The shoot-o-sphere has long lamented the infamous double deaths at the Memphis Sport Shooting Association back in 2006. In separate incidents, two dudes shot themselves while holstering into a shoulder rig. One happened in August, and the second was a few months later in January. Both men died. Or as my trainers like to say, they were DRT (two points to the first person who can tell me what DRT means).
I’ve seen a few different theories as to how these dudes managed to check out so unceremoniously. Some speculated that one of the dudes had martyred himself with a clever suicide masked as an accident for insurance purposes. Not sure about that, although a similar scheme did make for an interesting episode of CSI Miami a few years ago.
Others have said things like “shoulder holsters are unsafe” and “he should have had his safety on” and “his finger shouldn’t have been on the trigger.” The first two might be true (not sure of the makes/models at issue). The third is most certainly true (we all know Rule #3). I would posit that there’s yet another culprit at play here: The Cold Range.
I haven’t done a lot of competition shooting, so the first time I had an RSO give the command, “Unload and show clear,” I was like, Do what? Um, no. I don’t know you…What if you attack me? It was awkward.
Same thing happened when I got my NRA instructor certification. Class got under way and the first thing the guy said was, “I assume nobody in here has any loaded guns or ammunition on them.” That wasn’t a question, so I didn’t answer. (Incidentally, ten minutes later I was politely showing him how to lock the slide open on his semi-auto.)
Cold ranges suck.
I know what you’re thinking: But Tiff, wouldn’t a cold range have prevented the two deaths at MSSA? Well, last I checked MSSA is a cold range (or was at that time). So if the goal was tragedy prevention then that worked about as well as Gun-Free Zones. But more to the point , cold ranges often, IMHO, tend to lull everyone into a false sense of security. They neuter the gun-handling leg of the Combat Triad while simultaneously imposing a need for superfluous gun-handling. Perfect storm.
The theory I suppose is that if all guns are empty then even dummies can’t do dumb stuff with their guns. But that’s not true. Dummies can always do dumb stuff with their guns. And if you hypnotize people into taking for granted that the guns aren’t loaded, then no one bothers to treat them as if they are. I was taught that that’s a cardinal sin.
Take a person who is completely geared up with all equipment strapped to her body, all muzzles pointed at the floor, all trigger guards completely protected. Now put that chick in the lane next to someone with a cold firearm in a clunky case with straps and flaps and levers and latches and locks. Which one of those chicks is more likely to muzzle people? Which one is more likely to leave her gun unattended (which includes stepping two feet away or two seconds)? Which one has better odds for NDs? Chick 1 simply has to draw and fire. Chick 2 has to tinker and juggle and fiddle and finagle her way into ready mode while Chick 1 ducks behind cover and hopes for the best.
And of course, a cold range defeats the purpose of CCW in the first place. It presupposes that the facility itself is immune from violent crime and no one would ever need a hot defensive tool on the range. That’s kind of like saying you’d never need your gun at school or at church or in a courthouse or in a federal building or in a doctor’s office.
Jeff Cooper tells me all guns are always loaded. Your cold range would have me disbelieve my lying eyes (and ears). I think I’ll stick with Cooper.
18 comments on “I Like It Hot”
As you note, cold ranges make people feel “secure” that there is no possibility of a bullet going out the end of any of the barrels. But unless you have someone poking a stick down the barrel and then mechanically disabling the loading mechanism (another stick down the ejection port or through a chamber on the cylinder) and then collecting all the firearms, there is no way of eliminating the odds than even the most determined fool can beat your attempts.
After you get beyond a certain level of experience (possibly determined by individual assessment) cold ranges just reinforce a habit that could get a person killed. Did you ever read about the LA cops who were gunned down while they were putting their empty brass in their pockets before reloading? (That happened back in the days of wheelguns.) Or the Boston cop who was shot dead after he shot to slide lock and put his pistol on the hood of the car he was standing next to? (No, we will not even begin to talk about standing square to the target in a combat shooting situation.)
I much prefer the way an instructor explained range safety: “If you shoot at me or one of my students, you can expect to be shot. Let’s all work to avoid that happening to anybody.”
“Most determined fool” … I love it. 🙂
I started on cold ranges, and upon my first trip to Thunder Ranch, after hearing Clint say something like, “I don’t care how you carry, cold, hot, lukewarm. But that gun does not leave the holster unless you are on the line,” It was was like a light bulb came on. Hot ranges are the way to go. By the way, I had a nice conversation with you at the Tactical Conference about your belly band setup. Thanks again for the info.
Hey Tim! Nice to have you here! Thanks for chiming in!
When I first started shooting it was on a hot range. The rules were strictly enforced as there were only two areas where firearms could be handled. Violating the rules meant instant ejection, break the same rule twice (ever) and you were banned for life. Later I started shooting at a cold range and while it was a cold range the same rules were in place. I prefer the hot range myself especially after reading reports of patrons being robbed as they leave.
As for the type of shoulder holster used, one possibility is the upside down shoulder holster like that made by Ken Null. These holsters can point a gun right at the brachial artery, which doesn’t take kindly to being perforated. Just speculating, I have no idea what they were using.
Do you know what kind of shoulder rig the unfortunate departed were using? It is possible it wasn’t a Rule 3 violation per se. Could be something got inside the trigger guard as the pistol was reholstered (I’m thinking of the retention strap on a Miami Classic rig) as happened with the cop on You Tube a few months ago. In his case a drawstring toggle on his sweater was the culprit.
The false sense of security a cold range engenders boggles the mind. I’ve even seen it extend to staff. I was at a range once when a customer returned a rental pistol. Assuming (we all know the dangers in that word) the pistol was unloaded and without checking 1st, an employee pressed the trigger. Fortunately it was a .22 and the round embedded it a shelf in the display case. Said employee was not allowed to return to work (fired).
I tell my students that unloaded guns have killed more people than all the loaded guns combined. I also tell them if they ever hear someone say “I didn’t know the gun was loaded,” it is code for I didn’t bother to check. I also tell them to imagine they are holding a deadly snake that will bite if they aren’t careful.
Complacency and carelessness are the downfall of many.
I started out on cold ranges, including courses taught by Mas Ayoob, who runs cold range. I see the thought behind it, especially when it comes to the insurance policies of some ranges and the skill level of some shooters, who are safest when told exactly when to load and unload under the watchful eye of safety officers, but I personally believe that a hot range actually tends to be safer as there is much less manipulation of the weapons off the actual firing line and everyone knows the status of every weapon on the like: Hot–don’t touch!
I just finished a rifle class last month that was run hot, and I shudder to think what it would have been like if every shooter had to constantly load and unload his rifle countless times during the day. THAT is where bad things happen, not on the line or behind it with properly holstered or slung weapons.
Was once an EMT-IV/M certified while working volunteering as a police reserve & deciding which change of career path to take. This was early eighties and DRT was more prevalent in the emergency medicine field than in law enforcement.
I get squiggly feelings when shooting on a hot range and not adverse to wearing soft body armor. Having once received a fair sized splinter from a fragmented FMJ bullet fired into a steel plate by another shooter I’m leery of angles too.
I got popped in the face a few times shooting steel plates! Coming from a paper target range, I wasn’t used to that. Struck me as counterproductive LOL 🙂
Darn it! Just found a typo. Sorry. Fixed it. 🙁
DRT = Dead Right There.
S. Davis beat you to the punch, but hey, I suppose I can shell out another two points for you too. Kudos!
Strongly recommend Appleseed btw – well worth the time, for all that it is a cold range.
In Appleseed we spend a lot of time clearing the rifles and making them safe before we proceed downrange. The logic of a cold range is that the effort to clear the rifles really accomplishes its purpose whereas in a hot range some individuals could be handling weapons while others are downrange. If you are at a range where no one has to proceed downrange and you have target retrievers, then the case for a cold range disappears.
Ah! Well yes, I should clarify. I’ve never taken a rifle class, but in every pistol class I’ve ever taken there is always a vigorous series of redundant clearing exercises to indubitably freeze the range before any warm-blooded soul dares to venture downrange. But at all other times we were hot. I gotta take a rifle class!
DEAD RIGHT THERE. We use the same term.
Two points for you!!!
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