December 13th, 2012 02:14 PM
Negligent Discharge in vehicle. Wake up call to the CCW community. Sig P238
I'm writing this out of a desire to warn others. This could happen to you. Please read and let this be a word of caution. It ended well, but I'll never be the same.
On Sunday, I had a negligent discharge inside of my vehicle. No one was hurt. My wife was in the vehicle with me and needless to say, it scared her.
Now, on to the story. My wife and I went away for a weekend getaway. My mother-in-law was babysitting the children, and we had a great time being by ourselves and investing in our marriage. We were in the North Georgia mountains, and since we live on the southside of Atlanta, we drove through downtown to get home on Sunday. We decided to eat lunch in the city and do a little shopping.
I have been around guns all my life. I have been actively carrying concealed for over five years. I take safety seriously. I was one of those guys who always smugly mocked those idiots who put holes in their big screen TV's or had a discharge while cleaning their guns. They were all ignorant, careless fools. They were nothing like me. Nothing like that could ever happen to me. I'm responsible, and careful. In reality, I was really just hubris, prideful, and it led to complacency.
I usually carry either a Sig Sauer P238 or a Sig Sauer P239. This day, I had my Sig P238 in the map pocket door of my car on the drivers side. It had a full magazine with a round in the chamber. The hammer was down, and the safety was on. For those of you who do not know, the P238 is .380 1911 style pocket pistol. It is single action only, and has a thumb safety. The resort where we stayed had a no gun rule, so I respected this, and left the gun in the car. As we drove through the downtown streets, we entered an area that seemed a little rough. There were a lot of people just milling about and the neighborhood looked very run down. We were about 3 miles from the restaurant, and pulled up to a stop light. I thought this would be a good opportunity to go ahead and holster my weapon since the area we were in looked a little unsafe. My wife was reading an email on her iPhone and was unaware of what I was doing. I reached down and grabbed my holstered gun, removed it from the holster, pointed it in a safe direction, cocked it, and put the safety on, and BANG.
The concussion of a gun being fired inside a closed vehicle was EXTREMELY loud and disorienting. I looked down at the gun. The safety was still on, and the expended case was jammed in the breech. My wife yelled, “AHHHHHH WHAT HAPPENED”. She was disoriented and thought we had been rear-ended, or that someone was shooting at us. I told her, “my gun fired, are you OK”? Thankfully she was. Just a ringing in her left ear. I looked around, and saw a hole in my door. I put the gun down, and looked around. The round had obviously not exited the vehicle. The light turned green and we proceeded to the restaurant.
All the way there, I was playing the events back in my mind over and over again. How had this happened. My finger was not in the trigger guard. I had not pulled the trigger. I honestly couldn't make sense of what happened. When we got to the restaurant, I spend some time in the parking lot reviewing the gun. I ejected the magazine and racked the slide to make sure it was clear. The bullet entered the interior door panel and then exited the same panel and lodged in the frame right at the door seal. When I opened the door, the lead fell out onto the ground. I examined the brass, it had obviously been struck by the firing pin, so it was not an ammunition malfunction.
The Sig P238 has a recall that affects early models of the gun. The recall is for the hammer inadvertently dropping when the safety was disengaged, or turned off. My gun is not in the serial number range for this recall, but the symptoms are eerily similar. I’m not convinced this was the cause of the discharge. Later that day, at home I tried to get the hammer to fall just by engaging the safety. I have a small range at my house because I live on some land. I was unable to reproduce this. I was really really hoping it was going to be an accidental discharge, but the more I think about it the more I’m willing to accept it was totally my fault.
Here is what I think happened based on what I can piece together from my fragmented recollection. The problem is that I simply cannot remember pulling the trigger. Most Negligent Discharges occur when someone thinks the chamber is empty, and pulls the trigger to decock the gun. Usually they will rack the slide, ejecting the cartridge, and then drop the mag. Since the mag was inserted when the slide was racked, all that happens is that another round is fed into the chamber, and the gun fires like it is supposed to when the trigger is pulled. They can always remember pulling the trigger. This was not what happened to me. I knew the gun was loaded, I was just cocking it and putting it on safe to insert into my holster. Even if my hand had slipped off the hammer, the gun will not fire because the trigger has to be engaged for the firing pin to be in the right position to strike the cartridge. I think that what happened was one of my other fingers, middle or ring reflexively clenched while engaging the safety. This is the only thing I can come up with that would cause a gun to fire, but end up with the safety on. I think that as my thumb was pushing up to engage the safety, one of my other fingers tripped the trigger, firing a round as my thumb continued upward to engage the safety.
I’m owning this and calling it a Negligent Discharge. I got complacent. For one of my other fingers to get in the trigger guard, I had to have not had a firm grip on the gun with my hand. I was rushing to get the gun into firing condition before the red light turned green. That was just dumb. Adrenaline dumped into my system, and my head hurt for hours. Having a gun discharge so close to your ear in a closed environment is PAINFUL. My pride is hurt, I feel embarrassed, horrified, and grateful all at the same time. I feel like a failure, unworthy to carry. I know we are not supposed to talk about religion on this forum, but I thank God for the wake up call. I could have been worse, and I learned a valuable lesson.
Here are my learnings from this incident. You can make fun of me, call me an idiot, and flame me if you wish. Frankly I deserve it. I put my life and the life of my wife at risk. Please just learn from my mistake instead of repeating it on your own. With the dearth of new CCW permit holders, we have to be extra vigilant.
Don’t get complacent. I have become very comfortable carrying a loaded handgun strapped to my waist. I think I’ve become a little too comfortable. Sometimes confidence leads to mindless repetitive actions. Have you ever had your mind on something else, and driven the wrong way thinking you were going to work? Our minds develop patterns and our body develops muscle memory. This is good and bad. Repetitive actions without being mentally engaged in what you are doing is dangerous when you are handling a gun.
NEVER EVER EVER manipulate your gun in the car. This is just asking for an accident to occur. I let myself do this because I felt very experienced, but it should never be done unless engaging a threat. Driving a car is mentally engaging enough. You should be fully engaged with vehicle operations, not weapon manipulation. I should have pulled off the roadway, put the car in park, and then holstered my weapon.
Keep it simple stupid. I’m getting rid of the P238. The single action hammer and safety is different from all my other guns. Having a simpler manual of arms would not have necessarily prevented this, but it could have. I’m going to have the same platform for all my guns from now on. I don’t want to have to deal with a hammer and safeties. I know there are people who will think I’m crazy, but I also don’t trust this gun anymore. While I’m 99% confident it was completely my fault, that 1% potential mechanical failure is nagging.
Remember the four rules! Practice them even when you KNOW your gun is safe. Luckily I had the muzzle in a safe direction. It would have been disastrous otherwise.
In closing, please don't be complacent. The posts I see about negligent discharges are full of flippant “keep your booger hook off the bang switch” type remarks. While I totally agree, this confidence can be deadly. Don't ever think you are good enough or experienced enough or smart enough. NEVER EVER EVER think, “that will never happen to me”. This makes you inherently less cautious. We should instead say, “oh wow, I need to be extra vigilant in my safety practices so that never happens to me”. Be humble and be safe.
I’ll be posting some pictures of the car, the bullet, and brass later today as time permits.
Lodged in Gasket
Last edited by atlsig; December 13th, 2012 at 02:28 PM.
Reason: Added photos
December 13th, 2012 02:23 PM
Glad you were both okay.
Good reminder, about the risks.
Perhaps you might never know the exact cause, in this instance. This sort of thing is one of the reasons I've enjoyed the DA/SA type platform, and why I've generally been leery of blindly relying upon a decocker to safely drop the hammer. While I have yet to have a decocker-induced firing, it's the one thing that has made me wonder about the reliability of the mechanicals.
Hopefully it wasn't the safety/locking that induced the firing. Have you contacted SIG on this? If so, what did they say?
Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
self defense (A.O.J.).
How does disarming
the number of victims?
Reason over Force: The Gun is Civilization (Marko Kloos)
NRA, SAF, GOA, OFF, ACLDN.
December 13th, 2012 02:26 PM
Thanks for the story, and details. Glad you guys are both ok. Did you eat much? Looking forward to the pictures. Im with ccw9mm. I cringe everytime I see a hammer drop, safely. Just scares me as there is a potential of what happened to you, if something misfired. Stay safe!
"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" ~ Mark Twain
December 13th, 2012 02:30 PM
Nice discussion. Glad nobody was hurt.
December 13th, 2012 02:35 PM
I'm trying to analyze how this could happen. I carry a Sig 239 and my wife carries a Sig 238. It seems like you were in that never-never land between de-cocking and cocking the P238. I have never tried to handle that gun with a round in the chamber and the hammer down. I have never tried to de-cock the gun, either. I have always carried it hammer back and safety engaged. I'm sure we will hear others' analyses...
December 13th, 2012 02:36 PM
Glad your ok and thanks for the excellent and honest debrief. No one should ever flame you for this!
As I read this I've come to realize that many of the AD's I read or hear about happen when someone is handling a gun that has been pulled from a holster and is being re holstered. Not your case though. I have a practice that if I remove the gun to enter a restricted area such as a post office, I remove the holster with the gun inside. When I return to my car I put the holster back on with the gun safe inside in the condition I left it (1). Not always convenient but it is safe and works for me.
Thanks again for the write up.
December 13th, 2012 02:37 PM
Glad no one got hurt. Your fault or not, you did the right thing about pointing the gun in a safe direction. Thanks for the reminder to be safe.
No trees were harmed in the construction of this post. However a large number of electrons were indiscriminately aroused.
December 13th, 2012 02:40 PM
Welcome to the forum, and thank you for relating such an eye-opening episode.
Something we all need to remember is not to become complacent, and to always remember it is OUR responsibility to manipulate our firearms in a safe manner.
Glad you're both okay.
"If you make something idiot proof, someone will make a better idiot."
December 13th, 2012 02:43 PM
That's the way to enter a forum,,,With a BANG..... J/K Welcome to forum, Glad your OK
A Native Floridian = RARE
IT'S OUR RIGHTS>THEY WANT TO WRONG
December 13th, 2012 02:43 PM
Better check your gun again. I'm pretty sure you can put a single action semi auto on safety without the hammer being cocked. You said that after the round went off that the slide didn't rack another round in but jammed with the shell not being fully ejected from the spend round. This would mean that the hammer wasn't fully cocked again from the racking of the slide and therefore you wouldn't have been able to put the safetly on.
So the facty you did put the safety on makes me think you had a mechanical failure leading to the accidental discharge. I'm not an expert of the pistol in question but on most single action semi autos you can't engage the safety without the hammer being cocked first. This alone makes me things something mechanical went wrong with the safety that caused the hammer to drop. Especially given there is a recal for this exact problem, all-beit with other serial numbers.
You need to figure this out because it could change how you think, act, or react in furture situations.
December 13th, 2012 02:47 PM
Countrygunner, in all likelihood the failure to eject was due to "limp wristing" the firearm. The way the situation was explained in the original post, the OP never seemed to have gotten a good "firing grip" on the pistol.
Originally Posted by countrygunner
"If you make something idiot proof, someone will make a better idiot."
December 13th, 2012 02:48 PM
Glad everyone is alright and thanks for the post. I will certainly use this as a reminder to focus on safe handling. Life is a non-stop battle against complacency.
December 13th, 2012 02:49 PM
Thank you for telling us the whole story...
And welcome to the forum.
It could be worse!
December 13th, 2012 02:51 PM
Thanks for sharing your story instead of hiding it in shame. Hopefully, this experience will be passed on to others as something we can all learn from.
"Confidence is food for the wise man but liquor for the fool"
December 13th, 2012 02:52 PM
Thanks for sharing this with us atlsig.
I'm curious to know why the was disengaged? The P238 allows for cycling the slide with the safety engaged as long as the hammer is locked back, so it can be loaded and unloaded while in a safe condition. Do you not carry it cocked and locked?
Glad you're both ok and since I see this is post#1 for you, please allow me to say:
The Second Amendment *IS* Homeland Security
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