Double feed in SKS kills operator: A warning to all of us

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

Travis, an attorney, is suing Norinco and the importer of a Norinco SKS after a person was killed while operating one.

The scenario was as follows. A chambered round failed to fired. The user pulled back the bolt but the round failed to eject. The user then dropped the rifle to the side of their body in order to inspect the action. The detachable 30 round magazine had not been removed and the bolt was let go. The second round slammed into and ignited the primer causing the chambered round’s casing to explode. It sent the bullet down range and a piece of the casing into the users stomach, causing death.

The SKS action with bolt held open. (not the SKS mentioned above, for illustration only).
Photo from

This is an incredibly sad story. If you have been following this blog, youtube, or shooting magazines over the years you will have seen many photos and videos of gun being utterly demolished by a variety of mishaps, without causing any injury whatsoever to the user. The sad reality in this above scenarios is that guns are generally designed to fail without causing injury. In this case the user was holding the rifle action close the the body, not how it was designed to be held, which is at the shoulder.

I think this is a warning to all of us, complacency can be fatal!

Travis’s comments are below:

I am an attorney. A shooter had a misfire. He did not remove the magazine prior to working the action. He tried to inspect the breech and the action slipped out of his hand. This allowed the tip of the round from the magazine to act as a firing pin and discharge the round in the chamber. He was killed when part of the casing of the round in the chamber went into his chest. This could have been avoided if he had dropped the clip prior to pulling the action back to inspect. Some of the manuals you have on this site explain that one should remove the magazine prior to pulling the action back. I am trying to find a manual that was produced with the sale of an SKS. You have great manuals but they should accompany the sale to inform the user of this risk and how to avoid the risk. The shooter in my case had earplugs. He put the safey on. He had the gun pointer down range. Does anyone have an knowledge of this happening, i.e. a round from the magazine striking a round in the chamber and creating an accidental discharge?

I asked for clarification on the position of the rifle when the bolt was cycled and the injury sustained. His response:

User had a thirty round magazine in the SKS and had fired two rounds. The third round did not fire. We do not know why. Apparently the action did not close or the ejector did not work because the round was not ejected when he pulled the action back to inspect the breech. User had dropped the gun to his side holding it where he could inspect to clear the misfire keeping the barrel pointed down range. He pulled the action back to inspect and the action slipped out of his hand according to the eye witness. The round was in the chamber and was not ejected. The next round from the magazine entered the breech when he pulled the action back. When the action went forward after if slipped out of his hand, it drove the point of round two into the primer of first round and it went off. Round two was pushed back into the actiion and has been recovered. Round three bullet went down range, but the casing of the round entered the left side of his stomach about four inches above his belt and traveled upward inside his chest. I have a doctors deposition and x-rays showing the casing inside the deceased.

The casing traveled eight to twelve inches upward into the chest cavity after penetration. The area where the cartridge exploded is open to allow stripper clips to fed from the top. The leaves the shooter exposed when he has dropped the gun to his side to inspect for a problem. The tip of the full metal jacket ammo can substitute for the firing pin.

Is anyone aware of this? The SKS in my case was from China and was made by Norinco. They are a defendant in my case. I will explain to you or others the name of the importer and the wholesaler, but do not want to create problems with the trial date which is set for November, 2009.

Would you allow me to put my address and office phone number on this site. It would be more appropriate for me to visit personally with those who may have information that will help bring this matter to a conclusion. Once the case in concluded, I will go public with the result. I am sure there are those who agree and disagree. I enjoy guns. Many users by instinct will work the action automatically when faced with a misfire. Many users enjoy using a 30 round clip. That is the two things the defendants say my client did wrong.

Dont do that without first dropping the clip.

This is a serious problem. One should always drop the magazine or remove the live rounds from the magazine prior to inspecting the breech after a misfire. There are manuals that say this but I am trying to locate a manual provided with the SKS at the time of sale. It is necessary to warn of these types of risk. It is also necessary to explain to the user how to avoid the risk.

Maybe someone will learn from this. Maybe someone can help me determine what I need to do.

As far as whether I think an importer or manufacturer should be liable if a gun manual does not warn the user about a particular scenario, this is my view on the matter: I don’t think gun manuals should even be required to be sold with a gun, nor do I believe they should have to cover every single scenario. I believe it is up to the owner to learn how their weapon works. Guns are dangerous.

Regardless of you opinion about a gun importer being sued, remember the comment rules: civility is expected and uncivil comments will be deleted.

UPDATE: Just to clarify my own opinion, I do not think this is a Norinco specific fault at all.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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2 of 103 comments
  • Mcian Mcian on Sep 07, 2014

    Sorry but the shooter failed to safely clear the action. Any time there is a jammed live round the magazine must be removed to prevent just this kind of accident from occurring.

    Poor gun handling procedures are not the fault of the manufacture. NOW had the gun actually double fed rounds and it failed then MAYBE there would be a case.

  • Mark Morrison Mark Morrison on Sep 19, 2014

    Incredibly sad and all sympathy to the shooter and his family. That said, this was not Norinco's fault.