There’s a fine line between independence and danger. It might seem as though it’s not a big deal, believe me that’s what most accident victims say as well.
Setting the stage
We use various selection processes in our classes, selection meaning which group a student may fall into during class. While we have several groups, the one you want to avoid is “high risk”. A high risk student is someone who consistently displays behavior that can put himself or other classmates in danger. You obviously don’t want these types of students, but as firearms training continues to become popular and concealed carriers increase it’s a subject that must be addressed. The aspect of safety is central to everything we do, lip service is not tolerated.
The snowball theory
I remind students tragedies are not the result of a single action. They are the culmination of several seemingly insignificant actions adding up to a tragedy. An important point to understand is many accidents are preventable. Through careful evaluation of previous accidents we take away lessons learned. We take these lessons and create corrective strategies to prevent them from happening again to the best of our ability. After providing clear and concise instruction, at some point we as instructors must trust the students to act safely.
It is this trust we need in order to move forward in the curriculum. It starts the moment we meet a student with the very basic ability to follow instructions. Some instructions can be followed “loosely”, while others must be followed strictly. As an instructor you must enforce safety and there is very little margin for error. It is rare you get a student who deliberately fails to follow instructions. Many times they want to, but are overwhelmed with learning new skills and pressure to do well. When so much is going on they cannot process all the information in a timely manner or in the correct sequence bad things can happen.
The fine line
I don’t get too wrapped around the axle these days, but every now and then you’ll see me jump someone’s ass. I don’t much care how you load, my instructions are to safely load your firearm then protect your eyes and ears. No big deal if you choose to load a magazine then cycle the slide or lock the slide and release it using the slide stop…I don’t care. However, when the instructions are to observe your trigger finger straight on the pistol’s frame and off the trigger guard that’s non-negotiable.
As part of our safety protocol in our Concealed Carry Tactics classes we have students visually confirm their finger is off the trigger. There are only two ways the firearm can discharge, either you press the trigger with your finger or the trigger is pressed by a foreign object. There are two times your finger could inadvertently press the trigger, as you are drawing and as you’re re-holstering. We try to eliminated the possibility of a negligent discharge as a result of improper trigger finger placement during both phases. I had one student who either kept forgetting or wouldn’t follow instructions as I had to repeatedly correct him on the line. So, if he is having difficulty with these simple instruction is it reasonable to expect more problems?
Calamity of errors
The answer is yes. We ask students to visually inspect their holster prior to inserting the muzzle then reholster with control. The student in question felt it was OK to shove the pistol into his holster after continued corrections. Why is this a big deal, think back to the earlier comment about the little, insignificant actions that add up. Since this was a concealment class we had a variety of cover garments throughout. Each provided challenges, but the safe protocol for re-holstering was the same. When I watch a student fail to confirm their trigger finger, fail to confirm any holster obstructions then shove this pistol into their holster without looking it’s a problem.
Luckily nothing bad happened, but not by providence. Safety is non-negotiable and if you cannot follow the simplest of instructions like what equipment is required for class, then cannot follow safety protocols while in class don’t be surprised by the results.