Man Has INSANE Out of Battery Firing with Savage Axis – How Can This Happen?

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WARNING: Some of the photos in the links embedded in this post are graphic.

A man in New Brunswick, Canada, experienced a very unusual kind of out of battery firing with his Savage Axis rifle, in which the firing pin released and struck the primer while the bolt and cartridge were entirely clear of the rifle’s chamber. CTV news reports:

Douglas Lyons said a bullet exploded in the chamber as he tried to load his Savage Axis .30-06 rifle Sunday while testing it in the woods ahead of a planned hunting trip.

“The firing pin fired and blew that shell up on me, and that’s what hit me in the face,” Lyons said Wednesday from Boiestown, N.B., where he owns the Tipsy Canoe restaurant.

“The covering of the bullet and the powder and all that stuff in there came up and struck me on the side of my head. Cut my face open there quite a bit.”

Lyons said he had dropped his four sons off at Sunday school and went to the woods with some friends to sight his rifle. He took his gun from its case, and tried to load it, but the bolt wouldn’t lock.

The firing pin went off as he pulled the bolt back on his third attempt, the bullet still in the chamber, he said.

“The barrel was pointed away from me. It was quite a moment. The gun went one way and I went the other,” he said.

The out of battery firing is one of the worst possible catastrophic failures that can happen with a firearm. It occurs when a cartridge is, for whatever reason, not completely locked in the chamber of the weapon when it goes off. An out of battery firing can completely destroy a weapon, and cause fragments to fly off and injure nearby shooters, and therefore manufacturers take great pains to incorporate mechanical safeties that prevent them.

With the Savage Axis, that safety is a traditional Mauser-style cam built into the bolt body that restrains the sear, but with a twist: Instead of the sear engagement surface being a one-piece unit with the firing pin retainer, the Savage uses a two-piece affair, with a round pin-like sear surface (called a “cocking piece pin”) that fits into a firing pin retaining collar.

Based on comments made by Lyons on his Facebook page, one possible cause of the malfunction was failure of the cocking piece pin, which would have released the striker while the cartridge was gripped by the rifle’s extractor and the bolt was out of battery. Lyons mentioned in the comments that the ammunition he used was factory Superior .30-06

Lyons counts himself lucky, saying he escaped the worst:

My ears are still ringing, I’ve still got a friggin’ headache, but the main thing is I’m still around here to talk it about I guess,” he said. “It could be worse, I could be blinded or whatever, right?



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Gary Kirk

    Wow..

  • VanDiemensLand

    I wonder if he was wearing eye protection, doesn’t mention it in the article, if not he’s lucky to have his eyes intact. A very scary event.

    • Blackhawk

      Based on the pictures in one of the links I don’t think he was at the time. What looks like a powder burn goes right up to his eye.

      • VanDiemensLand

        That’s what I was thinking, lucky guy in that respect.

  • MAUSERMAN

    A lawsuit coming?
    I am guilty of not wearing eye protection 95% of the time. Only time I wear it is at NRA indoor range at Fairfax VA.

    • Joseph Goins

      Have you been to their museum? I’ve been debating on going. It’s thirty minutes out of the way to my relatives’ home.

      • MAUSERMAN

        Yes. Its very awesome. So many rare guns. You should go at least once

        • Joseph Goins

          Thanks. I guess I’ll stop in around Thanksgiving.

          • MAUSERMAN

            Great! I enjoy the western guns the most. 1850 1900 time period.

      • Gun Fu Guru

        It is amazing. Definitely worth the hour’s drive.

    • Drew Coleman

      You should always wear eye and ear protection. They are two parts of your body that just can’t be fixed right now.

      • MAUSERMAN

        I know. I will try to correct that. Ear 100%. Eyes I will have to get use to it.

        • Martin M

          Even a pair of well fitting sunglasses are better than nothing.

          Foam plugs are cheap.

          I feel you, though. When I was young we were poor and there was no such thing as hearing or eye protection, much less sunglasses.

          • iksnilol

            I just find it hard enough with regular glasses, eye pro is such a hassle with regular glasses underneath.

          • Shinypartsup

            I went to an optometrist and bought Rx glasses that were large and shatterproof. I told him they would be shooting glasses and he fit me right up. I wasn’t the first shooter he dealt with.

  • Joseph Goins

    Makes a lefty rethink using a righty gun.

    • Sunshine_Shooter

      I’ll definitely be way more suspicious of my bolt guns from now on.

  • Klaus Von Schmitto

    How did he get hit on the right side of the face with a right-handed rifle?

    • Rick O’Shay

      I’m guessing he tipped it to the left or laid it on its side to look at the bolt while manipulating it. Especially if he was on his third try for extracting/chambering it.

  • Garmanarnar

    Clickbait title. Ugh.

    • Mick Finn

      Agreed. Buzzfeed title factory at work. ‘It was a regular thing until THIS happened–‘

      • Scott Tuttle

        you wont believe what happened next!

      • Swarf

        Number 30.06 was a complete BLAST!

        • Paul White

          Not in Texas 🙁

          • Cory C

            Ba dum pshh

      • Vindice

        Still better than the titles the “real” media were using in Canada. Here all the headlines were saying his gun had somehow shot him.

  • Swarf

    Savage is going to want to have a series of quiet conversations with this man that will culminate in a sack of cash or polonium tea.

  • Roy G Bunting

    I’m generally not a fan of the small ejection port rifles like this and the Ruger American. But they may provide some greater protection in out of battery situations like this…
    …If your face is on the correct side of the rifle.

    • PATRIARCHY WILL DOMINATE

      THE RUGER AMERICAN AND THE SAVAGE AXIS WERE MY FIRST TWO CANDIDATES FOR AN INEXPENSIVE SECOND RIFLE. COULD HIS INJURY HAVE BEEN AVOIDED BY YOUR RECOMMENDATION?

      • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

        Please..for the love of all that is holy….stop using all caps.

      • Roy G Bunting

        Maybe? I’d choose the Ruger, personally even before this.

      • DIR911911 .

        all the way to the left side of the keyboard , third button up says “CAPS LOCK” , press this please

  • tony

    when the bolt is retracted, how can the firing pin hit the round?
    I suspect it is caused by a protruding primer, not the firing pin

    • If the circled part were to snap, it could happen:

      http://i.imgur.com/Lozg1i4.jpg

      • Joshua

        it can also happen if the cocking piece turns in it’s track. I have a Savage rifle, which when not ready for use I store with the bolt removed. I relieve tension on the striker by manually lowering it, by turning the cocking piece so it can lower into the forward “fired” position. if the cocking piece is still in that position when the bolt is inserted the cocking piece will hit the rear ring of the receiver instead of entering the lug raceway preventing the bolt from closing fully and locking. in this position the firing pin protrudes as it would if you had pulled the trigger, so if a cartridge was clipped to the extractor, and the cocking piece was in the “Fired” position, and he maybe gave it a smack in frustration, I can see this happening.

        • jamezb

          Would the bolt be retained by the receiver in a failure such as described if it was inserted with the cocking piece in the wrong position?

          • jamezb

            …or would it go all “Ross Rifle” and try to make a new hole in your head? This guy’s injury appears to be in one spot, beside his eye..

          • Joshua

            if the picture displayed is accurate and from the incident under discussion I would say yes it was retained. It appears the lever to retract the bolt stop broke off in the event, which would indicate that the bolt came back with some force, but I don’t believe that’s what injured him, from my understanding of the event, he had the rifle down by his hip with the ejection port turned toward him so he could inspect inside the receiver looking for something to have fallen in and thereby prevent him form going into battery. As the explosion seems to have predominantly gone through the sidewall of the cartridge, and out the ejection port, I would guess the gun did it’s job, it contained the bolt, it did not fail under the explosion, and it channeled the worst of the explosion out the ejection port, which while maybe not the first choice, is a viable escape tract in the event of a cartridge failure. He just happened to be looking in the exit door, right at the explosion when it happened instead of having his head behind the rifle where the designers expected it to be.

            as for “Ross Rifleing” I suggest you purview forgotten weapons video on the subject, Ian actually replicated a Ross Rifle unlocked detonation; the result was that the rifle contained the bolt as designed, the story as far as I can tell is apocryphal, I can find no field reports from the Canadian Corp that mention such an event, I have not seen an armorer’s report describing such damage, the only written evidence I’ve seen to support it is a tag on a rifle in the NRA Museum, which merely mentions that the rifle, a Ross Stalking Rifle in .270 Ross, killed the origional owners hired PH after being fired while on safari in Africa, with no further information to authenticate the story

  • Just say’n

    Had something like this happen with a .338 Lapua (!) semi-auto. The firing pin was stuck protruding out of the bolt face, so when the bolt picked up the next round out of the magazine the firing pin detonated the primer as the round was going into battery. I guess that’s likely not the case here, as the shooter was extracting the round when it went Kaboom!

    I’d be more inclined to think it was a light primer strike and he extracted the “dud” too soon.

    In any case, he shoulda’ gone to church with his kids that day instead.

    • PATRIARCHY WILL DOMINATE

      THAT SAME MALFUNCTION MIGHT HAVE GOT HIM LATER.

      • MisterTheory

        WHAT?????

      • Twilight sparkle

        Why are you yelling so much?

      • Just say’n

        Maybe, but experience has taught me that every bad thing that’s happened was on a Sunday when I should have been in church. Your mileage may vary.

    • Spencerhut

      Many times (depending on the gun design) the stuck firing pin will prevent an auto from loading as the cartridge rim will catch on the protruding firing pin preventing the cartridge from making it up to the proper position for feeding. I’ve seen several stuck firing pins on guns people bring into the store with the owner complaining about failure to feed. Lucky for them it did not feed.

  • Rimfire

    I hope that soon we can get to the root cause and it gets published here. Follow-up stories on subjects like this are the best. Thanks!!

  • PATRIARCHY WILL DOMINATE

    I SUPPOSE I WON’T BUY THE SAVAGE AXIS RIFLE. I HAD BEEN LOOKING AT THAT ONE AMONG OTHERS.

    • Swarf

      What the hell is wrong with you?

      • DIR911911 .

        he’s caps lock impaired

  • GaryOlson

    Dad gave me his old Mossberg 500. He said it had a problem with the firing pin; but he had some good ol’ boy fix it up.
    I stripped it, cleaned it (never been cleaned), inspected it, looked good to go. Took out to the range. On the second shell, it fired before the action closed. Damn loud even with ear protection. Jammed the action back hard.

    Disassembly and inspection showed the firing pin was a two piece assembly with the pin screwed into a block. Guess what came unscrewed and extended a little too far? I ordered a new CNC machined, teflon coated firing pin, retaining washer, and spring from Midway. Fit perfectly in a 1956 Mossberg 500. Reassemble and now Dad’s ol’ 12 gauge is good to go.

    I thanked Dad for the experience.

  • FarmerB

    Luckily it seems that it blew a LONG way out of battery.

  • Jeff

    Probly should have been in Sunday School himself….

  • Inspector Gadget

    OK, I’ll stir the pot.
    Let’s look at this from a criminal investigator’s point of view. Man says his rifle had an out of battery discharge causing him injury to his face. Picture of exploded casing in open bolt provided, along with picture of injury to face. Looks legit (and I’m NOT saying it didn’t happen as claimed).
    However, look for the physical evidence around ejection port. When this cartridge exploded the shrapnel and powder would have been forcibly ejected at about a 90-degree angle out of the port. I say 90-degree because the receiver will block and divert pressure on roughly 3 of 4 sides. The angle may be somewhat off taking consideration that victim claims to be pulling back on the bolt when it happened.
    Does anyone see any scratches or powder residue around the port? How about inside the port opening? Any scratches, knicks, powder debris on the scope turret just above the port opening? The rifle looks amazingly clean and untouched from this apparent catastrophic open bolt explosion. I get “smokeless” powder, but as described one would think there would be small shards of brass and unburned powder all over the ejection port, and likely on the scope turret.
    Again, not saying this did not happen exactly as described, but the rifle looks amazing clean for such an event. Cue Professionals and pundits remarks! Enjoy!

  • W Rusty Lane

    When in the good ole USMC we didn’t wear “eye” protection nor did we wear any “ear” protection. That kinda “sh**” gets in the way when you’re trying to kill the enemy.

    • CommonSense23

      This is one of the dumbest comments I have ever read.

  • uisconfruzed

    Looks like he should have gone to church with his kids 🙂