Slam Fire – Was It Ever All That Useful?

April 29, 2024  
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Slam fire is one of those things in the gun world that’s really only half understood. Most people understand how slam fire works. If you don’t, then it’s pretty simple. Slam fire is a term that mostly applies to shotguns. Arguably, lever guns can be slam-fired if set up properly. The term is used to describe a firearm malfunctioning. If you rack the slide of your handgun and it fires as the slide closes, that’s a slam fire. In the realm of shotguns, it applies to pump action models.

A shotgun slam fires when the user actuates the pump and action. If a shooter wants to slam fire their gun, they hold the trigger down and work the pump forward and rearward. As the action closes, as long as the trigger is held down, then the gun will fire. A ton of old shotguns can slam fire, but the three most popular slam fire models are the Winchester M1897, the Ithaca 37, and the Winchester Model 12. The lack of a trigger disconnect made the entire process possible.

You won’t find this feature on modern shotguns for the same reason the world is going to hell….lawyers. Legend has it that Ithaca was the first to fall. Their lawyers said it was unsafe and Ithaca changed their design to incorporate a trigger disconnect. They were a domino and the rest fell. It’s pretty easy to see why. Imagine being an executive of a shotgun company and finding yourself on the wrong side of a civil suit due to your shotgun.

Cause of Lawyers

Imagine a lawyer questioning you, and the line goes something like, “So, Mr. Shotgun Executive, why does your firearm, the Bad Guy Eraser, lack a trigger disconnect? Ithaca, a competing company, recently implemented the feature as a safety precaution. Are your guns not safe?”

Now you have to answer the over-educated and overpaid hack, and you have to try to convince a jury that your gun is safe even without the trigger disconnect. After Ithaca fell, trigger disconnects became the norm. Some guns like the externally hammer fired Winchester 1897 would be too complicated to institute a trigger disconnect, but by the time these came around that gun was long out of production.

The Truth About Slam Fire

A lot of people like to brag their gun slam fires, as if it’s the equivalent of a pre-64 Winchester Model 70. In reality, the only thing the lack of trigger disconnect tells me is that you have an old, cool gun and don’t try to fit 3-inch shells in it. The ability to slam fire your shotgun isn’t some combat-proven, efficiency-increasing capability. The only thing this capability gives you is a little fun at the range. There is no other use for the feature.

“But them doughboys in World War 1 cleared trenches with slam fire!” Well, the foolish ones might’ve tried that. It certainly wasn’t a tactic taught to troops at the time, and I doubt many did it more than once. A simple fact of the matter is that slam fire is the shotgun equivalent to bump firing your gun. It’s silly, a good waste of ammo, but practically useless.

On Target

As the owner of three shotguns that lack a trigger disconnect, I can tell you it’s not some crazy fight-ending tactic. In fact, it’s slower to make repeated accurate shots when trying to slam fire. I’ve tried a number of multi-shot drills with a Norinco 97 versus a 590. Every time, it’s easier to pull the trigger twice to land your hits. With the 590, I get that solid push/pull between shots, and that ensures I have more control over the gun going into the shot. If I slam fire, I can never establish that good forward pressure to help reduce recoil.

If you had to shoot one target with two loads of buckshot, then slam fire might be fractionally faster. However, not many threats take multiple loads of buckshot. Even if we are fighting Terminids to protect Super Earth, the standard non slam fire technique works better for shot strings beyond two rounds. After two rounds of slam fire, you are losing control of the gun. With a traditional recoil mitigation technique, you are maintaining more control overall. It’s faster to hit multiple threats as well because I focus on driving the gun from target to target between recoil impulses.

What’s the Point?

There isn’t one. Shotguns didn’t have trigger disconnects because the designers didn’t see a need. Slam fire was an accidental feature and nothing more. These were manually operated weapons so a trigger disconnect wasn’t needed. It’s fun, and seems cool, but that doesn’t mean it is useful.

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike

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2 Comments

  1. c m smith

    The Ithaca and M-12 et. al., fire when the trigger is held because of a secondary sear and trip lever rather like the action of an M-14 select fire rifle.

    An Ithaca with the sport trigger group that doesn’t have the lug on the hammer will clunk harmlessly as the pump is cycled.

    The “no disconnector” myth is widespread but it is wrong.

    I’ll also quibble about the definition of slam fire which is when the closing of the breach ignites the primer without the function of the firing mechanism.

    For example, hammer follow on a 1911 is not a slam fire.

  2. foot in the forest

    Slam fire is also common among old Winchester pump 22’s. I can slam fire a pump faster than you can fire semi-auto. Also can’t hit shit doing it.

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