Bad Gun? No; Poor Training.

Some of you may have heard that the LA County Sheriff’s Department has experienced some difficulty in its recent transition from the Beretta 92 to their new Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm. What you may not have heard is that many people, both members of the department and outside experts, are blaming the firearm itself.

The LASD began transitioning to the M&P in 2011, when it was first issued to recruits. Since then, more and more veteran deputies have made the switch and an ever-increasing number have experienced what the department is calling “unintentional discharges.” A recent report by the LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman highlights this increase from 12 in 2012 to 30 in 2014. Only 3 of the 2012 incidents involved the M&P while it was involved in 19 of the 2014 discharges.

The report goes on to list a series of factors that “apparently contributed” to the accidents including:

  1. The lack of an external safety
  2. The M&P being “more sensitive” than the Beretta
  3. A weapon mounted light, the remote pressure switch for which deputies have apparently confused with the trigger.

Smith & Wesson M&P 9mmIn this 52 page report, the IG highlights his concern that the increase in unintentional discharges is “putting officers and the public at risk” and “remains substantial” despite internal attempts to address the problem. Furthermore, he writes “there is a continued risk that either LASD employees or civilians may be seriously wounded or killed by unintended discharges.” Although the report repeatedly points to a lack of training as an additional factor, and specifically points out “that many deputies appear to be undertrained for the weapon they are using.”

What the report, and the outside experts who have wholeheartedly embraced it, fails to address is that it is not the amount of training the deputies have received but the training itself. According to LASD staff quoted in the report, the department’s Beretta training including the philosophy of “on target, on trigger”, teaching deputies to have a finger on the trigger as soon as they took aim. Although the report does address this training issue, it suggests the M&P is too sensitive for this method of shooting.

What is missing is an admission that firearm’s training is based on muscle memory and poor or incorrect training produces incorrect memory. “On target, on trigger” fails to recognize that not everything you might point a firearm at turns out to be a threat – just ask the deputy who reportedly shot a victim crawling from a car crash. In blaming the sensitivity of the M&P or confusion between a light switch and trigger, officials are failing to recognize that it is not the design of the M&P which is causing the discharges, but the design of the Beretta which masked the long-existing problems.

No one likes to admit it, but accidents are going to happen. No matter what type of training program you implement or safety measures you take, there are going to be “unintended discharges.” But, let’s not forget that, although unintended, very few are accidental and almost all are avoidable.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

1 thought on “Bad Gun? No; Poor Training.

  1. All guns can be dangerous. Even the Glock that has a superior safety in the trigger can be made dangerously unsafe when ORDERED to fire by range master is insisted… One of my brothers was at the phoenix PD range.. He had holstered his Glock with a round in the chamber… the Range master ordered him to pull the trigger making his his gun safe… He stated that he thought he had a round left… he again was ordered to pull the tirgger… he shot himself in the leg… by orders of the range master… So I would think BAD training and human error lead to gun accidents as most manufacturers do all they can to create a safe quality sound product… in the USA.

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