On the HPD Range: Muzzling on the Range and cooling off the ‘hot brass’

Rob Sandoval

The loudest shot you’ll ever hear comes out the barrel of a gun somebody said wasn’t loaded.

This truly relevant piece of gun safety information to those of us who handle guns 24-seven never falls into the useless category.

I think of conveying it to fellow officers each time I see them coming in the door to spend some time with the staff of the dayshift qualifications range at the academy.

Officers – always desirous of comfort and convenience – too often enter the range with their Sam Browne belts slung too casually over their shoulders. After all, why not be casual and comfortable during their annual qualification duties?

You folks must realize that you’re muzzling any number of people. I know – we’re taught in the Academy to stay holstered or have our slides back, mags out and cylinders open. Too many of us take these basics for granted.

Too many officers still don’t realize that in this primary sanctuary far away from public we serve that there are barrels of guns pointed at numerous people – fellow officers in this case.

Okay. Here’s this month’s first message: Whether empty or loaded, guns should not be pointed at people for any reason.

We must realize that we – the guardians of public safety – should take nothing for granted. Come in wearing your Sam Browne, not with it slung over your shoulder.

Once inside, you want to feel relaxed. The best way to feel at ease in this special police-oriented environment must constantly revolve around staying safe.

Too many of us mess with our guns while waiting for the target-shooting tasks at hand.

Put yourself in the shoes of the qualification range staffers. Our hearts have skipped too many beats while suddenly being shocked by officers aiming their guns down range, wracking their slides or showing off their new site You are unknowingly aiming your pistols at us!

Too many times we have heard a slide being wracked while we are down range grading targets and wondering: What the hell are they doing? They don’t realize we are in the line of fire?

We want you to relax between shooting stages. But please don’t scare the hired help! Don’t handle weapons of any sort with your fellow officers down range. We have a heart for the job; please don’t weaken it. One person’s “relaxation” could be another’s stress point.

These are not the only touchy moments. Let me discuss another all-too-common instance that too many officers don’t think about.

Typically, veteran police officers don’t like to waste any time with the “small stuff” – like reloading their weapons in between the shooting stages on the qualifications range.

Everybody wants to jump ahead of the process. Here’s what often happens.

At the end of a stage you want to reload. You grab a magazine and snap it in while the guy next to you is still clearing his weapon – he’s bending down to the point where he is close to your weapon and doesn’t realize it.

We see people’s heads get close to people’s guns while they’re still operating them.

Now think about it: instinctively, there are things police officers have done over the years. In this context, for instance, we have a tendency to turn to the side to get more leverage and load quicker. By turning to the side, you may unknowingly point your newly-loaded weapon at the next person’s head.

At this point I should remind you to keep your finger off the trigger while reloading your weapon. Please remember, while reloading, point your gun down range, not to one side or the other.

There remains several more important reminders, such as: Beware of hot brass!

You know what I mean, with all those semi-automatic pistols going off during a shooting stage the brass from your bullets goes flying left and right and all over the place.

Brass goes down the front and back of people’s shirts. It stings when it hits. Sometime, but not very often, it goes through the gap in your glasses between the frames and your nose and face. Man, it can burn!

The brass stings wherever it hits and the hot pain can cause the shooter to lose it and turn toward another shooter with a live gun. He or she might start doing a crazy dance to shake off the pain with a finger still on the trigger.

Here’s my advice under these circumstances: If it goes down your shirt or through your glasses, let it sting. Don’t point your gun to the left or the right. If you stop shooting, don’t worry. We will let you make it up at the end of the session.

You can always make up the round but you can’t make up for something that may happen when you react to the hot brass burning your chest or your face.

One more simple little thing that many officers usually take the wrong way. Remember that in my last lesson of the range I suggested that too many officers take our instructions on the range too personally.

We ask people to put their trays containing necessities of the range – your bullets and ear and eye protection – right in front of you and not to your right or your left. “The range officer came over and kicked my tray,” some officers have complained.

We will continue to do so, not to be smarties but to keep an open lane between shooters in case we have to get to one of you very quickly without tripping.

See, these have been some simple explanations needed in order to keep us all safe on the range.

Next time we will focus – literally – on eyeballing targets and hitting the bull’s eye every time, even with a new prescription in your glasses.