Gun maker’s exploding rifle leaves trail of injured hunters

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — It was the opening day of deer hunting season, and Ronald Hansen says he loaded his rifle the same way he had countless times before, aimed at a target and fired a shot.

This time, the gun barrel exploded, knocking the farmer from Hampton, Iowa, backward, severely damaging his right hand and ear and burning his face.

Unknown to Hansen, the manufacturer of the rifle that injured him in 2014 had received other complaints of explosions and injuries over the prior decade. Customers repeatedly reported that the barrel of the stainless steel 10 ML-II muzzleloader exploded, burst, split or cracked, according to thousands of court documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Lawyers for the company, Westfield, Massachusetts-based Savage Arms, were expected to appear Wednesday in federal court in Iowa to defend against a lawsuit filed by Hansen. He is seeking damages for his injuries, alleging the company failed to warn customers about the alleged defect and seeks damages for his injuries.

It’s one of several lawsuits that have claimed the company recklessly kept the muzzleloaders on the market even as they kept occasionally mangling hands, damaging hearing and burning faces. At least three have been settled on a confidential basis since last year.

Martin Crimp, a Michigan State University metals expert who examined a 10ML-II that exploded and caused a hunter to lose multiple fingers in 2009, told the AP the barrel of that gun was “metallurgically defective.”

An expert hired by Hansen’s lawyers came to a similar conclusion, saying the steel used to make the rifle was prone to catastrophic failure after repeat firings.

Anthony Pisciotti, an outside lawyer for Savage Arms, said he wasn’t authorized to comment. A spokesman for its parent company, Vista Outdoor, didn’t return messages.

Savage Arms, which discontinued the gun in 2010 after thousands were on the market, has insisted it’s safe when used properly, has no defects and was designed in accordance…

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