It’s bad enough when the bad guys shoot and kill a police officer or soldier, but when a death occurs during training, it’s a horrible tragedy. Each year officers are shot during firearms training, often with fatal results. Those on the outside looking in might assume that the negligent shootings are taking place on the range during live-fire training. But the truth is that the majority of negligent shootings occur during weapons handling and role-playing drills.
An accident is something that could not have been foreseen or prevented. You parked in a lot and a piece of a commercial airliner falls from the sky and smashes your windshield: accident/non-preventable. During force-on-force training a live/loaded weapon is introduced to the training environment and someone is shot: negligent/preventable.
After every negligent shooting, investigations and inquiries are made to determine what led up to the incident. Invariably it is found that one or more mistakes were made prior to the negligent shooting that could have been prevented. More often than not, a live weapon ends up being loaded when it should not have been, or a weapon that everyone thought was cleared was not in fact cleared.
In order to prevent negligent shootings, note I say negligent and not accidental, we often use replicas or non-guns. There are solid plastic or rubber guns shaped like the real deal, but with no moving parts. These are good for holster drills or demonstrations that don’t require any trigger work or a functioning slide. Other non-guns include Simunitions replicas or airsoft guns. These training tools have functioning triggers and actually fire a non-lethal projectile. They are great for Force-on- Force / Decision Making training.
Twenty plus years ago I was introduced to the “flag safety” on Parris Island. The “L” shaped piece of plastic fit into the chamber of the M-16A2 rifle and stuck out the ejection port. Any instructor could walk down the line on the rifle range to easily see who had a “clear and safe” rifle.
There are a number of different chamber or flag safeties available, and they all work on the same basic principle. A piece of plastic is inserted into the chamber to prevent ammunition from entering it. At the same time, the brightly colored material (white, yellow, orange) protrudes from the ejection port/action to indicate a “cleared” weapon.