Firearms training for police officers generally goes as planned. There are some notable and tragic exceptions, of course, but by and large when men and women who are trained in the proper use of firearms get together to practice it is usually a good day.
No so for one Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant training at the Unified Police Department firearms range in Salt Lake City on April 21st, who was injured by shrapnel kicking back from something downrange.
“They were moving down the range for their qualification,” explained Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Nick Street, “stopping at different points to shoot from different distances, and all of sudden he said something felt off and when he looked down at his leg and noticed that something had gone into his leg. Something either hit a target carrier or something and sent that shrapnel back into his leg.”
When using firearms, even when you do everything correctly on the shooting range, bad things can still happen. When it happened to this unidentified Utah Highway Patrol Lieutenant, I’m grateful his injuries were minor.
“Nobody did anything unsafe,” Lt. Street said, “Nobody had an accidental discharge, [they were ] just shooting and a piece of shrapnel from downrange went back and caught our lieutenant in the leg. This happens occasionally.”
Yes, it does, as these two examples prove, as does my own experience.
Augusta, Georgia: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office candidate Noah Johnson, 22, suffered a laceration just above his hear when he was struck by a piece of shrapnel that ricocheted off of a steel plate target. Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton was shooting at the opposite end of the firing range when a fragment of one of his bullets injured the trainee. Clayton and Johnson were positioned approximately 225 feet apart.
Phoenix, Arizona: Two police officers were wounded by shrapnel in a private DPS training area at the Ben Avery shooting range when a firearm malfunctioned, according to this brief report.
The two times I’ve experienced shooting range shrapnel (and thankfully wasn’t injured) the sound of metal fragments flying past my face at high speed ensured I was hyper-aware of my targets and what was beyond them for the remainder of the shooting day.
Ask any group of IPSC or IDPA competitors and I’m sure you’ll hear a few similar stories.
Key Takeaway: Eye protection is mandatory. The eyesight you save might be your own.