Why Not Mention The Hammer, Alec?

“I did not pull the trigger.”

 

That was the headline this morning when I sat down to my computer. Alec Baldwin, for reasons that are completely inexplicable to me, has been quoted as saying in an interview that he never pulled the trigger on the firearm that killed his cinematographer.

 

There is no indication that he is acting outside the advice of his attorney, which would suggest to me his legal counsel is fine with him making such public pronouncements.

 

Without being too dramatic, I would consider his statements a secondary negligent discharge.

 

The firearm is currently under the control of the local law enforcement agency. The functionality and workings of the gun are going to be inspected, re-inspected, and, ultimately, reports will be made. Here is the thing… that particular gun does not necessarily need a “pulling of the trigger” for the gun to discharge.

 

A “dropping of the hammer is more than sufficient.”

 

The condition of the hammer was not mentioned in the interview by Mr. Baldwin.

 

Now, to be sure, the action of a single-action revolver requires two separate events to take place for the gun to go bang.

 

First, the hammer needs to be in the rear position, or at least far enough back that when it is released, the hammer has sufficient speed and strength to cause the firing pin to strike the primer on the cartridge.

 

Second, the trigger either needs to be pressed to allow the cocked hammer to be released, or pinned to allow the hammer to fall on its own…

 

There is a third possibility though… and one I think Mr. Baldwin most likely encountered, and it revolves around the first condition above.

 

The hammer on a single-action revolver does not lock to the rear until it has been pulled back almost to its full arch of extension. During that time if the hammer is released, it will fall back to its de-cocked position. Depending upon the amount of travel it needs to make before coming to rest against the striking plate, the amount of force exerted on that plate will vary.

 

If the hammer is pulled back an eighth of an inch, there is very little likelihood the gun will discharge. If the hammer has been pulled back almost to its full arch, it will still release and strike with enough force that the gun will discharge.

 

Mr. Baldwin has now made dispositive statements in public about his actions. He has referenced the trigger and that his finger was nowhere near the trigger. The fact that he has purposefully and knowingly neglected to mention the status of the hammer is instructive.

 

This might suggest Mr. Baldwin is well aware of the functionality of a single-action firearm and is completely aware of his culpability in this matter.

 

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He has stated he has no idea where the ammunition came from. This is entirely possible. The lack of controls on the set and the relaxed safety standards have been written about in countless articles. It also has been reported that the same gun used to film the scene was also used by crew members to engage in target shooting earlier.

 

How the ammunition came to be in the gun is interesting and certainly raises negligent actions against others as well… but it does not get Mr. Baldwin off the hook.

 

Mr. Baldwin is well aware of the workings of the weapon in question. Even if we were to assume facts seem incredulous that he had limited knowledge of how the gun worked at the time of the event, it would be extremely unlikely that at the time of the interview he still had such limited knowledge.

 

A reasonable person, especially someone similarly situated in Mr. Baldwin’s position, would want to know the reason the gun went off when he didn’t intend it to. Mr. Baldwin has access to many people who could tell him exactly what I mentioned above.

 

The fact that he has now made a public statement and purposely chose to avoid talking about the actual part of the gun that caused it to go off, and his manipulation of that part, suggests he is well aware of his own complicity in the event.

 

We know that Mr. Baldwin either knowingly or unreasonably recklessly chose to disregard the four cardinal rules of gun safety. We also know the pointing of the gun was not done during the actual filming of the scene… it was done while “practicing” for the scene.

 

In the final analysis, Mr. Baldwin’s actions were reckless, inexcusable, and, in my opinion, criminally culpable.

 

Let’s see if the DA agrees.

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Comments (8)

  • Jeff Tucker Reply

    Good morning, Steve,

    I saw a subsequent interview with Mr. Baldwin in which he discussed the hammer and that he was pulling it back at various positions in order to allow the cinematographer to see the hammer in the frame. He indicated that at one point, after she got the position of the gun she was looking for, he “released the hammer” after it had been pulled back. This is when the gun discharged and this fits in exactly with what you discussed in your article. I think his comments on air are not serving him very well.

    12/08/2021 at 08:02
  • Robert Hagler Reply

    Great Analysis of the human mind / thinking. We all know that Alec Baldwin is a smart guy, yet he intentionally left out any mention of the hammer. What this also tells me, and really is indicative of the larger picture of Mr. Baldwin is his condescending attitude towards people he considers to be inferior. He really believes that most people are not smart enough to know what he thinks he knows about firearms. He is soo far behind the curve in this regard that he has shown his own lack of knowledge. This is, to me, the classic; “the king has no clothes” syndrome that we all see from some actors and politicians (a part of human nature that is more prevalent in some people?). He needed to spend more time on a range and attending firearm classes to gain any street credibility. But that would have been beneath him. He should stop talking.

    12/08/2021 at 09:19
  • Jerome Schammel Reply

    I knew immediately what happened when he said he pulled the hammer back but didn’t pull the trigger. He either released the hammer before it was fully cocked or it slipped from his grasp. Either way, he violated rules 1,2 and 4. He is ultimately responsible for his actions. Will he be held accountable? That remains to be seen. He stated he feels no guilt. Wow, just Wow.

    12/08/2021 at 10:02
  • Robert Colgrove Reply

    Right on, Steven!

    12/08/2021 at 23:22
  • Ben Townsend Reply

    my dad had a colt single cowboy 45 LC. the trigger has 3 sets of clicks, 1st 1/8″ click, firing pin off primer, trigger not enough force to fire. 2nd click or half cocked, this is how the weapon is loaded unlike other revolvers drop gate and load cylinders, from this position pull trigger and gun still will not fire you could even pull the hammer back some before full cock and it will not fire trigger stops at half cocked, Third click is ready fire and trigger can’t be released without pulling trigger and has enough force to light the primer. Now unless the weapon is modified in some way or defective, Alec pulled the trigger. I believe the weapon on set was a pietta single action which has the very same functionality of the colt. As others have mentioned Alec violated 1,2 &4 basic safety rules which makes him liable.

    12/09/2021 at 13:25
  • Mel C Reply

    I watched YouTuber Viva Frei’s analysis, and another firearms expert on the USCCA channel replicate the situation with a single action revolver.

    While no one can discern what was going through Alec’s mind at the time, he is know to have a fiery temper and a short fuse. Viva Frei thinks that he didn’t intend to kill her (because the gun is not supposed to be hot), but he probably pulled the trigger out of pure spite.

    That particular pistol supposedly cannot fire simply by dropping the hammer. If you just pull the hammer back 1/8″, it blocks the hammer, and you can’t even pull the trigger. If you pull it to half-cock, you can only release the hammer if you pull the trigger. Letting go of the hammer only stops it at half-cock.

    12/09/2021 at 13:57
    • Yourdumb Reply

      The hammer on a single-action revolver does not lock to the rear until it has been pulled back almost to its full arch of extension. During that time if the hammer is released, it will fall back to its de-cocked position.

      Um half cock notch and sear buddy

      04/26/2022 at 04:37
  • Bill Farone Reply

    The fastest two shots with a handgun, as far as I have seen, are with a single action revolver. Bob Munden did the trick many times and many others have come close. The hammer is hit with the thumb and forefinger sequentially without letting the hammer go to the locking position. Munden got off the two shots in 0.02 seconds. It is not uncommon for trick shooters to shoot five shots and hit 5 targets using this method in well under 1 second. There is a whole DVD dedicated to Munden and the art of the single action. Munden modified guns for the purpose (for movies also) and a true replica would not have had a hammer “transfer bar” which was introduced by Bill Ruger but adopted by many producers of single action revolvers after the 1960s. That makes it very difficult to hammer fire but it can be removed. How far back you have to move the hammer to make single actions hammer fire is debatable and requires examination of the individual gun. I think almost all of them, even with a transfer bar will hammer fire if you pull the hammer all the way to the rear when the trigger is depressed. Baldwin’s comments indicates he found out or knew about the possibilities of hammer fire since it is well known in movie circles and should increase his culpability.

    12/10/2021 at 15:16

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