NOTE: If you read this page, also read about Squib loads: Gun Sense #6, Squib Load? It would make sense too…..
Some of you may already know what a misfire is, it is caused by a faulty primer at the back of a bullet casing, that when struck by the gun’s firing pin will not detonate, thus failing to send a spark into the main powder charge of the casing, that would have, in turn, sent the bullet on it’s way down the gun’s barrel.
So here is a little scenario: Let’s say that you load 6 rounds into your revolver at the gun range, take careful aim at your target, BANG!, BANG!, BANG!, click! You know you have taken three shots of the six you loaded, so you don’t necessarily have to be a NASA rocket scientist to realize that there should be at least three shots left. So what just happened is known as a misfire.
What should you do? Do not try to squeeze off another shot. When you hear that ‘click’ instead of the usual BANG, keep the barrel of your gun pointing DOWN RANGE, that will be your safest direction. Start a slow count to 10. When you reach 10 the danger will be over, unload the gun. You will notice that there will be an unfired round that falls from the cylinder, on closer inspection of the round you should notice a dent in the primer where it had been struck by the gun’s firing pin. The primer was a dud, faulty from the factory, it happens from time to time, the main thing is to handle the situation properly and safely when it does happen.
You can now throw it away and resume your shooting practice. Your next question will probably be; why did I have to count to 10 while pointing the gun down range? It is a wise precaution that can protect you and others from what is known as a hang fire. A hang fire starts out as a misfire but can actually go off after a few seconds, the primer is faulty but not quite a dud, the spark gets ‘hung up’ that is where the danger lays. If while you are pointing the gun down range counting , the gun fires, it will startle you, but will do no harm because you handled it the correct/safe way.
Hang fires are rare, but they do exist, and now you know how to safely guard against them. Misfires are far more common and should always be treated as if they could become a hang fire. A misfire and a hang fire are not the same thing, a hang fire cannot become a misfire.
If you want to see a misfire that becomes a hangfire then google: ‘Stupid people with guns’ and look at the video of the guy wearing the orange hunting vest shooting the pump shotgun at bottles ten feet away, (a real Davy Crocket). Only God will ever know why he looked down the barrel, and it was only God that saved the fool.
This is a very serious suggestion, when you go to the range with your family/friends, before you all start shooting, take 5 minutes out of your lives and discuss misfires, hang fires and squib loads. Make sure that you are ALL on the same page about this information, don’t assume people somehow automatically, magically, know this stuff, you will be surprised at how many do not fully understand it. Now, do you think this will give you some piece of mind as your standing next to them shooting? it should. Read Gun Sense #6 about squib loads, and pass GS #5 and GS#6 around to your family and friends. Thank You.
Remember, Firearm Education Will Save Lives, Firearm Ignorance Can Take Lives. Be safe.
Sincerely, Mark Shean, Knowledge through Experience
Please read Gun Sense #6, Squib Load? It would make sense to read it.
Former NRA Law Enforcement Firearm Instructor, www.mafirearmsafety.com written 7-8-2009, updated 2015. Your comments/insights are welcomed.