Rifle Occluded Barrel Shooting

Stephen A. Batzer, Ph.D., Materials Science Consultant ::::
Case Synopsis: A man and his teenage son were on a backpacking trip in the mountains. They brought with them a break-action single shot rifle for plinking. The rifle was a brand new, caliber .22 Magnum rimfire. They had never fired the weapon previously. At their initial camp site, the young man took the rifle to shoot at a target. He loaded a round, sighted the rifle, and pulled the trigger. The rifle exploded, causing temporary partial blindness and facial markings.
Analysis: During the shot, the base of the brass cartridge case separated, and hot propellant gas and molten brass sprayed backwards into the young shooter’s face. The insufficiently contained cartridge explosion destroyed the rifle’s action, making the rifle unsuitable for a later test shot. The defendant, manufacturer of the rifle, stated that if the young man had been wearing safety glasses he would not have received any injuries, and the manual indicated the recommendation for safety glasses. The plaintiff countered that no injuries would have been incurred if the rifle was suitable to its intended function. Further, the manual did not provide a fair warning that the rifle could explode during the first shot. The defense also indicated that the rifle was known to be safe as it had been proof tested by test firing in Italy prior to export to the United States, and that proof marks on the rifle’s receiver and barrel attested to the incident rifle’s proven safe design.
The ammunition was preserved and examined. It consisted of factory-loaded rounds, not hand-loads, and therefore the ammunition was presumably safe. Each remaining cartridge of the container was visually examined and weighed. There were no irregularities noted. The rifle was visually examined and photographed. No obstruction was present in the bore. There were no obvious manufacturing defects, indicating that further and more sophisticated examination techniques were necessary. Continue reading “Rifle Occluded Barrel Shooting”