How Does Someone Shoot Themselves in the Heart with a Nailer?

A NJ man accidentally shot himself in the heart with a 4-inch nail while attempting to clean a jam. He claims that he pointed it at himself and it fired from about a foot away.

There are few details about how this happened, but “accidents” of this type are completely avoidable. We don’t think of this as an accident as much as a consequence of poor judgement and safety practices.

  • Always remove the air line or power source before attempting to clear a nailer jam.
  • Always point the nailer away from yourself when clearing a jam.

Do you guys have any thoughts about how this could have happened? And how could he fire off a nail from a foot away without disabling safety measures?


Thanks to Jeanie for the story!

Read more via Reuters


  1. Ken says

    He will sue the nail gun manufacturer, the compressor manufacturer, the air hose manufacturer, and every associated parts/accessories manufacturer anywhere close to participating in the supplying the tool setup he was using. What’s worse then his stupidity? The fools on the jury that will agree it’s the manufacturers fault. Think Ryobi table saw law suit in Massachusetts.

    A real Darwin Award winner. God help us in the US.

  2. Ken says

    Oh. and to answer your question on thoughts how this might happen without disabling the built-in safety measures?


  3. ringo says

    Middle aged electricians are more likely to die in electrical accidents than young apprentices. Did they get dumber as they got older and gained experience? No. They lost their fear and became complacent. Then one day they careless. I also know a couple of machine builders missing the ends of their fingers. They’re not stupid. They were working on a project and got tired, frustrated and in a hurry. Let’s not kid ourselves — accidents aren’t limited to “dummies”. When you’re tired, frustrated or in a hurry you make mistakes. When you feel like that it’s time to stop and slow down.

  4. Robert says


    You hit the nail squarely on the head. It’s easy to make quick judgements about these things. The reality is that it can happen to anyone. The cop who gets shot during a traffic stop is usually not the new guy on the force. It’s the guy who has made stop after stop. The one time they let their guard down because of all the otherwise “routine” stops, that’s when it happens.

    You’ve made a very accurate and mature observation.


  5. Pete says

    Apparently accidents, or “accidents” as the article puts it, never actually happen when they involve someone else because such things don’t exist, except of course when they happen to you. The default response that “accidents” only happen to stupid people is itself stupid.

    For some reason, woodworkers have re-defined the term “accident” out of existence. Any power or hand-tool related injury is now automatically relegated to individual stupidity. The logic goes as follows – If such events are preventable they’re not accidents because they could have been avoided through careful diligence and being smart. And because any so-called accident can be avoided, such things as accidents do not exist.

    Clearly this particular event was preventable and the fault rests upon the guy with the hole in his chest, as he himself admits, but at what point would a nail lodged in someone’s chest from a pneumatic nailer be considered an accident? Never? How about a slip of the chisel into the palm of your hand? Would that be completely avoidable?

    I would love to be that perfect woodworker, living in that perfect woodworking world, never having to worry about accidents (aka stupidity) because I’m so much smarter and skilled in my woodworking than dummies like Sam Maloof, Garrett Hack and so on.

    • says

      I didn’t say the user was stupid, only that the incident resulted from poor judgement and safety practices. Maybe he’s a beginner and decided not to read the manual. Maybe he’s a seasoned pro. But that doesn’t really matter.

      I’m sure that there have been fluke chest-wound accidents before, where nails ricochet and struck users.

      In any case, your arguments are spot-on. We are ALL prone to lapses in judgement, especially when we hurry or become too comfortable with potentially harmful equipment. My intent for this post was to remind readers that these types of accidents are completely avoidable.

      • Pete says

        I know you didn’t, Stuart. My response is directed more at the “You can’t fix stupid” crowd who spontaneous make such statements at every opportunity. Your post actually considers a very interesting question/problem. It’s some of the responses here that I find exhaustingly unreflective, which unfortunately seem to be appearing everywhere on the web these days.

        But back to your query. Aren’t most if not all accidents completely avoidable on some level? Some are more avoidable than others, as in this case, but determining at what point an accident becomes “completely avoidable” rather than just “avoidable” seems difficult to make.

        Accidents are by definition avoidable. Something along the way went wrong to cause the accidental event – being in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking left when you should have looked right, not repairing a faulty bridge that has just collapsed, etc.

        Events, accidental or otherwise, are never isolated. So at what point along that complicated chain does responsibility begin and end and why?

      • says

        I consider completely avoidable accidents as those where all factors are in one’s direct control.

        An accident that results when one looks left instead of right does not reflect poor judgement. That would be more of an unavoidable incident.

        Hammering a nail into electrical conduit. Drilling a hole through a water pipe. Cutting through a live wire. These can all be avoided.

        When clearing a nailer jam, a user has a choice – remove the air line and then proceed to clear the jam, or skip steps and take chances.

        When paring with a chisel, one could keep opposite-hand-fingers clear. Or rush and accidentally slice a finger.

        One could try to prevent cutting wheels from exploding, but such is not always avoidable.

        Accidents will happen, but many don’t have to happen if proper procedures are followed. The damage and harm can also usually be minimized if common sense and personal safety practices are followed.

        Using driving as a parallel, there’s not a lot you can do to avoid a drunk driver from crashing into your blind spot. But if you’re driving a car and are eating a cheeseburger with one hand, texting with the other, and have a video playing in the console, and then drive off the road, that’s a completely avoidable accident.

        • Pete says

          I agree with you. There are clear cases where the mitigating factors that matter are in one’s direct control and, therefore, are completely avoidable. This particular case seems to fit that scenario without question. But then most people think they’ve controlled for all relevant factors before an accident happens, when in fact they haven’t. It’s only after the fact that they realized such assumptions were mistaken.

          Have you seen Tom Hintz’s recent Kickback On Camera video – He’s an experienced woodworker who wanted to demonstrate the dangers of kickback by trying to safely reproduce a kickback event in a controlled manner. It didn’t quite work out as planned.

          In other words, thinking that you’ve taken all relevant factors into account obviously doesn’t guarantee an accident won’t happen. The only way to completely avoided risk of injury or accident is to avoid using the tool altogether.

          I very much appreciate your thoughtful engagement with me on this issue. It’s quite refreshing. Thank you, Stuart!

  6. Ken says

    Some of you sound like lawyers…
    Stupid, complacent, newbie or Master… How can you make a comparison between some who slices their hand with a chisel (sweat, bad grip, maybe mishandling… ) to a tool with multiple safety devises (designed) to prevent such accidents?

    On a tool that requires compression to engage, he either was grasping the tool in his arms in a manner that caused the nose to compress against his chest allowing the gun to fire, or there was alterations to the tool so it could be used in a fashion which it was not designed to do.

    I agree it was an accident. No sane person is going to shoot themselves in the chest purposely, but the ultimate determining factor in this case will be if a law suit is filed. Again… how many times do we see someone sue on similar situations with tools, machinery, etc… Manufactures are to blame on a lot with poor designs, but the vast majority is due to improper use or neglect. Ask someone about the aviation industry loosing two decades of product production and design being built in the states. All because someone decide that a technology that came about years after a love one was killed due to a technology designed too late. Literally suing stating the technology should have come around sooner.

    If this guys sues, it will be as stupid of a lawsuit as the guy who sued ryobi because his thumb was in the way of the blade. And there will people like some of these post that will agree he deserves the help because the Deep pocket manufacturer can survive! We all end up paying for it at the register… if we can get the tools/products legally in our country at that point. And if it is a manufacturer defect/design flaw… I’ll eat crow and my hat. My bet is on my opinion.

  7. David says

    Pete, since my post was the one you specifically called out, let me state the obvious. The original question was asked about this one particular “accident”, not any others or in a general format. With that in mind, my statement is correct and was in no way to be interpreted as anything else. Had the question been a general one, you would have a point but I also would not have made the comment I did. It is as simple as that. Please do not read more into it than needed or assume you know my “default” response to any question.

    There were a lot of very good comments regarding the “accident” issue in general and all can serve as a very good reminder to us all that we should never let our guard down and practice safe tool techniques at all times.

  8. Pete says

    Responses that associate stupidity to individuals caught up in public cases involving power-tool injuries have indeed been the default for a large number of woodworkers in forums and blogs across the interwebs – especially in recent months with the possibility of the CSPS imposing new regulation on table saws.

    The “You can’t fix stupid” statement is literally one of the most common responses to these type of media stories. And I couldn’t disagree with you more about that statement being “correct” in this particular case. Careless, reckless or inexperienced, most certainly. But stupid? No.

    As I mentioned in my first post, this type of labeling is a way for the woodworking community to re-define what it means to have an accident, and, more importantly, to minimize the impression that power tools are inherently dangerous GIVEN all the hoopla over so-called SawStop regulation.

    My observations are broadly directed and your statement is just one of many that fall into that camp. They have nothing to do with what a default response from you may or may not be – how could I know that? As such, I make no assumptions specifically concerning your intentions, only on the broader trend of many who have been labeling those injured in power-tool accidents as stupid.

    Did you mean something else by your statement?

    • Pete says

      Let me quickly add – I apologize if my comments come off as trollish, that’s not my intention at all. What I find both interesting and frustrating is the way these type of media stories are being framed in the woodworking community as of late. I believe there’s a more productive way to address power-tool related injuries and, perhaps, the anxieties that woodworkers have, given the very real possibility of rising power-tool costs.

      David is right. These sorts of events should serve as stark reminders of the importance of safe practices. On that note, if you haven’t seen Tom Hintz’s Kickback video, you should!

  9. David says

    Pete, we should get together and have a beer, agree to disagree on this one and then toast all the wonderful topics and discussions we have on websites like toolguyd. Hope everyone has a great weekend. Stay safe!!!

  10. Robert says

    When things like this happen, there are always hosts of after the fact scrutinizers. It’s easy to sit back and call this irresponsible, stupid, etc. The fact however, is that EVERYONE is capable of it regardless of whether we believe it or not. Stories like this should serve as reminders to everyone.

    We can talk all day about safety precautions and procedural guidelines that lower the likelihood. The part that nobody admits, is that we’re all human and capable of lapses in judgement. People conveniently forget their last lapse when they can scoff at someone like this. They were just fortunate enough that it wasn’t life threatening. In fact, the biggest danger is when we think that we’re above it. That’s when we’re most likely to let our guard down and get slammed.

    If you look at statistical realities, this happens more often with seasoned people who ordinarily understand and observe standard precautions. The problem however, is that they become too “seasoned.” All it takes is one second of letting our guard down without thinking. The moment that ANYONE thinks they’re above it, is the same moment I don’t want to be in the same shop with them.

    I understand safety precautions. I never however, allow myself to think that I’m incapable of a lapse in judgement. When working with any dangerous equipment, arrogance needs to be left at the door. If anyone thinks they’re above this, I’m here to say that they’re completely full of it. Everyone needs to stop scoffing and allow this to serve as a subtle reminder.


  11. Pete says

    Originally i posted this on a newer article on Woodworking Injuries, but decided i would post here to just for the record…

    at my work among my other duties is repairing tools, and clearing the occasional severe jam. one time i went to work on a medium crown stapler, i disconnected the air, gave the trigger a couple pulls & tried contacting the safety, nothing…so i was assuming it was safe.

    NOPE. somehow, the way it jammed, with the piston mostly up, there was a pocket of air trapped between stages, once i started to loosen the front cover, it immediately fired the chunk of staple out at pretty high speed!!

    Luckily i’ve always been taught to point things like these away from myself. Since then i wear safety glasses even on disconnected equipment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *