Spontaneous Discharge of a Firearm in an MR Imaging Environment. It may not rival US magazine’s coverage of Katie Holmes alleged drug addiction, but the article in the Journal Of Roentgenology is a fascinating read nonetheless. “An off-duty police officer went to an outpatient imaging center (not affiliated with our institution) in western New York State to have an MR imaging examination. The facility housed a 1.5-T MR unit (Signa; General Electric Medical Systems, Milwaukee, WI) with active shielding. The officer was carrying a model 1991 A-1 compact.45 caliber semiautomatic pistol (Colt’s Manufacturing, Hartford, CT).” Guess what happens next?
The officer notified the technologist that he was carrying the weapon before entering the MR dressing room. The technologist told the officer to take the gun with him. The technologist intended to meet the officer in the MR patient waiting area before the examination and secure the weapon in that room, where he felt it would be safe. However, the officer apparently misunderstood and took the gun into the MR suite. The technologist was entering the officer’s personal data into the computer and did not see him entering the MR suite.
Once the officer was inside the MR suite, the gun was pulled from his hand as he attempted to place the gun on top of a cabinet 3 ft (0.9 m) away from the magnet bore. The gun was immediately pulled into the bore, where it struck the left side and spontaneously discharged a round into the wall of the room at the rear of the magnet. Fortunately, no one was injured. Although the gun struck the magnet bore, only minimal cosmetic damage occurred to the magnet itself. The MR unit had full functional capability immediately after the gun discharged. The weapon’s thumb safety was reportedly engaged when the gun discharged.
Thank God the 1.5-T MR was safe! And yes, the 1911 was “cocked and locked.”
The gun likely discharged as a result of the effect of the magnetic field on the firing pin block. The firing pin block was probably drawn into its uppermost position by force of the magnetic field. The firing pin block has to overcome only light pressure from a relatively small spring to release the firing pin. The pistol was likely drawn into the magnetic field so that the muzzle struck the magnet’s bore first. With the firing pin allowed to move freely in its channel, the force of the impact on the muzzle end was sufficient to cause the firing pin to overcome its spring pressure and move forward to strike the primer of the chambered round.
And what did we learn from this? Don’t bring a gun to an MRI fight.