PSA: Subsonic Squib

Squib

Hat tip to Bradley for sending us the link to this video. It is a public service announcement. Many of us have heard of squibs happening. Just like a DQ in a competitive match; there are two kinds of people out there, those that have had it happen and those that will. I only have a .22LR SWR Spectre II suppressor and I shoot standard velocity and high velocity loads out of it. So it never occurred to me that a subsonic load would be more susceptible to being a squib load. The scenario in the video was a stroke of luck for the shooter. Shooters should try to always be vigilant when shooting. Accidents happen when we get complacent. Just like this shooter. He has shot thousands of rounds. He felt something odd but continued loading another round and he kept trying.  Had he been paying more attention, he would have acted on his initial observation and checked for the squib. It is hard though, to divorce yourself from the task at hand. We all do it. We get tunnel visioned into the target and forget to stop and check. Let this video be a warning to stay aware and pay attention to what is happening in your gun.



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • F

    There is another important element. Please note the conflict between squibs occurring and less experienced individuals being taught to instinctively perform tap, rack, bang operations. Instructors, many whom apparently are not versed in squibs and their existence, do not teach about identifying them, but do teach “immediate action” which would put pupils at risk. It should be noted that the likelihood of being in a gunfight and having a jam, for most of us, is far less than the likelihood of encountering a squib. In any case, we should teach new shooters to insert conscious decision making into jam clearing actions.

    • Bill

      I disagree, at least in the law enforcement / self defense realm. Quality control being what it is, the statistical probability of getting a bum factory-loaded round that would result in a squib are tiny, and reduced by a careful inspection of each duty round being loaded into magazines and weapons, and regular replacement.

      In a gunfight, I don’t care why the gun didn’t fire, only that it didn’t, hence immediately branching into immediate actions, of which tap/rack are only one. We train for the possibility of squibs, but I can’t recall the last actual squib we experienced in the basic training of cadets, but have had numerous unintentional malfunctions that could have occurred on the street, that they were able to overcome with trained in immediate actions.

      IOW, in the gunfighting realm, the positives of immediately solving the problem without hesitation outweigh the potential for squibs, which are most likely to potentially damage the gun, and not the shooter, anyway. Guns can be fixed or replaced.

      • Nicks87

        I disagree as well. I give a very detailed explanation of the differences between a squib and a malfunction that would require immediate action (tap, rack, fire/sports/etc) to my students. Any instructor that doesn’t do an adequate job in teaching students the difference and the appropriate response has no business being an instructor and probably wont last long in that position either.

      • USMC03Vet

        Watching squib talk and vids online is getting me paranoid when I’m on the range although I’ve never seen nor heard of it happening outside of the web.

  • SCW

    If the bullet that was stuck in the bore prevented a new round from being loaded in the chamber then it seems that the squib round may have not had any powder in the case and was only propelled under the force of the primer. Seems like a reloading mistake. That’s why I visually check all my cases with a flashlight after I have loaded my powder charge. It only takes a few seconds, but it can potentially save you thousands of dollars in guns and medical bills.

    There is a good video by iraqveteran8888 that shows the late Barry encountering a squib load in a semi-auto handgun. He did a tap, rack drill and was about to fire off another round until Eric stopped him.

    • Nrtv20

      What does the flashlight do?

      • Giolli Joker

        Emits light.
        A matchstick could work as well… 😛

        • Nrtv20

          I just reread the comment, I didn’t realize he was checking loads after powder loading. I assumed he had some magical torch that would shine a shadow thru the case!

          • SCW

            It’s ok. You gave me a good laugh. Thanks.

      • SCW

        The flashlight individually measures the amount of powder and it emits an alarm when it finds an empty or low case. I’m in the process of teaching it to perform all reloading tasks so I can drink beer and watch porn while it reloads. It’s a good flashlight, but sometimes it can talk to much. It’s always complaining that it’s batteries aren’t good enough.

        I’m just f’ckin with you. I use the flashlight so I can see in the cases better to make sure I have the right amount of powder. I used to use a match, but I look weird with no eyebrows.

        • iksnilol

          You could save on batteries by using a tritium lamp. Though you’ll have to import tritium due to it being illegal for the US to manufacture it or something.

  • Sianmink

    squibs aren’t THAT dangerous for an autoloader, since there’s no way they’ll cycle the action if the bullet didn’t have enough power to exit the barrel.
    So long as you pay attention and don’t tap/rack/bang after experiencing a shot that sounds or feels off.
    A squib in a manually loading gun is much more easily missed, though, since it doesn’t disrupt your routine.

    • Bradley Chapman

      Please do not assume that to be true. Many an AR have had catastrophic failure due to a squib becoming lodged just beyond the gas block and cycling the action.

      • Sianmink

        That seems an excessively rare case, you would have to have just enough powder to get it past the gas port but not out the barrel? It also seems unlikely this would produce enough gas volume to cycle the action anyway, but I guess it’s possible. This seems to be an excessively rare case, I have never heard of this happening before.
        In any case, the round would sound off as no gas would exit the barrel. Not much if you’re in rapid-fire, I’ll grant.

        • Vhyrus

          If the squib makes it past the gas port and gets stuck, you now have 100% of the gasses going to cycle the action rather than the small amount that usually does the job. Even if there is less gas it only takes a fraction of the normal amount to cycle the gun since the barrel is blocked.

    • I have seen several smgs blow up due to reloads where there is a light powder charge that moves the bullet into the barrel and cycles the action. The next round will then be chambered and fired and you ring or burst the barrel. Luckily most smgs are unlocked bolt and strong so they usually only screw up the barrel w/o hurting the shooter.

      • Bill

        Reloads: well, there’s your problem. Why run ethanol in a Ferrari and expect it to perform? Even then, as you state, all that is likely to occur is damage to the gun.

    • Nicks87

      You’re right, usually they wont cycle the weapon but sometimes they do, especially in pistols. Weather they cycle or not a squib will still sound and feel quite different then a normal discharge.

  • Here is a PSA, the method shown in the video is a very bad way to remove a bullet from a barrel if it managed to get into the rifling. He is lucky that his squib must have been a primer only. The best way to remove stuck bullets is filling the bore with grease and using a high pressure grease gun to pressure the round out. Its messy but the bore will thank you and there will be a lot less barrels with bullets and wooden dowels stuck in them.

    • Bill

      I have NEVER heard of that. How do you attach the grease gun to the muzzle? The few squibs I’ve dealt with were easily removed using a normal range rod, with no drama or power tools involved.

      • SCW

        There is a little rubber nozzle that you can attach to a grease gun that allows you to create a pressure seal.

        • Bill

          Like I said, that’s a new one on me. The few I’ve dealt with would frequently fall out under the weight of a brass range rod, or at most need a tap with a hammer.

  • Anon

    Did someone say squibs?

    • Don Ward

      Wait, what? The guy got the squib. And fired another. And then reloaded and fired six more times?

      • anon

        that, or it was one of those 8 shot .357s.

    • iksnilol

      And people tout revolver reliability. The only thing that revolver did reliably is not hitting the target (and not blowing up of course :P)

    • Cymond
      • BlueBuddha

        That’ll buff right out.

  • Nrtv20

    I just recently had a bullet get stuck in the barrel from shooting Perfecta 223 ammo. Luckily it was still at the mouth of the chamber and when I went to manually cycle the bolt and pulled the trigger on the subsequent round, it didnt fully seat and was just far out enough to keep the firing pin from setting off the primer. I could have had an out of battery donation as well as a cartographic failure should that round have went off. My guess is there was no powder in the case and was fired with the primer only. If happened so fast I don’t recall how it happened or why I didn’t notice it. I was able to remove bullet with a cleaning rod and chamber looks fine.

    I have since stopped using any ‘cheap’ ammo and will from now on only buy from a reputable American manufacturer.

    • iksnilol

      Cartographic failure? What do your maps have to do with shooting 😉

      • Nrtv20

        It’s how I locate and hit the target! Ha, good catch.

        • AR-PRO

          out of battery donation? so you give your rifles away?

  • iksnilol

    That’s why i load every second round a blank. 😀

    • ostiariusalpha

      “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda’ lost track myself. But being as I load a blank for every other round in the mag for safety reasons, and I kinda’ forget which one was last, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
      – iksnilol, 2015

      That would be an interesting Myth Buster experiment to see if that could even work. I have my doubts about it clearing any obstruction on a .44 Magnum revolver though. ?

      • iksnilol

        I know Brandon Lee died because of that.

        The production crew made their own “dummy” cartridges by pouring out the powder but keeping the bullet and primer. This was intended so that the cartridge looked real in close up shots and whatnot. Later on when they had a shooting scene they loaded it with blanks. This pushed the stuck bullet out and killed Brandon.

        Another reason why you should do multiple takes, could have saved a guys life that way.

        I will have to write down that quote, it’s a good one. It’s also the reason why I’ve been waiting for a 12 shot revolver for a while now. I just want a safe six shooter.

  • RICH

    Several years ago an individual was found with a gunshot wound to his temple. During the autopsy, he was x-rayed and the x-ray showed 3 bullets in the mans head… with a single entrance wound. The mans death was looked at as a homicide. After the Crime Lab examined the projectiles removed from the individuals head the case was ruled a suicide ! !
    The first and second rounds never exited the guns barrel when they were initially fired as they were ‘old ammunition’ ! The third round fired was a newer cartridge and was powerfull enough to push itself as well as the other two rounds through the barrel and into the victim’s brain, causing his death. It was in fact a suicide ! !
    This dude really had to want to end his life…..can you imagine his thoughts while he was firing the first two rounds…. ? ? ?

    • iksnilol

      I don’t want to be depressing but I imagine he berated himself at how he can’t even properly kill himself.

    • missourisam

      I took a call years ago about an attempted homicide. The story is as follows. I got to the scene, and the black man that was shot was up walking around, and in a very foul mood, It seems that he had gotten into an argument with his brother-in-law, and the B-I L shoved a Spanish made .38 revolver against his belly and pulled the trigger. The gun was recovered at the scene, loaded with target wad cutter ammo. The barrel to cylinder gap was excessive, the loads were light, and the muzzle so tightly against the victims stomach that the bullet had lodged even with the muzzle, and the victim only had a bruise to show for getting shot. If the lottery had been running then, I would have suggested he go buy a ticket. As it ended though he couldn’t let well enough alone, and when the shooter was released on bond, the victim stole a S&W .357 with which he killed his brother-in-law. He was convicted of premeditated murder and got 25 to life. Some people can’t accept a gift, and have to throw it away.

  • Simcha M.

    Excellent video on a crucial subject, however this guy’s garage looks like Hiroshima after the bomb……………….

  • Michael Guerin

    Most likely a cartridge without propellant. This is why you need to do a shake test with cartridges loaded on a progressive press; and should do one, with cartridges loaded on a single stage press.

    It is also why, I go very slowly and deliberately when using reduced charges, held back towards the primer by wool wads. The same degree of caution is also applicable when using Dacron ‘wool’ for that purpose.

    • Cymond

      We had a ‘trapdoor’ Springfield growing up in the 90s (before widespread internet). My father had always heard they were a weak action, so our plinking handloads were excessively light. If the rifle was swung, the powder would move out of the way of the primer, and a squib happened. We learned to point the rifle upwards to settle the powder back against the primer. Wool would have been much smarter, but hey, we were rednecks without internet.

  • Wayne Mabie

    Years ago when I was in the Navy we went out “tin can hunting” in the hills away from the Submarine base. I was shooting a Ruger .41 Mag (still have it) and the third round did not sound right. I stopped and looked at the can with no indication if a hit any where near it. so I dropped out the cylinder and checked the bore and there was the bullet half way down in the barrel. Knocked it out with a stick and rock and resumed shooting. Still do not know why it was a Squip but sure woke me up.

  • AR-PRO

    A friend of mine (seriously, a friend) was trying to develop the perfect 6.8 subsonic round, he would load a couple rounds, open his walk out cellar door and just reach out and fire 2 rounds, each time he did this, he recalculated his load data and adjusted it as he felt he was close to that golden load, until he became so complacent that he opened the door, fired the first round, it was very quiet, and wasn’t powerful enough to cycle the BCG, so he instinctively stopped, loaded another round with a larger charge, chambered the round, stuck his rifle out the door and promptly blew up his 6.8 AR-15. He didn’t realize that the bullet never left the barrel. It split the barrel, separated the picatinny rail from the upper, shattered the magazine and destroyed the lugs on the bolt. He did suffer a few small cuts, but needless to say, he gave up on the idea of the perfect subsonic 6.8!

  • Cymond

    I had a squib with a 22lr revolver and didn’t notice. It wasn’t very accurate (sights are worthless, you have to point-shoot with it) so I just thought I missed. I stacked another 2 rounds behind it and discovered the problem with a bullet lodged between the cylinder and the barrel. The cylinder couldn’t turn or open. I couldn’t actually unload it.

    I figured the cheap revolver was totaled, so I had nothing to lose by trying to fix it myself. I beat on the cylinder with a hammer until the the bullet in the cylinder-gap sheared in half. Then I pounded the 3 bullets out of the barrel with a brass cleaning rod (which ruined the rod). In the end, the revolver was just fine, or at least no worse than before.