When a round went flying inside the Watertown Police Department recently in upstate New York, the local press looked into the story and soon focused their attention not only on the department, but also the who, what, when, why of the shot. What they found was something that was accidental, and 101 percent preventable.
On Monday April 7, a shot rang out in the Watertown PD and soon word spread around the community of the incident. Gratefully, it was not fired by a criminal or assassin, but apparently came from an officer's weapon as an accident. Gratefully, no one was injured in this incident.
The agency, located in the same sleepy town as the giant Fort Drum Army base, home to the famous 10th Mountain Division, is modern and well equipped. Their standard arm, as with many departments across the country, is the Glock 22 in .40S&W.
Well, the report of gunplay in the city building brought calls from the local town council, especially when they first heard about the incident from the local news.
"I didn't like learning about it that way and I'm thankful no one was hurt. I assume it was carelessness or an accident," said Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham. "When someone squeezes off a round, even if it's a legal gun in a public building, in this day and age, yes it is news and people are interested in it. We're interested in it."
This of course led to...
Within a day, the same news outlet reported that one of the Department's Glock .40s, "with no safety" had gone off while being cleaned. Then on April 9, after the end of the department's internal investigation, the police chief cleared the unnamed officer involved and disciplined the lawman.
How to ensure this never happens to you
Glocks are great guns and a large part of what makes them so is the fact that they are simple. Simple to assemble, simple to manufacture, simple to replace parts on, simple to...well you get where we are going here. This simplicity has one slight drawback. Unlike more complicated designs out there that have dedicated takedown levers and a DA/SA hammer-fired arrangement that removes the slide from the frame cleanly, the Glock's trigger must be pulled to disassemble it.
(The elusive empty chamber...)
Now of course this is not a feature just seen in Glocks. Most striker-fired handguns (Kahr, Sigma, XD etc.) require the trigger to be depressed during the disassembly process.
To make sure that you do this action on an empty chamber, the following steps can ensure that you don't put a smoking hole in something while breaking your gun down to clean
1. Take your Glock out of the holster, bag, or box in a safe area without distractions.
2. With your gun pointed in a safe direction and your finger off the trigger, remove the magazine completely from the gun and set it to the side.
3. With your finger still off the trigger and the muzzle in a safe direction, rack the slide one, two, three times. How many times? (Three!) The reason behind this is that if you still have a magazine loaded at this point, the fact that you now have ejected three rounds out on to the floor will clue you in to this mistake.
4. Lock the slide back and look into the open chamber for any brass or ammo.
5. Physically stick your finger into the chamber and feel for brass or ammo. Hint: if you can fit your fingertip into the barrel, odds are you are good.
6. Look away from the gun, and then look back to the chamber to repeat steps 4 and 5.
7. Set the Glock down safely. Remove the magazine, as well as any brass or ammo, from the immediate area to ensure that no rounds can work their way mysteriously into the action of the gun.
8. After you have secured magazines, brass, and ammo, check the chamber again as well as the magazine well to ensure that it is empty by repeating steps 4 and 5. Yes, its repetitive, but who wants a round fired off by accident?
9. Let the slide forward on its empty chamber and with your Glock in a safe direction, depress the trigger then continue to disassemble the gun for maintenance the traditional way.
Glock even has a simplified 7-page section of the standard manual available online just for clearing and performing preventative maintenance.
Be safe out there.