In this Boston Globe article, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wants to sue Remington and Glock over safety concerns. You may recall back in July of this year, Healey effectively banned the sales of many semi-automatic rifles in the state, in a move that most likely will not survive a lawsuit. Since Healey wants you, the law abiding citizen, disarmed, and has been unsuccessful is getting legislation passed to prevent you from buying these guns, she has focused her sights on the manufacturers. After all, this is a technique that has worked so well. By making the purchase and manufacture of crystal meth, heroin, and cocaine illegal, these drugs have completely been eliminated from public use. (Hold on, my fact checking department is telling me that may not be a true statement, while I research this farther, let’s look at Healey’s claims).
The Boston Globe article is well written and seems fairly unbiased. But, I do have issue with the claims that Healey in the accidental discharges she sites.
For reference, let’s review the 4 rules of gun safety, as we teach at GunSense:
1.Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
2.Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3.Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to fire.
4.Be sure of your target and what lies beyond.
In responding to Glock’s lawsuit, she referenced 3 stories.
The first is an “accidental” discharge at the San Francisco Hall of Justice. On thing I am not clear on, is what the fire arm was. According to an NBC Bay Area report, the handgun was a “baby Glock” in 22 caliber. However, I cannot find that Glock manufactures a gun in 22 caliber. There are 22 caliber conversion kits, but those are non-Glock parts. Glock does manufacture a Glock model 22, which is chambered in .40 S&W. If the picture in the article is an actual photo of the incident, the hole in the locker seems more consistent with a 40 caliber bullet instead of a 22. Regardless, that is not the point.
The incident went down like this. Deputy A brought the privately owned “baby Glock” to work for show and tell, and handed it to Deputy B. Deputy B wanted to know how it worked, pointed the gun in the direction of Deputy A and pressed the trigger. Deputy B must have slept through the presentation on the first THREE rules of gun safety. This is not a case of accidental discharge, this is a case of the gun doing EXACTLY what the gun was designed to do.
The second example is an accidental discharge that left a LAPD officer paralyzed. Let’s walk through this one. The officer had a loaded handgun laying in the back seat. He placed his 3-year -old son in the back seat, and not in the car seat he was legally required to be in. The young boy picked up the gun, pressed the trigger, and shot his father. Again, the gun did exactly what it was supposed to do. The father is claiming that if the gun had a grip safety, the 3-year-old would not have been able to fire the gun. However, grip safeties have lighter springs than the trigger, so if the the child was able to pull the trigger, he would have been able to depress the grip safety. Again, this story has nothing to do with Glock and everything to do with you to securely store a fire arm. (Hint: It should be on your body or in a safe)
The third example is of a man who was dancing and the “gun just went off” in his pocket and shot himself in the leg. Fewer details are available in this one. Here is what we know. The man was drunk. According to Bearing Arms, the gun was not in a holster. Healey is claiming that the light trigger on the Glock allowed the gun to discharge because of his dance moves. But let’s look into that.
An important feature of a gun being being drop safe, that means the gun can be dropped on the ground and not fire. Here is the physics behind this. Let’s say you have a gun oriented so that the muzzled is aimed perfectly straight up, perpendicular to the ground. You now drop the gun, so it falls, grip first to the hard ground below. Newton’s 2nd law of motion tells us that an object in motion stays in motion without the action of an external force. As the gun falls, it accelerates and picks up speed. At the exact instant the grip contacts the ground, both the gun frame and the trigger are falling at the same speed. However, the frame, now contacts the ground (an external force) and the gun stops moving, but the trigger still has motion, and so it continues downward. This is the normal direction of the trigger when it is being pulled to fire a shot. You now have two forces at work on the trigger. The momentum of the trigger (momentum is the product of mass (weight) times speed) is trying to pull it downward, and the trigger spring is trying to push it upwards. One of the two forces will win. If the trigger momentum is greater, the gun will fire. If the trigger return spring is greater, the trigger stays put.
As an aside, Taurus recently recalled many of their handguns because of a defect that rendered them not drop safe.Manufacturers are concerned about this and will take to remedy the problems. Manufacturers, while I am sure they are concerned about lawsuits, are really concerned about the perception in the market. There are thousands of different semi-automatic pistols out there, and for the most part, they are all the same. Different manufacturers will add some little do dad here or there to try to separate them from the rest, but in reality, they are all the same. But, they also don’t want to be differentiated on the negative side. If you earn a reputation of being not drop safe, like Taurus did, then when shopping for a pistol, and you look at a Taurus, a Glock, an M&P, and an XDm, and can’t make up your mind, you are probably going to drop Taurus from the list based on safety concerns.
Manufacturers really only have 3 ways to solve the problem to make their pistols drop safe.
The first is to reduce the momentum of the trigger, meaning make the trigger weigh less. That means making the trigger, say, from plastic instead of steel or making the trigger thinner to reduce the amount of material used. The downside is reliability and comfort of the trigger. As you make the trigger lighter, at some point, the trigger becomes to weak and will break instead of fire the gun. As you make the trigger thinner, it makes the trigger feel heaver on the pad of the finger because there is less surface area. So, like everything in engineering, this is a compromise between reliability, comfort, and weight.
The second is to increase the spring pressure. As the spring pressure increases, that means the trigger needs to be more beefy as well. It also means the gun becomes harder to shoot. The more pressure required on the trigger to fire the shot, means the gun is more likely to move off target just at the last moment before the trigger breaks. So, again, it is a compromise between accuracy, reliability, and safety.
The last method is to add an interlock to not allow the trigger to move unless it is depressed. Glock and the Smith and Wesson M&P series use this approach. The Glock has a little tongue that locks the trigger to the frame when the tongue is not depressed. Because the tongue is not part of the firing mechanism, it can be very thin and light and not hurt the reliability of the firing mechanism. Also, the tongue return spring can be relatively stiff, compared to the weight of the tongue, and not interfere with the firing sequence. S&W uses a similar, but different approach in the hinged trigger. The result is, decent sized reliable triggers and reasonable spring weights provide for a comfortable and accurate shooting experience without compromising drop safety.
So, let’s circle this back to our drunk dancer. First of all, the gun was in a hip pocket, and he was shot in the leg. This means the gun was being carried muzzle down, which is the correct way to carry in a pocket, so the grip is available for the draw. This also means gravity is helping you by pulling the trigger towards the muzzle, keeping it from firing. I cannot image how dancing could cause enough g-force in the UPWARDS direction to cause the trigger to fire. And, that would assume that he replaced the well designed Glock trigger with an aftermarket competition trigger that did not have the little tongue. So, I speculate that what happened here is that our drunk party goer had something else in his pocket, like change, keys, or chap stick. At some point, something in this pocket shifted into the trigger guard, and the entire contents of this pocket shifted up, then the object became wedged between his leg and clothing, but the gun was free to slide downward and the object in his pocket activated the trigger. Again, this is user error and not the fault of the gun.
In conclusion, I really wish Glock and Remington success in defending the baseless lawsuits brought by Attorney General Maura Healey.
And, secondly, if you carry a gun, please get training. At GunSense, I am currently putting together an entire 4 hour class on just holsters. In Concealed Carry I, students will learn good and bad features of a wide range of holsters, and learn and practice the proper draw stroke from both an unconcealed and concealed holsters. Look for this new class coming shortly.