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Just How Drop Safe Are Guns Anyway? What You Need To Know

The thing is that safety testing has limits. For testing agencies or gun companies to anticipate every single variable that might influence drop safety is more or less impossible.

To build on a little bit.

So, the Sig P320 affair was that someone figured out that the gun would discharge if dropped on the back of the slide at a specific angle. While this might seem like a “how could they have not thought about that?!” thing, it isn’t actually that simple.

First, there are 360 degrees in a circle, but we live in a three-dimensional world. There’s height, width and depth. Anticipating every single angle at which a discharge would be induced is impossible. Anticipating every distance from which the gun could be dropped and every material a gun could be dropped on is likewise impossible.

In other words, it would take years to not only come up with all the different testing parameters, let alone do them.

Then we come to the nature of gun design.

This is not to say that any particular design of gun is inherently dangerous. This is instead to say that every type of firing mechanism has it’s own features, benefits, drawbacks and so on.

First, let’s talk about how a firing pin works.

How a firing pin typically works is there’s a spring at the front of the firing pin, like a shock absorber. The pin is knocked forward by the firing mechanism until it strikes the primer. At that point, the spring compresses and sends the firing pin rearward until the spring fully decompresses.

With a hammer-fired pistol, the hammer must be brought back and then dropped on the firing pin (or in the case of older revolvers, directly on the cartridge) in order to strike the primer. At rest, uncocked, there isn’t any tension in the hammer or sear. With striker-fired pistols, the striker/firing pin is partially cocked, meaning there is SOME tension in the hammer and sear group.

Now, this isn’t to say that hammer-fired guns are safer. They aren’t, and for this reason:

If ANY loaded gun is struck from behind with sufficient force, the firing pin CAN be knocked forward, even with a firing pin block in place. Hammer OR striker-fired.

So while some people might be apt to say “that makes the 1911 the safest gun on the planet!” and especially those of us who like that platform, it just isn’t true.


Though with that said, since striker-fired pistols already pre-tension the striker/firing pin, that means that – from the perspective of pure mechanics – there is the potential for less force being needed to induce a discharge, since the striker/firing pin is pre-tensioned. If the firing mechanism is correctly jarred, and sear contact broken…the striker/firing pin can travel forward.

In other words, the mechanical potential is inherently there. What drop safety testing does is try to anticipate the conditions under which the potential action can occur. Since there are so many variables involved, anticipating all the different conditions under which it can occur is almost impossible.

Is this to say that testing parameters couldn’t be better? No. Is this to say gun companies couldn’t do a little more testing before putting guns into production? No.

What this IS to say is that when a drop fire occurs, it is not at all like when Ford decided that they’d ignore the problems with the Pinto because it would have been more expensive to fix the Pinto than pay a few out-of-court settlements in case people were BURNED ALIVE in their cars. And yes, in case you’re curious, that’s exactly where Chuck Palahniuk got the idea for that bit in “Fight Club.”

Point being: the gun industry makes a good-faith effort to ensure their products are safe. It’s just that sometimes, someone finds a condition that wasn’t necessarily anticipated or even anticipatable.

Source: Alien Gear Holsters

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