Recent Commentary on Negligent Discharges from John Farnam


At a recent Course, one of my students had an ND in his hotel room. It
was a single shot from a pistol that hit the floor (ground-floor room). No
personal injury and only slight property damage, which my student graciously
took care of promptly. The bullet (9mm hardball) demolished itself on the
concrete floor.

The is the second such incident involving my students that I am aware of.
The first, also involving no injury and only minor property damage, took
place several years ago.

We’ve all heard about these unhappy episodes. The cause is invariably the
confluence of:

(1) Exhaustion
(2) Distraction
(3) Poor Procedure

My student returned to his room after a long and exhausting day of
training. After a tense and unhappy phone conversation with his wife, he started
to unload one of his pistols. Midway through to process, he turned on the
TV. The ND occurred a second later!

There is often little we can do about physical and mental exhaustion, but
we can observe these criterion:

(1) Avoid unnecessary gun-handling. When there is no legitimate reason to
handle guns, don’t! Many NDs happen during unnecessary, purposeless
unloading, which necessitates redundant re-loading later on. Both installments
can usually be eliminated altogether! When a gun can safely remain loaded
in a hotel room, leave it in that condition and handle it only as necessary
to get it where you want it for the balance of the evening.

(2) When you must unload/load/perform a chamber-check in a hotel room:

(a) Before you start, specifically locate and positively identify a
relatively safe direction in which to point your gun while you’re handling it
(b) Turn off the TV/radio
(c) Get off the phone
(d) Stop all conversations
(e) Get sufficient light on the task at hand
(f) Devote complete attention to what you’re doing. Don’t allow yourself
to become distracted.
(g) Complete the task, start to finish, without interruption/intermission.
When you are unavoidably interrupted, go back and start the process over,
from the beginning. Don’t try to “pick it up where you left-off!”

Keep in mind that the time you are most likely to experience an ND is
within two seconds of your last ND! NDs tend to come in pairs, sometimes in
multiples. And, once it happens, it is too late to “wonder” in what
direction your muzzle was pointed!

In most hotel rooms, a relatively safe direction (at least for pistols) is
usually represented by the toilet bowl and the air-conditioner. A pistol
bullet impacting into either of these objects will surely do damage, but
will probably not penetrate through-and-through.

A superior alternative, and the one I adhere to, is to travel with a “Safe
Direction” ballistic pad. These ballistic containment systems are an
integral part of every Operator’s travel ensemble. With it, I can instantly ”
manufacture” a safe direction in which to point my pistol virtually
anywhere! Go to

These episodes are, of course, embarrassing for both the student involved,
and for me! Thank Heaven, the two I’ve been close to involved only
property damage. I know many of us naively believe we would never be “that
stupid.” The two students described above foolishly believed the same thing!

Carefully adhere to the foregoing advice. But, even them, there are no

John S. Farnam

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