Thoughts on the MAG-40 Accidental Discharge

Quite a few people have asked me about Ayoob’s accidental discharge at a recent MAG40 class.

Short story: Ayoob wanted to demonstrate a trigger press to his students, so he borrowed a student’s pistol, by his own admission failed to clear it properly, and unintentionally fired a shot into the air.

Ayoob wrote about this on his blog, if you haven’t heard about it:

Another point of view, from the sponsoring instructor:

To be honest, I this incident is more a case of “lessons reinforced” than “lessons learned”. My takeaways:

“Safe” Direction – In our classes we insist that any gun handling be done on the firing line, with the gun pointed down range or towards the ground. I’ll admit I’ve occasionally done this demonstration in the past – holding up the gun with the muzzle skyward – so students can see what I am doing. I am going to correct that and change how we demonstrate this.

Unnecessary gun handling – We always insist that guns are only handled on the firing line, and minimize the use of live firearms in demonstrations that don’t involve shooting. Could this demonstration (placement of the trigger finger and trigger press) been done just as easily with a SIRT pistol?

Demonstrating using student guns – Yep, I’ve done this too, while demonstrating “catching the link”, but people who’ve attended multiple classes may have noticed – I always pick a Glock, if there is one, so I have a gun I’m familiar with; I always check and dry-fire the gun before demonstrating; When demonstrating I aim the gun downrange.

Feel, don’t look – When checking to see if a gun is unloaded, you must always feel for a round, not just look for one. We train ourselves to see an unloaded chamber, and after thousands of reps we will look right at a round and not see it.

Dry-Fire to verify after unloading/clearing – The last step in our unload/clearing procedure is deliberate dry-fire in a safe direction. This incident is a good example of why we do it – if you are going to have an accident, do it under situations you control.

Bystander Effect – EVERYONE on a range is responsible for safety. It doesn’t matter who is making a mistake, if you see it, you need to say something. We empower and expect our students to call out safety issues by anyone – even the instructors.

Familiarity – In the USA, typically only lion tamers are attacked by lions. If we are going to spend a lot of time around guns, we have to always be vigilant about careful and responsible gun handling.

Distratction/Exhaustion – The incident occurred during the fourth day of a very demanding class. Pushing the envelope to prepare for a fight is important, but when people on the range are getting punchy, you need to slow down and take breaks.

“Cold” Ranges – Cold ranges are nonsense.  They teach people to assume guns are unloaded instead of loaded and the idea that unloaded guns are somehow safer than loaded guns confuses our students.  All of our ranges are run 100% hot, and we’ve never had an AD.

No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done in the past, EVERY SINGLE TIME you handle a gun, you need to do it carefully and responsibly.


I wasn’t there and didn’t see this happen.

Massad Ayoob’s professional contributions to this Art are above reproach and I have nothing but respect for the man.

I don’t feel uncomfortable sharing my thoughts because I am certain that Mas is thinking the same things.

Erik is the owner and founder of QSI. He has over 35 years of experience as a firearms instructor, including military, security, and law enforcement.