Hangfire: Revolver Safety

Be safe out there, folks. I copied and pasted below Bill Wiese’s entire post from this Calguns.net thread:

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Default SAFETY: please think about no-fire/delay-fire …

[Mods: I figure this may reach more general audience here than in specialty pistol/rifle forums…]This past Sunday afternoon, my buddy Phil & I were shooting at a local indoor range breaking in two new guns (my Sig P226 Mk25 and Henry 44Mag lever action rifle), plus doing some general shooting. Zero problems with these guns.

Gun: Ruger Stainless Bisley Blackhawk 44Mag single action, 5.5″ bbl.
Ammo: Miwall 44Mag TMJ (new loads, not reloads)

The only time I’ve had a no-fire (hangfire?) in ages has been in autoloaders – where there a click and no action cycling, and a ‘second strike’ was used to fire it, no muss/no fuss.

This time, I was firing a fairly rapid progression in a revolver, down to last 3 rounds. Then there was a ‘click’ – then “Boom” and “Boom” – I didn’t stop. (I would have if there were a squib load; been thru that w/reloads.)

I then spun the cylinder around to the nonfired position. As I was moving to aim position and almost beginning to cock, the gun fired on its own (no trigger pull, and the gun wasn’t even cocked) – a true “hangfire”, it was ‘cooking’ in the cartridge for a bit of time before detonation.

  • Approx. 10-15 sec elapsed between initial ‘click’ vs. discharge
  • Discharge felt a *tad* light but in no way a squib load (verified clear barrel from rear
    after discharge!)
  • If I had NOT rotated the cylinder back to the nonfired position, the discharge WOULD
    have damaged the gun – and likely my hands to some extent – depending on cylinder
  • If I WERE rotating cylinder back to the problem nonfiring position and the hangfire
    discharge occured before getting back to that position, then my left hand could have
    really been torn up. [Fortunately there may have been mitigating factors – Bisley
    Blackhawk is a big strong gun – and these loads were not the hottest.]



  • ALWAYS need to wait 30 or more seconds if there’s a “click”/ hangfire before taking any
    measures to cycle/eject/remove/round.
  • On revolver… 
    • STOP FIRING and leave ‘dead’ round chambered in firing position.
      GAP AND FRONT OF CYLINDER areas. (Duh, but just in case.).

    • KEEP GUN POINTED IN SAFE DIRECTION. Do NOT do anything to rotate cylinder
      nor try to eject problem hangfire round until at least 30 seconds (if not more).

  • On an autoloader pistol… 
    • a non-fire involves no action cycling, so a ‘second strike’ is possible
      and may well work. – esp. if a full double-action pistol.
    • Single-action pistols require recocking of an an exposed hammer – so there
      is small risk of a hangfire discharge kicking the slide back into your thumb
      while you’re trying to (re)cock the hammer. At worst you might get a minor
      cut from this.
    • Hammmerless striker-fired pistols generally do not have any ‘second strike’
      opportunity without hand-racking the slide: this should not be done, as the
      problem round could discharge while the slide is being racked, with breech
      unlocked… leading to “Ka-Boom” issues and certainly damage to gun.

What I did right: kept gun in hand, pointed in safe direction!

While this involved a revolver and I’ve generalized to pistols, you should also keep this in mind on rifles too – esp since a rifle cartridge is generally is of higher energy than revolver ammo!


Bill Wiese
San Jose, CA

CGF Board Member / NRA Patron Life Member / CRPA life member

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One Response to Hangfire: Revolver Safety

  1. mikee says:

    I never thought of a hangfire occurring in my Glock, thanks for making me think about it.

    I’ve had plenty of dud rounds in 22LR that usually get ejected within seconds of not firing. I should not do that either, now that I think about it.

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