What It’s Like to
Shoot Yourself


In Short: Stupid.

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Read Time: 3 minutes

I fired my first pistol on my 6th birthday — a genuine 1873 .45 Colt Single Action Army — the only round fired from it after it left the Colt factory. Several years later, at around 15, I started collecting handguns, mostly single-action revolvers. My first addition was a Ruger .22 magnum. In those days, .22 mag. was pretty cheap. I went through several boxes each month, practicing my marksmanship, and like many youths who grew up in the 50s and 60s, I worked on my fast-draw.

Antique pistol with Army holster and shell pouch on a table atop a letter of authentication from Colt.
A Colt Single Action Army 1873 Model (Photo: Public Domain by Hmaag on Wikimedia Commons.)

My best friend, Ken, and I would stand side by side, toss a can about 25–30 feet out and, when it hit the ground, we’d both draw and fire. We eventually got good enough that one of us would hit it about half the time. Not bad, shooting from the hip!

Ken and I did a lot of camping, sometimes for a week or two. We usually took all our weapons and as much ammo as our wallets allowed. We’d go deep into some canyon on the west edge of the Anza Borrego Desert and stay until we ran out of food or ammunition.

By then my arsenal included several Ruger single-action revolvers: a .41 mag., .44 mag., and .357 mag., a GP-100 double-action .357 mag., and an ancient Schofield .45 (for which ammunition was next to impossible to find). Conspicuously absent from the list is my .22 mag., as I had traded it to Ken for the .41 mag.

The last day of one trip, we had already packed out to the truck when we decided to do a little fast-draw competition for the umpteenth time. I strapped on my .44 mag. and Ken donned his .22 mag. We fired about a dozen times and he asked to swap pistols. I passed him the .44 and belt and he handed me the .22 in its belt.

I tossed the first can and when it hit the dirt, we both drew and fired. I had done this with that very pistol hundreds of times, so I was really surprised when it went off halfway through my draw and kicked up dirt between my feet.

I took a few steps to recover the can for another toss and felt my jeans sticking to my leg. When I looked down and saw my leg was drenched in blood, I knew I’d screwed up. In the truck, off to town, where the guy at the gas station told us where the doctor was. By then it was throbbing like a freight train, but pretty soon I was getting cleaned and bandaged… by a vet!

He only charged $20 and he did as good a job as I could ask for. While he was patching me up, we told him how I’d managed to shoot myself, and he pointed out how lucky I was that I’d been using Ken’s .22 instead of my .44. No kidding!

The bullet went in high in my thigh and came out alongside my knee on the inside of my leg, miraculously missing all the bones and important moving parts. But that vet canceled most of my shock when I watched him wrap gauze around a long metal rod, and run it down through my leg. When he grabbed it at the bottom and pulled it out that way, I about passed out.

The leg hurt for quite a while. But the looks of “You MUST be adopted!” from my dad were worse.

Needless to say, that was the last time I ever tried a fast draw!

Doc Sheldon is a semi-retired business management consultant turned Internet marketer. He’s lived in 11 different countries and had at least a million different jobs. He currently owns an SEO agency in San Diego, Calif., and writes military thrillers.

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6 thoughts on “Shoot Yourself”

  1. Amazing story, thank you for sharing. One has to wonder if you would still have that leg if it had been the 44! Something like that happening is why we’re taught to practice drawing from concealed carry without ammo in the gun! 🙂

  2. Yep. I can see this all happening back then. Now, think of all the police, press, insurance, hospitals, etc., not to mention the accompanying paperwork. And the story wouldn’t even make it into This is True!

  3. A vet has to know what to do with all types of animals in their country. So for most things, a vet is just as qualified as a standard doctor. The only real difference is: a vet can put down an animal when needed.

    But both vets and doctors have a hard time justifying “putting down” a human :^)

    If I’m bleeding on the ground, I would be just as happy with a vet as a “normal” doctor.

    In certain ways, a vet is more qualified.

    How many doctors are below average? 50 percent. What do you call the guy (never a gal) who graduates last in his class? Doctor.

  4. That was a wonderful tale indeed. Sometimes I long for what seemed like a better time, when making do with what was available and doing what had to be done wasn’t equal to 15 minutes of fame. But then I look at what advances I wouldn’t want to part with, and say I’ll stay here.

    That being said, your tale sounds a lot like my male relatives from now back into forever ago.

    “T’is but a flesh wound!”


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