.38 Special Accidental Discharge


September 23, 2011, 10:46 PM
I'm sure this is a stupid question, but can a .38 special double action pistol accidentally discharge if it falls on the hammer? My wife is a clinical social worker in a local hospital and someone was brought in, shot in the buttock, under these circumstances. With a modern revolver, I didn't think this was possible.

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Flint Ridge
September 23, 2011, 10:49 PM
If true the lawsuit would be worth it:)

I say BS.

September 23, 2011, 10:54 PM
They were probably lying.

A modern revolver is drop safe. They probably either shot themselves being stupid or their buddy/wife/etc shot them being stupid.

I'm sure there will be one or two out there that are defective, often it seems, as a result of "bubba gunsmithing", but they will be few and far between.

September 23, 2011, 11:22 PM
I believe that it as in WW2 on a Navy ship that a S&W Victory revolver was dropped from up high and had an AD when it struck the hammer to the deck and fired killing a seaman. S&W then came up with their hammer block to fix the issue.

So if that is true then either it was a very old S&W or someone took out the hammer block. This is done often enough by folks that think it affects the trigger pull.

September 23, 2011, 11:28 PM
Pre 1944 S&W revolvers that lack a letter prefix to the serial number, or have a V prefix up to around serial number V760000 could potentially fire if dropped.
S&Ws made after that period are mechanically blocked from firing unless the trigger is pulled.
I can't speak to any other designs.

September 23, 2011, 11:29 PM
Note to the above. If the hammer block is broken or removed then it could fire, a gunsmith would need to inspect the gun.

Black Knight
September 23, 2011, 11:37 PM
Transfer bar type systems and hammer blocks were not always used in revolvers. Older revolvers did not have them and could fire if dropped on the hammer. Fortunately most "modern" revolvers today use them and unless they are defective or removed they should not fire in dropped.

September 24, 2011, 11:45 AM
Even pre-hammer block S&W's were blocked by the rebound slide fitting under the hammer all the time unless the trigger is pulled.
And even those pre-hammer block S&W's like the above mentioned Victory model did have an additional hammer block safety that pivoted out of the side plate under spring loading.

In order for one to fire, something would have to break or deform internally, or the spring loaded hammer block would have to stick in the sideplate and fail to deploy.

I'd say there was more to the story then was told to the ER folks!

A lot of ND's are explaned away by "I dropped the gun and it just went off", or "I was cleaning it and it went off all by itself"!


September 24, 2011, 05:53 PM
Maybe from an older, lower quality brand, but not likely from anything modern.

Are you sure it was a .38 Special? More likely with an old .38 S&W caliber... or the person may have been fibbing .

September 24, 2011, 06:25 PM
I'm guessing here but anything other than a AD needs to be reported to the authorities.

September 24, 2011, 07:39 PM
I remember years ago when a couple of off-duty Cincinnati cops were looking at a Ruger DA revolver that one of them had in the trunk of his car. Ended up that one of the cops got shot - fatally, as I recall. The surviving cop blamed the gun, testifying that it went off by itself.

"BS" I thought to myself at the time.

I was proven to be right.

The two cops were drunk at the time and were grab-a$$ing around, and one of 'em pointed the gun at the other one and pulled the trigger. That's pretty much the proven technique required to shoot somebody with a modern DA revolver, you know?

The Lone Haranguer
September 24, 2011, 09:19 PM
It would not be possible with a post- WWII Smith & Wesson, any Colt made since ~1920, or a Ruger if they are in good working order.

September 24, 2011, 09:38 PM
We call these 'negligent' discharges rather than 'accidental'.

Even if the firearm is built without safety mechanisms such as a transfer bar or hammer block, the owner or carrier of the weapon has a responsibility for what that firearm does when it is in their care.

The number one safety is the operator. Older models can be carried safely by keeping the chamber under the hammer empty. Such a gun would still be good in a self defense situation, since when the trigger of a revolver is pulled the cylinder rotates, and thus it is never the round under the hammer that fires first. Old timers have made it second nature to carry such firearms with one chamber empty to prevent negligent discharges.

Some modern revolver manufacturers (freedom arms comes to mind) also recommends keeping the chamber below the hammer empty.

However, if the firearm had a hammer block (s&w) or a transfer bar (ruger) or a mixup of extremely similar mechanisms (other manufacturers) it would seem very unlikely that it was an "accidental discharge", even if it was an "accident", but rather was a negligent discharge.

Many of us here have had similar scenarios crop up from negligence - some ending in nothing but shame, and others ending in tragedy. Thank God if no one was hurt in this "accident", but I would not want the shame of needlessly discharging a firearm in a hospital of all places!

The individual responsible needs to seriously review firearms safety and face up to what happened so we all can learn from it and move on.

September 25, 2011, 10:10 AM
a proper working modern revolver cannot be fired if you banged on the hammer with a mallet

September 25, 2011, 10:21 AM
If the gun wasn't an ancient one, this sounds like a story made up to cover ones butt or to save face.

September 25, 2011, 10:51 AM

September 25, 2011, 11:39 PM
If the gun wasn't an ancient one, this sounds like a story made up to cover ones butt or to save face.
Butt yurt--the Butt got shot??Bill

September 26, 2011, 12:03 PM
Re Post #10. I fairly sure that when someone shows up in the emergency room with a gunshot wound, the police are called. I know someone who shot a hole in his pickup truck. The auto body shop reported THAT to the cops. On topic, Iver Johnson once had as part of their advertising the phrase "Hammer the hammer" touting the reliability of their hammer block safey mechanism.

September 26, 2011, 02:23 PM
I've seen to AD's that were the result of no modern day transfer bar or hammer block and both happened when they were dropped. One was a 22 revolver that the name doesn't seem to be in my memory bank, and the other was a Ruger SBH 44 mag. from the late 1970's. I came close to being a victim with the 44 mag..

September 26, 2011, 02:29 PM
Nobody said traditional Single-Actions like the old three-screw Blackhawk's were drop-safe.
They introduced the "New Model" with the transfer bar in 1973 to address that.

But the OP ask about a modern Double-Action.
And I can't think of any modern DA that is not totally drop safe.


September 26, 2011, 02:45 PM
I believe Smith first addressed the drop-fire concern by introducing "hammerless" (concealed hammer) guns, the New Departure series. Late 1880s. Colt addressed drop safety for modern revolvers in 1907 when it introduced the Colt Police Positive. "Postive" referred to their new "Positive Safety Block"--a standard hammer-block safety, which is released as the trigger moves backward.

September 26, 2011, 11:03 PM
Post #19,

Back in 1976, I had a Ruger BH .357, had showed it to a neighbor who'd never seen one. Sitting in the living room, unloaded it was handed to Chuck, he looked it over good, checked everything out and said he might have to get one like it. Having handed it back, I reloaded it, flipped the gate shut on the cylinder and "gently" eased the hammer down until it stopped, thinking it was against the revolver frame. I took my thumb off the hammer, took my finger out of the trigger guard and was setting it onto the floor BOOM, just that quick. Chuck saw what happened, said he saw my thumb in relation to the hammer and finger to trigger, thought everything was cool. I took the BH back to the dealer, had it shipped back to Ruger. Three weeks later, revolver and a letter from Ruger arrive at the dealer, "Note: on the hammer spur was a very rough edge not totally polished off before shipping, did cause hammer to hang up, could cause terrible accident!" Needless to say, the revolver never came home with me again, I sold it to another customer who wanted it worse than I did. Luckily the fired round went through 5 books in a bookshelf and into the wooden floor.

Jim K
September 27, 2011, 07:30 PM
Some of the inexpensive .38 revolvers imported prior to GCA 68 did not have either a hammer block safety or a transfer bar. We here tend to 1) accept the story as told, that it was a .38 Special, and 2) that it was a modern, quality gun.

In some places no one in authority is going to get the true story; guns tend to be low quality and hang around for years; and any shooting was an accident when the gun went off all by itself...


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