Lessons from an accidental discharge

(guest blog post submitted by assistant instructor Dave Reichek)

Yes, there IS such a thing as an accidental discharge! We had one on the range during an advanced pistol class this weekend.

I’ve read opinions that there is no such thing as an accidental discharge, only negligent discharges. In general, I find this is mostly true. 99% of the time, someone’s finger was on the trigger when it wasn’t supposed to be – that certainly qualifies as a negligent discharge. We’ve often heard – and warned students about – foreign objects getting caught in the trigger guard and causing the firearm to discharge when it is being holstered. I’m of two minds on this one –drawstring cords, poorly designed or maintained holsters, etc., are all problems that should be relatively easy to foresee if someone looks at their gear, clothing, etc. with a critical eye towards prevention, thus one could argue some degree of negligence when one or more of these circumstances results in an unintentional discharge. However, how many times has that “foreign object” been a part of the trigger mechanism itself? I’d wager not very many at all.

The students in this particular class (Defensive Pistol Skills 2) were experienced and had all taken multiple KR Training courses. The student who experienced the accidental discharge was using a Gen 4 Glock 34 with an aftermarket trigger installed (Pyramid Trigger) and an OWB paddle holster. During the drill, he had several misfires occur, which he cleared and continued with the drill. When he holstered, with finger off the trigger, the pistol discharged in the holster.

The round hit a few inches from his foot, because his OWB holster was angled such that the muzzle was pointed away from his body. When I saw it happen, my first reaction was to reach for the TQ in my pocket – thankfully we didn’t need it! Upon investigation, what we thought was a piece of the holster on the ground turned out to be a piece of the trigger – the center piece of the now-familiar two piece trigger designs where the center portion of the trigger has to be pushed flush with the rest of the trigger face before the trigger can be actuated to fire the gun.

I’m not familiar with this particular aftermarket trigger, but the grooves on the pin, the hexagonal inset on it, and the grooves on the trigger piece lead me to believe this is a screw which somehow worked its way out. I believe this allowed the center trigger part to work its way loose and get sideways in the trigger guard, catching the edge of the holster mouth when the student re-holstered and causing the accidental discharge.

Lessons learned and observations from this incident:

  • If the student was using an IWB or AIWB holster, it’s more likely an injury would have resulted (NOT a knock on AIWB/IWB holsters, as I use both – just an observation). If you do use an AIWB holster, be extra diligent to check for possible obstructions, holster slowly, and push your hips forward before and while you are holstering so that you are not at risk to put a bullet through your femoral artery if the unthinkable happens.
  • Regular inspection of your firearms before and after each use is a really good idea! How many of us REALLY do that? I don’t know how long this screw took to work its way out sufficiently to fail, but I can’t discount the possibility that a pre-class inspection by the student might have prevented it – then again, it might not have. File this under “lessons learned”, not “assignment of blame”.
  • (Karl notes: It’s common in more advanced classes to encourage students to clear malfunctions and get back in the drill quickly, and not to stop and try to diagnose the cause of the malfunction. In this case, clearly it would have been better to stop to figure it out before holstering. In 25 years of teaching this was the first problem of this type that has occurred on the firing line. My personal takeaway from this incident is to start advising students to pause before holstering, if they have had malfunctions, and assess their gear.)
  • Range safety and pre-class safety briefing – even on a class comprised of students with a higher-than-average level of skill – is important. We had a trauma kit on the range, a larger kit back in the classroom, and my TQ was in my pocket on the firing line. Students were briefed on where a phone was, where coordinates to the range were posted, and a student in class with an EMT certification was identified. As an instructor, student, or just “shooter on the range”, you just can’t predict when an accident, whether caused by negligence or not, will happen. Be prepared!
  • There is an aftermarket device made specifically for Glocks that can prevent this kind of accidental discharge, and might be worthy of consideration by any Glock owners reading this blog post. You can read more about it here: