Nolte: Six Thoughts About Alec Baldwin’s Claim He Didn’t Pull the Trigger

ABC Screenshot

Before Alec Baldwin’s Thursday night interview with George Stephanopoulos (D-ABC), I expressed my skepticism at the actor’s claim he did not pull the trigger on the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

Now that I’ve seen the full interview, I have even more questions.

Baldwin’s full interview with Stephanopoulos is the first time he’s spoken publicly about what happened, including why he pointed the gun at Hutchins. Here’s how he explained everything…

“[Hutchins is] guiding me through how she wants me to hold the gun for this angle,” Baldwin said. “I’m holding the gun where she told me to hold it, which ended up being aimed right below her armpit.”

“So, I take the gun, and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger,” he added. “And I cock the gun; I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’ And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off.’

“I let go of the hammer of the gun – the gun goes off,” he repeated.

Watch below: 

Stephanopoulos asks, “So you never pulled the trigger?”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Baldwin replied. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never. Never. That was the training that I had.”

So now we know, at least according to Baldwin, why the gun was pointing at Hutchins, which makes sense. We’ve all seen movies where a gun is pointed at the camera or just a little to the left or right of the camera.

But I’m still baffled over this claim he “never, never” pulled the trigger.

According to Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, the firearm in question is a Pietta Long .45-caliber Colt revolver. This is a single-action, six-shot revolver. Here are my specific issues with his story…

  1. It is possible for a gun of this type to misfire without pulling the trigger, but not in the way Baldwin describes.

For that kind of misfire to happen, the gun cannot be cocked. However, Baldwin clearly says, more than once, that he cocked the gun.

In the Old West, revolvers were notorious for going off accidentally, but something had to strike the hammer from behind.

With these old guns, the firing pin sat right on the bullet’s primer, so it worked like this…

Typically, you pull back the hammer and cock the gun. You pull the trigger. The hammer is released. The hammer snaps forward. The firing pin (which is attached to the hammer) hits the primer. The primer explodes the gun powder. The explosion of the gun powder fires the bullet.

With these old guns, when the hammer wasn’t cocked, the firing pin sat right on the primer. This meant that if you tapped the hammer too hard, the gun would fire. But…

Baldwin clearly says he cocked the gun, which renders this kind of misfire impossible.

  1. The only way a misfire could have occurred in the way Baldwin describes is if he’s misusing the word “cocked.”

“Cocked” means the hammer is pulled back, the sear is engaged, and the hammer is locked.

Once the sear is engaged, the ONLY way to release the hammer is to pull the trigger. You could beat the hammer with a rock, and the gun would break apart before that sear let go.


  1. Maybe Baldwin didn’t cock and lock the hammer.

What I mean is, maybe he pulled the hammer back without engaging the sear, and when he let go of the hammer, the hammer snapped forward, and BOOM!

Well, this also makes little sense.

As a safety feature, including on these older revolvers, the sear catches the hammer at a quarter, half, and full pull (some guns gave four catches). In other words, in order for the hammer to snap forward and fire the gun in the way Baldwin describes, he would’ve had to have not pulled the hammer back more than a quarter or half an inch—because that’s when the first sear locks in.

But this also makes no sense. Not only is that an unnatural way to “cock” a gun, but because the sear catches so soon, it requires some finesse to avoid that first sear-lock. If you have a single-action revolver, go and try it. I do, and I did, and you have to be very conscious of what you’re trying to do in order not to pull the hammer back before the sear locks it. Even then, you fail half the time.

Well, Baldwin wasn’t trying to do that, and when you’re not trying to do that, your natural inclination is to pull the hammer back until you hear and feel the clicks of the sear engaging.

The Reload, which is familiar with the replica Baldwin used, explained it this way… “The [scenario of a misfire] is that Baldwin managed to pull the hammer back far enough that releasing created a strong enough strike against the primer to set it off, but not far enough to engage the sear at a quarter or half-cock. That is, frankly, implausible.”

Which leaves…

  1. The gun is so defective; the sears are so worn out that you could pull the hammer back without locking the sears.

This is also implausible.

If that were the case, the gun in question would not only be defective; it would be useless. If the sears do not engage to lock the hammer, the ONLY way to fire that gun is by snapping the hammer with your thumb. If the sears do not lock the hammer, the trigger is useless. Someone would have noticed that.

For example, unless you remove the entire cylinder, the only way to load and unload a gun like this one is by pulling back the hammer and locking it at half. This action releases the cylinder so you can turn it to load and unload.

There’s one more thing…

  1. Think about how you normally hold a gun.

Go ahead and pantomime holding a revolver. You have three fingers around the grip. You have your thumb wrapped around the back of the grip. You have a finger inside the trigger guard. Now imagine firing the gun, especially something as powerful as a .45. What does the gun do? It kicks. It jumps in your hand. But you can hang on to it. Why? Because, at the same time, squeezing the trigger serves two purposes: 1) it fires the gun, and 2) it tightens your overall grip on the gun.

Now imagine the scenario Baldwin’s painting…

You have three fingers around the grip. But… You are using your thumb, not to hold the gun in place, but to hold a hammer back that wants to snap forward. Additionally, your finger is OUTSIDE the trigger guard. Then you release the hammer, and without your thumb wrapped around the grip, without your finger in the trigger guard, and without you being ready for it, a .45 caliber goes off, jumps in your hand.

How do you not drop that gun? It’s a .45, it’s got a helluva kick, you do not have a firm grip on it, and it just went off by surprise when you aren’t tensed up expecting it.

  1. It seems to me that the only way to get that hammer to snap plausibly is if Baldwin had the trigger pulled the entire time he was working with Hutchins.

It would work like this…

He pulls the gun from the holster and then pulls the trigger before the gun is cocked. In that situation, pulling the trigger will not fire the gun. Then, with his finger still holding down the trigger, he pulls back the hammer. The sears won’t lock in this situation (with the trigger depressed). He then releases the hammer, it snaps forward, and BOOM!

If that’s what happened, he still pulled the trigger, but it becomes an issue of semantics.

Some people say even that’s implausible due to the transfer bar system. But it actually is plausible and even likely that the gun in question did not have this feature. For example, the six-shooter I bought just a few years ago does not have this feature, and it’s not even a replica.

Anyway, this is the shit I think about when the TV’s not working.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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