Machine Disarms Police Officer And Discharges Weapon

3-31 Lead

Apparently an off-duty officer in Western NY State went to an outpatient imaging center. Here is the case report. The officer was carrying his Colt 1991-A1 compact. Due to a miscommunication with the technician and the officer, the officer entered the MRI room with his firearm. He attempted to set the firearm down on top of a cabinet that was 3 feet away from the MRI magnet bore. The magnet pulled the gun into itself. When the gun struck the side of the magnet it discharged a round. No one was hurt.

They shut down the magnet to remove the gun. According to reports, the gun was still in the cocked and locked position. There was an empty cartridge in the chamber.

This is how Bearing Arms explains what happened:

When the firearm was removed from the magnet, the gun was still in a cocked and locked position. An empty cartridge was found in the chamber. The presence of an empty cartridge in the chamber is highly unusual. If the thumb safety were not engaged and the weapon fired normally by depressing the trigger, the normal backward recoil of the slide should have automatically ejected the empty cartridge, and a new live round should have automatically been chambered. As discussed earlier, the thumb safety performs two functions: it prevents the sear from releasing the hammer, thereby preventing the hammer from striking the firing pin; it also locks the slide in place, preventing retrograde motion of the slide and automatic ejection of the empty cartridge. Thus, the presence of an empty cartridge in the chamber confirms that the thumb safety was engaged at the time the gun was fired. Given that the thumb safety was engaged when the gun discharged, it is also likely that the normal trigger and hammer mechanism of firing the gun was bypassed because the thumb safety would have also prevented release of the hammer.

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.

Sounds like a very rare occurrence. Or perhaps machines are rising up to take over the world.



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • Acme_Rocket

    I’m not sure who is more at fault here, the MRI technologist or the off-duty officer. I really don’t see what’s so hard to understand about a warning sign which says, “No metal in the MRI suite.”

    Near Darwin award right there. I don’t care what safety features are installed on your firearm. Metal behaves very differently in a high magnetic field environment. About the only safety feature which might work would be the safety on a Beratta M9 or similar pistol. Even then, it’s orientation with respect to the magnetic field might still cause the safety to disengage.

    • dan citizen

      Your laws of physics don’t apply to me!

    • KestrelBike

      maybe the “miscommunication” between the technician and the officer was that the machine was currently not-magnetized? (So, the officer thinks “Oh the magnet warning’s only for when the machine is in use; As a police officer, I’m used to skirting around the stricter rules and don’t have to disarm” and he asks the technician “Hey, the machine’s not on, right?” and the tech answers it isn’t, so the officer walks in & presto)

      • jazcat

        This type of MR is always at field, that is magnetized.

    • Badkarma060

      Agreed, I mean what does the M stand for in MRI. (Giant magnet), hellooo. Sometimes one has to wonder…

      • BryanS

        People dont tend to think about magnets being strong. They generally have no idea about magnets that are superconductive and measured in tesla.

        • Badkarma060

          I have been carrying for 34 years. When I go to doctor, (not my usual guy he knows I carry doesn’t have a problem with it being in his office). I discreetly give holstered weapon to my wife and she put it in her bag. Then stays with tech in case of when I went for my MRI. The once test done, she discreetly hands it back. We have been married 34 years so she has some experience securing my weapon. (pardon the pun) 😉

    • Ethan

      My badge puts me above the laws of Physics.
      Your argument is invalid.

  • Pete Sheppard

    The warning signs are big and bold; hopefully the officer learned an expensive lesson, cheaply.

  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    Hey, I remember one episode of ‘House M. D’ when Dr. House giving back his hostage taker glock after giving him MRI scan.

  • Fred Johnson

    I remember hearing of a case like this a few years ago. Maybe this is the same case?

    • Dan

      this is the same case. 12 years old. news it is not.

      • ed

        Not like this is CNN, I’ll take a human interest story, even if it is a little old.

  • Pizza Bob

    I, too, had heard of such a case, years ago. When opening the report from this article, it became apparent this is the same incident – the report is dated 12 years ago. Isn’t there more current news than this?

    • raz-0

      no. It’s not like this is a common event.

  • Andrew

    I wonder who gets the bill for the re-calibration of the MRI machine (I think the cost is somewhere around 100K)?

    • Wiking SS

      Taxpayers are footing the bill to the tune of $1.1M a day to find a guy who is probably in Mexico by now- Eric Frein- care to guess who will pay for it?

    • jazcat

      Unless they had to ramp the magnet down there would not have to be an entire recalibration of the MR system. Even if they did have to do that the cost would be no where near $100K.

  • Neeko

    reminds me of this video I saw last week: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=78d_1310769320

  • tactical guest

    Maybe another day, bad-ass walking MRI machine will shoot minigun and M79 stuck to him…
    “Your clothes too, officer.” “Oh god”

  • dan citizen

    What part of “no metal in the MRI room” is difficult to grasp?

    • Wiking SS

      Robert Jordan vs City of New London, CT

      • dan citizen

        Words fail me.

  • Wiking SS

    stupid cop

  • Dave Riegler

    The cop sounds very intelligent…..ummmm maybe not

  • CrassyKnoll

    The round fired, not because the pin block, the pin, or any other part physically moved. A field strong enough to pull the weapon is also strong enough to magnetize all the internals – locking them in place.

    More likely the magnetic field generated strong eddy currents within the weapon and the heat was enough to ignite the primer. It is the same way an induction stove top heats a pan.

    • Aurek Besh

      Unfortunately, the case does not mention if the primer had been impacted or not. This would have made it clearer as to what initiated it.

      • Ge

        Although one would presume that since they theorized that the firing pin block was raised by the magnet, that there was evidence of a pin strike

        • BryanS

          I wondered if the field could have pulled the primer cap one way or another, enough to set off the round.

    • Lee

      I agree. I don’t see the possibility of the cartridge firing mechanically. Maybe if the firing pin safety block was removed, which is plausible, there may be a slightly higher chance.

      I would assume discharge caused by electromagnetic energy could be plausible pending if there was enough, and there was graphite in the compound of the gunpowder of the cartridge. My question would then be, why did none of the other rounds discharge also?

      My money goes down it was a negligent discharge, which was then written up in such a manner to cover one’s rear end.

  • Fruitbat44

    JIC anyone commenting on the above post hasn’t read the full report linked to in the above post.:

    The report describes the miscommunication thusly

    “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.”

    And concludes with:

    “One can look at the sequence of events preceding the discharge of the weapon and see several points at which the incident could have been prevented. When the officer came in with the gun, it should have been immediately secured in a safe location, even before the officer changed for the examination. The technologist, knowing the officer had a firearm, should have instructed him that under no circumstances could he bring the weapon into the MR suite. Also, the technologist should have been monitoring the officer more closely to make sure he did not enter the MR suite with the weapon. Signs should have been posted at that site, if they were not already there, warning the public of the dangers of approaching the magnetic field of the MR imager with implants, metallic devices, or objects such as firearms.

    In light of this incident, all radiologists should reexamine our own site’s screening methods to ensure that steps are implemented to prevent such a situation from ever recurring.”

  • Mac984

    I found out a couple of years ago all about MRI machines and that I had claustrophobia after 58 years. If I had a 1911 and could have made it function I would have killed that damn thing. It was in a soundproof room and the operator could not hear my screams. It has an M60 sound when it is imaging. I was not briefed on what was going to happen and a firearm would have been useful when that btcih let me out of that awful thing. Since then I have had several more using a blindfold, earplugs and xanax. Plus they gave me a kill switch.

  • Dan

    why is this news? this article is 12 years old.

  • Tom Currie

    The cause of the accident is that this LEO (like most) firmly and honestly believed that no rules about guns apply to him. He is automatically able to carry his gun anywhere no matter what rules might be applied to ordinary human beings. Clearly he believed he and his gun were as exempt from the laws of physics as they are to the laws of New York.

  • Hopsaregood

    Sure hope this officer is not typical of his department. Not too swift.

    • ed

      He IS from New York

  • phuzz

    One of my lecturers at university had worked in a hospital on MRI machines and told us the following story:
    One day, whilst he was working there a chief surgeon came round, and after being told “no metal past this point”, he assured everyone that he had spent years around MRI machines and that he was fine.
    As he walked close to the magnet, the scalpel he’d forgotten in his top pocket shot out, went through the centre of the magnet, looped back, and embedded it’s self in the door by the surgeon’s head.

  • Brian

    “Due to a miscommunication with the technician and the officer” the cynic in me says this is how it went down:
    Technician: Sir, you can’t go in there with your gun
    Officer: Do you know who I am? I can go wherever I want with my gun

    • Chase Buchanan

      Read the linked paper. That isn’t what happened at all.

  • Did anyone ever verify that the firing pin block was actually installed in teh gun?

    It was very common to remove the Series 80 firing pin block from the FP channel in the slide, which slightly imporved the trigger pull. Some even had ALL the Series 80 FP safety parts removed and the frame parts replaced with shims, which imporved the trigger even more.

    Without the Series 80 FP block in place, if the gun was oriented muzzle towards the magnet, the steel firing pin could be slammed forward under intertia + magnetic field.

  • Steven S. Baum

    I am a retired LEO,and have had MANY MRI’s due to lod injurys.
    I NEVER was even slightly tempted to bring a firearm [ I ALWAYS CARRIED ] into the room at an MRI.
    The words MAGNETIC resonic imaging means — what ?.
    Steel & magnets do NOT mix with good results.

  • Steve

    Maybe there was confusion about where the safe place to put the gun was….