Know your weapon, because your life depends on it!
Written by: John Lewis
Training people is something I have a passion for. There are some definite classifications for students that include: Potential Operators, Inquisitive Engineers and then there are the “John Waynes”.
Those that possess a capacity to listen, learn and achieve the dynamics and fundamentals of firearm nomenclature, operation and safe handling.
Those that inquire and ask a series of logical questions concerning the operation, fundamentals, laws regarding, and a never ending idealism that they have the right to know and become experts.
Those that come to class with a definite “Know it all Attitude”- Overconfidence is evident in their ability to have an answer for anything and in reality, these folks are hiding behind a plethora of training deficiencies. These folks are never going to be converted and that’s how they run- hard-headed, stubborn and virtually un-trainable. John Wayne’s have no capacity to engage themselves in a learning environment.
Please, don’t be or ever become a “John Wayne”.
The first level of training that must be required for any individual approved for their concealed weapon permit must be a fundamentals class that is a progressive skills class enabling the student to be exposed to all aspects of firearm safety, ownership and operation. The main emphasis encompassed is the safe handling and nomenclature of whatever they have chosen for their self-defense weapon. The student is briefed on the benefits and the red flags of their firearm, given examples of proper actuation of the firearm and ultimately firing the firearm for the first time. I have had the pleasure of training these good people who are there with an expectation to either learn everything new(Potential Operators, Inquisitive Engineers) or I have those who think they are already ready to prove themselves behind the gun (John Waynes), and they still end up learning something new but unfortunately, they won’t retain it.
This introduction level is the core to training with any firearm. It is the positive introduction of safety, safety, safety. All that follows incorporates safety with focus on gaining skills within the nomenclature of each firearm present. I constantly preach knowing your COW- Condition of Weapon. There have been numerous accounts of individuals renewing their CCW permit with me for the first time who own a double/single action platform weapon such as a Beretta with a de-cocking lever and manual safety. Although the the firearm is designed to fire the first shot from the concealed holster in double action, most owners of these firearms do the following when they practice at the range:
They load their mag, rack the slide, and always fire the weapon from the single action condition- never realizing the mechanics of the first shot they would have to utilize in the protection of their life – being a double action shot! The normal protocol of proper operation of a double/single action firearm is to begin the load sequence by applying the safety on if applicable, indexing and inserting the magazine and racking the slide. The firearm would be now in the correct mode deemed loaded. One round in the chamber, safety on and in double action mode. The first shot out of this type of weapon is always double action where the trigger is cocking the hammer rearward and releasing it forward to fire. There is a considerable difference in the trigger pull in double action from both revolvers and semi-automatic firearms. My job as a professional salesman is to make sure my customer understands how important it is to attempt that trigger pull in double action over the counter, before it is purchased, because it requires considerable finger inertia to control that trigger rearward and fire the weapon. I have encountered several students in class that cannot actuate double action triggers of their own weapons. This is ultimately the failure of both parties, the salesman and the buyer to discover this over the counter before the handgun is sold. Once it is discovered after the fact, the customer has 2 options: either sell that firearm or start a finger aerobics class!
When Smith and Wesson introduced their series 39 Semi- automatic handguns in the late 1950’s, they integrated a magazine disconnect in their product as well. A magazine disconnect removes the operation capability of firing the weapon without the magazine locked into the mag-port. These firearms were designed with the following scenario in mind:
Law enforcement or a civilian involved in a physical altercation from an aggressive adversary might encounter losing their gun to the bad guy. So the protocol would be to release the magazine from the weapon, engaging the mag disconnect which will disconnect the trigger function from the weapon. The bad guy gets the gun, even with the safety off, it will not discharge because the magazine has been removed.
So how “safe” does a firearm need to be engineered to make you the operator compliant in your handling skills? Does the handgun you are shopping for really need a manual safety? I had a gentleman tell me once over the gun counter that he was shopping for a gun with a safety, “because he has kids in the house”. His thought was that if the gun was equipped with a manual safety, his kids would not be able to figure out how to take the gun off safe or that a manual safety would somehow make his family “more safe”. This is a teachable moment with a common reminder:
The GUN IS ALWAYS LOADED.
Many manufacturers have actually discontinued models of handguns with manual safeties such as Smith & Wesson. As that might come to a shock to most of you, the true reality is that a manual safety on a personal defense firearm- is essentially an extra step the operator must manipulate under stress that requires fine motor skills. In high a stress environment, fine motor skills greatly diminish, making the manipulation of a manual safety a challenge or simply a “missed step”. I have often used the example in my CCW classes of referring to manual safeties on firearms as “Damn Safety”.
Excuse the expletive, but it is worth noting that operation of any firearm with a manual safety must come with hours of training to avoid that “missed step”. Being a hunter, I can tell you about numerous experiences with others where we get lined up on that wild hog. The hunting partner suggests that we shoot simultaneously on the count of three. One, two, three, one rifle discharges and the other does not. The term “damned safety” is uttered in complete frustration and the hunt is hexed by momentary loss of muscle memory. The same scenario has occurred with law enforcement agencies who once had manual safety firearms as duty weapons. Despite all of the training the agencies receive on the actuation of manual safeties, officers have notably missed that vital step of manipulating the safety lever to the off position in a firefight. Some agencies have chosen to keep those firearms and simply remove the safety position of their duty weapons, making their weapons “ready to fire”. Regardless of the past manufacturing of manual safety semi-automatic pistols, it is ultimately the responsibility of the possessor, owner or operator of that weapon to not lose their life because their safety was in the “on” position” when they attempted to fire their weapon. How ironic is the thought that a “manual safety” can actually compromise your own safety, but it is a true reality. Know your weapon, because your life depends on it!