Last week the US CPSC announced a recall of Gamo air rifles (details here) after one report of an accidental discharge. as there was only one complaint, I’m curious- wouldn’t a defective safety have resulted in numerous complaints?- but at the same time, I’m surprised that there haven’t been thousands of such complaints, given the nature of most airgun safeties.
There are basically only two ways to build a safety into a gun. One is to design the gun so that applying the safety blocks the trigger and prevents it from moving. This is the least secure way to implement a safety, as droppping a gun can still result in the sear being dislodged and the gun firing. Sometimes just pulling a trigger hard enough can defeat a safety, and indeed, a surprising number of the airguns I’ve tested over the years (including some very expensive guns) can have their safety defeated in just this way.
A much more secure way of implementing a safety is to have it interrupt the firing chain- unless the safety is turned off, the gun can simply not fire. If you’ve ever handled a “post lawsuit” Ruger single action revolver, you’ve seen a perfect example of such a system. The hammer on these revolvers is designed so that it doesn’t actually reach the firing pin, but stops short. No amount of pounding on it could cause the gun to fire. When the trigger is pulled, a transfer bar rises up between the hammer and firing pin, filling in the gap. Now, when the hammer falls, it strikes the transfer bar, the bar hits the firing pin, the pin hits the primer, and bang!
I’ve never seen an airgun safety implemented in a completely fault-proof manner, though I imagine there may be some out there. I have, however, seen a number of accidental discharges that could have been a lot worse if basic safety precautions hadn’t been followed. As Col. Jeff is reputed to have said, there are only two kinds of shooters: Those who have had an AD, and those who are going to.
So even though you may only be shooting a 4 ft-lb target pistol, remember to keep it pointed in a safe direction.