Guns discharge when dropped?


Linux&Gun Guy
December 17, 2003, 09:58 PM
At my school some kids say that guns regularly "go off" when dropped from standing hight: ie the guy holding it drops it. I really dought this happens very often because of all the safty mechanisums in modern guns. What are your experiances with this?

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December 17, 2003, 09:59 PM
Even in a gun that lacks a firing pin safety, it is a rare occurance.

You have to drop it just right so that the firing pin has enough force to ignite the primer (landing on the muzzle exactly)

Or perhaps a strange occurance where a hammer smacks hard on something, or a cocked hammer hits something hard causing it to slip from the sear or the sear to break.

Of course there's other contingencies.

December 17, 2003, 10:04 PM
Not in California. (sort of a joke) As far as I know the mandatory "drop test" that all handguns certified for sale in California must pass is designed to prevent exactly that from happening. I don't know all the details of the test so I can't speak to that. I'll have to check on exactly what they do for the test itself. RESEARCH TIME!:D But I did drop a loaded shotgun (winchester 1897) on the ground accidently, stock hit first from about waist high, nothing happened :uhoh:, not to say it didn't scare the crap out of me.

December 17, 2003, 10:12 PM
Well if anyone is interested these are the conditions a handgun has to pass before being sold in California soooo
2128. As used in this chapter, the "drop safety requirement for handguns" means that at the conclusion of the firing requirements for handguns described in Section 12127, the same certified independent testing laboratory shall subject the same three handguns of the make and model for which certification is sought, to the following test:
A primed case (no powder or projectile) shall be inserted into the chamber. For pistols, the slide shall be released, allowing it to move forward under the impetus of the recoil spring, and an empty magazine shall be inserted. For both pistols and revolvers, the weapon shall be placed in a drop fixture capable of dropping the pistol from a drop height of 1m + 1cm (39.4 + 0.4 in.) onto the largest side of a slab of solid concrete having minimum dimensions of 7.5 X 15 X 15 cm (3 X 6 X 6 in.). The drop distance shall be measured from the lowermost portion of the weapon to the top surface of the slab. The weapon shall be dropped from a fixture and not from the hand. The weapon shall be dropped in the condition that it would be in if it were dropped from a hand (cocked with no manual safety applied). If the design of a pistol is such that upon leaving the hand a "safety" is automatically applied by the pistol, this feature shall not be defeated. An approved drop fixture is a short piece of string with the weapon attached at one end and the other end held in an air vise until the drop is initiated.
The following six drops shall be performed:
(a) Normal firing position with barrel horizontal.
(b) Upside down with barrel horizontal.
(c) On grip with barrel vertical.
(d) On muzzle with barrel vertical.
(e) On either side with barrel horizontal.
(f) If there is an exposed hammer or striker, on the rearmost point of that device, otherwise on the rearmost point of the weapon.
The primer shall be examined for indentations after each drop. If indentations are present, a fresh primed case shall be used for the next drop.
The handgun shall pass this test if each of the three test guns does not fire the primer.

Ofcourse because of this we miss out on alot of really cool guns because there is a huge back log to test them.

December 17, 2003, 10:14 PM
Yes.. if the gun is dropped from high enough and it doesn't have a firing pin safety and you dropped it either on the hammer or on the muzzle from high enough..

But almost 100% of all guns now prevent that. Revolvers use to have this problem, but most revolvers now use a transfer bar or something of the sort to prevent this from happening.

You can do it to an M1Garand or M1A..

But given the mass of the firing pin in it, and how much force you need to ignite the primer, you are looking at a good 20-30 feet or so and dropped straight on the muzzle.. I'm more weary of a slamfire than a drop fire..

All guns in the PRK have to go through the "drop test". I think they do it from the top of a 10 foot ladder 5 times. Don't quote me on that though, that's what I seem to recall, not a fact, and not stated as such..

December 17, 2003, 10:16 PM
New guns sold in CA won't do that...the state legislature has seen to it! :rolleyes:

December 17, 2003, 10:36 PM
What twoblink said. Revolvers used to have this problem. In the old days folks would carry a six-shooter with all chambers loaded and the hammer on half-cock (as a sort of safety). If dropped on the hammerit could fall and cause a discharge. That's where the expression "going off half-cocked" came from.:)


December 17, 2003, 10:44 PM
Had it happen to me in 1975 with an old SA revolver, .22mag. It had no transfer bar or other type of safety and I was stupid because it had a round under the hammer. Still have that bullet in me and was very lucky. I am VERY safety aware now. NO mechanical safety should be trusted -- the four basic rules must be followed at all times and the primary safety (your trigger finger) should remain off the trigger until you are ready to destroy whatever is in front of the muzzle.

December 17, 2003, 10:47 PM
Those evil guns!!!!

December 17, 2003, 11:00 PM
No no no! Not evil... just misunderstood.
New guns sold in CA won't do that...
This applies to handguns only; you can still buy all the deadly unsafe rifles and shotguns you like.

I'm not particularly proud of it, but I've dropped more than my fair share of loaded handguns before (I'll tell the tale of the Glock in the toilet sometime...) and have not had a single discharge; that being said I don't recommend making a habit of it

December 17, 2003, 11:14 PM
The term "going off halfcocked" came from when they used flintlocks, so when you loaded the gun you would place the hammer at halfcock to prime ,close the pan cover then put your powder down and your ball down the barrel you would not want the gun going off:what:

Standing Wolf
December 17, 2003, 11:33 PM
I've never seen it happen in more than three decades of shooting. I've never met anyone to whom it's happened. In theory, it could happen, so I'm always careful with firearms.

December 18, 2003, 12:30 AM
A modern firearm in good repair will only discharge under one circumstance:

The trigger has been actuated.

99.8% of all AD/ND/UD's involve someone or something manipulating the trigger. The other .2% is the unavoidable sound of ???? happening.

December 18, 2003, 03:34 AM
A modern firearm in good repair will only discharge under one circumstance:
The trigger has been actuated.
Not exactly true.
There are still plenty of newly manufactured single action revolvers that WILL fire if there is a live round under the hammer if dropped.

Many old cowboys were shot in the leg when carrying a fully loaded revolver they threw a stirrup up over their saddle to tighten a loose cinch. you jerk the cinch tight and the stirrup falls and hits the hammer of your revolver. BOOM bullet in the leg.:what:

Also a pre-80 Series 1911 type semi-automatic pistol, when the hammer is down on a loaded chamber, WILL fire if dropped on the muzzle. Usually the inertia firing pin will not slam fire if the hammer is cocked and similarly dropped. Notice I said usually because a light or weakened firing pin spring can allow this.

December 18, 2003, 08:52 AM
That is why a lot of the old cowboys will leave the first chamber empty, so the empty chamber becomes the drop safety..

ND's are just that: Discharges due to negligence. Anything else is giving credit to stupidity.

Dropping a gun to make it fire is very difficult.. Not impossible, but difficult. FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER prevents about 99% of all ND's.

Bartholomew Roberts
December 18, 2003, 09:29 AM
All guns in the PRK have to go through the "drop test".

Note that police officers were exempted from this law. Guns that fail the drop test may still be purchased and used by law enforcement agencies in California.

That makes sense eh?

Tracy Hightower
December 18, 2003, 10:08 AM
The assertion that handguns go off regularly when dropped is absolutely correct. They go off because of our tendency to try to catch things we drop. Handguns rarely go off when allowed to hit the ground. They do however go off quite often when people try to catch them and pull the trigger in doing so. There have been many instances of people shooting themselves or others while catching a dropped handgun. NEVER TRY TO CATCH A DROPPED GUN. Shotguns are more likely to go off when dropped as most shotgun safeties only block the trigger and not the hammer.

Greg L
December 18, 2003, 10:20 AM
Has any pistol failed Ca's test since it was implemented? Granted, any manufacturer willing to pay for the testing is probably reasonably sure that they will pass. It would be interesting & telling to see just how much has been spent to test all these pistols & how many have failed. Of course that is the very reason that those statistics will never see the light of public scrutiny.


December 18, 2003, 03:04 PM
BluesBear: I humbly stand corrected.

(It happens once in a while)

December 18, 2003, 09:32 PM
At my school some kids say that guns regularly "go off" when dropped from standing hight: ie the guy holding it drops it.

The next time one says that ask them when did they become experts on the subject and where did they get their information.

BTW not all handguns being sold in Kali. must submit to the safety test. Just the ones being imported into the state. Those models already there are grandfathered.

Sean O'Brian
December 20, 2003, 12:39 AM
just in case anyone is interested CA DOJ site ( The regularily add and subtract from the list of approved handguns, but I've never seen them offer a ghost of an expalnation as to why any particular model has recently made or missed the cut.

I think that tea leaves, chicken bones, goat entrails and oujia boards ( are involved. (and / or campaign contributions?)

December 20, 2003, 01:07 AM
The CA test is, in principle, a very good thing.

Guns should NOT fire when droped. Almost any modern handgun will be very drop-safe, and ALL of the over 800 guns accessable here have been tested as such: the drop is only ~40" though, not very far.

Now, don't go throwing your Glock off the deck just to prove a point to your friends. I've never heard of it happening, but even firing pin safetys, like and machine, could conciveably fail with enough time/chaos/abuse/random-bad-luck.

In practice however, due to the manufactuars having to shoulder the financial burden, means that many guns just don't come to CA at all. (the real intent if you ask me.)

December 20, 2003, 01:38 AM
The handgun must also endure their self imposed torture test. If any part of the test (I think there are 3 different catergories) is failed then the handgun is retested and if it doesn't pass it is rejected. The manufactor has to resubmit with more specimens and repay the fee to have it tested again. A lot of handguns have been dropped from the list only to be re-added at a later date.
The biggest headache and expense for the manufactors is every model has to be tested. Meaning if you make a model in carbon steel, stainless steel, and polymer with different barrel lengths then each one has to be tested with the fee paid for each model submitted. Some manufactors have chosen to drop that market and save the fees. I can see their point when the agency can and has dropped models from the approved list.

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