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Discussion Starter #1
Hello friends,
Hoping you can help me with a rimfire bolt action safety question.
I am not exactly new to firearms, but it is fair to say that I am pretty new to bolt action rifles.
I grew up using my dad's Marlin 39A lever action. Because of the visible thumb hammer, it was possible to easily de-cock the rifle with a round in the chamber, which I always did while hiking around so as not to depend solely on the safety button.
However, I just read somewhere that doing so with a bolt action can result in a more dangerous, rather than a safer condition than simply using the safety because the firing pin is then in contact with the primer. One good bump and you've got yourself an accidental discharge.
Is this true of rimfire as well as centerfire bolt action rifles?
Of course your brain is your primary safety, your finger the secondary, and the button/lever on the gun a distant third, but when walking through bushes things get bumped and snagged too!
Here's a scenario I'm thinking of. When we used to go squirrel hunting, someone would carry the 22 for a good clean headshot, and someone else would carry a shotgun for when the squirrel is on the move. Let's say you find the squirrel parked on the tree trunk and chamber a round. But before you can squeeze off a shot, he runs and your shotgun partner takes the shot instead. Now it's time to move on to the next one, but you've got one in the chamber. Do you have to dump the whole tube and cycle the bolt before you start walking so as not to depend only on the safety?
I say tube because my son is a novice shooter, and I just bought him his first rifle, a Marlin XT-22TR. Also, I have a Marlin 881 for myself, but haven't had it out in the woods yet. I want to be sure that in addition to always bearing in mind the Four Commandments of Gun Safety that we are also acting appropriately with our particular firearms.
I appreciate very much any advice that you might be willing to give.
Thanks in advance!

As a side note (hopefully not to hijack my own thread), I wonder is a fully de-cocked 39A lever action with a round in the chamber more susceptible to accidental discharge due to a big bump than one that is in the half-cocked position for the same reason being considered here for a de-cocked bolt action. Would the firing pin be in contact with the primer on a lever gun too?

 

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Discussion Starter #2
Had a pretty close call once as a kid that I'm hoping not to repeat, nor my son either for that matter.
I was walking across the slope of a pond dam with a pump action .22 belonging to my cousin, following him as we were exterminating cottonmouth snakes.
I had two hands on the gun, left hand on the forend, right hand on the grip of the stock, finger outside the trigger guard.
My feet slipped sideways down the slope of the bank of the pond, and I went down quick.
I landed on my right elbow, and the butt of the gun hit the ground pretty good with the barrel pointed skyward.
The gun went bang. I went to the house, and never handled that particular pump action .22 again.
Don't want to set up a dangerous scenario for me or my son with our bolt action rifles either.
 

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Good question. I don't know that you can decock a .22 bolt action in a way that would make it positively safe. I've always walked with a round in the chamber, the safety on and my finger away from the trigger. I've been under the impression that the safety provides a positive mechanical safe rifle. Given your scenario, I then just put the safety back on and carry on. I would think that chambering a round once I've identified a game target would introduce unnecessary and/or unwanted noise.

I'll be keeping my eye on this thread as you've peaked my interest. One of the really knowledgable people will be along soon.

Good luck.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for responding, friend. I appreciate you taking the time to do it. Looking forward to hearing from others also. Nice to know I've come to the right place to ask!

Side note: apparently I have been bitten by the Marlin bug yet again. After receiving my son's XT-22TR I got so excited about it I bought a 981T for myself and it is on its way now! Can't wait!

Now if only I could get my hands on one or two of those beautiful walnut fleur de lis stocks...will they ever be available again I wonder?

Must be why I am considering buying yet another 881 for sale right now! Man, got to be Marlinitis for sure!
 

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I'd say it varies from model to model, just as it does with revolvers. Dropping either one can result in a round firing in some models, if the receiver were to be bumped in just the right way or if the hammer were to be struck. Such a blow can be enough to cause the firing pin to impact the primer of the round in the chamber setting it off. More recent models are designed so that this doesn't happen. Thus the rebounding hammers, inertial firing pins and strikers, and transfer bars ahead of the firing pin, for both rifles and revolvers.

However, it is not typically the case (and should not be the case) with the mechanism uncocked, that the firing pin rests on the rim of the cartridge or on the primer. Have a look at your bolt for the rifle you're asking about. Does the tip of the firing pin protrude from the bolt? It shouldn't protrude, unless it is accelerated by the firing pin spring.

That's not to say that this is the case in every .22 rifle ever made. I've not looked at them all.

Try this. Go outside with your rifle and a few shells. Load one in the chamber and point the rifle into the ground ahead of you. With the bolt still open, pull the trigger back. With the trigger pulled back, close the bolt. You should be able to close the bolt without the round being set off. If it is set off, make sure it goes into the ground ahead of you. This should work for both rim and center fire rifles.

If you are able to close the bolt, as above, without firing the round, with the rifle still pointed into the ground, strike the butt firmly several times with a rubber mallet to see if that will set it off. If it does not fire, this should reassure you.

I have read that many African professional hunters require their clients to de-cock their rifles according to the procedure above when walking through the bush. It requires that the bolt be lifted, then returned, to cock the rifle before the rifle will fire. Usually, there is plenty of time to do this, and it can be done almost silently. Admittedly, the bolt is easier to open, this way. And if that happens while moving through brush, the round in the chamber can be lost.

Having said that, I can't say that I know anyone on this side of the Atlantic, hunting with a .22 rifle, who carries their bolt actions uncocked with a round in the chamber, myself included. Should they? Perhaps. Instead they depend upon the safety.

In bolt action rifles, the safety usually only blocks the trigger, and not the firing pin. That's why it's not a good idea to modify the trigger sear to lighten trigger pull, UNLESS YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. If too much of the sear is removed, a bump to the rifle may cause the firing pin to slip off the sear, allowing the rifle to fire. The safety may also lock the bolt closed.

All the more reason to never forget the first rule of gun safety. Never point (or allow to be pointed even when carrying) a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
 
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I'd say it varies from model to model, just as it does with revolvers. Dropping either one can result in a round firing in some models, if the receiver were to be bumped in just the right way or if the hammer were to be struck. Such a blow can be enough to cause the firing pin to impact the primer of the round in the chamber setting it off. More recent models are designed so that this doesn't happen. Thus the rebounding hammers, inertial firing pins and strikers, and transfer bars ahead of the firing pin, for both rifles and revolvers.

However, it is not typically the case (and should not be the case) with the mechanism uncocked, that the firing pin rests on the rim of the cartridge or on the primer. Have a look at your bolt for the rifle you're asking about. Does the tip of the firing pin protrude from the bolt? It shouldn't protrude, unless it is accelerated by the firing pin spring.

That's not to say that this is the case in every .22 rifle ever made. I've not looked at them all.

Try this. Go outside with your rifle and a few shells. Load one in the chamber and point the rifle into the ground ahead of you. With the bolt still open, pull the trigger back. With the trigger pulled back, close the bolt. You should be able to close the bolt without the round being set off. If it is set off, make sure it goes into the ground ahead of you. This should work for both rim and center fire rifles.

If you are able to close the bolt, as above, without firing the round, with the rifle still pointed into the ground, strike the butt firmly several times with a rubber mallet to see if that will set it off. If it does not fire, this should reassure you.

I have read that many African professional hunters require their clients to de-cock their rifles according to the procedure above when walking through the bush. It requires that the bolt be lifted, then returned, to cock the rifle before the rifle will fire. Usually, there is plenty of time to do this, and it can be done almost silently. Admittedly, the bolt is easier to open, this way. And if that happens while moving through brush, the round in the chamber can be lost.

Having said that, I can't say that I know anyone on this side of the Atlantic, hunting with a .22 rifle, who carries their bolt actions uncocked with a round in the chamber, myself included. Should they? Perhaps. Instead they depend upon the safety.

In bolt action rifles, the safety usually only blocks the trigger, and not the firing pin. That's why it's not a good idea to modify the trigger sear to lighten trigger pull, UNLESS YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. If too much of the sear is removed, a bump to the rifle may cause the firing pin to slip off the sear, allowing the rifle to fire. The safety may also lock the bolt closed.

All the more reason to never forget the first rule of gun safety. Never point (or allow to be pointed even when carrying) a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
Interesting read. Thanks for the info.
 
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