Email posted to Bullseye-L
I’ll add a STRONG WARNING on this [thread]. No doubt my “beginner” status contributed heavily to the “learning experience” (below) and all I can say is I’m glad the “keep the gun pointed downrange” rule had been thoroughly ingrained into my habits.
Here’s what happened.
Once while shooting my S&W model 41 I noticed that, after firing a round, the next round was apparently not fully seated — I could see that the breech was about 1/10″ shy of being fully closed. Without thinking (but luckily with the barrel pointed downrange), I used my left thumb to press the action fully closed.
The round went off leaving a small mark in the range’s concrete floor (and roof?).
I immediately stopped, unloaded the gun, and went and found the on-site gunsmith (I was shooting at the Scottsdale Gun Club) to ask his advice. He’s not always at the club but, this day, he was “between jobs” and able to look things over [at no charge, thank you]. Everything appeared to be in normal, working and safe condition.
He commented, “This seems a bit dirtier and more oily than I’d prefer.” And then he later concluded that my (at that time) practice of oiling the top round in the magazine led to dirt accumulating in the chamber (which might occur without the oil, of course), that a round failed to seat completely because of that, and my thumb push and a sudden slippage were sufficient to set off the round. (I did not save the spent cartridge so I can’t say whether or not the firing pin got into the act.)
Regardless, the lessons I learned included keeping things clean (and on the dry side — no more oil on the top round in my magazines, thank you) and, perhaps more important to my well-being, don’t push on the back of the slide if a round doesn’t seat correctly. Instead, manually cycle the action and throw that round away.
My thumb was only marginally sore.