Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The stereotypical gun tragedy that didn't happen

After a late night I was catching up on sleep around 10 am. My wife started work a few hours before, the rabbit was probably chewing on something she wasn't supposed to, and I was dead asleep.

I awoke to a banging sound. Not sure of the specifics of the sound because I kind of woke up knowing it happened without really hearing it.

I sat up in bed and looked at the closed door. Between the door and the carpet I could see the hall light was on. Did I leave the hall light on? Did I imagine the banging sound?

I put on the electronic earmuffs I keep on my nightstand and turned them all the way up. I picked up the AR I keep bedside, (almost automatic once the earmuffs go on) and held it at a loose shoulder pointing about 6 feet in front of the door. I listened... Nothing. No low talking, no TV running, or even discernible footfalls. It seemed too quiet.

I thought about the situation. There is only one person with a key who would enter without notifying me, my wife, but I couldn't think of any probable scenario where she would come home so early. Would an intruder turn on the lights when there was enough ambient light to see? Drawing the shades makes it pretty dark, and seems like something you'd do if you didn't want to be observed...

I didn't feel like I was in danger. But is that how people feel before they find themselves neck deep? It didn't seem obvious what was going on, one way or the other. Every thought seemed to have a counter-thought, I wasn't sure if I was rationalizing or not. I was still groggy.

I checked my phone and saw no missed calls or text messages. I considered calling my wife, but she can't answer at work. Maybe I'd hear the ringing from outside the room. But what does it really mean if I don't hear ringing outside? What if she answers? Do I hang up on her? Would she call back and give me away?

This was a very strange feeling because different circumstances somehow made it both likely and unlikely there was an intruder in the house.

Wait. Stop. Ok. I can't decide what to think, but that doesn't matter, because I've nothing to lose if I assume an intruder and it's my wife, and I have everything to gain if I assume intruder and find intruder.

I carefully stand and switch my AR to right-handed, because I need to go around a U-shaped corner that curves left. My right hand is not as strong as my left, (note: need to fix that), so I need to put the buttstock in my armpit to hold the gun on target when I open the door. Target being a few degrees to the right of the door jamb. The safety is on, my thumb is resting on it, and my finger is not on the trigger.

How do I open the door? Fast or slow? I opt for medium, figuring slow might make a door squeak too early before I can see the area, and fast might make me fumble or shoulder the door or jamb.

I open the door, and move through it and round the corner, the direction of my barrel trails a few feet behind where I can see next as I round the corner.

I almost immediately see my wife in the next room. "Hi, [my name]!" I lower the AR, and return to the bedroom. I turn off my earmuffs and put them back on the nightstand, and return the AR to its post.

A very odd experience.

I wasn't afraid of accidentally shooting anybody because the four rules of firearms safety prevent me from doing so.

Rule 4: Be sure of your target, and what's beyond it.

It's as simple as that. You don't shoot through doors or objects, you don't shoot at shadows or shapes, and you don't shoot at things you have yet to identify. At no point did my muzzle sweep my wife or anything I hadn't had a quarter-second to look at.

I found it interesting that I wasn't hyped on adrenaline or in fight-or-flight mode, probably because I just didn't know for sure. Despite the fact that I was more confused than scared, that situation really could have gone either way. If there really was an intruder, I probably would have just been startled into disbelief. But at least I would have been startled with the upper hand.

Also of note; every once in a while, I practice clearing the house when no one is home. Without that practice I probably would have caught the barrel on the edge of the door or doorjamb (as I did during the first few practices), shouldered the rifle left-handed, or opened the door with the barrel pointing where I was still identifying things.

She later said that when she heard the door open, she thought she should say something because she figured I'd have a gun. She asked if I had anything because she didn't see me well enough to see if I was armed (practice pays off!).

1 comment:

Davidwhitewolf said...

Yes indeed. The one potential flaw I see is that you were focused on walking up on a situation. What if the situation unexpectedly found you? For example, let's say your wife had returned to grab something in the bedroom she forgot and, not hearing you, quickly dashed around the corner to get it. I don't think bad things would have happened based on your description of what you were doing, but I do wonder if you were considering that possibility as well.