How To Prevent A Negligent Discharge

If there is a universal sign of a person that isn’t observing proper gun safety, it’s a negligent discharge. However, since firearms are generally such simple machines it seems that any negligent discharges should be easily avoided with just a bit of care.

They can be.

Why Do Negligent Discharges Happen?

How To Prevent A Negligent Discharge

The reason accidental discharges, negligent or otherwise, happen is almost universally because someone or something pulled the trigger when it shouldn’t have been.

For the most part, accidental discharges occur to careless handling or carrying. They are easily preventable – and here are some easy ways to keep from ever experiencing one.

Keep Guns In A Safe Or In A Holster

Nano gun holster

If a person is going to carry on their person, it has to be in a holster.

One source of unintentional discharges is off-body carry, especially an area of concern for people with small children. There have been a number of incidents that have made national headlines where a gun was stored in a purse, messenger bag or briefcase that was accessed by a child and fired, or dropped, resulting in a drop-fire. These could have been easily prevented by the persons carrying storing their guns in a holster or locked case.

Likewise, a number of tragic accidents have taken place because a loaded firearm was improperly stored, accessed by a child and then fired.  A gun safe, even a cheap lockbox put out of a child’s reach, can easily prevent these incidents from occurring.

One of the best ways to ensure that nothing like that happens? If your gun isn’t in your hand, put it in a safe or in a holster on your person.

Guard The Trigger Guard

holster and gun

A corollary to always carrying in an adequate holster is to ensure that nothing enters the trigger guard.

One of the most common sources of negligent or accidental discharges is something entering the trigger guard.

For instance, the story from ITS Tactical that’s made the rounds for the past few years is a good example. The man involved was wearing a leather belt loop holster (the Yaqui Slide variety) and went about his business as normal when his gun discharged, seemingly randomly. The reason was that the leather had worn to the point of developing a fold, which entered the trigger guard and caused the discharge. Luckily, he only had a superficial wound.

In another story from Concealed Nation, a man that was called “Matt” in the story (it may be his real name, it may not; they don’t say) was carrying in a nylon IWB pancake holster with an undershirt between the gun and his skin and an overshirt concealing. He got into his car and the gun went off – the holster was destroyed and he only suffered a minor wound. The likely culprit was his undershirt, which got into the holster and bunched up into the trigger guard, causing the discharge.

Then there was the instance in 2014 in Fayetteville, Ind., where the local police chief shot himself in the leg re-holstering his pistol, according to the IndyStar. His fleece jacket had dropped down into the holster, and the trigger was pulled by the garment. Luckily, all he suffered was a minor wound. That and hospital nurses laughing at him.

What could these men done differently? Made sure that nothing came close to, entered or otherwise interfered with the trigger guard. Proper handling, a bit of care and a quality holster can go a long way.

Respect The Firearm You Carry

Glock holster and belt

Ever hear or read a back-and-forth between 1911 and Glock fans? It never ends, and it’s the same things every time out. One of the repeated tropes is the lack of any safety other than the trigger safety.

This shouldn’t be considered a victory for the 1911 crowd, but two of the three examples mentioned above involved a Glock.

In this, the era of the polymer striker gun with no manual safety and light trigger pulls…the need to keep the trigger safe cannot be understated. Is this to say Glock pistols, and all guns with a similar design (S&W M&P, Sig P320, Walther PPQ, Ruger SR series, etc.) that have no other safety features must likewise be respected.

That said, having a manual safety doesn’t mean a person is absolved of having to observe proper gun safety either. A person who safely handles firearms can do so with any make and model.

Don’t Handle Your Firearm Unless You Need To

hands off

A reason why a number of concealed carriers have an accident discharge is because they were handling their pistol when they didn’t need to. The usual culprit is adjusting a pistol, and often enough due to discomfort from not carrying in a proper holster.

Take the instance of Dane Gallion. Gallion went to the movies in February of this year in Renton, Wash. Gallion, according to witnesses, was fumbling with his pistol when it discharged and wounded the patron in front of him, according to the Seattle Times. Ironically, Gallion made a point to go to the theater armed due to concern over theater shootings.

A similar incident happened to one Cody Denault in late 2015, according to Salina Journal. Denault was adjusting his pistol – which he was carrying without a holster in his pocket – and it discharged into his leg.

Both of these men are military veterans, so if you think that this can’t happen to you because of…well, whatever…that’s what the ancient Greeks called “hubris.” Most of their myths involved the gods punishing hubris, and for good reason.

If one means to carry, one owes it to themselves and to those around them to do so safely and with care. Doing so will keep NDs from happening.

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  • Bob

    Back when I was a novice shooter, I had a couple accidental discharges. Fortunately, I was at a gun range and the gun was pointed down-range when it accidentally fired. So no harm done. I don’t think anyone else even noticed what I had done.
    Nevertheless, an accidental discharge should NEVER happen.
    What caused these accidental discharges? My finger was on the trigger when I did not intend to fire the gun.

    The moral of this story: Remember and practice ALL the four gun safety ALL the time. Including “Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.”

    • Andy Reed

      That’s a negligent discharge, not accidental.

      • Mikial


        • therewolf

          Here’s one. Get a gun with a hammer and external safety.

          Stop trying to be Joe Cool “I bought what the cops have.”

          You buy that striker-fired, no safety, plastic junk, you’re

          halfway to your problem destination.

          • Mikial

            Gee, and here I thought the Jericho. 1911 and Beretta had both an external safety and hammer. Silly me. Thanks for setting me straight. Obviously you are one of the true gun gurus of the internet.

            I’m awed by your willingness to actually answer someone as unimportant as I.

        • Not quite. Semantics is the study of the meaning of words. Especially in English, words enable precision of meaning. The case described in the preceding comments is negligent discharge. The difference is sufficiently profound that one case is a legal offense (culpable, from Latin for fault), and the other is not. An accidental discharge may occur when the trigger of the firearm is deliberately pulled for a purpose other than shooting—dry-fire practice, demonstration, or function testing—but ammunition is unintentionally left in the chamber. A negligent discharge is a discharge of a firearm involving culpable carelessness.

          • Mikial

            Wow, you must have gotten an “A” in English. I’m sure in your life you’ve never had something happen that you didn’t intend to. Wow, can I have your autograph and when does your book hit the stands?

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  • Paul

    I had an accidental discharge with my Desert Eagle AE50. I was uncocking it and the hammer slipped out of the grip of my oily, sweaty thumb. Luckily no one was walking in front of me and I had kept it pointing in a safe direction. The gun spun out of my hand and landed in the dirt. From now on when I take my DE out shooting, I load the magazine and don’t chamber a round until I’m ready to shoot.

  • I have one for you. Be careful about testing a gun. I should have used dummy ammo. I did some work on my 45, for trigger/sear/hammer and feeding. I decided to cycle it with live rounds. I had it pointed in a safe direction, which was towards under my workbench, behind which was a finished wall on top of the foundation wall. When I cycled it, the sear didn’t hold and it went off, luckily only once. Ruined mom’s crockpot that she stored under the bench. Oh well. I learned that day.

    • Jojo Afable

      I have a 1911 that discharged on me. AD. It happened while I was retrieving the gun from gun locker. I have all my four fingers stretched as I reach for the holstered 1911. All four fingers stretched and my thumb about to press on the beavertail to pull the gun by sliding it out the box. As soon as my right thumb depressed the beavertail, it went off. It was still in the holster. I don’t have my finger on the trigger. I’ll have the gun examined by a reputable gunsmith very soon.

      • Mine happened over 30 years ago. I’ll have to think about what happened in your case. I have to wonder if there was pressure on the trigger in the holster somehow. Depressing the beavertail releases that safety. The trigger shouldn’t be able to work if the beavertail isn’t engaged. The thing is that the hammer can still fall.

  • Chris

    I think the Ruger SR series does have a manual safety.

  • Art

    I was at the range shooting my Ruger 357 mag. double action revolver with a shoulder holster after shooting and reloading the gun I put it back into the holster and I heard the hammer make the sound of it cocking, now if I had just pulled the gun out of the holster by the grip then I could have lowered the hammer safely, but no I left it inside my shoulder holster and tried to lower the hammer by holding the hammer with my thumb and pulling the trigger and lowered the hammer but let my finger still pressed so as the hammer lowered the gun fired the bullet exit through the holster then entered the ground right beside my left foot with no harm to me! That was 35 years ago and never made those mistakes again.

    • Mikial

      I congratulate you on being a big enough man to relate this story. Good lesson here for all. Never take short cuts with gun safety. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Mikial

    Good article, and while all the things in it may seem like no-brainers, ADs/NDs, whatever you want to call them, still happen regularly. As for the whole Glock vs 1911 nonsense, we have a couple of each around our house and we like them both. The real ‘secret’ is to keep your wits about you and never get complacent. I’ve carried my G21 in condition red since 2004 without a problem. The secret is really no secret at all . . . once it’s cocked and locked, you treat it like a poisonous snake until it is safely in a high quality rigid holster that protects the trigger and the trigger guard and then you leave it there until you need it.