Whether you’re using a holster for your concealed carry or wandering around a hunting ground with a pistol at your side, many individuals spend part of their day using a holster and holstering their guns.
However, new gun owners and even experienced people do not often think of the reality of a discharge happening while your gun is already holstered.
So, yes a gun can go off in a holster although it is extremely rare and usually has an external influence. However, the odds of a maintained weapon properly stored in good quality, weapon-specific holster having an “accidental” discharge are almost nonexistent.
It may surprise you to know the amount of negligent and accidental discharge across the nation is actually quite high (we know all things are subjective) according to the National Safety Council.
Accidental discharge vs. negligent discharge
It’s important to note and understand the difference between accidental and negligent discharge, as they actually fall under different policies when dealing in a legal or media sense.
According to the Injury Law Center:
“An “accident” is when the firearm goes off unexpectedly due to circumstances beyond the control of the participants. This is rare since the participant is likely holding or pointing the weapon. A “misfire” is when the the cartridge does not fire properly and can cause a hazardous condition. This is often caused by a defective cartridge or a defective firearm. “Negligent discharge” on the other hand, is when a firearm discharges because the user fails to follow proper safety guidelines and procedures or is reckless with the weapon.”Injury Law Center
Regardless of this legal description, plenty of instructors and gun nuts alike will preach the idea that every accidental discharge is a Negligent one.
Especially in cases like this video below.
The resulting media and legal attention this FBI agent garnered labeled this as an accidental discharge in many articles, yet the argument of a better fitting holster, or taking his time in picking it up, would have most likely avoided the discharge.
Or even a step further, don’t do a backflip in a club with a concealed weapon on your person.
Arguments of semantics aside, one fact remains, even in a holster a situation can arise where your gun discharges unintentionally.
What does the data say?
As far as statistics go, conclusive studies on injuries are much harder to find compared to negligent discharge deaths.
However the bigger picture can be understood regardless of the variance in studies.
According to the National Safety Council report on gun death of the 45,222 firearm deaths a year, approximately 1% of them are negligent discharge or preventable unintentional discharges.
While 1% may sound small, that figure adds up to 535 accidental gun deaths a year.
Another recent study done by a trauma and biohazard cleanup company ‘Aftermath’ shows unintentional shooting deaths accounted for over 4% (2,007) of total gun related deaths (44,912) in the United States.
Again the exact statistics on guns falling out of the holster or negligent discharges are hard to find due to how they are reported, or even if they are reported at all.
Also deciding what is “in or out” of the holster can be blurred as our lovely FBI agent in the video above graciously demonstrated.
In 2007 approximately 4.6 million people had concealed carry permits however; as of 2021, that number is well over 21 million people and even further many states do not require a concealed carry permit when pursuing activities such as hunting, fishing or even just walking around with open carry.
Of the accidental gun traffic victims, a huge portion of them are under 24 according to Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
Attention to Detail
However, experience and age can’t always save you from every possibility.
Some think once your gun is holstered you’re safe.
However, some of those small details that even the most experienced handlers miss are what get you.
The stories that come from accidental fire on discharge are definitely easy enough to find and only become more prevalent the further you look.
One common theme has even led to a warning related to worn leather holsters as demonstrated in the images posted with a story at ITS Tactical.
As leather holsters begin to wear, sometimes they can actually get caught between the trigger and the trigger guard which may not set your pistol off at first, but one quick move or bump and you could easily have a discharge.
Not convinced enough yet?
As you can see in this video below, this man holstered his gun without any issues and proceeded to walk a few feet before bending over and actually having the discharge in his pants.
Even after holstering the gun, you may think you are safe but it is not always guaranteed.
Another concept not often thought about during a negligent discharge or a holster discharge is the fact of ricochet.
If you happen to be standing on concrete, or perhaps even a metal floor, the chance of ricochet causing collateral damage grows.
A simple fragment from a 9mm round is enough to really injure someone, especially any children in the vicinity.
So the question remains, how do we negate the possibility of a holster discharge as much as possible?
One way would be to ensure your holster is not ridiculously worn or has any extra material that could easily cause the pressure on the trigger.
For this reason, I’m a fan of kydex or other rigid, molded materials
Furthermore, do research on holsters and look at universal holsters to ensure they’re up to the standards of a concealed carry, or at least a basic pistol carry.
You will find, they are generally not at a reasonably acceptable standard.
For this reason, only use a quality holster made for the specific pistol you are carrying.
It’s also important to make sure you find something that is both comfortable and secure no matter your preferred carry position.
Make sure you consider your clothing.
You have to be cognizant of any excess material, cords, drawstrings, or adjustment mechanisms.
These items can get into the trigger guard of your handgun causing an increased chance of a discharge.
Make Good Decisions
Another huge concept is that of carrying and being under the influence.
While it is true many states allow the concealed carry and even open carry in bars, according to a journal post in Biomedical Central, nearly a quarter of unintentional gun deaths are involved with alcohol consumption, and that number rises to nearly 47% with individuals between the ages of 20-29.
There are a million ways to carry a gun wrong but only a few ways to carry it right.
With that in mind a conclusion of this article should be that of the four cardinal rules of gun safety.
- Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
- Do not put your finger on the trigger or inside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
- Do not point the gun anyone or anything you do not intend to shoot.
- Be aware of your target, backstop, and beyond.
Following these simple rules would prevent a lot of issues people have when handling or using guns.
As always…stay safe, be dangerous!