Sunday, December 05, 2021

"I didn't pull the trigger"

Can a Colt Peacemaker copy fire without someone pulling the trigger? Maybe...

I hate to trust anything an anti-gun bigot like Alec Baldwin says. When he said he didn't pull the trigger when he killed the person on the movie set, like probably most of you, my first inclination was to scoff. Then I wondered if it could be true.

I once had a black powder rifle fire as I pulled the hammer back to full-cock without my finger touching the trigger. Fortunately, I had it aimed downrange at the time (those gun handling safety rules work). Turns out that a sliver of wood from inside the stock, around the lock, had gotten into the sear's full-cock notch, preventing it from catching. It was a scary experience.

But my experience showed me that the common claim "a gun can never just 'go off'" isn't 100% true.

I happen to have a Colt SAA copy-- not the same one Baldwin was using, though. His was apparently a Pietta; mine is an EMF New Dakota Model made by Armi San Marcos. So I tested to see if I could get the hammer to fall while thumbing it back. 

I could.

If I thumbed the hammer back, but let it slip before it caught the first notch, it would drop back into place-- the firing pin would have contacted the cartridge primer. Since this is a very short fall, I'm not sure it would have hit hard enough to actually fire the round, but maybe. I guess it depends on spring strength and primer sensitivity.

My own accidental discharge with the black powder rifle makes me also wonder whether debris could have gotten into the sear of his gun, causing a malfunction similar to the one I experienced. 

So, yes, as much as I don't want to believe Alec Baldwin, I think it is possible for his gun to have fired without him touching the trigger, even if I think it's more likely that his finger was on the trigger after all.

None of this excuses him for sweeping people with the muzzle, for not checking for himself whether or not the gun was loaded, and for being an anti-gun bigot.

Update: I finally saw the part of the interview where Baldwin was talking about the shooting, and he talked about having the hammer cocked, but "letting it down" without pulling the trigger. That can't be done. On a SAA you have to pull the trigger to lower the hammer from a cocked position. It's the only way to do it. So, he's either lying or doesn't realize what he was doing when he shot her. Either way, it's still his fault entirely.


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  1. “….for not checking for himself whether or not the gun was loaded….”

    When I heard the reports of this incident, after my self-caution not to believe what was reported on the news as factual; the thing that first struck me about what supposedly happened was the point you noted above. Somebody who is personally responsible and familiar with firearms when handed a weapon by a prop person or anyone else would confirm FOR THEMSELVES if the weapon was loaded and with what. Irrespective of any other consideration, failing to do this denies him complete absolution from blame.

    1. Yeah, that's the one point that sticks in my mind. Sure, the prop guy should have checked, but that doesn't excuse Baldwin for not checking, too. If you're holding the gun, either check to see if it's loaded or assume it is. Especially if-- as on a movie set-- that gun will be pointed in the general direction of people in the course of doing the job. Mistakes can be deadly and there's no second take.

  2. Maybe Baldwin didn't pull the trigger. But he aimed the revolver at the cinematographer so he is responsible for the death. The firearm rules, including, "to never point the firearm at anything that you are not willing to destroy", is a last chance safety in case someone, including the person holding the firearm, had previously screwed up or in case there was an equipment malfunction. Pointing the revolver at the woman may have been a "prank" but he aimed the revolver and she died. He owns it. Yes, he should have checked the firearm, but that last rule about not pointing the revolver at anyone, was a final safety point, that assumes that something went wrong. It is a trivial but essential rule. An actual shot at the camera would have required other safety checks. This death was due to a fool playing around. He owns it all.

  3. I saw the relevant part of the interview. It's worse than I thought.