Today the CMH Militia rolled out for the 7th time. We were well into a great day of shooting when the unthinkable happened. Paul, who was shooting with us for the first time, accidentally discharged a pistol into his hand. Allow me to describe the setting and the weapon involved.
Paul's first mistake was to load the weapon while walking. This particular handgun is a "novelty" piece, a double barreled .410 gauge shotgun in pistol form. The gun itself has no trigger guard, a massive safety lapse, and is of a break barrel design which means that the barrels detach from the rest of the pistol frame allowing the shooter to load the gun from the head of the barrels, or breech. As Paul approached me from the left rear he was loading both barrels. He was within 1-2 feet of me when he closed the breech which armed the weapon. As he brought the barrels up to lock them, his left hand was still over the muzzle (business end) of the extremely short barreled gun. As the breech closed he somehow brushed the unguarded trigger, which discharged the weapon into the fleshy, outside aspect of his left hand. Below is an image of nearly the exact same gun.
Now, here's what happened next based on what I could put together between all witnesses. I staggered backward a couple of steps with my hands out, mouth dropped in shock. I remember being acutely aware that there was still one live round still in the gun. I screamed, "What the fuck did you just do?!?". Paul was turning pale and screamed, "Fuck! I just blew my fuckin' hand off!". And at first glance, that is exactly what he had done. Jeff, standing to Paul's left, got some chunks of gore and blood spatter on him. I didn't find out immediately, but Dustin got some ricochet of rock or even a piece of shot that hit him in the back leaving a mark but not breaking skin. As the other guys became aware of the emergency, I glanced down at my legs and feet, which had miraculously escaped being hit, considering that my leg was pretty much in the line of the gun when it discharged. I think all of us spent a few moments in a state of shocked disbelief before I ran to the truck for the first aid kit. I slapped a big gauze roll into the wound and wrapped the whole mess in an Ace wrap, tight. We scrambled to come up with a plan. In the end, I got him into his Jeep and we beat feet to the ER which was a good hour plus away. The guys started searching for the finger we all thought was blown off (it's still where it should be). I'm sure there was some interesting conversation at the site of the injury but I was headed down the hill with Paul, which was a mostly silent ride.
Now, about the hand. Being a point-blank shotgun blast injury, as much or more damage was done by the expanding gasses of the explosion as by the actual shot. Those gasses are super-heated and they just blew his hand apart, at least the affected part. Just shredded his palm as if the explosion occured from inside the hand. Remarkably, he still had blood-flow (capillary refill), sensation, and movement to all the fingers on that hand. At the ER he got the mess irrigated out, got shot up with morphine and antibiotics, got stitched and stapled up. Apparently he's going to be okay, minus some meat.
Here's the part where I try to describe how I feel about this. Here we go. I'm appalled, angry, and just plain pissed that this happened. Happened near me. Happened near life-long friends of mine. Accidents with guns just do not happen around me and I'm pissed that I can't say that any more. It was a stupid, amateur move involving a ridiculous, unsafe weapon that only did what it was supposed to. Complete operator error and I can only be grateful that nobody else was hurt. If it had to happen, at least Paul shot himself, only himself, with his own damn gun. He completed a series of errors that resulted with him shooting himself, but endangered all of us. End of story.