Failing the test.

Author:Codrea, David

"It's extremely irresponsible and most likely actionable negligence," Charlotte, North Carolina, attorney Monroe Whitesides tells me.

The Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law is talking about BATFE's treatment of competition shooter John Glover, who had seven firearms seized and was indicted for manufacturing an illegal machinegun. If convicted, Glover was in danger of federal prison.

As part of his investigation, Whitesides accompanied firearms expert Len Savage, of Historic Arms LLC, to the Cabarrus County Sheriff's firing range. There, BATFE Agent Michael Cooney, who wrote the report declaring one of the seized rifles fired "automatically," set out to prove it on videotape.

The problem was, the FN-FAL wouldn't cooperate. Out of 12 taped tests, Cooney achieved a "string fire" of three-round bursts in only two.

What was happening, Savage explains, was "a malfunction. The cause was a worn firing pin retainer, and a broken firing pin spring. The firing pin could fly forward under its own inertia, because the spring that held it back was broken, and impact the primer just by chambering a round."

Whitesides recalls Savage advising him and others present to move back when Cooney continued firing.

"I did warn everyone back after the first light strike," Savage confirms. "It was very dangerous to continue. If it ever ignited the cartridge before the bolt fully locked in position, it would have been a catastrophic failure."

Not to be deterred, the increasingly defensive Cooney proceeded, oblivious to the danger. His theory, Savage continues, was "that the locking plate in the lower receiver--that was missing metal--allowed the hammer to travel further forward than is normal."

"The truth is, when assembled as a complete firearm, the hammer can never go any further...

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