In the defensive shooting world we are trying to do two things. Teach responsible gun owners how to defend against a violent encounter with a handgun and improve their critical shooting skills.

Ticking Time Bomb

I have gotten more and more patient over the years, believe me it shocks me just as much. However, there are instances where I will loose it in an instant. Watching someone dispassionately pulling the trigger is one of those instances. Using a handgun in a deadly force encounter is no laughing matter, not something to be taken lightly. You have to prepare yourself mentally for the violent encounter. You make major life choices about taking another human’s life to protect life. You expends your resources at training in the hopes of never having to use your skills.

The Final Option

When I watch someone do a half ass job of unloading their handgun then almost without thinking point it down and pull the trigger it is as if they have forgotten an important point. When you pull the trigger, every time you pull the trigger, it is because you have no other option. You have either exhausted all options or you didn’t have an option from the beginning. The level of commitment towards defending your life is not easy, nor should it be taken lightly. It should not be something with a cavalier attitude. When you diminish the importance of a rule or value, you weaken its effectiveness. It is not difficult to see why carelessness sneaks into gun handling when we start to place less emphasize on safety.

What Really Happens

What could be some reasons one would blindly pull the trigger after unloading? A common retort is to relief pressure on the striker. By de-energizing the striker spring there is this belief you are increasing the longevity. If you were planning on a long term storage there could be an argument made. I would caveat long term measured in decades. If you are not storing the handgun for that length of time then it is worthless. The problem is not so much in the action, but the habit it forms. Students would unload in class to accomplish an administrative task. Maybe changing out holsters or cover garments. Or maybe, taking a break or to set up a drill with an empty chamber. My point, is the duration is in no way going to help relieve pressure. We are talking minutes before we charge them back up and start shooting again.

Safety First

In the off chance the student doesn’t recognize the carelessness of this act it is one thing. To do it knowingly is something completely different. The amount of times of occurrence in a training class can create the environment this action becomes a habit. It becomes a part of your daily handling of firearms and starts to diminish the importance of safety. Safety rules such as all guns are always loaded loose their effectiveness. The monumental challenge of preparing for a deadly force encounter means you are pulling the trigger with the express intention of defending life. Don’t diminish this act.

To take this simple act and diminish it to the point it looses its effectiveness is a mistake. There is no value, but so much more at stake

13 thoughts on “Dispassionate Trigger Pulling

  1. Edwin says:

    IPSC, IDPA, etc. all require at the end of a stage AND at the direction of the RO running the stage, “unload and show clear.” Pointing the gun in a safe direction and pressing the trigger is required to demonstrate with a *click* that the gun is unloaded.

    Other than myself, I have never seen a shooter at a match NOT adopt a regular firing grip and press the trigger with the index finger – the exact procedure used each time the shooter deliberately wants to make the gun go bang.

    I’ve complained about the procedure but “that’s what the rules require” is always the answer. Not true – I can provide the same *click* holding the gun upside down in the off hand and pressing the trigger with the strong handy pinky finger, or a pen from my pocket. That is a sufficiently unnatural act that the probability of repeating it unconsciously is zero.

  2. Joe says:

    In over 35 years of being armed and having handguns around I have had exactly two AD’s (no one hurt) and in both cases I deliberately pulled the trigger after failing to clear the chamber. Dumb, stupid, dangerous. In both cases I think it was because of increasing excessive administrative gun handling, including pulling the trigger on what I believed to be an empty chamber. One thing I have done to try to prevent this is to keep my “close by” gun, when not on my body in a holster, in a holster all the time. So when I come home, and get undressed, and take the gun off my body it goes directly into a soft holster, then into the drawer or on the night table. So when I pick it up again the holster reminds me to be careful, and treat the gun as loaded, which of course it is. I think this is similar to the rule for dry fire in which there is a specific activity or clue to delineate the end of dry fire.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Hi Joe, thank you for your honesty and sharing. I am grateful you could share your story and I’m sure you are not the only one. In my last class, this past week I polled the students to learn how many had negligent discharges. I was somewhat surprised by the number, but more their honesty. Thanks again.

  3. Oscar Lee James III says:

    I prefer to have only one method of gun handling that I use in all occasions. This works well except for the artificiality of competition, field stripping, and, sometimes, training. I agree with the importance of not ingraining unsafe habits. Each time I press the trigger, regardless of reason I do so deliberately. Mirriam-Webster defines ‘delibarte’ as:
    1 : characterized by or resulting from careful and thorough consideration
    a deliberate decision
    Ms. Barker herself has said that the decision to write about the war was a deliberate response to patronizing reviews of her working-class settings …
    — Claudia Roth Pierpont
    2 : characterized by awareness of the consequences
    a deliberate exaggeration
    a deliberate act of protest
    3 : slow, unhurried, and steady as though allowing time for decision on each individual action involved
    The jeweler worked at a deliberate pace.

    I shoot USPSA matches. Y’all probably know that at the end of each string, the RO will give a series of commands:
    “Unload and show clear”, verified by inspection by the RO
    “If clear, hammer down, holster.” While continuing to point the firearm safely downrange, the competitor must perform a final safety check of the firearm that involves releasing the hammer or striker before holstering.

    In the matches I have attended, this process has always been done safely and carefully. This is but a point that one must be able to follow as part of competition but separate from all other gun handling.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      I observed several individuals lower the muzzle below 45 degrees and with one hand press the trigger. The problem with your comment is the fact it might be done carefully, but it promotes the continued disassociation of pulling the trigger.

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