September 24, 2010
Knowing how to operate various pistols is a good skill to have.
This column is about defensive tactics, and a very important tactic is to not get shot, or shoot someone by accident, because of ignorance--ignorance of how to safely manipulate a firearm. I'm not referring here to your personal arm; the assumption is you are competent with it. I'm referring to having a general knowledge of how the more common firearms operate, to the extent that you can make a gun incapable of firing, if not unload it. You should have a high enough skill level to be able to do so while not endangering yourself or others.
When might you have need of this ability? What if someone is handling a gun in an unsafe manner and you can't leave the area or are convinced the person with the gun is a threat to himself or others, due to his state of mental or physical well being. For example, someone highly overwrought, unstable or not in full possession of their faculties.
All controls are not created equal. This High Standard (rear) has the slide stop on the right side. The manual safety of the Makarov (right) moves up to "on safe" while the S&W Model 39 has a manual safety that moves down to "on safe."
Another, thorny example is if you have been involved in a defensive encounter, the aftermath of which has a gun on the ground. In my experience and observations, a gun on the ground is not going to be there when the authorities arrive (nor is any other evidence that supports the guilt of the other actor or actors involved). Therefore, you have to take possession of the firearm, and when doing so you certainly don't want it to discharge. Yes, this could be construed as "tampering" with evidence, but the alternative is no evidence.
The procedures to follow in these circumstances are the subject of another article, but one thought to bear in mind is that the responders themselves may well not be knowledgeable of firearms past their service arms. If you're a law enforcement officer, it certainly might behoove you to learn about guns you could potentially come into contact with.
This sort of training is, to the best to my knowledge, not part of basic law enforcement academy training. I did find one exception to this--a federal agency training center (unnamed here) that had an arms room crammed with all sorts of firearms that were expressly assembled so that the agents could get hands-on training in how they operate.
In all these examples you can cause more harm than good if you don't know what you're doing. Where I'm going with this is recommending that you develop a general knowledge of how firearms--other than the ones you own or operate--to the level of being able to render them safe to handle.
Where do you get this knowledge? The first thought might well be to visit your local gun shop, but I think this is a bit much to ask, even if you're a steady customer. The shop is there to do business, not run a tutorial.
Of course, you could arrange to pay for some after-hours, one-on-one instruction. And the National Rifle Association runs courses in which various types of firearms are discussed and explained, quite often in consort with a local gun club.
You also might look into a commercial shooting range where they rent guns by the hour. Tell them what you want to achieve and I suspect they'll point you to a class held there or will at least be able to familiarize you with a rental gun.
One other option is finding a gun guy at your local club who's interested in this subject and is willing to spend some time with you. (I'd also make it a point to not neglect shotguns and rifles.) Point is, it's something worth checking into.