First, a few reminders. I've spent 33 years carrying, shooting, caring for and teaching firearms professionally, both in the Army and as a police officer. Add in the 10 or so years when I was a kid first learning how to shoot and you've got a guy who has fired a few rounds in his life. When you factor in all the shooters I've coached and taught plus the many classes I've attended and I've seen an order of magnitude more go down range than I've fired personally. In short, I am experienced. In all that time I've seen pretty much every malf known to mankind. Except one.
Last week Lu went to California to do some work for a client. While she was gone I decided it was a good time to take out the next guns up on the rotation list. The guns were a K98, a MKIV, a Jungle Carbine and a sweet little S&W 19-5 that The Sarge gave me. The rifles performed flawlessly and many combatant targets were dispatched to cardboard Valhalla. Then it was the S&Ws turn.
I decided this was a perfect time to clean out some of my older inventory. Way back in the depths of my ammunition storage I ran across a box of 158 grain Round Nose FMJ that was probably loaded when Ike was in office. Just what the doctor ordered and when practice is done I could load up the cases with something a little more potent.
First cylinder ripped off just like it's supposed to. Smoke, noise and satisfying holes in things not previously perforated. Then a funny thing happened.
On the first shot of the second cylinder the gun did an odd thing. It just kinda went pop and the front sight remained firmly affixed on the bullseye. Not so much as a waver. As I've previously mentioned, I am a very experienced shooter. I've shot and talked and read all things forearm for four decades. I've seen and read the horror stories and thought I'd learned the lessons needed. I've scoffed at the severe damage incurred when common sense was ignored, secure in the knowledge that I'd never do anything so stupid. Then I nearly did something incredibly moronic. I almost ignored what must be obvious to every reader of this post by this point and did the disastrous. I almost pulled the trigger again.
The Voice was fairly screaming in my head by this point. "NO you fool. Check the barrel. CHECK THE BARREL!!". Fortunately I paused and listened. I thought "I'm smarter than this. I know what might have happened. It'll only take a second. Maybe I should check that barrel. Yeah, maybe I should. Well, I did and this is what I found.
Yes my friends, that is indeed a 158 grain Round Nose FMJ peeking back at you from the depths of a barrel intended to fling such bits of metal completely out of said slug throwing device.
The culprit? If you look closely at this fired shell casing you will see a crack that runs for the majority of the case. (Click to enlarge)
Here is a picture of the offending case with the Model 19 that gave me no previous indication it hated me and wanted to do me grievous bodily injury.
Here's the thing. The very experience I crowed about was nearly my undoing. Such a thing can never happen to me. "I'm careful. I take care of my ammunition and firearms. Things like that happen to other people. Lesser people. Not me. Never me."
I nearly failed to check the barrel and touch off another round through sheer arrogance, complacency and laziness. "I don't need to check that barrel. I'm way too cool/buff/tactical/pretty/lucky/magical/guardianangeled for such a thing to be a concern. And besides, I'm busy shooting, my feet hurt, it's too much trouble to unload and actually inspect the thing, it's never happened before and will never happen in a million years." Stop me if any of these thoughts have ever percolated through your cerebellum on the range. Well, I pretty much thought all of them when it happened to me. It was a stark lesson.
We post and read about this kind of thing constantly. A short journey through your favorite search engine will produce dozens of examples without even trying. But. It's never happened to me before so therefore it didn't happen now because it cannot happen to me. Those of us who are the most experienced may be at the greatest danger of complacency, especially if we've never experienced a squib load in person. I may be alone here but I don't think so.
So the lesson I've learned here and the one I fervently pray I'm never tempted to ignore ever, ever again is this. It can happen to me so I must always pay attention and if something seems wrong, pause and check it out. The hands I save may be my own precious manos.
A word to the wise.
Oh, and that Eisenhower administration era ammunition. I'm pulling the bullets, destroying the primers and powder and consigning the brass to the landfill.