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?
The 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.)
So 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.
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…