Stright finger concept

Negligent Discharge – Do This, and it Won’t Happen

Stright finger concept
my Smith & Wesson M&P 45 Shield

A negligent discharge of a firearm is nearly always due to one thing: A lack of training and practice.

More specifically, keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. It’s as simple as that.

Guns don’t shoot by themselves. They are simply hunks of metal and polymers. It takes external action to discharge a firearm. Namely, the human finger pull of a trigger – along with a loaded/chambered round (and safety off – if it has a ‘safety’).

If there’s a round in the chamber, and if the safety is off, ‘ready to fire’, a gun will NOT go bang. And that’s regardless of where it is, holstered, in your hand, wherever. It just won’t go bang.


The majority of negligent discharges happen during reholstering

Why? Because the shooter’s finger is on the trigger during the process of putting the pistol back into the holster.

The commonality among all NDs is that the finger was on the trigger.


Do This to Avoid a Negligent Discharge

The Straight Finger Concept

Keep the trigger finger straight and along the gun frame until the sights are on the target. Not before.

Note: Best to keep your finger along the frame rather than along the trigger guard itself.

Keep your finger straight along the frame during the acts of drawing and reholstering.

It doesn’t matter what kind of holster you are using!

“If you can’t learn to keep that trigger finger straight and completely out of the trigger guard, there isn’t a holster made that will keep you from eventually having a negligent discharge.” – quote from Shooting Illustrated magazine.



Do this:

Unload your handgun. Double check it. Is it unloaded? No round in the chamber? Good. Next step…

Wearing your preferred holster, practice drawing your gun. You’re not looking for speed here. You’re looking for technique and developing muscle memory.

Keep your finger straight along the frame at all times during the draw process.

ONLY put your finger inside the trigger guard until your sites are up on target.

Now reholster your weapon – keeping your finger along the frame.

At first, for awhile, you’ll want to look at your holster during this process – to get it right. After you’re comfortable with your technique, start practicing your draw without having to look.

As one MSB commenter said, “GO as SLOW as you need to. No one ever won a gunfight by being the fastest back into the holster. Always watch the gun into the holster, why do it without looking? If there is a threat still present worthy of your undivided attention, Why are you reholstering yous gun?”

After some time you will get a natural feel for it. It should (after a good bit of practice time) become second-nature.


TV & Movies – Actors handling guns

These days, there are TV shows and movies that do get it right.

Though there are plenty of times when I see actors handling a gun while doing it wrong (finger inside the trigger guard as soon as it’s in their hand)!

Next time, pay attention yourself. See how many get it right and how many handle the firearm incorrectly.

Many of you surely know this already and are well trained in your own handling thereof. But I’m putting it out there for those who may happen across this short article and very important safety tip!

Continue reading: The Benefits of a Chest Holster

Read more: Only One Gun in a Survival Situation


  1. GO as SLOW as you need to, no one ever won a gunfight by being the fastest back into the holster. Always watch the gun into the holster, why do it without looking? If there is a threat still present worthy of your undivided attention, Why are you reholstering yous gun?

  2. At FrontSight we have a saying “slowly, reluctantly back to the holster” and then ONLY after a thorough threat assessment (after action drills). But IF you practice regularly on your presentation and follow through, your muscle memory will take over and you should not need to “watch” your weapon back into the holster. If you always practice the four basic safety rules, you will NEVER have a negligent discharge.

    Always treat all guns as loaded (do a chamber check and magazine check)

    Never “muzzle” anything you are NOT willing to destroy

    Keep you finger OFF the trigger until you are certain of your target (and ON your target)

    KNOW what is in line with your target (and whether there is likely to be interference…and if you miss your target…what WILL you hit? So, look at what is in front of and behind your target.

    Remember folks that shooting is a perishable skill. Practice, Practice, Practice.

  3. I should not admit to this but when I was a teenager, I once tested to check if the safety was on by pulling the trigger – never did that since. No damage but that 12 gauge bang almost required me to change my underwear.

  4. Good subject, Ken. Guns are a wonderful, necessary tool for preppers. Some preppers were serious gun aficionados prior to becoming serious about prepping. For some, guns were alien to their prior lifestyles. This means that there is probably wide disparity within the movement as to familiarity and training with weapons.

    Modern weapons are very safe, designed with passive devices built in that prevent firing when dropped. Some have redundant safeties that, when all are engaged, make the weapon difficult to bring into action. The one thing that can’t be built into the weapon is training, knowledge, and attention to safe handling of the weapon. That’s all on the operator.

    I’m not a big Glock fan (Yes, I have one. Yes, it’s a good reliable weapon. It just ain’t my favorite for several reasons). It got a bad reputation, undeserved, for the high number of unintentional discharges. Most of those that got press coverage were, yes, LEOs. Most of those resulted in the officer shooting himself in his own leg while holstering the pistol. To my knowledge, none of the numerous civil cases filed by these LEOs against Glock for selling a defective, unsafe weapon, prone to discharge on it’s own, have been successful. You, or an inanimate object (like a portion of your holster engaging the trigger as the pistol is placed in the holster), has/have got to pull the trigger.

    Some thoughts from an old man that’s spent a lot of time with weapons. Ultra light trigger pull weight on a weapon can make a difference in bulls-eye and long distance shooting. For defensive, close up shooting it can lead to unintentional discharges. Didn’t say always, but it can, and has.

    I advocate long, double action type triggers for defensive handguns. Double action revolvers, of course, have them. Many semi-auto pistols do, too. I’ve defaulted to these exclusively for my defensive/combat handguns. Anyone who believes this puts me at a disadvantage needs to spend a day at the range with me.

    No one knows for sure how they will act/react in a deadly force encounter, involving the use of guns, until they experience it. For me everything went into slow motion. Fractions of seconds seemed almost like minutes. On more than one occasion I aborted a trigger pull in mid-pull when what I was seeing/perceiving dictated that to do otherwise would result in tragedy (one involved my partner lunging between me and the man I was in the process of pulling the trigger on, a man who had already pulled the trigger on me three times). My training and hours of practice kicked in, allowing me to abort that trigger pull micro-inches before the sear broke.

    There have been many instances where LEOs (and civilians) have unintentionally shot someone, that circumstances justified covering that person with a raised weapon, when a sudden noise or distraction caused a flinch that was enough to discharge the weapon. This was one of the reasons that the NYPD mandated 12lb trigger pull weight on all pistols carried by their officers (twice the standard 6lb pull on a Glock). I don’t recommend everyone get a 12lb trigger, even though I practice extensively with a pistol, a double/single action Sig that has a 12lb double action first shot, followed by an 8lb single action pull for subsequent shots. Why would I practice so much with such a heavy trigger pull? Because it allows me to become intimate with the whole trigger pull process from beginning until the sear breaks. When I switch to my go to .357 Sig with a 6lb double action first shot and 3lb single action follow up, I’m just as intimate with the feel of the trigger pull, just doesn’t require as much concentration to stay on target.

    Well, there I go rambling again. Forgive give me my talking too much.

  5. Once had an instructor I was getting training from tell me one thing about Negligent Discharge or as we called it, “Accidental Discharge”.

    Basically he used a few choice words getting our attention and went on to explain there is “No such thing as an Accidental Discharge” something had to make the firearm go boom, it DON’T do it all by itself, YOU are responsible for that firearm, PERIOD!.

    He usually finished up his little Rant with yelling, and I quote…


    Usually everyone stood there looking at this 5'-8 dude with wide eyes and asking to go clean their shorts.


      He sounds like a JERK on a power trip!

      He should have found a more reasonable way to get his point across

      Yelling like that doesn't at all sound like a reasonable person to me. And he would not at all intimidate me as long ago I have had my fill of jerks and have little to no respect for them.

      1. Chuck Findlay;
        I would agree except for the part I did not divulge.
        This so called ” instructor ” was a Sargent in the Army around 45 years ago, during Boot Camp.
        He had a ‘special’ way of getting his point across…..

  6. My first hand gun, when I was a youngster, was a Ruger p-95….and following p- series.
    But the take down lever had a rounded pin on the opposite side, exactly where my trigger finger should safely rest. And as long as I could feel that small protrusion on my finger tip, I was good.

    Always good/educational info from you, sir – talks- alot. 😜

  7. So what was the story on the Remington 700s going bang all by themselves? Wasn’t there a recall on them? Never owned one but always wanted to.

    Truthfully speaking my only experience with larger calibers was the M-14 I trained with in basic and a 8mm Mauser that I got for a good price.

    1. Can’t really claim that the M-1 carbine ws a larger caliber but it sure was fun to shoot.

      1. me,

        I love the “little” M1 Carbine. If you are into reloading, the new premium defense hollow point projectiles meant for .32 acp pistols (actually .308 caliber) make for a devastating round when loaded to M1 Carbine velocities (1900 fps+)

        1. Dennis 32 Mag bullets also work in 30 cal rifles. I use Hornady 85 grain .314 dia bullets in my 3006 rifle and surprisingly they work well. You would think they would come apart at the speed a 3006 spits them out, but at 100-yards they punch a clean hole in paper. They also group as well as any other bullet out of the 3006.

          Gotta tell you they do a job on woodchucks, being made to go 1,200 fps or so they are explosive at 3006 speed. I don’t eat woodchucks so I’m OK with a good blowup.

          I tried them years ago because I have 3 32 Mag handguns and found them to work for varmints quite well.

    2. me,

      I believe the Remington 700 recall was for a defective manual safety design that could be defeated if enough pressure was placed on the trigger. I had one, and yes, if you pulled hard enough (I’m talking probably 25lbs plus pressure) it would fire with the safety engaged. Stupid is as stupid does. No one would have discovered the “defect” unless they purposely applied enormous over pressure on the trigger in order to defeat the safety. I never sent mine back for repairs. Stupid lawyer games.

  8. That explains why some police shootings use so many rounds to stop a perpetrator. If they empty their guns they won’t shoot themselves in the leg.LEO LOL

    I never had that problem with a S&W model 629 in 44 mag. If the hammer is discharged, the trigger pull is at least 10 pounds. LOL

    Goes back to basics, never put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to pull it.

  9. When the booze comes out, I separate the ammo from my weapons or lock the carry weapons away for the day.

    I may clean the weapon. I may do replacement work or light gunsmithing but I never chamber a round with a blood alcohol level above 0.0.

    I have known of a few cops that lost their jobs in the aftermath of a good shoot because of their blood alcohol levels were above 0.0.

    I do like to drink off duty and this is why the actual time I carry in town is pretty minimal.

  10. For defensive draw work, I was taught as a young police officer and aspiring pistol competitor:

    Do not work on speed. Work on being smooth – like a golf swing. Having an observer point out wasted motion is also helpful as is being filmed and reviewing footage later.

    Through sheer repetition and years of carry on the job and actual pistol tournaments, safe pistol handling will hopefully become an ingrained instinct. Habits can be bad as well as good.

    Safety within the home with the family: There was a quote from a lady who grew up in a home where her father was a homicide detective in a large East Coast City:

    “When we grew up, we were taught at an early age to never touch dad’s gun. We treated the gun like a Samurai sword was treated in old Japan: we walked around it and did not touch it. We treated every gun with respect and as if it was loaded with a round in the chamber.”

    This lady later grew up to become a graphic artist and she has a gun of her own in her own home when I met her.

    These days, and for many years, I store my guns in locked security cabinets.

  11. Many will not agree with my way of doing things, but I never use a safety on a gun. Been doing this since the mid-1980’s

    I want to to go boom when I pull the trigger.

    Safety’s can get in the way in an emergency, when moments count I don’t want to fiddle with a safety.

    I don’t put my finger on the trigger or in the trigger guard and I have no accidents.

    1. Quote, “I don’t put my finger on the trigger or in the trigger guard and I have no accidents.”

      …and that sums it up nicely!

      Safety ON, Safety OFF, no Safety available –> it all boils down to your quote.

    2. Chuck,

      Ok, I’ll bite, but it would help if you would tell us what type guns you carry, or feel justified in not using a safety. I could agree with your practice of never using a safety on some types of guns, on other types I would disagree vehemently. For some folks reading your post, who are unfamiliar, or just starting out with learning about firearms use, it’s dangerous advice.

      Some guns are “inherently safe” such as double action revolvers and pistols that have a long, fairly heavy trigger pull, or long guns with manually operated hammers that have to be manually cocked prior to firing. In our litigious society, some newer guns of this type now come with manually operated safety devices. With these, I would agree, the added safeties are redundant, and can probably be ignored.

      Many other weapons are intended to be carried either “cocked and locked” (hammer cocked, round in chamber, manual safety engaged), or to be carried with no round in the chamber until ready to fire. These are weapons that, once cocked, have very short, light trigger pulls, to release that hammer/firing mechanism. One would be a fool to carry such a weapon in the condition of readiness without the safety engaged.

      I agree with your post in this way: I too, carry only weapons that don’t require manual safeties to be safe, such as double action revolvers and pistols that “go boom” without having to deal with a manual safety, and are perfectly safe to be carried without an added safety device.

      This is not an admonishment Chuck. I’m pretty sure this was implied, just not stated, in your post.

      1. I like revolvers and semi-auto single-action pistols.

        Colt 45 I carry with the hammer on half cock. I have a Walther PP series semi-auto with no safety on it.

        I have several 25-autos I carry in the Summer (kinda hard to hide a 45) 2 Beretta’s and a Colt 25-auto. I use the half cock on all of them.

        I also have 2 .380 semi-autos (a Colt Mustang and a Bersa Thunder) that I carry with the half-cock engaged. The Bersa is a double-action but still has the half-cock on it.

        I also keep a Marlin lever-action 357 Mag rifle in the bedroom loaded and chambered and it’s on half-cock with the safety off.

        I have way too many guns that came about from collecting them since the 1980’s. any of them are hammer-less ones and I don’t carry these as I really like hammers on guns I carry.

        And I would never walk around with a hammer-less semi-auto without the safety on, that’s why I don’t use hammer-less guns as carry guns, I don’t feel safe doing so.

        I agree with you in that people need to understand guns pretty well before they do as I do. I have worked at a gun shop for several years and have been around them since I was a kid. I consider myself to be very well versed with them but I don’t think of myself as an expert on them. I do know what works for me and am happy with my decisions. But I agree people should take any advice I or anyone else gives with a bit of skepticism.

        As important as the decision to carry and maybe have to use a gun for defense a person thinking about doing so should put the time and effort into learning all about them.

        I know most people won’t take the time to learn or even buy ammo or range time to really develop a good understanding and instinctive feel for the guns they have.

        The reason I say this is from years of working at the gun shop. People buy a gun, a box of ammo and go home with it. They don’t take up the offer for a bit of range time to learn the gun. I think they don’t have the money to buy much ammo and therefor don’t shoot it.

        Guns seem expensive to people, but really the expensive part is the ammo and it’s on-going cost. People don’t really plan for this.

        I have been lucky in that (like my Amateur Radio hobby) I have been able to make my gun hobby almost pay for itself. I worked at a gun shop so I got lots of free ammo, (I have lots of ammo put up, maybe 100 K rounds, I don’t know for sure?) guns at cost (and several guns for free) in that I traded time for them. I also had pretty much unlimited rang time. I also did and still do reloading for the gun shop. I don’t work there any more other then the reloading for rounds people use for range time.

        Very few people really put the time into it. And the ones that do already have lots of guns. Most of the gun-nut guys (I say gun-nut in a nice way as I’m one) I know already have way too many guns and already have a very good understanding of them when they buy a new gun. For pretty much every gun I ever got I had hundreds of rounds of ammo before I got the gun. Might seem backwards but I understand ammo is the expensive part, not the gun and I put money or time into getting the ammo.

        It takes a lot of practice, time at the range, ammo and time at home playing with the gun (playing with it as in empty or with snap-caps or dummy rounds) to get to know how it feels and works.

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