Accidental Shooting at OnTarget…The Rest of the Story!

On April 20, 2015, an experienced female shooter accidentally shot herself with her Ruger Mark III .22 caliber handgun while trying to dislodge a hot brass casing that went down her shirt. As she attempted to pinch the hot brass through her clothing, she squeezed the trigger and shot herself in the top left thigh. Luckily for her, the round exited the back of the thigh without striking an artery. Blood did flow, however, and our OnTarget Range staff, specifically Susan Retzler, immediately provided first aid as the injured shooter walked out of the range.

“I think that I just shot myself,” the woman said with a calm delivery as she was led by Susan to the restroom for a closer examination in a secure, private setting. At that point, the shooter was not yet convinced that her wound was indeed caused by a gunshot with her own hand. Once OnTarget personnel confirmed the wound as a gunshot, 911 was called as Susan and Kourtney Nemec applied gauze and direct pressure, along with some TLC to maintain a calm environment. When the ambulance arrived, the shooter was taken to the hospital where she received treatment in the form of a bandage rather than stitching. At the end of the day, dumb luck had prevailed as the shooter and adjacent shooters narrowly escaped serious injury.

On the media end of it, the incident was handled with fair and objective reporting by the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, and Northwest Herald. At the time, there was no imperative need for an OnTarget rebuttal. There remains, however, a significant reason for re-focusing the spotlight on this incident one last time for the benefit of our customers.

All those who visit our shop should know that all OnTarget personnel have gone through medical training either at the civilian, military, or law enforcement level. Trauma kits reside in multiple locations and we are prepared to handle medical emergencies until ambulance arrival which is usually only minutes away.

A special recognition is in order for Susan, our Floor Manager, a former Marine with tours in Iraq, and Kourtney, our Administrative Assistant, who is seeking a career in law enforcement. These ladies embody the highest standard of customer service as they instinctively rush to the aid of others.

Lessons learned…

Redundancy is a good thing when it comes to firearm safety. That is why you will find range rules on your waiver forms and also posted inside the ranges. Unfortunately, not all shooters actually take the time to read and adhere to all of our rules. We therefore employ Range Safety Officers to patrol the ranges in order to assist, inform, and to safeguard.

A specific range rule pertaining to this shooting incident states, “No low cut tops or open toe footwear.” This is a tough rule to enforce especially during the summer months when many shooters wear clothing that invites hot brass to burn exposed skin. Rather than sending customers home, we now offer crew neck t-shirts for $3.50 in the event a shooter arrives with a tank top or low cut blouse. Shooters can simply put them over their existing clothes prior to shooting and stand a much better chance of keeping the brass out.

Much more important than proper clothing to prevent hot brass from causing an accidental discharge is a sense of discipline and cognizance of action. As hot brass goes down a disciplined shooter’s clothing, he or she works through the pain, remains cognizant of the safety implications, and sets the firearm on the bench BEFORE ridding themselves of the hot brass.

During the April 20, shooting incident, discipline and cognizance unfortunately played no part of the shooter’s reaction to the hot brass. Panic, pain, and fear seized the moment as the muzzle flagged the range and the trigger was inadvertently jerked in a vain effort to stop a small burning sensation. This is what really happened out on the range.

If the shooter is reading this message, the intent is not to put you down or cause further embarrassment. The true intent is to shed illumination on a very dangerous situation and prepare other shooters for the inevitable. If you shoot, hot brass will find its way down your shirt, down your pants, or in your beehive hairdo…it’s just a matter of time so think about your reaction beforehand. Will it be one of discipline, or, will it be one of sheer terror and panic? Your life and the lives around you depend on it…

Tom Dorsch

Director of Operations