Required Safety Precautions Inversely Proportional To Operator Status?

Watch Chris Costa destroy a course of fire and take notice of the photographer:

I gave Buck Yeager a lot of flack for putting photographers down range, and more recently VigilantSpectre, but it seems that Costa does the same thing.  Granted I wouldn’t consider Costa’s example anywhere near as dangerous.  Both Costa and Yeager are pretty famous in the shooting world, and obviously very skilled.

Is there some new standard of safety I wasn’t let in on, for advanced operators?  I don’t even plan on attaining that status, nor do I ever plan on being a down range photographer, but I would just like to know what’s up.  Even tier 1 operators mess up… a perfect example is when Costa slipped at 0:15.  Sure I’ve seen the Magpul videos, and he does flip it from Fire to Safe like a ninja every time he moves.

It’s impossible to tell where the photographer is after 0:15, but i’m hoping she moved out of the way, as he is shooing across the range from that point on.  Maybe she stuck around to get a good pic though?  Who knows. *shrug*




P. Allen May 20, 2012 at 12:43 am

Just like the Yeager photog video – no big deal. Based on what you see in the video, please tell me which of the four rules were violated here.

ENDO-Mike May 20, 2012 at 12:53 am

The photographers are in front of the shooter in the vids. I don’t ever remember that being acceptable until all these videos started popping up like they are no big deal. You’d have no problem standing in front of someone taking a picture of them shooting, as long as you were not DIRECTLY in front of where they were aiming?

“Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy” to me encompasses anything ahead of where you’re shooting within a reasonable spread. If you inherently trust people you don’t know with your life then all the power too you I guess.

Whammy! May 21, 2012 at 03:25 pm

Sound logic there, Safety Sally the Drama Llama.

You say you watched the Magpul videos. Do you run screaming when Travis and Chris cross paths in their drills? They are LITERALLY in front of each other unlike this BS you posted to make masturbating to your Analytics that much more exciting.

ENDO-Mike May 21, 2012 at 03:28 pm

Masturbating to analytics got old after the first 10 million.

Costa and Haley crossing paths? Yea like el bombardero said… operators gonna operate. Me? I’ll just sit here, bitch about safety, and probably eventually get fat.

Whammy! May 21, 2012 at 03:30 pm

The more I troll you the more I like you.

ENDO-Mike May 21, 2012 at 03:31 pm

haha <3 you Whammy.

el bombardero May 20, 2012 at 09:21 am

You’re arguing just to be cool. Operators gonna operate

ExurbanKevin May 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

Always be sure of your target and what’s behind it, IE, what is downrange from you.

This is a shot I did of John Bagakis at the 2011 USPSA Area 2 Championship.

I was behind the 180 when I took it in a perfectly safe position, and no one (not even the particularly persnickety RO on that stage) freaked out. You don’t need to go downrange to get the shot.

Ask Yamil Sued if he’ll go downrange to get a shot. You’ll get not just a “no”, but a “HELL NO !!!!”

I’ve pulled some weird crap to get a shot, but I won’t go downrange. Ever. There is simply no reason why it’s necessary.

Brice May 21, 2012 at 07:28 am

Endo-Mike and Chris Costa, one of these two people I’d take a class from and has a huge track record for running hundreds of classes without an injury. One of them is not.

ECG88 May 20, 2012 at 12:51 am

Actually it looks like she is not standing down range. I watched this clip like 20 times and it seems he fires and then runs to his RIGHT where the photographer is standing. Watch it again more carefully.

ENDO-Mike May 20, 2012 at 12:54 am

She’s definitely not directly ahead of him.. but she is ahead of where he is shooting about 20ft (?) to the right.

liquidflorian May 20, 2012 at 01:15 am

I think we’re looking at a forced perspective. I think she’s actually parallel to him on that diagonal plane. You can kinda tell, as he gets closer to her they go from similar heights to Costa being several inches taller.

I could be wrong though….

liquidflorian May 20, 2012 at 01:19 am

well, maybe not “several inches taller”… It looks like he’s about to yard sale though as he’s going around her…

ECG88 May 20, 2012 at 01:15 am

Yea its probably like 10-12 yards(based roughly on him taking 10 running steps). Its just weird that the firing line is a U shape and the angle of the camera. If the concern is people somewhere in front of the muzzle, then it seems like the whole mob of people standing around are forward of the muzzle for the first firing position. Honestly, standing 20-30 feet to the right of a target is probably not a good idea, but not the same as standing 1 foot from a target cough cough yeager….

Benjamin May 20, 2012 at 01:05 am

No comparison between this video and Yeagers.

While see is “downrange” it seems to be a safely designated area. Poor choice of position..but seriously no comparison to Yeagers photographer literally next in between to paper targets being shot at.

ENDO-Mike May 20, 2012 at 01:10 am

Oh I totally agree. The point I was trying to make was that in my 15 or so years of shooting I never thought of either one of those were considered acceptable for safety reasons. I figured the standard still was everyone (within a reasonable proximity) needs to stay behind the people who are shooting. I’m aware combat is a different beast, which is likely what Costa is tailoring his courses toward… but that still doesn’t make the photographer’s position seem justifiable to me.

TheMirage May 20, 2012 at 01:27 am

The position she was standing is layered as you when he runs movement drills. I haven’t seen the Yeager video yet but this is considered safe per this type of training. You should see how stacked these drills get for LE when they do this in a hall way. Much less room side to side of other shooters. That being said I still bought myself a rifle plate setup when I get to this portion of his class later this year. Mistakes can happen even when everyone stands in a line. I’ve seen a guy slip on brass and sweep the entire line in his fall.

Jim P. May 20, 2012 at 07:51 pm

Here’s one of the Yeager videos.

Andy in West Haven May 20, 2012 at 09:17 am

I was taught the same. If someone is past your point of horizon then you do not shoot. But perhaps today it’s acceptable? Now the Yeager vid the photog is standing right next to the targets. I can’t see how that is acceptable in ANYONE’S book.

David May 20, 2012 at 02:13 am

I was taught that if the man adjacent you to you during training is outside of the hang lose/ call me/ drinking sign (15 degrees) from your muzzle then you’re clear to fire and its outside of a fist in actual operations, which is funny because I’ve had people freak out on me for firing when there were just out side of that distance.

Lew May 20, 2012 at 05:48 pm

This is what I’ve been taught also.
If you want to be really safe you can use the 2:1-ratio where you are allowed to shoot as long as the distance in side is twice the distance in depth.

DANGER CLOSE May 20, 2012 at 02:52 am

where is he even a ‘teir 1’ tactical ninja operator. does coast guard have special forces? i say violation even though the fanboys will cry.

Vhyrus May 20, 2012 at 03:23 am

This is very different from putting photographers in between the target stands like Yeager had. In Yeager’s case, a bad sneeze or nervous twitch (or even a ricochet) could have hit the photographers since they were only 5 to 10 degrees off the target itself and right inline with them. This photographer was quite far from the actual target being engaged. He would have had to turn a minimum of 70 degrees to even sweep her and he actually runs past her to do the shooting to put her behind the line. If this is unsafe then I guess I am an asshole as well for letting people stand 10 feet in front of me and 40 feet to the right as I’m shooting.

Andy in West Haven May 20, 2012 at 01:17 pm

Even by myself alone in my apartment I treat my guns as if they were loaded (except when dry firing). I even keep my finger off the trigger when holding just the frame of a pistol during cleanng. I know I’m not going to hurt anyone but I follow the rules anyway. And you know that person 10 feet ahead and forty feet to the side will not get hurt either. But we should still practice what we’ve been taught, no?

Michael B May 20, 2012 at 03:25 am

Still can’t get over the Costa backwards standing hold thingie. I find it weird considering that it’s the opposite of what most shooters teach (Dominate hand high, Supporting hand below inline with the rifle) Anyone know the purpose of it?

BBJones May 21, 2012 at 06:02 pm

It works. He is not doing precision shots where he has all day. He is doing that to control the muzzle and shoot multiple targets fast.

Dom P. May 20, 2012 at 03:46 am

I don’t see anything he did or what happened in the video was unsafe.

MrMaigo May 20, 2012 at 05:55 am

If he would have shot the cow and hurdled it, he probably would have had a better time than having to dodge her. She’s a least 45degrees off from him.

Johnnie F. May 20, 2012 at 08:49 am

“… a lot of flack… ”

Not exactly how I would’ve referred to that.

Andrew May 20, 2012 at 08:54 am

I think the video angle is weird, but still safe. Yes she’s forward of the firing line but not directly in the line of fire. With a few precautions I think this can be done safely. It’s a fine line but I don’t have a problem with it.

Jim P. May 20, 2012 at 09:02 am

The setup looked to be the first cone was about 40 feet, the second 20-25 feet and the final on that line at about 10 feet from the targets. The separation appeared to be about 20-25 feet.

I’m going to the other way and don’t think that this was on the bad side. If there were multiple shooters, then it would probably be a bad idea, but as it stands, it was a single tactical drill.

Al T. May 20, 2012 at 09:14 am

Ditto to what Jim P. posted. I think the camera angles are what makes you wonder.

“Anyone know the purpose of it?”

The technique shown is a superior way to control your muzzle for close targets. Run a 2-2-2 or VTAC 1-5 drill and the WH thumb on the FSB really works.

Anon May 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

Costa is like tier 6. Not to mention almost everything he does is based in games and not reality, like this drill for example. Only thing this drill trains you to do is shoot an army of helen kellers.

Jess Banda May 20, 2012 at 11:39 am

Appears as if the cones are set up diagonally…

Martin May 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I’ve done some photography at classes with Chris before and he’s very safety conscious. There is such a thing as acceptable offset. If people only stood online we’d fight like we did back in the Musket days. People can be in front of the “Firing Line” and still have enough offset to be safe. When I was in the USMC we did bounding overwatch drills where half the team would run ahead of the people firing get down and lay a base of fire while the other half then got up and did the same. But we made sure we had enough offset.
The amount of offset also depends upon the shooter, in my mind. There are some shooters I would only stand behind, some I feel comfortable standing beside, and some I feel comfortable standing in front of as long as there is enough offset. I’ve never been to a class where someone said I couldn’t go slightly forward of the line as long as I had a good amount of offset.

Rydak May 20, 2012 at 01:36 pm

Its a risk,all for the sake of a photo. All of the rational in the world does not justify the risk. Seriously…. fora photo? She gets tagged cause the shooter trips of flinches or a ricochet…..your insurance company will abandon you and any waivers she signed will be ruled null and void in the court handling the resulting civil claim.

overkill556x45 May 20, 2012 at 02:26 pm

I agree with both of you. In the Army, I did a number of react to contact battle drills with live fire, and it was about as safe as you can make combat.

But, we were all wearing armor with plates, and there was 1 line safety for every two or three people. The photographer didn’t appear to be wearing any PPE. I think there are enough pics of Costa’s awesome operator beard.

I still like the original Magpul videos. They are fairly basic and simple, which is what good training should be.

Rydak May 20, 2012 at 01:30 pm

Not single reason in the world to take such a risk all for the sake of a photo?

Church May 20, 2012 at 02:37 pm

I love some of these comments;
She’s not down range, she’s beside him parallel in a universe where her being in front of him and towards targets is not considered down range. The fact that she could get shot is not valid because she’s off to the side a little bit.

You guys are crazy.

Rydak May 20, 2012 at 02:43 pm

“Off to the side”..yea off to the side.. DOWN RANGE and off to the side. So it only becomes unsafe when she is standing in front of the muzzle? Please…

Church May 20, 2012 at 06:56 pm

I was being sarcastic Rydak…

hydepark May 20, 2012 at 08:40 pm

This ^^

No way I’d be the guy downrange or the trigger man in any of this shit. Costa really disappoints me with this since I have watched nearly all of the Magpul training series videos. They stress safety in them. Here not so much.

What if this person downrange were for real suicidal and tried to put themselves into the line of fire during a string?

hydepark May 20, 2012 at 08:41 pm

And by this ^^ I was talking about Church’s comment.

JamesF May 20, 2012 at 03:57 pm

Nothing is black and white. The 180 degrees in front of the muzzle rule is a good one for regular old ranges. The Army adheres to that while doing target practice.

The Army also does live-fire exercises where you are in front of the muzzle of your buddy’s weapon while he’s firing. I’m not talking about some sort of advanced school either, every soldier goes through this in basic training (or at least they did when I went through in 05 at Knox.)

We did two-man “movement under direct fire” practice with live rounds. The guy at the back lays down suppressive fire while the guy at the front rushes, high crawls or low crawls. This is exceptionally dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you do no what you’re doing (and I expect Chris Costa does) it’s perfectly safe.

The key to it is not to engage anything between you and any friendlies downrange. If you’ve ever watched tracers ricochet, nothing is safe in the immediate vicinity of a bullet impact.

See here, especially number 7:

Rydak May 20, 2012 at 04:34 pm

Yup, makes perfect sense. Good training and valid tactics, Train shooters to work in teams, fight together,,etc. Each person knows the risks and take them, after all, they are training for warfare, combat killing and dieing and all that kinda stuff. I understand the point entirely and to be honest, I dont think anyway, even the most hardcore safety minded nut-job out there would have a problem with that.

But that’s not the issue now is it. The issue is a person who is almost certainly NOT an “operator”, judging from her physic,(no offense intended) who is taking the risk for the sake of a photograph. THAT IS THE ISSUE.

JamesF May 20, 2012 at 05:04 pm

My point was that she doesn’t need any training. She just needs to stand still. Costa is the one who needs to have training. If he lives the way he trains, his weapon will be on safe any time he’s rushing and he won’t allow his weapon to sweep the photographer. Same principle.

As much as ENDO has complained about having photographers downrange and predicted imminent doom for them, you ever wonder why his doom and gloom never comes true?

I’m not saying random asshats with no training and discipline (military or otherwise) should be excused from shooting at their “photographers.” But I’d stand downrange of Costa with my DSLR without a second thought, and I’d get some damn cool photos.

ENDO-Mike May 20, 2012 at 05:09 pm

As much as ENDO has complained about having photographers downrange and predicted imminent doom for them, you ever wonder why his doom and gloom never comes true?

Yea and I could load up my AR-15, put it on safety and aim it my foot and pull the trigger 5000 times in a row and i’d pretty much 100% guarantee it wouldn’t fire. Definitely an unnecessary risk though.

People say there have been injuries at Yeager’s school, but I have no concrete evidence. It’s always “I know a guy…” type of thing.

JamesF May 20, 2012 at 06:13 pm

You mistake me – I wasn’t approving of Yeager.

Martin May 20, 2012 at 06:11 pm

While we’re on that subject I guess we shouldn’t holster live handguns. There’s a risk that you’ll shoot yourself every time you do that. I dunno, there’s safety and then there’s nitpicking shit.

Like others have said there is a difference between being inches away from a target and having an acceptable amount of offset.

JamesF May 20, 2012 at 06:16 pm

Right. Same principle.

I carry AIWB. That means I have a pistol pointed at my junk and femoral artery on a daily basis. I’m not worried, though. I’m disciplined – probably a whole hell of a lot more than I would be if I carried in a position that put me at little danger in the event of a ND.

Same concept for the sort of training and tactics where firing with people downrange is very real. If you’re always coddled on the normal firing line type of range, you’ll probably get complacent, and you won’t have the discipline required to train safely if you’ve got to worry about friendlies in all directions.

John May 20, 2012 at 06:47 pm

He’s shooting back at a target, which makes it look like he’s disobeying the 180* rule. If you draw a line from him to the targets, then flip it across the y-axis, it shows the plane he is shooting on.

MrMaigo May 21, 2012 at 03:13 am

He’s not shooting at the targets on the right from that position, making the line meaningless. If you’ll let me play with your lines a little (too late to stop me), using a bit of cleverness you can measure that she IS 90* off from him.

The only thing unsafe is that she’s standing in his damn way, if anything DID happen, it would be because she caused him to AD into someone.

Dan The Viking May 21, 2012 at 12:27 am

At least he isn’t placing his cameramen within 20 degrees of the field of fire. Fucking Yeager.

Linoge May 21, 2012 at 06:19 am

This weekend, Oleg Volk wanted some video of my Saiga’s action cycling from a forward angle – he ended up only being about at a 70-degree angle from my centerline, and only about 10 feet ahead of the “180 rule” line, but he looked at me, and asked “Do you feel safe with this?”

My response was, “Can you push the button and get back behind me?”

The answer was obviously yes, and that is exactly what he did… and I seriously doubt the video would have been appreciably improved by him standing behind the camera. Of course, I was not being a tactical ninja like Costa and moving all over the place, but there are ways of capturing the shots you want without putting people downrange of other people manipulating firearms. Unless the situation really calls for it (leapfrogging to take an enemy position, etc.), there are scant few reasons to have friendlies downrange when firing, and “for the perfect picture” is rarely one of them.

ENDO-Mike May 21, 2012 at 01:05 pm

I totally agree with that. It’s nice he asked you if you were comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to seeing the pics.

Curtis May 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

The first and fifth cones were on the 25 yard line. The second and fourth cones were at the 15 yard line. The third was at 5 yards. The range was about 75-80ish yards across and the line of movement he was following was at about a 45 degree angle. The only time she was down range was when he was demonstrating the drill. He is more aware of his limitations than most people. If you don’t feel safe doing something like this then don’t. If you are watching a crappy video off of someones cell phone don’t assume you know everything that is going on. I guess the nanny state is flourishing everywhere.

Will May 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

Photographers put themselves in the same if not more danger when photographing rally races and other motorsports, there have been injuries and even deaths resulting from this. Yet people only get their panties in a bunch when firearms are involved.

As a photographer I would have done the same thing in her situation given that Costa is a professional just like the drivers in a professional level race, but I would not do the same if they were students, of either driving or shooting, like the photographer did for Yeager’s class.

ENDO-Mike May 21, 2012 at 01:09 pm

I don’t have a race photography blog, and I don’t watch sports so I have no forum to express my concern with that. At the end of the day I really just don’t care. If someone wants to stand in front of someone shooting for a measly day’s pay then good for them. I’ll make my money safer ways, but continue to criticize those that take risks that I think are unnecessary in the realm of firearms.

Will May 21, 2012 at 02:24 pm

Not everybody can have a cushy gig in the blogging/t-shirt/firearms accessory industry.

But in all seriousness I suppose it is your prerogative, people have different levels of comfort with such things. Some people thing shooting to be inherently dangerous in in of it’s self although, just as in this instance, it has not been proven to be so.

But if this is an example of doing it while minimizing risk, Yeager would be an example of just being dumb.

Sir Stunna Lot May 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm

@Mike – Technically she is “behind” the firing line that is setup up by the 3 cones: Cone1 @ very start with Costa, Cone3 @ photographer, Cone2 between 1 and 3.

In this situation, the 3 cones dictates the 180 rule. She is standing behind the line and 180* shooting zone. Costa is shooting down range, not perpendicular to the “firing line” but still down range designated relatively by the cones.

The infamous Yeager video is completely different from this; the photographer during Yeager’s class was standing pass the firing line, in the 180 shooting zone

Terry May 21, 2012 at 03:36 pm

So how was that vid from that Spectre guy with the guy less than a few degrees I front of the firing line less safe than this? Other than the fact that it is Costa?

santi May 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Chris Costa is one of my hero’s you could say. He is such an advocate on gun safety. I would rather assume that the photographer was an idiot and trailed into the area but then again if Chris saw her in an area that was undeniably dangerous he would have just stopped the drill.

Ninjavitis May 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I have a horror story for you. I’m in the Army and about 6 years ago I got assigned to a light infantry unit called the Pathfinders in 5th Battalion aviation, 101st Airborne. This unit was one of the units that alot of guys go to to prepare for selection. About 70% were Rangers and the unit really thought they were one step away from being SF. They weren’t. At any rate, the first range I go to with them, an aviation gunnery range used by the 160th SOAR, we zero our sights and get to work on shooting.

I’m into my second magazine when the guy next to my just starts walking down range. I immediately stop and safe my weapon. My Platoon Sergeant comes over to me and asks why I stopped. I point to the guy changing his target and I’m told that “you won’t hit him if you don’t aim at him, right?” This took a minute to process. We were in tee shirts. No helmets or body armor.

By the end of the day I was comfortable changing my targets with rounds impacting three feet from me. The lesson here was that we had to trust our buddies with our lives. Now I don’t condone this training under normal circumstances as I think the possible risk outweighs the gains but when the time came to qualify in the live fire kill house and the man in front of me had a weapon malfunction, I stepped to his back and fired two rounds over his shoulder to kill his target without thinking and he didn’t flinch.

That trust of each other and of ourselves was there. This trust served us well in Afghanistan with the Company broken into small teams. We spent quality time in the Korengal with only 15 of us dropped in by fast rope. While it worked out I wouldn’t suggest this mindset for the majority of hobby shooters that I’m guessing watch the MAGPUL videos

Jim P. May 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm


There are some circumstances that change in the real world of active duty combat and the rest of us.

I’m ex-USAF. I did the the yearly range time to re-qual as an SP augmentee duty. Never made it to Expert status. I would never try to pick out good/bad guy in a hand-to-hand combat situation. Hopefully the good guy is smart enough to know to back away as much to let us shoot the bad guy.

Firing 100+ rounds a day should get you to a competent shooter.

The discussion here is a question of what the interpretation of downrange is. Costa is semi-questionable, but I think on the safe side. Yeager puts photographers downrange, close to the target, after only a few rounds.

InformedReader November 9, 2012 at 10:03 pm

This is complete bullshit. No conventional forces of any type were fast roping anywhere, much less into the Korengal. Conventional helo’s aren’t rigged for fast ropes, and your unit (if you were actually in a Pathfinder platoon) wasn’t qualified to fast rope.

Ninjavitis May 23, 2012 at 08:53 am

I was just sharing a story that related to shooting while people were down range. I haven’t managed to choke down an entire Yeager video and to be honest, the fanboys have really turned me off of the whole magpul craze. Costa is a great shooter but I would be too if I had an ammo budget and an off camera crew to hang targets and load mags for me. I would love a job where I could shoot a couple thousand rounds a day several times a week. I shoot every opportunity I get but for a real day at the range, 100 rounds is just a warm up. I just can’t afford to shoot as much as I want to. I’m not with the Pathfinders anymore and I would never suggest to my current unit that we train like they did, nor would I try to emulate it while shooting outside the Army confines.

thevibe May 23, 2012 at 02:01 pm

I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. There was plenty of dead space. Kyle Defoor let photographers take pics the same way

Bret R October 4, 2012 at 08:06 am

If the photographer was fine with the risk it seems ok. Maybe Costa made him sign a waiver in case he got a round in the head. Having real no-shoots down range would have a beneficial mental training value. It would be closer to a real world situation where there are noncombatants shell shocked when fire is being exchanged.

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