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Failure to fire: a fluke

Roanoke County Police are checking their issued H&K guns after an officer’s gun failed to fire during a confrontation with a man who had a shotgun. My first thought was he didn’t have one in the chamber or take the safety off. But their investigation says: The department’s investigation after the incident revealed the officer’s .45-caliber Heckler & Koch semi-automatic pistol likely malfunctioned because of improper maintenance, said Lt. R.C. Mason, a police spokesman. Seems the armorer didn’t replace the firing pin.

There’s the old stereotype that police only get to the range once a year. Maybe they should go more often to make sure their stuff works and that they can work their stuff.

22 Responses to “Failure to fire: a fluke”

  1. treefroggy Says:

    Or at least test fire after maintenance.

  2. Chuck Says:

    Are we sure this is a bug and not a feature?

  3. comatus Says:

    Suck, hate you, usw.

  4. Andy Says:

    Having worked for the 5th largest PD in Pennsylvania, I can tell you from experience that 99% of cops shoot their duty guns only when they’re required to for annual qualification.

  5. Firehand Says:

    That’s interesting… it says the pistol fired correctly in quals since the pin was supposed to be replaced, and fired correctly after the incident.

    I don’t know anything about H&K pistols, any idea how the pin could have caused this?

  6. Dave Says:

    Not unrelated to Andy’s comment, many years ago I was in a conversation with a cop whom I knew, and glanced at his issue duty gun, which was a Model 10. I did a double take and asked why his gun was unloaded, because I did not see the edges of the cartridge rims. Turns out he had performed annual qualification, cleaned the gun and returned it to the holster while simultaneously forgetting to reload it, mostly because he didn’t have any ammo at home.

    His qualification was almost a month prior…..

    I suspect there’s a business opportunity in the manufacture of one-piece molded gun/holster assemblies for those agencies whose cops who aren’t really interested in shooting.

  7. SayUncle Says:

    any idea how the pin could have caused this?

    I’m guessing the safety was on. But that’s just me.

  8. Patrick Says:

    If you don’t test fire after cleaning, it’s not proven to work. I once got bank stares from a group of gunnies when I mentioned that immediately after cleaning a gun I like to go out and test fire it. “But now it’s dirty again?!?!”

    “No. Now it is proven to work again.”

    I think some of the concern over cleanliness in guns comes from the military wanting every nook and cranny clean at all times (at least, as I remember it). Maybe once upon a lonesome it made sense, but today I don’t see modern firearms firing good ammo needing that much TLC.

    I only clean right before I know I’ll start having issues, and that is different points for each gun. Some I clean after every 100 rounds (Sig P238), some only when touching them makes so dirty I cannot stand it anymore (Glock). Thousands of rounds a year and this works for me. YMMV.

    Point is: if you take it apart it is unproven until it shoots again.

  9. HL Says:

    Iím guessing the safety was on. But thatís just me.

    This…or they took the firing pin out to clean it and didn’t put it back in…

    Alternatively, it could have been Markie Mark’s gun, in which he always installs shortened firing pins while he is away from home.

  10. Dann in Ohio Says:

    As a former law enforcement officer… some of us shot at least weekly… others in my department shot twice a year to qualify… not much has changed since then in many departments…

    That’s why a lot of police trade-in’s are good deals… most of the wear is cosmetic on the outside of the gun…

    Dann in Ohio

  11. Bobby Says:

    This isnt a fluke, Its a F’Up.

  12. mikee Says:

    Here is the place for the armorer to step up and institute a test firing for every gun that is ready to leave the shop. Otherwise, there is no documented evidence that the gun works.

  13. Dann in Ohio Says:

    ACTUALLY… I read the article and the armoror forgot to put the firing pin spring back in the gun… BACK IN 2010… IT TOOK THIS COP TWO YEARS TO FIND OUT HIS GUN WOULDN’T FIRE???…

    Dann in Ohio

  14. HL Says:

    They said it worked since then.

    Maybe when he qualified with it the pin just happened to be resting in its normal rearward position, and so fired.

    Later, when it mattered, the pin had shifted forward (since the spring wasn’t there to hold in it’s rearward postition)and so the hammer drop didn’t make contact with the pin.

  15. Gunstar1 Says:

    Leaving the spring off doesn’t mean the gun wont ever fire.

    I don’t know about H&K pistols, but it is entirely possible that with a round in the chamber, the FP is pushed back far enough so that some small portion of the FP is availible for the hammer to hit. Which would result in a very light primer strike.

    If you qualified and tested the gun with ammo which have primers that discharge from a lighter primer strike than what your daily carry round have, then you end up with the exact situation in the story.

  16. Jake Says:

    Mason said the gun had fired correctly “on a number of occasions” at biannual qualifications at the county’s firing range, and subsequently fired correctly during tests after the Monday incident.

    Just like I suspected, it looks like he only shoots for his qualifications.

    I read the article and the armoror forgot to put the firing pin spring back in the gun

    Honestly, I read that as meaning that he left the old spring in when he should have changed it for a new one, not that he left it out entirely, and that it had worn or broken so it wasn’t holding the firing pin in place consistently anymore. Even if the pin is floating free, if the hammer hits it the gun should fire, but if it’s drifted forward so the hammer doesn’t hit it solidly (or at all, depending on the gun’s design), it might not.

  17. Mike V. Says:

    My 1st guess would have been gunk in the firing pin channel. That would explain it having worked before but not now. And remember that the person briefing the media is likely one of the non shooting police since he’s not working the streets. If it really was a failure on the armorer’s part, I surely hope he’s their ex-armorer now.

  18. Sigivald Says:

    Patrick: It made lots of sense in the days of corrosive primers, to not test fire after cleaning.

    But that era passed 50-odd years ago for the civilian/police market…

  19. Ted N Says:

    My USP’s firing pin gummed up to the point that it would fire the first and maybe second shot just fine, but by the third it was too far in, and I’d have to wait for it to reset. A drop of CLP and a wiggle fixed it just fine.

    I’d think it’d be operator level maintanance, not something to blame of the armorer. Gotta pass the buck along though, it’s never anybody’s fault that they don’t keep up their own equipment, don’cha know.

  20. Paul Says:

    Ok I looked at the diagram for the H&K. They had to take the roll pins out to get the firing pin out.

    Then clean the firing pin tunnel and re-install.

    Now the firing pin protrudes from the back AND it has a firing pin LOCK!

    So the armorer had to not only leave the firing pin out but the firing pin lock and spring (looks like the firing pin lock hooks onto the firing pin to keep it there.

    So the armorer had some spare parts on the table but didn’t see them (or care.)

  21. Jerry Says:

    Well…shit, never mind.

  22. CarlS Says:

    “So the armorer . . .” This overlooks the fault that said armorer is most likely another cop, on limited duty, as opposed to a full-time professional civilian specialist. Given average skill levels . . .