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Unexamined Premises

Safety Last

April 28th, 2013 - 10:11 pm

A single-action revolver with its loading gate open

What are to make of this? Via the Of Arms and the Law blog (h/t Instapundit) comes this New York Times story about a tragic, accidental shooting — but alas, a story published in order to further the Times‘s notion that inanimate objects, especially inanimate objects of swaggering macho desire, have a mind of their own:

It was the second week in August, a Friday the 13th, in fact, in 1982. I was with a group of college roommates who were getting ready to go to the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race. Three of us piled into a red Vega parked outside a friend’s house in Okanogan, Wash., me in the back seat. The driver, who worked with the county sheriff’s department, offered me his service revolver to examine. I turned the weapon onto its side, pointed it toward the door. The barrel, however, slipped when I shifted my grip to pull the hammer back, to make certain the chamber was empty, and turned the gun toward the driver’s seat. When I let the hammer fall, the cylinder must have rotated without my knowing. When I pulled the hammer back a second time it fired a live round. 

My friend, Doug, slumped in the driver’s seat, dying, and another friend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, raced into the house for the phone.

The commenters at the blog are doing a good job of unpacking not only the principal paragraph above, but the whole intent of the piece (who recounts a story of killing his own friend in order to obliquely further the gun-control meme?), but what does it say about the editing chops at the Times that they would let this pass without at least some clarification? To wit:

  • “… who worked with the county sheriff’s department offered me his service revolver to examine.”

Let’s leave aside the sheer irresponsibility of handing a loaded firearm over to a kid. In 1982, the vast majority of police sidearms were double-action revolvers or semi-automatic pistols, which would make the description of the accident above completely unbelievable, unless the firearm in question was a single-action revolver with the hammer down on one empty chamber, about which more in a bit. 

  • “… when I shifted my grip to pull the hammer back, to make certain the chamber was empty…”

You don’t check to see whether a revolver is loaded by pulling the hammer back. You check it by pushing the cylinder out (which instantly renders it non-fireable, since there cannot be a round in the barrel) and making sure all five, six, seven, or even eight chambers are clear.

  • “When I let the hammer fall, the cylinder must have rotated without my knowing.”

The instant you pull the hammer back on a revolver, the mechanism also rotates the cylinder. It is impossible not to notice this, unless you have never seen a gun before in your life. 

  • “When I pulled the hammer back a second time it fired a live round.”

“Pulling the hammer back” will not fire a round. Releasing the hammer will. For this story to be true, the only possible explanation is that the author was (mis)handling a Colt-type single-action revolver — what shooters call a “cowboy gun” — which is loaded and unloaded one round or expended shell at a time via a gate on the right side of the cylinder.

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Top Rated Comments   
One might come to the conclusion that liberals should not be trusted with firearms.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was nine years old when my father and brother handed me the Ruger 10/22 to examine.

Of course, before they did so there were hours upon hours of lectures about how guns work and how to safely handle them. Trips to the range where I just watched what they did and how they did it. Instruction on the 10/22 specifically, how to load, shoot and clean it. Oh, and also neither I nor anyone in my family is a complete freaking idiot. Which is why with 60 some-odd assorted firearms and a combined 200 years of gun ownership my immediate family has not one accidental discharge to its name.

And the thing is, I don't mean any of that as a boast. I know that around here I'm not exceptional, I'm positively AVERAGE. If the Times wasn't staffed exclusively by hoplophobic bigots they'd know that Mr. I-Shot-My-Friend is the exceptional one. We're the rule, not that jackhole.

And simple math should bear that out (though admittedly the Times is pretty light on general math skills too). 80 million American households own 300 million firearms. If even a small fraction of us were as careless and stupid as this nimrod the ERs would be overflowing with us on a daily basis. But as it turns out target shooting is safer than softball.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Train mean dogs to guard your TRUCK"

"i have now post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD," and other mental maladies of the warrior class.

Big Pharma keeps me medicated and makes a ton of money on my suffering.

The only thing missing from this is George Bush made me do it and the Koch brothers pay me for my silence, usually right after church on Sunday.

But, as an old cross-examiner...my mind involuntarily honed in on a couple of facts. He grew up around guns, in a "gun culture". He pulled the hammer back...twice. The barrel "somehow" moved out of position. He was checking to see IF the chamber was loaded...while pointing the gun anywhere in a closed environment.

Sorry. Sounds too perfectly constructed. If, however, he was horsing around and felt confident that he could handle the gun and pulled the hammer back, believing that he could control it...when it or he were jostled and it went off...that would make the story no less tragic...but, he would be much less innocent.

In the Narrative Cult and their Agenda Media, the "truth" does not have to comport with the facts, it can be told as "what it should be" instead.

And, that...is exactly what we should expect from the Daily Duranty.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (27)
All Comments   (27)
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Gellero:

You need to perform the following test on your revolver:
1. Go to the range and point your loaded revolver down range (i.e. in a safe direction).
2. Pull your hammer back to the singe action position.
3. With your thumb on the hammer pull the trigger making sure to hold the hammer so it doesn't fall forward and doesn't move back to the single action position.
4. remove your finger from the trigger.
5. release the hammer and let it fall forward on the live round (again with the revolver pointed down range).

If your revolver fires, you need to send it back to S&W immediately. Your hammer block safety is broken and the revolver is not drop-safe.

If it doesn't fire then you had your finger on the trigger when you had your negligent discharge. You may not remember it that way, but that is the way your revolver works.

Hope that helps.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
WRONG...with my S&W .38 one can pull the hammer....and the cylinder revolves into position WITHOUT being fully cocked.

So the hammer can be dropped from a 2/3 raised position and the gun can fire a live round.

It happened to me while being stupid with a gun........and I have the bullet hole in the wall next to my bed....unrepaired......to remind me of my dangerous STUPIDITY.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Letting the hammer fall" means he pulled the trigger. Doing this with a cocked hammer while the muzzle is pointed at the driver's seat shows lack of common sense safety. Obviously some time passed between when "the barrel slipped" and he pulled the hammer back twice. The writer's memory of something that happened 30 years ago, even something as traumatic as this event, shows his memory is not very clear.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
to clarify my comment: between "the barrel slipped" and doing anything else with the gun, nothing else should have been done except re-pointing the gun to a safe direction.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those silly sheeple at the NYT, they don't know the first thing about how guns work, not knowing a loading gate from a hammer pull back! Thank goodness we have learned the lessons (Mr. Walsh channeling Sean Connery in The Untouchables). To co-opt the classic SNL skit with Christopher, clearly this song needs: more guns!
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

Sorry, sir, but I must challenge your "Let’s leave aside the sheer irresponsibility of handing a loaded firearm over to a kid."

Even though I grew up in the Bronx of the '50s and '60s, our family had a summer cabin about 60 miles north in Putnam County. I got a Remington 500 rifle (22 caliber, 13 or 14 rounds in the tube) at 12 years of age; a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun at 14; and a 30 calibre rifle at 16. (And an M-16 at 20).

I never shot any of my friends and we went hunting or shooting several times a week during the summer. There's more to the calculus than age.


50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
A modern double-action revolver will also turn the cylinder when the hammer is cocked, just like a single-action cowboy gun. The difference is that it _also_ offers a long trigger pull that turns the cylinder while cocking and releasing the hammer to fire -- with one shot per trigger pull, just like a semi-automatic. The only difference from a semi-automatic is that the trigger pull is longer and heavier.

Either method turns the cylinder to put a fresh cartridge under the hammer as the hammer goes back. Anyone who has ever had a Mattel Shootin'-Shell toy gun will understand how it works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR9ojNddiSI

What kind of deprived childhood did he have, that he never played with one of those?

But yeah, handling a gun without first learning how it works is like never getting into a car's driver seat and taking off, without having having ever driven before or having had any lessons.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You make a good point that deserves to be expanded upon.

The world is chock full of things that make life easier and more comfortable when used properly but that can be lethally dangerous if used carelessly. Cars, ovens, power tools, swimming pools, knives, ladders, rollerblades... any one of us can list a thousand things.

If some idiot who's never seen the inside of shop class cuts his thumbs off with a table saw the common reaction is "shame that happened to him but what did he expect?". Likewise is some novice skiier goes on a black diamond course and splits his head open people ask "what made him think he could do that?" No one blames the saw or the skiis, and certainly no one tries to outlaw them. Instead they blame the caerless idiot.

For some reason guns, and ONLY guns, are exempted from that logic. Only guns are supposed to be designed in such a way that no person, no matter how stupid or careless, could ever possibly cause an accident with one. When that impossible standard isn't met the Times and its readership sees that as an excuse to ban them. Logic and reason be damned.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Guns are exempted from that logic because the guns are not the object of the campaign.

The kind of people who OWN guns are.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're right, of course. I foolishly forgot myself for a moment and spoke as though they were arguing in good faith. My bad.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
One might come to the conclusion that liberals should not be trusted with firearms.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was nine years old when my father and brother handed me the Ruger 10/22 to examine.

Of course, before they did so there were hours upon hours of lectures about how guns work and how to safely handle them. Trips to the range where I just watched what they did and how they did it. Instruction on the 10/22 specifically, how to load, shoot and clean it. Oh, and also neither I nor anyone in my family is a complete freaking idiot. Which is why with 60 some-odd assorted firearms and a combined 200 years of gun ownership my immediate family has not one accidental discharge to its name.

And the thing is, I don't mean any of that as a boast. I know that around here I'm not exceptional, I'm positively AVERAGE. If the Times wasn't staffed exclusively by hoplophobic bigots they'd know that Mr. I-Shot-My-Friend is the exceptional one. We're the rule, not that jackhole.

And simple math should bear that out (though admittedly the Times is pretty light on general math skills too). 80 million American households own 300 million firearms. If even a small fraction of us were as careless and stupid as this nimrod the ERs would be overflowing with us on a daily basis. But as it turns out target shooting is safer than softball.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only instance of I-shot-my-friend that I know of happened in my high school. Two underage boys, two cases of beer and two shotguns. Everyone lived, but one had a nasty lead rash.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
10,000 quatloos that "who worked with the county sheriff’s department" is code for not an actual LEA, but some kind of associated employee. A sheriff is a sheriff and a deputy is a deputy. What was this guy?

The consequence of building an idiot proof world will be to fill the world with idiots.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Code for - a friend of a neighbor whose cousin is a guy that knows somebody that met a waitress in a doughnut shop that was married to a police dispatcher.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Love the ST:TOS reference there, buddy. :)
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
An employee of the county sheriff's department who let someone look at his pistol without first making it safe was negligent. Was his name Barney Fife and did he used to live in Mayberry?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've heard enough strange stories to think this one, as told, is possible. Very unlikely as told, but marginally possible. Some crappy, worn out pistols will release the cylinder to spin freely sometime during the cocking process. That's why there are gun stores and gunsmiths. If he had a malfunctioning pistol, he was negligent to still use it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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