On the HPD Range: Don’t take this personally but police gun safety is important!

Robert Sandoval

As supervisor of the dayshift qualifications range at the academy, I have a message I’ve wanted to get across to everybody.

It has to do with gun safety, which begins at the ballistics clearing barrel at the door and extends through the annual qualification rounds required of every officer during his or her birth month.

As we all should know by now, any basic rules are usually simple and easily followed. Yet older creatures of habit have a natural tendency to take the basics for granted and, therefore, become slow to follow them.

We officers, in the performance of our duties, sometimes have to be firmly reminded of what we take for granted or have temporarily forgotten. Your dayshift qualifications staff members serve as the reminders and find that we must often raise our voices to be heard and understood.

We seem to be asserting these verbal nudges to a growing number of officers who are taking gun safety for granted. We must be heard through your ear shields. Sometimes we speak louder to stress basic rules by saying the same things over and over.

They include:


  • Stop! Don’t pull that gun out.
  • Don’t handle your weapons until we tell you to.
  • Holster your guns.


Unfortunately, we’re seeing a number of officers take these remarks personally during their qualification rounds.

My basic message for you is twofold. Please don’t think anything we say to you on the gun range is a personal insult. And please be reminded that even veteran officers take too much for granted and need these reminders.

Let me go over some dos and don’ts.

Gun safety begins before you get out of the car at the range. We’ve found that too many of you take the mag out and clear the slide while still seated behind the wheel. Frequently the gun might be pointed down between your legs.

This is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Also, don’t use your trunk as a ballistics clearing barrel. Don’t point a pistol or rifle sideways toward another vehicle that might have a person inside.

Begin your “to do” list by getting to the range early, taking your time to clear out your magazine and rack your slide back and leave it back before you go inside the front door. If you have a revolver, dump out the live rounds and leave the cylinder open.

Many of these unwise gun safety moves are made when you are arriving late, anxious to return to an important case or tend to your regular duties.

What you should do is be patient and use the ballistics clearing barrel outside the front door. That is the proper place to remove the mag, empty the rounds and lock the slide in place before holstering the weapon.

You’d be surprised at the number of officers who come inside not so much as even buckling their Sam Browne duty belt into place. We have to tell them to go back outside to put it on. Too many of you take this personally. It’s basically just plain good gun safety.

All too often, qualifiers come in with the slide forward. They are so convinced there is no live round in the chamber that they are practically pointing the gun at us, wanting to prove us wrong. We almost always have to yell, “Stop! Stop!”

Sometimes – only a few times but once is too many – they rack the slide and a bullet pops out. On average, this happens only a few times a year when the gun goes off when they return to the red barrel outside and use it.

I hope you get the point.

If you use the barrel and a shot goes off, everything’s secure. It won’t ricochet. It’s ballistically okay for that round to go off. It’s better than going off between your legs in your car. We know that’s not a good spot.

Even if it does go off there’s no paperwork, no Internal Affairs, no ambulance.

We want an environment that stays safe for us and for those who qualify. That’s this month’s message – please don’t take it personally.

I’ll be back in the next issue to discuss safety on the range.