#1 ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

The NRA’s very first safety rule is “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction”. This seems simple enough, but how do we implement it in a typical classroom where there is going to be a lot of firearm handling?

If you aren’t already familiar with the gold standard in classroom firearm safety rules, take a look at our post on that topic.

On the range, the safe direction is obviously the berm/backstop. It’s not quite so simple in the classroom. There are not many places where firearm classes are held that have safe, bullet proof walls. Also remember that a ricocheting bullet or fragments from whatever is struck could cause serious injury. So how can you point a gun in a safe direction in a classroom?

IMG_20160620_191602The best “safe direction” option I can think of for using a real firearm in a classroom would be placing the barrel inside a clearing device or bullet recovery tank since the gun cannot fire in any other direction—pretty impractical or unrealistic for classroom training though. One fail-safe method for use in a classroom is to select the best “safe direction” and use a SIRT pistol or inert training gun—impossible for a mishap to occur!

(Note: SIRT and inert training guns are still treated as if they are real firearms. Failing to do so invites the negligent handling of real firearms. Train your brain to treat any “gun” with the same level of safety and respect.)

IMG_20160620_191837So how about malfunction drills in the classroom where a mechanically functional handgun is needed? One option, albeit not perfect, might be to “neuter” a handgun by removing its firing pin or striker. Whether using a “neutered” gun or not, the ONLY type of ammunition that should EVER be in the classroom is inert dummy rounds. Another option is conducting any training that requires a mechanically functioning firearm, such as malfunction drills, on the range instead of in the classroom.

How can we go about making the classroom “safe direction” the best that we can? Kathy Jackson of “The Cornered Cat” (website & Facebook) and I had an informative exchange in an instructor group on Facebook. Kathy offered some suggestions such as using a Kevlar vest or a box of books that is capable of stopping the most powerful round possible for the guns used in the class. Another idea would be a portable bullet trap.IMG_20160620_190405IMG_20160620_190234

It is important to remember that these enhanced “safe directions” are dimensionally limited though. A round discharged must impact the object for it to provide any benefit. An instructor or student having a negligent discharge may very well not have the gun aimed directly at the enhancement object—the other layers of safety rules have to be violated for the ND to happen in the first place…

Firearm Safety in the Classroom

IMG_20160619_163708It is tragic anytime there is a death involving firearms training. Such a tragic event happened this weekend in a concealed carry class in Ohio.

The loss of the victim is most regrettable, as is the guilt that the student that pulled the trigger will now live with. It is also an opportunity for those of us in the instructor community, as well as our students, to review our own safety precautions to ensure that we don’t miss something that could lead to another tragedy.

The victim was in his office, on the other side of a wall where the students were practicing a malfunction drill (clearing a firearm after a failure to feed, failure to extract, hang fire, etc.) A bullet was fired from the handgun being used in the exercise; it penetrated the wall and fatally struck the victim in the office.

The NRA has three “ALWAYS” rules and an additional set of rules for the storage and use of firearms. The ALWAYS rules are:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

As “ALWAYS” implies, it means all the time—not just when it is convenient. While rule #2 may not have been applicable in this training exercise since pulling the trigger may have been part of the drill, rule #1 and #3 certainly were. There can be no argument that the gun was not pointed in a safe and that the gun was not unloaded.

Of the additional NRA rules for the storage and use of a firearm, the very first states, “Know your target and what is beyond.” While the wall in the classroom might have been the target, the victim is what was beyond it and the wall was incapable of stopping the handgun round.

The NRA adds another layer of safety rules for its instructors. First, there is absolutely no live ammunition allowed in the classroom—by anyone. This includes the instructor, the students, and anyone else in the room.  No ammo, no negligent mishaps.

The second rule is that before any firearm, or even a training replica that is inert, is used for any purpose in a class, the instructor or student will have someone else verify that there is no live ammunition in the firearm or magazines. This applies not just to the first time is is used in that class, but every time it is used in the class.

Adding all of these layers of safety rules together prevents mishaps. Even if the class being taught is not an NRA course, these rules are the gold standard in safety and apply. Likewise, even if the person instructing the class is not an NRA Instructor, the safety rules apply.

As a student, you have a right to learn in a safe environment. If the instructor is not following these rules, it is not a safe environment; you should leave any classroom where the instructor doesn’t/won’t follow the safety rules and demand a refund. Better yet, ask the instructor what their safety rules are before you sign up for their class.

We will likely never know exactly what had been taught to the students before the fatal shot in the class this weekend. We won’t know if the safety rules had been taught and retaught before the students handled firearms. We do know that safety rules were broken and a life was lost.

The Newest Addition To Our Range

The vast majority of firearm ranges only allow static target shooting. Very few ranges allow you to draw and fire from a holster and of those, most don’t allow moving and shooting. Students in our advanced handgun courses are required to draw from a holster and fire, along with moving, at our private range.

IMG_20160615_192329We have decided to take the training we provide to an even higher level that is unavailable at the vast majority of ranges, even those allowing holster draw and movement. We’ve added a vehicle to our range equipment that will be used for training and drills involving shooting out the window at a threat (such as a carjacker or someone with violent road rage), exiting the vehicle to engage a threat, and using the vehicle for cover/concealment (such as when confronted by an armed robber, kidnapper, or other violent aggressor).

Making Your Range Experience More Comfortable

IMG_20160615_192132In our quest to provide the most comfortable training environment possible, we’ve been making improvements to our range. We’ve created mulched “islands” for settingIMG_20160615_192203 down your gear and for getting out of the sun (and occasional rain) while you load your magazines or take a break between shooting exercises.

Limo for transporting students and their gear between the classroom and the range.

We also have an eight passenger limo cart to take students and their gear from the classroom down to the range!

To make it easy to clean up after time on the range, we’ve put in a large stainless steel sink for washing up.IMG_20160615_192509

Upcoming range improvements include adding a large shade sail over the shooting positions to provide shade for summertime classes and adding a laterally moving target.

Don’t Lose Sight Of The Most Likely Threats

While mass murders capture the headlines, you have a significantly greater risk of being targeted by one or more “conventional” criminals. It doesn’t mean that we should ignore the terrorist threat, just that we should keep it in perspective as we train and live our lives.

Likewise, while raging gun battles do occur, they are a rare exception. Almost all self defense shootings involve a very limited number of bullets being fired—as is true for the majority of police officer involved shootings.

It is difficult to determine the percentage of times where the criminal retreated when they became aware that their intended victim was armed without any shots being fired. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is far more often the case than situations where the defender had to fire their gun. Of course this doesn’t mean that simply having a concealed handgun without the knowledge, skills, and ability to use it will keep you safe.

The take away from all of this is that you should focus your training, especially if it is only occasional, on being proficient at drawing your handgun from concealment and accurately delivering up to about a half dozen rounds as quickly as possible on one or two targets from one to seven yards. Hardcore “tactical” classes can be fun if you have lots of training time available; most people should use their scarce time to concentrate on the skills that they are far more likely to need.