Teachable Moment: Man Shoots Self with .22, Doesn’t Notice for 3 Days

man shoots self with .22

A gun probably similar to this one left a mark so small it wouldn’t be noticed for days. (Photo: Max Slowik)

The .22-caliber Blevins Incident

It took three days for one Florida man to realize that he’d been shot–by himself. He noticed the gunshot wound after putting on a lighter-colored shirt that showed stains from the bullet holes in his arm.

Police were called after Michael Blevins, 37, checked himself into a hospital to treat the injury, which at that point, had mostly stopped bleeding.

It’s the kind of situation most pet owners can imagine: Blevins said he was cleaning his pistol when his dog came to investigate. He pulled the gun up high against his chest so that the dog could not jump around it when his back went out.

That’s when he felt a sharp pain–not in his arm, but in his face, as he fell over and smashed into his glass coffee table. He said he remembered hearing a gunshot go off about the same time.

He told doctors and law enforcement that at no point was he bothered by the bullet wound–a possible side effect of the pain medication he was taking for an old back injury. The only thing that bothered him was his face above his left eyebrow where his head struck the table.

Florida deputies investigating the incident are confirming Blevins’ account and agree that he shot himself trying to keep his gun away from his curious dog. It was a .22-caliber pistol.

Teachable Moments

Please understand that we are not mocking Blevins, his life has already been torn up by this. It’s bad enough that people may use this to argue that gun ownership is self-destructive, gun owners can’t be trusted not to shoot themselves and so on. That’s literally adding insult to injury. If it hadn’t been a gunshot wound, if he dropped a knife through his foot and didn’t notice for three days, there wouldn’t even be a headline here.

This is just one person’s bad day of bad days. If there’s a bright side, it’s that it’s a reminder to everyone that when it comes to guns there is no such thing as being too vigilant about gun safety.

Part 1: the Four Rules

The first four rules of gun safety are:

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction,
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot,
  3. Treat all guns as if they are loaded at all times and keep them unloaded until they’re ready for use,
  4. Know what’s your target and what’s behind your target.

This is basically a checklist of what went wrong for Blevins. While we can’t be 100 percent sure of what happened that day it’s clear that if a man shot himself trying to keep Rex from turning a pistol into a chew toy that each of the four rules was broken.

The thing about the rules of handling guns is that in order for someone to get hurt, in almost every case, more than one rule has to be broken. Outside of a firearm malfunction, even following just one of these rules can prevent an injury or death.

Lock the dog in the bathroom when you clean your guns, there’s water, he’ll make it. That’s an easy way to make sure that the gun stays pointed in a safe direction. This is perhaps the most important rule of gun handling. Guns can and do malfunction. They can get grimy and worn down. In some cases, these malfunctioning guns can fire even if no one pulls the trigger.

The gun doesn’t even have to be old and beaten to have this sort of problem. Big names in the industry have had issues with guns firing without anyone telling the gun to. Although just because under the worse circumstances, a gun may fire without pulling the trigger doesn’t mean trigger discipline is unimportant.

Trigger discipline–keeping fingers off triggers when not shooting–can take practice. So practice. Working on gun handling practice at home outside of the range is important. Teach yourself and others to pick up guns with their index finger on the frame or stock completely away from the trigger and out of the trigger guard.

This fits in with regular at-home practice including dry-fire practice, holster practice, and sling practice. When you’re at home, it’s not playing with guns. It’s practice.

Dry-fire practice by definition breaks one rule of gun safety. As long as the gun is unloaded and kept pointed in a sound direction, dry-fire practice is not only safe it helps shooters improve their trigger control, memorize their sight picture and work on other fundamentals like grip and stance. It’s a solid–not to mention free–way to get some trigger time in.

It also conditions shooters to check and re-check their guns to make sure they are not loaded. By assuming the gun is loaded at all times you start to dry-fire practice by locking open the slide, dropping the magazine and making absolutely sure the chamber is empty and that no ammunition is in the gun there to reload it. Unloading and making safe a gun should be as natural as shooting them.

Blevins was lucky in is bad luck. It could have been worse; the silver lining is that it is a reminder to us all to stay sharp when handling guns no matter what our level of experience is with them.

man shoots self with .22 (2)

Which ammo is better for self-defense is undebatable but that won’t stop people from debating it. (Photo: Max Slowik)

Part 2: Rimfire is Not Adequate for Self-Defense

Maybe it wasn’t all luck for Blevins, though. Nobody is for a single second arguing that rimfire ammo is not deadly. Any .22 pistol can kill. Going by any set of numbers, .22 is one of the most common killers out there–but that’s because it’s cheap, it’s everywhere and people shoot it more than anything else.

We’ve all seen reports of shootings where the person shot was hit many, even dozens of times with modern self-defense ammunition and pulled through and also sad reports of accidental or negligent deaths caused by plinking rimfire ammo. That doesn’t make them equal to each other.

As a training round, a small-game getter, and general plinking cartridge .22 Long Rifle is king. But when it comes to protection and self-defense its potential to cause harm should not be confused with the ability to reliably stop an attack. Case in point: this guy took a .22 at point blank and failed to notice. Maybe he’s a bigger guy, maybe he’s got circulation problems, maybe he’s on a lot of drugs. All of that could be true of anyone in a self-defense situation.

There are many schools of self-defense that teach the idea of shooting to stop an attack, not shoot to kill. A lot of people argue that a violent aggressor will stop and run away at the sound of gunfire. Most reasonable people will change their behavior under fire–the problem is that most violent aggressors don’t fall into the category of “reasonable people.” Ammo needs to capable of demonstrably physically stopping a person, disabling them, breaking them, not just scaring them off.

And let’s face it, rimfire ammunition is not even demonstrably capable of functioning as reliably as centerfire ammo–otherwise we’d still be making centerfire-caliber rimfire ammo. The biggest problem with rimfire ammo is that where centerfire ammo would go bang, rimfire sometimes goes click. Producing dead-nuts reliable rimfire ammo is a tall order even for today’s ammo makers, and making a gun that will fire it with the kind of reliable feeding, firing, and extracting is just as tough.

So why limit yourself to a kind of cartridge with such a proven unreliable track record? Some people can only handle .22s. Or so they think. A lot of shooters believe they can’t handle the recoil of a more powerful cartridge. Unless they have a physical disability or health problem, chances are they can learn to shoot a handgun or light carbine chambered for a modern centerfire cartridge. It’s a matter of learning, practice and most importantly, confidence.

That does leave a small number of people who realistically can only use a rimfire gun for self-defense. And that’s where we’ll pick things up next. Until then, just remember this: a guy shot himself with a .22 and it was the bump to the head that really wrecked his day.

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Charles September 16, 2016, 10:27 am

    I remember an incident with someone I knew about 40 years ago.
    His neighbor ended up taking him to the emergency room after a “gun cleaning” negligent, where the doctors treated him for a .22 LR entering his mid-hip, traveling through his leg, and exiting somewhere close to his ankle. (ouch!)
    Turns out he was practicing “fast draw” in front of a mirror, and his revolver “just went off”!.
    He never did live that one down among those of us who were in the know.

  • Randy May 21, 2016, 10:16 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated that anyone thinks that someone could actually clean a loaded firearm. I think what they mean by this is that they wee taking their loaded weapon to a place or position so that they could commence with cleaning the weapon. . .and something happened. I carry a .380 auto. I occasionally take it down to clean sweat, lint and rust. First I take it to my coffee table; next I unload it; then I clean it. It is conceivable that something could happen while it is out of the holster while I prepare to unload it. I would consider that entire activity “the cleaning of my gun.”
    Has anyone seen the “Herman” cartoon panel with two Indians? One has a bow in his hand, the other an arrow in his chest. The first one tells the second: “I was cleaning it.” Maybe you had to be there.

  • alex May 21, 2016, 2:59 pm

    you have to have a brain to feel pain. i think this guys story is bullshit,i think something else happened and he covering it up.

  • Robert May 21, 2016, 11:22 am

    Who the hell cleans there gun loaded!

    • Chris C May 21, 2016, 11:23 pm

      I’ve been raving about this for YEARS! There are so many variations of, “I was just cleaning it and it went off!”
      It’s got to be the oldest lie in the history of firearms. Like you asked, who cleans their gun while it’s loaded? Furthermore,
      HOW THE HELL do you clean a loaded gun?! All the working parts are in place to make the gun operate as it was designed.
      You can’t clean those parts if they’re all still inside the gun. So, what in hell is being cleaned?

      I think a lot of it comes from movies and television shows where, “that crazy guy who’s always cleaning his guns,”
      is shown wiping down a gun with a cloth. Because that’s how one cleans a gun: by scrubbing it with a rag, just like
      a soup bowl. That, and very poorly-made crime mysteries where the obvious suspect actually says that very phrase,
      “I was just cleaning it and it went off.”

      Stupid fuckers will literally be the end of our species.

  • Petrushka May 20, 2016, 7:07 pm

    Why punish the dog by putting it in the bathroom.
    Just unload the gun and double check. Those who choose to carry instruments of lethal force must accept a higher level of responsibility.

  • loupgarous May 20, 2016, 6:57 pm

    “Shoot to injure”? NO.

    In police academy we were taught the threshold for drawing your weapon was to prevent death or grievous harm, and under those circumstances once you’ve drawn your weapon, you are not just justified but OBLIGED to do your best to kill the person as long as that person continues to pose a threat to you or others. Of course, you’re also obliged to use your very best judgment in establishing that your intended target is indeed posing such a threat.

    “Shoot to disable” may actually lower the threshold of force with firearms in the minds of new shooters. It muddles the mind and encourages the new shooter that he or she is not wielding a weapon that will likely end the life of whoever is being shot. That’s not a good way for anyone possessing a firearm to think. Let’s say the new shooter tries to “wing” an assailant by firing a round into his leg. If the round enters the thigh, either by good aim or poor aim, there’s a good chance the femoral artery will be nicked, and the person shot will die in minutes from loss of blood. That goes whether the ammunition used is .22 rimfire or 7.62 NATO.

  • joe May 20, 2016, 2:20 pm

    In truth, he had a lovers spat with his dog about which arm the leash was to be held in,
    and the dog grabbed the gun, loaded it and shot him in the arm that it didn’t want the leash in.

    • Notso May 21, 2016, 7:19 pm

      Joe, I spewed beer all over my monitor after reading your comment. Well done!

  • Frosty J. Hammer May 20, 2016, 1:49 pm

    Speaking of ‘Teachable Moments”: If you’re going to quote the Four Rules then please, Please PLEASE get them in the right order!
    1) Every firearm is always loaded;
    2) Never allow the muzzle to cover something you are not willing to destroy;
    3) Keep your booger borer off the bang button until your target is in your sights and you are ready to fire;
    4) Know your target and what is beyond.

  • Ron May 20, 2016, 1:41 pm

    why would anyone clean a handgun, or any gun for that matter, when it is LOADED? Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb……..dumb! Sounds to me like a made up story to cover up a negligent discharge of a firearm.

  • Larry May 20, 2016, 12:41 pm

    What an idiot.

  • Ben Taul May 20, 2016, 12:20 pm

    all this speculation is great that said safety still rules with all firearms

  • William Dewberry May 20, 2016, 10:38 am

    I was shot with a 22 Caliber when I was 19 by some idiot at a club shooting in the crowd. I didn’t notice until I got home that I had a hole in my pants and a small hole in my outer part of my thigh. I noticed as soon as I was getting undressed for the shower. Did he not shower for 3 days?

  • ryan May 20, 2016, 9:41 am

    I call B.S. on the lethality and effectiveness of a .22. My Brother-in-law was attacked by a very large muscle bound guy. One shot from his North American Arms .22 straight to the chest and through the heart later the attacker is dead. Five feet was the distance and we all know a NAA is very hard to shoot accurately especially in a tense situation. I carry a Freedom Arms 22 with “old” CCI Stingers (you remember them, they had the 5-point spire hollow point that will seriously displace meat). I understand that many folks cringe at this but I am very accurate with it and can shoot it accurately with either hand. It is so small nobody suspects I am carrying it at all. It’s not necessarily the round you shoot, if you can hit vitals it doesn’t matter what size it is.

    • Mike May 20, 2016, 6:50 pm

      Not to take anything away from your abilities, but it is OBVIOUS that u have never been in any type of combat, or lethal encounter, because no matter how accurate you are in practice, u are not taking into account the adrenaline rush, or fear for that matter that comes with a confrontation. Having said that, I hope for your sake u never get into a situation requiring the discharge of your weapon, because the odds are….you are not going to be that accurate, and may well get hurt or killed. IMHO (and others who have been in combat and or shooting situations) you need a weapon that can knock down an opponent, with a cartridge that is most likely to remain inside the recipient and produce lethal results with a general center mass hit in any area. Having said that, I carry a 45colt, a 45 auto pro carry and a .380 ankle when fully armed. That may sound like overkill, and it may be, but “tis better to have and not need than to need and not have”. I wish you luck and long life, and I also hope you survive if u every are placed in a deadly situation. Your brother in law was LUCKY, because as u said..later the man died..not he was dropped to the ground incapacitated or dead..uness you are good enough and accurate enough under intense situations to put a .22 thru the “plum” you are fooling yourself sir, if you think you are protected. God Bless

      • Randy May 21, 2016, 10:24 pm

        I agree Mike. I prefer firepower to luck. However, I think you misread his statement about “one shot later”. I think he meant that after that shot, the attack was over, not that the attacker died later. I guess it’s better to be lucky than good, but I’ll take a hard-hitting round like a 9 or .45 over a .22 any day.

      • dittohd May 30, 2016, 3:59 pm

        A 22LR is better than a fist or knife. People can tell others that a .22 is not enough gun to carry but a 22 that they carry is better than a 44 mag that they don’t have on them, or a knife or fist. Sure it is not going to knock someone down. a 45 may not either. Point is they have something to give them a better chance than if they don’t have anything.
        The attitude is more important. You have to fight with what you have, even if it is a pencil, as if your life depends on it, and don’t show any mercy to the bad guy.

  • ron May 20, 2016, 9:24 am

    Another BS story about how “the gun went off while I was cleaning it.”
    One can’t clean a loaded gun. He was drunk and playing with his gun, and fell down and hit the table.

    • scott g May 21, 2016, 2:03 am

      I agree.It went off when I was cleaning it is probably the most overused excuse for accidental discharges. Your right on your assessment on probably what really happened.

  • Wheelspinner May 20, 2016, 9:19 am

    I doubt this guy learned anything…..I also doubt he knows how to even clean a gun which is obvious by the steps he took while attempting to do so.

  • RAm6 May 20, 2016, 9:11 am

    I am at a loss to understand how you “clean” a loaded firearm. If you are “cleaning” it shouldn’t it be unloaded before you begin? Somehow the whole “he shot himself while cleaning his gun” thing defies logic.

    • Penrod May 20, 2016, 5:39 pm

      If the story is true, and not made up to cover for something else, he may have just picked up the loaded gun to begin the cleaning process, when the dog jumped up before he unloaded it.

      On the other hand, if he had so much painkiller in him for his bad back -which I can sympathize with quite strongly- he chose a bad time to clean his gun. Have three glasses of wine/whiskey/beer/some heavy duty painkiller: Ah, yes, it’s clean my gun time. No.

      He broke a safety rule: Don’t handle guns, power tools, vehicles, or anything else dangerous when you are drugged up- legally or not. It’s what the anthropologists call ‘maladaptive’.

  • Chris Baker May 20, 2016, 8:50 am

    If someone breaks into my home and puts me or my wife in danger and I have to use a 22 in self defense you can bet he’s going to get something better than a lead round nose. I really like CCI’s Stingers. I have some disabilities so I’d far rather shoot a 22 than my 44 or even my 357. If I do shoot someone, one is going to the forehead. Center of mass, forehead. Double tap then double tap again as needed. If he falls down, ok. If he turns and runs, ok. I don’t really want to kill him, I just don’t want him attacking me or my wife. She’s the one you should watch out for anyway. She uses a 1911A1 for home defense.

  • Frank Wolkenberg May 20, 2016, 8:27 am

    The pain medication that he was taking being strong enough to help him ignore a hole in his arm was probably something stronger than an NSAID. Most stronger analgesics can affect cognition and judgment, and he was probably impaired as a consequence. Maybe one lesson is that you should consider those the same way you do alcohol, and not handle firearms when taking them.

  • Lee Curry May 20, 2016, 8:23 am

    I once bought a single shot .22 handgun that was over a hundred years old. It was a handsome example of a bygone era and was a real looker. I had no intention of shooting it because it was ornately engraved and had been nicely refinished. Plus, I know you should have older weapons given a clean bill of health by a competent gunsmith before actual use.

    I’d read this model was known to have a light trigger pull because it was a target gun, so I decided to test it with a trigger pull gauge and a snap cap. The first 3 pulls were between 8 ounces and 1 pound. On the fourth test, the cocked hammer dropped by itself before attaching the pull gauge to the trigger. I was not touching the gun when that happened. Fortunately that was a controlled dry firing exercise – gun pointed in a safe direction, with a snap cap in the chamber.

    Lesson confirmed – you can never be too careful.

  • DaveWI May 20, 2016, 6:21 am

    When you said “guns can go off without pulling the trigger” you should have added that the gun would have to be dropped or otherwise manipulated. There has never been a case of a gun sitting undisturbed “just going off”. Guns are mechanical tools and subject to the laws of physics. In every case of a negligent discharge someone or something either pulled the trigger or dropped the gun. Most modern guns are drop safe with very few exceptions, and those exceptions get recalled and fixed (looking at you, Taurus). Good job on reaffirming the 4 rules, though.

    • WillR May 20, 2016, 12:34 pm

      I have a problem with your statement: “there has never been a case of a gun sitting undisturbed ‘just going off.’ Not only is it simply untrue, it seems to be predicated on 1) the belief that firearms have always been manufactured with the internal safety mechanisms that we see in modern guns; 2)that we live in a vacuum where external forces, including but not limited to gravity, are constantly working on every object around us; 3) that all firearms parts are free from defect and impervious to both wear and breakage. None of this is true, and ALL of it would have to be to support your claim. Stuff happens. You get bad parts, you get bubba’d trigger jobs, you get just old and ill conceived designs, and yes, they CAN go off, just sitting on the wall. If a gun is cocked and loaded, under the right circumstances the hammer can lose engagement with the sear and it will go bang. It’s comforting to think that a gun won’t go off without outside forces applied to it, but the problem there is twofold: 1)there is never a time when no outside forces are acting upon it and 2)a cocked gun has a ton of internal potential forces and energies working against one another trying to resolve their respective purposes. The hammer is always TRYING to drop. There is a marked difference between impossible and implausible, just as there is one between ” There has never been a case of ___” and “I’ve never heard of ____”

      • Penrod May 20, 2016, 5:49 pm

        I agree, WillR. My family still has my great-grandmother’s Forehand & Wadsworth spur trigger .22 revolver. I’ve never taken it apart to determine the exact problem, but I suspect it has a chipped or worn sear notch in the hammer. It can be cocked and the hammer may or may not remain cocked. If it remains cocked, it can drop while it is sitting on a table.

        I can easily imagine any cocked revolver with a similar problem and no modern safety mechanism firing all by its lonesome. Maybe a 1911 with a damaged sear notch would catch on the half cock, but if it was the sear which was damaged, it might not catch.

  • Glenn May 20, 2016, 3:36 am

    Non-defective firearms do not go off by themselves. It’s more than a bit disingenuous to say, “Big names in the industry have had issues with guns firing without anyone telling the gun to. Although just because under the worse circumstances, a gun may fire without pulling the trigger…”
    Saying, “Big names in the industry have had issues with a small number of defective guns firing….” along with the mention of how quickly those firearms are recalled, replaced, or repaired by their manufacturer(s) would more accurately describe what occurs in those circumstances.
    In your zeal to drive home the importance of following the guidelines of safe firearms handling, you’ve managed to write something that sounds as if it supports the hoplophobes idea that there exist guns that shoot people all on their own.

    • vince May 20, 2016, 10:38 am

      google the Remington 700 and come back and apologize

  • Mark N. May 17, 2016, 8:09 pm

    I have never understood how so many people get shot while “cleaning” their guns. How do you clean a loaded gun?

    • DAF May 20, 2016, 9:14 am

      Agreed.

    • Chris Baker May 20, 2016, 9:23 am

      None in my family were shot but when we were kids and went hunting small game with Dad, I remember one of the first times we went, cleaning guns afterward (I still think he did this on purpose but he swore he didn’t) and he unloaded the 22 rifle while we watched. Then he pulled the trigger and shot the bookcase. Killed a National Geographic. None of us ever got shot by one of our siblings or ourselves.
      It’s been about 55 years and I still remember the look of shock on my sibling’s faces and how loud it was in the living room where we were. I’ve had friends scoff at my safety measures when I was able to go out on my own but I think I learned a lot from that incident. For one, If I’m pointing my gun at you, you can bet that I intend to make a point. I was in a gun store recently and got complimented by the salesperson. She handed me a rifle I’d asked to look at and the first thing I did was open the bolt and remove the magazine and look inside. This was a gun locked inside a display case. Maybe I take it to extremes but the only way you can be sure is to take it to that extreme. My way, anything or anyone that I shoot, you can bet I intended to shoot. And I will never shoot anything or anyone that I DON’T intend to shoot.
      It always boggles my mind when they talk about the police shooting and shooting and the guy runs away. They never seem to tell us where the bullets that missed went. Just recently a homeowner shot at a home invader and missed all his shots. Where did those bullets go?

    • ron May 20, 2016, 9:27 am

      I used to believe these stories, decades ago, until I got a little experience with guns. Lots of gun-grabbers believe such stories, however.
      And, why doesn’t such a story on “GunsAmerica” not point out that this guy’s story is likely specious? This is supposed to be a “gun-factual” site!

    • Shawn May 20, 2016, 9:34 am

      I agree. I think it’s a story to cover up the real story.

    • Penrod May 20, 2016, 5:54 pm

      Hi Mark N. “I have never understood how so many people get shot while “cleaning” their guns.”

      I don’t know how common it is today, but years ago a lot of suicides were officially reported as “accidentally killed while cleaning his gun” to prevent embarrassment to the family, and possibly because of religious issues with suicide.

  • Jason May 14, 2016, 1:46 pm

    I think it’s more likely he knew what happened immediately but didn’t go to the hospital out of embarrassment. When the bleeding only “mostly stopped” after three days he realized he needed medical attention.

    As for the stopping power of rimfire, I highly doubt a .45 would have made any difference when the hit is to a non vital area.

  • studi30 May 13, 2016, 3:07 pm

    He surely must be deaf as a stone. The sharp crack from a .22 at that range would be deafening. The muzzle blast would have scorched his clothes.

    • Jerry D Smith May 14, 2016, 1:08 pm

      He didn’t shoot himself first. 1st his back went out (which is can be just a tad painful) causing him to fall and strike his head on a low table. He said he thinks he heard a shot at that time. Since he only “thinks” he heard a shot I’m guessing the blow to the head almost knocked him unconscious and most likely caused at least a minor concussion. If he had just tripped and not hit his head you can be sure he would have known he was shot. But with all the pain he was in the gunshot was swamped, drowned out, and unnoticed.

      • ron May 20, 2016, 9:28 am

        Or, once he woke up from his drunken stupor after collapsing on the table, he started working on concocting a story to cover the fact that he was actually drunk and playing with his gun!

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