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Firing Line Handgun Reviews

Can You Break A Gun Safety Commandment?

by J. Scott Rupp   |  December 14th, 2011 37
Dave Spaulding pointing gun

Could you point a gun at a person during a training scenario? Dave Spaulding says some of his law enforcement students can't bring themselves to.

I was editing an upcoming installment of Dave Spaulding’s “On Patrol” column in Handguns magazine when I came upon this observation from Dave, one of the most serious students of training (and now a full-time trainer himself) I’ve ever met or read:

“During my classes, I’ll have my stu­dents disable their guns by plugging the barrel of their pistol in such a way so the gun cannot physically chamber a round. Afterward, I walk in front of the line so I can see how they present their gun from both Ready position and the holster, because this angle just gives me a better view of the physical process. I correct them as necessary.

I also want them to get used to con­fronting a live killer at the end of their gun. Approximately 25 percent of stu­dents won’t do it. I know the gun can’t fire because I render it inoperable, but they still refuse to point the gun in my direction. Even after I tell them it’s okay and they aren’t violating any safety rules, they still refuse. Once the drill is over, they tell me they’ll point the gun at a “real bad guy” when the time comes—but will they really?”

I’d never really thought about this before, and I suddenly realized how hard it would be for me to break that unbreakable commandment: Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

Sure, in the course of my work I’ve pointed guns obliquely at a camera, but I’ve never pointed a gun at a real live person. Could I do it in the training scenario Dave describes above? Maybe, probably.

What about you? Would you be able to overcome your gun safety training—in a controlled, professional training setting—in order to improve your combat pistol readiness?

  • @frakwit

    This is one example. Another is force-on-force training, using either airsoft pistols (low-cost, only works for short range) or Simunition (high-cost, extremely realistic).

    I believe that realistic training *has* to include force-on-force. If you spend years in a square range environment, using the four rules as a mantra.. do you not believe that this safety training will kick in at a subconscious level, just as any other frequent training will? It could stop you from shooting another human being.. that in this instance is a direct and immediate aggressive threat to your life, or the life of a loved one.

    Yes, it introduces a risk factor. Yes, it is necessary, if you wish to use your handgun for defense.

  • jay

    In order for me to point that gun at anyone in training it would have to either be a training pistol that is not a functional firearm or a plugged firearm that has been checked by at least 3 people to be verified as inoperpable . No exceptions and no excuses!

  • TRoman5486

    This comment says it all!!!!!!! Dang!!!

    • TRoman5486

      This was meant to agree with Tim. I just want to clear that up.

  • Tim

    That is disgusting

  • Andy B.

    A long time ago,when I was learning to shoot trap,my instructor had meshoulder and point the shotgun at him. It is a learning tool. I have not pointed a firearm at anyone that I haven't intended on killing since. I believe it's a valuable way to correctly present the weapon Andy B.

  • Gunner

    I hope your kidding in a poor taste way!

  • Jarhead


  • Lanney

    "Cracker"….apparantly. "Wise"….no
    What an miserable thing to say.

  • Long Time Trainee

    Absolutely no problem for me. I have trained with Airsoft guns, Simunitions, yellow training barrels, dummy guns, etc, against live male targets, female targets, kids, dogs, blacks, Asians and so on. I have actually shot these types of targets in a wartime situation, and in a self defense situation, I do not want to hesitate because the target is not politically correct. I have been in training situations as described in the article, where students will not point a firearm at a "bad guy", I believe those people will die in a "do or die" situation; their mindset, their OODA loop, will not be right. In the land of the Quick and the Dead, they will be DEAD!

  • Deadeye

    Short answer no, there are training guns, fake guns that are made for that purpose. I had a guy looking at a rifle in a store one day and he kept pointing the gun at me. I told him to point it somewhere else. I wanted to tell the store clerk (someone with no gun experience) to not sell him the gun and kick him out of the store, but they were friends apparently, and they would likely have called the cops on ME. I never want anyone to point a real gun at me, that's my main point, and so I'd never point a real gun at anyone else unless they were real trouble.

  • Rich

    I agree with the author that this is critical training for anyone who owns a weapon for personal defense. A moment's hesitation once a life-threatening circumstance has been identified will most likely, as noted by Long Time, end in the death of the innocent. "Fight as you train" is proven true over and over again.

  • JadedInCali

    I can see doing that in a training situation, with the chamber plugged to my satisfaction. My mental intent and focus when I point the gun at the trainer will be to destroy him. Nothing personal. If he (or she) can handle that, I can handle the training exercise. Otherwise, I never point my gun at anyone in front of the line, even if it is cleared with the slide locked back.

  • Mac

    I would guess that Wise Cracker is mentally ill and such an inappropriate post should be removed so that one idiot doesn't tarnish the reputation of this community. It’s people like this that give gun owners/enthusiasts a bad name.

    • Scottch

      leave the remark. It's lame and dude thinks he's funny, but the world is what it is. if we edit out everything we don't like or agree with…… we live in someone else's perfect world. besides, I was a little brother for a long time looking for attention anyway I could get it, he'll grow out of it

  • Mayes

    Most people in a gun accidents are shot by an "unloaded" gun. I am retired military and we trained on targets and with the other training aids. Could I point the gun and shoot at someone threatening me or mine? Yes. Would I ever point it at someone I did not want to perforate? No. Safety is to ingrained to forsake it to say that you could point it at someone. I do not see that training lesson as one that has merit at all.

  • Alan

    To paraphrase and with apologies to Jesus …… SCUM like Cracker will always be with us

  • Alan

    I think that for MOST people this type of training with a live firearm , pluged barrel or not , sets a bad precedence . Especially when their ARE safe alternatives ( I've been covered by live handguns a time or two by other instructors students ) . Could I do it ? ….. yes I could …. but I wouldn't like it .

  • Dewey E.Du Bose

    I hope this azzhole is never allowed to carry a REAL GUN. He is the type of backwoods racist that gives gunowners a bad name.

  • Dewey E. Du Bose

    Having served in combat(Vietnam), civilain police officer and a hunter, I don't have a problem with pointing my gun at someone or something I intend to kill. However, just to point a gun, loaded or unloaded at another human being is not in my makeup, Too much proper training from good instructors.

  • Blue

    Three suggestions:
    – Use the blue/red guns. That's what they are meant for.
    – Use Airsoft, as indicated above.
    – Use a mirror. Point a real gun at a reflection of a real person. You don't have to shoot the mirror, but no harm to the person if you do.

  • junior

    its a training exercise…. Now think about that, if your in a bad situation and the cop to save you is a negro

  • Larry Deuane Grey

    Ok, back to the issue, I would have no problem pointing a weapon at another person as long as all concerned have verified the weapon is NOT loaded. Not a hard issue to resolve or comment on. As to the individual who made the 'negro comment' pull your head out…this is not a place for hate or stupid jokes. To all others who let this idiot get to you, you all should know better, he is just trolling.

  • C. M. Novess III

    Frankly, I don't see the point. Once the barrel is plugged it's the same as an orange plastic practice piece. Why not use that? Why does a disabled gun make the training more useful or more real. It is not real – it has been disabled – it's now a fake gun.

    C. M. Novess III KGCTJ
    NRA Certified Instructor

    • old vet

      I agree, use the plastic trainer, that is what it is for, if all you want to check is stance, it will work just fine. If you want to read their soul, your wasting your time. You can never know another's ability for deadly force.

    • David

      I am a rookie so this may or may not be accurate, but my assumption would be that there is some value in performing the exercise with the person's own gun (or at least the same make/model) to keep it as real as possible. Better if a training version of that make/model is available, but if not, why not use it in an unloaded and inoperable state (as long as checked by multiple parties as such)?

  • Shcotty

    Train like you mean it! Verifying that a firearm is safe to use in a properly supervised training scenario is easily witnessed and seconded. I can also understand that some individuals will have an extremely difficult time resolving the "it's now safe to violate the rules" concept. If I were in that stage of training you can bet I would point my safed weapon in the R.O.s direction on command only after the aforementioned safety steps were taken and witnessed by other responsible members. Like I said before, train like you mean it!

  • James Rimmer

    I'd rather not point a weapon at anyone, to be quite honest. I don't know about anyone here, but even an inoperable gun is still a gun and last time I checked probably the second most important rule is to never point a gun at anyone or anything you don't wish to destroy. What would be wrong with an airsoft gun or one that fires Simunition? It would work just as well and be without the potential risk. If you train by pointing a gun at someone, it seems to me it would take away from the' don't point it' rule a little bit, and that could cause problems down the road. It's a slippery slope.

  • Jayhawk1

    Repetitive, realistic (and safe) training is the only way anyone will overcome that initial hesitation that will most likely occur when a person is faced with a lawful, defensive "shoot" situation. That hesitation, in my opinion, will have to be trained out of the individual as we asking them to do something that is completely foreign to most everyone's everyday experience and that is point a gun at someone and possibly pull the trigger. It's why LEO's and military train "shoot/don't shoot." They same principal applies here.

  • Brent

    Wise Cracker is getting all you guys. It is called "trolling" friends. Saying something that will get a rise out of everyone with no real intent of making a positive contribution. When you suspect a troll, you must move along and ignore, otherwise, they win.

  • old vet

    Do not agree with your training method. However, that is just me. Have been in combat and KNOW what I have done in real draw down situation. However there is no way to know what another will do 'til it happens. Even highly trained snipers have their "moment of truth" when they actually have to ply their trade.One of the most horrible training accidents I saw was a trainer in NAM would toss a "dud" grenade into a group of FNG's to see how they would react, somehow he got a live one. Stuff Will Happen, why help it?

    • old vet

      P.S. I really don't like looking at photo in article, gun pointed, finger on trigger, makes one's skin crawl.

    • Peyton

      You are quite correct here "old vet'.

      But the more realistic training gets the more it pumps that adrenal biochemical dump, then the better it serves those being trained. Tossing a 'practice fag' into a group of grunts is taking it clearly to far though the risk outweighs the benefit and that guy should be in Leavenworth. I know what you are saying about 'snipers' and the 'moment of truth' is dead right too. But suppose a scenario was somehow set up and that sniper thought it was real and his first time out? If that could be done in training exercise then it would sure be a benefit to discover his ‘moment of truth’ before he actually went into combat and others lives might depend on his performance.

      But my brother I sure understand how 'incidents' can color one's thinking for the rest of their lives too. Got some of those myself.

      • old vet

        Thanks for understanding. No need for Leavenworth, I think he was pretty much FUBAR. I just still feel for the poor guys who were new in counry.

  • rlong

    what about the phrase "a gun is always loaded?

  • jguilletjr

    I would in a controlled situation, With absolutly no ammo available to any one, and the weapon cleared and verified by one other person. then dry fired to be sure it is empty. This exercise should be for an advanced group only. Not for a beginners class. IMO

  • jguillet

    Any one consider using a mirror, instead of pointing at a person? The instructor could stand to the side and look at some one pointing at his reflection in the mirror. No rules broken, and he can see the presentation just the same.

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