Squib Loads

April 5, 2009 at 5:25 pm (Guns)

As with any tool, firearms are occasionally subject to malfunctions.  Some are mechanical problems, some can be attributed to operator error, while others are directly the fault of the ammunition.  Good maintenance goes a long way in preventing mechanical problems, and modern firearms are extremely reliable.

Even so, it is important to know how the gun you are shooting feels normally.  Anything abnormal should immediately be checked.  Heavier or lighter recoil than normal, a different sound, or even smell, can indicate a problem.  Ignoring the first sign that something unusual has occurred can have catastrophic consequences.

Both of the recent trips we have made to the range have had ‘unusual’ events.  The first was a case head separation with the .22.  The shot sounded off, and smelled wrong.  The case itself was left in the chamber, while the head was ejected.  The next round jammed into the empty case remnants.

Notice anything wrong with these spent .22 shells?

How about now?

Both shells are oriented so that you are looking at the head of the case – notice the dent from the firing pin on both.

The next weekend, we were again at the range.  I was shooting some old ammo that I had reloaded, and got a ‘squib load‘ – a cartridge where there is no powder, or not enough to fully push the bullet through the barrel.

This type of ammunition malfunction can be extremely dangerous, because another round will often chamber afterward.  If you aren’t paying attention and pull the trigger, a ka-boom type event can occur.  Physical damage to the gun is almost guaranteed, and serious injury is quite likely.

Fortunately, the recoil and sound of the shot alerted me to a problem, which was obvious upon cursory inspection.

Did you see the problem?

Disappointing that it ended the range trip a few minutes early, but there were no gunsmithing or medical bills associated with ignoring it, either.

So, if you get a squib load where the bullet lodges in the barrel, how do you fix it?

Disassemble the gun for cleaning to make the job a bit easier.  You typically want to push the bullet out of the barrel  using the shortest path possible, but some guns won’t facilitate it in more than one direction.

First, find a wooden or plastic rod that will fit through the barrel, and cut it so that it is an inch or so longer than the entire length of the barrel.  You don’t want to use metal, because of the potential of damaging the rifling of the barrel.

The rod that I used is a piece of plastic cut from a coat hanger.  I didn’t have a dowel rod of the correct size available.

Insert the rod into the barrel, and gently (at first, at least) tap the end of the rod to drive the stuck bullet out.  You want to be really careful that you don’t damage the barrel by accidentally smacking it with your tapping device of choice – a rubber mallet works quite well.

Eventually, the bullet will pop out, and you can clean and re-assemble your gun.  Be sure to inspect it to ensure that there was no other damage done prior to using it.

My kids were quite impressed that the bullet lube (red ring) remained.  The rifling marks are clearly visible on the bullet.


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