What good’s a firearm without a firing pin? Nine times out of ten the answer is, no good – especially if you are trying to defend yourself, hunt, or just get in some general target practice. A firing pin is the round protrusion that strikes the primer of a cartridge, which in turn detonates the priming compound and ignites the propellant. Basically, without a firing pin, the gun does not go boom; it is inoperable.
Many museums with firearms collections remove firing pins from their guns, in a belief that it makes the artifacts safer to display. But really what they are doing is taking a piece of a firearm and removing one of the fundamental components. It’s also hard to label small firing pins in baggies and not get them separated from the gun itself. The Cody Firearms Museum keeps almost all of the firing pins intact, with the exception of a collection of educational firearms.
This collection is a series of reproduction firearms that are historically significant to the mission of the Center. For example, there are reproduction Hawken Rifles, Winchester Lever Actions, Colt Single Action Armies, Indian Trade Guns, and Military Arms. These guns have the firing pins removed because their sole purpose is to be handled and used to educate the public.
They are particularly valuable because they allow a hands-on experience for the visitor to learn how to work various action types and in many cases to realize how heavy some of the guns, like a Sharps Buffalo Rifle, can be. It can even be used in safety training. The educational firearms provide a prop, if you will, that can supplement a presentation and ensure that no matter who is using the firearm, they are safe.
At the Cody Culture Club’s presentation, Rubber Guns or Real Revolvers: The Hollywood Guns Exhibit, I used an educational reproduction Colt Single Action Army to illustrate the way movie scenes are staged with guns. It allowed me an opportunity to use a member of the audience as the “actor” and make sure that everyone was safe during the presentation.
It’s one thing to see a historic gun behind glass, but for many people who have never held or fired a gun, it is a unique opportunity to actually get to see how a firearm moves and operates.