View Full Version : Can a shotgun acc discharge while being loaded?

March 20, 2009, 11:13 PM
I am familiar with semi-auto rifles but less so with shotguns and I just purchased an 870. My question: I leave 4 rounds in the magazine tube, chamber empty, hammer down and safety on. I'm curious how safe it is to rack a round from the magazine into the chamber if I am not on a range. It seems to float around loosely in the chamber before seating in the chamber and it seems it could go off when you slam a round into the chamber. Is this possible? I think I am concerned with a slamfire like you can have with an m16a2.

March 20, 2009, 11:17 PM
I suppose conceivably it is possible if perhaps something was lodged inside of the receiver and you slammed it back into it really hard..... But honestly I would say the chances are pretty astronomical. The firing pin is recessed into the bolt when you cock the slide back and so you don't have to worry about the primer hitting that. And the bolt face is flat. You don't have anything to worry about.

March 20, 2009, 11:17 PM
I may be corrected... but I think the Mossberg cannot discharge until the action is fully closed. I have shucked shells in and out thousands of times with out pulling the trigger. I always do this with muzzle pointed in safe direction but do not really fear it going off...

March 20, 2009, 11:27 PM

March 21, 2009, 02:35 AM
I have shucked shells in and out thousands of times with out pulling the trigger. I always do this with muzzle pointed in safe direction but do not really fear it going off...
There's a lot of that going on.

March 21, 2009, 05:31 AM
It is possible, but rare. Most PD's have policies prohibiting unloading by cycling through the chamber to prevent such an accident. It could be caused by a mechanical breakdown but usually happens because someone hits the trigger. Best way to unload is to depress the shell stop and let the shells come out the loading gate.

Lee Lapin
March 21, 2009, 07:11 AM

The 870 is designed so that the locking block in the bolt actually retracts the firing pin as the bolt unlocks and opens. The firing pin is also spring loaded to the rear, and is an inertial type firing pin, in that it is shorter than the overall length of the bolt body. The 870 firing pin depends on momentum imparted by the hammer blow to reach forward far enough to ignite the primer of a chambered round. It's a very safe system, within its limitations (typical of all repeating shotguns I am familiar with, the safety only blocks the trigger, it doesn't lock the hammer or block the firing pin).

It is almost impossible for an 870 in good working order to fire a round on chambering. I have heard of it happening in a gun with a broken firing pin when the forward portion of the broken firing pin was jammed in the bolt face, but that's a genuine "Murphy really hates you" sort of thing. I have been around 870s for 40 years and have never seen this sort of thing happen. Yet it did happen to me once, with a Marlin 336, so I know that however statistically remote the possibility, there is an infinitesimal chance that it can happen.

So I'd say that Rule 2 ALWAYS applies- "Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times: on the range, at home, loading, or unloading."

Were I you, I'd re-think that 'hammer down on an empty chamber' thing as well. We keep the magazines loaded with buckshot and slugs in the Sidesaddles of HD 870s here, with magazines loaded one round short. If a slug is needed first up it's a simple matter to load one into the magazine and cycle it into the chamber. With the action unlocked as it is when the hammer is dropped, however, it can be difficult to get a round into the magazine of an 870.

If you don't want to change your manual of arms, then let me suggest that you make it a habit of doing both a visual inspection of the chamber and a 'finger wave' as well, EVERY TIME you get ready to drop the hammer. Even so, there's always a risk of there being a round in the chamber when the hammer goes forward. People are fallible, after all.

If you'll excuse me for saying so, IMHO, in the great scheme of things it is FAR more risky to keep dropping the hammer as a 'normal' part of your manual of arms on an 870 than it is just to cycle a live round into the chamber. I think your worries regarding cycling a live round into the chamber are ... misplaced ... in comparison to the risks involved in repeatedly dropping the hammer on an 870. Tubular magazine guns can be treacherous in comparison to box magazine guns. When the magazine is out of box-fed weapon, there is no place for a round to 'hide' save in the chamber. With a fixed tubular magazine, you can't remove the magazine and separate it from the weapon, and there is always a chance you missed seeing a round.

Of course, YMMV in regard to the above. It's your house, your gun, your gunfight, and you need to run them all however you see fit.

Welcome to TFL, and Stay safe,


March 21, 2009, 07:40 AM
I keep my 870 empty with 5 rounds on the butt. I retract the forend to the rear and store it with the action open and safety on. Pop one into the chamber and close the action and I have one ready to go. When i used to carry one when I was still a cop, we woulld pump the action on an empty chamber to lock the forend, then load the mag tube. So the only way to load that first shell was to press the forend release and pump the gun. Theory being the average person wouldn't know to do that if they ever got a hold of the gun.

I do have a question pertaining to this thread, though: How do you guys unload your shotguns? When I clean the gun, I insert 6 rounds into the mag tube to make sure the spring is correctly in there. Once or twice, the spring kinked and it only took five. Anyway, the safety is on, my finger nowhere near the trigger, and I shuck them out of the gun by cycling the forend after I verified the tube will hold the 6 rounds. My new Mossberg 930 has a nice feature, though. With the action closed, you simple hit the bolt release and it pop them out, one by one.

Lee Lapin
March 21, 2009, 08:17 AM

With an 870 that has a short LE style forearm, it's pretty easy to just open the action all the way slowly and remove a chambered round (if any). Then, leaving the action open, just press in on the left shell latch to empty the magazine. It's a little trickier to do on an 870 that has a long field type forearm that blocks part of the loading port with the action open, but it can still be done without opening the action all the way. IMHO it's far better to download the magazine through the loading port than to run shells through the chamber. Racking the shells out through the action batters the shell heads, done often enough there's a risk a battered shell won't chamber far enough to fire any more.

With Mossberg pumps, it's best to download the magazine through the loading port first by manipulating the shell latch, then empty the chambered round by slowly retracting the forearm and easing the shell out.

With some examination and experimentation, it's usually pretty easy to work out how to unload tube magazine shotguns without cycling shells through the action.



March 21, 2009, 12:19 PM
Yeah, I think you're right about me dry firing it being bad practice but I hate the tension on on springs and etc. I was always taught to have it released, maybe from the army. The reason I fear slam fires is because in Somalia a guy got off guard duty, he had his m16 slung over his back pointing up (at his head). When he turned it bumped something. He had the bolt locked in the rear and when it bumped it let go slammed forward, chambering a round as it went and then discharged.

March 21, 2009, 01:37 PM
Keeping an action in the open mode would be scary... even my ruger .22 pistol gets the action closed as soon as I change mags. Too much room for boo-boo stuff.
As for dry fire, I feel most of our modern arms can handle the occasional hammer drop. But knowing a bit about springs I know compressed or decompressed means nuttin... it is the cycles that wear them down. I know personally, several guns left with cocked springs for more than a decade as well as full mag tubes that feel as new...

March 21, 2009, 02:05 PM
The Winchester model 11 auto had a habit of discharging while being cocked, sometimes beheading the shooter (barrel itself pulled back and released to chamber a round, guys doing that with the muzzle up/butt on the ground)

March 21, 2009, 02:07 PM
Remember the old guys saying, "My pump is just as fast as any autoloader." Years ago, there was truth to that. I owned an Ithaca 37 that would slam fire with the trigger held back as fast as you could work the forearm--really fast. Modern pump guns are all made with the trigger system disconnected during the ejection/loading cycle to prevent "foolishness" such as this. What's important for you to see is that the feed tube is totally seperate from the rest of the system. As long as you leave the chamber empty, you really have no problem at all--safety "on" or "off". The magazine tube is just that--a long hollow tube with a bunch of shells in, all held in place by a retention spring. Practice reaching down and pushing in the retainer spring, then letting one shell at a time out of the tube and into your hand. Eventually, you will be able to easily unload your magazine without affecting the bolt and firing system--even with one hand. ;) -7-

March 21, 2009, 06:21 PM
The old Model 12s would slam fire if you held the trigger back as you cycled. They changed that design sometime in the late 20s, early 30s.