I finished off my last class of 2019 and it was great. I did something I hadn’t had to do in the past; revoke a privilege.
Looking At The Big Picture
There is a method to our madness. It begins by first acknowledging we are supervising high risk training. There are four strategies we practice to mitigate said risk. As an instructor, you can accept, eliminate, limit or transfer the risk involved with life fire training. We utilize all four of these strategies because you are balancing the risk versus the reward. The challenge is further complicated when you consider the risks of working in a group versus as an individual. You can only move and progress in the curriculum as fast as safety allows. For this reason we use linear progressions in most of our training. It starts out with simple, advancing too complex. The beauty is this process allows you to manage risk at the lower level. It allows us as instructors to identify potential issues in advance, thereby avoiding or managing them.
In The Beginning
Most training classes begin work from an on the waistband holster. Should an unintentional discharge occur while either drawing or re-holstering the consequences are bad, but the damage or injury is generally on the minor side. When we move to inside the waistband holsters the handgun is closer to our body. What might have been a minor injury from an on the waistband holster can be a major injury when it penetrates deeper as a result of being closer to the body. I will admit it is hard to put all these incidents into these perfect little boxes, but this gives us a good place to start. It ensures the student is not only learning technically correct, but safely.
Operator Induced Errors
We started a log of self inflicted gunshot injuries last year. What I thought would be a little project has turned into a depressing collection. What I realized is almost all were preventable. With the exception of an incident where the handgun was to blame all were operator induced errors. Why did these happen and more importantly what can be done to prevent them. For a self inflicted gunshot injury to occur three variables must be in place. The gun must be loaded, muzzled pointed at the body and the trigger moved to the rear with enough force to discharge the round. The collection is broken down into two categories; drawing and re-holstering. When it comes to re-holstering, there is strict protocol to follow. Many incidents are avoidable, but the key is the sense of urgency is no longer present. The shooter can now take his time to ensure the protocol is followed as they safely return the handgun to the holster.
Crawl, Walk & Run
The more challenging incidents to address are during the drawstroke. How do people shoot themselves when the student is drawing the handgun? Yes, some are a result of poor holster choices, but when you exclude those issues why is there a high occurrence of these incidents. The most common response is being rushed or pushed outside their safe working limits. How do students rush, either when they are trying to keep up with their classmates or in a timed based drill. We are careful to introduce timed stress incrementally and only after the students have demonstrated a minimum level of safety. It is normal to see technique breakdown and as long as it doesn’t impact safety it can be valuable lessons learned.
It’s Just Been Revoked
In this last class, I had to revoke a student’s appendix IWB position. This evolution beings with students participating in a safety brief where they are instructed on the only acceptable protocol to follow. They are then provided an opportunity to dry practice under a critical eye prior to live fire. Should a student violate a safety protocol, they are re-briefed on the safety protocols and given a verbal warning. Should the same safety violation happen again the student is remanded back to strong side IWB. Why did we take action. The student in question was moving his trigger finger to the trigger while the muzzle was still pointed at his body. Moving the trigger finger to the trigger prematurely is a common mistake. The outcome are far more serious when drawing from appendix. The earlier infractions were video taped and shared as part of the verbal warning. Yet, the safety violation continued to happen. For the safety of the student and those around we had to take action. Nothing good can come when you move your finger to the trigger before your sights are on target in a training environment.
As an instructor what obligation do you have to the student’s safety and the general state of the community. If you do not or cannot lead on this subject then you can’t be surprised by the outcomes.