Category: Firearms

New, First-Time Gun Ownership Requires Training

New, First-Time Gun Ownership Requires Training

It’s My First Gun. Now What?

You are a new, first-time gun owner. You just bought that brand new super-duper magnum thingy handgun, rifle, or shotgun. Now what?

First, Safety First!

Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction (that means do not point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy! It also means that you must know what is behind your target. Pointing at a wall–what’s behind the wall?).

Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Always keep your firearm unloaded until ready to shoot.

Always keep your ammunition in a separate room when dry firing

Here is a safety video by John Lovell.

Responsible Gun Ownership

Owning a firearm bears a significant responsibility. While that firearm is in your possession, whether on your person or not, you are responsible for how it is used. Firearm training is a necessary step in responsible gun ownership. Seek out a certified firearm instructor to learn how to use it, safely and effectively!

Get Some Training!

It is very important that you seek training for that new firearm. Training for first-time gun owners usually consists of two parts: 1) Learning how firearms (especially yours) work, and 2) practical application (shooting it).

Training is available from LNPDSA through several venues.

On-Line Training

One venue introduces how firearms work through on-line learning. The on-line portion covers the first segment, how firearms work. There is a practical application portion is part of the training, but is conducted in person at a time after the on-line segment is completed. NOTE: This is NOT North Carolina’s Concealed Carry Handgun Training class!

At least one internet big-dog, whom I respect greatly, has created an introductory channel for neophyte gun owners: John Lovell’s “5 Steps for New Gun Owners” is highly recommended!

MrGunsnGear created a video in the same vein, “Brand New Gun Owners: The Basics You Need to Know.”

In-Person Training

Alternatively, you can take an in-person basic course for your handgun, rifle, or shotgun in person, where both parts are taught by a trainer.

At the very least, you should take a familiarization course that teaches you the fundamentals of your handgun, rifle, or shotgun: Parts, functioning, assembly and disassembly.

You got your gun-now get your training!

Guns and Ammo: Ban, Tax, and Confiscate!

Guns and Ammo: Ban, Tax, and Confiscate!

Using Crisis for Sleight of Hand and Misdirection

While we have been distracted by our focus  on COVID-19, and the efforts to mitigate the contagion, our U. S. House of Representatives (and now the U. S. Senate) is attempting a feat of prestidigitation through misdirection. A bill was introduced that would effectively nullify the Second Amendment, and possibly eliminate private ownership of firearms in a generation: H. R. 5717, the text of which is available here.

In an era of nanny-state legislative and executive order overreach, the House of Representatives has kicked the nanny, “We’re the government, and we’re here to help” boundaries beyond all sense of reason. To misquote Admiral Nimitz, “Uncommon nonsense was a common virtue,” applies abundantly to the proponents of this bill!

UPDATE (3/24/2020): Not to be outdone by the House, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced S. 3254. Essentially, this bill is a clone of the House version.

The End Run: License It, Ban It, and Tax It!

There have been anecdotal suggestions to repeal the Second Amendment for decades. Most anti-gunners recognize trying to do so would likely fail, or at least take so long as to be unacceptable. The alternative? License it, ration it, ban it, and tax it into non-existence.

This bill includes every infringement on the Second Amendment a rabid anti-gunner could possible conceive, and salivate over: Mandatory owner training and federal licensing, universal background checks, national gun registration, semi-automatic firearm and magazine bans, increases in firearm (30%) and ammo (50%) taxes, red flag laws, repeal of firearm manufacturer protection when someone uses a firearm illegally, expansion of gun-free zones, grants to incentivize states to enact similar legislation, and the inevitable tax-payer funded “research” into gun violence and its prevention .

Is it just me, or does this one have a “Bloomberg smell” about it? This flurry of anti-gun activism makes me wonder if it is an effort to over-load the senses of reasonable people, and browbeat them into “compromising” to pass at least some of it.

The Irony of H. R. 5717

A fundamental and tacit presupposition behind anti-gun proposals is the position that law enforcement is always available to protect citizens from attack. Therefore, it is unnecessary to have potentially dangerous tools available to protect yourself. The problem with that tacit understanding is that the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as developing case law, has ruled the police have no duty to protect citizens not in their custody. To add to the irony, police departments in some metro areas are now announcing they will no longer respond to “minor” offenses as they attempt to integrate communicable disease mitigation practices while performing their role as law enforcement.

A second flaw in the “police are always available” presupposition is response time. Attacks happen in real time; they happen NOW! Police responses are after-the-fact. That is, at the moment an attack begins, the probability of the police being there, at that moment, is remote. We grant that police responses in metropolitan areas are usually short, but they are still finite, and typically range in being minutes away. Response times can be significantly longer in rural areas.

Protest the Enactment of this Proposed Bill

One of the few mechanisms we have to protest this effort at government overreach, and hopefully defeat it, is to contact our representatives. U. S. House members can be contacted through U. S. Senators can be contacted through Register your protest!

UPDATE (3/24/2020): The Firearms Policy Coalition created a website where you can send your opposition to these bills to your House and Senate representatives. FPC’s site is here.

New: Concealed Carry Prep Class

New: Concealed Carry Prep Class

A New Class: A Concealed Carry Preparatory Class

We begin a new “Concealed Carry Prep” class in March. It is short, and available through our scheduling portal, here.

Why A Concealed Carry Prep Class?

In our experience, there are people who want to obtain a concealed carry permit, but who never (or seldom) handled or fired a handgun. We recommend beginners take a preparatory course before taking the NC Concealed Carry Handgun Training (CCHGT) since there are gun handling expectations in it beginners do not have. This class prepares the applicant to meet that expectation.

This is NOT a concealed carry class! It is a only preparatory class for those who have little to no experience handling or firing a handgun. The purpose of this class is to give the student the gun handling experience necessary for a Concealed Carry Handgun Training course.

How Long Is The Class?

This class is very manageable. It takes two hours, only, and is by appointment, so you can take the class at your convenience.

What Does The Class Cover?

Topics in this non-shooting class include safety rules for firearms, parts of a handgun, shooting positions, field stripping, cleaning, preparation for firing, and clearing minor malfunctions. Also included is a session with laser training devices to introduce you to the fundamentals of sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger press.

What Do I Need For The Class?

All books, training material, and equipment are provided by LNPDSA. Applicants have the option of purchasing a “Basics of Pistol Shooting” handbook on the registration page.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of the class is $40. Payment is due at the beginning of class, and may be paid by cash, check, or credit card.

How Do I Sign Up For It?

You can sign up for the Concealed Carry Prep Class, here. Sign up more than one person by increasing the “Quantity” button on the registration page.

Want More Information?

If you desire more information, use the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page, or call us at 252.497.2965.


The Future of Gun Control: Virginia and Beyond

The Future of Gun Control: Virginia and Beyond

Gun Control 2020 – The Post-Constitutional Decade

Unless you have been mimicking the proverbial ostrich, you are probably aware of the bevy of gun control bills recently introduced in the Virginia legislature. The proposals range from restricting privately owned gun ranges to law enforcement use only (but only if no one nearby feels threatened) to banning the possession of any firearm that is not a bolt or lever action. By the way, there is no “grandfather” provision where you can retain listed firearms obtained before the proposed ban without government oversight. Only if you register yourself and your firearm with the State, and receive its permission to possess it will you be able to keep your legally obtained property.

Virginia: A Test Case for Gun Control Advocates

Do not be deceived. This flurry of Virginia anti-gun legislation is a test balloon to gauge the political will and muscle of Virginia’s Second Amendment supporters, and by extension, the political will and muscle of gun owners nationwide. Passage of even a modicum of the proposed Virginia bills likely will result in other like-minded states following suit with similar legislation, as well as federal legislation. Damn the electorate–full speed ahead! Other 2A advocates suggest 12 more states are ready to launch similar efforts depending on the outcome in Virginia.

Everytown for Gun Safety Pledges 60 Million Dollars

It appears that the Bloomberg backed (read financed by) Everytown for Gun Safety has pledged 60 million dollars to the 2020 election cycle. That figure does not include Bloomberg’s personal contributions to anti-gun candidates. It is likely that states assessed by Bloomberg’s political machine as vulnerable for flipping from conservative to liberal will be the targets–that suggests “swing” states, like North Carolina. Bloomberg’s position is that no one — NO ONE — should have a gun, except police officers, the military, and of course personal protective service “professionals” for elites such as he. Hmm, can anybody say, “Germany, 1932,” or “Venezuela?”

Demigods and Other Persona

Bloomberg, in one of his political ads, called President Trump a “demigod.” The definition of a demigod is “one so preeminent in intellect, power, ability, beneficence, or appearance as to seem to approach the divine.” Bloomberg’s approach to abridging the electorate’s rights protected by the Constitution through his political clout, monetary contributions to achieve his purposes, and the “I know better than thou what is good for thee” attitude suggests he is no less a demigod than the one he accuses.

After the recent Texas church shooting, where a madman  killing people with a shotgun was stopped by a member of the congregation, Bloomberg pontificated, “It’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot. You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place. . . .” It very nearly sounded as if he wanted a Southerland Springs-like episode to entrench his “guns are evil” mantra.

Other anti-gun sycophants have been recorded as saying, “[Repeal of the Second Amendment] will happen. We’re not going to allow guns for anyone, anywhere, any time.” Except of course, for police, military, and their own corps of private bodyguards.

“Sue ‘Til They’re Blue”

The National Redistricting Action Fund, backed by Barack Obama and Eric Holder (the same of “Fast and Furious” fame) repeatedly sues, through judges sympathetic to their cause, to overturn gerrymandering–their term for political districts drawn by Republicans. Instead, they want to institute their own form of gerrymandering that suits their agenda–turning the state blue, as they did in Virginia–while blocking their opponents.

So, what has redistricting to do with rights protected by the Bill of Rights? Can you say Virginia? By creating uneven district lines that favor liberal voting patterns, anti-gun legislators from centers of high population can create a political and legislative juggernaut that can run rough-rod over the state’s rural areas that typically are more conservative.

Local Resource

There is a group in North Carolina that is attempting to stand up to the Bloomberg-Obama-Holder ilk, preserve the Bill of Rights, and stop North Carolina from becoming another Virginia: Grass Roots North Carolina. The future of gun control, for good or ill, depends on an informed and engaged electorate.


The Decision to Carry

The Decision to Carry

Decisions, Preparedness, and Consequences

Responsibility: What It Means

North Carolina’s concealed carry training handbook entitled Concealed Carry Handgun Training (the “red book”), published by the North Carolina Justice Academy, opens with the acknowledgement, “With the right under law to carry a concealed handgun, comes a tremendous responsibility.” Carrying a concealed handgun entails the personal assumption of that responsibility. Fundamentally, deciding to carry a concealed handgun means that you, and you alone, choose to personally assume moral, legal, and financial accountability for the actions you may take with that handgun.

If you use your handgun in a defensive force scenario, you are accountable not only for the immediate force-on-force required to stop the threat against you, but also for collateral damage your action may cause. Bullets have no consciousness. They continue on their trajectory until their energy is expended.  One facet of bullet design that aids in expending that energy, thereby slowing it down, and eventually stopping it is its expansion capability. Bullets with full metal jacket (FMJ) construction lack the characteristics to expand appreciably. This feature, alone, weighs against using full metal jacket rounds as part of your defensive carry.

The Decision To Carry

Presuming that you have considered the risk of taking upon yourself the moral, legal, and financial accountability for any action that a defensive force scenario may require, and elected to take that risk, there are other elements you should consider. The most significant is mental preparedness.

One harsh, in-your-face reality of carrying a concealed handgun for self-defense entails the risk of having to use it. This means you may have to point your handgun at another human being, and pull the trigger. A decision you have to make before putting that holster on your belt is, “Am I mentally prepared to take a life?” There are some who propose that “if you do not believe you can kill another human being, you have no business carrying a gun” (Chris Bird, 2019, The concealed handgun manual, 261). Bird couched his proviso in a crass and seemingly aggressive tone to provoke a conscientious assessment of your personal fortitude–“If a self-defense scenario develops, do I have the personal rectitude to potentially destroy my attacker.”


If you are ever involved in a defensive force scenario, you will inevitably experience aftershocks. They may merely be the shakes, or they may rise to more severe bodily reactions, such a vomiting or bowel evacuation. It will happen.

And then there is law enforcement. A consequence of using deadly force is that you, at the least, will be interviewed. Your interaction with law enforcement also may result in detainment or arrest with incarceration until the event is investigated.

The good news is that there are organizations that can help reduce the trauma (let alone the financial burden that may ensue) after the use of defensive force. United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), and U.S. Law Shield are two that spring to mind. Remember, when you made the decision to carry a handgun for self-defense, you chose to personally assume moral, legal, and financial accountability for the actions you take with that handgun.

A Personal Decision with Personal Accountability

The decision to carry a concealed handgun mandates critical and conscientious, and highly personal self-assessment at the deepest moral levels. Our final decision, whether we carry or choose not to, is fraught with varying responsibilities and consequences. Hopefully, it will be one we can live with.

To Thumb or Not To Thumb-That is the Question

To Thumb or Not To Thumb-That is the Question

Is The Thumb Safety an Anachronism?

Thumb safeties–one may deservedly ask if the thumb safety on contemporary pistols is an anachronism. We first do well to define what we mean by anachronism. One definition from Webster says, “A person or a thing that is chronologically out of place, especially one that belongs to a former age and is incongruous if found in the present.” This definition is the crux of this post. To put the question another way, “Does the thumb safety belong to a former generation of pistols, and is it incongruous when found on semi-auto pistols as they are currently designed?”

The Thumb Safety Paradigm

We would probably be safe in saying that virtually every pistol shooter is aware of the 1911-style handgun–and its thumb safety.  Interestingly, a precursor to the 1911, the Colt Automatic Pistol of 1900 had no thumb safety.1 The thumb safety offered a mechanism to prevent an inadvertent trigger pull, which would release a cocked hammer, and make the pistol go “bang.” The mere presence of a thumb safety in the “on” position requires that we adapt our manual of arms to disengage it so the trigger can be pulled, causing the hammer to strike the firing pin.

Enter the striker fired semi-automatic. There are some, however, who want the added comfort of a user-operated safety, even on a striker-fired handgun. Quite frankly, the cumulative affect on overall handgun safety by adding a thumb safety is negligible, and potentially can be a detriment.

Look Ma! No Thumb Safety

With the advent of striker fired semi-autos, the thumb safety disappeared. There was no hammer to release (or block). Since the firing pin strikes the primer, anyway, why not simply manipulate the firing pin. By adding a cocking protrusion on the firing pin, and modifying the fire control mechanism to place it under spring tension as a function of the gun’s inherent action, no hammer is needed. Mechanical trigger blocks, whether lever-style or the pivot style, ensure positive trigger engagement is present before the striker is released. Firing pin blocks ensure the firing pin (now called a “striker”) cannot move forward until positive trigger press is present. Various limitations on striker cocking and/or release also require positive trigger press. The combination of these elements obviate the need for a hammer. (Besides, a cocked hammer on a 1911 has to be dangerous because of the way it looks, right?) All of these positive control features also obviate the need for a thumb safety.

The Danger of the Thumb Safety

Many concealed carry licensees periodically rotate their “every day carry” gun (the wisdom of rotation is a discussion for another day). For some, a 1911, in some form or fashion, is among those in rotation. A problem arises when switching from a striker-fired semi-auto, with no thumb safety, to a 1911 with a thumb safety. Suddenly, another  step is required in the manual of arms, and one that may easily be skipped during a real confrontation, when our brain is least likely to be thinking–at least about our manual of arms, and releasing the thumb safety. The trigger is pulled, and nothing happens! It could be a bad day in black rock.

Two remedies come to mind: For many trainers, the first is never to carry an immediate reaction firearm that has a thumb safety. If you are going to carry a concealed handgun, make certain it is one that does not require, or have, a thumb safety.

Another remedy, if you are among the 1911-style aficionados, (and one that is probably in the minority among trainers) may be to ensure every semi-auto you own has a thumb safety, whether it’s a 1911 or striker-fired. If every handgun you may carry has a thumb safety, then at least your manual of arms is necessarily consistent. There are many competent trainers who argue that properly and consistently training can minimize, and likely eliminate, the probability of failing to disengage the thumb safety if you are ever in a scenario where an immediate action becomes necessary.

If you despise striker-fired handguns that have thumb safeties as options, do not put a 1911 in your rotation.

Of course, this discussion over thumb safeties presupposes there is no mechanical failure. Arguably, thumb safeties on 1911-style handguns may have a higher probability of failure than thumb safeties on striker-fired handguns simply due to the design mechanics involved, let alone the simple probability that the more moving parts something has, the higher the probability some part will fail.

Bottom Line

Carrying a concealed carry handgun is carrying an immediate reaction tool. When you need it, you need it now! Rotating between handguns with and without thumb safeties just puts yourself at risk. In the end, the decision to carry a semi-auto with a thumb safety is yours. But if you do, carry one consistently, and train with it.

Is the thumb safety anachronistic? From a mechanical design standpoint, very likely. From a carry standpoint, if every handgun in your everyday carry rotation lacks a manual safety, it probably is as well.


1 Jerry Kuhnhausen, The Colt 45 Automatic: A Shop Manual: Volume 1 In The Kuhnhausen M1911 Pistol Series, ed. Noel Kuhnhausen (McCall, ID: Heritage Gun Books, 1990), 7.

EZ – The S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ

EZ – The S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ

Our focus is training, not gear reviews. However, every once in a while someone introduces a piece of hardware that is unique enough to require one–Smith and Wesson’s introduction of the M&P® 380 Shield EZ meets that qualification.

The Struggle with Slides

Women students are among those we introduce to the basics of pistol shooting, as well as concealed carry classes. Often, they struggle with manipulating the slide of a semi-automatic, and in doing so frequently sweep the muzzle in wide arcs. Generally, not a desirable outcome. And, the size of the handgun seems to matter little. Pocket pistols are as much of a struggle as compacts, and full-sized semi-autos. Revolvers seem to be the go-to handgun, but then we have to deal with the long, and relatively heavy trigger press of double action, or cocking the hammer, which is sometimes a struggle for those with smaller hands, for a shorter, lighter trigger press. Those whose strong hand is the left hand seem to have even greater struggles with handling the slide (not least because most instructors are right-handed shooters, and teach from a right-handed perspective). There is a light on the horizon.

Enter the S&W M&P® 380 Shield EZ

Smith and Wesson recently introduced their M&P® 380 Shield EZ. This is a semi-auto that is designed for people who struggle with slides due to limited hand strength (it may do well with first time shooters who have no experience with handguns as well, although we have not experienced that, yet). Roughly the size of their standard Shield line, the EZ is a single-stack, .380 semi-auto. The ease with which the slide can be pulled to the rear is the first feature noticed by those who handle this handgun. Generally, the first response we have heard so far is, “Wow!” The typical response from the women we have shown this pistol to has been, “I like it,” rapidly followed by “What is this, again,” and “How much is it?”

Another benefit that we have seen is in shooting. The relatively larger size (compared to a pocket pistol), more aggressive grip stippling, and slightly heavier weight, coupled with a .380’s reduced recoil, all seem to produce better control, and more accurate fire.

External Safeties

Unlike their other entries in the M&P® line, the 380 Shield EZ has a grip safety. It is available with an optional thumb safety, as well.  This pistol is hammer-fired, that is, it has an internal hammer that strikes a firing pin, which reduces the pressure required for trigger press compared to a double-action handgun. The grip safety accomplishes two purposes: The first is that unless the grip is securely pressed (which really is a function of getting a proper grip, anyway), the hammer cannot strike the firing pin. The second is that the grip safety releases a firing pin block. The optional thumb safety is typical in its operation; when engaged, the trigger cannot release the hammer.


The M&P® 380 Shield EZ breaks down like others in the M&P® line. Lock the slide to the rear, rotate the slide takedown lever to the down position, then pull the slide slightly to the rear to release the lock, and the assembly slides off the frame. Unlike other pistols in the line, however, no trigger pull or sear release is necessary–the slide simply slides off the frame. The recoil spring and barrel separate from the slide in the same fashion as other pistols in the M&P® line.


Reassembly has one wrinkle other M&P® pistols do not; the head of the polymer guide-rod is oval, not round, and has to be properly aligned with the guide-rod hole in the slide. Reassembly is the same as other pistols in the line, just ensure you do NOT press the grip safety while putting the slide assembly back on the frame, otherwise you engage the firing pin block lever, and the slide will not move fully to the rear. Lock the slide back, rotate the slide takedown lever to its horizontal position, and release the slide-voila!


Full specifications can be found on Smith and Wesson’s website.

Bottom Line

Smith and Wesson’s M&P® 380 Shield EZ is a hit out of the park for shooters who struggle with hand strength. It is an affordable alternative to the pocket pistols that frequently have heavy triggers and stiff slides. While larger than most .380 pocket pistols, the ease with which it can be manipulated overcomes its size.

Background Checks

Background Checks

Background Checks: A Function of Checks and Balances

I believe it safe to say that no reasonable person wants firearms in the hands of those who would use them to intentionally commit crime. Background checks at the point of sale is a minimally intrusive method to prevent the possession of firearms by those who already demonstrated a propensity to commit crime. Under Federal law it is unlawful to transfer a firearm to any person prohibited from possessing one (18 USC 922 (d)); this includes not only dealer sales, but also includes transfers between private individuals.

People Who Cannot Receive a Firearm

People prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm include anyone who is:

  • under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
  • a fugitive from justice
  • an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
  • adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution
  • an alien who—
    • is illegally or unlawfully in the United States
    • has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa (with specific exceptions)
  • discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
  • a citizen of the United States who has renounced his citizenship
  • subject to a court order that restrains such person
    • from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of an intimate partner,
    • engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child,
    • or by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate  partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury
  • convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

As part of the balances to help ensure those with criminal intent are denied access to firearms, and to comply with Federal law, federally licensed dealers will process your name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to verify you are not someone prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

Purchasing a Firearm

There are certain steps you must go through to purchase a firearm. Knowing them in advance may save some time, as well as avoid potential embarrassment. These steps include:

  • Verifying your age (at least 18 for long guns, and 21 for handguns)
  • Providing identification
  • Completing ATF From 4473
  • Undergoing a NICS check

Also, North Carolina General Statues require that you receive a copy of NC G.S. 14-315.1, which directs the proper storage of firearms where minors are present in a household, if you purchase the firearm from a retail or wholesale store. In many stores, you will be required to sign a document verifying you received it.

Handgun Sales in North Carolina

Handgun transfers in North Carolina require an additional step (NC G.S. 14-402). Before a handgun can be transferred in North Carolina, the recipient must first obtain “A Permit to Purchase/Receive A Handgun” from the sheriff of the county in which the recipient resides, or the recipient must possess a valid North Carolina concealed carry handgun permit. This also applies to transfers between private individuals!

Be aware, there are licensed dealers in North Carolina who will not permit potential buyers of handguns to personally handle one from their display cases without showing the salesperson a permit to purchase, or a concealed carry handgun permit.

Online Sales

If you purchase a firearm online, the seller will not ship the firearm directly to your door. Instead, it will be shipped to a Federal Firearm License (FFL) holder near you. After you are notified of the firearm’s arrival, you have to go through all the steps (verification of identification, ATF Form 4473, NICS check, and if a handgun, either a permit to purchase a handgun or a North Carolina concealed carry handgun permit) just as if you had walked into a store and purchased the firearm out of a display case. Be aware that a handling fee may also be charged by the local FFL holder. Handling fees range from $25 to $50 per visit, or in some cases per firearm.

Gun Shows

Think of gun shows as a collection of FFL dealers under one roof. Purchasing a firearm at a gun show means you have to go through the same steps as purchasing a firearm in a store (ID check, Form 4473, NICS check, permit to purchase, etc.). Plus, you get the added benefit of paying the gun show organizer an entrance fee. However, gun shows also offer the visitor an opportunity to see and purchase many non-firearm items and collectibles that would not ordinarily be available in a single store.

Jargon: Intentional, Accidental, and Negligent Discharges

Jargon: Intentional, Accidental, and Negligent Discharges

Intentional, Accidental, and Negligent Discharges

There is no doubt almost everyone in the U. S. has probably seen the video of the FBI agent losing control of his handgun as it fell out of its holster while he was doing a backflip, and the discharge as he picked it up. Subsequent news reports frequently term it an “accidental” discharge–I contend it was a negligent discharge. Regardless of whether it is termed accidental or negligent, this is an example of unsafe handling, and one from which we, as responsible handgun owners, can learn.

When it comes to firearms, there are three categories that address the manner of its discharge: intentional, negligent, and accidental.

Intentional Discharge

An intentional discharge is when the firearm fires under the control of the shooter. All the active and passive mechanical safeties have been disengaged by the shooter in anticipation of releasing a shot, and the firearm is purposefully pointing in the direction intended by the shooter.

Accidental Discharge

An accidental discharge is when the firearm fires unexpectedly as a result of a malfunction of one of the components, either in the firearm, or in the ammunition itself. A common type of accidental discharge among automatic firearms is a “cook-off.” This is where the chamber has become so hot that if a cartridge sits in the chamber, the heat from the chamber will cause the powder to ignite. Accidental discharges also include soft or improperly seated primers, where a floating firing pin (that is, one where its forward motion is not retarded by a firing pin spring, but “floats” in its housing) strikes the primer as the bolt closes, causing a discharge. Another example includes firearms discharging when they are dropped. Properly designed and maintained firearms will NOT fire when they are dropped, however under some conditions, e.g., extremely worn parts, parts out of design tolerances, or poor design, etc., a firearm may discharge if it is dropped.

Negligent discharge

This brings us to the third type of discharge–one due to negligence or mishandling of the firearm on the part of the shooter. The FBI dancer in the recent video is an example of a negligent discharge. As one watches the video, it is obvious the firearm did not discharge as it hit the ground. It fired when the owner attempted to retrieve it

Many contemporary firearms have only passive safeties. That is, all the safety mechanisms to prevent accidental discharges are disengaged by the natural manipulation of the firearm as the shooter prepares to fire. In many firearms, that consists of a partially cocked striker, a firing pin block, and a pivoting trigger or trigger lever, where a mechanical stop on the trigger itself prevents the internal part of the trigger from completing the firing cycle unless the trigger is fully and properly engaged. Part of the intent is that with a firing pin block, and a mechanical stop on the trigger, inertial forces exerted on the firing pin and trigger from a dropped firearm will not cause a discharge.

One of the first safety precautions shooters are taught is to keep the finger out of the trigger guard until they intend to fire. This includes picking up a firearm as it lays flat.

Lessons Learned

My guess is that several factors came together to cause the negligent discharge caught on video. It is almost certain that the firearm falling out of the holster was unexpected. The unexpected and public revelation of his firearm likely caused some considerable degree of consternation to the agent to get the handgun back under his control as quickly as possible. Apparently, in his rush to pick up the handgun, he allowed his finger to enter the trigger guard. As he contracted his fingers to grasp the handgun sufficiently for a firm grip–bang.

As responsible concealed carry permit holders, there are several lessons we can learn from this video as we carry concealed.

  • Be aware that your movements, especially extreme movements as portrayed in the video, may cause your handgun to separate from your holster. Those extreme movements are probably ones that would be better avoided. Don’t telegraph that you are carrying a concealed handgun, but never forget it, either.
  • If your handgun does unintentionally come out of your holster, whether in public view or not,  use extreme care to keep your finger out of the trigger guard as you pick it up. It is likely that you will be in a hurry; nevertheless use care.
  • Further, in some jurisdictions simply allowing your firearm to be seen in public might be construed as brandishing, or “going armed to the terror of the people.” Keep your legally concealed handgun concealed.
Jargon: A Round Primer

Jargon: A Round Primer

Introduction to the Properties of Ammunition (Corrected)

With more than a little tongue-in-cheek, “A Round Primer” is about the properties of ammunition and not a treatise on the geometry of primers. Think McGuffy’s Readers for ammunition. In a previous post, we identified the four components of a round: bullet, case, propellant, and primer. Here, we are going to briefly explore what manufacturers mean by terms commonly used when referring to ammunition. Terms such as “caliber,” “gr,” or “grain,” “velocity,” and “energy,” and others are the focus of this discussion.


In small arms, caliber is the approximate internal diameter of the barrel’s bore. In English units, caliber is represented by fractions of an inch. For example, a .22 caliber firearm has bore diameter of approximately 22 hundredths of an inch (or .22). A .45 caliber firearm has a bore diameter of approximately 45 hundredths of an inch (or .45). In metric units, caliber is typically represented in millimeters (mm). Common examples are 7.65 mm, 9 mm, or 10 mm. However, we must be aware that caliber is only part of a cartridge’s designation. Just to make things more confusing, bullets are a few thousandths of an inch larger than their corresponding bore diameter (see the 5.56 x 45 mm below).

Cartridge Nomenclature

For many cartridges from the era of black powder, nomenclature is a function of the caliber and the typical amount of black powder used as a propellant. For example, the rifle cartridge .45-70 was a .45 caliber bullet propelled by 70 grains of black powder (we will get to “grains” in a moment), and the rifle cartridge .44-40 was roughly a .44 caliber ball propelled by 40 grains of black powder. Pistol cartridges of the black powder era generally were identified by a number and a name, for example, .38 Smith and Wesson. Occasionally we see the older conventions continue to be used with smokeless powders. Examples include the .45-70 and the .30-30 even though both cartridges are now loaded with smokeless powder.
Today, cartridge nomenclature is largely a function of the cartridge designer, or standardizing agencies. Thus, we see a .257 Roberts, .30-06 (a .30 caliber round adopted by the U.S. Army in 1906), and a 5.56 x 45 mm (a 5.7 mm caliber bullet in a 44.70 mm case adopted by NATO in 1980).

Birds of a Feather
Another wrinkle in the nomenclature category is that of multiple ways to refer to the same cartridge. For example, 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, and 9x19mm all refer to the same cartridge. .45 Auto, and .45 ACP are two other examples of different designations for the same cartridge. Some handguns designed (typically called “chambered”) for one cartridge may be used with others. For example, the .44 Remington Magnum can safely shoot the .44 S&W Special, and the .357 Magnum can safely shoot the .38 Special.

Almost Only Counts in Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (Corrected)
However, you must also be aware that similar names are not necessarily interchangeable. For example, the .300 Winchester Magnum and the .300 Weatherby Magnum cannot be used interchangeably.

Note especially there are some firearms that are interchangeable in only one direction. For example, rifles chambered for 5.56x45mm NATO can safely shoot .223 Remington, but they are not reversible. That is, a rifle chambered in .223 Remington CANNOT safely shoot a 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. On the other hand, commercial rifles chambered for the .308 Winchester can shoot both the .308 and the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge safely, but not all rifles originally chambered for the the 7.62×51 NATO round can shoot the .308 Winchester, safely.

To get around the one-way interchangeability, some designers developed new chamber dimensions to accommodate both calibers. For example, the .223 Wylde is a relatively new design that allows you to shoot either the .223 Remington, or the 5.56x45mm NATO round, safely.

In the final analysis, you, the shooter, are responsible for knowing what caliber your firearm is designed to shoot, and for only using ammunition designed for your firearm. READ YOUR MANUAL!


The term “grains” frequently causes confusion for novice shooters. To keep things simple, we will discuss what the “grains” or “grn” label on a box of modern, smokeless ammunition means. Fundamentally, “grains” refers to a bullet’s weight, where there are 7,000 grains to a pound, or 437.5 grains to an ounce.

Shown here are typical end-caps on three boxes of factory ammunition.

The box labelled “American Eagle” is a .45 Auto. The “230 grain” refers to the weight of the bullet. “Full Metal Jacket” refers to the bullet’s characteristics, which in this case typically means a round nose lead bullet fully encased by a copper alloy jacket. The box labelled “Federal Premium” is a 9mm Luger with a bullet weight of 124 grains. The bullet profile is Federal’s “HST” JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point), which in this case indicates a bullet with a copper alloy jacket that is formed with a deep conical cavity in the nose–the hollow point. The box labelled “Corbon” is a .380 Auto with a bullet weight of 80 grains and with Corbon’s DPX bullet profile (essentially a jacketed hollow point).

Velocity and Energy

Two other pieces of data you may see on a box of factory ammunition are the bullet’s velocity in feet per second (fps) and energy in foot-pounds (ft-lbs). Most manufacturers identify typical velocity and energy as they are measured at the muzzle (aka muzzle velocity and muzzle energy), although many will provide typical measurements at other ranges, as well. For example, Winchester’s target 9mm Luger, 115 grain, FMJ has an advertised muzzle velocity and energy of 1190 fps and 362 ft-lbs. At 5 yards, they are 1176 fps and 353 ft-lbs, and at 25 yards are 1125 fps and 323 ft-lbs.

Ammunition manufacturers design cartridges for specific uses and performance features. What is suitable for target practice is very likely not suitable for hunting or personal defense applications. In the end, the responsibility for choosing the proper ammunition for a specific purpose and firearm is yours–the shooter. Always ensure the ammo you select is designed for your specific firearm!