Half Cock, just half assed?

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]
06:52

For those who aren’t aware ‘half-cock’ in New Zealand refers to loading a round into the chamber then ‘half cocking’ the bolt open. On some rifles, there is a position between fully closed and open (bolt can slide back) where a detent will it will hold the rifle in a state of ‘semi-ready’.

This came about by it becoming ‘acceptable practise’ over the course of many years in New Zealand. There is nowhere else that I am aware of in the world that considers this good practice. For most, it is either closed and ready to shoot or empty.

The Enfield 303 (a popular rifle with Deer Cullers of old) was one of the few bolt rifles ever to have a true ‘half cock’. I suggest you have a read about it over here – does it sound like these guys would accept it as a ‘safe’ way to carry?

http://www.enfield-rifles.com/safety-catches_topic5893_page2.html

Regardless, when most people now talk about half cock, they mean half open – there is a round in the chamber and the bolt it backed off as another layer of protection.

Which is fine, if, as per the Arms Code / 7 Rules of Firearm safety you only load the firearm when ready to fire. If this is the case, then you are in an active, very aware state of firearm handling, about to aim and pull the trigger.

What the concern is, which to be totally honest, hadn’t even registered to me that people were doing – was walking around with a firearm in this state. Shouldered, for example.

To me, it comes down to this – your top priority has to be gun safety. If this means losing animals that surprise you and you don’t have a chance to chamber a round, then so be it.

In the first ‘version’ of the Arms Code, written in 1968we have this poem:

You may kill, or you may miss

But at all times think of this,

All the game ever bred,

Won’t repay for one man dead

Stay safe out there folks.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

7 comments on “Half Cock, just half assed?

  1. My guess for it being common place here is the old 303 safety locks the bolt in place just before cocking. This means you can have a live round half in the breach with no tension on the firing pin spring. It is virtually silent to ease the safety off and finish pushing the bolt forward and down. I haven’t found any other rifle that has that function, so i wouldn’t do it with any thing other than my 303.

  2. Kerry,

    When hunting in Namibia, South Africa last year my Professional Hunter recommended a modification on the above that is both 100% safe what you do is close the bilt and depress the trigger before closing so there is a live round in the chamber and the firing pin os brought forward. In this way you have a closed bolt not ‘Half Cockes Half Assed” and a live round in the chamber WITH THE SAFETY OFF now. When you see your game and identify a safe shot all you do is open the bolt all the way and close it and you are live again as it cocks the firing pin spring. This configuration should meet the definition of the Arms Code because it is not loaded as the firing pin is uncocked and cannot fire. This way you don’t have to screw with a safety and it is much quieter than loading a round from the magazine. I don’t like hunting with a round in the chamber and safety on as it is just not safe but the above works great.

    Jim Yates
    GUNSNZ

    1. Heya Jim. I think we need to catch up some time to extract a bit more info from you regarding your safari exploits.

      My understanding is this whole ‘half-cock’ aspect comes from the fact that the Enfields firing pin was cocked as you were camming the bolt closed, not as soon as you opened the bolt, like most modern bolt actions. So in that way, what you are describing is closer to the original intent. Round chambered but decocked action.

      However, that also means we are walking around with the firing pin resting on the back of the primer. The other way of using the term ‘half-cock’ is for the lever guns and pistols that half drop the hammer, so we don’t have any pressure on the pin sitting on the primer?

      1. Lets catch up I would love to fill you in on the place we went in Namibiam a150 sq km private game ranch. You are correct as the second gun we took to Africa was a 1918 Lee Enfield 30-06 Sniper rifle reissued with a Monte Carlo Stock in the 1930s and we could not do the closed bolt pull the trigger as I described with my Kimber 208 action.

  3. Hi Kerry,
    Hope this finds you and your family well.

    Re the above – I think the bottom line is that what worked for the Lee-Enfield in days of yore does not necessarily work on the types of hunting rifles in common use today.

    To explain – the Lee-Enfield bolt cocks on closing – I was taught to push it forward until the sear engaged with the bent on the cocking piece and stop there. This would partially chamber a round and the unlocked bolt would be held in position by the pressure of the magazine spring acting on the rounds beneath. This, plus thumb pressure on the rear of the bolt, was sufficient to hold things in place in readiness for a quick shot when an animal was sighted or when hot on the trail of one. Otherwise the round would be returned to the magazine and the bolt closed, uncocked, on an empty chamber.

    As I recall, this is the system the old deercullers had drummed into them and to my knowledge they never had any accidents relating to this.

    We were all taught NEVER to rely on the safety OR the half-cock notch on the cocking piece. Reason? – wear and tear – this aspect has been pretty much covered in the link you provided.

    However once these limitations were taken into account, the good old 303 proved to be a solid, reliable, all round hunting rifle – it was all most of us could afford anyway!

    Now, fast forward to the modern day where most, if not all, rifle actions cock on opening, with little or nothing that resembles a half-cock mechanism. Some actions such as the Model 700 Remington can have a notch machined into the rear camming surface of the action to hold the bolt in place, BUT this does not prevent the bolt being fully closed if the rifle is dropped – it is now locked as well as cocked and if it is inadvertently picked up by the muzzle – you can guess the rest.

    There is also the added danger of the rifle discharging (in some cases) when the trigger is pulled and the bolt slams shut under pressure from the mainspring with sufficient force remaining to set off the round in the chamber. (There was an article in NZ Guns and Hunting some years ago relating to this)

    We use this as an example in our Firearms Safety Courses (I am an MSC Firearms Instructor) to emphasize the importance of Rule 3 – “Load only when ready to fire” – in fact, the least amount of time you have a round up the spout, the better!

    That and the other 6 Rules are all that is going to save you, (and possibly someone else!) when all is said and done anyway.

    Just my two cents worth – really enjoy getting your postings – you are doing a great job.

    Kind regards,

    Scott

    1. Thanks Scott. Good explanation on the history.

      The more you read about it – the more you realise that the actual term in a ‘modern sense’ relates only vaguely to why it started – like you mention, my understanding is that the Enfield cocked on closing, so half-cock was just that – not fully cocked, modern rifles, cocking on the open means that most people call half-cock is actually full-cock but not closed.

      Again, as you mentioned, irrespective of the ‘safety mechanism’ – rule 3 would mean you are in a state like this for a limited time. It was the realisation that people might actually be walking around with rifles in this state that spooked me.

      The rules are cumulative, each building on the other to ensure safety – miss one, and your margin for error has just diminished!

      I think I might need to hunt down an Enfield up here in Auckland so I can do a follow up video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *