FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
We read about it weekly, whether in the local paper, on the news feed from LawOfficer.com, or from some other outlet. Another take-home car was burglarized and firearms stolen. It is a national plague, affecting small agencies through mega-agencies, local, state and federal cars. Especially for on-call response officers, such as SWAT members, this is a serious problem, as it is not practical to expect them to empty their vehicle of firearms patrol rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, entry SMG, back up handguns. Locks have not been a deterrent trunk chains have been circumvented, cabinets forced, and in several instances, gun racks removed from their positions and stolen with their contents.
Even officers' home are not sacrosanct. It has long been common for criminals to target a cop's home, looking especially for firearms. Loose firearms are often the prize of choice, but given the time, cabinets and other secure storage have been battered into giving up their contents.
Worse has been the human toll. Many of the firearms are put to use by criminals. Stolen police firearms have turned up in drive by shootings, robberies, and assorted homicides, including cop killings. They have also been stolen as larks by kids out to cop a gun, with no knowledge of firearms safety, and with tragic results, as a kid shoots himself or his buddy because of ignorance. In any of these incidents, the ultimate victim is the officer, who often blames himself for the opportunity for the tragedy to occur.
Enter Mike Worley of Panama City, FL. In the shadow of a local child involved accidental shooting, he considered how a firearm could be made safe from abuse, especially ignorant abuse, without depriving its owner of immediate access for defense. Thus was born the Safety Bullet.
Worley's design outwardly appears to be a plastic bulleted blank. A cartridge case, containing a primer, is loaded with a piston that is connected to a telescoping bullet of Delrin polymer. Safety Bullet is designed to be loaded either in the chamber of a semi-automatic pistol, or the next firing chamber of a revolver. When initiated, the primer generates sufficient energy to push the piston forward, propelling the telescoping bullet forward and expanding into the chamber, with the protruding piston lodged between the cartridge case and the barrel, locking up the firearm.
When purchased, one receives a package with two Safety Bullets in the selected caliber, and a ten inch Delrin rod. The rod is an ejector, used to remove the fired round from the firearm.
Armed with Kimber .45 ACP, Kel-Tec 9mm Luger, and S&W .38 Special firearms, I proceeded to the range with corresponding rounds of Safety Bullets. It was first tested in the Kel-Tec PF-9. A round was chambered, aimed down range, and the trigger pulled. Wearing hearing protectors, I heard nothing. Fearing there had been a misfire, I attempted to pull the slide back and could not! The action was locked up completely. No amount of manipulation, by me or the others at the range, could force the slide to move. Inserting the rod that accompanied the rounds, I found that it was still not an easy chore to telescope the expander back into the case. Without a hammer, it required beating the rod against a firm surface until the expander had been seated back into the case.
With the Kimber Ultra Carry and S&W 342, similar results were found. In the case of the revolver, one could see the ram occupying the cylinder gap, locking the cylinder to the barrel. One round was fired without hearing protection. The sound was less than that of my .177 CO2 pistol. In each test the rod was beaten heavily to push the ram and expander back into the case. In a later test where my gunsmith hammer was available, it took several blows to reseat the piston-driven bullet.
During research, I found comments on some of the firearms boards about the Safety Bullet. One comment, obviously from one who had not tested it, was that is uses a primer, thus makes a sound which could be mistaken for a gunshot. As my tests found, the sound is so low that it would not be noticed by a third party. Indeed, this may be a shortcoming louder noise would be call attention to the misuse in progress.
Several comments addressed the fact that proper safety is to not pull the trigger. Agreed. Unfortunately, too many children (and adults) are, first, not taught any aspects of firearms safety, and, second, do not have the respect nor discipline to leave the firearm alone. The Safety Bullet does not prevent one from playing with a firearm, nor from attempting to use it. What it will do is prevent a gunshot, and then render the firearm unusable until one knowledgeable in its use can free up the handgun.
In police work, the Safety Bullet may be a valuable tool for the officer who must store firearms in the vehicle, or accessible in the residence. However, it will also require the officer to train and develop appropriate habits to put the firearm into operation. Should the officer just grab the firearm and attempt to use it, the Safety Bullet will activate and lock up the firearm, as designed. Thus an officer must ingrain the act of cycling the action with a semi-automatic, or swinging opens the cylinder to remove the chambered Safety Bullet. Much like the evolution in holsters, from the Bill Jordan holster so common in 1974 to the Level III security of today, one must train and make a tool's operation second nature before putting it into operation.
The used Safety Bullet may be reloaded. It may be returned to Safety Bullet with a handling fee, where it will be reloaded. The user, if in possession of the appropriate materials, may pull the "bullet," punch the used primer, seat a new primer, and reseat the ram and expander. Being the potential is greater for oil to sneak past the "bullet" than in a normal cartridge, it is a good idea to annually test fire the Safety Bullet and then reload it, rather than face the potential of it failing to function because of a dead primer.
Currently, the Safety Bullet is available in .38 Spl., .357 Magnum, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. In response to a request from a manufacturer of an AR-15 platform rifle, Mike Worley told me he is developing a 5.56x45mm (.223 Rem.) Safety Bullet, which could be a very welcome addition to the line for use in patrol rifles, entry guns, etc.
The Safety Bullet is not a replacement for a lock or a cabinet. It is a device to permit one to have accessible a firearm for almost immediate use, while keeping it safer from untrained hands. It is an unfortunate fact of 21st century life that ignorance of firearms, lack of respect for others' property, and degrading moral standards has brought us to where firearms need to be locked, secured, or made inoperable even when needed as a tool.