Firearm Injuries

Thousands of people are hurt or killed every year in gun accidents. For any given episode of gun violence or firearm-related injury, there are multiple avenues of recovery that may be pursued. These may be against the individual gun handler for improper gun handling or negligent storage of the firearm. Manufacturers and retailers can also be pursued for designing, manufacturing, and selling defective products. Even landowners can be held responsible for injuries suffered due to unsafe conditions on their property.

It is important to realize that just because a firearm goes off, doesn’t always mean someone pulled the trigger. Poorly designed rifles, shotguns, and handguns can fire a round even when the trigger has not been pulled. The most common unintended discharges occur when the firearm is bumped or the safety is moved. Other defective firearms can discharge even with the safety on.

Firearm Injury Attorneys

Thousands of people are hurt or killed every year in gun accidents. For any given episode of gun violence or firearm-related injury, there are multiple avenues of recovery that may be pursued. These may be against the individual gun handler for improper gun handling or negligent storage of the firearm. Manufacturers and retailers can also be pursued for designing, manufacturing, and selling defective products. Even landowners can be held responsible for injuries suffered due to unsafe conditions on their property.

It is important to realize that just because a firearm goes off, doesn’t always mean someone pulled the trigger. Poorly designed rifles, shotguns, and handguns can fire a round even when the trigger has not been pulled. The most common unintended discharges occur when the firearm is bumped or the safety is moved. Other defective firearms can discharge even with the safety on.

Defective Guns

Virtually every consumer product manufactured and sold in the United States falls under the scope of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with one notable exception: firearms. To avoid breaches of the 2nd Amendment, firearms, and firearms alone, are exempt from any oversight with regard to product safety. As such, the firearms industry uniquely polices itself.

Accordingly, there are legions of defective firearms in the market. Not all such defects surface in cut-rate or cheap firearms. In fact, some of the most notorious firearm defects have occurred in some of the most noteworthy firearms on the market.

Remington Arms

The Remington Model 700 has been the subject of thousands of customer complaints and reports that the gun fires without the trigger being pulled. In fact, the complaints are so numerous that Remington has classified the nature of the complaints with acronyms:  FSR (Fires on Safety Release), FBC (Fires on Bolt Closure), FBO (Fires on Bolt Opening), and JO (Jars Off).

Winchester

This particular category includes Winchester Model 94 Lever Action rifles, carbines, and muskets with a “half-cock” safety. When there is a live cartridge in the chamber, dropping, jarring, or bumping the firearm may cause an accidental discharge. Jarring the firearm can cause a discharge, regardless of the hammer’s position– even if it is not directly impacted.

The Winchester SXP shotgun was the subject of numerous complaints rooted in the fact that it would fire even with the safety engaged or without pulling the trigger.

Taurus

Taurus Handguns, including the PT-111 Millennium, PT-132 Millennium, PT-138 Millennium, PT-140 Millennium, PT-145 Millennium, PT-745 Millennium, PT-609, PT-640, and PT-24/7, all fall under this section. Although Taurus denies these guns are unsafe, a federal lawsuit resulted in a voluntary recall of the referenced models due to episodes when the firearms discharged when dropped.

Bushmaster

Bushmaster reports that a small percentage of the Bushmaster ACR rifle will fire multiple rounds with a single pull of the trigger because of a design defect. This defect means all ACR rifles are potentially dangerous.

Savage Arms

Savage Arms 10ML-II muzzleloader also has a history of defectiveness. Firearms that explode due to metallurgical or dimensional defects can cause devastating injuries.

Several cases have been litigated against Savage due to barrel explosions, which some experts later attributed to metallurgical defects. In other words, the metal composition of the barrel was unable to withstand the explosive forces of the weapon’s firing.

Mossberg

This category consists of the Mossberg model 695 Bolt Action Shotgun (1995-1996). Mossberg company officials have reported that some shotguns may discharge when closing the bolt, issuing the following warning: “Do not load or use your Model 695 Shotgun…as an accidental firing may cause injury or death to the user or bystanders.”

The preceding is a small sample of defective firearms, but represents at least a sampling of typical defects that can ultimately result in serious personal injury or death. For a more complete list of firearms subject to recent recalls and safety notices, see here.

Types of Gun Defects

Defects can manifest themselves in a host of invariably bad events. The potential for such bad events is high, since we are dealing with what is an inherently dangerous product, even when everything is done just right. While the list of potential product defects is long, the following summarizes and discusses the most common types of firearm defects.

Firing Without the Trigger Being Pulled

Most– but not all– firearms have some type of mechanical safety that is intended to prevent the firing of the gun unless the safety is in the “fire” position and the trigger is pulled. Certainly, a firearm that fires when the safety is in the “safe” position is defective.

Some have argued that in today’s world, a firearm that does not have a safety is defective. Many firearms do not, however; for example, glock handguns do not have an external safety that can be manipulated by the handler. Some other handguns, such as 1911 models, may or may not be equipped with firing pin safeties that prevent the firearm from firing unintentionally when dropped.

Firing When Dropped

One of the few safety standards that exist in the firearms industry addresses firearms that fire when dropped. To pass safety guidelines, firearms are dropped in a variety of orientations from different heights and should withstand firing from each height in all the mandated orientations.

Gun Barrel Explosions

The barrel of a shotgun, muzzleloader rifle, or other firearm may explode when the rifle is intentionally fired. Such explosions can result in horrific injuries to hands, eyes, and other parts of the body.

Oftentimes, a barrel explosion is the result of one or a combination of factors. For example, the metal in the barrel may be defective and cannot withstand (especially after the repeated stress of multiple firings) the force of the firing of the weapon, or the barrel might not have adequate dimensions to withstand repeated firings.

Out of Battery Misfires

Some handguns with slides can fire “out of battery.” In other words, the firearm can fire when the slide is not fully forward. If a gun fires in this fashion, it may indicate there is a defect in the recoil mechanism, leading to gas being vented at the breech of the weapon. The gun may seem to literally explode, sending flames, high-pressure gas, and shrapnel in the direction of the handler or a bystander. Many of the same types of injuries that happen with barrel explosions can result from out of battery misfires.

Ammunition Defects

Some ammunition defects simply result in a round that does not fire, but at times, an ammunition defect can play a role in barrel explosions. Too much propellant, for example, can result in excessive pressures upon firing, thereby resulting in the explosion or splitting of even properly designed and manufactured barrels.

Damaged casings, primers, and rims can also cause problems. Many times, such defects damage only the firearm itself, but damage to firearms caused by defective ammunition can result in failure of the firearm itself.

Remington Centerfire Bolt Action Rifles and the History of the Model 700

The Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle was first manufactured in 1962. For most of the years of its production, it has been among the best-selling bolt-action rifles in the United States. Over 7 million rifles have been manufactured, and a high percentage of such rifles are still in use today.

After World War II, Remington was searching for a new production rifle that would be a hot seller in the post-war era. Merle “Mike” Walker patented a new fire control, which was originally included in the design of a new consumer rifle: Model 721. The patent was for a unique new fire control with a floating piece, called a “trigger connector,” which would adhere to the main body of the trigger simply with a spring. Otherwise, the trigger connector floats and separates from the main trigger body with each firing of the rifle.

Here is a drawing of the internal fire control of the Model 700, with various components labeled:

Diagram of Remington Bolt Action TriggerTrouble With The Trigger

Trouble surfaced almost immediately. Even before production commenced, Mr. Walker reported to Remington officials about a “theoretical unsafe condition.” This 1946 report quickly lead to another in 1947, clarifying that it is “Possible to fire the gun by pushing the Safety to the off position.”

Over the many years since, the theoretical unsafe condition has resulted in literally thousands of customer complaints that the Model 700 (and related models) will fire under one of the following circumstances:

  • When the rifle’s mechanical safety is shifted from the “safe” to the “fire” position (as outlined in the 1947 report noted above)
  • When the rifle’s bolt is manipulated to the closed position
  • When the rifle’s bolt is opened
  • When there is a jarring motion of the rifle

Other bolt-action firearms have the same problems, and the trigger at issue has become commonly known as the “Walker Fire Control” after its inventor. Although Mr. Walker has testified he never intended the fire control at issue for consumer rifles, it has nonetheless been incorporated into a host of consumer firearms, including the Models 7, 721, 722, 725, 700, 710, 715, 770, 660, 673, 600, Sportsman 78, and XP100.

Remington Recall

Since the introduction of the “Walker Fire Control,” Remington has received thousands of customer complaints and hundreds of lawsuits or personal injury claims. In every instance, Remington has dismissed the claims as erroneous, claiming a host of explanations, including that the handler must have mistakenly pulled the trigger. However, Remington did issue a recall in the late 1970s of the Models 600 and 660 following a mishap and severe personal injury in Texas.

Upon further investigation, Remington concluded that a high percentage of such rifles, also equipped with a fire control very similar to that in the Model 700, would fire without a pull of the trigger. However, after a similar investigation revealed that only a small percentage of the Model 700s could experience a similar malfunction, Remington opted only to provide better education to customers about firearm safety. Hence, Remington continued to manufacture the Model 700, without modification, knowing that thousands of users were at risk.

The Replacement Trigger

Complaints continued to flow, and at times, the company received a customer complaint of a misfire nearly every business day. In 2004, Remington introduced a replacement trigger, commonly known as “The X Mark Pro.”

Most telling with regard to the new trigger was that Remington eliminated the trigger connector. Remington officials have even acknowledged in sworn testimony that the new design was in response to “the body of litigation” against Remington that focuses on the dangerous and defective condition of the trigger connector.

Remington Class Action Settlement

In 2017, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri approved a class action settlement that would result in the retrofit of all Model 700s in existence, as well as a high percentage of related rifles. Some older rifles are incapable of repair and would receive only slight monetary consideration. While the burden is now on the consumer to return his or her rifle for replacement with the X Mark Pro, every consumer has the right to do so, free of charge.

Voluntary Recall of X Mark Pro

During the final stages of negotiation for the retrofit of the Model 700, Remington announced a voluntary recall of the X Mark Pro. This recall, which then came under the scrutiny of attorneys representing the class action plaintiffs and the court, came about due to a manufacturing defect in assembly of X Mark Pro rifles.

Upon assembly, small amounts of a glue-like substance known as “Loctite,” are added to help insure that certain screws remain in place and cannot be removed or adjusted. Unfortunately, in some Remington installations, too much Loctite was added, causing extra amounts to extrude into the fire control and essentially “gum up the works.” This too resulted in firings that were unintended and unexpected, duplicating in many respects the experience with the Walker Fire Control.

While many individuals will have their rifles repaired, many others will not. Tragically, those who continue to use dangerous rifles are risking a ticking time bomb of malfunction. Not every rifle will fail, but every rifle is designed in a fashion that failure is a distinct reality.

What to Do if You Suffer A Defective Firearm Injury

If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective firearm, it is important to know what to do and how to proceed.

Be Careful What You Say

First, be careful what you say. Even innocent comments such as, “I don’t know what happened; I wonder if I touched the trigger,” can be used later to show a lack of certainty.

By contrast, witnesses for the gun manufacturer will uniformly claim that a firearm can only fire if the trigger is pulled. In short, it is best to say nothing unless you can say with absolute certainty that nothing you did caused or contributed to the cause of the incident.

Preserve the Evidence

First, any firearm should be secured against further mishap. While any cycling of the fire control system may make it somewhat more difficult to explain why a firearm misfired, that complication pales in comparison to the need to make the firearm safe for handling and transport.

The gun should be unloaded, the safety should be engaged, and it should be securely stored. Any cycling or “dry firing” of the gun may alter the condition of the firearm, and manufacturers may routinely claim the condition of the firearm has been changed.

While consultation with an expert firearm engineer or gunsmith is imperative, any disassembly, functioning, or even cleaning of the firearm may alter its condition in a way that will compromise evidence.

Spent shells or cartridges, clothing, tree stands, slings, gloves, manuals, product packaging, cleaning kits and tools, ammunition, and any other hunting equipment or apparel in use at the time of the incident should also be secured and stored in its unaltered condition. Do not wash blood-stained clothing or remove equipment in any fashion that will change its condition or appearance.

Take Photos

As early as possible, you should take photos of the scene from all angles. In the event a firearm discharges without a pull of the trigger, it is a near certainty that the manufacturer will claim some brush, twig, or vegetation caught the trigger and pulled it. Photos of the surrounding vegetation, especially those that show the absence of any which would have had the leverage or dimensions to pull a trigger, are vital.

Consult an Attorney

While many attorneys can assist with basic claim advice and preservation of evidence, lawsuits against firearms manufacturers are unique in many ways. Laws written specifically to protect firearms manufacturers are common, and other laws written generally to protect product manufacturers may also play a substantial role. Hence, finding an attorney with special experience is important, though such an attorney may not be easy to find since very few attorneys in the United States regularly handle defective firearms cases.

We Handle Many Types of Defective Gun Accident Cases

Early representation is crucial to success in this difficult area of law. Our attorneys have represented hundreds of injured hunters and are hunters themselves, giving our firm the unique ability to represent, understand, and fight for you and your case.

If you have been injured in a gun accident caused by a defective firearm anywhere in the nation, contact Monsees & Mayer, P.C. today to discuss your situation. We handle cases involving:

  • Defective Firearm Litigation
  • Unintended Discharges
  • Barrel Explosions
  • Jar-Offs
  • Out of Battery Discharges
  • Gun Explosions
  • Accidental Shootings
  • Negligent Shooting
  • Violation of Gun or Firearm Safety
  • Remington Model 700 Accidents
  • Defective Rifles
  • Defective Handguns
  • Defective Shotguns
  • Design Defects
  • Firearm Accidents
  • Gun Malfunctions
  • Gun Recalls
  • Gun Safe Liability
  • Manufacturers Liability
  • Manufacturing Defects
  • Product Failure
  • Product Safety
  • Product Warnings
  • Wrongful Death

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