John Farnam on Negligent Discharges

Editor’s Note: My teacher and good friend, John Farnam, of Defense Training International wrote a Quip regarding one of his student’s recent experience with an unintentional discharge in a hotel room. We gratefully quote this DTI Quip with his permission.

Feb 13 – NDs!

At a recent Course, one of my students had an ND in his hotel room. It was a single shot from a pistol that hit the floor (ground-floor room). No personal injury and only slight property damage, which my student graciously took care of promptly. The bullet (9mm hardball) demolished itself on the concrete floor.

The is the second such incident involving my students that I am aware of. The first, also involving no injury and only minor property damage, took place several years ago.

Causes of Negligent / Unintentional Discharges

We’ve all heard about these unhappy episodes. The cause is invariably the confluence of:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Distraction
  3. Poor Procedure

My student returned to his room after a long and exhausting day of training. After a tense and unhappy phone conversation with his wife, he started to unload one of his pistols. Midway through to process, he turned on the TV. The ND occurred a second later!

Steps to Prevent Negligent / Unintentional Discharges

There is often little we can do about physical and mental exhaustion, but we can observe these criterion:

  1. Avoid unnecessary gun-handling. When there is no legitimate reason to handle guns, don’t! Many NDs happen during unnecessary, purposeless unloading, which necessitates redundant re-loading later on. Both installments can usually be eliminated altogether! When a gun can safely remain loaded in a hotel room, leave it in that condition and handle it only as necessary to get it where you want it for the balance of the evening.
  2. When you must unload/load/perform a chamber-check in a hotel room:
    1. Before you start, specifically locate and positively identify a relatively safe direction in which to point your gun while you’re handling it.
    2. Turn off the TV/radio
    3. Get off the phone
    4. Stop all conversations
    5. Get sufficient light on the task at hand
    6. Devote complete attention to what you’re doing. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted.
    7. Complete the task, start to finish, without interruption/intermission.

When you are unavoidably interrupted, go back and start the process over, from the beginning. Don’t try to “pick it up where you left-off!”

Two .45 ACP Hornady 230 TAP rounds successfully contained in a Safe Direction Academy Pad during an actual incident that a retired USAF SMSGT experienced.

Two .45 ACP Hornady 230 TAP rounds successfully contained in a Safe Direction Academy Pad during an actual incident that a retired USAF SMSGT experienced. The Academy Pad prevented personal injury and eliminated any property damage from occurring.

Negligent Discharges Tend to Come in Pairs

Keep in mind that the time you are most likely to experience an ND is within two seconds of your last ND! NDs tend to come in pairs, sometimes in multiples. And, once it happens, it is too late to “wonder” in what direction your muzzle was pointed!

 Relatively Safe Directions

In most hotel rooms, a relatively safe direction (at least for pistols) is usually represented by the toilet bowl and the air-conditioner. A pistol bullet impacting into either of these objects will surely do damage, but will probably not penetrate through-and-through.

Safe Direction® Ballistic Containment

A superior alternative, and the one I adhere to, is to travel with a “Safe Direction” ballistic pad. These ballistic containment systems are an integral part of every Operator’s travel ensemble. With it, I can instantly “manufacture” a safe direction in which to point my pistol virtually anywhere!

These episodes are, of course, embarrassing for both the student involved, and for me! Thank Heaven, the two I’ve been close to involved only property damage. I know many of us naively believe we would never be “that stupid.” The two students described above foolishly believed the same thing!

Carefully adhere to the foregoing advice. But, even them, there are no guarantees!


John S.Farnam's books are available at

John S.Farnam’s books are available at

Footnote: John S. Farnam regularly travels throughout the US offering his Defense Training International (DTI) Courses to civilians, the Military and Law Enforcement professionals. His schedule is updated regularly. Guns and Warriors:DTI Quips Volume 1 compilation of John Farnam’s Quips is available through Amazon. A complete selection of John Farnam’s books are available through DTI Publications.

Text Copyright © 2013 John S. Farnam – Defense Training International, Inc. – All Rights Reserved – Used with the author’s permission.