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.