There are only “Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wounds” (SIGW).
Unfortunately, I got to see one up close and personal during my range trip this weekend.
For a week and a half I’d been organizing a range day with some of my co-workers. Which day, where, what time, etc., between a dozen people coming from all directions isn’t easy to do. But we finally all got settled on Saturday, @ 1300. Some of us met up early for some grub and then headed out to the indoor pistol range.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the guy whom I started this all organizing for wasn’t able to show up. His wife got called in to work and his son had sports activities to go to, so he had to cancel out. Aside from the half-magazine he fired through an AK-74 that he fired while a conscript in the late-80’s Soviet military Basic Training, it would have been his first time ever with firearms. But we had co-worker Mike and his new Sig 1911 4in to break in, so I was still jazzed up to go.
Being the day before Superbowl Sunday, the range was packed and we had to wait 15-20 minutes for our lanes. We spent the time letting the range staff get the pistols inspected and verify that we had no steel/aluminum cased ammo, during which we ooh’d and aaah’d over our assembled arsenals (no touchy by non-range staff in the waiting area).
We got into our lanes and off we went. Mike’s 1911 works like a dream and he is very pleased. Jeff’s .45ACP EAA Witness was having misfire issues, so I stepped up to check it out. Looked to be a broken firing pin spring or maybe even a weak mainspring. The range’s smith was off for the weekend, so I dug through my wallet and gave him the card for a reliable guy on the north end of town near his home.
Co-worker Dave brought his NAA .22 Mag Mini-Revolver. I dislike these minis for even back-up-back-up purposes, mostly because they’re too damn small to be reasonable. Also, the drop out/reinsert cylinder operation to reload it is just not easily done safely. About nine years ago I had seen an unwanted discharge during that reloading process. I even told Dave about it.
I think you can see where this is going.
I had run out to the truck to grab another set of ears (the range’s free ones were not working for one of the group). As I walked back inside I saw Dave and Mike standing just outside the waiting area with one of the range staff applying pressure to the bandage around Dave’s palm. There was about an twelve inch pool of blood on the floor.
Apparently, while reinserting the cylinder, Dave pulled the hammer back so that there was room for the cylinder to roll into place. He either lost grip of the hammer or had his finger on the trigger spur and the gun went off, sending a .22 caliber projectile at magnum velocity through the palm of his right hand, just below the top two knuckles of his middle and ring finger and into the cinderblock wall. There were also several cuts and burns.
I took over the “applying pressure” position from the range guy. Luckily, there was a major hospital less than ten blocks away and Mike went out to go get his car so we could drive Dave to the ER as that was faster than waiting for the box van with sirens and lights. Dave, being the consummate “tough guy” was refusing all medical treatment and just wanted to go home. I was not having any of it and using a mixture of threats, comedy and factual medical evidence of the filthiness of burned gunpowder, I finally got him into the car for the 90 second ride.
I went back to the range, helped the range staff clean up and Jeff and I gathered up everybody’s stuff, filled out our portions of the range’s incident report and took off for the ER.
Dave is pretty much a “gun guy”. Every year for the past 30-plus years he takes off for the hinterlands to go hunt deer, elk, bear, cougar and whatever other game he’s licensed to get into the crosshairs of his .300 Win Mag. He is not a newbie to boomsticks. He just wasn’t being as careful as he needed to be.
This isn’t the first SIGW I’ve seen. I’ve also seen people shoot themselves in the foot and in the front of the calf, luckily all small caliber stuff, but this was the first one with powder burns.
It is always the same thing: Someone just isn’t being careful enough. You can talk to them about The Colonel’s Four, you can tell them about prior SIGWs and you can warn them over and over and over again to be careful, but if their head just isn’t in it, something bad can easily happen.
Afterwards, you (or at least I do) simultaneously get both pissed off at them for doing it (hopefully after they’ve been cleaned up at the hospital and not while you’re applying pressure) as well as what I guess you could borrow from the Four Stages of Loss: “Bargaining” with the incident. That if you’d have just been closer, been able to verbally warn them again, etc., then it wouldn’t have happened. I’ve stopped that yesterday morning since I remember that without being able to guide his hands there is nothing anyone but he could have done.
If you’d have seen me walking to the ER after Jeff and I collected the gunstuffs and filled out the forms, you might have mistaken me for someone with Tourettes. “F’n a Dave” and “f’n didn’t listen” and “gotdam mini revolvers” and “sumbitch better be grateful it wasn’t somethin bigger” and lots or repeated “F*@k, f*@k,f*@k, f*@k!”. All of which stopped as soon as we walked through the auto-doors (they don’t let you hang around with that sort of language).
According to the ER doc on duty, it was the luckiest unlucky shot he’s seen in a while. Total flesh wound. No bones, very few nerves, full range of movement (minus the swelling), etc.. Dave will have some serious meds for pain and infection and won’t be able to work for a couple weeks. He’ll also have a month or so of physical therapy to make sure his range of movement stays good. But other than that, the only truly permanently damaged part of him is his ego. And I’m still pissed off at him enough to say that he deserves that to get knocked down a few notches.
And that is how my 20 minutes at the range turned into three hours at the ER.
He wrote them so that we could learn them:
1. All guns are always loaded (until you establish whether they are or not).
2. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times: on the range, at home, loading, or unloading.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target (and you are ready to shoot).
4. Be sure of your target. Know what it is, what is in line with it and what is behind it.
Lt. Colonel John Dean “Jeff” Cooper