View Full Version : Hammer gun (single shot, levergun) better than firing pin gun for Northern hunting?

October 10, 2007, 10:42 AM
I've heard stories of hunters in really cold weather leaving their gun inside the tent/cabin/camper overnight, and then when the rifle hits the cold air in the morning outside the camper, condensation immediately forms then freezes the firing pin in place. You see the big buck, then *nothing* when you pull the trigger, and he runs off. The answer of course, is to leave your gun outside overnight where it does not experience the temperature change in the morning that leads to condensation. But to be safe, on a big important hunt, it might be wise to have a single shot (T/C, NEF, etc.) or a levergun, rather than a turnbolt or semi-auto, because the hammer cannot be frozen. If condensation freezes around the transfer bar or firing pin that the hammer hits, the inertia from the hammer will likely unfreeze it and make it fire, and if condensation freezes around the base of the hammer itself or the sear, the force imparted when you pull the trigger of the hammer design (due to the fulcrum/leverage of the hammer) seems like it would be enough to break up a little ice at the base of the hammer (if any) and overcome it and fire. Anyone think this is a valid distinction? Just seems like it would be much easier to freeze in place a straight firing pin that is locked into the cocked position, when ice forms all around it, all along its length, as opposed to the small amount of ice which can form around the transfer bar/pin of a hammer gun, or the hammer's base.

Also, the shorter the firing pin in a hammer gun, the better, because there is less *length* around which ice can form, leading to a cumulative point where it's enough force to hold the pin in place when the the trigger/sear is released. It's far less likely when the inertia of a swinging hammer hits it, but still conceivable with a long pin. Thus, a short-pin hammer gun design like a single shot seems that it would be preferable to a levergun, which still has a long pin that the hammer must move through the bolt to reach the breechface/primer.

October 10, 2007, 12:10 PM
Hmm very interesting, I've never had this happen to me despite hunting upstate NY and keeping my gun inside, I have definetly noticed condensation before though...

I think you're right about a lever action being a bit more reliable under these conditions, but I'm no expert. My thought was maybe to make it a practise to dry fire the gun a couple times after it being outside for 15 mins, just to make sure everything is working a ok.. might make it a habit from now on.

October 10, 2007, 12:18 PM
Well, yeah, that would work too - a simple test. Get up, have your coffee, get ready to go hunt, then just before you head out, dry fire a couple times in camp, then load your weapon and go. But give it 20-30 minutes at least before the test to acclimate to the colder temperature, so that you don't have the condensation forming after you leave camp, heading out to go hunt.

October 10, 2007, 01:24 PM
FF - I actually saw this happen a couple of years ago. My buddy and I ALWAYS leave the guns locked in the truck, except....one night was freezing rain and we got lazy and put them in the tent. Woke up to frost and freezing temps, as the clouds had left during the night.

Long story short, about 45 minutes into our morning hunt, my buddy pulls up on a 3x3 muley - click. I pull up when his gun doesn't go off - click.

We were both "shooting" semis. Not sure if anything would have helped that situation, but after that we have never been too tired or cold to get the guns into the truck to spend the night....

October 10, 2007, 02:00 PM
Reality check: Single shots and lever guns have firing pins, too. What typically causes the problem of a firing pin freezing in cold weather is lube that is not rated for cold weather, like your typical gun oil. If you are going to be hunting in really cold weather, totally degrease your firing mechanism (firing pin, bolt, firing pin spring, trigger mechanism) and use a dry lube or a cold temperature rated synthetic oil. In the worst case, use no lube. When you're out hunting you typically don't shoot lots of rounds, so your gun won't wear out while you're out hunting in cold weather.

October 10, 2007, 04:25 PM
Well, not exactly - please read it again Scorch - I addressed the difference in the firing pin length, as well as the vast difference between "starting" a pin moving from a stationary position with only a sear release from a stationary spring (remember, inertia law says that a body at rest tends to stay at rest), versus a situation where a hammer is already moving, giving the pin a hard tap - there is a difference in the amount of force required to start something moving versus just relaying energy from an object already moving (the hammer), to another object in the chain. Also, while it may be that improper cold weather lube may cause a lot of cold weather non-firing "jams", it is an additional separate matter here, of the condensation issue, as davlandrum illustrated above.

October 10, 2007, 08:11 PM
Condensation occurs when the cold metal comes in contact with warm moist air, and it happens inside not when you go outside. Think cold drink in warm room.

Freeze-up happens when a gun that is wet from being inside with condensation on it, is then brought back out into below freezing temperatures.

This can occur at temps much warmer than the very cold temps that gum up the action due to the use of improper lubes.

October 10, 2007, 11:54 PM
I had an SKS that did this because I used too much grease on the FCG and went shooting when it was -10 F. The grease turned to taffy at that temp. It is mainly a lube problem rather than a gun problem.

October 11, 2007, 12:20 AM
interesting, nuts, I will just have to use one of my Marlins more often:D