Friday, October 5, 2012

I Shot Myself

By Rob Watson

Wife thinks this is a funny story. I think it is an embarrassing story, considering I have been safely using firearms of various types for 55 years or so. "But then," says I to myself, "I have revealed so many embarrassing things about myself in previous stories, this will likely not do much harm to my reputation." Pictures to follow...

Many firearm accident reports begin, "I was cleaning my gun..." Here I am pleased to claim I have never cleaned a loaded gun. I have, however, loaded and unloaded many guns, many times... therein lies the tale.

I have a new rifle. I have a fair amount of trouble making it operate properly in the Cowboy Shoot competitions that I recently entered. There, one dresses up like a cowboy in the old Saturday afternoon matinee movies. Adopts a cowboy alias. Takes pistols, rifle, and shotgun, designed before 1900, and runs around shooting at steel targets. The score is determined by the number of targets hit and the time it takes to do so. Low time = high score. A malfunctioning firearm adds considerably to the time. A competitor might, moving from target to target, draw and fire 10 rounds from his revolvers, holster those, pick up his rifle, fire ten more rounds, lay that down, then pick up and load his shotgun, and fire four to six rounds from that. Real competitors do this all in under 30 seconds. I usually score about 180 seconds plus several 5 second penalties for misses or misfired rounds. I always finish second out of two in the senior class.

My alias is Cowboy Doc. I have actually spent time over several months thinking up an alias... even thinking of writing my friends for suggestions... One's real name is not acceptable. When challenged at my first competition, the lady doing the signups suggested a name from my past that had meaning to me. My parents had trouble calling me by name... usually my brother's name. As a crutch Mama called me Cowboy (because I frequently ran around with my cap pistols and holsters) and Daddy called me Doc (probably from the Buggs Bunny "What's up Doc?") Wife picked that up from Daddy and she calls me Doc. My teaching colleagues and frizbee golf companions call me Doc because I once explained hypothermia to the assistant principal, who wanted to know if you could "freeze to death" at 33 degrees F. (about +.5 C) . The name is OK but it lacks pnash... maybe Dorcheat Doc or Red River Cowboy...

This rifle has one safety defect that I find unsettling. It has no fail safe safety, in fact, no safety at all. You don't want it to shoot? Don't load it.  Which makes investigating functional irregularities difficult.

This is a pump operated rifle. The original design is from the 1890's. The ammunition is carried in a under-the-barrel tube like the "Winchester" rifles in the movies, but, with a fore-and-aft slide instead of a lever. Think: pump shotgun, and you will get the picture. Inside the rifle a "carrier" moves the shell from the tube to the chamber. In my case the carrier tosses the shell completely out of the rifle, or doesn't properly align it for insertion into the chamber. I was investigating this by loading the firearm and ejecting the shells.

The only way to eject ammunition from the rifle is to operate the pump and load a shell into the chamber. This process also cocks the hammer. To fire, you just pull the trigger. To eject the ammunition you must hold the hammer, pull the trigger, and slowly let the hammer down, then operate the pump which ejects the first shell and inserts (sometimes) the next ammunition from the magazine.

I loaded the rifle with 10 rounds. It almost always tosses the first round completely out of the rifle, but not this time. After successfully getting the hold-the-hammer-pull-the-trigger routine nine times, I mused on the thought of what might happen if I got the order wrong. (It clearly does not pay to think of an outcome while doing a critical operation because...) In that instant I got the order wrong.

Whenever soft lead hits a hard, flat surface at a perpendicular angle it splatters, much like a drop of water would on dry cement. In this case, half an ounce (14g) of lead hit an 80 year old concrete floor at 1000 feet per second (304m/s). The results were remarkable: First surprise, but not much because I have become accustom to making silly mistakes. Next a stinging sensation as the splattered lead hit my bare legs (I chose to wear shorts for this operation) I looked at the floor first and saw no damage was done to it beyond a gray smudge and a powder burn. Then I looked at my legs... surprised beyond measure at the damage I had done to myself. (Remember, I felt no pain after the sting or at any time after.) My first thought was to clean it up, bandage it, and forget it. There are numerous cases of lead being left in a persons body with no real ill consequences.

It would be a bad plan to hide this from Wife. Besides, the wounds began to bulge and bleed significantly. Now I became concerned. I went upstairs, found Wife and declaired "Wife, I think I made a mistake" (how do you like that for subtle?) I was behind a desk so she could not see the bloody socks and bloody legs. At this time I still held out a faint hope of cleaning up, bandaging, and forgetting it. Wife insisted otherwise after she examined the wounds, which were still puffed out and bleeding profusely. When she said "We need to go to the emergency room and have those removed" I could see the dollar signs ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching.

In my own factual mind, calling this a "gunshot wound" was not accurate and gave an incorrect picture of the damage, (especially after telling the recording nurse it was done with a 45 colt rifle)... I didn't actually shoot myself. A fact that confounded every description of the event for the three other people who needed to know... Nurse, doctor, sheriff deputy (gunshot wounds have to be reported to the authorities). They all wanted to know "How am I suppose to write this down?"

During her initial examine, the nurse asked, "If you had been wearing jeans would the lead have penetrated the jeans and your legs?" To which I had to admit "No." When you look at the picture you will see numerous tiny pricks and only a few slightly larger wounds. X-rays (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) showed only a half dozen tiny bits of lead actually penetrated.

The doctor ((ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) came in and needed to hear the whole story all over again. She then looked at the x-rays and described removing the lead, but, she would not remove the bit very near my shin bone... too much danger of significant damage. While she was injecting the anesthesia (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) the deputy came in and needed his recounting of the events. He concluded his visit by showing me a recent picture of a girls ankle and foot where she had shot herself with a 22. No, I definitely did not have a bullet wound.

When the first wound had been deadened, (the five injections hurt far worse than the initial wounds) the nurse and doctor began probing for the bit of lead. As time ticked by (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) nothing could be found because fresh lead is bright and shinny, reflecting the lights, tissue, and blood. After about 20 or so minutes the first wound, becoming longer and deeper, I asked "What happens if we just clean it up, bandage it, and forget it?" The answer, "That may be the best idea" followed by a recount of lead remaining in people for years with no real ill effect.

So, after all the ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... that is what we did. The lowest left (your right) wound is six stitches closing the unsuccessful probe for lead.

Wife wants me to buy one of the Winchester model 1894's in 45 colt because it is much safer. What she doesn't know is that it will cost about twice what the emergency room bill will be. (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... )  

1 comment:

  1. Just read this. Wasn't sure if I should laugh or not. What a story!