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.