Every so often I get into a conversation with a non-shooter about my hobbies. When the topic of guns arise and I talk about competitive shooting, I sometimes get a dreaded stare as if I tempted fate in my spare time. The truth of the matter is that competitive shooting is much safer than the average person realizes. With that said, there are dangers and accidents happen.

Last year I recall being told about a Range Officer shooting himself in the leg. This happened at Southern Chester County Sportsman’s and Farmers’ Association when the shooter apparently holstered a loaded gun with their finger inside the trigger guard. The bullet fired out of his gun (I’m told it was a 1911) and the .45 ACP round grazed his leg. An ambulance was called and local police arrived to assess the situation.

Some of the competitors got spooked over the police presence and headed home early. After the police and paramedics left, it was business as usual. This type of situation is rare and it is the only occurrence I’ve heard of at any of the local clubs where I shoot.

My Gun Range Danger was far less severe and I would have never known it had it not been pointed out to me. Our squad was gathered on a bay with two stages, side by side. Competitors were to shoot one stage, then move to the next one (about 15 steps away) while hot (loaded gun in their holster).

The first stage consisted of paper targets. As I always do, I was standing off to the side, snapping a photo to go along with USPSA Match video for my blog. The shooter moved to the next stage as I had my head down and was uploading my photo for later retrieval.

Part way through that process, a fellow shooter walked up beside me, and bent down to pick something up. He stood up, tapped me on the shoulder, and held out an object for my inspection. He then told me “You could have reached out and caught this if you wanted to.” Confused, I took the item from him and he continued “It landed right there” (pointing to the ground less than two feet away).

What he handed me was a mangled bullet that struck a steel popper on the second stage. Instead of breaking apart on the steel and showing the trees behind the berm, it remained very much in tact and must have went up and back, landing a little too close for comfort.

USPSA at Southern Chester - Gun Range Dangers

I have no idea what the shooter was using, but the remains of the round were pretty substancial (I’m guessing .45 ACP). It had a fair amount of heft to it and had lots of sharp edges that would have easily broken skin. Had I been struck in the head, there most likely would have been a fair amount of blood (possibly even a few stitches). Had I been struck in an unclothed part of my body (arms or legs) I probably would have suffered a small cut that wouldn’t have prevented me from finishing out the match.

I’ve been struck by splatter in the past but I’ve never seen anything this substancial. That splatter has never drawn blood and while it doesn’t feel pleasant, it doesn’t hurt much either.

The moral of the story is simple. Always, and I mean always, wear safety glasses when at the range. As safe as competitive shooting organizations are, there are inevitably rare instances that are out of their control. Accidents happen.

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