Yes, I didn’t actually break her nose myself; rather, my gun broke her nose, but as the saying goes, guns don’t break people’s noses, people…err… well, you know.
Anyone who’s attended Boomershoot knows I’m pretty evangelistic about spreading the Specialty Pistol “gospel” — shooting handguns at ultra-long ranges is utterly addictive fun that will seduce you away from that ungainly, heavy rifle in a heartbeat. That’s provided, of course, that you don’t get scope cut.
I’ve got two quotes I like to live by that are appropriate to this situation. The first is from instructions to the authors of Army flight manuals in WWII — “Anything you write must be easily comprehended by a tired man reading in bad light.”
The second is from Sun Tzu, as translated by James Clavell: When asked to apply his Art of War principles to drilling of female troops, he explained his commands but was met with giggles. At this, Sun Tzu explained patiently, “If the words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the General is to blame!” And he was quite right.*
I had a number of pistols Squeaky could have shot for her first Specialty Pistols experience. Many of them had extended-eye-relief scopes. However, those pistols had relatively sharp recoil (.308 Win and 7-30 Waters, respectively) and the EER scopes make hitting boomers quite difficult without some practice. Unwisely, I focused on the idea that Squeaky wanted to hit her boomers, so I picked the heaviest .223 pistol I had, on the Bower rest for easy accuracy, and with a regular short-eye-relief. LARGE rifle scope for big field-of-view. (It’s the second from the bottom in the pic at right.)
In retrospect, of course, this was a mistake.
Squeaky sat down behind the pistol as I gave my standard speech on operating the handgun safely, clearing loaded rounds for cease-fires, and then said something like “when you look through the scope, you will need to back off from it to the point that you see a black donut around the image. That way, it won’t come back and hit you.” I’ve recited that line countless times, almost by rote, to folks who ask to shoot my pistols. She indicated she understood, and loaded a round.
She fired several shots, as I recall, and then crept up enough to where the scope came back to break her nose. To her great credit, she recovered very quickly and gamely tried a few more shots with the pistol before (justifiably!) abandoning it for the more familiar AR-15.
Now, I’d been whacked by a scope earlier that day. Even with experience, it’s very easy when shooting a pistol to creep up on the scope. If you do so, you’re going to get hit. Granted, none of the hits I’ve taken over the years from even .308 pistols have been very serious — they’ve never even drawn blood, just smarted a lot — but then again, I have a high tolerance for pain. And as every tort lawyer knows, you take your plaintiff as you find them. In this case, Squeaky had already broken her nose a couple times in the past. I’m no anatomist, but I’ll bet that made her more vulnerable than most folks to breaking it again.
Regardless, even though she’s stated time and again that she doesn’t hold me responsible for her injury, in my mind, if all she heard was “blah blah blah find the donut blah blah,” then it’s my fault for not taking the time to absolutely ensure that she understood the safety instructions. This is especially so given the quotes above by which I try to live — I simply failed to be as thorough as I expect of myself when teaching others, and failed to take as much care as I should have to ensure that no injury resulted from introducing someone to my favorite aspect of the shooting sports.
I felt simply awful when it happened. As she left the field to go back to the lodge, I thought it was just a typical scope-cut — painful, shocking, but not debilitating. As her fiancee Bennett said, “It’s gonna bruise,” but that seemed to be the extent of it. When she told me at the Boomershoot dinner a few hours later that she’d determined it was broken, I was shocked. Frankly, I was more concerned with making sure she understood I would willingly pay for any treatment she needed than about her suing or anything of that sort.
In all, I’m glad she’s healing, and doubly glad that she wore eye protection. And I’ve relearned some valuable lessons.
*The full Sun Tzu story is excerpted below. It is worth reading in its own right, although it has nothing to do with Squeaky’s accident.
Clavell relates that the King of Wu, intrigued by Sun Tzu’s teachings, asked if they could be applied to make an effective army from women found around his Court. Sun Tzu said yes, of course — quite the radical concept in centuries past. Clavell continues:
Sun Tzu (made General for purpose of the test) divided them into two Companies of ‘soldiers’ and selected two of the King’s favourite concubines to lead each Company. He then made them take spears in their hands and addressed them, “I presume all of you know the difference between front & back, right hand & left hand?,” to which the ladies replied, “Yes”. He then drilled them on the simple commands of ‘eyes front’, ‘right turn’, ‘left turn’ and ‘about turn’.
The words of command having been thus explained, SunTzu called the Companies to attention and on the sound of drums & battle-axes gave the order “ right turn”. The palace ladies only burst out laughing! Sun Tzu explained patiently, “If the words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the General is to blame”. He started drilling them once again and this time gave the order “Left turn”, whereupon, the ladies only started giggling and laughing once again. He then said. “If the words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the General is to blame. But if his orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their leaders.” So saying, he ordered that the leaders of the two companies be beheaded.
The King who was watching all this was alarmed, objecting that he cannot afford to lose his favourite concubines in this manner and requested that they not be beheaded. Sun Tzu calmly replied, “Having once received His Majesty’s commission to be General of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept.” He then immediately had the two leaders beheaded and straight–away installed another pair as leaders in their place.
The drums were sounded for the drill once again and this time when he gave the orders, they were obeyed faultlessly. The two companies then through all the drill motions, eyes front, turning left, right and about, to order with perfect accuracy and precision not venturing to utter a sound.
Sun Tzu then requested the King to make and inspection saying, “Your soldiers, sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined and will follow any order of His Majesty, bid them go though fire and water and they will not disobey.”