Don’t bring a gun near an MRI

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The American Journal of Roentgenology published a fascinating article back in 2001 about an incident at a MRI imaging center in western New York State. An off-duty police entered the MRI scanner room and attempted to place his Colt M1991 A1 pistol on the top of a cabinet. The pistol was wrenched from his grip by the magnetic field. It was pulled towards the machine and then discharged!

Pistol stuck to the MRI’s bore.

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.

This account explains how the weapon discharged when the thumb safety was engaged.

The journal article, unlike most journal articles I have read, is written in plain english and can be understood by a laymen. I recommend reading the full account of the incident.

[ Many thanks to PERRK for emailing me the link. ]




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • http://www.hellinahandbasket.net James R. Rummel

    Something very similar happened in the Jet Li movie The One (2001).

    I wonder if the scriptwriter read about the actual incident in the papers, and decided to incorporate the idea into his screenplay?

  • http://mrimetaldetector.com/blog/ Tobias Gilk

    I thought you might enjoy a more contemporary version of this story about guns being brought into the room with a giant magnet (at the heart of the MRI scanner)…

    http://mrimetaldetector.com/blog/2009/10/you-can-have-my-gun-when-you-pry-it/

    This one (linked above) occurred just a couple months ago in Jacksonville, Florida, and involved an off-duty sheriffs officer. The picture on the page (added in the comments section of the blog, at the bottom of the page) isn’t from the Jacksonville incident, but shows another holstered pistol drawn into the MRI magnet.

    Tobias

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Tobias, thanks for the link. I have updated the blog.

  • Carl

    Negligent Discharge. Empty your firearm before relinquishing control of it.

    Furthermore, aren’t you supposed to get rid of all your metal *before* entering a MRI room?

    I’m guessing hoplophobia, and the officer pandering to it (trying to hide the fact that he is armed), is at least part to blame here…

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Carl, apparently he was told it would need to be locked up before he entered the room and he misunderstood.

  • Carl

    On second thought, hoplophobia might be innocent in this incident. Seems like a combo of hospital and carrier screwup.

    It’s quite interesting that the 1911 discharged although all safeties were engaged, including the firing pin block.

    A striker-fired pistol might have fared better.

  • Carl

    Steve, yes, I agree. I rushed to judgement on that one…

  • Komrad

    I’m not surprised that someone’s concealed gun went flying, I am a little surprised that it discharged, but I guess those MRIs have a strong enough field to pull safeties and whatnot around. I don’t know what exactly is in primers but maybe it pulled some of that around.

  • d

    it says Colt M1991 A1 in the text not M1911, blinked a few times to make sure I wasnt seeing things heh

  • d

    oh nuts ignore my comment

  • Me

    Just out of curiosity I wonder if A Kalifornia safe model (drop test) would have prevented this.

  • Whatever

    I would think that given the large cost involved if someone brings a hunk of metal near a MRI machine that the operators would give those who are going to be near it a once-over with a metal detector rather than taking their word for it with regard to metal.

  • JS

    This is why you should never have a round in the chamber. Instead, learn the Israeli speed drawing/chambering technique. Then, there is no need for safeties, and the gun is always perfectly safe.

  • http://mrimetaldetector.com/blog/ Tobias Gilk

    Whatever, you are right… they should have detectors to screen people (and things) before they go into the room with the giant electromagnet. The difficulty has been that LOTS of things made specifically for the MRI environment are made from aluminum, titanium and brass. These are non-magnetic metals but will light up your airport-style metal detector like a Christmas tree. Because conventional metal detectors don’t differentiate between ‘good’ metals and ‘bad’ metals (for the MRI area), they’ve been specifically recommended _against_ for many years.

    Recently (within the past 5 years or so), a new type of detector, a ferromagnetic (only) detector, has been developed and sold specifically to find magnetic materials and _ignore_ non-magnetic ones. These types of systems are tremendously helpful if you’re looking specifically for magnetic metals, like in an MRI center.

    To date, most MRI providers don’t have these, but the numbers of those that do are growing. — Full disclosure, I work for a company that makes these. —

    Visit my blog site (click on my name) if you’re interested in additional information on ferromagnetic detection (FMD).

  • jdun1911

    I really don’t want to get into this but you should never ever carry your handgun unloaded. It stupid or like Azcactusbrew’s posted on AR15 last night:

    “Anyone that doesn’t carry with one in the pipe is a fucking idiot.”
    http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=978573

    You’re better off with carrying a knife and less expensive then carrying a handgun unloaded.

    The Israeli model is beyond flaw.

  • bozo texino

    don’t bring a gun to an MRI fight

  • Bill Lester

    And people said I was paranoid to carry a “NO MRI” warning card in my wallet! (Due to surgical repairs in my left orbit and cheek.)

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Bill, hell, I would get it tatooed on my chest!

  • Carl

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeIZa-25RaM

    Er… don’t shoot at the people to the left of you. Do that at my range and I’d have you thrown out.

    The gun is always loaded.

  • Bill Lester

    Steve,

    I don’t do ink but it might be a viable option for someone who will and is in the same situation. As it stands, I have the warning card with the big Red Cross emblem clearly visible in the clear window most people reserve for their driver’s license. My cell phone also has a warning in the ICE section. So hopefully if I’m knocked unconscious after an accident or seeing Dianne Feinstein naked, the EMT’s will find the news that I’m non-MRIable.

  • whatever

    “I really don’t want to get into this but you should never ever carry your handgun unloaded.”

    It all depends on why you are carrying a handgun. If you are a police officer, then you would need to have your firearm at the most ready state possible as you may be called on to draw and fire with very little notice. If you’re carrying concealed, you should have some time to draw your handgun and cycle the slide if the need arises. If you don’t have the time to do that, you probably also don’t have the time to draw a loaded handgun.

  • jdun1911

    I’m going to said this and leave it be. I’m doing this because false and bad information can be fatal in regards to firearms.

    This isn’t the movie or some fantasy game. Real life doesn’t play out like that.

    There are a number of members on AR15.com that had to use their firearms to defend themselves. Here is one such example.

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=8&f=32&t=381800

    I can list a bunch of example but you get the idea.

    In every respectable handgun training schools will tell you to carry it loaded.

    1. An unloaded carry handgun is a useless handgun.
    2. You will not be able to pick and choice when you’re going to be a victim.
    3. No one can predict the future.

    Again:
    “Anyone that doesn’t carry with one in the pipe is a fucking idiot.”

    Use your common sense.

    • usmcmailman

      NOT in a Hospital you Moron !

  • whatever

    jdun1911, in your example the person being robbed was very lucky that the robber wasn’t a better shot. Again, if a robber has the drop on you, a concealed weapon, loaded or not, isn’t going to do you much good as the guy with the gun already in his hand will always be able to shoot first.

    Most people aren’t willing to commit murder, even among criminals. But put a crook into a situation where he feels his life is at risk and like almost everyone, he will use deadly force. As was stated in the description, it was finding that one of the persons to be robbed was armed is what prompted the shooting by the robber.

    The group in your example made a huge mistake by going with the robber to another more remote location. It’s better to just hand over all your stuff and then run away. Nothing you own is worth your life, let the cops find the robber after you’ve gotten away.

  • Bill Lester

    “It all depends on why you are carrying a handgun. If you are a police officer, then you would need to have your firearm at the most ready state possible as you may be called on to draw and fire with very little notice. If you’re carrying concealed, you should have some time to draw your handgun and cycle the slide if the need arises. If you don’t have the time to do that, you probably also don’t have the time to draw a loaded handgun.”

    I don’t see the difference between police and myself, and I say that from two personal experiences when I was very happy to be armed with a concealed handgun. (Thankfully in neither instance were shots fired and in only one was the weapon actually drawn.) If I am faced with a deadly force situation, it will probably come with little or no warning. Just like a cop. My off-side hand may be occupied, not allowing me to cycle the slide. Just like a cop. That same off-side hand may be injured during the first instant of an attack, thus again of little use to quickly load a pistol in the Israeli fashion.

    The Israeli concern over AD’s is quite short sighted. Keep your weapons fully loaded and ready for action.

  • Carl

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that carrying without a round in the chamber is completely useless in all situations. But it will definitely make it harder or impossible to deal with a lot of situations. As such it is kind of pointless. Like was pointed out above, if you don’t trust your gun not to discharge unintentionally with a round chambered you probably should get another gun or simply reconsider whether you want to carry at all.

  • http://na Keith

    Cocked and Locked concealed 1911.. Woohoooo my favorite
    way to pack!

  • Shootin’ Buddy

    “Something very similar happened in the Jet Li movie The One (2001).

    I wonder if the scriptwriter read about the actual incident in the papers, and decided to incorporate the idea into his screenplay?”

    Yes, likely. The first incident like this that I remember was at Good Shepherd hospital in Chicago.

    When I recently had a head scan MRI (negative, no tumor) a very prominent “no firearms in MRI room” ideogram was displayed at the bottom of the information sheet.

  • Ken

    I have been an MRI technologist for 20 years. We routinely screen every patient a number of times prior to allowing them into the exam room. There are a number of things that should not be brought into the exam room. Any item with a magnetic stripe will be rendered inoperable, electronics may be permanently disabled (hence the prohibition on patients with pacemakers & internal defibrillators) and ferrous metals can be literally pulled into the bore of the magnet.

    I find firearms carriers to be the worst. I have had more than one patient leave the office without being scanned because they refuse to leave the pistol in their car or our lock boxes. This guy was likely trying to get over on the staff and figured he knew better and that the staff was just being difficult. It’s VERY important to properly screen patients and I would bet money he was just trying to be slick. It didn’t work and he jeopardized his life and that of the staff, not to mention the fact that he could have damaged a multi-million dollar piece of equipment. Selfish and stupid!

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Ken, print out this webpage and explain to them why they must hand over their gun.

  • knifeknut

    maybe she thought all guns were like the glock 7 nowadays :)

  • rocketman21

    Grip safety?