Monday, 20 October 2014

How to safely handle firearms(excerpt from an afterword by Keiichi Sigsawa)

This is an excerpt from volume 3 of Gakuen Kino, in which author Keiichi Sigsawa(and his alter ego 'Megumihajime Amesawa', author of Gakuen Kino) discusses procedures for safely handling firearms. As readers of his series know, Sigsawa is a hardcore gun geek, and many of his works feature firearms described in painstaking detail.

This section of his afterword is a fascinating look at how his serious attitude toward gun safety informs his works. Personally, having always lived in countries that enforce strict gun control, I found this segment a fascinating and informative read. I even found myself rereading scenes from his books(especially the Allison series) in a new light thanks to this afterword. If only more of Sigsawa's afterwords were this fun to translate...


About Guns

Sigsawa: Now, it’s time for the corner you’ve all been waiting for—a heated discussion on firearms!
Amesawa: Most of your readers are gonna wonder what you’re raving about this time.
Sigsawa: No, no. I’m not going to describe all the guns I wrote about in this volume. You can look that up yourself.
Amesawa: So, the internet.
Sigsawa: It helps you get levels in internet-savvy. And it’s a lot easier nowadays, since people can upload videos easily. FYI, one of the guns I described in this volume failed mid-development and got shunted to the side forever, but expect no less from Sigsawa.
Amesawa: Talk about irresponsible research ethics.
Sigsawa: Anyway, I’d like to take this time to have a serious talk about gun safety.
Amesawa: That sounds very serious. Yeah?
Sigsawa: There are three big rules for handling firearms.
Amesawa: Humans seem to really like their threes.
Sigsawa: True. But two is kind of lonely and four is a bit crowded, so three is perfect. Now, there are some minor differences in wording, but these are the three main rules of handling a gun.

1. Always assume the gun is loaded!
2. Do not point the gun at anything you do not intend to break!
3. Do not put your finger on the trigger until the moment you shoot!

Amesawa: All right. Explain.
Sigsawa: 1. Try a different hairstyle—
Amesawa: Punch.
Sigsawa: Gah! Who warns someone after punching them?
Amesawa: How else am I supposed to get you back on topic? What the heck are you supposed to be?
Sigsawa: A shogun.
Amesawa: Are you supposed to be Tokugawa Iemitsu or something? Get on with it.
Sigsawa: Sorry. I’ll be serious now. About the first rule: Always assume the gun is loaded. You see, when it’s not loaded, a gun is just an object made of metal, wood, or plastic.
Amesawa: In other words, it can’t kill anything.
Sigsawa: It can. If you bludgeon someone with it over and over again.
Amesawa: By that logic, what in the world isn’t a weapon?
Sigsawa: I’m still wondering why mochi is still legal, what with how many senior citizens it kills every New Year’s Day.
Amesawa: Let’s get on with it.
Sigsawa: Okay. So, the source of a gun’s lethality is its ammunition—the bullets and the gunpowder. Let’s just call it ‘ammo’.
Amesawa: So you’re saying that a gun is safe if there’s no ammo inside.
Sigsawa: Right. But let’s say you handle a gun with this mentality: “This gun’s probably not loaded”. What happens on the off-chance that the gun actually is loaded?
Amesawa: Something awful.
Sigsawa: Exactly. I read an anecdote in a war history book about a soldier who pulled the trigger as a joke, assuming that the gun wasn’t loaded. He accidentally killed his own comrade.
Amesawa: Whoa… his own comrade? Talk about traumatic.
Sigsawa: People make mistakes. This is why, to avoid the worst-case scenario, you always have to assume that a gun is loaded. If you operate a gun right, you can safely remove the ammo. In other words, you can turn a gun into a ‘safe object’ that you can prove is not loaded. For example, with a revolver the cylindrical magazine will be sticking out. If it’s an automatic weapon, the magazine will slide out and the slide will be at the very bottom. Until you confirm those signs with your own eyes, you have to assume that the gun is loaded.
Amesawa: What if someone hands you the gun and tells you, “This gun’s not loaded”?
Sigsawa: It doesn’t matter who’s giving you the gun. You have to check it personally. Although in this case it’s the fault of whoever’s giving you an ‘unsafe’ gun. It’s etiquette, just like handing knives or scissors to others by the handle.
Amesawa: Right. What about the second rule?
Sigsawa: Do not point the gun at anything you do not intend to break. This is even simpler than the first rule. If you’re constantly aware of where the gun is pointed, even if it fires by accident no one will get hurt. For example, when you’re holstering or unholstering a gun, or when you’re walking around with it—to say nothing of idiotic stunts like looking down the barrel of a gun. You have to always make sure that the gun is not pointed at you.
Amesawa: That’s basically the same as handling a bladed tool.
Sigsawa: Yes. So just imagine that a very sharp blade hundreds of meters long is attached to the end of your gun. If the blade touches anything you don’t want to break, you’re doing it wrong. For example, when you aim a handgun with your right hand and put your left hand on top to stabilize the gun, if your hand happens to wander in front of the muzzle for even a second, you’ll lose your fingers at ignition. If you’re with someone else, you also have to make sure the gun isn’t pointed at your friend—otherwise you might end up shooting them in the back.
Amesawa: Right. Right.
Sigsawa: Incidentally, whether it’s a real gun or a toy gun, and whether it’s intentional or not, the moment you point a gun at someone, you essentially give people the 'right' to kill you on the spot. You have to be very careful. You can’t wave it off saying, “Just kidding”.
Amesawa: The right? So in Japan, it would apply when you’re holding someone at swordpoint, too.
Sigsawa: Yeah. Then you give others the 'right' to kill you.
Amesawa: Next up is rule 3.
Sigsawa: Do not put your finger on the trigger until you shoot. This is probably the most important part of this corner.
Amesawa: Oh?
Sigsawa: You see, you shouldn’t put your finger on the trigger until the very last millisecond. This is probably the rule that readers—ordinary Japanese people, in other words—forget about most. FYI, Gakuen Kino is also being published in Taiwan and South Korea; since both countries enforce conscription, readers there might know more about firearms than in Japan. Of course, with the exception of trained police officers, civil servants like SDF personnel, those with gun ownership licenses, and professional athletes.
Amesawa: So if you can’t put your finger on the trigger, where do you put it?
Sigsawa: Up your nostril.
Amesawa: Only if you do it first.
Sigsawa: Enough joking around. As for your trigger finger, you keep it outstretched. So it’s parallel to the gun. Ideally, from a side view the trigger should be visible from the right and the left. Although that depends on the model you’re using. Most guns have something called a ‘trigger guard’, which encircles the trigger. You have to keep your finger outside the trigger guard. And make sure to keep it straight so no one will misunderstand when they look at you from the side.
Amesawa: I see. I see.
Sigsawa: If you look at soldiers on TV or on the newspapers, you’ll notice that they all have their trigger fingers held straight. It’s a basic rule and etiquette, just like how in Japan, you’re supposed to take off your shoes when you go inside a house. But most Japanese people, who don’t know much about guns to begin with, don’t know that. If you handed someone a gun, they’d put their finger on the trigger the moment they took it. Some people even put their finger inside the trigger guard first before taking the grip.
Amesawa: So that’s dangerous?
Sigsawa: Very. The trigger is the last ‘trigger’ for operating the gun. There aren’t any statistics, but disobeying this rule is probably the cause of most misfire accidents. Unintentional shooting due to mishandling of the trigger.
Amesawa: But is it even possible to accidentally pull the trigger?
Sigsawa: Well, people end up pulling the trigger unintentionally for all sorts of reasons. First is the weight of the trigger. In other words, the amount of force you need to exert in order to pull the trigger. It’s embarrassing to say, but even I’ve made this mistake once. It’s a really stupid story, but it also taught me a valuable lesson.
Amesawa: Oh?
Sigsawa: Yes. It was during my unforgettable time in the U.S. as a visa student. I was at a firing range, using my Sig Sauer P226 9-millimeter automatic pistol. That was when an American man came up to me and we started talking. And he let me try out his gun. It happens all the time at firing ranges. His gun was a .45 caliber Colt Government. There’s a lot of variations on this model, so I don’t know the exact name. Anyway, I received the gun, loaded it, and pointed it at the paper target. And that’s when I did something wrong. I put my finger on the trigger before I’d even properly aimed at the center of the target. I put my finger on the trigger first, then took aim and put just a bit of weight into my finger, and BANG!
Amesawa: You sure it wasn’t the guy popping a plastic bag behind you?
Sigsawa: “Hahaha! You scared me, John!”. No. Unfortunately, it wasn’t some American joke. I just fired. The shot made a big hole somewhere on the paper target. I wanted to crawl into a hole or something at that point. I’d only put my finger on the trigger. But even an unintentional shot is technically a misfire.
Amesawa: Why did that happen?
Sigsawa: Simple. The man had tuned up his gun so the trigger was as light as it could get. The gun was a ‘racegun’, which is used to shoot multiple targets in quick succession. With my P226, that much force wouldn’t have been enough to fire. But with his gun, just one touch set it off.
Amesawa: So it’s like when you heave open a sliding door but it slides all the way across the room because it’s lighter than you expected. That’s bound to scare anyone.
Sigsawa: Exactly. I was terrified, but in the end it was my fault so I reflected on it deeply. At the time, I had the gun pointed toward the targets. But what if I had it pointed at something else? For example, at my feet? I still get shivers just thinking about it. It’s because I still stuck with rule 2 that things ended as well as they did.
Amesawa: I see. So it’s the same anywhere, whether with guns or anything else—multiple mistakes in succession can snowball into disaster.
Sigsawa: Misjudging the weight of the trigger is far from the only possible mistake. For example, what if the shooter falls sideways with their finger on the trigger? There’s a good chance they’ll end up pulling the trigger without thinking and cause a misfire. Or sometimes the gun might slip out of your hands.
Amesawa: I saw it on TV once. A carpenter fell off the roof with a nail gun in his hand, and when he woke up there were nails in his skull.
Sigsawa: Exactly. And on a related note, if you ever happen to drop a loaded gun, never try to grab it in midair. What if your finger brushes the trigger? Then you’ll end up firing the gun while it’s pointed at any possible direction. It’s just best to let it fall.
Amesawa: Wouldn’t the gun explode from the impact? That sounds even scarier.
Sigsawa: Older models, maybe. But guns these days are much safer. There’s no guarantee, but it’s still much more dangerous to try and catch the gun. The best guns are the ones that don’t fire if no one touches the trigger, and always fire when the trigger is pulled.
Amesawa: I see.
Sigsawa: Incidentally, it’s the same with a sheathed katana. If it slips and falls forward, don’t try to grab it. The blade is going to be facing up, so what happens if you grab it?
Amesawa: Katanas are sharp, so you’d lose all your fingers… scary.
Sigsawa: Correct. Better to let the sword fall before you grab it. Anyway, back to guns. The trigger is the final defense. Never ever put your finger on it until you are completely ready to fire—for example, until you have finished taking aim at the target in the firing range! Please don’t forget.
Amesawa: Now that I think about it, Kino’s trigger finger is pointing straight ahead in the cover page of Gakuen Kino 2. Same with Detective Wanwan in Chapter 4.
Sigsawa: See? I talked about it with Mr. KĊhaku Kuroboshi back when he became the illustrator for Kino’s Journey. This was ten years ago or so. I asked him to have the characters keep their fingers straight, unless they were opening fire.
Amesawa: Wow. So you did the same with Mr. Hiroki Haruse, who’s drawing the manga versions of Allison and Lillia and Treize?
Sigsawa: Yes. I did.
Amesawa: Why’re you switching to English?
Sigsawa: I also told the director and crew of the Allison and Lillia anime. I visited the studio where they were recording, but I saw characters with their fingers on the trigger in the early footage. So I asked Director Nishida, who was sitting next to me, to have those fixed if they could. And as it turned out on the broadcast version, they did fix them.
Amesawa: Wow… You’re probably the only person in the world to use the almighty ‘creator’s right’ to get a few fingers fixed. I hope the crew weren’t swearing behind your back after that.
Sigsawa: I regret nothing. Readers, if you ever consume a piece of media involving guns, take a close look. do the characters have their fingers on the trigger? Foreign films tend to stick to the rules—maybe because actors have more military experience or knowledge about firearms, or maybe because the directors know their stuff. Although you’ll see exceptions here and there.
Amesawa: What about manga and anime?
Sigsawa: Unfortunately, a very large percentage of characters put their fingers over the trigger. I wish they’d draw soldiers and police officers with their fingers held straight. But people who know their stuff are always accurate. I can’t say any names here, but some of the geekier manga artists are incredible. One of them even has their robots hold their fingers straight if they're holding a gun.
Amesawa: Incredible. In other words, that’s the kind of stuff you spend all your time on.
Sigsawa: I’m flattered.
Amesawa: That wasn’t a compliment.
Sigsawa: But please don’t misunderstand. The trigger finger problem doesn’t affect the quality of a work in the least. Whether it’s anime, movies, or manga, the story is the most important thing.
Amesawa: Thank you for rendering your entire lecture useless. So let’s wrap up this corner.
Sigsawa: All right. The first thing is about the three big rules. If you’re a gun geek like me, but have never heard of these rules before, please obey them. They will be very useful to you when you operate a real gun, whether overseas or in Japan with a license. If you can’t handle an air gun or a model gun, you shouldn’t be handling a real gun. I’m sorry if this sounds cocky of me, but I am just warning you out of paranoia because I made terrifying mistakes in junior high school handling real guns because I didn’t receive proper training.
Amesawa: I expected nothing less from the guy whose nickname in high school was ‘geezer’.
Sigsawa: Some people still call me that. And to those of you who aren’t really obsessed with guns but are working on stories involving guns—please remember the trigger finger. It will raise your work to a whole new level of realism. Although, as I also mentioned, the story comes first and foremost.
Amesawa: Well, it’s always good for stories to better reflect reality.
Sigsawa: And finally, to those of you who do not apply to either of the above, and have no intention of delving any deeper into this field—which is most of you, I guess—I would be happy if you found this corner at least a bit informative. They say that learning is pleasure. Life becomes much richer when you have more knowledge.
Amesawa: Th-that’s such a nostalgic line…
Sigsawa: Anyway, this is the end of the lecture. I think it was worth the long page count.
Amesawa: I hope people won’t just pass over this corner.
Sigsawa: I certainly hope not! If you have read all of this corner and understood it fully, Amesawa will visit your home personally and make all your dreams come true! Please contact him at—
Amesawa: Amesawa Subway Punch!
Sigsawa: Huh? Urgh!
Amesawa: You do it.
Sigsawa: Man, I thought I dodged it… what kinda coward hits from behind?


  1. Awesome guy is awesome. That's was informative and funny. I ain't no gun geek (or any weapon geek for that matter), but this roused my interest. Thanks for specifically doing a separate post for it.

    By the way, Sigsawa, no Sigasawa?

    1. Re:name spelling: He spells it 'Sigsawa' wherever he writes his name in English. You'll see it on the color pages for his books.

  2. After this, I have to wonder if "Sigsawa" is based on "Sig Sauer". I was always puzzled over the unusual spelling.

  3. Interesting stuff. The National Rifle Association teaches a 4th rule in addition to the 3 he covers: "Know what you are aiming at AND what is behind it." The reasoning being that if you fire your gun, you'd better know what you're shooting at, and there's always a chance the bullet could go through the target and hit beyond. A powerful round like the kind used in rifles will go through things like brick and wood, so you really need to know what's behind the target when shooting.