Yesterday my student Ron brought an older 9mm Ruger P85, and towards the end of our lesson we discovered with alarm that he was dripping blood everywhere! It took us several minutes of wiping and rinsing to figure out where the blood was coming from and what had caused it. Turns out, the extractor slot on that pistol is as sharp as a knife, and a vigorous slip while punching the pistol’s action outward caused Ron to slice open the ventral surface of the third and fourth fingers on his left hand.
In five years of teaching on a shooting range, this was the first time that I’ve actually needed to use the first aid kit’s contents to stop bleeding, and (fortunately) it wasn’t even close to a life threatening injury. Sure we’ve seen the occasional boo-boo from a slip-and-fall, or sharp piece of frag coming off a steel target, but thus far no serious injuries.
Last month I ordered 6000 rounds of ammunition to keep pace with how much ammo we use up in day to day gun safety classes. Last month’s Defensive Handgun Skill Builder, with only 12 students, generated enough brass to fill a 5 gallons bucket! Let’s run some simple math: A typical student might shoot 150-200 rounds of ammo per day in class. I see 120 or so students per month, so that’s 20,000-24,000 rounds of live ammunition per month being discharged within a few feet of me.
20,000 rounds per month times 12 months per year gives us 240,000 rounds per year. Multiply that by the 4 years I’ve been teaching full time (5 years with a break in the middle) and we’re looking at 960,000 rounds of perfectly lethal ammunition that we have discharged while I was present on the range. This does not even count the “personal” time spent in IDPA matches, on the public line, or all the opportunities for unintentional discharge while carrying a loaded gun and being around others carrying loaded guns.
In one million rounds fired I can only recall a few notable safety incidents, none of them resulting in serious injury:
- While we were doing a photo/video shoot, a guy who should have known better started banging away on a steel plate with his .22 rifle while I was crouched downrange servicing the targets, peppering me with lead fragments.
- There was an indoor range in Florida that we worked at in the early years that had a bench behind the firing line. This caused patrons to unpack their handguns facing up range before turning to walk to the line. One particular evening my colleague Matt and I watched incredulously as a guy with a loaded, gold plated, tiger stripe .50 Desert Eagle crossed us with his muzzle! FYI, this was where we as a company began the practice of wearing body armor to work.
- On an outdoor range four years ago a student caught, with the tender part of his jugular, a heavy .45 ACP slug which had bounced back off a tire that was cluttering the berm (Redneck country, don’t ask).
- Just last month I was puzzled at a tender pimple like infection on my right thigh that wouldn’t heal. When I finally squeezed the boil, it burped pus everywhere and out came a bloody fragment of copper jacket which had embedded itself into my leg.
- And yesterday, Ron cut his hand.
A million rounds of deadly ammunition, and yet no one has been killed. (Other than that English guy who capped himself, but that’s another story for another day.) In fact, none of those incidents even warranted first aid treatment until yesterday! 5 notable incidents in the last million rounds! This means a real shooting would have a probability of less than .000005 to 1, or that we have a safety success rate upwards of 99.9995%.
If you could score that high on your college exams would you waste your time in the library? If you could expect that low probability of car accident wreck, would you bother wearing a seat belt? The answer is simple: Range accidents, at least in our classes so far, are statistically zero. Ergo, we should stop wasting our time obsessing over safety. Right?
The world is full of sheep who live by denial. Clearly by the numbers, you could get along just fine for most of your life simply by denying That something bad might happen. By the sheer grace of probability, you’d be right. But that’s not why you are reading this article, is it?
So do you need to learn first aid? You already know the answer. The fact is, you and I don’t train in firearms, self-defense or first aid because of the statistical improbability of needing it. We train because the statistical certainty that some day, not if but when, a medical emergency or violent crime will catch us off guard, and the only thing between life or death are the tools in our hands, and the will in our hearts.
Brian Wang is a full time firearms and self-defense instructor who resides in the San Francisco bay area. He is trained under the Massad Ayoob Group to guide everyday students like yourself through the complex physical and psychological aspects of using a firearm in self-defense. He and his fellow instructors offer group and private classes every day of the week in and around the Bay area. You can find more information about upcoming classes here.