Be Prepared: Range Accident Shows Need to Be Alert When Handling Guns

Published on Sunday, 20 October 2013 01:11 - Written by By Steve Knight Outdoor Writer

Almost simultaneously with the report of the Howa .25-06 rifle, Rebecca Kelly stood up.

Something was wrong, very wrong. But at that instance she didn’t know what.

“I remember standing up and they said I said, ‘What happened,’ but I don’t remember that,” Kelly said.

In shock, she couldn’t immediately comprehend the blood that was beginning tosoak her clothesand drip from her face. She did notice all of the people up and down the shooting line at 31 West Shooting Range running toward her, but didn’t know why.

Someone gave her their shirt. Someone else gave her a towel to try to stop the bleeding.

“My eyes were closed and one guy said ‘Look at me.’ I opened my eyes and I could see him. Luckily one of the guys that was next to him was a doctor and he said I needed to go to the hospital, so they loaded me in the truck and off we went,” Kelly recalled.

That was Oct. 5. Last week she visited a doctor twice to again try to remove shrapnel from her face.

An avid, life-long hunter, Kelly had gone to the range with a friend to sight in rifles for the upcoming deer season. She had already shot her .308. Her friend was shooting a new .25-06 for the first time and had fired four rounds through it when she picked up the gun and a shell from the box he was using.

That is when it happened. She pulled the trigger and the gun exploded instantly. It would have created a sound like a grenade going off.

The pressure from the blast blew down through the magazine and metal shards from the gun flew down onto the concrete bench rest and rebounded upwards spraying Kelly’s hands, arms and face with tiny fragments. It also blew through her shirt into her chest. Fortunately she was wearing shooting glasses or she may have also had damage to her eyes, if not blinded.

“I knew (something happened). I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew something was wrong,” Kelly said.

Although rare, accidents like this do happen occasionally with guns. Usually the culprit is an obstruction in the barrel. This time it wasn’t that simple.

It took several days to piece everything together, but it was determined that when Kelly loaded the rifle to shoot she loaded it with a .308 shell and not a .25-06. The obvious reaction would be that Kelly accidentally put one of the .308 shells she had been shooting earlier in the other rifle, but that wasn’t the case.

“I shoot Barnes bullets and this was a Hornady. He was shooting Hornady,” Kelly explained.

Kelly is not blaming anyone, but instead accepts responsibility saying she should have checked the shell before loading the gun. However, this isn’t the type of event anyone would ever think about.

Greg Porter, who owns Porter’s Sporting Goods where the rifle and ammo were bought, said he has been in business 30 years and this is the first time he has heard of a wrong shell being in a box of ammunition.

He did say his shells are out where customers can get to them, but seldom do any ever open the box before paying for them.

“We took a .308 and put it in a .25-06 box and it was half an inch shorter. You have to pay attention to what is happening on the range,” Porter said.

It has been a painful recovery. Almost every night since the incident another piece of shrapnel oozes out of Kelly’s skin. She still has several sizeable pieces in her face. One lodged against a check bone was removed Thursday.

Growing up, Kelly learned to shoot from her father, Ira. She has continued the tradition by spending time hunting with her son, Tanner. Not wanting to give up those times had her back on the range on threee days after the accident in an effort to immediately overcome any fear of guns that might have crept in.

“I was so upset by the thought of not shooting or going hunting,” she said.

Not surprisingly the anxiousness wasn’t easy to overcome.

“I sat down at the bench, but I got up and walked away and cried. I had the strongest flashback when I pulled the trigger the first time. I took three shots with my gun,” Kelly said.

After that she watched others shooting an AR-15, a gun she had never shot. She eventually was asked to join in, and suddenly, for the most part, what fear remained disappeared.

Kelly said it didn’t hurt that a bad situation was made much better by the caring treatment and concern from those at the range and at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, where she was first taken for treatment.

Although initially reluctant to talk about the incident, Kelly finally decided to at the urging of her son who told her that her story could help others avoid an accident.

Her advice, check all the bullets in a box when you buy it. It is like walking out of a store with two sizes of shoes, but a lot more dangerous.

Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at outdoor@tylerpaper.com. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.