National-level shooter suffers thumb injury in pistol gas cylinder explosion

Air pistol
The air pistol's cylinder has to be filled after a certain number of shots with the help of a compressor or a portable cylinder. Representational image: AFP/Attila Kisbenedek

New Delhi: A national-level shooter partially lost his left thumb when the 10m air pistol cylinder he was filling with compressed air exploded at the Karni Singh Range.

The incident, that left everyone shocked, occurred on Saturday evening.

Pushpender Kumar, a corporal with the Indian Air Force (IAF), was training at the shooting range for the National Championships currently under way in Bhopal when he suffered severe damage to his left thumb, which required immediate hospitalisation.

He is currently admitted to Indian Army's R&R hospital here.

A national coach told PTI on condition of anonymity that while Pushpender was filling compressed air into the pistol cylinder from the main cylinder, the incident happened.

Air pistols and air rifles have a sleek gas cylinder attached just below the barrel. When the shooter presses the trigger, the compressed gas in the cylinder is released, which hits a hammer inside the air gun, ejecting the lead pellet.

The air pistol's cylinder has to be filled after a certain number of shots with the help of a compressor or a portable cylinder.

Earlier, carbon dioxide used to be the preferred gas to fill the cylinders but with the advancement in technology, compressed air cylinders, which look like smaller versions of LPG cylinders, are used to fill the air pistol cylinders.

Pushpender belongs to the Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh and, while he has not competed in internationally, he is a senior member of the IAF team.

He had lost his mother nearly a month back.

"We are hopeful Pushpender will make 90-95 per cent recovery post surgery," said the coach.

"Air pistol cylinders have to be replaced after a certain period of time and the gun manufacturers do it for free. Thankfully, Pushpender's shooting arm is safe."

The coach added that he had not come across such an incident in his career "though (gun) vendors say such incidents do happen".

It is not known whether the air pistol was personal or belonged to the IAF.

"It is sad that he will not be able to compete in the national championships currently under way in Bhopal. His mother had passed away some 15-20 days back.He usually trains at the Karni Singh range in Delhi," the coach added.

The coach said that international rifle shooter from Meerut, Ravi Kumar, who is also with the IAF, was with Pushpender at the Army hospital to take care of him.

Another pistol coach at the Karni Singh range said that it is important that air pistol and rifle shooters replace their gun cylinders every 10 years or as directed by the weapon manufacturer.

"There is a possibility of a mishap if the refill cylinders are not replaced as directed by the manufacturers. I don't know the exact cause of the blast but one should not take it lightly as once the validity expires anything can happen," he said on condition of anonymity.

"Pushpender is a good shooter and I have known him for a long time. What I have been told is that he has undergone a major surgery. Usually what happens is that the pressure gauge indicator on the air weapon's cylinder starts malfunctioning, giving incorrect reading. It leads to overfilling of the cylinder, which causes it to burst," he added.

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