This essay discovers the etymological history of James’s frequently used phrase, “hanging fire.” James employed the phrase idiosyncratically, such that he consistently, if implicitly, compares characters to malfunctioning firearms. I follow the consequences of such unorthodox characterization in The Spoils of Poynton. If when Fleda “hangs fire” she becomes a gun, then the novel’s apparent ontological division between persons and things no longer holds. Instead, Poynton introduces persons who are sometimes things. The figural world of the novel echoes this unconventional ontology, proposing amalgamations of bodies and houses that open up new referents for James’s characters.