'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

11 April 2011

Squib, It's Not What's For Dinner

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.



innominatus said...

I had a .357 case split like that. It was that crappy Blazer stuff made from aluminum. I hate it. It didn't squib but really hot s**t came out from around the cylinder and singed my fingers.

Six said...

I've had a few bad experiences with Blazer also Inno. Mostly 9mm and 45. I think part of my problem here was the old powder as well as the weak case. It really just fizzled. It was very strange.

Scott McCray said...

Six - I'm some kinda glad that little voice got louder! Complacency can be an awfully harsh mistress.
Knock wood, I've never had a squib - but I've had enough FTF/FTEs through the years to know how easy it is to not want to stop to examine "what just happened?"
Glad you averted disaster.

Ed Rasimus said...

I usually don't enter Stupid Contests because I would hate to build up a winning record, but I'll contribute my tale to reinforce your story.

Long ago, galaxy far away, young man with guns got into reloading. Did some rifle and shot-shell and then got my first c/f handgun, a Ruger Blackhawk in .357. Started reloading for that.

Day at the range, similar tiny pop without bang. Ignorance rears its ugly head and I simply pull the trigge again. Much larger bang but no expected resultant at target end.

Only then does sanity return. I open cylinder, check barrel and cunningly notice that light does not go from one end to the other. Sure enough first powderless pop left 158 grain projectile lodged in barrel which then provided very effective stopping point for second 1385 FPS projectile to encounter.

Some extensive effort with oil soaking, brass rods and large mallet eventually got bullets out of barrel.

Huge respect for Ruger, whose fine weapon withstood that incredible abuse without rupture. Total result was a slight swelling that could be observed sighting down the exterior of the barrel, virtually unnoticed unless you were looking for it. Little or no impact on accuracy! (Which may be a comment on my shooting skills.)

Got rid of that gun years later, but got a new GP 100 a few months ago and still respect Ruger.

Six said...

Thanks Scott. I'm hoping this experience drives the complacency boogums away but Murphy may well be laughing at me as he plans his next prank.

Thanks for the story Ed. I've got a Blackhawk as well and can back you up that it is a very well built handgun, as you obviously know oh so well!

Rourke said...

Luckily you were not shooting rapid fire!!

Good experiance to share.


Six said...

You ain't even kidding Rourke. I feel lucky and glad that for once I listened to that little voice.

Anna said...

Wow Six, glad there was no earth shattering ka-boom for you. That you did listen to your inner voice.

I still remember first time I had a weapons malfunction. My first experience with firearms was in the military, Dad never wanted any in house save a pellet gun. So when I bought my first gun it was what the military trained me on, the AR-15.

One time I bought cheap ammo for that beasty. Loaded a magazine and went shooting. *Bang* Cool but bolt did not close. Thought new round did not seat, so used bolt assist. Bolt still open. Put weapon on safe and dropped magazine. A bullet falls out loose. Look at the round, the bullet is shoved back into the case. Pop the rear take-down pin and look down barrel. Can't see daylight. Uh oh. You guessed it, the case of the fired round had expanded and did not eject.

That incident drove home the point if something sounds wrong, it probably is so stop right there before hurting yourself. And I stopped buying that cheap ammo.

Six said...

Great story and advice Anna. Thanks for sharing.

Ed Rasimus said...

Very good advice, Anna. And it can be taken further than ammo.

There is NOTHING cheap in this world. The least expensive may often be the most costly in all things.

Theredneckengineer said...

Great advice there, Anna.

I have a number of friends who buy nothing but the cheap stuff such as the Blazer aluminum cased ammo, etc. Some of these guys run nothing but cheap WOLF ammo in their legally papered, very expensive machine guns.
I'm on the verge of getting my first MG, and there is no way in heck I'd bet a 8k gun on 5-10 bucks worth of price difference in ammo. Especially if I wouldn't run it in any of my AR's.

So far in my few years of reloading, I have had no squibs. I attribute that in part to using a single stage press.