The Mathematics of having a Negligent Discharge

| February 8, 2016
Categories: Assorted Ramblings

Another AD/ND somekindaD video has been making the rounds again lately, in addition to reports of a longtime firearms instructor/SME having one during a demonstration.  It seems like every week there’s one in the news, and usually from someone “that’s supposed to know better” like an LEO.

James Price of Death Valley Magazine decided to take this opportunity to turn this into a learning event, and recently published this on the homepage of Death Valley Magazine:

ND Math and How Not to be Dumb on the Interwebs

There has been a lot of talk about ND’s (Negligent Discharges) lately due to a video that has been circulating. I am not going to get into the particulars of it except to say in my opinion it does not necessarily look like an ND to me. There is also obviously something nefarious going on concerning that because my Blue Falcon meter went into the red the second I saw the way it was edited.

The issue I will address here is people do not seem to realize ND’s are more common amongst professionals than the general public would think. And definitely more than we would like to let on. For some reason the only places firearm enthusiasts believe absolute perfection exists, and completely disregard stupid things like math at the same time is when it comes to professionals in the firearm world.


When I was in Iraq ND’s were easily neck and neck with booze as the #1 reason for getting fired or suspended on a contract. I can’t count the amount of times I jumped in a gun-truck and the dash or floorboards had bullet holes in them. Holes from outgoing non-combat fire, not from incoming hostile fire if you get what I am saying. Come to think of it, the first time I ever saw someone fire a SAW was a guy on RRT who cooked off a half dozen belt-fed goodies when the driver hit a pothole (and, RRT’s gone).

Yet most non-professional people in the firearm world cling to this odd square range dogma that having an ND is a unicorn event.

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The majority of the times a regular guy will hold and manipulate a loaded weapon in their hands is at a range or holstering/upholstering their CCW.

Read that carefully please and note the “in their hands” and “manipulate” part.

Think about it: as a firearms enthusiast how often (measured in minutes) do you have a loaded firearm you are manipulating in your hand, per month?

Yeah, not that much when you objectively add it all up. For most people who go to the range once a month on average, take a class here and there, and CCW daily it probably averages less than 3 hours a month total (2 min a day loading, unloading, holstering for CCW + a couple hours shooting).

But for the sake of argument lets say it’s a generous 5 hours a month.


Now let’s flip this around; what if you are someone who holds and manipulates a loaded weapon in their hands as a job?

Please note again the “holds and manipulates” part, as this is an important factor. Generally speaking, a firearm cannot discharge a round without having someone touch it at some point as the catalyst that results in lead flying.

Some examples of people who do this are: firearms instructors, military folks in a combat position, Law Enforcement guys on a tactical team, or security contractors. Or a myriad of other jobs where you spend the majority of your day physically holding loaded firearms in your hand. We are talking professionals who are constantly manipulating and physically holding a weapon all day/night long.

That means: flipping the safety selector, loading, unloading, walking, running, eating, shitting, in and out of buildings and vehicles, and all the cool guy tactical stuff for 10 to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in 3 to 6 month blocks no days off.

Under the above specific circumstances the hours a month average is conservatively around 300 hours a month for the professional.


…and the math says, “for the rest of the article, follow this link.”

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  1. hillbillly

    Getting comfortable is a bad thing! (Travis Haley was OBVIOUSLY showing what NOT to do and why NOT to do it.) Huge respect for Mr Travis Haley! He has been correcting his own mistakes for decades and sharing his experiences with us in order to help us all be better, faster and SAFER in our training\competition\work.

    Be safe everyone!


    I was at the range a few years ago when someone let one rip by mistake. Fired a shot I mean.

    The individual in question was and is the head of a national shooting organisation with over 40 years experience handling firearms. It can happen to the best of us.

  3. Wilson

    Maybe I’m just lucky. I had my first and only ND with a .22 pistol when I was 17.

    I didn’t have a holster, took the gun out of the side pocket of a car and somehow bumped the safety on this Ruger MKII off in doing so. Then, standing in my parent’s garage I caught that nice, light target trigger on that stupid little hammer holder loop on my pants (the one that was so popular back in the late 1990’s) and put a round into the garage floor. Both dad and I caught some bits of the jacket in the legs.

    This scared the fucking shit out of me and then things got worse when my dad reamed me for it (after taking possession of the gun and making sure it was unloaded with the chamber open).

    Since then I’ve been no-nonsense about this and while some people have straight out told me that I’m an overbearing hardass about it, I haven’t had an ND in the intervening 14 years since then and now and while I was never a “professional shooter” I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time administratively handling firearms.

  4. Tony

    And another thing: I think the method that the US Army teaches to clear an Rifle or Pistol is stupid:

    Point the muzzle in a designated SAFE DIRECTION. Attempt to place selector lever on SAFE. If weapon is not cocked, lever cannot be placed on SAFE.

    Remove the magazine by depressing the magazine catch button and pulling the magazine down.

    To lock bolt open, pull charging handle rearward. Press bottom of bolt catch and allow bolt to move forward until it engages bolt catch. Return charging handle to full forward position. If you have not done so before, place the selector lever on SAFE.

    Visually (not physically) inspect the receiver and chamber to ensure these areas contain no ammo.

    With the selector lever pointing toward SAFE, allow the bolt to go forward by pressing the upper portion of the bolt catch.

    Place the selector lever on SEMI and squeeze the trigger.

    Pull the charging handle fully rearward and release it, allowing the bolt to return to the full forward position.

    Place the selector lever on SAFE.

    Does anyone know why they require you to pull the trigger? It seems like a guaranteed way to get NDs, then they fry people for it.

    • Frank Karl

      Many organizations use a variation of: (my editing)

      Visually inspect the receiver and chamber to ensure these areas contain no ammo.

      allow the bolt/slide to go forward …and squeeze the trigger.

      Place the selector lever on SAFE.”

      We pull the trigger because if we miss a round, if we make a mistake and the gun is still loaded, the round goes safely into the backstop and you’re not storing a loaded gun. You may get into trouble for it, but it can’t be as bad a running a round through your roof, car, guy next to you, your family.

  5. Tony

    I think the whole “went off when cleaning gun” is a catchall phrase when you can’t report something like “Bubba shot himself in the foot while he was watching The Unit and pleasuring himself while fondling his 1911” .

    I do agree that if you handle firearms enough, you will have an ND. I always like to say that you can break 1 of the 4 Rules of Safe Firearms Handling and there probably won’t be an injury, but you can’t break 2 at the same time.

    I’ve had 2 in 40 years; one that was facilitated by a crappy holster, and one that was a “What the hell was I thinking?” moment.

  6. Unclean

    I don’t think that I’m being obtuse or asking too much if I were to point out that it is impossible to have an ND if: 1) you follow the four safety rules; and 2) you don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Yes, a SAW/MMG that you’ve been ordered to carry in condition 3 (a condition that FN did NOT recommend, and I think that order is kind of silly) will scream through a few if you’re jarred while opening the bolt. That’s about the only excuse that fits.

    • Billy

      Hey Dave, what does “obtuse” mean? No link to the definition there for grunts. 🙂

  7. Monty

    After reading the article, I agree with Mr. Price. You handle firearms long enough you will screw up and it will go bang when you don’t expect it to. However, I think there is a little more to it than just time behind the grip.

    While it’s true lowly civilian CCW dilettantes don’t handle firearms the same amount of time or at the same high speed, low drag, air cooled and belt fed level as the Children of Ares do, They do tend to remember basic range safety 101 : Treat every weapon as loaded, safety on, finger off the trigger and watch your muzzle.

    Yes, they sometimes have negligent discharges and that is because they aren’t applying one of those rules.

    There is more to the negligent discharge with professionals than merely time behind the gun. The biggest factor with steely eyed gun studs having the occasional boo boo is sometimes, believe it or not, they have brain farts the same as the rest of us knuckle dragging commoners.

    Professional gun slingers have the same issue as drivers who drive more miles or have driven for a longer time – they get complacent or just get the attitude of “I know what I’m doing” . Those are those guys who think the only safety they need is their brain connected to their trigger finger. That’s fine if it works for you, but it can also lead to the attitude that safety is just assumed because professionals know what they’re doing. Next thing you know, that’s when you get the ol’ oopsie.

    As long as the only thing you hurt is your pride, then accept you screwed the pooch, learn from it and drive on.

    • Monty

      Case in point: I should proof read better. Change “Those are those guys” to “There are some” Oh well, it gives the Grammar Nazis something to spooge over.

  8. Billy

    Simply a matter of those who have…

    And those who will…

    We all may strive for perfection, but absolute perfection is not humanly possible.

    And the public math is spot on!

    Great article!

  9. Frank Karl

    Okay, I understand your math. I don’t know if I agree with it. Following that logic, would not insurance companies give new drivers lower rates because they have less time behind the wheel? After 20 years behind the wheel your rates ought to be astronomical.

    Still, NDs happen. I’m not too concerned about it if the round goes somewhere safe. It does piss me off however when I read that someone was cleaning his gun and it went off. Yeah, I know it’s a little face saving lie, but it gives a black eye to every trainer, student of the gun and shooter.

    I’m not sure you can relate ND’s in the military under combat conditions to someone taking his gun out so he take a dump. Or someone who discharges his sidearm at a safety demo.


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