Some of you might know that I put my horse down last week. I did it, not the vet, and I did it using my Para.
I was thankful for the knowledge and ability to end her suffering quickly.
I was also thankful for years of gun handling. Now, I've never been in a fire fight, and I don't ever want to be, but I did learn some things when I put Estes down. Stress works in funny ways. On one hand, I was worried because all I had with me was target ammo and I was worried about over-penetration. (It was days later that I remembered I had an eight-round magazine full of defensive rounds in my bag.) I also worried that the wound channel and hydrostatic shock wouldn't be sufficient to immediately incapacitate the medulla.
Turns out, the target ammo did the job and I compensated for the over-penetration by angling my shot so that the projectile had the length of her body to stop it. I did not look for an exit wound, nor did I hear a second impact, so I'm going to assume there was no over-penetration.
Good gun handling made doing the job easier, but I was most thankful for it in the moments immediately after delivering the shot. Even overwhelmed with grief, my finger was straight and along the frame and I had engaged the safety without thinking about it.
When my step-father came to take the gun from me, I unloaded and showed clear without a second thought. Muscle memory took over. (I never did hand over the gun, though, I stowed it myself.)
In moments of grief and high stress, it's exceptionally important to have good gun handling skills, not only for your safety, but for the safety of those around you.
Practice good gun handling yourself.
Insist those around you have good gun handling skills.
Because you'll never know how you'll react in a high-stress situation and having those skills without ever "cheating" or taking short cuts will continue to ensure your safety.