Disabling guns: how easy or difficult?

(Don’t need answer fast:))

Hypothetical scenario, which comes up often in fiction: the good guys are searching through the bad guys house/ car/ stuff and happen unto a gun. They think the gun might be used by the bad guy against them later, so they want to disable the gun. How easy or hard is that to do, with no tools/ limited tools/ special tools?

I’m using “guns” as a generic name, I guess there are differences between Pistol-handguns, rifle-long guns, and machine pistols. (Full machine guns probably won’t be lying around).

And I’m thinking of guns common in the 70s to 90s. Nothing exotic, the garden-variety of models.
Or would the great variety of models mean that only an expert can do it, a normal person is too stumped? Or can a normal person learn the basic moves that apply to half-a-dozen similar in build?

One variation is that the good guys take the weapon to arm themselves, but that betrays their presence, and the bad guys can take another gun from a reserve stash.
Another common scene is, after you have disarmed your opponent, to empty the shells out of the handgun and throw it back at him, which often blows up when the opponent goes and reloads with new ammunition.

Therefore, I’m looking for a simple way to disable a handgun, machine-pistol or rifle-gun. Bonus points if it can be done in a few minutes and the repair will take hours. It should be done quietly. The tools, if needed, should not be extraordinary (who carries around a blowtorch or buzzsaw?). Bonus points also if the bad guy doesn’t see it immediatly.
So, can you for example take apart a Walter pistol and pocket the firing pin, and re-assemble it? Can you use a cigarette heater for 10 seconds to bend a crucial thingie inside out of shape or too brittle? Can you jam one bullet in such a way that it can’t be removed easily?

Or are modern weapons built on purpose to be sturdy, easy to dis-assemble and repair, and can be disabled / destroyed only with a blowtorch?

(In one story in the 19th century - though I don’t know if it was true even then - the hero takes a rifle, takes of the flint cap, pushes a pin he always carries on the inside of his vest in the firing hole and breaks it off. The rifle is now “nailed” - can’t be fired - but it’s difficult to figure out and hard to repair. Technology has changed, however, and modern rifles don’t have flint caps or flint stones and so on).

Quite generally the ammo could be removed. I can’t think of a gun in which this couldn’t be done easily, though I’m sure someone will point one out. This won’t help if the villains are carrying spare ammo of course.

I’d think if you had a dowel of the right size and put it into the barrel and then banged the end of the dowel on the floor driving it tightly into the barrel, it might be hard to dislodge. If you had some soft modeling clay, I’d think you could jam it in the barrel or into the cylinders of a pistol. I’d be quite hesitant to fire such a gun until I was absolutely sure it had been cleaned out.

I’m pretty sure you could bend the barrel of most rifles beyond use by jamming them between a door frame and a door and pulling on it. You might be able to do this with a hand gun, but you’d have less leverage.

Let’s assume that the bad guys have spare ammo. This is too easily repaired for my taste.

How big a dowel? Would that make a loud noise?

So what would happen when the bad guy doesn’t notice the clay - would the cylinder not turn, or would it explode in his hand?

Ah yes, I can see that for long guns, but not handguns. Hmmm. Thanks for the ideas.

A lot of guns have critical parts that can be removed without tools. This could be the bolt on a rifle for instance. It won’t work for all guns but you could just remove a critical part or two and hang onto it. The gun won’t work without it. Clips and magazines are easy to hang onto as well. It is possible to shoot a shot at a time without one if you have spare ammo but it isn’t fast or easy.

How obvious can the damage be, and how long does the disabling have to last once the bad guys figure it out?

It’s going to be very, very gun dependent by the way. An AR-15 is made to dissassemble using the tip of a cartridge as the only tool - you could take it apart, remove the firing pin, and reassemble in 2 minutes or so. Undetectable without a close inspection, and if you don’t have a spare firing pin handy, you aren’t fixing it. Or even better, remove the bolt cam pin - they’ll get one shot off, but the rifle will explode in their face.

A revolver, on the other hand, would be pretty difficult to invisibly disable without tools. I guess you could jam something in the space between the hammer and the frame so the hammer can’t come forward and strike the firing pin, but I’d be very reluctant to trust my life on that.

ETA: To do any disassembly/reassembly, you’d probably have to be knowledgeable about the gun at hand. At least for the reassembly part. My AR-15 trick certainly wouldn’t be obvious to someone who isn’t familiar with guns, even if they’re handy otherwise.

As Shagnasty said, there are guns with critical parts that can be removed without tools. One of the best would be if you could remove the firing pin from a pistol. (For example, you could do this on most, if not all, Glock pistols without tools and without it being immediately obvious.)

This is something that can be done quickly (if you know what you’re doing). It could be reversed just as fast…if the bad guy has a spare firing pin lying around, otherwise it’s more of a blunt object than a projectile weapon.

Taking a bolt from a rifle is usually something that would be visible and I thought the OP was against that.

Taking the ammo out might or might not be noticed depending on how it affects the weight of the weapon. It would probably be very noticeable on my hypothetical Glock pistol but maybe not so much on a rifle. (Speaking of rifles, you could easily take the firing pin from an AR-15/M-16 without much in the way of tools, too.) (ETA: Scooped on this one by muldoonthief.)

Quoth OldGuy:

Or, for something the heroes are more likely to have on them, chewing gum.

I’d go for the firing pin. On a handgun, you can probably bend it out of shape so either the hammer doesn’t strike it or the tip can’t hit the round squarely. In a rifle, you can just take it out. They won’t notice it until they pull the trigger. Even then, they probably wouldn’t be able to identify the problem without taking it apart.

I can take apart and reassemble an M-16 (AR-15), blindfolded, in two minutes IIRC. The firing pin is step 4 or 6, so you can do it pretty quickly. Maybe 30 seconds, with your eyes open, from start to finish?

A handgun would be much harder because the pin is fixed and it’s small. But if you’ve got, say, a screwdriver, it can’t be that hard to break. If you can’t get to the firing pin, I suggest breaking the spring that connects the trigger to everything else. The bad guy will pull the trigger and it won’t do a damn thing.

Well depending on what our intrepid heroes have available to them you could mess up a revolver by snapping off the tip of a knife into the spaces where the cylinder turns. If it is not a blacked/ blued finished our baddies might not notice that little shiv of metal stuck in the slot.

My thought, plug the barrel. Especially if you have something like modeling clay, a squirt of adhesive of your choice, even stuffing a decent wad of paper towel or napkin down the barrel and poking it in out of sight can burst a barrel or a variety of other catastrophic failures. The adhesive would be most effective if given time to dry but anything in the barrel is BAD when you pull the trigger.

If you just want to disable a weapon to avoid having to carry it away with you, that is as simple as it gets for every weapon I can think of.

As others have noted, you can remove the bolt for bolt action/semi-automatic rifles. For revolvers you can remove the cylinder. For automatic handguns, remove the slide. Any of those actions take less than 20 seconds and can be done using your bare hands.

For pump action shotguns you can remove the whole trigger assembly in less than a minute using just a screwdriver.

The most difficult to disable would probably be a break action and lever action weapons. To disable those you do actually need to disassemble them and remove either the trigger of the spring. Still just takes a couple of minutes and uses just a screwdriver.

If you want to disable the weapons without it being obvious, that’s a little harder, though not a lot.

Most bolt action/semi-auto rifles you can remove the firing pin with no tools in under two minutes. Wost case scenario you need a spanner (or a doorjamb to act as a vice).

For automatic handguns you can remove the recoil rod and spring with your bare hands in less than a minute.

For revolvers, you can remove the the mainspring in less than two minute with just a screwdriver.

Break action and lever action weapons, remove the spring.
If you do any of these things, the weapon can only be repaired if you have spare parts available. No amount of work in a standard home workshop is ever going to repair it.


Although generally speaking all weapons of a common type can be disassembled in the same way.

So anyone who knows how to disassemble one automatic pistol can figure out how disassemble most of them well enough to disable them within a minute. Anyone who knows how to disassemble on revolver can figure out how to disassemble most of them within a minute and so forth. There will be oddities, like revolvers with oddly placed cylinder pins or rifles where the bolt has to be moved in some odd way to be removed, but generally speaking anyone familiar with a specific type of weapon will be able to disable any weapon of that type rapidly and without obvous signs of tampering.

It surprised me the first time I saw it, but no. It’s unexpectedly fast. Just remove the mainspring. Takes less than a minute. You do need tools I suppose, but only something that will function as a screwdriver, like a small coin or a knife.

what about fillng the barrel with sand and then blocking it pushing a wad of chewing gum in as far as you can with chopsticks or a pencil? (so that the chewing gum isn’t visible)

Presume that would do the job and with commonly available items? Use plain dirt (or salt from the kitchen) if no sand available.

  1. It would take longer than simply removing the slide/cylinder.

  2. It would take about the same time as removing the spring/recoil rod.

  3. Barrels are open at *both *ends, so any sand or salt that you pour in can just as easily be poured out.

Fortunately, the bad guy has been insulating the cracks between his porch and the rest of the house. There’s a half used can of expanding foam insulation on the kitchen table.
A little squirt down the barrel, and no bullet from that gun is going anywhere in a hurry. Hard to notice, if you’re neat about it, too.

You might be better off with that cool gun from a Matt Helm movie that shoots backwards. Take the gun, when you encounter the bad guy, give up and hand him the gun. Then attack, he’ll shoot himself.

How well does plugging the barrel with modeling clay or pouring in sand or salt work? Seems like anything loose will come out of the barrel under pressure when its fired. Lead bullets might deform enough not to get jammed up by a little grit. I think the place to put substances like that would be in the firing mechanism, but I don’t have any experience jamming guns.

Mythbusters tried this with a shotgun and it didn’t work at all.

Even welding a steel plug into the end of the barrel didn’t cause it to explode - it would undoubtably have killed whoever it was pointed at, and probably not have done much harm to the shooter.

An obstruction can cause a gun to fail, but it’s far from guaranteed, and apparently pretty hard to make it happen on purpose.

Remove 1 of the bullets from its casing, and then jam that bullet it into the barrel past the chamber. The barrel will explode if the gun is shot with a plugged barrel. Takes only about a minute to do.

For a semi-auto, just remove the slide. Throw it in the dumpster. For a revolver, remove the grips and trash the trigger assembly. Easy, quick and very effective. Same thing for rifles. As others have said, they are easy to disassemble and require all the parts to function.

I think the bad guy will see this (notice that the slide is missing or that the revolver is in the dumpster)…and then he will just use another gun

It is faster to remove the cylinder pin and throw the cylinder in the bin.