Posted by Brad on April 24, 2007
In Reply to: Hang fire posted by Victoria S Dennis on March 29, 2007
: : Hang fire
: : I've understoond it when seen in context, but cant seem to remember what it means now. I wonder where the phrase comes from as well.
: It comes from muzzle-loading weaponry. To fire a muzzle-loader you ignite a small quantity of priming gunpowder in the pan (with sparks from a flint, or a burning slow-match), and the flame burns through the touch-hole into the barrel where the main charge is, and sets it off. Usually this process takes less than a second, but sometimes, for no visible reason, it can take half-a-dozen seconds or more before the main charge detonates. This delay is called "hanging fire", and very suspenseful and worrying it can be too.
:It basically means to take a moment, to wait, chill out etc.
I think the hang fire of muzzle loaders comes from the particular mix of black powder and if there is any moisture in it.
I don't understand how the meaning of the phrase can be attributed to the guns though, as a delay in the combustion of a gun is not under your control and probably not wanted whereas when someone says "hang fire" to you, it generally means to hold on a moment.