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Gunfighter Moment – Jeff Gonzales

By now most of us are probably sick of hearing or seeing posts about the recent negligent discharge. Surprised or not, safety is the top priority in any high risk training evolution.

It’s high risk for a reason

I don’t feel the need to regurgitate the incident, suffice it to say it was pretty stupid and I’m glad no one was hurt. The other day I was catching up with my good friend Pat Rogers and we were discussing the subject of negligent discharges. It is a very real possibility in firearms training classes and as instructors we have an obligation to ensure the safest training environment possible. Incidents like the one mentioned above are preventable by avoiding stupid behavior. The hard part is when your instructor is exhibiting the stupid behavior…ugh. My sincere hope is folks can look at this incident and see it for what it is, reckless and unnecessary. Learn from it and move on, focus on proper behavior during high risk training.

Set expectations early and often

Let’s pretend we live in a world where stupid shit like this doesn’t happen, or at least too often. As an instructor I set the tone early on for the expectations I have for our students while in class. It is clear and consistent from class to class because it is part of our programming and I hope it becomes a part of theirs once they leave. I truly believe if you hold your students to a higher standard, they will work tirelessly to meet the standard. From there we evaluate all training to determine it’s level of risk as well as ways to mitigate those risks. Sometimes, it means eliminating the risk completely as the best course of action. Next, we try to use redundant safety features where possible to minimize the known risks and even mitigate unknown risks that may pop up at times.

Begin with the end in mind

Safety briefing should be conducted and questions asked to ensure everyone knows their responsibility and what to do if the worse case should happen along with appropriate medical gear readily available. This type of training has inherent risks so creating a pre-mishap plan will help to expedite things should they go sideways. When a safety violation is committed it is important to deal with it at that moment and as a class. I can promise you, there are probably more of the same safety violations being committed and you are just not seeing them. So, it benefits explaining and addressing the situation as a group. If the same safety violation is committed by multiple students you need to evaluate your methods and your delivery of expectations as they are probably being overlooked.

Model behavior

As a student the best thing you can do is pay attention, pay attention to the details. I will be brutally honest; you cannot multi-task. If the instructor is briefing, listen! Don’t be loading magazines, trying to replicate the movements or wondering what’s for dinner. Stay focused during those moments and if you are unsure of what is expected ask for clarification. The worse possible thing you can do is try to argue over safety. The fastest way to be shown the door is when you try to save face or deny any wrong doing so own up to it if you make a mistake. The last thing I would add is look out for one another, don’t let someone do something dumb on the range because they are not paying attention or had a brain fart. Each class has the opportunity for failures, but also successes because we are helping one another. These are but a few considerations regarding safety, but it seems with the current incidents we have had it might be a good time to review them.

Safety is free; pay attention, know what you are doing and ask questions when unclear.

– Jeff Gonzales
Trident Concepts, LLC

Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts, LLC is a decorated and respected U.S. Navy SEAL who has worked in a variety of environments and capacities throughout the globe. He specializes in personal protection tactics and training for armed and unarmed conflicts. His motto is “Concepts that meet reality”. Jeff’s goal is not simply to train you, but to better prepare you for the worst-case scenario.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Alias Training & Security Services. Each week Alias brings us a different Trainer and in turn, they offer some words of wisdom.

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13 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Jeff Gonzales

  1. PTMcCain says:

    Here is an alleged message that Yeager sent to the students in that class where the ND happened:

    “Hello Alumni,

    Well now that you have trained with us you are a part of our family…our big dysfunctional family. As I write this message I haven’t spoken with my crew that taught your Fighting Pistol class in Sacramento but I can still draw a conclusion. One of my instructors, [instructor name removed], did something that was not in our curriculum, was not authorized, was not allowed, is not condoned and was very reckless, dangerous and negligent. We are all very fortunate no person was injured.

    People from your class are already telling this story on-line and, of course, as it turns from an eyewitness account into gossip the story will get more and more outlandish. One day it will be so preposterous you yourself will have to interject that you were there, and that is not what happened, and you will be scoffed at. Such is life… I thank those of you who have not gone on-line and bashed us.
    Well, I certainly cannot take that errant round back but I can deal with the consequences. I can tell you that [instructor name removed] has never done anything like this before. It is still hard for me to believe he even did it! It is very unlike him but facts are facts. So I am left with what to do with [instructor name removed]. I simply cannot do “nothing” but what do you do with a devoted employee that has worked very hard to be good at his job that does a hair brained thing like this? It is even tougher when this knucklehead is my friend. We are a close knit team here at Tactical Response.

    So I am left with the aftermath to sort through and clean up. I have to decide to fire a guy on his “first offense” or if I should suspend him or make him do remedial training. There are many wrong answers and no 100% right one. Any decision like this weighs heavily on my heart.

    I will end with this – I GIVE YOU MY WORD that nothing like this will ever happen again in one of my classes and I SINCERELY APOLOGIZE to every student in that class for his unprofessional display. It was WRONG and will NEVER happen again.

    James Yeager – MFCEO”

    • jbgleason says:

      I will say it. For a knucklehead, that was a well crafted response. I wonder if he actually wrote that?

      • Paul McCain says:

        I’m sure he had a lot of help.

        • Bloke_from_ohio says:

          Having help is not necessarily a sign of weakness. Only a fool would not have a confidant or coworker double check this kind of correspondence. That is especially true if the writer has a known short temper. Good job.

  2. Bill says:

    I’m starting to loose track of instructor NDs.

    I need to take more classes. When teaching, I seldom needed to fire many live rounds. Most demoing I do is done with blue or sterilized guns. Working with basic trainees, I’m not there to impress them with what little skill I may or may not have and be accused of showing off, and if I huff a demonstration I loose a lot of credibility.

  3. wayno says:

    ND’s or AD’s are going to happen, if you shoot a gun and work with people that shoot guns. We are not machines and accidents will happen. The lesson to be learned from this is safe direction of the weapon. If you haven’t had a
    ND then I guess you must be a machine, my hats off to you.

    • Airborne_fister says:

      Their is a difference between an ND and an AD. ND’s only happen out of negligence. Meaning stupidity.

      • Airborne_fister says:

        AD’s happen by accident. Like your at the range or in a fire fight and you accidentally switch your rifle from safe to burst. Instead of semi. Shooting more rounds then you planned. An ND is more like walking up to the clearing barrels and dropping the mag and pulling the trigger. Instead of racking the slide or pulling the charging handle to the rear after dropping the mag an clearing the chamber with a visual and if your that committed to safety do a physical check.

    • Bill says:

      NDs don’t have to happen: plenty of pilots fly a career without a mishap. And machines break.

      Other than cookoffs, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a true AD.

    • Wayne Coker says:

      O by the way don’t try to surf you pistol it might go off.

  4. Michael Lake says:

    It is refreshing seeing an article that addresses the situation without degenerating into juvenile ridicule and name-calling like so many others have done. Great article…sincerely.