Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Avoidance of Firearm Practice Injuries and "Slide Bites"

This is the Sig Sauer P938 Equinox

          This morning I got all of the normal horse, dog, and alpaca care done between 4 am and 6 before the extreme heat of the day set in so that I would have some time for some firearm practice.  One of my sons would be here and we both like to practice fairly often. He set up the target range on the farm.  I had a particular reason for wanting to practice today in the early morning.  I usually carry a full sized weapon, but with summer coming, the larger sized weapon outline could be obvious at times, as most of us wear less clothing with the heat, and also because my outline is thinner and intentionally a little more muscular than a year ago.In order to carry a smaller weapon regularly, I really need to be as comfortable and as effective with it as I am with the one in which I have years of practice.

               The practice with the new weapon, a Sig Sauer P938, a sub-compact semi-automatic firearm, went quickly and well. In many ways it is similar to my larger carry. Despite the fact that it is completely new, it fed the rounds and fired just as it should.  There were no malfunctions or stoppages.  This is a different weapon than the one I trust so well. Being a smaller semi-automatic weapon I will need to keep my hands in slightly different places than I do with my normal weapon.  When I fired,  the shots clustered on the target where they should.  I was pleased as I had read both positive and some negative reviews of the P938.   I fired quite a few rounds when I heard my husband drive up.  My immediate thought as I realized I had met today's shooting objectives before the extreme heat, was  "We should go for ice cream now".  With that, I returned my attention to the remaining full magazine and fired at the target.   When I fired again, nothing hurt, but blood was streaming from my left hand onto the ground. It took me a second, even in the bright light to see what had happened.  Normally, with my regular larger handgun, I place my left hand well away from the slide as it is cycling. With the smaller handgun, I had cradled my right hand with my left and been too close to the rapid operation of the slide. The new weapon is sharp in many places and the slide as it operated worked like a blade.  When my son saw what happened, he safely took the weapon from me, dropped the magazine from it, and removed the remaining chambered round. He secured the weapon.  I had no particular choice as I made my way to the house, it bled profusely.  I had forgotten that there were complete first aid kits in all of the farm outbuildings.  I got to the house, cleaned the wound and took a look. It could use about four stitches.  If a wound is to be stitched or secured using dermabond, this should be done quickly after cleaning. The longer one waits the less the chances of good approximation and the prevention of infection.  I decided that the skin flaps on my thumb were well approximated when the bleeding was controlled, and that as long as the thumb was both dressed and splinted, so that it would not bend, that it should heal well through second intention. Leaving this wound as it is,  means that it should heal from the bottom up. This should also allow any slight purulent or infected material or serous fluid which forms in the wound to exit safely onto a dry sterile dressing that I will change at least daily.   I sprayed apinol on the wound and neosporin on the gauze to prevent sticking to the wound, and then I dressed and splinted it with my right hand. The wound did not hurt initially, but I did feel nauseated. Later in the day, the wound throbbed and it did continue to bleed necessitating a dressing change later in the day.  It will also be necessary to wear vinyl or nitrile gloves while doing a lot of the things I normally do to help to keep the dry sterile dressing clean. Many people need sutures following such an injury. I was also satisfied that no tendon injury had occurred. Had I been unsure then a trip to the ER would have been necessary to do a double thickness repair of both the tendon with absorbable suture and a repair of the skin above with suture that would have needed removal later.

            What can we learn from my unfortunate experience with my new weapon ?

1.  It's a good idea to have a first aid kit in close proximity when target practicing. Also, always wear eye and ear protection. Understand also that slide injuries do happen. They can be caused by gripping the weapon too high or by crossing ones thumbs inadvertently while using a two handed grasp.  

2.  When going from a larger weapon to a smaller one, it is easier to place your hands too high or nearer to the slide than you should.

3. I have practiced a lot over the years and I have never had a slide injury before.  Realize that this can happen, even if you think you are practiced and good at this. This occasionally happens to police officers who are doing regular qualifying. 

4. There are a number of injuries which can occur while practicing.   

    a. You may receive a slide injury if you are grasping the weapon too high or crossing your thumbs.
    b. Hot brass may burn your face or even enter your shirt. Hot brass has also entered the safety glasses of some shooters.
    c. Your hand can be injured by the hammer, again if your grasp of the weapon with two hands is incorrect.
    d. The web of your hand may become bruised should you shoot a lot of rounds on a particular day.
    e. Never practice if you are tired, rushed, distracted, taking medications which cloud your sensorium (like some antihistamines, for example) or drinking alcohol.  Keep children and small children away not only to avoid distraction, but to avoid potential hot shell injuries.
    f. Always discharge a firearm in a safe and approved location with a proper backstop in accordance with your locations laws.

             Learning to use a semi-automatic firearm properly and practicing regularly is intended to make us safer in situations which may befall us or our families in the future. However, practicing with firearms is not without risk.  Let's manage such risks to the best of our abilities. My hope is that hearing about my own injury will help to prevent yours.

Copyright 2016 Rational Preparedness