I have made a lot of mistakes in my nearly 77 years of life. Most were minor but a few impacted my life in ways that can best be described as “life changing.” I am not going to list them all here for any number of reasons.
The mistake I am going to share in this column is one involving gun safety.
I was handling a firearm, a .38 revolver, carelessly and—as a result—the gun went off, quite unintentionally on my part. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the damage done was minimal. This happened long ago, but I will never forget the shock of hearing that shot.
But it was embarrassing, because I knew better on all counts how to safely handle the gun and especially how to treat it when it was loaded. I ignored what I knew. The bullet struck a concrete wall and ricocheted away from me. The wall had a pretty nice little dent in it and I later found the bullet, which I kept for years to remind me of this mistake.
First of all, the accidental discharge was not the fault of the gun. It was my fault because I ignored several basic safety rules in the moments leading up to the unpleasant surprise.
In the years since then I have had charge of several firearms, both revolvers and semiautomatic weapons. I like the revolver a lot, due to its simplicity and reliability. It’s very easy to know if it is loaded or not but a person should never handle it carelessly regardless. Every bullet in the weapon is potentially chambered and ready to fire. Only when we are certain all rounds have been removed and not in the weapon is it safe to handle the gun. I have never had another accidental discharge.
If you choose to load a revolver and carry it that way, remember to unload it as soon as you are done carrying it. Remove all ammunition and make certain it is out of the cylinder before closing the cylinder. When dry firing a revolver or any other firearm, treat it like a loaded gun and do not aim at people, animals or other objects you don’t want to shoot.
A semiautomatic pistol or rifle differs in that it usually has a magazine—some call it a clip—that will hold several rounds or bullets. A removable magazine can be in the weapon without bullets being in the chamber. I usually don’t chamber a round in this type of weapon, unless I plan to fire it. When I put the weapon away, I carefully remove the magazine and then I clear the weapon. Usually that means cycling the action a time or two and then pointing the gun at something safe and pulling the trigger to release the firing mechanism. This should prevent any accidental firing.
But regardless of the known state of any gun, I always treat it as if it were loaded.
Safety is largely a matter of attitude, and that is the case whether we are handling a firearm, driving a car or using power tools, or anything else that can cause damage. To me, safety means not leaving things to chance.
To me gun safety also means performing the necessary user maintenance to keep it in good working order and ready for use. This includes cleaning and lubrication as needed.
That accidentally fired bullet from those years ago taught me a lesson I will hopefully never forget—don’t take unnecessary chances with guns, cars, or life in general, and don’t depend on luck to keep you safe.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.