At the young age of 18, I was already moving up in the world of adults. I had a partnership in a horse and cattle ranch in Northern California. We were located up in the mountains east of Sacramento. Our nearest neighbor was 5 miles away and the nearest town of El Dorado was 15 miles away. This made a perfect setting for my favorite method of leisure enjoyment. I loved shooting all the different firearms I had but I was especially smitten by being able to quick draw and shoot from the hip hitting 12 gauge shotgun shells 25 feet in front of me. As you probably guessed I was spending all my leisure time practicing. Over a time period of 3 months I had shot roughly five thousand rounds with this pistol, and soon became very accurate with my shooting. I had been doing this same practice routine every day with this same pistol and it had always operated flawlessly. I was well pleased with the way things had been going and with being successful at reaching my goal. Then guess what;
One bright sunny morning I was out practicing again and all was normal until all of a sudden I drew my pistol, and you guessed it, it went off and the bullet passed through my right foot. Luckily for me it was a 22 rim fire pistol so the damage was a small hole and a shattered bone that it passed through. And of course it put a hole through my favorite pair of cowboy boots. There was no instant pain so I managed to walk back to the ranch house which was about 1000 yards away. However, by the time I arrived I was very aware that I had messed up and was starting to pay the price for my ignorance.
This little incident led to a trip to the hospital and then back to the ranch again where I spent some amount of time being very uncomfortable. I had plenty of time to sit around feeling sorry for myself so I decided to try and figure out what had gone wrong after so many times of doing the same thing daily without any bad things like this happening.
What does this have to do with the title “Lesson Learned”?
I soon discovered that the pistol had been completely worn out. Being a single action revolver I had to cock the hammer each time I fired it. This last time as I attempted to cock the hammer I got it half cocked then it slipped from under my thumb before I got it completely cocked. This spun the pistol to a pointing down direction as it swiveled on my finger in the trigger guard and then it fired.
The lesson I learned from this incident was that I had neglected to clean and maintain my pistol over those 3 months of heavy use and had prematurely worn out the action in this pistol.
Carelessness and ignorance when it comes to firearms will cause a negligent discharge – sometimes with very deadly results. I was young and stupid and very lucky. Owning and using firearms comes with a responsibility to learn to properly care for our firearms and to always follow the rules for safe handling of all firearms and ammunition.
I have all the aches and pains of age now but I still manage to do a lot of shooting, but I can say I have never had another problem like this one when using my firearms. I learned my lesson and have kept each of my firearms in good working condition ever since.