Training and Tactics: Preflight Check

We’ve all experienced the problem: the nagging doubt that we’ve forgotten some material possession when setting out on a trip. But, like the proverbial name on the tip of one’s tongue, we can never identify the missing object until it’s too late.

Only once you’re too far from your domicile to warrant making a U-turn do you identify the “missing link.” Usually it’s something necessary but innocuous—a razor, pair of jeans, cell phone, or something else that will be a financial inconvenience upon reaching your destination. But it’s usually not something indispensable like a passport or airline tickets.

After all, those are items of primary importance, which everybody checks multiple times prior to departure. Everybody, that is, except for yours truly, apparently.

All of which leads up to The Case of the Missing Pistol.

On a recent sojourn, I was somewhat disconcerted to discover that one of my multiple carry pistols wasn’t ensconced in its customary position on my carcass. Since I was an hour down the road from my last stop—and knowing that the guns, when carried, are in secure holsters—immediate panic set in.

Momentary thoughts of the pistol in question lying somewhere waiting for a crook—or an innocent child—to pick it up brought on a Niagara Falls-like sweat storm. But the good news is that the panic was momentary, because almost immediately after the initial discovery, I realized how I’d goofed.

Because of holster security, I knew the pistol hadn’t fallen out of its encasement, which automatically meant I hadn’t donned it in the first place. Which also meant I’d left it in its last non-carry position of rest. And for somebody who has assiduously checked his equipment for decades, this was not only disconcerting and potentially dangerous to one and all, but it was also one huge lesson never to be repeated.

Since I couldn’t care less whether people think I’m an idiot or a genius, the following is neither an excuse to others nor an apology unto myself. It is simply offered in the hopes that someone else doesn’t repeat the same mistake.

By way of explanation, it probably wouldn’t have happened to a person who carries only one firearm. That person usually checks that he has his gun (singular) with him before setting out on the trail, though I do know of some cases where people have “forgotten” it and worked half a duty shift with an empty holster.

An analogy to how I screwed up would be a preflight check conducted by a lone single-seater aircraft pilot versus the procedure performed by at least two flight-deck crew members on a commercial airliner. There’s always more chance of human error when you don’t have somebody else double-check your preflight check.

As stated above, yours truly has always assiduously checked all my gear when in preflight mode. Whether it’s my wallet, ID, or guns, everything is double-checked before venturing forth from my kennel. This has been habitual for years, leaving nothing to chance, so to speak—except that one day.

So finally we come to the nitty-gritty cause of how I goofed up on the day in question.

A laundry list of physical ailments over the past year has resulted in post-morning-shower pain. On the day in question, experiencing a particularly agonizing bout of physical pain, I committed the cardinal sin: I donned my multiple carry pistols in reverse order from that which I’d used for decades. And that one supposedly “minor” differentiation in the preflight check led to leaving one pistol on the coffee table, where it had reposed overnight.

Stupid? Probably. But my dearth of cerebral ability is not the point. The point of S.W.A.T. Magazine’s Training and Tactics column is to ask the reader to think—and hopefully vicariously save somebody’s life by not repeating the mistakes of others, whether they’re mine or somebody else’s.

Obviously the readers of this column won’t always agree with the contents. They may even disagree 100% of the time, but as long as food for thought is provided, that’s the name of the game. And if this author looks like an idiot in the process, so be it.

Moral of the above incident?

If you have the luxury of co-pilots (i.e., other team members), it may be an idea for two people to cross-check each other’s gear and equipment. If you’re Man Alone, a double-check on yourself may not be enough—a triple-check may be in order.

Whether you’re Amelia Earhart or Wyatt Earp, if you don’t have an aircraft or a gun, you can’t fly and you can’t gunfight.

Double check or check out.

Louis Awerbuck is Director of the internationally acclaimed Yavapai Firearms Academy. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www.yfainc.com.

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