Alec Baldwin is now saying that he didn’t pull the trigger on the gun he used to shoot his director and his cinematographer:
To get the shot, Baldwin said he needed to cock the gun, but not fire it: “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger.”
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?'” Baldwin said. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”
If you cock a single-action revolver, and then let go of the hammer, it stays cocked until you pull the trigger — either letting the hammer fall freely to set off a round, or controlling its descent so that the gun doesn’t fire.
That’s what it means to cock a revolver.
Now, if Baldwin was able to drop the hammer just by letting go of it, it means he didn’t actually cock the gun. He just pulled the hammer back a little, and then released it, and the firing pin was able to reach the primer with enough force to set it off.
I’ve been trying to recreate this scenario using a Cimarron clone of a Colt SAA (Single-Action Army) revolver, which has a hammer-mounted firing pin. This should be identical in function to the Pietta clone that Baldwin was using.
Note that pulling the hammer back even 1/4″ is enough to engage the safety notch on the hammer, which prevents it from moving forward until the gun is fully cocked and the trigger is pulled. This severely limits the amount of energy that the hammer can deliver to the primer.
I can pull the hammer back less than 1/4″ and release it, and the firing pin does reach the primer of a round. So in theory, Baldwin’s story could be correct — if he’s willing to admit that he doesn’t know what it means to cock a revolver.
But as you’d expect, the hammer is moving forward with so little force that the mark made by the firing pin on the primer (after a dozen tries) is barely a scratch, instead of the dimple you see when there is enough force to set off a primer.
So there are a few ways that Baldwin might be telling the truth here.
First, he pulled the hammer back less than 1/4″, and when he released it, the firing pin struck the most sensitive primer in the history of the world.
Second, the gun was defective, and the safety notch on the hammer failed to engage, alvlowing him to drop the hammer over a longer distance without cocking the gun.
Third, there is some way that I don’t know about to take a properly functioning Colt SAA revolver, pull the hammer back, and release it (without pulling the trigger) with enough force to set off a round.
Are there any single-action revolver experts out there who can find a way to make this happen? The life you save may be Alec Baldwin’s.