Sunday, January 2, 2022

Don't Shoot Yourself!

In a basic class, I was teaching how to properly load and unload a semiautomatic pistol using the MRI mnemonic of Magazine, Rack, and Inspect for loading and unloading. A student commented, “I wish I’d known that before I shot myself.” His comment naturally caught my attention and I asked, “You shot yourself? How did you do that?”

“Well, I was unloading my pistol and I did exactly what you just said not to do. I racked the pistol and saw a bullet come out, I removed the magazine, pointed the pistol at the palm of my left hand, and pulled the trigger. The hollow point, 45 ACP bullet passed through the fleshy part of my left hand and did very little damage—I was lucky. Before you ask, I have no idea why I pointed my pistol at my hand. I know better, I was thinking about something else and not paying attention to what I was doing.”

GSW Entry                                   GSW Exit  

We all have mental lapses, that is why we have the four firearms safety rules. They are:

-- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded at all times.

-- Always point the firearm in a safe direction — this is dependent upon the environment and circumstances.

-- Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard unless/until you are intentionally firing a shot.

-- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it

The MRI process is an additional safety layer for administratively loading and unloading a pistol (or other semi-automatic firearm). If you follow the MRI steps without fail, you are not going to experience an unexpected bang.

First, assume a firing grip on the pistol (trigger finger properly indexed on the frame) and point the pistol in a safe direction. Then apply MRI as follows for unloading:

M – Magazine: remove the magazine if there is one inserted 

R – Rack: (Pull) the slide to the rear and lock it to the rear

I – Inspect: Visually and physically confirm that the pistol is in fact unloaded

Notice, at no point in the MRI process does your finger go on the trigger. If you must drop the hammer or striker for some reason, physically and visually double check and ensure there is no round in the chamber before you touch the trigger.

A trigger guard holster (I’ll abbreviate it TGH) is another measure we can take to force us to pause one last time before the trigger is accessible in the loading or unloading process. Trigger guard holsters are designed for very specific applications in non-permissive environments and I do not recommend them for every day carry; however, they have another useful application. Many manufacturers make trigger guard holsters and there are a variety of designs. Since I do not use it as a holster, I go with a simple design that just covers the trigger guard.

A Sampling of Trigger Guard Holsters  

The TGH does exactly what the name implies—it covers the trigger guard. When you are loading and unloading your pistol anywhere other than a range, the TGH prevents you from touching the trigger during the process thereby serving as an added safety measure. When I am loading or unloading my EDC pistol at home, I first attach the TGH and then perform the task.

Separately, the TGH is also useful when you are administratively holstering or unholstering your EDC pistol. If I am holstering the pistol for carry, I remove the TGH and place the pistol in the holster. If I am unholstering my EDC for the evening, I attach the TGH and then place the pistol on the nightstand. (Note: All members of my household are responsible adults. If children were present, I would not keep a loaded pistol accessible on my nightstand.) Using the TGH is a deliberate act that encourages you to pay attention to what you are doing.

I added a glow-in-the-dark paracord lanyard to my TGH (you can buy the paracord online). The glowing paracord enables me to determine the pistol’s location in the dark and it retains enough glow that it is visible throughout the night. In the event that something wakes me and I must grab my pistol, the TGH prevents me from inadvertently touching the trigger. The glowing paracord tells me exactly where the pistol is located and where to grab the cord if I do need to expose the trigger.

Glow in the Dark Paracord

When placing the TGH on the pistol, always come straight up from the bottom of the trigger guard—never from front to back. Although a properly designed TGH does not touch the trigger, coming straight up when placing it on the pistol makes inadvertently pulling the trigger when placing the TGH almost impossible. When removing the TGH, simply pull straight down. These techniques for placing and removing the TGH also ensure that your hand does not stray in front of the pistol’s muzzle.

For more on the MRI Process and TGH use

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