When Dry Fire isn’t ‘Dry’ – I only Killed my Refrigerator
Handling firearms comes with substantial risk. Unfortunately, the risk doesn't disappear just when we leave the range. Many unintended discharges (UDs) occur when people conduct dry fire practice.
When Dry Fire Practice Isn't “Dry” Part I
Unintended Discharges —
There is a belief that only inexperienced or reckless gun owners have unintended discharges. But is this true?
We searched the internet to find anyone who posted personal accounts of UDs during dry fire. We also asked our readers and our contacts in the gun industry if they would let us know if they had ever fired a round during what they thought would be dry fire practice.
As you can imagine, not everyone who fired a round during dry fire is excited to announce it. This reluctance to air mistakes is especially true for those with years of experience in the industry. We received several stories. Some stories came from new gun owners. A few came from well-known professionals gun in the industry with thousands of hours and many years of professionally carrying and using firearms at very high levels.
Over upcoming weeks, we will publish all the stories in hopes that we can all learn how to guard against what went wrong. Where necessary, I'll include some important descriptions of the individuals involved in the stories. However, I have decided to withhold the names.
How I killed my Refrigerator —
I'm unclear on whether I missed clearing from a magazine or a chamber, but I “saw without seeing.” I've been so used to seeing nothing there, that this time I fooled myself into seeing nothing at all.
Lesson Learned —
It's [the UD] given me a new appreciation for the layers of redundant safety measures that allow me to be holding a funeral for my refrigerator and not a family member.
I hope you all are as grateful to the author as I am that he shared his story. I pray that we won't be too quick to dismiss this story as something that could never happen to us. No one who has experienced an event like the one in this post intended it to happen. Therefore we should all guard against complacency and continually assess our systems and processes, even more so if we've been doing the same thing for years and years.
Here is a story from a gun shop employee and Range Safety Officer (RSO) who had an unintended discharge.
We have found a device that blocks the chamber, making it impossible for an unintended discharge to occur. It also provides a visual indicator that the firearm cannot fire. And the device does not affect the mechanical function of the gun.
The simple device is called BarrelBlok. Here is a recent post on the merits of the product.
Please consider using a BarrelBlok every time you conduct dry fire practice. After seeing how to use the product, I think you will agree that the product should be a fundamental safety device for every gun owner.
I am a bit confused on one aspect of his story. I have a Mantis system and at least the one I have you place the caliber appropriate insert into the weapon. This alone would have been a “AHA” moment if he also did so since it’s a necessary component on the system.
For getting to place the laser cartridge seems like a pretty big breech of protocol but apprentlt he did.
The MantisX device is different than the Mantis Laser Academy with laser cartridge. MantisX device attaches to the accessory rail and tracks the guns movement before, during, and after the trigger press. It can work in live or dry fire.
I have the MantisX as well, and there is no insert to be chambered.
Excellent article, Matthew! And thank you ghostwriter for the courage to share. This is well written, and really hits home. This is a very effective way to encourage us all to be extra diligent! Really looking forward to the future UD stories!
I have owned my Beretta 92F for over 30 years, and have put so many rounds downrange with it that I actually wore out the original barrel. I recently bought another DA/SA hammer fired pistol, much smaller, for concealed carry, and the slide safety/decocker work in the exact opposite direction of my Beretta. For whatever reason, the much smaller pistol in my rather large hand (I’m 6′ 2″), when I went to decock the pistol somehow my trigger finger curled inside the trigger guard, and while pushing down on the rather stiff decocker, instead decocking the pistol, I put a 9mm round into my computer monitor. I have a picture of the bullet hole in the monitor if you would like to see it.
What type of 9mm round was it to get that kind of penetration?
OK, I will contribute my humbling story as well since it’s requested.
One day I was so bothered about not training for a while and I was excited I decided to accomplish some dry-fire exercises when I got home from work. NOT allowed to bring a weapon on base it was at home waiting for me to get there.
1. Brought it to the kitchen and dropped the mag.
2. Accomplished some draws.
3. Accomplished some draws and aiming.
4. Then decided to add trigger pulls. BANG!
The 9mm fragmentation round went through my front screen door frame, through my neighbor’s house left of his front door wall, into his wall on the back of his house! Later found out Fragmentation rounds only frag when hitting soft items – who would have known.
Anyway, that neighbor was turned out to be a local town police officer who, after arriving back home at 0300am from his shift, called me answering my note on his door. Needless to say, we have become good friends.
Take away: Like you see guys in the gun shops/ranges, before you do ANYTHING or hand a weapon to someone else, you are racking it 4-5 times before it leaves your hand or to do anything with it.
I’m an instructor for our state’s concealed carry licensing. We discuss what are variously called accidental, negligent or unintended discharges. As you’ve proven here, we find that a classmate’s admission is much more impactful that the instructor’s warnings. We are always extremely grateful for those willing to share the experience, especially when that person has been shooting for many years.
Yet we hear a true story nearly every time, along the lines of “I was never going to be ‘that guy!’ I’ve been shooting sihce I was a child (we’re in the Southwest) and I know and always follow the rules. Except this time apparently I didn’t! Thank goodness for the “safe direction” rule, because I only have a hole in the kitchen floor.
The “safe direction” and “finger off the trigger” rules are critical, and act as a fail-safe together. We’re human – we can get momentarily distracted, go into robot mode, or be suddenly surprised and clench the gun hand. It only takes a fraction of a second of less-than-focused attention for a truly regrettable incident. No shame IMO if you did everything else right – just a lifelong memorable lesson. Please do share the experience, to promote everyone’s increased vigilance.
“I’ve left the hole in the fridge as a constant reminder.” My question is, how is he still using the fridge? Did he have the holes on the inside of the fridge repaired? Did he just use some Gorilla Tape/Flex Tape, Flex Seal, JB Weld, epoxy? How is he keeping the cold air inside? I have so many questions! My questions aren’t about HOW it happened. I’m an instructor and own a shooting range that’s open to the public, so I KNOW how it happened. One of my greatest fears is that *I* inadvertently do something similar one day. (I have ADHD, and even medicated I have my moments.)
I was with my son around 35 years ago and handed him my Berretta pistol to shoot. He walked closer to the target holding the gun downward. The gun went off spewing a cloud of dust right next to his foot. I had failed to explain the importance of not walking around with the loaded gun, and especially not to put his finer inside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. He could of been crippled for life because of my ignorance in not stopping to explain more about gun safety, before going to the practice area.
My story is slightly different. I was about to disassemble my firearm for cleaning. I was in the process of clearing my gun when the doorbell rang. When I returned to my bench, and knowing I had already cleared my gun, I put my finger on the trigger because to remove the slide on this firearm the trigger must be depressed. I hesitated! My training was nagging me. I knew I had cleared the gun and no-one else was home who could have touched my firearm. Oh well, It won’t kill me to clear it again. Finger into the mag well, lock back the slide… at which point a chambered round ejected!
I froze. A shock went through my body. I stood there staring at it for what felt like minutes. I cannot describe the feeling. My brain remembered clearing but my training told me to clear it again.
One last word, I use a chamber laser for dry fire practice. If I put my gun down to pick up the TV remote then pick up my gun to continue practicing I clear it. This is necessary for safety and for building habit. Every time you pick up a firearm except to shoot, clear it! No excuses!