When bad things happen
by B.B. Pelletier
I'm talking about airgun accidents today - real accidents, not just the lies a kid tells when he's caught shooting another kid just to see what will happen. Bob C. asked for this one, but I bet a lot of readers will be interested.
Starting with springs
Mainsprings are usually under a lot of tension even when the gun isn't cocked. If you're not careful when you release the spring, something bad will happen. The first time I disassembled a Beeman C1 made by Webley I didn't use a mainspring compressor. The end cap that weighs several ounces got away from me and flew six feet before hitting a wooden desk drawer divider, which it broke in two. Now, this was not an accident. This was a "stupident." An accident happens when something you could not control goes bad - like a bridge collapsing during an earthquake. A stupident is when you do the wrong thing and get caught by fate.
The C1 end cap hit this desk divider to the right of the crack (see the dent in the wood) and busted it in two.
Another spring tale
A gentleman was disassembling a spring gun at an airgun show and did not have the use of a mainspring compressor. The spring got away from him (stupident - not accident) and flew across the aisle, hitting a person in the head. No real damage was done, but the hittee didn't appreciate the event! I heard this report from the person who was hit.
Spring gun stupident
At another airgun show, a dealer had loaded a spring gun with a pellet and realized he had nothing with which to extract the pellet. The gun was a low-powered pellet rifle, so instead of going to the trouble of walking outside the show and shooting into the ground, he put the palm of his hand over the muzzle and pulled the trigger. After all - it was just a low-powered spring rifle - how bad could it be?
Here's how bad - a friend had to drive him to the emergency room of a nearby hospital so they could dig the pellet out of the hand. It penetrated out of sight. I heard this report from an eyewitness. Ironically, the person who committed this stupident also committed the one before.
Two for one stupident
Sometimes it isn't enough that just one person is stupid. Two people are even better! I had a loaded Daisy No. 25 pump BB gun on my table at Roanoke (stupident number one) and while I was away from the table a guy came up and pumped the gun. He didn't want to buy it, he was just kicking the tires. My wife, who didn't know it was loaded, told him to uncock the gun, but of course that's not possible with a Daisy 25. So he put the muzzle on top of his shoe (to cushion the piston, I presume) and fired (the other stupident)! The result was instant and painful. He felt so embarrassed that he bought the gun. I only heard the story after returning to my table - whereupon I checked all my other guns to ensure they were unloaded!
At another airgun show, a dealer was disassembling a CO2 pistol that discharged during the work. The pellet that was in the barrel struck the leg of a man standing 20 feet away. The breech of the pistol was open when the gun discharged - otherwise the pellet would have penetrated the man's leg after passing through his jeans.
The worst CO2 stupident
I was sworn to secrecy on this story. The teller who committed the stupident told me I could tell people it happened but I was never to reveal his name. When you hear what he did I think you'll understand why he wants to remain anonymous. He was working on a Benjamin 252 CO2 pistol, trying to solder the sight fixture on the front of the barrel to the CO2 tube below. He knew there was a CO2 cartridge in the tube, but he thought he could do the job quickly enough that it wouldn't matter. You see, as CO2 is heated, the pressure increases. Soldering temperature is above 400 degrees F, so that raised the pressure of the gas high enough to blow the threaded CO2 cartridge cap off the gun! It buried itself in a wall but fortunately no one was hurt. He probably wouldn't have been just hurt. He probably would have been killed.
One from my wife
My wife remembers a stupident that could have been deadly. Here's her story: At the Little Rock Airgun Expo, a man in his 30s told me he liked to teach youngsters how to use and handle guns. One day, he had a pellet pistol while outside with a group of kids, when the gun jammed. He tried to unjam it but couldn't figure out what was causing the problem. For a closer look, he held the muzzle close to his eye and repeatedly pulled the trigger so he could examine the mechanism! He didn't realize what he'd done until much later, but the horse was already out of the barn, as all the kids in the neighborhood got to see how to "safely" handle a loaded gun! I am stupefied that he managed to live to adulthood!
Wrong gas stupident
PCPs run on air, but the hospital employee had access to tanks of oxygen. Oxygen is like air, isn't it?
But this kind of stupident is not that uncommon. Apparently some hospital employees are not trained in the dangers of pure oxygen gas.
This is what happens when a VERY HOT flame is held against aluminum for a long time! It looks like a cutting torch has been used on this gun from the inside out.
Note the discoloration of the anodizing. Forensic scientists use clues like this and the bending of the steel barrel to determine how much heat caused the damage and how long the fire lasted. An oxygen fire is a dangerous thing. This rifle was returned to Pyramyd Air as defective.
I have committed a couple stupidents in the past five years. One involved a Chinese rifle I was testing, and the other was a vintage German gun I bought. The pictures below tell the tale.
I shot the couch! Because the aimpoint was four inches above the couch, I didn't move it out of the line of fire, and a Tech Force 99 made this hole. It's been there four years, as a reminder of how stupid and lazy I can be. Believe it or not, my wife never said one bad thing about this stupident because I think she knows how bad I feel.
I let my guard down and the trigger of my new/old BSF 55N slipped when I closed the barrel the first time, putting this hole in the ceiling of my office. That's why I advise BSF owners to not adjust the triggers too light.
Stupid is as stupid does. I tell you these tales in the hopes of increasing your awareness of the potential dangers of our hobby.