Why is it called to cock a gun?

Securing service pistols

If service pistols are procured at state level in Germany, the states usually adhere to the key data specified in the technical guidelines when compiling the requirements for a new service pistol. The manufacturers, on the other hand, are delighted with recurring regularity when their pistols successfully pass the test according to the “Pistols” testing guidelines and they can use the coveted certificate for upcoming tenders.


That was not always so. We have only known this procedure since the nineteenth-seventies. At that time something very progressive happened: the requirements for service pistols were defined. Two important findings for the manufacturers at the time: the new handgun should be equipped with automatic safety devices and, above all, be a pistol. The latter is noteworthy insofar as disputes were still being waged in contemporary literature at that time about which type of construction one could trust in one's life, revolver or pistol.


Belt and suspenders

Regardless of this basic discussion, pistols were usually equipped with a manual safety (Fig. 1) and a hard trigger for the first shot. A long and sluggish trigger should prevent possible negligent firing of a shot. Subsequent shots were triggered by a short and at the same time smooth-running trigger. This combination of two types of trigger had a reputation for being particularly secure. This knowledge had matured over decades and came from the bygone days of muzzle-loaders. Back then, the last step before the shot was cocked the tap. Now, with the hammer cocked, touching the trigger could trigger the shot. Manual safety devices were devised to increase safety and are also used on modern pistols. And it is still the case that the pistol will only give a soft "click" when the trigger is triggered if the user fails to release the safety device before firing the shot.


With regard to both aspects, the technical guideline was far ahead of its time in a global comparison when it firstly required a pistol and secondly automatic safety devices. It was the trigger for a new generation of service pistols, namely the Walther P5, SIG Sauer P6 and the Heckler & Koch P7. These pistols do not require a manual safety device, and the P7 even offers the same trigger type for every shot.


At least since the introduction of these service pistols, the trigger finger has been the most important link in the human and weapon system. If the trigger is pulled consciously or unconsciously, a shot is fired. One or the other had to take note of this in a most surprising and regrettably and possibly extremely painful way.


Unintentional fires

Fuses are designed to help prevent unintentional gunshots. Generally, a distinction is made between user-related, negligent firing in disregard of basic safety rules and a weapon-related, accidental firing of a shot, i. H. a weapon fires unexpectedly without user intervention. A weapon-related release can be caused by component failure or malfunction. Examples of this: auto-ignition of a cartridge in an overheated cartridge chamber (cook-off) and ignition while a cartridge is being fed or when the weapon is subjected to impact (Fig. 2).



With the advent of the self-loading pistols, fuses became more important. Initially, the early pistols with single-action-only triggers were locking devices which, despite the cocked lock, were supposed to enable the pistols to be guided safely and ready to fire quickly. The most famous representative of this type, which is still popular, is probably the Colt pistol1911 model, which are usually in the "cocked and locked" state, i. H. with cocked hammer and secured, in order to enable a quick release of the shot.


When pistols with cocking / SA triggers conquered the market at the end of the 1920s, the locking device was not given up, but also provided with a release function. From then on it could get confusing for the shooter if he did not have the discipline to always use his weapon in exactly the same charge state. For example, when using a cocked trigger / SA pistol with the lock released, if a shot was to be fired in an emergency, but only a "click" came because the shooter had not released the safety device.


A progress in the evolution of service pistols can be seen in the 1970s, when the working group “Specifications handguns” rejected safety elements that could be operated from outside, but nevertheless demanded unrestricted safety for the weapon carrier. On the basis of this requirement, pistols were developed with automatically acting safety devices, i. H. without locking device. The designation used is misleading, however, since such an “automatic” safety does not work of its own accord, but through action by the shooter.


Automatic safety devices often have an effect on the trigger characteristics, as they are controlled by the movement of the trigger.


Features of automatic backups

A frequently encountered type of automatic safety device is the firing pin safety device. A movable element blocks the path of the firing pin, which is moved out of the path of the firing pin when the trigger is actuated shortly before the lock is triggered (Fig. 3).


Since the control of the lock is linked to the movement of the trigger, some manufacturers try to prevent unintentional movement of the trigger by securing the trigger (Fig. 4).


Automatic backups combine the following features:


· In the standard position of an automatic backup is the
Weapon secured

· They are automatically deactivated when the weapon is used

· They can be on the outside or inside of the weapon


In English-speaking countries, automatically acting safeguards are also referred to as active safeties. The easiest way to orientate ourselves in this regard is the language used in the automotive industry. There a general distinction is made between accident-avoiding and accident-reducing measures, i. H. Active safety systems help to prevent accidents, whereas passive safety elements prevent unintentional firing of a shot.


Based on this definition, the classic backup, manual backup, also counts as an active backup.


Features of manual backups

The design of the manual safety device is characterized by an operating element attached to the outside of the weapon, which the shooter has to move consciously, for example from the "secured" position to the "fire" position, and which remains fixed in the respective position. Similar to the well-known 08 pistol, there is a swivel lever on the handle or on the breech block, which the user can put in the “fire” or “secured” position, but push-button safety devices are also used on pistols (Fig. 5).


Manual fuses can control the trigger, the trigger bar or parts of the lock, such as B. block or deactivate the cleat or the tap or the firing pin. A deactivation proves to be particularly advantageous from a weapons point of view if the trigger goes through "empty". Because if a manual safety device avoids blocking components of the lock or the trigger, the mechanics of the weapon are spared if the shooter tries to pull the trigger with a lot of stress, possibly due to stress.

Manual backups combine the following features:


· To be used consciously by the user

· The control element engages in the selected position

· Control element attached to the outside of the weapon


Features of passive fuses

A third type of backup is rarely mentioned in the specialist literature. These are fuses that work independently of the shooter and only under special conditions. One example is contactor protection. This device on a weapon is intended to prevent endangering people in the event of a malfunction.


Another device on the weapon, which also serves to protect the user and works completely independently of him, is known as a fall safety device. Fall safety can be of vital importance to the user, and during the development phase of new models, manufacturers are required to determine at an early stage which parts are very likely to allow the firing pin to come into contact with the primer cap in the event of a shock, taking into account all the functional conditions of the weapon; i.a. all trigger positions and cocking positions in which the weapon can be wielded.


Ensuring safety against falling usually requires a combination of several passive safety devices in order to bring the complex processes under control when the weapon impacts in various angular positions. "Mass pieces" that move in the same direction in the event of a shock load as an automatically acting safety device on the weapon that has been recognized as critical have proven to be effective.

Passive fuses are always in an unsecured state, i. H. they do not affect the readiness to fire. Passive fuses have three characteristics:


· The standard position of the safety device is "unlocked"

· It works independently of the user

· It is inside


Example firing pin safety

Closures in which a firing pin safety blocks the firing pin are widespread (see Fig. 6). Basically, automatically acting safety devices are held in position by spring force, whereby the safety element blocks the path of the firing pin. If the trigger is pulled, z. B. the trigger bar the fuse and the way for the firing pin is free.

If a weapon of this type were to fall on the sights, for example with the barrel roughly horizontal and the handle pointing upwards, the firing pin safety could be actuated unintentionally due to its inertia and there would be the risk of ignition if the striking mechanism were triggered. This situation can be avoided by integrating a second, spring-loaded mass piece (see "Fall protection" in Fig. 6 and 7), which is independent of the firing pin safety and can move in the same direction as it. However, while the firing pin safety device disengages, the drop safety device will lock the firing pin (Fig. 7).


Both passive and automatic safety devices meet the requirements regarding the readiness for fire of service pistols. By using reliably functioning passive safety devices, trigger safety devices and manual safety devices can be avoided.


Text and pictures: Dr. Peter Dallhammer, author of the book "Basics of Pistol Technology"

Shaker Verlag GmbH, ISBN 978-3-8440-5809-3