This is the holster that is mandated by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) for use by armed pilots. You've all read about the "negligent discharge" in the U.S. Airways plane out of Denver this week:
(AP) A gun belonging to the pilot of a US Airways plane went off as the aircraft was on approach to land in North Carolina over the weekend, the first time a weapon issued under a federal program to arm pilots was fired, authorities said.TSA is investigating? Let's look at the anatomy of an accidental discharge that was absolutely bound to happen, thanks to the rocket scientists from TSA. First off, gun selection. The TSA decided that all pilots who wished to take part in the armed pilot program had to use H-K USP .40 S&W:
The "accidental discharge" Saturday aboard Flight 1536 from Denver, Colorado, to Charlotte, North Carolina, did not endanger the aircraft or the 124 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants aboard, said Greg Alter of the Federal Air Marshal Service.
"We know that there was never any danger to the aircraft or to the occupants on board," Alter said Monday.
It is the first time a pilot's weapon has been fired on a plane under a program created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to allow pilots and others to use a firearm to defend against any act of air piracy or criminal violence, he said.
The federal Transportation Security Administration is investigating how the gun discharged and is being assisted by the Air Marshal Service, Alter said. Officials did not say where the bullet hit.
All people eligible to carry guns in the cockpit carry the same weapon, the .40-caliber semiautomatic H&K USP.All true...my understanding is that the gun chosen for the pilots is the double-action-only version using H-K's LEM (Law Enforcement Module) system to lighten the DA pull. Here's the H-K catalog page.
“This is an extremely safe and reliable weapon,” said Greg Alter of the Federal Air Marshal Service. “It’s not going to discharge on its own, is the bottom line.”
What do we know about double-action only guns, whether they be semiautos or revolvers? Well, the first thing we know is that if you pull the trigger, the gun will go bang. The longer DA stroke guarantees that there has to be a deliberate pull of the trigger for the gun to fire.
Here's an important question...does it take a deliberate finger to pull a trigger? Ummmm, no...the trigger doesn't know or care what pulls it. You can pull a trigger with a pencil, a tree branch or the snagged tail of your shirt. People who carry pocket pistols not in a pocket holster have pulled the trigger with their pocket change. And consider the word "deliberate." A finger on the trigger can unintentionally fire a gun, say if the person whose finger is on the trigger is jossled or bumped, or if they have to grab with their weak hand, which can sometimes cause a sympathetic clinching of hand on the gun. Or let's say your finger is on the trigger when you attempt to reholster the gun...it'll go bang every time...probably the most common neglient discharge in the world.
That trigger thing is why we have moved to holsters for concealed carry and competition that fully cover the trigger guard, blocking access to the trigger. The harder it is to get to the trigger accidentally, the less likely the gun is going to go bang when we don't want it to.
What's another thing we've learned from the last 30 years of practical pistol shooting and the revolution in civilian training about gun safety? An important thing is to minimize the Futz Factor, loosely defined as "Every time you handle the gun, it has the opportunity to go off; reduce the times you handle the loaded gun, and you reduce the opportunities for a negligent discharge."
Here's an example...in the early days of IPSC, we had stages that required the competitor to shoot and/or do a physical challenge, holster a hot gun and complete an additional physical challenge before shooting again. We eliminated those types of stages because it had competitors at all levels of training, including beginners, holstering a hot gun, which we felt added an unnecessary level of risk. Hot ranges, where everyone is locked and loaded all the time, are not intrinsically more dangerous that cold ranges, where all guns are unloaded before they are holsterd, but they are generally not for newbies.
Regardless, for pure safety reasons, we minimize handling a loaded gun, based on essentially a risk/reward equation. Should you practice draws with a loaded gun? Absolutely not, because you gain nothing over practicing draws with an empty gun and you increase the risk.
Given those parameters, what makes more sense for carrying a loaded gun in a car, something I do every day:
1) Should I have a separate storage area in the car so that every time I enter and exit the car, I take the gun out of my holster, secure it in the storage area, lock the storage area, then retrieve the gun and reholster it in the narrow confines of the car when I reenter?From a pure safety standpoint, only number 3 makes sense. Anything other than 3 drastically increases the Futz Factor, eg, I'm handing a hot weapon many more times. Secondly, when I handle a weapon in a constrained space, it puts greater stress on me to not sweep my Sweetie, who's sitting in the passenger seat, or Alf the Wonder Beagle, who's in the back of the car. I am forced into occasionally awkward positions, and if I have to manipulate the gun in any way, it is much harder than the more straightforward standing in the open moves.
2) Should I enter the car with the gun in my holster, and every time I exit the car I remove the holster from my belt, attach a locking device to the holster, secure the holster in a separate storage area, then retrieve the holster and thread it back onto my belt when I return to the vehicle?
3) Should I choose a holster that's comfortable, then leave the gun in its holster while I'm driving?
Ideally — and I recognize that nothing is ideal — I want to put my carry gun on before I leave the house and not touch it again until I take if off in the evening. If I have to draw it in the interim, it is because my life is in danger.
Let's think about gun retention...when am I most at risk for having my gun taken away from me? How about, when I am Futzing with it...when the gun is in my hand in a shooting grip, it's actually pretty hard to snatch it away from me, because I'm a monkey and Monkey Grip Good! We're designed to grip, and we know how to hold on...if you've got kids, have you ever tried to extract one who really wanted to hang onto Mommy or Daddy? I can also bring the gun close to my body, which would bring the snatcher within reach of my dangerous weak hand.
When a gun is in the holster on the belt, it is also relatively secure...I can turn my body away from the snatcher to protect the gun; I can cover the gun with my hand (or hands); I can fight...the things in a monkey's harwired arsenal. But when I'm performing a non-hardwired action — placing the gun in a storage container; taking a holstered weaon off or putting it on my belt, I'm at maximum risk for losing control of the weapon.
Let's talk about that holster now. Why do we cover the trigger guard? To keep something hard from coming in contact with the trigger. What would we call a holster that has a hole cut in it to allow a person to place a hard object that can potentially come in contact with the trigger of a gun that has no additional manual safety? Unsafe...or more appropriately, stupid.
Very very stupid.
And what would you think if a requirement of your job was to constantly remove such a holster and then place the hard steel bar of a lock through the holster and trigger guard, then remove the lock and redeploy the holster when you came back? Personally, I'd be pretty worried — as a firearms professional, I'd find this system guaranteed to fail. Sooner or later, it goes bang.
And it did.
This from the Crime Files News, one of the few tiny bits of information to leak out no damning the pilot or the gun:
It was only a matter of time before there’d be an accidental, non-negligent discharge of a Federal Flight Deck Officer’s weapon. Saturday a U.S. Airways pilot’s gun discharged on Flight 1536, which left Denver at approximately 6:45am and arrived in Charlotte at approximately 11:51am. The Airbus A319 plane landed safely and thankfully none of the flight’s 124 passengers or five crew members was injuredThe later Associated Press reports say the ND happened as the pilot was trying to stow the gun for landing.
The insane procedures required by the TSA demands that our pilots to lock and then un-lock their .40 side arms was and is a solid recipe for disaster. Did the TSA deliberately create this bizarre and unconventional Rube Goldberg firearm retention system hoping for this result? The sordid history of the FAA and TSA’s total resistance to the concept of arming pilots to protect Americans is in itself a scandal.
Putting a gun into a holster and then threading a padlock through the trigger and trigger-guard is required every time the pilots enter or leave the cockpit. This kind of silliness has never been forced on any law enforcement or security officers anywhere in the world until now. Before this holster padlock procedure pilots with guns were forced to carry them around in a cumbersome 22 pound vault. The vault caused problems in the confined space of most cockpits.
We won't know for certain until TSA issues their investigative results/cover-up, which will probably find the pilot was a closet lunatic and the H-K actually jumped around the cabin barking and threatening to shoot everyone. Just take a good look at that holster and ask yourself one further question:
Would you carry one?