responses to “Self-Inflicted GSW During AFHF”

  2. I do not think its fair not to tell us the type of action it was. Was it a gun with SA, DAO, or DA/SA? What condition was the gun in–cocked or not, safety or not?

    This is a great lesson in which actions are less forgiving for reholstering IF you leave that finger in the trigger. So what action was it? Was there an external hammer? Was there an external safety?

    In other words how badly did the guy screw up other than leaving the finger in the trigger guard while reholstering.

    I dont think any manufacturer has to get it panties in a bunch because one can disclose without saying (or us knowing) which manufacturer it was. Even if it was striker fired that doesnt say much because there are many striker fired weapons out there now, in DAO, SAO, and DA/SA. We might suspect but we will never know for sure.

    You did say the slide locked back so we already know if wasnt one of those mouse or 380 guns that has no lockback. . . .

    By P30man on Feb 10, 2010

  3. “To counter the notion of hammer-as-panacea, I’d like to note that the slang term “racing stripe” became common currency when the S&W Model 10 was still the most common LE sidearm in the land by a crushing margin…”

    I’d like to hear more about this.

    By Bax on Feb 12, 2010

  4. Certainly a cautionary tale for those of us carrying AIWB. Ouch…

    By JohnN on Feb 16, 2010

  5. Guys, it was just pointed out to me that I had used “IFAC” instead of “IFAK” twice in the original post. Brain fade on my part. Mea culpa, and it has been fixed. Thanks to Jimmy S for the heads-up!

    By ToddG on Feb 17, 2010

  6. OK. Now since we have all the great advice, can you:

    get into details — or answer questions — about the make and model of gun and holster type?

    By Bay on Feb 18, 2010

  7. Todd, First time on your site… Excellent posting and something all too often neglected.
    I was once the victim of a negligent discharge at the hands of another shooter, in a situation when no first aid kit was available. As a former first responder, and my personal experience, I hate to say it but I find MAJOR fault in the IFAK that you mention and recommend.First and foremost we need to think about what we are intent on using the kit for. The kit in question is designed for single use, single wound treatment. The majority of GSW that we will encounter at a range, by the pure nature of fact, are the result of close proximity shooting, in vernacular, point blank. This means that no velocity has bled off the round. If this sounds too obvious to mention please bare with me, as it is necessary to understand the types of wounds our kits are needed to treat. This high velocity GSW will almost always produce an entrance and an exit wound, as opposed to a lower velocity wound where is no “shoot through”. Relevance? There is only ONE usable dressing in the kit, and NO surgical sponges to use in addition to it to stem blood flow ( a dressing is “non-stick” and a sponge is multiple thicknesses of gauze. In addition there are no suitable dressings for thoractic wounds of the “sucking” variety. These wounds are life threatening as they allow air into the chest cavity, thereby prohibiting the diaphragm’s function of inflating the lungs. And again, minimum of two of these special purpose dressings are necessary for the obvious risk of a “shoot through injury”. And additional surgical tape and a second pair of surgical gloves are needed as in the case of a shoot through, all too often two responders are needed. In this day of life threatening blood born pathogens, I can NOT over emphasize the need of the gloves. There are people walking around carrying diseases that have not yet affected them and they, themselves are not even aware they have, so the gloves become the item of most importance, followed by some form of air barrier for thoracic wounds and doubling up on the dressings and sponges.

    Sadly I am yet to find a properly outfitted individual kit anywhere, as they all are set up around “convenience and cuts” and the idea that the person next to you also has one, so the supplies are doubled. Even home and automotive as well as camping first aid kits are sorely lacking in proper supplies for any serious injuries more than 5 minutes from EMS care. With that said, I highly recommend anyone who shoots, be it at an indoor range, outdoor range, informal plinking or hunting take, not a basic first aid course but the Red Cross Advanced First Aid and Emergency Care course, as THIS is the course that will deal with the care of life threatening injuries such as gunshot wounds and penetrating thoracic wounds, of which we are the most concerned.

    By ScottS on Feb 19, 2010

  8. ScottS — No question, the IFAK is not a do-it-all kit and one of the things we saw at the Memphis class was the need to treat two wounds.

    FWIW, from day one I supplemented my IFAK with a combat gauze, an extra control wrap, and a chest seal. It’s not easy getting everything to fit, but it’s doable. I also tossed the casualty card stuff to make room, since my IFAK isn’t likely to be serving duty in a mass casualty event.

    By ToddG on Feb 20, 2010

  9. If you don’t want to identify it as X brand, could you tell us if the pistol was striker fired, DA/SA, LEM/DAK, or cocked and locked type. You mentioned the importance of taking your time returning to the holster. Was that determined to be one of the causing factors? Have you done a review and/or is there anything you’ve identified as something either the training staff could do better. Was this something as simple as the student breaking one of the cardinal rules compiled with trying to reholster fast? Sadly we all learn from peoples mistakes so the more you could share the better. Thanks.

    By Matt on Feb 20, 2010

  10. Sorry, my question meant to read …is there anything you’ve identified as something either the training staff could do better OR was this something as simple as the student…

    By Matt on Feb 20, 2010

  11. Matt — Fair enough. The pistol was a striker-fired gun that had its trigger modified to be lighter than factory spec.

    Short of having everyone clear their pistols after each iteration of each drill and shooting all exercises from Condition Four, there’s not much that could have been done from the instructor side to prevent this. As I said, I’d watched the student holster the gun properly multiple times and he’d holstered the gun probably hundreds of times already during the class. It was a momentary brain fade. It doesn’t say anything about the shooter other than that he’s a human being and fallible like the rest of us. I’d be more than happy to have him in class again in the future.

    For future classes, the only real change I’ll be making is using this incident as an example of why we tell people not to race back to the holster…

    By ToddG on Feb 20, 2010

  12. Todd,

    Can you recommend a GSW med kit for the average shooter? Thanks, enjoy the blog, keep it up.

    By Jon on Apr 23, 2010

  13. Jon — I carry an IFAK from Tactical Medical Solutions.

    By ToddG on Apr 26, 2010

  14. I know this is old, but I’m new to this site so it’s new to me.

    The range I shoot at in Sierra Vista, AZ is a long way from nowhere down a road that rattles your fillings, so the “Compton Ambalamps Service” of tossing a casualty into the vehicle and getting them to the ER, which normally has great merits vs waiting for a dedicated EMS vehicle, is not a viable option.

    I have an older DCU pattern MOLLE assault pack in my truck that is packed full of various implements for dealing with trauma, to include IV solutions, self-applied tourniquets, chest seal dressings, and Kerlix rolls. I packed it primarily to deal with mass casualty events such as bad car wrecks, but it will also allow for treating a wider range of injuries sustained on the range, whether it be cuts from handling steel targets and those wooden 1×2 target stands or penetrating chest wound with a punctured lung. I hope I never have to use it, though.

    ToddG, great job identifying shooters with medical knowledge ahead of time. That’s something that has never even occurred to me. You never really think you might be the one who goes down I guess.

    By David Marlow on Jun 12, 2010

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