Don’t be an idiot

The exact moment when an inexperienced shooter accidentally fires a .500 S&W magnum into the air.  These kind of powerful firearms and fully automatic weapons should NEVER be handed to an inexperienced shooter without sensible familiarization and safety precautions. Doing so courts disaster.


It’s time for another rant.

Some time ago I got together with my brother and a friend of his because he asked me to do a bit of training with them. We drove out to the range and had a pretty productive session with the public range all to ourselves. As we were nearing the end of the session other people showed up. By this point I’ve spent enough time on the range to know pretty quickly if someone is going to be a problem…and this group was going to be a problem. I kept a careful eye on them as we were finishing up. Of the four of them, at least two had never touched a gun before and the third was certainly very inexperienced. The fourth was, I suppose, the “gun guy” of this group as the guns appeared to belong to him…though sadly he didn’t seem to have any more sophistication in the way he handled weapons than the rank newbies.

The exact moment when an inexperienced shooter accidentally fires a .500 S&W magnum into the air.  These kind of powerful firearms and fully automatic weapons should NEVER be handed to an inexperienced shooter without sensible familiarization and safety precautions. Doing so courts disaster.
The exact moment when an inexperienced shooter accidentally fires a .500 S&W magnum into the air. These kind of powerful firearms (and fully automatic weapons) should NEVER be handed to an inexperienced shooter without sensible familiarization and safety precautions. Doing so courts disaster.

He pulled out a big blue S&W case and my heart rate instantly jumped at least 30%. I had a bad feeling that he was about to pull out a .500 S&W Magnum from that case, and that he was going to hand it to someone who had no firearms experience. Sure enough, the case contained one of the big X frame revolvers. I told my party to pack up because we needed to exit the range ASAP. I approached him and asked if he thought it was really a good idea to hand a weapon like that to someone who had no clue what they were doing. Naturally he was completely resistant to any input and was quite offended by what I assume he considered my “meddling.” Short of actually beating this guy unconscious…and believe me: the thought crossed my mind…there was nothing that could be done to stop this train wreck from happening.

My guys were packed up by the time this **CENSORED** idiot had loaded all five chambers and handed it to the smaller male of the group who had clearly never fired a shot through a handgun before.

I positioned my guys well back from the action and told them to watch carefully.

“He is going to fire two shots. One will land somewhere in the berm. Then under the massive recoil of that revolver he is going to fire a second one wildly up into the air completely by accident. And Hacksaw Jim Dumbass over there is too stupid to realize it.”

Some of you may share Mr. Dumbass’ incredulity. “Silly gun-writer! Revolvers can’t double!” On the contrary:


I want you to notice the description of that video: “SKINNY LITTLE BOOM BOOM GIRL CANT HANDLE THE RAW POWER OF A 500 S&W!!!!”

…as if what you see in that video is her fault. It isn’t. What you see right there is a failure on the part of all the dudes watching the spectacle rather than intervening to prevent it.

The .500 S&W Magnum is an absolute BEAST of a handgun. Some .500 loads have muzzle energy comparable to those of a 12 gauge slug. The recoil on this revolver is absolutely brutal. In the following video Jerry Miculek, who has the grip strength of a silverback gorilla, has to completely change his grip because the violent recoil of the weapon drove the hammer spur into his hand:


Because Jerry is an accomplished shooter with decades of experience, he knows how to handle the weapon safely. Most people do not have Jerry’s experience or strength and have no hope of controlling the weapon. When the recoil hits the weapon almost flies out of their hand, moving far enough to reset the trigger. They grab at the gun purely out of reflex and in the process pull the trigger a second time. When this second shot happens the muzzle is most certainly not pointed in a safe direction. In the first video you can see that the muzzle is just shy of being straight up when the second round is fired.

Where did that bullet land? 

…and that, folks, is the best case scenario. The worst case is as bad as it gets:

Corredor-Rivera died of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Ralls County Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie tells WGEM-TV that the woman was shooting a .500-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun when the strength of the gun’s recoil caused her to lose control. She was visiting family in the area. The sheriff said the gun spun around in her hand, leading to a second fatal shot. No charges are expected in the case.”

Stop for a moment and ponder what a point-blank gunshot wound to the head from a .500 S&W Magnum looks like…then realize that happened because some stupid bastard thought it would be funny to watch a newbie shoot a powerhouse revolver.

People seem naturally inclined to perform this sort of asinine stunt and now the possibility of “lulz” on the web and in social media seems to further encourage the idiocy. It’s not just big revolvers, either. People seem inclined to hand automatic weapons to inexperienced shooters with insufficient consideration, too. Sometimes with tragic results. I have had to personally grab someone and point the muzzle of the fully automatic weapon they were firing back towards the berm because they had no control and the muzzle was about to sweep everybody at the benches on the range. Someone thought it was a splendid idea to hand this person, who had no experience with firearms, an AR with a 100 round drum attached to it. The young woman in question had no idea how to control the weapon even with one shot at a time, and certainly did not have the presence of mind to release the trigger when it started going pear-shaped on her.

Nobody else seemed to understand the potential danger or notice as things were getting bad. Had I not intervened at least two people would have taken a bullet because they were too busy filming this on their cell phones to notice that they were about to capture some excellent footage of their own death.

For the love of God, stop handing these extraordinarily dangerous weapons to newbies. It’s not funny to watch a potential new shooter ruined by a bad experience with heavy recoil, and it’s really not funny if someone is injured or killed because you gave them a weapon they weren’t prepared to control. If you see something like this shaping up, intervene. Try the nice approach first. If that fails, try the not-nice approach.

Returning to the incident with Hacksaw Jim Dumbass, while he was standing there with a stupid look on his face (more stupid than the look he normally has on his face, anyway) wondering what just happened, I stepped into the vacuum and explained what just happened, why it was his fault, and how he should immediately put that weapon away before he was responsible for getting someone killed. Sheepishly, he complied.

For the love of John Moses Browning, stop this nonsense.


21 thoughts on “Don’t be an idiot”

  1. I’ve found that the best gun for a novice to shoot on their inaugural range trip is a .22 autoloading rifle of some sort, usually a Ruger 10/22 or S&W M&P 15-22. Easy to control and loads of fun to shoot.

    1. Agreed. When I took my mother out to teach her how to shoot, I used my G17 with the Advantage Arms kit. I’ve found I can do a lot of quality work with new shooters using that AA kit and it translates pretty easily into skill with the G17 bits reinstalled on the pistol.

    2. Single Action 22LR whether revolver or rifle either one is best to use for training newbies IMHO.

    3. .22 rifle is the unquestionable king, but lately I’ve been handing new shooters my Ruger Mark III with a red dot sight. A lot of people want to try handguns and this is an easy gun to shoot, and hit with.

  2. Can I get an AMEN!

    Honestly, I don’t care what caliber it is — you don’t hand a new shooter a gun with more than one round in it until they’ve shown they can control that shot. And you don’t put more than two until they’ve shown they can do that without sending one into the baffling 😛

  3. Agreed 100%.

    I work at a rental shooting range in Vancouver BC as an RSO. We have S&W .460 and .500 pistols available for rent, but we handload our own ammunition for those revolvers. We have been using slower burning powder (for a bigger flash) and only load them to about 80% pressure of factory ammunition for the reasons you identified in your article. A side benefit of downloading the ammunition is that the pistols will last longer under heavy use, and for less experienced shooters, the recoil is reduced slightly.

    We also have range safety policies in place that anyone, even experienced shooters can only use the .460 and .500 under RSO supervision, and that the rounds must be staggered so that every other shot is on an empty chamber to prevent the accidental second shot that happens from time to time. Also, customers can’t walk in off the street and jump straight to the .50 AE / .460 / .500 – we insist that they have to get some trigger time on something else first – at least 50rds of 9mm for example – before they can attempt to shoot the big stuff.

    That at least covers the guns that we rent out. If we get customers with their own .500 trying to get their girlfriend to shoot it for the first time, like people in your article, we put a stop to it.


  5. Limiting the caliber of weapons for new shooters is an excellent policy. If the shooter is very new, it is also wise to only put 1 round in the firearm.

  6. Agreed 100%. Any man who would be involved with such foolishness should have his card pulled.

  7. I don’t think she could have pulled the trigger that fast for the follow-up shot. It sounds similar to a problem with the early S&W .500s where the early ammunition had raised primers and when the gun would recoil the other rounds in the cylinder would slap the back of the frame and could potentially fire on either side of the barrel. I saw one where three rounds went off like this, the one down the barrel and the two on either side. Had someone been supporting the gun with their off hand they would have lost several fingers…

    1. One of the neat things about YouTube is that you can use the little gear icon in the lower right corner to adjust the playback speed of the video. Watch it at .25 speed and you will see very clearly that the hammer cocks a second time…which only happens when the trigger is being pulled.

  8. I have left un-managed ranges and a “favorite” shooting spot because of the same bad feeling. these were all pre X-frame. Just afraid of poor gun handling. I never said a word. I’v seen these ‘types’ get quite aggressive when challenged. Possibly alcohol. I/we just packed up (fast) and left.

    1. I’ve had a similar experience a few years ago. I was with a family member at an outdoor range (more of a dirt berm with picnic tables) on a rainy afternoon. We were getting a Czechpoint VZ-58 dialed in, and were the only ones there. Suddenly two yahoos arrive, smelling like alcohol. We packed up ASAP and left, not wanting any drama.

  9. No matter what type of gun a novice is shooting, it should be single loaded. How many times have you seen a new shooter fire a round, and then turn to the ‘instructor ‘, sweeping him/her in the process.

  10. Funny, I saw a woman shooting a 357 J frame in similar fashion at the first firearms class I took 8 years ago. She ended up with only one hand on the firearm after each shot! I mentioned it to the range instructor and he thought it was no big deal?! And he had been in the military . . . When I began teaching my children to shoot, it was with a Browning semi-auto 22; that was 7 years ago. Last year I let my now 21 year old daughter fire my S&W 460V for the first time. Started her out with 45LC rounds in Cowboy loads, went to higher powered 45LC and then on to low power 454 Casull rounds. Didn’t go beyond that, but she did just fine. After watching the Jerry Miculek shooting the 500, she controlled the recoil with the 454 as well as Jerry with the 500’s, barrel came up some, but within reason. I have a male cousin who did’t even want to shoot the 454’s who weighs 80 pounds more than my daughter and has hands twice as big. He said he was having enough fun just watching me. A man with some common sense; which isn’t all too common these days.

  11. The stupid! It burns!

    I’ll echo the comments above that this ought to be required reading for all gun owners…

  12. My son’s favorite gun is a tiny little Henry Mini-Bolt, precisely because it is a single shot. He feels like he only has to worry about one shot at a time, so he can just focus on the shooting. When he uses a semiauto, he often does not feel ready for the next shot and it stresses him out. Guns are like shoes, they need to not just fit, but be the right style for the person and the activity.

  13. I have let other shooters have a go with both the sten and m11-9, but only with single rounds at first, then 3 then 5 etc, while I judge their reactions. Back 10-15 years ago the one Indiana range I knew of for full auto, we pulled in as two idiots were doing mag dumps from the hip with an AK at the 100 yd range. We put the kibash on that but not before the damage was done. With most range members hostile to FA to begin with, now with a complaint of a well ventilated barn, we were quickly voted off the reservation, and I can’t blame them. An appeal was made but we got relegated to the back of the property, we had a good 30 yds, 50 if you stood on the river bank.

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