How Not To Get Shot Training

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

Recently a negligent shooting occurred at a training event down in Texas. From what I can gather about the event, students were being brought one by one through a shoot house doing low light training. An assistant instructor was coaching a shooter inside the shoot house when the lead instructor for the class started going through the shoot house without using a light.

When all was said and done, the assistant instructor took two shots to the abdomen and one to the arm. Thankfully he was stabilized on the scene and last I heard was still alive.

This event was definitely a failure safety-wise on a number of accounts. First of all, no-light shooting isn’t really something you do (at least without night-vision or thermals). You are responsible for every round that comes out of your gun, therefore you must know your target and what is beyond. It’s a well known safety rule.

The other failing was in the organization of the event itself. Obviously the operating procedures for running that shoot house were either lacking or were not followed, and as a result someone is in the hospital.

While what happened is a tragedy, and the guy who was instructing that class should suffer the consequences for his irresponsibility, it is also a learning experience. What this class demonstrates is a failing of not only the instructor, but of the students themselves. Sure, the instructor pulled the trigger, but the students have a responsibility for their own safety as well.

Your safety is your responsibility!

No matter what course you take, whether it is a very simple firearms safety or self-defense seminar, or the latest and greatest high-speed, low drag class, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself to keep you safe.

A good instructor will make sure things are safe and implement good safety protocols to prevent or mitigate an accident, but you can never trust them 100%. Second guess everything, because if you don’t you might just take two to the chest.

Do not assume the instructor knows what is best for safety

Last year I took VCAST, an excellent course put on by Southnarc that is geared specifically towards operating in and around vehicles. Craig (Southnarc) is one of the most safety conscious instructors I have had the pleasure to learn from. His safety briefings are second to none. Some of the shooting evolutions he puts his students through are far from textbook. You shoot in confined spaces with classmates in close proximity.

Despite this I have never felt like I was in any serious danger because the exercises were well thought out, and always under his direct observation. That was until I got to VCAST. My group was the second to go through VCAST with Craig, so some of the kinks just hadn’t been worked out.

One of the exercises involved us shooting inside the confines of a vehicle, unbelting, unholstering, and shooting out a side window. As there were 10 students in the class, Craig had us line up 5 vehicles end to end with 2 shooters per car, each getting a turn.

Before we started I noticed something that made me very uneasy. When going from the holster to the shooting position, the muzzle ended up pointing forward such that unless you were in the rear most car you had a chance of being muzzled. Not cool.

Did I suck it up and go along with it? Follow “big boy rules”? Hell no! My safety is important. Being well trained doesn’t help me if I’m dead or crippled. Instead I spoke up and called him out on it. Instead of taking everything Craig says as gospel, I provided a friendly suggestion. Instead of end to end, the cars could be lined up staggered such that you had a clear 90 degree space to point your muzzle. Problem solved. In fact, if you take VCAST, that’s how Craig does it now. If you get a chance, ask him about it – he’ll tell you it was me.

Don’t assume that the instructor knows what’s best safety-wise, we’re all human, and therefore can all make mistakes.

Do not assume your classmates are competent

I probably don’t need to go into much detail here. Every class I have been to has had at least one guy who is so unsafe they probably should not be allowed out of a padded room. Every one. You need to keep alert and aware of your surroundings 100% of the time, from the moment you get near the class until you get well clear of the facility.

You never know what some moron might be playing with in his car or what another student might do. At the Larry Vickers course I took this summer, there was an incident where someone managed to point their muzzle 180 degrees from the main berm towards the parking lot. With two side berms he still managed to find the worst possible direction.

Just because you are in an advanced class doesn’t mean your classmates are even remotely competent. Watch your surroundings, and be ready to be vocal about it. If the situation is minor or it’s after the fact, be polite but firm. But if someone is pointing a muzzle at you or being a doofus, be that jerk you always wanted to be (warning: language). Safety always needs to be the first priority.

Your safety is your responsibility. You almost always sign away your rights to sue when you show up at a class. That means you need to make sure you’re safe. Even the best students and instructors make mistakes and can do stupid unsafe things. Please don’t assume that someone’s credentials will keep you safe. Some people advocate body armor for taking classes, instead I recommend you bring the same attitude and awareness you bring with you every day in the real world. It will keep you far safer.

Do you have an experience from a class to share? Please comment below!

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  1. “First of all, no-light shooting isn’t really something you do (at least without night-vision or thermals).”

    When most shootings occur in low light conditions, how should we best prepare for those encounters?

    • As far as i’m concerned no-light means there is no source of light, including a flashlight. This is distinctly different from low-light. You can’t responsibly take a shot without any light because you can’t positively id the target. If this instructor we are talking about had used a light, or if there was some ambient light this horrible accident wouldn’t have happened.

      If you are concerned with no light situations your training needs to have an appropriate focus on the tools needed to act responsibly in that environment.


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