Nail gun injuries soaring despite warnings of their dangers

With a 2 1/2-inch nail deep in his chest, construction worker Manuel Murillo slid into a pickup truck, bracing himself for a desperate seven-mile drive down a snowy Sierra road.His friend and co-worker, Salvador Cardenas, was driving. When they finally got cell phone reception, Murillo, 30, called his wife in nearby Portola to tell her there had been an accident. He had shot himself with a nail gun while working on a mountain cabin. And he was going to die.

Murillo had been struck down by a popular tool of his trade – the air-powered nail gun – equipped with a mechanism that allowed automatic firing. As the tool's popularity surged during the building boom of the 2000s, a Sacramento Bee investigation found, nail gun injuries also took off despite decades of warnings from researchers and doctors that the guns are dangerous, especially in the automatic mode known as "contact trip."

Driven by compressed air, the brawniest nail guns can blast 30 nails a minute that travel up to 490 feet per second, qualifying the nails as low-velocity missiles. In contact trip mode, with one pull of the trigger, they fire those missiles whenever the muzzle makes contact with a surface – including heads, hands, eyes and even chests.

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