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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Monday, September 7th, 2015

Point of view is critical to assessing eyewitness testimony, all the more when a camera makes eyewitnesses of us all.

This point has been made here before, and now comes another excellent example.  It is the nature of our arrogant species to say, “I saw the whole thing. If what you say happened had actually occurred, I would have seen it.  I didn’t see it. Ergo, it didn’t happen.”

It’s all too easy to for us to forget that from our angle, our POV, what someone else saw may have been blocked from our own line of sight, or simply ignored because we weren’t looking for it (inattentional blindness).

In this case, the POV of the patrol car dashcam leads us “witnesses via video” to see “OMG! A trigger happy jackbooted thug pointing his gun at an innocent citizen for no reason!”

But the POV of the officer’s bodycam shows us what HE saw…and now we realize that his swift draw of his service Glock may well have prevented the officer and/or the motorist being shot.

Watch and learn. It’s the sort of lesson all of us who constitute the vast Jury of Public Opinion cannot review too often…and it can impact peace officer and armed citizen alike.


Or view it here:

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Gunsmiths customize firearms to add value in different ways.  To make the gun more accurate. To make it recoil less.  To make it fit the shooter better.

My old friend Rick Devoid does those things for customers’ firearms, but he specializes in another kind of added value: he makes them safer.

Many people decline to keep a loaded gun at home or at work for fear that some unauthorized person may gain access to it.  Rick is the sole purveyor of the one “smart gun” that actually WORKS: the Magna-Trigger conversion of a double action Smith & Wesson revolver. It can only be fired by someone wearing the provided, low-profile magnetic ring on their middle finger. I carried one for many years and kept it loaded at bedside when my kids were little.  We tested hell out of it, even shot matches with it. The thing works: it shoots when its legitimate user wants it to, and won’t fire when someone else tries to make it do so.

Rick also has the exclusive on the less expensive Murabito safety conversion of an S&W revolver, invented by the now-retired Frank Murabito. It turns the cylinder release latch into a thumb safety, too.  It’s very fast, and highly likely to confuse any unauthorized person who gains control of your handgun.

Rick is also famous for his action jobs on Smith & Wesson and Ruger double action revolvers, and his slick-up of traditional double action S&W semiautomatic pistols.  Finally, he is an approved – and very experienced – installer of the Joe Cominolli thumb safety for Glocks. Allowing the right thumb (or for southpaws, the left index finger) to activate the device, it operates with the same movement as a cocked and locked 1911: up for “safe,” down for “fire.”Rick also reduces and reshapes the grip on Glocks; he did so on my first .45 caliber Glock 30, and made it shoot way better for me.

Rick and Tarnhelm Supply are known for reasonable prices and fast delivery times.  I have many Tarnhelm custom guns and am happy with every one of them.  Information is available at

Massad Ayoob


Friday, July 3rd, 2015

The Fourth of July is almost upon us, and there are safety concerns.

There are rumblings from ISIS that they are trying to instigate their minions and the mindless “lone wolves” they influence to do bad things to Americans on Independence Day.  Ratchet your alertness level up one notch at least, and be ready to protect yourself, and yours, and those around you.

In commentary on another blog entry here, one of our readers asked about safety tips on fireworks.  If it’s being professionally done in your community, my advice is to stand well back away from the damn launchers.  A rearward perspective will probably give you a better set of “oohs” and “aahs” when they burst in the sky anyway.  But it will also keep you and your kids more out of range of anything that could go wrong.  The worst such debacle I know of occurred when a Chinese sky torpedo, which proved to have been defective, exploded in its launch tube in Michigan. Death and dismemberment resulted.

Be really, REALLY careful about fireworks at home.  I’ve trained multiple one-armed people in self-defense shooting, who needed that special attention because in their younger days they were careless with home-made fireworks and assorted other incendiary/explosive devices.  We can all learn from their suffering.

With all that said, I’ll be making noise on the Fourth one way or the other.  I’m in the process of writing a pre-trial report in a murder case, where I’ll be speaking as an expert witness called by the defense for a young woman who saved her life with a gun when a man attacked her with deadly force.  That, obviously, takes precedence over fun.  If the report is done as soon as I hope it will be, this weekend I’ll be shooting an IDPA match with good friends.  If it isn’t, I’ll take some time off to get out on my own home range and do some trigger pulling, to commemorate the armed citizens of 18th Century America who preserved my right to do so.

For many years now, I’ve been in my beloved home country to celebrate the Fourth.  In my younger days, with kids to support, I couldn’t teach classes on holidays so July 4 usually found me in another nation earning money for my wife and children.  Most often – before their handgun ban of 1996, which must have made the longbowmen of Agincourt spin in their graves – that was in one or another part of Great Britain.  When I spent the Fourth in the British Empire, I would flush a teabag down a toilet in commemoration of the Boston Tea Party…and my British brothers and sisters understood.

Have a great Independence Day.  Stay safe!

Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

A while back, I was doing some research on poisonous snakes and came across references to silent rattlers.  I mentioned it here, and got lots of response, which burgeoned into a discussion on dealing with dangerous reptiles.

That in turn grew into this article, in the current issue of Backwoods Home magazine. Most Interesting Man

In my opinion, it was the broad experiential input and knowledge from those who contributed to the blog that really made the article.

This is at least the second time this has happened.  A few years ago, a discussion here burgeoned into a full-length article on hunting, shooting, and handling firearms in deep cold weather.

All y’all are a tremendous think tank and experience repository.  I don’t thank you often enough.


Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

In the blog entry below this, you’ll see a retrospective on a helicopter crash a couple of years ago, with links to discussions on it at the time.  You’ll also find what we didn’t have then: the Go-Pro camera’s recording of the crash, and how quickly and unexpectedly it happened.

A profound lesson from it relates to the third of the now-standard Four Rules of Firearms Safety created long ago by the late Col. Jeff Cooper – so long ago, apparently, that some today neglect to give Cooper credit for creating them.

Rule Three was to keep the finger off the trigger until one’s gunsights were on target.  Today we go a little more depth into that; I for one teach it as “Keep the finger outside the trigger guard until you are in the very act of intentionally discharging the weapon.” In any sort of moving vehicle, that’s all the more critical…and in a small helicopter aloft in the wind, it’s even more so.

When the aircraft went down, there were three fully loaded hunting handguns on board, two of them holstered; only John Strayer’s was drawn. He was the one who had spotted the first quarry of what none of us could have known was going to be a shorter day of hunting than we expected, and his gun was appropriately drawn and ready.  It was a Smith & Wesson Model 29 Mountain Gun, a relatively lightweight .44 Magnum loaded with powerful, deep-penetrating hunting ammo. Powerful enough that if it had unintentionally discharged in the wrong direction, it was totally capable of killing both the man on his immediate right (the pilot) and the man to his right, which would have been me.

It was John who was wearing the Go-Pro camera, and if you look closely, as the Hiller was coming over the copse of trees looking for the hog he had spotted, there’s an instant where he glances down and the camera catches his .44.

John Strayer holding revolver.

You can see that the double-action revolver is in his right hand.  The hammer has not been cocked. His gloved left hand (it was cold in that open-side-cockpit helicopter on a January morning, even in Florida, with the wind coming through) is securing the gun in place, grasping it around frame and cylinder.

Then, the rotors hit the trees and the aircraft went down. (Helicopters, it turns out, don’t have much of a glide path.) At about the instant of final impact or just before, what may have been a reflexive reaction to the rotors hitting the treetops caused John to reflexively duck his head, where the Go-Pro was mounted, and the camera catches a very brief glimpse his revolver in hand.

John Strayer holding revolver during helicopter crash.

John Strayer’s hand, still holding the .44 Magnum, was driven through the front of the cabin’s Plexiglas bubble by the impact, the jagged shards cutting his hand to the bone, including both the middle finger (primary grasping digit) and the trigger finger.


This photo, taken shortly after the crash, shows the severe damage Strayer’s hand sustained. John is grasping that very gun, with his index finger along the frame, as it was through the crash, and after, until he was able to exit the wreckage and re-holster.

John Strayer holding revolver post helicopter crash.

Let’s review Col. Cooper’s rules, not exactly word for word but close enough:

Rule 1: Every gun is loaded. (Even if you’re sure it isn’t, treat it as if it was. Strayer’s most certainly WAS.)

Rule 2: Do not point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy. (Strayer never let his gun come inside 90 degrees toward his partners.  The muzzle of his S&W did punch through the “bubble” of the cockpit, but that part, along with the rest of the bird, was destroyed by other forces in about the same fraction of a second by forces beyond his control, so…)

Rule 3: Do not let your finger inside the trigger guard until your sights are on target. Or, ideally, until you are in the very act of intentionally firing.  Here, I think, is the most telling lesson of this particular incident: Strayer’s self-discipline in this regard was simply extraordinary.

Rule 4: Be certain of your target and that which is beyond it. (John Strayer had that under control, too.)

John Strayer is not, by any means, just “a guy with a gun.” He owns a gun shop. He has won more shooting matches and championships than he can remember. In the International Defensive Pistol Association, he is one of about only a couple of dozen people who’ve earned “Five Gun Master” status, out of more than 20,000 registered competitors.

And he is a “poster boy” for firearms safety, as at least one reader of this blog has already pretty much said before now.

Somewhere, I like to think, Col. Jeff Cooper is reflecting on this, and smiling…



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