Thinking Critically About Safety: AK Edition

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This week a video of Travis Haley (probably best known from the Mag-Pul DVD series that were all the rage a while back) having an unintentional discharge with an AK pattern rifle made the rounds on forums and social media. The video generated some intelligent discussion, but largely it devolved into another Safety Sin goat rodeo. Here’s the claimed uncut footage from the producer of the video:

Let’s review the four primary rules of firearms safety:

  1. Never point a firearm at anyone or anything you are unwilling to destroy
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you have consciously made the decision to fire the weapon
  3. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded until you have personally verified that the weapon has been properly cleared…and even then, see rules 1 and 2.
  4. Be sure of the target you intend to shoot, and beyond it

Travis was demonstrating some sub-optimal trigger finger habits taught and used around the world in this video, probably intending to demonstrate why they aren’t a good idea. Mission accomplished on that front.

Doing this kind of demonstration with a loaded weapon is not really a good idea. It’s relatively easy to lose track of your weapon’s status if you are alternating between shooting and handling the gun, as one might be if they were setting up for various video shots. It is also a fairly common thing to see in classes when people are cycling from a break period back to class, and that’s one of the reasons why most sane instructors will have a rule forbidding handling a weapon if there is anyone between you and a decent berm.

It’s not uncommon for me to check the status of a gun I’m handling multiple times, even if I’m the only person around. Sure, I think that pistol I just put down a minute ago so I could go find my sight pusher is unloaded and I’m reasonably certain that nobody snuck in and loaded the gun while I had my back turned…but it costs me nothing to check the gun again before I resume the process of trying to swap the sights.

Note that even though Travis broke a couple of rules, he was observing rule 1. The over-the-shoulder angle of the camera shows that his rifle was pointed at a berm. The rules layer on top of one another so that even if one or, as in this case, two are broken tragedy is avoided.

Rule 1 violations really annoy me. It is an act of supreme douche-atude to point a firearm at another human being, and yet whenever I’m on a range or often even in a store I see it happen over and over and over again. This past week I took a brand new gun owner on her first trip to the range and before I could even get inside two separate idiots pointed rifles at me. Two. In a mostly empty parking lot somehow these **CENSORED** idiots managed to find a way to point loaded rifles directly at my face. I know they were pointed directly at my face because I was looking down the barrel of both of them before taking evasive action.

I’ve decided that Tom Givens has probably the best possible solution to rule 1 violations and I think I’m going to adopt it for myself. At the beginning of the Intensive Pistol Skills class Tom told us in a very matter of fact way that his rule was simple: If you point a gun at him, he’s going to point his gun at you right back. It wasn’t a joke. Pointing a firearm at another human being threatens them with death or grievous injury. Putting somebody in a casket, in a coma, or in a wheelchair is not a trivial faux pas.

Take a minute and read this, the account of a friend of mine who was injured when someone was negligently handling a gun. That injury has cost him a boat load of money, pain, and on a couple of occasions it almost cost him his life…because some dumbass couldn’t follow rule 1.

So, yeah…I’m down with Tom’s rule. I’ve tried being nice and being polite a whole bunch of times in the past and usually all I get is the person who pointed the friggin’ gun at me acting like somehow I have wronged them by asking them to please not point a lethal weapon at my face. I’ve had it with that. I’m sick to death of dudes running their suck about how super “sheep dog” they are who act like a spanked 6 year old when you tell them to stop pointing their gun at people who don’t deserve to die. Everybody wants “big boy rules” until it’s time for big boy accountability, and then they want to act like whiny little bitches.

Do not point a gun at me. You don’t get to threaten my life or the quality of it because you cannot be bothered to handle a gun properly. If you insist on being a colossal asshole and you point your gun at me, I’m going to point mine right back at you and then we can see how much you like staring down the barrel of a gun.

A lot of people online have been quick to make fun of Travis because of his mistakes in that video. Travis is a big boy and he’s making a good living as an instructor, so he doesn’t need anyone to white knight for him and I’m certainly not going to do it. He messed up, and he did it on video. People are going to make fun of it and meme it. C’est la vie.

It would be bloody wonderful if the same level of effort was applied to correct the douchebag in the next range bay when he waves a gun around like kid playing with a flashlight, or the drooling idiot at the gun store who insists on pointing guns at the employees or customers.

 

7 thoughts on “Thinking Critically About Safety: AK Edition”

  1. Tim,

    I, too, saw the whole Travis Hailey thing as a validation of the four rules. I agree with most of what you have to say. In the past few weeks I’ve had more than a couple guns pointed at me by careless people at the range and in retail stores. I hate it. There is no good reason for it. Pure ignorance and carelessness. At Gander Mountain yesterday, I even witnessed a obvious neophyte look down the barrel of a glock with his finger on the trigger(after he thoroughly swept me). The clerk made no attempt to correct his behaviour.

    Now, that being said, I think it’s honestly a bit careless to write what you did about Tom Givens “solution to rule 1 violations” in this specific context, in this specific tone, in this specific place. While I take it as hyperbole, I don’t know that everybody will.

    “I’ve decided that Tom Givens has probably the best possible solution to rule 1 violations and I think I’m going to adopt it for myself. At the beginning of the Intensive Pistol Skills class Tom told us in a very matter of fact way that his rule was simple: If you point a gun at him, he’s going to point his gun at you right back. It wasn’t a joke………………

    So, yeah…I’m down with Tom’s rule. I’ve tried being nice and being polite a whole bunch of times in the past and usually all I get is the person who pointed the friggin’ gun at me acting like somehow I have wronged them by asking them to please not point a lethal weapon at my face. I’ve had it with that…………..”

    I don’t know Tom, but I think there is a big difference between him honestly telling students he will do this in his enrollment classes(a pretty controlled, vetted environment) and adopting it as SOP in random stores, ranges and the world at large. If you, or somebody that reads this and takes you literally, decide to do something like this outside of Tom’s classes, it will likely precipitate a lesson in “Big Boy Rules”, and one they may not find pleasant.

    If people are so fed up that they must treat this as a self defense issue, I would argue that the best coarse of action may be to simply de-escalate(withdraw), contact law enforcement, and inform them that there is an individual who has placed you in danger due to negligently placing you at gun point. Or perhaps inform the culprit that if they point a deadly weapon at you again, you intend to do just that. Less risk of prison time or death this way.

    I have a lot of respect for you, but this article just rubbed me the wrong way today for some reason. I didn’t feel it was up to the high standard that I have come to expect from you. Too much bravado vs common sense.

    I apologize if I’m just being too damn serious.

  2. At this point I’m ready to endorse a fifth safety law: don’t be a dumb ass (particularly any where near a firearm).

    For some reason this post got me thinking about a couple of incidents I’ve had or witnessed while shooting on public lands where practicing is allowed and ripping up the place with ATV’s/OHV’s is not allowed off of established trails. Over the last 3 years I have seen and experienced no less than four cases where someone (twice me) had parked their vehicle to block traffic on a dead end trail in a flood impoundment (basically a three by five mile swamp with a big dike around it). The shooter has set up a target array in a safe direction, usually into the dike and commenced fire (shooter is doing everything right). When one or more idiots decided to drive at high speed around the shooter’s vehicle (twice around me in my vehicle as I waited for the range so two vehicles those times) and drive directly between the shooter and the target. The drivers have always been in/on ATV’s or OHV’s, almost always had a beer in hand and proceeded to drive off into the weeds (occasionally throwing beer cans at shooter or their vehicle).

    Now I realize public lands are open to many uses but this stupidity is going to end up getting someone hurt!

  3. Someone who understands the Internet gun community VERY well decided to leak this video. They knew that it would get shared like wildfire, because gun neckbeards love to feel superior to people. Travis takes a minor hit to his reputation maybe, but whatever video this was from gets a lot of free advertising.

    1. Haley has killed enough dudes that he probably doesn’t care about the opinions of neck beards. He’ll move forward and be just fine.

  4. Normally, I’m a lurker. What I will say directly related to the video… I don’t have any less respect for Travis and would take a course of his in a heartbeat. It just means he is human and made a mistake. No one got hurt. And you heard him say he shouldn’t have had an ND. Being as familiar with weaponry as he is, I bet it gave his pride a pretty big wound… and I get the impression that it rattled him at the end of the video.

    With respect to treating every rule 1 violation as a threat… I think that that is based on the person’s perspective of the situation. Surely I would agree that if I am nonchalant about someone sweeping me, it may be the last time. However, when I have come across someone that I needed to tell stop pointing one at me, they have complied pretty quickly and apologetically. It has happened less than I can count on one hand too. I don’t typically go to places where I anticipate there is going to be poor gun handling.

  5. There’s been a lot of talk about this around the blogs, and really this just proves a few things we probably knew already:

    If you handle guns for a living (and I’m not talking carry, but actually handle, like it’s your job to have loaded firearms in your hands), it’s a matter of when, not if.

    When it does, so long as you’re following the rules, nobody is going to get hurt. That said, Rule 1 is obviously the most important, and even if something happens to 2,3, and 4, if you follow 1, it’s probably going to be okay.

    Considering how Travis was demonstrating different indexing methods and how they might not be a good idea, I think he inadvertently proved his point, and I think nothing less of him for it.

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