“Spontaneous Discharge of a Firearm in an MR Imaging Environment”

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on February 1, 2011 at 12:01 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > Gun Related News > “Spontaneous Discharge of a Firearm in an MR Imaging Environment”

A while back, a reader sent me a link to an interesting article in the American Journal of Roentgenology, entitled “Spontaneous Discharge of a Firearm in an MR Imaging Environment.”  The article discusses a case in which an MRI machine’s powerful magnet apparently pulled a pistol from an off-duty police officer’s hand and caused the pistol to discharge despite the fact that the safety was engaged. A brief excerpt from the article sums up what happened:

An off-duty police officer went to an outpatient imaging center . . . to have an MR imaging examination. . . The officer was carrying a model 1991 A-1 compact.45 caliber semiautomatic pistol (Colt’s Manufacturing, Hartford, CT).

The officer notified the technologist that he was carrying the weapon before entering the MR dressing room. The technologist told the officer to take the gun with him. The technologist intended to meet the officer in the MR patient waiting area before the examination and secure the weapon in that room, where he felt it would be safe. However, the officer apparently misunderstood and took the gun into the MR suite. The technologist was entering the officer’s personal data into the computer and did not see him entering the MR suite.

Once the officer was inside the MR suite, the gun was pulled from his hand as he attempted to place the gun on top of a cabinet 3 ft (0.9 m) away from the magnet bore. The gun was immediately pulled into the bore, where it struck the left side and spontaneously discharged a round into the wall of the room at the rear of the magnet. Fortunately, no one was injured. . . The weapon’s thumb safety was reportedly engaged when the gun discharged.

An unsuccessful attempt to remove the gun from the magnet resulted in the gun being pulled to the right side of the magnet (Fig. 1). The decision was then made to power down the magnet to remove the gun. Examination of the weapon by a ballistics laboratory concluded that the force of the magnetic field was responsible for the firearm’s discharge.

Other than the basic idea that one shouldn’t bring ferrous metals near the powerful magnets in an MRI machine, I can’t say I have much in the way of thoughts to add here.  However, I thought this was a very interesting article that was worth sharing.  My thanks to John for sending me the link.

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  • SithSnoopy

    This would be a good item to submit to http://www.snopes.com. :)

  • Dudejo

    i'd say it was ultimately the technologist's fault.

    he said one thing while he actually meant something else.

  • Cory

    I'm willing to bet that the powerful magnet pulled the firing pin forward. Lucky for everyone, the magnet probably also kept the slide shut, preventing a chain of uncontrolled slamfire!

  • just thinking

    As a curious sort, I would love to reproduce this kind of result. I can envision putting a loaded (blanks) gun in a room with a really strong magnet and then flipping the switch on and off. My guess is that it would take quite a few tries to get the gun to fire. Don't know what would happen but sure would be a hoot finding out.

  • BasinBictory

    Interesting. If true, that the thumb safety was engaged while the gun fired, it's likely that the gun is ruined, or at least the safety had been sheared off.