SAFETY NOTICE: Rifle checks urged after round fired with bolt fully open

The NRA is urging users of rifles with adjustable cheek pieces to carefully check clearances between the furniture and the working parts after a shooter accidentally fired a round when he caught his rifle’s open bolt against the stock.

The full notice, as published on the NRA website, reads as follows:

URGENT SAFETY NOTICE

BARNARD RIFLES AND OTHER MODERN RIFLES WITH ADJUSTABLE CHEEKPIECES

An accident on 4 July 2015 at Bisley, fortunately resulting in only minor injury, has highlighted a safety issue.

In the accident, the firer had partially withdrawn a live round, so that it was engaged in the boltface by the extractor. While attempting to feed the round into the chamber, a slight rotation and lateral movement of the bolt when fully open allowed the cocking piece to be repositioned outside rather than inside the groove in the adjustable cheekpiece. When the lateral movement was reversed, the cocking piece fouled on the cheekpiece and was released, allowing the firing pin to fall on the cartridge, which fired outside the breech.

All owners of modern target, match and F class rifles are to check that it is not possible for any part of the stock to foul any part of the firing mechanism. Owners of Barnard rifles are additionally advised to check the knurled cap that retains the firing pin for full engagement on a regular basis.

Barnard actions are particularly susceptible to the problem identified, but it is at least theoretically possible that it could arise on a Swing, Paramount, RPA or other modern action where the cocking cam rotates complete around the firing pin to allow the firing pin to hang on the trigger sear. Actions derived from the Mauser, such as the Musgrave, Parker-Hale 1200 and Cadet Target Rifle, are not susceptible to the problem.

I W ROBERTSON

Technical Investigations Co-ordinator

National Rifle Association

1600 hrs 5 July 2015

UK Shooting News imagines the consequences of a round firing with the bolt fully to the rear were not pleasant, either for the firer or those next to him on the firing point.

It appears from the detail given that the shooter opened his bolt, with a round under the extractor and on the bolt face, and presumably wiggled it. What UKSN knows as the full face bent of the cocking piece (the piece of metal that sticks out from the underside of the bolt which is held to the rear by the main sear – which in turn is the little metal item in the bolt raceway which moves downwards when you pull the trigger) was dislodged from its normal position by the cheekpiece. The wiggling action knocked it free from the cocking cam, leaving the striker free to fly forward and fire the round.

Confused? Here’s some not-entirely-helpful diagrams by me followed by a better explanation from somebody else.

So. Diagram 1, knocked up by the crack UKSN Graphics Department:

striker cheekpiece

Here’s another picture, with apologies to HPS-TR whose website we pinched it from for instructional purposes. The striker is pictured in the cocked position and highlighted with the red arrow.

swing bolt

In the words of Adam Leech over on the UK Fullbore Target Rifle group on Facebook, who explained this far better than I managed:

I think the issue is where the adjustable cheek piece has an area at the front of it milled out, so that as the bolt is drawn back, the rear of the bolt goes into this recess. By the sounds of it, once in this position, the bolt has rotated slightly (as they naturally do) and the lug of the cocking piece on the underside of the bolt has slipped over the edge of the recess in the cheekpiece.

When the bolt has then been moved whilst open (and again has rotated slightly – in the opposite direction this time), the cocking piece lug has been pushed off its flat, cocked position on the rear of the camming surface that pushes it back when you unlock the bolt. As Sam Huish said, just like using a de-cocking tool. The firing pin has fallen forwards & struck the round attached to the bolt face by the extractor.

Please spread this warning as far and wide as you can, particularly to owners of rifle types mentioned above.

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10 thoughts on “SAFETY NOTICE: Rifle checks urged after round fired with bolt fully open

  1. mark

    Thanks for the information, am sure its more than good practice to remove any round, when rifle is not aimed at the target and/or adjustment of rifle fittings etc

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  2. mark

    I have a Barnard action, as i move the bolt back it semi ejects the round moving the case away from the firing pin

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  3. E

    I believe they come with extractors and optional ejectors, if memory serves the extractor pulls the round directly back if the ejector isn’t fitted.

    I would imagine it made a mess, without the form the case probably would have split too.

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  4. George Bennett

    As a Barnard owner myself I just don’t believe that if the striker is displaced from it’s cocked position, it could fall, with sufficient force in itself, to detonate the primer. This is because the energy in the striker spring would be dissipated in overcoming the frictional forces involved in the cocking pin sliding down the cocking helix and the striker mechanism rotating within the bolt body. It would be simple to verify this scenario using a primed dummy round and this should have been done by the investigators.

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    1. Gaz Corfield Post author

      Well, evidently it did happen otherwise there wouldn’t have been an urgent safety notice published about it. I understand this is still under investigation and a full report on what happened and why will be made available in due course.

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  5. rick ruiterman

    with the firing pin protruding and the extractor holding the case on one side, the case would have gone in on an angle and the bullet could have hit the barrel outside the chamber. enough force closing the bolt could detonate the round. if a breach tool is used there is a small flat area outside the chamber that a loaded round coming in on an angle could catch on. most likely a case neck without a chamfer.

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  6. George Bennett

    Rick, you obviously know quite a bit about the Barnard action and the scenario you describe looks like a strong possibility to me. However it is not what the NRA say happened. They are also silent on how violently the firer would have had to manipulate the bolt handle in order for the primer to detonate.

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