Let’s talk for a minute about gun safety. And I’m not talking about the NRA’s 3 Rules for Safe Gun Handling (quick, can you name them? 1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, 2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, 3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use).
What I’m talking about is the gun itself. I can’t even tell you how many questions Jenna and I have had that go something like this:
- Do you keep your gun loaded?
- Won’t it just go off?
- If the gun falls out of your holster (or purse/backpack/day-timer/etc.), won’t it fire a shot that could hurt or kill you?
So here is the Problem Statement: a gun should only be capable of firing when done so intentionally by the person shooting/holding/controlling it.
Every good engineering feat starts with a problem statement. And guess what: gun manufacturers have had that problem statement on their desk for at least a couple hundred years. I guarantee you that if you paraded each and every one of them into your living room right now (or wherever you’re reading this), they would EACH have a professional, rehearsed, and ACCURATE answer about how their gun has solved the problem.
Let’s look at some examples. And yes, we’re going to start with Glock since for whatever reason, Glock has had to answer this question more than anyone else.
As you can see in the picture, Glock has designed the trigger such that the mechanism itself won’t move without correctly having your finger on the trigger, which depresses that center trigger part thingie. And yes, thingie is a technical term (you’re welcome, Glock!). So throwing a loaded Glock onto the pavement, aside from making me cringe, should never cause the gun to just “go off.” The center trigger “thingie” has to be depressed first. (Have I mentioned to keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot?)
Smith & Wesson has answered the problem statement largely the same way, but with a different technical engineering solution. Let’s look at a Smith & Wesson M&P:
So the problem statement is the same and the high-level solution is the same: let’s keep the gun from going off until the shooter has his/her finger on the trigger. The detailed technical solution is slightly different, however – the bottom half of the trigger itself is spring-loaded and actually pivots to the rear during the first teeny part of the act of pulling the trigger. Again, the gun isn’t going to just “go off” – the trigger needs to actually be pulled before the gun will shoot.
Springfield Armory solved this problem nearly identically to how Glock did: the center trigger bar “thingie.”
At any rate, here are my take-aways: no, it’s not just going to “go off.” You need your finger on the trigger first, which leads me to my second take-away: ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot! Unfortunately, there’s no engineering solution to doing something stupid. You’re on your own for that one.