15 Nov 12

All reputable autoloading pistols are equipped with a spring-loaded plunger (or something similar), called a “disconnector,” the purpose of which is to prevent the pistol from firing “out-of-battery.”

With all pistols, except those chambered for low-pressure calibers, barrel and slide must be firmly locked together while the barrel is pressurized. Once the bullet exits, and barrel-pressure drops to zero, then barrel and slide can be safely unlocked and go their separate ways, competing their normal “cycle-of-operation” and instantly preparing the pistol to be fired again. All this takes place, of course, in a tiny fraction of a second.

If the barrel were allowed to become pressurized (as during firing) before slide and barrel were locked together, the thus exposed portion of the chambered cartridge would not be strong enough to contain the pressure within it and would then rupture, spewing hot, high-pressure gas in all directions, resulting in a ruined pistol, maybe personal injury to the shooter. The event would certainly prevent the cycle-of-operation from completing normally, so the pistol could not be made to fire again in the short term (which may also be hazardous to the shooter’s health).

Thus, the only purpose for the pistol’s locking system, which locks barrel and slide together, it to provide a dwell of several milliseconds, long enough for the bullet to exit, and barrel-pressure to drop to zero.

So, manufacturers provide a mechanical fail-safe, generically called a “disconnector.” Until slide and barrel are firmly locked together (“in-battery”) the disconnector will mechanically prevent the pistol from being fired. In other words, when slide and barrel are separated, pressing the trigger will not fire the pistol.

But, there are practical considerations, as explained by a friend and armorer:

“All reputable pistols will, in fact, fire normally when the slide is slightly rearward of fully forward, fully ‘in-battery.’ If that were not true, the slightest bit of grit, or the slightest imperfection in a cartridge, would prevent the pistol from firing when needed. In other words, the pistol would not be unusable for any practical, serious, field application.

If you take a Glock, SIG, M&P, XD, Kahr, Beretta, et al and try it, you will see that you can continue to pull the trigger and get the hammer or striker to fall as you move the slide incrementally rearward from full battery, until it is a millimeter or so ‘out-of-battery.’ This is a standard test that any armorer runs on pistols when inspecting them.

Even when thus slightly ‘out-of-battery,’ the barrel is still sufficiently locked with the slide throughout the possible range of ‘out-of-battery’ motion, as to be continuously pressure-safe. In other words, throughout the range of motion described above, until the disconnecter precludes firing, there is still more than enough metal-to-metal contact to enable the pistol to fire, safely and normally.

So, in effect, the pistol isn’t really ‘out-of-battery,’ in the sense of being dangerously unlocked. It just isn’t 100% in-battery. As noted above, these factory-dictated clearances are necessary if the pistol is to be sufficiently reliable for serious, field use.

In much the same manner, even the best bolt-action rifles will, and should, fire with the bolt-handle slightly upward of fully down. When the rifle is dry-fired in this configuration, the bolt-handle can be seen to lurch downward into the fully-down position. That is normal, and doesn’t indicate the rifle is unsafe.”

Comment: We currently enjoy a generation of pistols that are more safe and effective than pistols have ever been before. In fact, it is hard to imagine how they could be made more safe, and still be practically useable for the purpose for which they are designed.

That is not to say that pistols mentioned above never fail, nor are they so perfect they cannot be improved. Manufacturers continually look for ways to make their product better, and should, but, in the interim, what is being produced in Western Civilization at this moment are really good pistols, and I, for one, am glad I have them!

Rumors perpetually circulate with regard to some ruinous failure of some brand of pistol in some circumstance. In much the same way, rumors circulate about how some brand of slot-machine can be outfoxed. There may be a grain of truth to some of this banter, but most is myth and agenda-driven. It keeps some marketing firms, lawyers, and erstwhile unemployed “experts” busy, but accomplishes little else.

For one, I don’t “trust” any machine unconditionally, nor do I trust any person to never fail, including myself! However, when you hear a hot rumor about this or that well-known pistol having some catastrophic, world-ending flaw, or conversely, you hear of a gun or “wonder-bullet” that just can’t fail no matter what, take it all with a grain of salt!

“Doubt is unpleasant, but certainty is absurd.”