Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Click, Click, BANG: Why Did Wilson's Gun Misfire?

Pictured above, a Sig 
Sauer P229 .40 caliber 
gun, the firearm used
by Darren Wilson.

A lot of liberal commentators seem to think that officer Darren Wilson was in an unfair fight with Micheal Brown simply because Brown was unarmed. Of course, officer Wilson could not assume Brown was unarmed. Even worse, it turns out that Wilson's gun was unreliable. This is a little known fact that crops up when you read the transcript of Wilson's testimony.

As I read through the transcript of Officer Wilson's statement to the Ferguson Grand Jury, I was shocked to learn that his gun misfired at least (3) three times while he was still trapped in his vehicle by Michael Brown. I feel like such an amateur, but I was sincerely startled that a police officer would have that much trouble with a gun. I have fired my father's semi-automatic pistol and it worked flawlessly. I sort of assumed guns only misfired in movies like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

It turns out that Wikipedia has an article that lists a sobering number things that can happen to make a gun malfunction. It looks to me like the key to reliable use is keeping the gun clean. According to John A. Dreyer: "A dirty gun is the cause of possibly 90% of mechanical function problems." As friend on Twitter pointed out: "Lots of cops don't take care of their guns - being a cop doesn't make you a gun guy." Firing rounds causes gunk to build up in the weapon and that can take a toll on performance. You can also have problems with your ammunition. 

I would be curious to learn more about what went wrong when Wilson first sought to fire his weapon to scare Brown away from his vehicle. The story, from Wilson's perspective, sounds pretty alarming. According to Wilson's testimony, he says:

Like I said, I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding on to it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again.
At this point I’m like: why isn’t this working, this guy is trying to kill me if he gets a hold of his gun. I pulled a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time. When I see the glass come up, it comes, a chunk about that big comes across my right hand and then I notice I have blood on the back on my hand.
After seeing the blood on my hand, I looked at him and he was, this is my car door, he was here and he kind of stepped back and went like this. And then after he did that, he looked up at the and had the most intense aggressive face.
The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That’s how angry he looked.
He comes back towards me again with his hands up. At this point I just went like this, I tried to pull the trigger again, click, nothing happened.
To me, this information is significant. I have not noticed anyone in the news or anywhere else talking about how officer Wilson's gun malfunctioned. 

Thanks to the folks who have added comments below, it looks like there is another highly plausible theory for explaining the failure of officer Wilson's gun. It is clear from Wilson's testimony that he and Brown were struggling over the officer's Sig Sauer P229. If Brown grabbed a hold of the gun, then he would move the sliding mechanism on top of the gun into a position that interfered with the ability of the gun eject a spent bullet casing. This would cause the gun to simply click rather than fire. Technically, a gun in this state is referred to as out-of-battery. The comical video below explains this rather serious topic. What I like most about it is the way it illustrates what it takes to knock a Sig out-of-battery and the exact sound the gun makes under these circumstances. 

This explanation seems kinder to officer Wilson since the malfunction would not be traced to the officer's failure to properly clean his gun. If the misfires were due to the gun being pushed out-of-battery, then we have more evidence that Brown was fighting for the gun and had physical control over it. I am guessing that officer Wilson is unaware of how easy it was for Brown to push the Sig out-of-battery. His testimony seems to indicate that he was baffled by the failure of his gun to fire.   

To me the larger issue is that the three misfires that officer Wilson experienced help explain the officer's alarm, and even justify the number of times he pulled the trigger to stop Brown's menacing advance. As a police officer protecting the public, Wilson is not a character in a movie. He is a real life person working in an imperfect world, a world where he could not depend on his weapon to protect himself. I think the more people learn about the misfires of Wilson's gun, the more sympathy they will have for the decisions he made as he was literally fighting for his life.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.


Anonymous said...

When Michael Brown grabbed and held Darren Wilson's gun, Brown pushed the pistol's slide out of battery. Only after Brown's hold on the pistol was released, did the slide go back into battery and function properly.

Doug Rink said...

The out of battery theory seems plausible. It's explained and demonstrated here. http://bearingarms.com/click-click-bang-understanding-darren-wilsons-pistol-fire/

John C. Drew, Ph.D. said...

Thanks to your comments, I revised the article. It makes more sense to me that Brown knocked the gun out-of-battery. Even now, I think Wilson may not understand why his gun misfired three times. This explanation, however, does give us more evidence that Brown had his hand on the gun. If you have a moment, please review the revised article and let me know if it needs any further changes.

Anonymous said...

Know what? It is a known that fact that Wilso had no reason to be harrassing Brown.

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