The late Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper (USMC Ret.)reduced the rules of safe gun handling to 4 simple rules.
1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
4. Identify your target, and what is behind it.
Following these rules religiously would prevent almost every case of accidental shooting, period.
I saw the following news story, and it got under my skin because it involves clear violations of the 4 Rules and classic percussion revolvers.
The story presents some teachable moments, so here are some extracts along with my personal views on the topic.
A link to the full article is below.
An actor in a Wild West gunfight show loaded his percussion revolvers with live ammunition instead of the blanks normally used.
Three tourists watching the performance were wounded. Thank goodness none fatally.
“The handgun used in the show is a cap and ball blackpowder revolver. This type of handgun is somewhat cumbersome to reload. A measured amount of black powder is poured into each cylinder, and a lead round ball is then ramrodded down on top of the charge. To speed reloading, owners of this type of firearm often have additional cylinders. When all six rounds are fired, the entire cylinder is replaced with another preloaded with six rounds.”
MM – The practice of swapping cylinders on a percussion gun has been debated since 1835 when the Colt’s Paterson was sold to the Texas Rangers with two cylinders.
When things go right, it works just fine. when someone goofs, it can be bad.
The actor told police, “He had used the same revolver for target practice the day before the show, July 28, and had taken four loaded cylinders with him to Red Lake, firing only two.”
The actor “did not know how he mixed up the cylinders.”
MM – This seems like simple math skills in need of refreshment.
Part of being a responsible adult in possession of firearms, it is my obligation to keep control of my ammunition at all times.
“Gunfighters Show protocol called for participants to aim their guns at the ground rather than at the performer they are “targeting” when they fired. This practice might have been the difference between the relatively minor injuries described in the report, and potentially much more serious injuries, or even loss of life.”
MM – Seems in keeping with Rule 2, but a complete fail on Rule 4.
I have attended many Wild West re-enactments since I was a kid, and very few of them allowed the audience to surround the actors.
Even blanks throw some material out of the barrel that can cause injury several feet away.
Professional (ala Hollywood) actors and stuntpeople have been seriously injured by blanks.
Rules 2 and 4 are absolutes.
The “manager of the Show, told officers that each performer was responsible for inspecting their firearms.” The actor said that “he did not inspect his gun, that he had used the same firearm for target practice the day before, and that he could not explain how live rounds got into his gun the evening of the show.”
MM – Standard procedure for most Police departments conducting training exercises involving firearms require EVERY participant to inspect EVERY gun prior to the start of training.
Most cases of accidental shootings during training are a result of this practice not being followed, and the results are usually tragic.
“It’s common for shooters using cap and ball revolvers to smear grease over the cylinder after it is loaded. The grease prevents chain firing, which happens when the blast from the fired cylinder ignites black powder residue in adjoining cylinders, causing them to fire as well. The grease makes it difficult to easily determine whether a round is loaded with blanks or live rounds, however.”
Police “inspected all the firearms used in the show and determined that the shooter likely fired the “projectiles” during the performance. The inspection showed that one of the actor’s revolvers was loaded with a round ball in one of the cylinders. The other five cylinders were empty.”
MM – This is yet another reason I’ll add to my list of why I hate putting grease over the chambers of my revolvers. A simple probe using a toothpick or knife point would have revealed the presence of the lead bullets because blanks normally replace the bullet with a ball of paper or a disc of thin cardboard. I use lubed felt wads between the powder and bullet, and will always advocate for that practice.
The actor “now faces 5 misdemeanor counts of knowingly pointing a firearm in the direction of others.”
MM – In addition to the people hurt by this idiot’s carelessness, this person has committed an offense against every person who responsibly enjoys firearms.
Safety MUST be our top priority, always and forever.
Full Article: Investigation reveals details of gunfight show gone wrong by Rob Breeding at Cody Enterprise