A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How Not To Hold A Revolver

It is important, when firing a revolver, to keep all parts of your hand(s) away from the front of the cylinder. Explosive ignition gases exit the cylinder gap as well as the muzzle of the firearm when the cartridge is fired. This safety issue is sometimes illustrated by instructors who place a revolver inside a paper bag with the muzzle sticking out a hole in the bottom. On firing the revolver, the bag explodes.

I recently received an email regarding a shooter who lost the tip of his thumb while firing a S&W 460XVR Magnum. He let his left thumb get in front of the cylinder. The result was not pretty. For the weak of stomach, I have only posted the bandaged photo of his hand. Click the bandaged photo to remove the dressing and examine the wound if you like. Here is his story in his own words...........

460XVR blew my thumb off today!

No joke, about 1/2 of my left thumb is gone ... what's left is a friggin mess.

It's pretty hard to type, and I'm only posting because you never know, it might save somebody else a thumb. I was using a 2-handed grip, fired off a Cor-Bon DPX .460 and the blast came violently out the side of the gun.

At first my thumb was so covered in blood that I couldn't see how bad it was ... and I was full of adrenaline and felt no pain. And honestly it looked really bad, my whole hand was covered in blood and it was kinda gushing.

The blown-off thumb was on my support hand. I'll re-create the grip tomorrow to see where my thumb was, but it's not like I didn't already know not to get any body part near the cylinder gap. And even if I totally screwed up and did, taking my thumb clean off seems a bit excessive?

Just be careful with those 460's. That case operates at such high pressure, it's just asking for trouble.

BTW, I bought my 460 new and had exactly 12 rounds through it. Info about the gun, it's a full-size 460 with the 8 3/4' barrel and factory installed compensator. It's one of the Whitetails Unlimited models.

Ammo was 200gr Cor-Bon DPX.

The gun only had 12 or 13 rounds of the Cor-Bon through it, and 10 .45 Long Colt rounds through it. So it was essentially still brand new.

Saw a hand specialist while there today. Lots of ways to try and save what's left, but first I just have to hope it doesn't get infected in the next few days ... then surgery early next week.

The hand specialist I spent a few hours with last night said that in gunshot wounds there is always a lot more damage than is first visible ...same with things like fireworks going off in your hand. A lot more flesh around the wound is dead, and will rot and fall off over the next couple days. That's why it's so important to keep clean, and that's also why they can't do surgery now. If they wrapped new skin over dead skin it would just puss out, possibly turn gang-green [sic], and they'd have to start all over again.
Having dealt with traumatic gunshot wounds before, I wish him luck.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty. I can't believe a .460 has so much backblast that it can take your thumb apart like that. I feel sorry for this dude, but I admire him for telling his story. I'll stick to automatics, thanks!

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Man, that pic was enough to tempt me to take the position of "anonymous"...almost. I'll still keep shooting revolvers. Really appreciate this post being put up in the nature to educate. I'll have to show this to some of my friends so they can appreciate gun safety rules and proper gun handling better.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Sterno said...

I can't figure out how he could hold a revolver so that would happen to him but have a good enough grip to control that recoil?

Could you either post a link to his page or re-post when he shows us how he managed that?

12:28 AM  
Anonymous TJH said...

Ever see a relatively tiny shaped-charge cut through a steel girder? Similar concept, though much lower pressure out of the revolver.

The 460 S&W may be loaded as high as 60,000 psi, and the shock wave is somewhat directed by the cylinder gap. By comparison, a waterjet cutter uses 22Kpsi to cut metals. The fella must have had his thumb snug up the front of the cylinder.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I don't know, but my guess is he was a trained semi-auto man, and he reverted back to a thumbs forward grip frequently taught with semi-autos.

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a video of a demonstration of this happening.


9:24 AM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

sheesh. I suppose it's nice to hear the cautionary tale occasionally. Can never be too careful, eh?

9:50 AM  
Blogger Arthur said...


I'm not a revolver sorta guy and this makes me really happy about that.

If the blast from the cylinder can do that do his thumb, how do they keep it from cutting through the top strap of the revolver after half a box of ammo?

11:10 AM  
Blogger Dave D. said...

My father always told me to stay away from the cylinder gap, but it was because a mis-timed revolver might send lead slivers out between the cylinder and cone.

Are the typical .357 S&W revolvers that dangerous at the cylinder gap or was this extreme damage due to the power of the .460? Any chance there was a mechanical problem with the revolver?

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Xavier, thanks for the visual. Those of us that are semi-auto people appreciate the video. I can see you doing a whole series of these. You could title it, "Xaviers dumb ass things people do with guns"!


5:29 PM  
Blogger BobG said...

If you want to get another look at what is going on, just fire a revolver in the dark and watch the flames shoot out; .357 loads can be quite spectacular in the dark, due to the high pressure involved.

7:56 PM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

LOVE the addition of the video (didn't see it earlier?). I waited for him to say it was cooked as well as eviscerated. "Say goodbye to your little friend" had me howling.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous TJH said...

dave d:

A revolver doesn't need to be out of time to send lead everywhere. I shoot mostly lead, and it's a common occurrence on all my revolvers, even when I set my Dan Wessons down below .004" gap. All shooting sessions produce rings of lead around the chamber throats.

The hot, high-pressure gases erode lead the same way they erode the top strap, but faster. I wouldn't put any part of my body near the gap or muzzle of any revolver, regardless of the cartridge.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Bubbafats said...

Was that Bruce Willis with the hot dog?

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool and informative video. Bet it was expensive to get Bruce Willis. Did he eat the hot dog afterwards ?

6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool and gross story... it's been added to http://www.gearcult.com

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Texashorsepower said...

The design of the "revolver" hasn't changed since it's inception. You still have a cylinder that revolves independant of the fixed barrel. That being understood - there must be a gap (if even a few thousands of an inch) to allow that cylinder to move. Hot gasses and sometimes lead spatter WILL and DO come out that gap! EVERY TIME. If you had a ported barrel you know enough not to put your hand over those ports because all kinds of fire & gasses come out of those ports when you shoot the gun! This isn't and never will be that revolvers are more dangerous than semiauto pistols or that the .460 S&W is on the verge of being too high pressure and/or dangerous all by it's self. It comes down to basic common sense. I don't care how long your thumbs are, have you seen just how LONG the .460 cylinder is??? If you're holding the revolver properly you have NO CHANCE of putting your digits in the way of that cylinder gap. If you don't know how to hold or opperate a particular firearm - ASK FIRST and by all means READ THE INSTRUCTIONS when you buy a new firearm! Be safe folks. Firearms don't hurt people all by themselves, we help them with our stupidity - Think - Have fun =-))

10:09 PM  
Blogger rain252 said...

There is no way this guy had his left thumb up far enough forward on a bg revolver like that to be laying next to the cyl/barrel gap. I think he let that thumb get in front of the muzzle and a grazing shot took off the bottom of the thumb pad. So why is he spinning the story? Lawsuit lottery. Bad gun hurt my thumb...I need a million $. Baloney. Pick up a big revolver and see where your left thumb is. Even if it was near a cylinder hole, that could not destroy a thumb like that. And even if he did do some contorted grip and had his thumb laying over the gap, I don't believe it would have done that much damage. I am not buying this.

3:39 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

8+ inch barrel? I wonder if he was holding it like a rifle.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something akin to the modern revolver has only been for something like 175 years!! It's just there are more gun ignorant and gun stupid people around these days that have no idea what they're doing and don't bother to learn. Revolvers are only dangerous if you use them stupidly. But, that goes for most things doesn't it?

1:01 PM  
Blogger TheDaywalkersDad said...

Damn, I shouldn't have clicked on that picture. Poor guy.
I took a family member shooting several years ago that talked a really good game. I believed that he knew what he was doing until he stepped onto the firing line and kept sweeping all of the other shooters. He had a POS Parker .45acp that jammed every mag and he would point the gun across the entire firing line while trying to clear it.
I finally told him to put it away and gave him a .38spl to shoot. Can you guess what the first thing he did was?
Wrong. He flipped the cylinder closed like he was in a movie. Then he wrapped his hand around the cylinder when preparing to fire. I stopped him before he shot the revolver but I learned a valuable lesson about assuming that people have the skills that they claim to have.

11:03 PM  

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