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Gun guru and top trainer John Farnam writes [via Ammoland.com]:

Brazilian-made Taurus pistols have been with us for several decades, enjoying a spotty reputation. Their striker-fired “PT” line has represented, for most consumers, a low-cost alternative to Glocks, XDs, M&Ps, SIG 320s, Kahrs, et al. Over the past few years, Taurus PT Pistols have been implicated in a number of “drop-safety” incidents, both in the USA and Brazil. Taurus has paid out several substantial settlements as a result. However, the latest is a class-action matter in which Taurus has agreed to pay out a settlement of over thirty million dollars, plus agree to recall at least a half million pistols already in consumers’ hands . . .

As noted, the issue is “drop-safety.”

The question on the floor is: “Do American consumers have an inherent right to expect that any modern pistol, intended for serious purposes and in current production, be mechanically immune from trauma-induced discharges?” In other words, should a pistol be safe from discharging as a direct result of an external blow, such as would occur when the pistol is accidentally dropped onto a hard surface?

US courts have consistently said “Yes,” to that question. This latest “settlement” by Taurus puts a stinging exclamation point at the end of that single-word reply.

I have been involved in a number of civil cases, where it was alleged that a pistol discharged when dropped. Most involved Glocks. In every case, the allegation was proven false. The plaintiff was simply lying, along with his sleazy lawyer. In every one of those cases, the defense team was able to persuasively demonstrate the discharge in question was a direct result of pressure being applied to the trigger, and no other reason.

I tell students that all modern pistols of reputable manufacture, including Glock, SIG, S&W, FNS, Walther PPQ, SA/XD, Kahr, Beretta, et al, are designed to be mechanically drop-safe. While we don’t deliberately drop pistols, to test the theory, over nearly fifty years I have witnessed many pistols accidentally dropped during training, and never once observed a discharge as a result, with any brand.

In fact, I advise students to let a pistol drop to the ground when they lose control of it, rather than fumble with it in an attempt to regain control. The risk of an AD during fumbling far exceeds the risk of an AD when the dropped pistol strikes the ground. It now appears, at least with some Taurus pistols, that may not be good advice. Not many of my students bring Taurus PT pistols to Class. However, as a result of this recent revelation, I now tell them to either send it back to Taurus to get fixed, or bring another brand of gun.

SA (Springfield Armory), manufacturers of the excellent XD line of pistols, ran into a similar issue two years ago. SA found it necessary to recall their XD/S. A single customer, an XD/S owner, said he experienced a “slam-fire” with his XD/S pistol during the normal loading process. No injury nor property damage resulted, but SA still asked the customer to send the weapon back to them, which he did.

During subsequent thorough testing at the factory, with all brands of ammunition, SA was unable to duplicate the reported slam-fire, with the pistol in question, nor with any other copy of the XD/S tested. No other slam-fire incidents, other than the single one mentioned above, have ever been reported. Unlike in Taurus’ case, there was never any civil litigation.

Nevertheless, engineers at Springfield Armory recommended to management that a small design change be implemented with the XD/S that would make the pistol absolutely drop-safe, and thus altogether immune from slam-fires and other trauma-induced ADs. Springfield Armory courageously decided to voluntarily recall the XD/S for retrofit at the factory. The recall was done professionally, and included my copy. All work was done at no charge. Shipping was pre-paid, both ways.

Springfield Armory deserves a lot of credit for, at great expense, quietly and professionally correcting this ostensible design error, an error which, as noted above, is probably mostly imaginary. Of course, we see automakers doing recalls all the time. In designing and manufacturing cars and guns, not all outcomes are foreseeable, no matter how much “computer simulation” we do. I want all gun manufacturers to be widely successful. I’m sure Taurus will correct this problem, and that top management has learned the lesson, albeit belatedly.

Yes, guns are inherently dangerous. A fact not in dispute. But, mechanical drop-safety in serious, defensive pistols is, and should be, a universal requirement. While there are never any guarantees, any pistol that fails that test is one I will never own.

 

75 Responses to John Farnam: All Pistols Should Be Drop Safe!

  1. Is there some kind of industry regulating body that sets standards for this stuff? You know like Underwriters Laboratory does for electrical stuff. I’ve dropped my Walther and I can attest to its drop safteyness first hand. Thank-you my overengeneering German friends!

    • SAAMI – Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute is the body that generates and maintains voluntary standards for firearms and ammunition in the US. This includes drop, jar-off, and rotation tests. I don’t think these standards are available on the internet, but they are part of the full set of SAAMI Manuals that most manufactures reference.

  2. I’ve owned taurus revolvers that have had failures, with that said taurus quickly sent me replacement parts. In regardless to guns that aren’t drop safe…no thanks. I can’t recall dropping my glocks, sigs, smiths……but I wouldn’t expect to hear a bang, that would make me drop a brand not only a model.

  3. I have an old AMT BackUp 380 that is supposedly not drop safe.

    It is my understanding that almost no drop will ever impart enough force to the firing pin to cause a discharge, BUT the concern is that a jolt could drop the hammer off the sear. The grip safety and manual safety only prevent the trigger from pulling, not the firing pin from impacting the primer.

    What would it take to get the hammer to fall off the sear? Would any drop onto a hard surface do it?

    • A hard drop onto the hammer can easily knock it off the sear – which isn’t necessarily a big deal in the case of say a 1911 with a “half cock” notch in the hammer. Or a gun with a firing pin block.

      I had an AMT in .400 Cor-Bon, ridiculous pistol but I did sell it years ago because of this.

      • It doesn’t have a firing pin block, but it also doesn’t have an exposed hammer. It’s one of the SAO models.

        So a hard blow to the outer frame or slide could MAYBE dislodge the hammer from the cocked position, and drop it on the firing pin?

        • I have the same pistol and I heard the same info about it complete with colorful anecdotes.

          I really like it, even though It’s old and heavy. Mine eats all 380 ammo without a hicup, from self defense HP to steel case wolf.

          But I was nervous about carrying it loaded… I bought an LC9.

          I’ve tried to smack, jar and drop mine to get the hammer to fall. No luck so far

        • I haven’t had mine for long, so I’m still trying to figure out if it works or not. It seems next to new, and after doing a lot of cleaning I took it for some (very nervous) range testing.

          With the magazine that came with it, it jammed a lot. With an aftermarket magazine it jammed constantly. The more I tested it the more sure I was I was limp wristing it because I was trying to test accuracy at the same time. Holding it stiff and reflex firing I could get through 5 rounds of the factory magazine with no trouble.

          I had a squib load with some Fiocchi crap (I call it “double brass,” it’s the brass jacketed stuff). The gun cycled, the round hit paper, but a bunch of unburnt powder rained down over me. I collected a pile of powder flakes on a used target and showed it to the range officer. “Yep that’s squib load.”

          Doubt it will ever be a carry piece, it’s just fun. And probably the best looking stainless steel micropistol $200 can buy.

    • With many taurus guns the striker is always in “single-action” mode, pulled to the rear, so if it were released it can certainly detonate the round if not stopped by a block.

    • Everything depends upon the particular firearm in questions design. ALL older (pre colt series 80, about mid 1980s) 1911s will absolutely discharge if dropped on their muzzles, whether or not the hammer is cocked, or whether the safety is on or off. Its a result of the inertial firing pin design. If dropped on the muzzle from a sufficient height, the firing pin will attain enough energy to fire all by itself. The Colt series 80 added a firing pin block to prevent any movement unless the trigger is pulled.

      • you’re talking about the series 70 colt 1911. I had a series 70 Gold Cup match pistol and every once in a blue moon out at my property I would caught it with the muzzle pointed at the ground chamber around so to speak and it would discharge with factory ammunition. the series 80 pistol is the series 1911 colt added the firing pin block to prevent these things from happening.

  4. What’s funny is the number of people who buy “series 80” drop-safe 1911s and then buy kits to eliminate the drop safe feature.

    I’m sort of like them, in that I bought a series 80 convertible .22LR slide for my series 80 pistol, but didn’t bother to put the series 80 parts in the .22 kit (came with the kit) before using it.

    • 1911’s are drop safe (unless the hammer is “down” on a live round. The extra firing pin block is there to make it fool proof.

  5. I’m a Gunsmith in Florida and I am pro gun and are a card carrying member. but I think it’s high time that gun manufacturers are held responsible for making unsafe products and are penalized within the law. I don’t want to get a buncha haters all think and I’m anti gun. But I lived through the times with Remington with them Walker trigger and all the wrongful death suits that followed years after because of the safety emplacements that Mr Walker put in to make sure his triggers were safe before they left the factory were eliminated after he retired being counters looking at the bottom line just simply save money eliminate that position of safety insurance. I’m glad to see tourist having to finally settle for all the cheap inexpensive low quality Firearms that they have produced here in the last 10 years.

  6. I’d have no issue with drop safety provided it was a reasonable standard – like a single 3-4 foot drop. Some states would be happy to add “safety” standards that are just another version of gun control. CA is a prime example. If Glocks, M&Ps, XDs, etc. already pass the standard, then it should be reasonable for other manufacturers to do so.

    • When originally enacted, the Ca. roster actually tested reliability and drop safety. Read a great story about one of the guys who set up a testing laboratory to certify guns for the roster, not realizing how much work was actually involved. The drop tests are from 14′ to a concrete surface, and with the gun at various positions, from dropping on the hammer or back of the gun to dropping on the muzzle, and perhaps others. The reliability test, if I recall correctly, involved 1000 rounds without a failure. And last but not least, the tests were repeated with two more of the same pistol. Over time, the safety aspect moved on to idiot safety, hence the requirement for an external safety, and then a LCI, and finally a mag disconnect. The last straw has been the microstamping rule, which is not a safety feature at all, but simply a mechanism, just like the spent casing requirement used in NY and other places, that is supposed to assist police in solving crimes. (And for which the manufacturing ability does not currently exist, no matter what AG Harris thinks.)

  7. With all the effort that many manufacturers go through, is there a chance that California’s “Safe handgun” roster could be challenged? It’s basically extortion of firearms manufacturers to allow guns to be sold in the state since it even considers color variants of a firearm to be a whole new firearm that requires it’s own additional $2000 processing fee. If SA ever tried to sell their entire lineup of XD pistols (ignoring for the moment the variants that violate CA magazine limits and such and including at least two color variants per model, per caliber), they would have to shell out nearly $200,000 A YEAR for the privilege of selling guns in 1 of the 50 states in the US.

    • An action has been filed by NSSF challenging only the microstamping rule. A motion for judgment on the pleadings was denied, but the federal trial court judge noted in her denial that she perceived the CADOJ would have a hard time establishing that the currently available technology (which stamps a casing on the primer only) complied with the language of the statute that required the stamp to appear in two places, the DOJ’s arguments that two stamps on the primer would suffice. The case is set for trial.

  8. OK, so who is going to set the standards for a drop-safe test?

    a) how high a drop?
    b) onto what type of surface?
    c) and the chamber loaded with what manufacture ammo, using primers with cups of what brinell hardness?

    And so on. It’s one thing to say “all guns should be drop safe.” It is quite another to prove a gun is “drop safe.”

  9. What is “drop-safe”? Is it like a Snell test? There should be a basic expectation of safety. But there needs to be a standardized test for this. Is there?

      • come on yo coma let’s keep the politicians out of this! this should be done by the manufacturers to ensure a safe product for their beloved customers who spend their hard earned money to purchase their product end of story. There shouldn’t be some government testing project or anything else to pass a safety inspection. That should be set up primarily in only by the manufacturer who should give two craps about his or her customer! Obviously Torres does not.

  10. Class action lawsuit at Taurus-not really a recall. But I agree about the drop-safe thing. I’d also buy that pt145 in a half second…

  11. I’d be surprised to hear of a modern handgun that wasn’t designed to be drop safe to at least some degree, if only to avoid lawsuits.

    • The California roster applies only to pistols sold by an FFL, not private sales, and the roster exempts C&R guns. The law does not cover long guns, as it was originally intended to eliminate the so-called (and typically unreliable) “Saturday Nite Specials.” In other states, YMMV.

  12. Next time one of the antis bitches about how “You can’t sue an arms manufacturer”, show them this class-action suit. You can’t sue an arms manufacturer… FOR CRIMINAL MISUSE OF THEIR PRODUCT.

  13. How safe is safe? How safe must a gun be? I would say that if a gun doesn’t unintentionally fire under normal use then that’s good. Under abnormal use is a different story, and I consider dropping a gun abnormal use. I see this argument for “absolutely drop safe guns” a few steps from the “smart guns” argument. If guns MUST be absolutely, positively, without a doubt, no questions asked safe, then perhaps intelligent identification of users should be included. Or not. Slippery slope?

      • I would consider auto accidents abnormal. Cars are a perfect example of federal paperpushers pricing products out of the reach of lower income people. Someone who doesn’t make a lot of money can’t choose to buy a new car without airbags to save money, the airbags are required by law to be in every car sold at the additional cost to the consumer. So consumers need to decide if they want a used car they can better afford or new car that may be more difficult to pay for.

        • What makes you think all plane crashes are pilot error? I just ask because that’s flat wrong.

  14. I’m going to have to rock the boat here a little bit and offer slightly different counsel. Conceptually, I agree that modern service pistols should indeed be drop safe, BUT I cannot agree with setting a legal standard. An industry standard, analogous to Snell (helmets) and UL (electrical appliances) yes. Several reasons. One is competition and capitalism – as with supply and demand, the public expects a certain level of safety, but without the politics. States don’t care about safety so much as using drop test standards as a weapon of their own against manufacturers, and that’s intolerable.

    As for Taurus, I’ve owned or shot a number of their firearms, including a 66B4 .357 revolver, and an older PT945, as well as the PT92/100, Judge Poly, etc. All of them have been safe and satisfactory, except perhaps the cheesy magazine in the PT945. Now I personally don’t care for their polymer PT designs that have been implicated in drop fire incidents. But with few exceptions I’d happily buy (and will) another revolver (608?) and certain autoloaders (esp the PT92/100 designs). So no, I wouldn’t drop the brand but I’d definitely be wary of their various Millenium 24/7 designs. Better choices out there, methinks.

    Tom

    • the PT 99, pt92, pt 100 are all beretta designed with a few minor changes improvements as they are called to the original beretta m9 design. their revolvers are older Smith and Wesson designs. some of the newer revolvers are a hundred percent Taurus. so you really can’t base the PT 92 series pistols on reliability, crap Taurus bought the Brazilian plant they manufacture their guns from beretta years ago.the problem is the newer designed Taurus pistols 100% Taurus designed and made. they’re just a cheaper gone that’s the fact. you get what you pay for.

      • I have the PT 840, the PT-111 G2, and the TCP 738. The 738 is the only one that seems “cheap”, but it fires every kind of ammo I have put in it, with the exception of the Lehigh Xtreme penetrator rounds, The cross-tip round is just a hair too long to load in the 738. the .40 cal and the 9MM are both great guns, and I didn’t have to spend and an extra $400-$500 each just for the bragging rights of an elitist. If they load correctly and shoot where I’m aiming, then I’m happy.

        • Hey if they make you happy that’s all that counts. All I’m saying is they make a lot of guns some of them seem to be ok a lot of them do not seem to be ok. I spend a lot of time at our shop knee deep in a Taurus. if you don’t have any problems with your particular Firearms great to hear it enjoy them. I’m just saying a lot of people do have problems with tourists. Not trying to ruffle anybody’s feathers. But there is a reason why they are a lot cheaper then the other manufacturers.

        • Not intending to cast aspersions on anybody, but a man who claims to be a gunsmith knee deep in Taurus firearms, but just minutes ago called them “Torres” is not to be trusted. The name is engraved right on every one, you cant help seeing it if you are working on one. Yes, the gun sites suffer from trolls also.
          I’m a gunsmith, and I have owned many Taurus firearms, both the Beretta 92 clones and the S&W revolver clones. I don’t do striker fired arms. I consider them ALL unsafe, esp glocks. I still have one of the Beretta clones, with the frame safety. Best double stack 9 I’ve ever owned.
          If you want a firearm that is easy and intuitive to understand, as foolproof as possible, and has no safety to worry about yet is still safe, get a double action revolver. If you absolutely must have an autoloader then know that it is the duty of the user to be aware that all of the designs have trade offs, and none are as simple to operate as a wheelgun. They make double action only autos also, but they still arent as simple and intuitive as a revolver. Revolver as also easier to conceal. Its the butt of a handguns that prints, and the butts of revolvers can be tiny. Not so with autoloaders. the grip frame holds the mag which holds the ammo, so all have a minimum size. More capacity means a larger grip size, which means less concealable.

        • Taurus, I’m sorry that it came out misspelled but my voice text doesn’t pick up my southern accent too well.that’s your opinion on Taurus I would say 8 out of 10 Gunsmith disagree with your statement. and yes I do believe the Beretta clones and the Smith and Wesson revolver clones that tourists makes are the two best options if you are going to buy a Taurus.mainly because Taurus didn’t design them.

  15. Springfield doesn’t manufacture the XD series. They’re produced by HS Produkt in Croatia. Springfield just imports them.

    • True, BUT, given the number of pistols imported and sold, the manufacturer is, shall we say, “sensitive” to input from Springfield. If Springfield says jump, rather than risking its huge market, it jumps.

  16. Engineering is something where the designer is obligated to consider abuse and make sure that things will “fail safe” especially when life may be at stake. People drop (non gun) things all the time, so to me it’s not a crazy expectation that a gun be able to be dropped without going off.

    For the revolver question, look up a “hammer block” safety.

    • Ruger makes one, but the issue is that the transfer bar adds takeup to the trigger pull, which some don’t care for. I’ve heard the same said as between the series 70 and the series 80 Colt 1911s, but I wonder whether many people can tell the difference.

      • If you’ve slapped enough triggers, it’s not hard to feel the firing pin block move on a Series 80. I suspect if you never knew any different it wouldn’t bother you, but if you’re used to one thing that tiny little bit of friction as the FPB moves is perceptible at a minimum. Same with the CZ 85/75 Shadow vs. any “B” model. It can be polished away in the hands of a competent gunsmith, but it will be there in box stock form.

  17. I will admit to watching my XD45 drop down a 30 foot hill with a full mag and one in the chamber… and wincing on every rock it hit. It didn’t go off…and the sights were still dead on. And before you ask… yes I replaced the holster it jumped out of… that was the last time I try to run up a hill…

  18. I am basically to a point in my handgunning career where I promptly throw my nose up in the air and say “Should have bought a CZ” whenever anything negative about any handgun of a modern design. My fanaticism shall be so devout that I shall begin to convert Glock drones by the score.

  19. Further California details: the ‘Drop test’ requirement for sale Specifically EXEMPTS single action revolvers from testing.
    Millions of 1873 Colts and their clones can be sold to the public despite their ability to discharge when dropped.

  20. I’ve dropped my PT145 twice in the last year. Both time I remembered NOT to grab for it. BOTH time it failed to go off. I now have a front sight shaped dimple in the wood floor in my living room. I think I’ll de-mil a round, load the projectile-less squib and see if I can throw it around enough get the primer to pop. It’d be a no-brainer if they’d offer replacement value or trade it for a G2. The only pistol I’d consider a replacement for the PT145 would be the XDM compact…

    • OK, so I pulled a bullet from a CCI Blazer yesterday, chambered the primed but empty casing and proceeded to toss around and bash my PT145 with a mallet. Dropped it 5 or 6 times on different types of flooring with the safety in both positions. Used a mallet on it so hard that the impact was actually hurting my hand. I did this with the safety in BOTH positions and on all surfaces all around the gun. I even hammered directly on the safety with no ill effects. No bang. Not even a light primer strike. I don’t feel like this is a definitively scientific test, but it has assuaged my concerns about UI in my pistol.

      • Hey look man if you want to carry a $300 piece of crap gun to defend your family and your life I guess your family and your life or only worth $300. you can beat on that thing with a 2 by 4 for all I care, because when push comes to shove those guns suck! Taurus has a real problem with making the same gun over and over that functions another words they build a couple hundred that work and then a half dozen that don’t so if your life is depending on a firearm I suggest you buy something that actually works all the time. but if you would rather load a bullet in your gun – the actual bullet and think that you’re going to be able to test all the intrical part of that gun by hitting it with a mallet you’re as stupid as you sound. leave the actual testing a Firearms to Firearms professionals and maybe listen to what they have to say about the firearm you chose to protect yourself with. There’s a reason why no law enforcement agencies in the world or military forces in the world use toy ass or Taurus same thing. if all you can afford is a Taurus then buy a Taurus but if you’re trying to tell educated gun owners that your $300 pistol is as good as my H and K 1200 dollar pistol your friggin retarded!

  21. The scary thing with the Taurus guns was that they didn’t even need to be dropped to go off, they just needed to be jostled.

    • At the beginning he said that a police officer was shot in the foot by accident with this gun and they made this video to show. He also said the lock of the firing pin was blocked, stuck. There is a fault in the mechanism. This is the old old old version of 24/7 which hasn’t been made in years.

  22. Buy a cheap gun, use it for serious application, get injured… I don’t feel sorry for them at all. You spent noisemaker money and wanted Navy SEAL reliability. Buy quality stuff if you don’t want to lose a toe. Taurus have crap quality control because….. people will buy it anyway! They sell a price, not a product.

  23. XDs had light primer strikes when chambering a round and not pressing the grip safety.

    Evidence, skip to 3:30

    • But for some odd reason Croatia gets a pass and Brazil doesn’t-and I get a free NRA membership with my new Taurus. BTW I think Springfield/Croatia guns should COST less. Thank you Springfield for marking them way up…

      • Compare the amount of issues between Croatian made pistols and the Taurus made stuff and you see that the XD series is sill far more dependable. Mark ups are another question, and not really relevant to this topic.

  24. Had a friend who had the internal lock on his PT111 MilPro activate while shooting. After seeing that I will never own a Taurus product.

  25. I love how you bloggers like to remind us about Springfield’s (made in Croatia) voluntary XDSrecall, while conveniently forgetting that S&W (made in the US) had a Shield trigger recall at almost exactly the same time that.

  26. It’s hard to believe Springfield recalled the XDS for one claimed instance their engineers could not duplicate. They took a great pistol with a nice trigger and absolutely RUINED the trigger. I bought mine used, (2years old) and it had one of the worst, crunchy, triggers I have ever tried. I had to resort to installing a powder river precision trigger kit to restore it to its former glory. Love it now.

    Taurus haters love to bash, it’s like being in a echo chamber. Same ole re-regurgitated crap every time. Their failure rate is about the same as most manufacturers. You just hear about it more on forums. Haters gonna hate!

  27. Hmm- applies to me only with my Makarov. It has no firing pin spring safety- but I understand that the Bulgarian version passed the California drop test at one time. The thought is that the firing pin has too little mass to set off the primer.

    Anyone know about this? I don’t carry it much anymore- (I have a Kahr CW9 that is my EDC)- but it has NEVER jammed on me and is very accurate- so I’d like the option.

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