March 29, 2012
How to Avert a Firearm Tragedy
By David E. Petzal
I am now in the thick of testing rifles for Best of the Best, and am sometimes accused of receiving specially selected and tuned rifles. Yes, and Ms. Elisha Cuthbert calls me up several times a week for dates. This morning, I took the very first shot from a medium-expensive MSR and after the gun went bang, it failed to extract the spent shell. The bolt slammed the next round in the magazine against the base of the stuck shell, neatly jamming the bolt, the magazine, and the live round. (This was, by the way, commercial ball ammo.)
Working very carefully with a Leatherman tool, I was able to grab the live round and pull it back far enough to unjam the bolt and the magazine. It took about 10 minutes, and in my long but thin association with ARs, was the best stoppage I’ve ever had. The rifle will go back where it came from, accompanied by a blistering e-mail.
Wondering what else could happen, I then proceeded to shoot a bolt-action .223 predator rifle, which started off OK but then shot worse and worse until I finally gave up in disgust. As I was putting the rifle in its case, something didn’t feel right. I shook the gun, and could actually see the scope jiggling. That’s how loose the bases were. Like a good many rifles these days, it comes from the factory with Weaver style bases, which is fine, but you have to check them to see they’re tight, which I normally do, but this time I had forgotten.
The oaf who installed them had a) left them swimming in oil; b) not tightened them and c) used a screw that was too long, so that no matter how much you tightened it, it would not bear on the base.
There are several conclusions to be drawn from all this:
1. If gun makers are willing to send defective firearms to an Exalted Presence like me, think what they’re willing to send you.
2. Never, ever, take a new rifle hunting. Shoot it first. If it hasn’t had at least 60 rounds through it, it has not proved itself.