Friday, December 30, 2011

Rule Four, people - RULE FOUR!!!

An article at a Swedish news site reminded me forcefully - yet again - of the wisdom of the late Col. Jeff Cooper and his Four Rules of Firearm Safety.

A Swedish elk hunter who felled her first elk with a single shot that passed through the animal only to hit and then kill a cross-country skier, has been acquitted of manslaughter charges by the district court in Växjö in central Sweden.

The 32-year-old hunter had held her license for six years when her first elk was felled in December 2010 with a single shot, a shot with tragic consequences.

Just 60 metres beyond the felled beast lay a 71 year-old cross-country skier in the snow in Ljungby, in southern Sweden.

The bullet which killed the elk had continued, hitting the skier and killing him instantly.

”We tried to resuscitate him, but it was impossible,” said the woman to the police.

. . .

A forensic analyst wrote in his report that ”bullets travelling through felled animals are probably not that uncommon but the chances of something like this happening are extremely slim”, reported Aftonbladet after the incident.

Henrik Barnekow, a hunting consultant at the Swedish Hunters Association (Svenska Jägareförbundet) in Kristianstad, told TT at the time that it is not uncommon for a shot to pass through an elk or any other game.

There's more at the link.

Col. Cooper's Fourth Rule of firearms safety warns us to 'Identify your target, and what is behind it'. If the shooter had been aware of the presence of the skier, I'm sure she wouldn't have pulled the trigger, or would have waited until her line of fire was clear of such potential hazards; but she wasn't, and she didn't. Tragedy resulted.

This is also why, when I train people in defensive firearms use, I warn them not to use a firearm chambered for a cartridge too powerful for their surroundings. For example, a .44 Magnum handgun is ideal for open rural terrain, where long-distance shots are more likely, or where dangerous animals are more likely to be encountered. If it over-penetrates one's target, there's plenty of wide open space for the bullet to fall to earth. However, to use the same cartridge for self-defense in an urban environment is hazardous in the extreme. Its bullet is much more likely to over-penetrate the human body, and go on to endanger others; it can shoot through a frame-and-siding dwelling from one side to the other (including several interior walls), and still retain enough energy to kill or injure someone on the far side of the house; and in a confined space such as a room, its extremely loud report has an effect not unlike a stun grenade. It's likely to cause injury to the auditory system of anyone nearby (including the shooter).

In this case, hunting in open country, the shooter used a cartridge powerful enough to take her chosen prey. Unfortunately, the power needed to take that particular animal also gave the bullet enough power to over-penetrate its target and kill an innocent bystander. It's not the first time that's happened, and it likely won't be the last . . . unless and until we can get everyone to observe the Four Rules as if they were Divine revelation incarnate.



Max Drive said...

Urban Home Defense? Glaser Safety Slugs. No over-penetration. In fact, it breaks up on sheetrock and almost never penetrates the other side of a common wall.

Anonymous said...

The issue of through-penetration of hunting rounds is not a modern issue.

After many years of using cartridge weapons to hunt, I now do most of my hunting on a ranch that requires muzzle-loading rifles.

I was asked to shoot a mature buck with sub-standard antlers, and the owner and I were at the blind before dawn. The buck was there at first light, and my friend asked me to shoot him as soon as I could sight him before he wandered off.

I fired at his shoulder, there was a bright flash in the early light, a cloud of smoke, and when it cleared there was a doe lying on the ground. I received a great deal of ribbing about shooting the wrong deer for the rest of the morning.

My friend had videoed the shooting for a database he was keeping, and at noon we looked at it. It showed that when I shot, the only way I could have hit the doe was for the bullet to first pass through the buck's shoulder. At the shot the buck gave the un-mistakeable shoulder lift of a deer shot there, and he ran off to the right, which we did not see in the smoke and flash.

I then predicted exactly where the dead buck would be laying, and of course he was there, quite dead.

Point of this is that a 245 grain .45 cal. lead bullet leaving the muzzle at no more than 1300 fps can go through a mature buck and then completely through a doe's head, and probably could do severe damage to anything else in the line of fire beyond that.

The story also makes me very glad that I have been able to hunt my entire life on private land where we have a bit more assurance that there will not be anyone beyond the animal we are taking.

Peter said...

@Max Drive: Trouble with Glaser Safety Slugs, they have minimal penetration in flesh. In a heavy-set person, they may not penetrate deeply enough to affect vital organs and produce the 'stop' you need. They're a good special-purpose round for when minimal penetration is at a premium, but you pay for that attribute in the lack of other, equally necessary ones. That's why no police force issues Glasers as general-purpose ammunition.

My general ammo recommendation for defensive handguns is to find out what local police forces and/or sheriff's departments issue, then buy some of it for your own use. It won't reduce the risks involved in any shooting, but at least, if it comes to a lawsuit afterwards, you can point out that you did your 'due diligence' investigation, and used what the cops use, in order to benefit from the testing they undoubtedly (?) conducted and the reasons they found this particular ammunition to suit their needs. That helps to disarm spurious claims for damages, and brings a note of realism into the proceedings.

millan said...

As a scandinavian resident I have been able to follow the case closely and forensic evidence suggest that the hunter did in fact abide by the fourth rule. The skier was not in the line of fire and there was sufficient back stop behind the elk (moose in North America). What appears to have happened is that the bullet was deflected by a rock in the hill behind elk/moose, before hitting skier. The hunter have completely acquitted of any reckless conduct.
Best Regards
Peter Millan

Will said...

Around 20 yrs ago, I bought a package of Glasers in .38special, and loaded them in my garage gun, a 5-shot snubbie. Last year, I shot them at the range, but I had to work at it! They all required a second hit to fire, except one didn't fire even then. It now sits among the clutter on my desk, as a reminder that all batches of ammo must be tested before being relied on for serious purposes.

Anonymous said...


Thank you - information like this is very important, and understanding the circumstances of an accident of this nature is critical.

Best Regards
.45 guy

ASM826 said...

The 4 Rules are not Divine Revelation? I was given a crumbling volume hand written on vellum and when I went back and looked, this is what I found:


And the heavens opened and a Voice was heard and these four commandments where added to the ten which Moses brought. Follow them with rigor, least wailing and lamentations become thy lot. Then carry these commandments to every and all. Teach them to thy children and thy children's children even unto the end of the age.

All of the things that go bang, verily, the pistols and the rifles and the guns of shot are, each and every time, unto a certainty, filled with powder and shot.

It is the opening where the charge of lead exits that is of great risk. Point it not at that which thee would not destroy.

The levers and devices that cause the shot are of grave importance. Touch them not until ready for the discharge.

Know, as thee knows the palm of thy hand, the object of your shot. Know also that which lies beyond thy shot.