How I Shot Myself
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One day while watching ESPN, I saw a story about an NFL wide receiver who shot himself in the leg. I wondered how anyone in their right mind could put a bullet in their own leg. I never would have imagined that one day I’d find myself in a similar situation. But there I was, riding in the back of an ambulance en route to the hospital with a severe, self-inflicted gunshot wound to my left thigh.
Back in April 2011, I took my two daughters to my aunt’s house in Florida so she could watch them while I attended the Aviation Safety Officer and Warrant Officer Advanced courses at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The drive from Baltimore, Maryland, to Florida wasn’t bad, and I arrived in Tampa about 4 p.m. Once there, I prepared myself for the drive to Alabama later that night. I thought I did everything right to prep myself for the five-hour trip, such as eating a good dinner and taking a nap so I would have sufficient rest before I got behind the wheel. Little did I know I had already set myself up for failure before leaving Baltimore.
Any time I’m home in Maryland, I keep a .45-caliber 1911 automatic Colt pistol in my car. I’ve owned the pistol for many years and I’m licensed to carry it in several states. I’ve also trained on a variety of other weapons, from the 30 mm cannon used on the AH-64D Apache Longbow all the way down to a .22-caliber rifle, so no big deal, right? The pistol was still in the car when I rolled into Florida.
I awoke, as planned, at 11:30 p.m., loaded the car and prepared to leave. I decided to put my pistol away since I was no longer in Baltimore. While sitting in the driver seat of my car, I removed my weapon from between the seat and center console. I placed my thumb on the hammer and proceeded to ride it forward when, suddenly, I sent a .45-caliber hollow-point bullet into my thigh!
I’d put my weapon in a non-firing configuration like that numerous times before and it never went off. What was different this time? It could have been many factors, but at that particular moment, I wasn’t thinking about woulda-coulda-shoulda. The bullet went into my leg, shattered my femur and stopped. In shock, I convinced myself I hadn’t just shot myself. I placed the weapon on the seat, put my car in drive and proceeded to drive to Alabama.
After about two minutes, I finally came back to reality and comprehended what just happened. My leg started burning. It felt like someone had dumped gasoline on it and set it on fire. I turned the car around and headed back to my aunt’s house. Once there, I walked to the door and told my aunt about my accident. She called the authorities and medical personnel, and I was taken to the hospital.
Amazingly, my car wasn’t damaged and there wasn’t a drop of blood anywhere. I’ve had time to reflect on this incident and consider what I should’ve done differently. For starters, I shouldn’t have chambered a round or, if I did, I should’ve done so properly and not rode the hammer forward in an attempt to clear the weapon. I also should have stored my pistol out of reach from my daughters. Although I've taught them everything there's to know about weapons, sometimes curiosity can get the best of kids.
There’s nothing I can do about my accident now. However, I hope my mistake will make others think twice about their decisions when it comes to handling privately owned weapons.
Did You Know?
In an effort to reduce weapons handling accidents, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center has developed the Range & Weapons Safety Toolbox, available at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/Range-and-Weapons-Safety-Toolbox. Check it out today!
Remember to THINK weapons safety!
- Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded.
- Handle every weapon with care.
- Identify the target before you fire.
- Never point the muzzle at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
- Keep the weapon on safe and your finger off the trigger until you intend to fire.