Dances With Brass

“If you feel hot brass go down your shirt… maintain muzzle discipline… keep that gun pointing down range and embrace the suck!  Just grunt to yourself and say ‘murica!”  So issues the immortal words of our instructor John V. during each of our range days.

Each time we go to a live range, we need to perform a safety briefing, and that safety briefing by definition needs to include a comment on maintaining muzzle discipline during the almost inevitable “brass dance”.

Modern semi-automatics eject the spent brass through the ejection portal located on the right side of the firearm.  Depending on the firearm, this brass can launch anywhere from a couple of feet to the right of the shooter to upwards of twelve feet.  The brass typically follows an arching path.  Unfortunately, the temperatures of the brass leaving the chamber is pretty darn hot.  That means, that if the brass lands on the exposed skin of someone standing to the right of the shooter, they can theoretically have a flinch response.

When that person having a flinch response has a gun in their hand, a potentially catastrophic situation can occur.

This happened last week at one of Southern California’s local ranges… and it needs to be discussed.

(If you have arrived here from our newsletter continue reading here:)

We use Col. Coopers Four Rules of Safe Gun Handling:

Treat all guns as if they are loaded
Never allow the muzzle to cover anything you are not prepared to destroy
Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot
Know your target and it’s environment.

Most of us have been exposed to these rules in the past, and “most” of us follow them as though they are divinely inspired religious doctrine.  Some, unfortunately commit a form of heresy and follow them “most” of the time.

In religion, there are different levels of doctrinal observance.  (Reconstructionist Jews and Cafeteria Catholics know what I am talking about.)  In our world of gun handling, this level of blasphemy is not to be tolerated… not now… not ever.

Yet like religion, there is the academic, and then the practical.  While the Decalogue might have given us ten rules to govern our lives the governance is not solely about the social events that we partake in…. rather, there are some that are to govern the way we think.  I can clearly refrain from committing murder… but what about “coveting”?  I can covet without committing an outwardly act.

Gun commandments are different though.  They are exclusively outwardly acts.  They are strict liability events.  The motivation behind the handling of the gun is utterly irrelevant, if one of those four rules that Col. Copper articulated was broken, there are no justifiable excuses.

Yet there are times that environmental events can cause… well… a focus away from those four rules and instead a focus on the perceived immediacy of the event at hand.

That is what happened on the Fourth of July at a local Southern California range.  A woman who was shooting in a public bay fell victim to a spent casing that went down her shirt.  Rather then keep her muzzle pointed down range, her focus became getting the hot brass off of her skin.  She bent over and used her left hand to tug open her shirt.  Her gun hand… with the gun in it… swept forward and pointed laterally down at the other shooters to her left…

Violation of rule number 2.

During her frantic dance to dislodge the brass, she also kept her finger on the trigger…

Violation of rule number 3.

Her gun went off injuring herself to a limited extent and the shooter next to her some what more extensively.  He had to be rushed to the hospital.

The sad thing is that this could have been completely avoided.

From a precautionary standpoint, she could have worn clothing that would prevent a brass case from going down her shirt.  If that was impossible or impractical, she could have been mentally prepared for the possibility of this occurrence and as such prepared to bear the temporary pain and keep the muzzle pointed down range…

As John would say…. ‘Murica!”

Regardless… her adherence to the rules of safe gun handling should have been so doctrinal, that even if, a single violation had occurred the presence of a second would never have taken place.

You see… for someone to be injured by a firearm, a minimum of two rules must be broken.  If only one takes place there maybe a negligent discharge… but no injuries will occur.  When two rules are broken, all hell can break loose, and people can be injured or killed.

Folks… be passionate in your training.  Train every day, train constantly, train consistently, and train with purpose…. but also keep an eye on those around you.

Everyone at the range is a range safety officer.  If you see behavior that violates the Four Rules, pleasantly explain that the offenders behavior needs to cease.  If it does not… inform a range safety officer.  If it still continues…. LEAVE THE RANGE.

We must all be passionate adherents to Col. Coppers Commandments… and we must not tolerate heresy!

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