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  1. #1
    SAR22 is offline Junior Member
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    Accidental Discharge and Revolvers

    Hi guys! Newbie here, and I'm looking for opinions of those who know more than I do about revolvers (which is probably most everyone, since I know very little). Well, I'm a writer and working on a scene where a character gets a revolver knocked out of his hand, and I wanted to gun to hit something (a wall, piece of furniture, whatever) and discharge. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered about the likelihood of a revolver doing this.

    I guess I'm wondering how likely it would be a revolver would accidentally discharge in the first place. I'm on the first draft so right now the gun is just a generic revolver, no specific brand or type, so I'd be interested in learning what type might be more likely to accidentally discharge. I'd prefer it to be a double-action revolver since this is a contemporary setting, but the user is an utter novice so I could always have him cock the hammer if that would make the discharge more likely.

    But basically I'd like to get some expert opinions on the scenario or learn if I need to switch to a different weapon to make the accident more likely.

  2. #2
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    I have somewhat limited revolver knowledge, but it shouldn't be possible for any modern handgun to fire if it is dropped or thrown. The exception of course would be if there was a defect in the gun, but I have to think that's pretty rare.

  3. #3
    SAR22 is offline Junior Member
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    Yeah a gun defect wouldn't work in this scenario either.

    Well darn. The more I thought of it the more unlikely it did seem, though I wasn't sure if revolvers had any sort of drop safety mechanism but I suppose thats pretty standard on any gun nowadays.

  4. #4
    kg333's Avatar
    kg333 is offline Member
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    Rewriting the scene to have the gun go off when his hand is struck instead of when it hits the ground/obstacle would be more plausible, particularly if the character had his finger on the trigger. If it's a fight scene, going off when someone grabs for it is also quite plausible.

    BTW, the preferred terminology nowadays is "negligent discharge" instead of "accidental discharge"...there's really no excuse for it with a modern firearm's safety features.

    KG

  5. #5
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
    Steve M1911A1 is offline Senior Member
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    A Colt's Single-Action Army or Frontier revolver would behave the way you want it to.
    No double-action revolver designed after 1900 will do what you want it to.

    A Colt's M1911 single-action semi-auto (or its clone) could do what you want it to, if its safety lever were already in the "off" position.
    Indeed, many single-action-with-safety semi-autos could, particularly a Russian Tokarev (which has no safety), as long as the gun's hammer were already cocked.

  6. #6
    SAR22 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by kg333 View Post
    Rewriting the scene to have the gun go off when his hand is struck instead of when it hits the ground/obstacle would be more plausible, particularly if the character had his finger on the trigger. If it's a fight scene, going off when someone grabs for it is also quite plausible.

    BTW, the preferred terminology nowadays is "negligent discharge" instead of "accidental discharge"...there's really no excuse for it with a modern firearm's safety features.

    KG
    That is a great suggestion and I may have to do just that, since it is looking like the the way I have it written right now isn't very plausible.

    And yes, I see what you're saying about the preferred term (I actually was around a negligently discharged handgun years ago - it wasn't me! - and no one was hurt thank goodness) but I wasn't sure that term fit a scenario where the gun is dropped or thrown since I was hoping to create a situation where the trigger wasn't actually pulled by anyone. But what I mainly wanted is the noise it creates inside an enclosed space so your idea still fits the bill.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    A Colt's Single-Action Army or Frontier revolver would behave the way you want it to.
    No double-action revolver designed after 1900 will do what you want it to.

    A Colt's M1911 single-action semi-auto (or its clone) could do what you want it to, if its safety lever were already in the "off" position.
    Indeed, many single-action-with-safety semi-autos could, particularly a Russian Tokarev (which has no safety), as long as the gun's hammer were already cocked.
    This is good to know. Perhaps I will reconsider the type of gun being used.

    Thanks everyone for the great information you've shared so far! It has been very helpful.

  7. #7
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    An old '30s era Colt DA in .38 spec where the firing pin is actually part of the hammer would probably fit the bill for you.

    I don't remember when the transfer bars came into play, but any revolver that has the firing pin as part of the hammer would be subject to possible discharge in your scenario.

  8. #8
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
    Steve M1911A1 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by high pockets View Post
    An old '30s era Colt DA in .38 spec where the firing pin is actually part of the hammer would probably fit the bill for you...
    I don't believe so.
    I think that there was either a blocking bar that the trigger had to move down, or a rebound mechanism.

  9. #9
    JBarL's Avatar
    JBarL is offline Junior Member
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    Well May I put my 2 cents in here. they could if the gun is wore out or what we call "Push off" where the hammer has a little play in it in the cocked position, where you could actullay push on hammer and it falls causeing a discharge.

    JBarL

  10. #10
    pic
    pic is offline Senior Member HGF Gold Member
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    in single action mode with hammer cocked. the perfect angle of impact could actually force the trigger back to actually fire the gun even with a safety transfer bar.

  11. #11
    DJ Niner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pic View Post
    in single action mode with hammer cocked. the perfect angle of impact could actually force the trigger back to actually fire the gun even with a safety transfer bar.
    Modern revolvers with transfer-bar mechanisms must have the trigger held to the rear for the gun to fire; a sharp jar that bounces the hammer/sear engagement surfaces enough to release the hammer, but does NOT hold the trigger to the rear, will not result in firing. Once the hammer is released, if the trigger is not held back, it returns to its forward position quickly enough to retract the transfer-bar from between the hammer and firing pin, so the firing pin never gets struck.

    This can be demonstrated with an unloaded (double-check, please!) centerfire .38/357-or-larger revolver (rimfires won't work, barrel is too small and firing pin is offset), a small screwdriver, and a standard pencil with an eraser on one end. Thumb-cock the empty (you double-checked, right?) revolver and point it straight up in the air. Slide the pencil down the barrel so the eraser rests over the firing pin hole (on .38/.357 weapons, the alignment will be automatic; on larger-caliber revolvers, some wiggling might be needed to get the eraser over the hole). Squeeze the trigger, and the pencil bounces up in response to the firing pin's impact on the eraser. Remove the pencil, re-cock the revolver, and re-position the pencil/eraser over the hole, barrel pointing straight up. Instead of squeezing the trigger with your finger, use the handle of the screwdriver to tap on the trigger until it releases the hammer (you may have to hit the trigger several times, harder than you'd think is necessary, to get it to release). When the trigger releases the hammer, both the hammer AND the trigger will snap forward (because the handle of the screwdriver slapping the trigger won't hold the trigger to the rear; it pushes it out of the way); but this time the pencil will not move, because the firing pin never gets hit to transfer the hammer's motion to the pencil.

    The same thing will happen for slightly different reasons in a S&W-style revolver. The trigger snaps forward and the rebound slide jams itself between the bottom of the hammer and the frame, preventing the hammer's full rotary motion from being completed, stopping it before it hits the firing pin (or short of the hammer-nose protruding from the frame, in the older weapons). I am not as familiar with the Colt internal mechanisms, but I assume they accomplish something similar to prevent firing.
    "Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
    (RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)

  12. #12
    pic
    pic is offline Senior Member HGF Gold Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by DJ Niner View Post
    Modern revolvers with transfer-bar mechanisms must have the trigger held to the rear for the gun to fire; a sharp jar that bounces the hammer/sear engagement surfaces enough to release the hammer, but does NOT hold the trigger to the rear, will not result in firing. Once the hammer is released, if the trigger is not held back, it returns to its forward position quickly enough to retract the transfer-bar from between the hammer and firing pin, so the firing pin never gets struck.

    This can be demonstrated with an unloaded (double-check, please!) centerfire .38/357-or-larger revolver (rimfires won't work, barrel is too small and firing pin is offset), a small screwdriver, and a standard pencil with an eraser on one end. Thumb-cock the empty (you double-checked, right?) revolver and point it straight up in the air. Slide the pencil down the barrel so the eraser rests over the firing pin hole (on .38/.357 weapons, the alignment will be automatic; on larger-caliber revolvers, some wiggling might be needed to get the eraser over the hole). Squeeze the trigger, and the pencil bounces up in response to the firing pin's impact on the eraser. Remove the pencil, re-cock the revolver, and re-position the pencil/eraser over the hole, barrel pointing straight up. Instead of squeezing the trigger with your finger, use the handle of the screwdriver to tap on the trigger until it releases the hammer (you may have to hit the trigger several times, harder than you'd think is necessary, to get it to release). When the trigger releases the hammer, both the hammer AND the trigger will snap forward (because the handle of the screwdriver slapping the trigger won't hold the trigger to the rear; it pushes it out of the way); but this time the pencil will not move, because the firing pin never gets hit to transfer the hammer's motion to the pencil.

    The same thing will happen for slightly different reasons in a S&W-style revolver. The trigger snaps forward and the rebound slide jams itself between the bottom of the hammer and the frame, preventing the hammer's full rotary motion from being completed, stopping it before it hits the firing pin (or short of the hammer-nose protruding from the frame, in the older weapons). I am not as familiar with the Colt internal mechanisms, but I assume they accomplish something similar to prevent firing.
    i was not referring to a sharp jar or a tapping of a screwdriver, i was referring to a hard impact that could force the trigger rearward in it's single action cocked mode.. I have a worked over revolver that I have modified the trigger without any rearward travel to recognize. It does have a transfer bar, and will go off with a hard hit impact at the correct angle. Your demonstration should actually involve a hard impact..

  13. #13
    DWARREN123's Avatar
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    Might be possible with one of the older revolvers with the firing pin on the hammer but not likely on a modern revolver.

  14. #14
    DJ Niner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pic View Post
    i

    i was not referring to a sharp jar or a tapping of a screwdriver, i was referring to a hard impact that could force the trigger rearward in it's single action cocked mode.. I have a worked over revolver that I have modified the trigger without any rearward travel to recognize. It does have a transfer bar, and will go off with a hard hit impact at the correct angle. Your demonstration should actually involve a hard impact..
    It really doesn't really matter what causes the hammer to disconnect from the trigger's sear engagement surface; unless the trigger is held to the rear as the hammer falls, the weapon will not fire. I was just using the screwdriver tap as an example/exercise that could safely demonstrate this concept without damaging the weapon, to show how the trigger will spring forward and retract the transfer bar BEFORE it can be struck and transfer the blow to the firing pin.

    I'm sure there are multiple sets of circumstances that will cause a firing under these conditions, but they all have to have one thing in common; the trigger must be held back as the hammer falls, even if it is only briefly. Otherwise, no bang. This is the primary reason that students of the gun, weapon instructors and Range Safety Officers are taught to let an accidentally dropped handgun fall; you should NOT try to catch it. A dropped revolver (or most other modern handgun action types, derringers excluded) firing on impact is extremely rare; a dropped revolver firing because a clutching/grabby finger hit the trigger during a bobbled catch is far more likely.
    "Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
    (RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)

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