How can a gun fire by itself?

Grandma’s gun under pillow shoots grandson dead while sleeping:

Can someone please explain how this is possible? I’ve only fired a few guns in my life (both at indoor ranges with strict safety procedures) and it took a bit of force to pull the trigger. How can a gun fire without direct pressure on the trigger?

it generally almost exclusively can’t.
Something or someone put pressure on the trigger and it fired the gun.

In rare cases a gun is in such poor shape or design that it will fire if jolted; but I’m pretty confident this isn’t the case.

The gun was loaded with a bullet in the chamber and the trigger was pulled, I’m pretty sure; unless I see evidence to the contrary

I’ll edit this to include:
You will often see where people will claim ‘the gun just went off’ . Its pretty much guaranteed, that something was in contact with the trigger and pulled it

It probably can’t.

Note that sometimes faulty ammo can cause pulling the trigger to just click, and <30 seconds later it goes off, which is why you should always keep it pointed down range. And personally I cannot fathom sleeping without my arm under my pillow. Often in cases like this, along with “it went off while cleaning,” it as used as an excuse for a negligent discharge due to improper safety.

Also, grandmother at 39…

I remember a Hunter S Thompson story about a revolver that would go off from the vibrations sitting on top of a speaker. Would have to be cocked though and that’s an insane thing to have under you pillow. Likewise SKS rifles and open-bolt sub-machine guns have been known to go off when dropped. Also not something you keep under the pillow.

Agreed with the above.

I struggle to comprehend how a gun could discharge with literally no forces acting on it. The only possibility I can imagine is a sear that is so badly worn or damaged that it slipped on its own and allowed the hammer to go forward… But this would require (A) that the round is chambered, (B) hammer is left in the cocked position and © that the internal mechanism holding the hammer in the cocked position is mechanically defective, and (D) the safety was off or also defective.

Guns that fired from being dropped are also either of very old design (practically Victorian) or mechanically defective. Barring an extreme defect, a modern firearm should not discharge from falling. In fact, the common advice is that if you drop a gun you should not attempt to grasp for it - it is safer to let it hit the ground than risk accidentally touching the trigger.

I have heard of times when defective guns discharged when a round was chambered, but again, this is (A) defective and (B) being manipulated by the user… Not just sitting there on the table.

Putting your gun under your pillow is extremely stupid for precisely this reason. Even without considering whether the gun was defective or the trigger got accidentally bumped, we know for a fact that (A) the round was chambered, (B) the gun was unsecured, and © the gun was pointed at a person who was not a target. If I were on a jury, these three facts alone would convince me that the owner was negligent.

Was it a WWII Japanese Type 94? If you push on the exposed sear bar with the safety off the gun fires without pulling the trigger. Every other pistol in the world is designed better.

A gun could fire itself if you heated it enough to auto-ignite the propellant.

Otherwise, all I can envision is that either a) someone pulled the trigger, or b) a wrinkle/hole/thread loop in the pillow cloth somehow snagged the trigger and tugged it when the sleeper changed position.

I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that the kid somehow pulled the trigger. It seems they were sleeping together. Did they conduct GR tests?

Cheap “Saturday Night Specials” like the Raven/Lorcin and other cheap pot-metal guns have a reputation for poor quality and generally being unsafe, like the gun firing when the safety is flipped off (one of the many reasons that you should never fully trust a mechanical safety, the best safety is that squishy gray mass between your ears), those guns are often not drop safe

Revolvers with the firing pin on the hammer can also fire if the hammer is struck hard enough, or if a dropped gun lands on the hammer spur, most modern revolvers now use a transfer bar system or similar isolated firing pin system.

Heck, even the unfairly maligned Glock pistols have three passive safeties, drop safety, trigger safety, striker safety, the problem people unfamiliar with Glocks have, is they treat them like a pistol with a manual mechanical safety, if you treat them like a revolver (Which also has no manual mechanical safety) and keep your finger indexed outside the trigger guard (a good practice for any handgun, actually) until you’re ready to fire, the Glock is no more prone to negligent discharges than a revolver

And this is coming from an avowed revolver and 1911 guy, I’m between 1911’s right now, and I do have a Glock 17, but I don’t love it, it’s an appliance, nothing more, reliable but “soul-less”

My 17 is kept on my nightstand next to the bed, with a Glock 18 33 round mag installed, and a Weaponlight on the lower rail, I have a snap-cap (inert dummy round) chambered and the trigger has been pulled to decock the striker, the trigger is fully back, which on a Glock means the gun cannot fire unless the slide is racked to chamber a live round…

Even if I had a Night Terror event that made me grab the gun that I slipped under the pillow that night (a nightmare about hillary becoming president, perchance? :wink: ) and I reflexively clenched the grip and my index finger pulled the trigger, the gun would not and could not fire, I’d have to wake up, rack the slide and then pull the trigger …
Barring a cheap/defective/poorly maintained gun, I don’t see how the gun in the linked article would just “go off”, this was sadly, a negligent discharge

I’m going to say that granny’s head weight on the pillow manipulated the trigger. Pulled/manipulated trigger=fired gun.

No you have it all wrong. Guns are evil.

And I mean EVIL with a capital evil. They are all possessed by Satan himself. When someone says “the gun went off by itself”, they aren’t lying or mistaken. There are guns out there just looking for someone to shoot. They lie in wait, biding their time.

Don’t trust them!

I think I saw it in a TZ episode, so you know it’s true. Or was that evil shoes? Or a toupee? I get confused…

No sense jumping to conclusions. It might not be negligent homicide – it could be just regular ol’ homicide.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the dope it is this.

Well, if gun owners would stop saying that the gun went off by accident every time they shoot a toddler, then maybe naive non-gun-owners would stop believing that guns just randomly shoot bullets at random times.

The fact is, guns don’t go off at random and shoot people. A gun has to be loaded, the safety has to be off, the trigger has to be pulled, and the gun has to pointed at a person. All those things have to happen before a bullet flies out of the gun and kills a toddler.

So the fact is, all those things happened in this case. How did they happen? Good question. Grandma loaded the gun. Grandma left the safety off. Grandma left the gun under the pillow, where it was pointed at Junior. And therefore, Grandma must have pulled the trigger somehow, for some reason, because otherwise the gun wouldn’t have discharged and the bullet wouldn’t have hit Junior and killed him.

Therefore, Grandma deserves some prison time. She loaded a gun, took the safety off, left it pointed at a toddler, and pulled the trigger. Fuck her. Prison time for you, bitch. You killed your own grandchild through your own criminal stupidity.

I can’t see sleeping with gun under my pillow it would be as uncomfortable as hell and would tend to migrate out from underneath. Either kid or granny pulled the trigger playing it or moving it.

boooo!!! I thought this was going to be an engineering thread.

Even poorly maintained guns won’t fire themselves without some outside force.

I used to have a Chinease made sks which is a 7.62 ×39 round. I think it’s the same round as an ak. Anyways they are meant to be semi automatic but can be converted to fully automatic which is illegal and I don’t recommend doing it nor have I ever tried that. Anyways a friend of mine was over and we were target shooting. I had 14 rounds in my semi automatic sks and it let all 14 go after I pulled the trigger once. Like I say it’s a cheap gun that has flaws. It just about flew out of my hands. I sold the gun after that and told my friend who bought it. “This fucking thing has a mind of its own. Be careful”.

Semi-autos with one in the pipe (a chambered round) it can happen but it would be really unusual. Safety off and the wrong pressure on the trigger (say from the pillow) is all it would take. Especially if some - person (and by that I mean total idiot) - tried some home gunsmithing to “smooth out the trigger pull”. Some guns have a sort of reputation for being subject to accidental discharge; the Nambu mentioned above and the Luger spring to mind. But those are not ones you would expect a security guard to have under the pillow.

Another report does say that it was a semi-automatic.

and the press release

The SKS has a “floating” firing pin, it is free to slide forward and back inside the bolt carrier, if there was a buildup of crud, carbon fouling, grit, or solidified Cosmoline, the firing pin could stick/jam in the forward position, and the action of the bolt flying forward with a jammed firing pin could cause it to unintentionally fire more than one round per trigger pull

The technical term for this failure state is “slam-fire”, and it can fire off anywhere from two to ten rounds, depending on how badly the firing pin is jammed

This,is,why it’s important to,keep semiautos with floating firing pins as clean as possible

Thank you for the information. I need to take better care of things.