A Webb City Police Department officer accidentally had his off duty carry pistol float out of his control and wind up in the sand at a community playground and a 6-year-old promptly found it and fired off a round through a nearby slide.
As reported by the Joplin Globe, earlier this month tragedy was averted when an unidentified officer's P-3AT somehow worked free of his concealed carry holster and fell, unnoticed, onto the playground that the off duty lawman and his family were visiting on a Saturday afternoon.
However, before he noticed it gone and could make an effort to retrieve it, a 6-year-old boy picked it up and pulled the trigger. Gratefully, the round only struck the plastic of a nearby tubular slide, passing cleanly through it and exiting the top.
Photo via Community News
According to the officer's department, he is under review by the agency's internal affairs.
"All I can say is: We're thankful that no one was injured," police Chief Carl Francis said. "There's no question he violated policy by losing control of his firearm."
As related by Francis, the officer climbed onto the deck of the slide when his daughter became distressed and may have lost the gun at that point. When the youth who fired the found pistol did so, the officer and his daughter were very near the slide at the time.
Why Handgun retention
If you ever pick up a handgun or cause one to be in your possession, the first thing you need to do is formulate a plan to retain that firearm. You are the person responsible for it in all cases and should you lose it, leave it, or have it stripped from you, deaths could occur. The lives at risk could be not just yours but those of your friends, and family as well.
Let's visit some simple basics of weapons retention by looking at holsters, passive concealment, and active retention techniques for handguns.
Bottom line, holster that bad boy. Nothing is more dangerous that a handgun just stuck in a pocket or waistband. These are the guns that will fall out when you least suspect it. There is nothing more embarrassing then sitting in a restaurant, unwrapping your silverware, and hearing your handgun rattle along on the floor under the table. Worse, it can allow the trigger to be engaged in certain circumstances, sending off a stray round with no control. Besides being rude, it is slapsticky, gives the wrong impression of firearms owners, and is just plain dangerous. Don't!
A holster keeps the handgun oriented for ready access, shields the trigger to help prevent discharges, and keeps the weapon where you want it. Many owners buy what I like to call 'casual carry holsters.' A casual carry holster has no retention and is just a bucket that you place your handgun into. Examples of these are early fobus-type holsters, and many generic inside the waistband (IWB) holsters. These should really only be used to carry in casual situations, where you don't anticipate any hostile interactions such as at the range, around the back 40, etc.
If you are going out in public, you really need a holster with some sort of retention. Even if you do not have to defend against a gun-grab, what happens if you trip on a curb and your pistol skitters across a parking lot full of pedestrians? Or falls out on the bathroom floor while you are on the throne? Many seasoned cops have left sidearms behind in bathrooms. It happens. Especially with open-topped holsters.
Level I holsters, typically that have a strap over the handgun, are a minimum. Level II, III, and IV holsters can get much more complicated and involve multiple series of rocking, twisting, snapping, and pressing to free the weapon. It is always better to have the highest-level holster that you are comfortable with. This is especially important if you open carry.
You always need to train to deliver a good draw stroke up on target from your holster-- no matter what level of retention. However higher levels holsters require more training to be able to use them. Safariland has recommended the user of a Level III holster should practice drawing and holstering the weapon approximately 200 times before actually using the holster. That's some time to think of in your training.
A good test on your holster's basic retention is to, with an unloaded checked and verified safe gun, holster it up, and roll around on your living room floor to see if and when it pops out.
For CCW holders, concealment of your handgun is your first step towards retention. If a bad guy doesn't know that you have a gun, odds are he's not going to grab for it before you will. With this in mind, be sure to select the most concealable holster you can, with the highest level of retention you are comfortable with. Clothing choices and weapon's size need to also be balanced inside this equation. If you run 5' 6" 105 pounds and like to wear tight clothes, a 1911 long slide may not be the best fit for your CCW rig.
Active retention techniques
With all of the above in mind, someone does go for your weapon...now what? Two words: retain control. You are in a gunfight the second they try to place a finger on that firearm. Your strong side arm, which should be the one closest to the weapon, should be firmly on your grip. Practice drawing and firing from your holster, firing one handed in the bent elbow position as soon as you clear the holster. This sort of close-quarter firing can be dangerous so start very slow and supervised for safety. As you develop your technique, speed will come. It is a good benchmark to get this drill down to where you can accomplish this inside of 2-seconds.
If you are not comfortable, drawing and firing in close quarters, instead push the firearm deeper inside the holster. Try to put distance between that person and you. Side step, back step, and run if you can. Nevertheless, no matter what you do, hold on to that firearm. The bad guy doesn't need a gun if he can just borrow yours.
Finally, if you know that your method of carrying is not 100 percent secure and you may lose your gun, you may consider not chambering a round while keeping a loaded magazine inserted. In such an incident as noted above in Webb City, this would have meant the 6-year old would not likely have been able to get a round off.
Of course, if you carry in such a manner, you need to train to always draw-rack-present, rather than the more traditional draw and present.
Safety is everyone's concern.