Can a Gun Fire Without Pulling the Trigger?

A gun can fire without pulling the trigger because it is a mechanical device that is subject to failure. There are several recorded instances of this happening to everyday gun owners across the US. The best way to prevent an accidental discharge from happening is to study and practice gun safety.

Before we get started, let me say that most of what we see and hear in regards to guns “accidentally” going off is related to negligence on part of the user. Mechanical failures causing a discharge are so rare, they are almost non-existent. However, they can happen and are worth discussing.

Read on to learn how a gun can accidentally misfire and what you can do to prevent it from happening.

How Can a Gun Fire Without Pulling the Trigger?

In an age where manufacturing has become so advanced, the possibility of an accidental discharge unrelated to the trigger seems close to impossible.

During my research, I noticed several comments attributing the occurrence as an anomaly. However, a gun “can” fire without pulling the trigger, and preventing that occurrence is the owner’s responsibility.

Being a mechanical device, guns are subject to error. This becomes more likely when guns are not maintained or handled correctly.

Gun instructor, Jason Hanson, experienced this firsthand while instructing his Firearms Instructor Bootcamp back in 2014. Hanson’s students were practicing defensive drills with their rifles.

All of his students were carrying AR-15s except for one, who was using an AK. To the class’s shock, the AK student was engaging the safety of their gun when it suddenly fired without any engagement of the trigger.

After the initial stir of the moment, Hanson took a closer look at the student’s rifle. Upon inspection, he found out that the safety had been cracked.

Luckily the issue was addressed within the class. If this student was loading their rifle at home and the safety malfunctioned like that, it could have been a major issue.

A similar situation happened in New Orleans back in 2010. As a woman was dining at the restaurant Galatoire’s, she dropped her purse while trying to reach into it, and then the gun fired once it hit the floor.

Luckily, no one was injured, and the lunch service resumed. However, the gun did fire a bullet straight through the wall. 

In both situations, the cause was quite simple: these gun owners did not maintain or handle their firearms properly. Any device prone to mechanical error, such as a gun, should be treated with caution and respect.

How Can I Prevent a Negligent Discharge?

The most effective defense against the effects of any mechanical failure is gun safety. Fortunately, I found various tips to keep yourself and others safe, courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Federation:

The muzzle must always point in a safe direction

Accidental or negligent discharge, whether caused by the trigger or mechanical failure, is always a possibility. Therefore, it is vital to always keep the muzzle of your gun pointing in a direction that will not harm anyone. Never aim your gun towards something or someone that is not an intended target. Additionally, ricochets and the permeability of other surfaces should also be considered.

Guns should should always be treated as if they are loaded

When your gun is in use or not, it should be treated as such. This simple rule would eliminated a lot of the negligent discharges that occur. When in doubt, unload your gun!

Your gun’s “safety” cannot be relied on

As mentioned before, the safety device is mechanical and subject to failure. The safety may be a supplement to prevent accidental discharge, but it cannot replace common sense. Always make sure that the safety is on and not set in a half-on position. The only way to know for sure that a gun will not shoot is when the action is open and completely unloaded.

Know your target and what lies beyond it

Once you shoot, the shot cannot be taken back. Shooting a gun implies major consequences, so take your time before pulling the trigger. Additionally, consider all possibilities of the bullet trajectory and potential ricochets if you miss your target.

Always use the appropriate ammunition for your firearm

Being a mechanical device, firearms are designed to shoot specifics rounds. So check what your loading to ensure you are not accidentally mixing calibers. Additionally, always check your ammunition for damage or other issues before loading your gun.

If your gun does not shoot when you pull the trigger, handle it with caution

A failure to fire can be a stressful situation. However, it can be resolved if you keep calm and practice basic gun safety practices. It is vital to point the muzzle in a safe direction; this way, no one is in immediate danger. With extreme caution, proceed to open the action, unload the gun, and then safely dispose of the cartridge.

Always wear gear that will protect your eyes and ears when shooting

While most gun safety rules apply to yourself and others around you, this rule is purely for self-protection. It is very easy to damage your eyes and ears when shooting. Additionally, any mechanical failure of a firearm can be hazardous to your eyes. That is why protective gear is a common-sense investment.

Check that the barrel is clear of any obstructions before shooting

Obstructions in the bore of your gun, including grease, mud, etc., can cause pressure changes that will burst the barrel. To prevent injury from an event like this, always check the action for ammunition and remove any obstructions from the bore before loading the firearm. If something feels off upon firing, check the barrel for any lodged obstructions. Disclaimer…make sure you do this in a safe manner.

Do not improperly modify your gun in any way and have it serviced routinely

Guns are mechanical devices that are only meant to be used as they were designed. Any effort to incorrectly modify parts like the firearm’s safety or trigger is extremely dangerous. Furthermore, since firearms are not indestructible, it is necessary to have a qualified professional inspect and repair your firearm on a regular basis, if needed.

Study the mechanical and handling properties of your firearm

One of the best ways to stay safe while carrying is to know your gun inside and out. Always check the instruction manual provided with the gun for guidelines on how to load, unload, carry, and handle that specific firearm. Gun safety is not a one-size-fits-all rule set. Each firearm is designed differently and must be used appropriately.

Reading about gun safety is a start. However, the best way to improve your safety practices is to take classes led by a qualified instructor.

Final Thoughts

In short, since a gun is a mechanical device, it is easily susceptible to error. That is why it can fire without pulling the trigger. While it may seem like an anomaly, this kind of incident can happen when gun owners do not maintain and handle their firearms responsibly. Therefore, make sure to follow gun safety practices by studying with an experienced instructor.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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