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Apr 20, 2021 - 7:22:28 PM

mander

USA

4577 posts since 10/7/2007

So, a friend of mine wrote a magnificent play several years ago. Since then, too many critiques got a hold of it. I heard the latest version recently and thought, really? It had been perfect, why did he change it?

Anyway, I thought, before I critique it and encourage him to go back to the original version there were a few things I should know and understand so I won't look like a total idiot. Once again, I believe banjo players are smarter than me. :-)

I tried googling to no avail.
I was wondering a few details. Do all guns have firing pins? Specifically, I am wondering about the Derringer that killed Lincoln. I believe it does, but I want to be sure.

Are firing pins easy to remove? Is the gun rendered "harmless" bullet-wise once the firing pin is removed? Yes, I know, you can still pistol whip someone with a pistol that doesn't have it's firing pin removed. I'm just making sure it can't go off if the pin is removed. I wish to clarify because I had a relative who killed himself by blowing down the barrel of a rifle that had been warmed by the wood stove and the bullet shot out. Would that still have happened had the firing pin been removed?

Also, is it easy to tell that the pin has been removed? Would it make the trigger loose? Or the hammer not cock? Or would you have to go through the act of firing before knowing the pin was removed?

Does anyone know how far back blanks date? I'm wondering when theaters started using blanks and such. Cap guns began being manufactured after the end of Civil War, so I'm not sure what theaters used prior to that.

Thanks!

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:56:22 PM

Paul R

Canada

14300 posts since 1/28/2010

When I was a kid I was given a .22 rifle (like the one in the photo). Smart parents had the firing pin removed, so it couldn't fire.

The heated bullet didn't need a firing pin to go off; it's the fire that did the trick. That bullet should never have been in the gun.


 

Apr 20, 2021 - 9:26:43 PM

Iron Paw

New Zealand

446 posts since 11/28/2014

'Modern' guns have firing pins.
Older gear has a 'cap' (as in cap and ball = percussion) or a 'flint' (as in flintlock), so no firing pin as such. Real old stuff had a fuse!
Depends how far back you want to go.
The Derringer used to assassinate Lincoln was a percussion type weapon.
https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/01/14/the-derringer-the-smallest-hand-gun-which-is-best-known-for-the-assassination-of-president-abraham-lincoln/

This 'toy' copy uses caps, so would be safe to use in a play?

https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/498773727474550211/

Apr 21, 2021 - 3:15:38 AM

857 posts since 9/6/2019

quote:
Originally posted by mander

So, a friend of mine wrote a magnificent play several years ago. Since then, too many critiques got a hold of it. I heard the latest version recently and thought, really? It had been perfect, why did he change it?

Anyway, I thought, before I critique it and encourage him to go back to the original version there were a few things I should know and understand so I won't look like a total idiot. Once again, I believe banjo players are smarter than me. :-)

I tried googling to no avail.
I was wondering a few details. Do all guns have firing pins? Specifically, I am wondering about the Derringer that killed Lincoln. I believe it does, but I want to be sure.

Are firing pins easy to remove? Is the gun rendered "harmless" bullet-wise once the firing pin is removed? Yes, I know, you can still pistol whip someone with a pistol that doesn't have it's firing pin removed. I'm just making sure it can't go off if the pin is removed. I wish to clarify because I had a relative who killed himself by blowing down the barrel of a rifle that had been warmed by the wood stove and the bullet shot out. Would that still have happened had the firing pin been removed?

Also, is it easy to tell that the pin has been removed? Would it make the trigger loose? Or the hammer not cock? Or would you have to go through the act of firing before knowing the pin was removed?

Does anyone know how far back blanks date? I'm wondering when theaters started using blanks and such. Cap guns began being manufactured after the end of Civil War, so I'm not sure what theaters used prior to that.

Thanks!


I'll have a go at answering your questions:

Some firing pins are easy to remove and some aren't. It depends on the gun.

A gun is never "harmless", but if the firing pin is removed it can't fire as intended because there is nothing to strike the primer. However, primers can be very touchy things and any sharp strike from anything can set the cartridge off. I've seen ammo in a box go off at the range because a spent shell casing bounced off the shooting stall wall and hit one of the cartridges just right on the primer.

As Paul said, the bullet in the gun that went off probably got overheated. It's called "cooking off". Once the casing gets hot enough, it can ignite the powder inside the cartridge or it can cause the primer to pop which will cause the round to fire. Having no firing pin probably wouldn't have made any difference.

Removing the firing pin doesn't change anything in the fire control group (the trigger and hammer) of the gun. These are a separate mechanism and all the firing pin really does is strike the primer of the cartridge. The trigger won't feel any different and the gun will still cock and even dry fire like normal.

You can generally tell if the pin has been removed by looking at the back of the receiver, or on the face of the bolt. There is usually a small round hole where the firing pin lives. If it has been removed the hole will be empty.

In old productions, theaters probably used actual guns without a bullet loaded. In the old cap and ball type weapons that were available prior to the Civil War you could load a powder charge but not load a bullet. A theater production could load a weak powder charge without a bullet and they would have the noise without shooting holes in the place. I don't know about older percussion caps but modern primers are plenty loud for a stage production on their own.

As to the first blanks, I can't find anything about when they were invented, but the first actual cartridges for guns were invented in 1847. I would say that blanks probably came along around the time Buffalo Bill and others were doing their wild west shows that started around 1880.

Apr 21, 2021 - 3:31:15 AM
Players Union Member

OM45GE

USA

106012 posts since 11/7/2007

mander , the pistol used to shoot President Lincoln was a single shot percussion cap gun. These didn’t have firing pins. A pressure sensitive cap was placed over a tube leading to the chamber of the gun and pistol’s hammer would detonate the cap which then ignited the gun powder.

Removing or filing down a firing pin would disable a gun. How easy that would be to do depends on the design of the gun.

Interestingly, in most states, a disabled gun is still a deadly weapon under the law and threatening someone with one is considered assault with a deadly weapon. I knew a teenager who carved a very realistic looking pistol out of wood and used it to threaten another kid who was bullying him. He saw charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:13:31 AM

57105 posts since 12/14/2005

Reminds me of the time I bought a .22 cal pistol from a pawn shop, waited WEEKS to get a chance to get up into the woods and shoot it.
Didn't fire.
Looked at the bullet.
No dent where the firing pin SHOULD HAVE hit the rim.
Pawn shop guy paid a gunsmith to put the pin back in.

So, in the play, what historical period is it, and what kind of pistol?

Is it Booth & Lincoln?

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:29:54 AM
like this
Players Union Member

DC5

USA

18430 posts since 6/30/2015

Blanks go back as far as guns. If you remove the projectile, (bullet) you have a blank. Even in an old muzzle loader, just don't load the ball. A great misconception about blanks, that has killed several people, is the gun still fires something. The powder must be compacted, so there is some wadding to hold the powder in place, this usually burns up as it is expelled from the gun, but if you are close to the gun when it goes off you can be hit by it. Jon-Erik Hexum, an actor on the series Cover-up, was killed by a blank gun when he held it to his head and fired. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum

All guns should be considered dangerous, and empty or blank guns even more so. In the few times that I had to use a blank gun on stage I still never pointed it directly at the person I was supposed to shoot, but always slightly up stage of the actor. Even the powder coming out of the gun can cause burns, or damage the eyes from quite a distance.

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:40:43 AM

mander

USA

4577 posts since 10/7/2007

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Reminds me of the time I bought a .22 cal pistol from a pawn shop, waited WEEKS to get a chance to get up into the woods and shoot it.
Didn't fire.
Looked at the bullet.
No dent where the firing pin SHOULD HAVE hit the rim.
Pawn shop guy paid a gunsmith to put the pin back in.

So, in the play, what historical period is it, and what kind of pistol?

Is it Booth & Lincoln?


No, it's about the performance the three Booth brother's did a few weeks prior to the fatal shooting.

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:48:07 AM

mander

USA

4577 posts since 10/7/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Banjonewguy
 

I'll have a go at answering your questions:

Some firing pins are easy to remove and some aren't. It depends on the gun.

A gun is never "harmless", but if the firing pin is removed it can't fire as intended because there is nothing to strike the primer. However, primers can be very touchy things and any sharp strike from anything can set the cartridge off. I've seen ammo in a box go off at the range because a spent shell casing bounced off the shooting stall wall and hit one of the cartridges just right on the primer.

As Paul said, the bullet in the gun that went off probably got overheated. It's called "cooking off". Once the casing gets hot enough, it can ignite the powder inside the cartridge or it can cause the primer to pop which will cause the round to fire. Having no firing pin probably wouldn't have made any difference.

Removing the firing pin doesn't change anything in the fire control group (the trigger and hammer) of the gun. These are a separate mechanism and all the firing pin really does is strike the primer of the cartridge. The trigger won't feel any different and the gun will still cock and even dry fire like normal.

You can generally tell if the pin has been removed by looking at the back of the receiver, or on the face of the bolt. There is usually a small round hole where the firing pin lives. If it has been removed the hole will be empty.

In old productions, theaters probably used actual guns without a bullet loaded. In the old cap and ball type weapons that were available prior to the Civil War you could load a powder charge but not load a bullet. A theater production could load a weak powder charge without a bullet and they would have the noise without shooting holes in the place. I don't know about older percussion caps but modern primers are plenty loud for a stage production on their own.

As to the first blanks, I can't find anything about when they were invented, but the first actual cartridges for guns were invented in 1847. I would say that blanks probably came along around the time Buffalo Bill and others were doing their wild west shows that started around 1880.


Would you happen to know what type of gun powder was used in the Derringer? Would getting the powder wet stop the gun from firing? How much water would it take?

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:55:46 AM
Players Union Member

DC5

USA

18430 posts since 6/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by mander
 

Would you happen to know what type of gun powder was used in the Derringer? Would getting the powder wet stop the gun from firing? How much water would it take?


Wet powder won't burn, and if the powder doesn't burn the gun won't fire, but if the powder dries it will burn again.  It doesn't take much water, high humidity can keep powder from burning.  You've heard the phrase "Keep your powder dry"  It might be easier to answer you if we know what it is you are trying to do.  Sounds like you're trying to keep a gun from firing because you don't want to assassinate President Lincoln, but you're too late for that.  Several things can cause a gun to mis-fire, including user error.  If, for example with the Lincoln pistol, the cap was not put in place, the gun wouldn't fire. 

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:56:06 AM
likes this

6124 posts since 9/21/2007

This is the actual pistol used by Booth.

Apr 21, 2021 - 6:24:51 AM

57105 posts since 12/14/2005

A "percussion cap" would be placed over the cone, and the flame from the cap would ignite the powder in the barrel.

Apr 21, 2021 - 7:28:15 AM

mander

USA

4577 posts since 10/7/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DC5
quote:
Originally posted by mander
 

Would you happen to know what type of gun powder was used in the Derringer? Would getting the powder wet stop the gun from firing? How much water would it take?


Wet powder won't burn, and if the powder doesn't burn the gun won't fire, but if the powder dries it will burn again.  It doesn't take much water, high humidity can keep powder from burning.  You've heard the phrase "Keep your powder dry"  It might be easier to answer you if we know what it is you are trying to do.  Sounds like you're trying to keep a gun from firing because you don't want to assassinate President Lincoln, but you're too late for that.  Several things can cause a gun to mis-fire, including user error.  If, for example with the Lincoln pistol, the cap was not put in place, the gun wouldn't fire. 


No, the play isn't about saving Lincoln. It's more about the family dynamics that would add fuel to the flame that would cause Booth to kill Lincoln. The act of telling someone with an oppositional defiance disorder (undiagnosed of course,) causing them to do the very thing you don't want them to do. In the play, John goes to shoot a black man, but the bullet was removed from the gun. I was wondering, besides removing the bullet, how many other ways a gun could be rendered useless.

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:27:20 AM
like this
Players Union Member

DC5

USA

18430 posts since 6/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by mander
quote:
Originally posted by DC5
quote:
Originally posted by mander
 

Would you happen to know what type of gun powder was used in the Derringer? Would getting the powder wet stop the gun from firing? How much water would it take?


Wet powder won't burn, and if the powder doesn't burn the gun won't fire, but if the powder dries it will burn again.  It doesn't take much water, high humidity can keep powder from burning.  You've heard the phrase "Keep your powder dry"  It might be easier to answer you if we know what it is you are trying to do.  Sounds like you're trying to keep a gun from firing because you don't want to assassinate President Lincoln, but you're too late for that.  Several things can cause a gun to mis-fire, including user error.  If, for example with the Lincoln pistol, the cap was not put in place, the gun wouldn't fire. 


No, the play isn't about saving Lincoln. It's more about the family dynamics that would add fuel to the flame that would cause Booth to kill Lincoln. The act of telling someone with an oppositional defiance disorder (undiagnosed of course,) causing them to do the very thing you don't want them to do. In the play, John goes to shoot a black man, but the bullet was removed from the gun. I was wondering, besides removing the bullet, how many other ways a gun could be rendered useless.


I saw Bugs Bunny put his finger in the barrel of a gun and the gun exploded and Bugs wasn't hurt, but I don't recommend that method.

Apr 21, 2021 - 12:58:37 PM

57105 posts since 12/14/2005

There are a few cases where the wadding from a blank, when the pistol was close enough to the person, caused fatal injury.
I am wondering how one might grip a bullet, once it was down the barrel of a cap & ball pistol.

I guess- wild guess- that one might be able to get a fine forceps onto a bit of the wadding, and tug.
But, after pulling out the wadding and the bullet, the wadding would have to be put back in, or the powder would dribble out, any time the pistol was pointed down.

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:42:18 PM

oly

USA

1436 posts since 5/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

There are a few cases where the wadding from a blank, when the pistol was close enough to the person, caused fatal injury.
I am wondering how one might grip a bullet, once it was down the barrel of a cap & ball pistol.

I guess- wild guess- that one might be able to get a fine forceps onto a bit of the wadding, and tug.
But, after pulling out the wadding and the bullet, the wadding would have to be put back in, or the powder would dribble out, any time the pistol was pointed down.


There are bullet removers, usually a course thread on a rod. I had to use one on my Hawkin .50 black powder rifle when the bullet deformed going into the barrel.  The bullet remover didn't work as the bullet wedged itself in the barrel.  I wound up useing compressed air to push bullet,and powder out of the barrel 

Apr 21, 2021 - 7:28 PM

bubbalouie

Canada

14965 posts since 9/27/2007

Here's a blurry picture of one of the museum displays gun cases of the Gold Rush in British Columbia.

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:21:49 PM

57105 posts since 12/14/2005

Did you put the air hose against the cone?

Apr 22, 2021 - 6:24:27 PM

oly

USA

1436 posts since 5/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Did you put the air hose against the cone?


Yes,  I removed the nipple cone and put the air nozzle into the opening.  The barrel was pointed in a safe direction and I started the air pressure low and slowly built the pressure up until the ball came out.

Apr 23, 2021 - 4:35:40 AM

Buddur

USA

2928 posts since 10/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by DC5

 Jon-Erik Hexum, an actor on the series Cover-up, was killed by a blank gun when he held it to his head and fired. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum

All guns should be considered dangerous, and empty or blank guns even more so. In the few times that I had to use a blank gun on stage I still never pointed it directly at the person I was supposed to shoot, but always slightly up stage of the actor. Even the powder coming out of the gun can cause burns, or damage the eyes from quite a distance.


Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee, was also accidentally killed by a prop gun with a dummy cartridge during filming of a movie.

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