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Unsafe at Any Speed: The Springfield Armory 911

I have the opportunity each month to try out a different handgun—either a brand new model or an established model that are new to me—and then write a first-blush review article about it. As a one-gun guy I train exclusively with my carry pistol, so getting to shoot and review other models on a regular basis allows me to become familiar with different platforms and, essentially, survey the landscape of handguns. I enjoy this shoot-and-review process and sometimes there are unexpected rewards.

One such reward is the rare opportunity to find a fatal flaw in a firearm and warn my fellow citizens about it. Sadly, when shooting the new Springfield Armory’s 911 subcompact pistol this week, I found one of these flaws and folks need to know about it.

“This will get someone killed.”

The Springfield 911 is a new model of subcompact, hammer-fired pistol that is chambered in .380 auto. It is of the same design and dimensions as the Sig Sauer P238 (in fact my friends at a local gun range found that the magazines are interchangeable between the two models—at least they fit perfectly and feed dummy ammo—no one has tried to fire the pistols with the mags exchanged).

The Springfield 911 feels pretty good in my hand (and hands) and delivers very little recoil when shooting it. Also nice, I was able to get amazing accuracy from this little pistol…when it actually fired.

The problem arose immediately in my first string of firing. After the third shot, I got a dead trigger. After a couple of futile trigger presses, I cleared it and tried again dry. Still dead. I thought perhaps an internal component broke and called the range officer over for a look. He saw what model I was shooting and said that he knew the problem: the safety had engaged. This was a problem he had seen with every individual who had rented the gun and tried to shoot it. “This will get someone killed,” he remarked as we were both aghast, discussing the failed-self-defense implications of this design flaw. He is right. This is truly a fatal flaw.

Springfield 911

The Problem

The issue occurs in one of two ways: When shooting two-handed, the mild recoil impulse causes the meaty part of your support-hand thumb to flick the left-side safety lever up enough to engage it. The other way happens when shooting one-handed; the same recoil impulse causes the base of your trigger finger to slightly engage the right-side safety lever. I experienced the failure shooting two-handed, but not one-handed. My range-officer friend experienced the failure when shooting one-handed; I’m guessing due to his particular hand size and shape and grip.

The reason the safety lever is so easily engaged may be due in part to its location and design, but the primary culprit is the ridiculously weak toggle strength. It takes almost no pressure to move the lever from one position to the next. If it had any stiffness at all things might go differently. As it is, this is a “safety” lever that will engage or disengage at the drop of a hat. Meaning: in the frantic moment when you’re trying to save your life, your trigger will go dead and you’ll be defenseless against your attackers.

Right now my informed recommendation is DO NOT BUY. Springfield Armory needs to immediately address this fatal flaw. I highly recommend Springfield implement an immediate recall of the pistol and redesign of the component.

Wartime EDC Truck Rig

We are at war. Since one never knows when the war will be brought by mob of leftist thugs or Islamic terrorists to the street one is driving on, it makes sense to have enhanced defense capability in one’s automobile.

.300BLK SBR

My SBR goes with me everywhere.

As a matter of course, and like many responsible Americans, I am armed every waking moment with my Glock 19 (and 2 spare magazines whenever I leave the house). Additionally, I carry a RATS tourniquet and both folding and fixed-blade knives with me. Since this is a time of war, whenever I leave the house I bring my .300BLK short barreled rifle with me. My rifle is loaded, but one magazine might not prove sufficient in a situation where my vehicle is blocked or disabled and a violent mob descends upon my location; or if a small team of jihadis armed with fully automatic AKs decides to make a religious statement in my location. So I carry a light-but-effective chest rig, too.

I carry my Haley Strategic Disruptive Environments chest rig in the driver’s-side door panel of my truck.

chest rig in my truck

My WEDC chest rig

Note that the rig is fitted to my body size and the ends of the straps are wound up with 100MPH tape, so there are no loose ends flopping around.

My WEDC chest rig and contents

The rig’s contents include:

  • 4 full rifle magazines
  • 2 full pistol magazines (for my EDC pistol)
  • 6″ compression bandage
  • flashlight
  • write-in-the-rain pen and pad
  • Sharpie

These—along with the med kit in my truck that quickly clips onto the chest rig, the tourniquet, flashlight, and multi-tool in my pocket, and the knife and phone on my belt—are a nice complement to my EDC pistol and rifle. With these I can shoot, move, communicate, and treat a serious wound.

It is rather unlikely that I’ll ever need to employ my truck rig’s capabilities. But it’s also rather unlikely one would ever need to employ a fire extinguisher. However, as history clearly illustrates: better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Your Weapon’s Status

In what condition is every gun you own right now? Unloaded? Loaded? Loaded and chambered? Is the external safety gadget on or off, for each firearm? Are they in different conditions or all the same? How do you know? Are you 100% certain or would you have to do a press check to be sure? Does everyone in your household know with certainty the condition of each firearm you own without touching it? How?

This is not a situation you can treat with casual negligence. If you own one or more firearms, responsibility requires that you and everyone in your household know at all times with 100% certainty the condition of every one of them. If you or they do not, you must fix that situation. Right now.

rifle and pistol

This means that for any of your firearms, holstered on your person, stored, staged…no matter where or how they are placed, located, or carried, there should never be a moment where you or anyone else in your household has to wonder whether it is unloaded, loaded and/or chambered, or if a “safety” selector is on or off. In the event someone in your household finds a firearm they did not expect to find (in a closet, in a drawer, etc…) or if they grab it in a time of desperate need, they can be certain of its current condition even without touching it, and be able to act deliberately rather than tentatively.

And, by the way, this is an easy standard to maintain when you use a system of simple conventions.

Note: As a matter of responsibility, you and everyone in your household should regard all firearms as loaded, and should regard any “safety” lever as irrelevant; something to be kept in the “fire” position at all times and otherwise ignored—except with semi-auto rifles.

A System of Certainty

Here is a simple system that I know from experience works well to ensure you and those in your home never have to lean on discrete memory in order to know any of your guns’ condition. So long as you have no children younger than 6 to 9 in the home, even if just on occasion, System 1 is likely best for you. Otherwise, System 2 is likely best.

System 1 Conventions:

  1. All guns are always loaded, except while being cleaned, no matter whether they’re currently carried, stored, or staged.
  2. All pistols in a holster are loaded and chambered, whether on your person, stored in a safe, staged for home defense or even if in a range bag; holstered means chambered.
  3. All semi-auto/auto rifles have the bolt closed on an empty chamber (with a full magazine loaded, per convention 1) and the selector is on safe (this convention includes any “pistol”-configured AR or AK firearms).
  4. For pistols, bolt rifles, and shotguns, if there is an external safety control, the control is set to fire. Always and without exception.

You might use slightly different conventions. Maybe your pistols in holsters are not chambered. Maybe your semi-auto/auto rifles are chambered. I don’t recommend those approaches, but they may be appropriate for your situation. The point is to have as much blanket consistency as is practicable.

If you’re going to keep any of your guns unloaded, it is then imperative that you keep ALL guns unloaded (convention 1 must be 100% applicable to all guns not currently on your person) and perhaps opt for System 2 (below).

A System Variation

System 1 conventions might not work well for you if you have young children – and/or young children are sometimes in the home, like grandchildren, neighbors’ kids, or friends’ children. As such, System 2 might be best for you.

System 2 Conventions:

  1. All guns stored or staged, are always unloaded (and yet always treated as though they are loaded).
  2. A pistol carried on your person is always loaded and chambered (and in a holster).

It’s no more complicated than this. Once your children are of a certain age (that you determine, perhaps around 6 to 9 years old) and properly trained, it is best that you change to the more relevant and appropriate System 1 conventions.

Note: if children of any age other than yours are ever in your home, you have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure they have no way of gaining access to your firearms. They do not know your system and are likely wholly unsafe with firearms. Take appropriate steps.

For Carry & Training

If you don’t have an inviolate rule regarding the condition of your carry gun at all times, you cannot act deliberately when required. Instead, because of ignorance or second guessing or a simple mistake, you must act tentatively or mistakenly. This sort of irresponsibility can easily cost you your life, or the life of someone you love.

Component to the aforementioned systems, to gun safety, and to carry competence is the fact that one should never reholster an unloaded pistol; not at home, not in training, not in a class: never. When you’re training at the range and drawing from and returning to a holster, and run empty, you must either reload the pistol before reholstering – or – place the pistol on a barrel, table, or bench and pointed in a safe direction with the action open until you are ready to reload it.

No exceptions.

If you get into the habit of sometimes, even rarely, having an unloaded pistol in your holster, you will never again be able to be sure of your gun’s status. You may think you can, but you are wrong and 100% guaranteed to fail.

And yes, this means that if an instructor requires that you have an unloaded or even un-chambered pistol in your holster during a class, don’t take that class. It stands to reason that if you are unsure about the conventions of an instructor’s class, discuss this matter with them and explain your inviolate personal rule before you commit to the class. It is likely that accommodations can be made. If not, you know your choice.

Dry-fire Practice

To engage in dry-fire practice you have to introduce a mild variation into your system. While the gun carried on your person will still be loaded, it will just be loaded with snap caps rather than with live ammunition.

For dry-fire practice you will unload your firearm and take it, your magazine(s), and snap caps into a different room where no live ammunition is present, and charge your magazine(s) with the snap caps, which you will load and chamber into your pistol before holstering it. If you have a gun that has a workable trigger and doesn’t need to be charged for each dry shot, use mags loaded with snap caps anyway so that you don’t get into the habit of being okay with an empty gun (you must never put an empty gun into your holster).

When you’re finished with dry-fire practice, reverse the process and take your now-empty gun back to where your ammo & mags are (the one place where you load, unload, and clean your guns) and return it to its proper condition; be that loaded or unloaded for storage – or loaded, to again be carried on your person (in which case I highly recommend repeating, out loud, “My gun is hot now, and loaded with live ammo,” a few times before getting on with your day.

sbr

Conclusion

Human beings are creatures of habit. The only way to eliminate negligent habits is to forge unconscious, deliberately uncompromising, safe habits (as described in the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety) and to never rely on gadgets, mechanics, or technology in place of individual responsibility.

A firearm cannot be safe or unsafe. A person is safe or unsafe. No firearm gadget or lever can make an unsafe person safe with a firearm. Graveyards are filled with the victims of those who negligently believed otherwise.

You do not want or need the anxiety of ever wondering whether your gun or one of your many guns is loaded or unloaded, chambered or un-chambered, safety on or off. These are things that responsibility requires you and your household members know with 100% certainty at all times.

Use a system. Make sure everyone in your home knows the system. Conduct periodic pop quizzes to ensure everyone is on the same page. Be safe and be certain.

The Rules of a Gunfight

by Andy Rutledge 0 Comments

By Sergeant First Class Joe Frick.

  1. Forget about knives, bats and fists. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring four times the ammunition you think you could ever need.
  2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammunition is cheap – life is expensive. If you shoot inside, buckshot is your friend. A new wall is cheap – funerals are expensive
  3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
  4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.
  5. Move away from your attacker and go to cover. Distance is your friend. (Bulletproof cover and diagonal or lateral movement are preferred.)
  6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a semi or full-automatic long gun and a friend with a long gun.
  7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
  8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running. Yell “Fire!” Why “Fire”? Cops will come with the Fire Department, sirens often scare off the bad guys, or at least cause then to lose concentration and will…. and who is going to summon help if you yell “Intruder,” “Glock” or “Winchester?”
  9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun.
  10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
  11. Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
  12. Have a plan.
  13. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work. “No battle plan ever survives 10 seconds past first contact with an enemy.”
  14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible, but remember, sheetrock walls and the like stop nothing but your pulse when bullets tear through them.
  15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
  16. Don’t drop your guard.
  17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees. Practice reloading one-handed and off-hand shooting. That’s how you live if hit in your “good” side.
  18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. Smiles, frowns and other facial expressions don’t (In God we trust. Everyone else keep your hands where I can see them.)
  19. Decide NOW to always be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
  20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.
  21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet if necessary, because they may want to kill you.
  22. Be courteous to everyone, overly friendly to no one.
  23. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
  24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than “4”.
  25. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel blows the powder from the flintlock of your musket.” At a practice session, throw you gun into the mud, then make sure it still works. You can clean it later.
  26. Practice shooting in the dark, with someone shouting at you, when out of breath, etc.
  27. Regardless of whether justified of not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.
  28. The only thing you EVER say afterwards is, “He said he was going to kill me. I believed him. I’m sorry, Officer, but I’m very upset now. I can’t say anything more. Please speak with my attorney.”

Negligence at Range365

The shooting enthusiasm blog Range365 published a post recently wherein the author, David Maccar observed:

“With proper training, this kind of handgun is perfectly safe, but there’s no way to train for holster obstructions, short of tactile or visual inspection of the holster before inserting the gun each time—which is hardly practical.”

This is an objectively false and dangerous statement. Not only is visual inspection of your holster before inserting the gun practical, it is a responsible imperative. To suggest otherwise in a gun publication is, at best, grossly ill advised and, at worst, criminally negligent.

Visually inspecting the holster and looking the handgun all the way into the holster—while holstering in a reluctant fashion—is compulsory firearm safety. It’s what safe gun handlers do. Those who do not habitually execute this procedure are unsafe; a danger to themselves and others. As such, they should train in proper fashion to make proper reholstering habitual before strapping on a loaded firearm ever again.

Given the gravity of this mistake, I’m personally appalled at Range365 for letting such an obviously irresponsible statement escape their editing process.

Context Matters

It is relevant to point out that the post in question is one dealing with a new-ish accessory for Glock pistols, called the Glock Striker Control Device (SCD) from the Tau Development Group, commonly called The Gadget. Its effective purpose—one clearly supported by the blog post in question—is to compel Glock owners to dispense with compulsory, habitual safety and instead entrust safety (and their firearm’s reliability) to an add-on accessory.

A firearm is neither safe nor unsafe. Only a person is safe or unsafe. A safe individual is one who adheres to the 4 rules of gun safety without compromise and who never, ever cedes their responsibility to a mechanism or gadget. As this Gadget trains gun carriers to dispense with habitual safe practices, it is—by definition—a device designed to encourage firearms negligence. Responsible individuals must not entertain ideas of utilizing this or any other similarly destructive device.

This ridiculous, dangerous device aside, those who operate Range365 should reconsider their policies and advice. Everyone who touches firearms should adhere to the 4 rules of gun safety and otherwise exercise safe practices and habits with firearms…instead of becoming lazy and complacent; secure in the delusion that a gadget will take up their negligent slack.

The Fifth Rule of Gun Safety

Handling firearms comes with a mandate: habitual, uncompromising firearm safety. Following this mandate keeps us and those around us safe. The rules of gun safety are vital not just for our own safety, but for the fact that often when we’re handling guns we’re surrounded by other people.

Despite this mandate, I see unsafe gun handling every time I go to the range. Not sometimes, not most of the time, but every time I’m at a gun range.

women not minding their muzzles

Safe shooters unconsciously adhere to the four rules of gun safety. These rules are perfect and need no addition to ensure that our actions cause no harm to ourselves or others. What they do not account for, however, is the fact that some of the people who handle guns are incompetent, unsafe, or otherwise fail in their adherence to these important four rules. Therefore, responsibility requires that we follow yet another rule. A fifth rule.

The 5th Rule of Gun Safety:

“Pay attention to where other peoples’ muzzles are pointing.”

 

This “rule” is handwritten on the whiteboard at the outdoor practical range I visit once or twice every week. There are several skills classes taught each week at this range and the safety briefing given to the students in each of these classes includes a reference to this rule. And with good reason.

I understand that this extra rule of gun safety was proposed candidly one day by Brian, one of the instructors there at Proactive Defense. Makes perfect sense. With a number of shooters training on the line in one of the bays—students in a class or just people out for a day’s training and with all of the involved manipulation—there are a lot of gun muzzles for a range officer or an instructor to monitor. There are too many, in fact, from moment to moment. Therefore, he recognized, if we’re going to be safe we all have to keep track of where nearby muzzles are pointed.

Brian’s logical epiphany is not something he coined or otherwise imagined first. Situational awareness is common among responsible people, especially at the gun range. But like the other four rules of gun safety, this one is not something the average citizen thinks about and it cannot simply be learned. Gun-safety rules can be learned in 5 minutes, but this learning is irrelevant until after months of continual forging of unconscious habit. Like the other four rules of firearm safety, this one has to be drilled into the student and rehearsed time and time again until it becomes a habitual action one performs moment to moment, with all manner of manipulations, and under all sorts of circumstances without ever thinking about it. Finally, one becomes almost incapable of unsafe gun manipulation and is, finally, safe with guns. But before this can happen, the idea of a rule must be codified. That codification is precisely what Brian and my friends at Proactive Defense have accomplished, and then train into their students.

So, if you are a gun owner, here is your mandate—the fifth rule you must internalize and forge into an unconscious habit: pay attention to where the peoples’ muzzles are pointing. Despite the continual efforts of organizations and individuals, some of the people around you who are manipulating and firing guns have no grasp of the four rules of gun safety. Your life is at risk and only your vigilance can preserve it.

Be responsible. Be vigilant. Pay attention to where other peoples’ muzzles are pointing. When you observe someone violate one of the vital rules of gun safety, don’t hesitate but offer a kind-but-firm admonishment—or ask a range officer to be your proxy. Impress upon your fellow gun enthusiasts the imperative of gun safety. Live to train another day and help others to do the same.