PSA- catching a squib load

I don’t think there is a single shooting event/competition, civilian or military, where it is declared in the safety brief, that everyone present is a range officer and has the right to call out an unsafe act or situation, on behalf of the whole group. Often times we listen to this and nod our heads in understanding, but how many of us have actually called out an unsafe act? Whether you have or not, this is an excellent video of a range officer doing the right thing.

Concealed Nation posted this on their site, and although it is from 2012, the lessons are timeless about dealing with squib loads. A squib load is a nick name for when a round doesn’t have enough powder loaded in it to fully push the bullet the entire length of the barrel and it thus gets lodged in it, creating a situation where the next round will come piling on right on top of it, thus either severely damaging the barrel, or causing a catastrophic explosion within the firearm. The dangerous part is that sometimes the firing of the round will have enough force to work the action of the firearm, but not enough to push the bullet out of the barrel. So it may seem like a round has been fired, but really all there is, is an “audible pop”. I have personally called out a shooter that sounded like his rifle had a round stuck in the barrel, to the point of taking the whole rifle apart and looking down the barrel in order to let him continue shooting. It ended up that there wasn’t a problem to begin with, and I think my hearing protection was just on in a certain way that didn’t allow me to hear the full discharge of the shot. Now the rounds were reloaded and I know many of you will say, “Well, what do you expect!”, but bear in mind that squib loads do happen in factory ammunition as well.


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • andrey kireev

    Good thing range officer caught it… could have ended up a lot worse = ,

  • retfed

    Reread your first sentence. I think it should be, “I don’t think there is a single shooting event/competition . . . where it is NOT declared in the safety brief . . .”

    • John Shore

      True. Safety briefings should ALSO include the possibility of squibs when teaching people rapid response drills, which DO engrain in students that the gun is to be kept firing, no matter what. Sometimes, no bullet hole, no recoil and no BIG noise (little noises are sometimes hard to hear anyway with a bunch of other shooters banging away nearby) should not be followed immediately with a ‘tap, rack, bang.’

  • DIR911911 .

    buy that man a drink ,he probably at the least saved you a gun if not a serious hand injury. good catch by someone doing their job right.

  • David N Johnson

    My wife and I keep weed trimmer cord in our range bag for checking the bore just in case this happens. That way we can see if the barrel is clear while keeping it pointed downrange and without sweeping any part of our bodies. We actually used it this summer at an event. I was timing a shooter who had a squib .22 round. He stopped immediately and a couple people were yelling “Ceasefire!” The barrel checked out OK and we went back to shooting in short order.

    • John Adams

      Common practice in Colorado’s Appleseed program. Thousands of rounds down range, and just had a squib with a student a couple months ago. Caught it before she squeeeeezed the trigger for a follow up shot.

  • Dracon1201

    My heart stopped a little when he racked, tapped, and almost banged it.

  • jpcmt

    I used to shoot at this range and was around when there was a guy training people in trap/skeet who killed an old man by shooting him in the head by walking to the parking lot with a hot shotgun (old man walked with him). They’ve sharpened up a bit because of that and obvious insurance scare.

    • nadnerbus

      It looks like the USI range up off of Evora road in Concord. I had heard about a fatality there earlier in the year.

  • Wetcoaster

    I wonder if there’s a greater difficulty telling identifying squibs when shooting low signature setups (subsonic .22 out of a long barrel, .300 BLK out of a longer barrel or either of those two suppressed as an example)

    • Ben

      I shoot subsonic .22s through a 24 inch barrel fairly regularly, and yes it is much harder to identify a quib in a low noise platform, if i dont see a disturbance downrange i always remove the bolt and visually check the bore

  • Cal.Bar

    Very lucky the shooter was shooting so slowly. Most IDPA shooters are shooting so quickly that there wouldn’t be time to say st…. much less stop, stop, stop before they fired the next round.

    • Grindstone50k

      Well the guy did VERY audibly groan then slowly start a tap-rack-bang procedure. Plenty of time.

  • You’ll never see me on the range without eye protection which would be Oakley glasses. I’m the last person you should accuse of not wearing eye protection. Remember this?
    Having had these glasses saved my left eye you think I don’t wear them?

  • Ummmm, You might want to check your facts. Every single video where I was an active participant throughout the entire video you’ll see myself, and Alex both with eye protection. The only video on TFBTV you’ll see me in a video with, that someone doesn’t have eye pro, is the Strike One from Arsenal, where Patrick doesn’t have any on. I didn’t play an active role in the production of it, I merely helped film it, and sure, you can con me for not enforcing that one particular time.

    I take that personally as eye pro is the one thing I make sure of in all my classes, and personal shooting. Do I sometimes forget to put my glasses on every once in a while? Sure I do, and no one is perfect, and the amount of times I have not put eye protection on is extremely slim.

  • Southpaw89

    I hunt with someone who had a squib in their Ruger Red Label, it went unnoticed largely due to the fact that the ducks were flying, and as a result he managed to bulge the barrel on the shotgun. A gunsmith said that it was still safe for low end lead shot but its duck hunting days are over. We decided that this was likely the result of bad powder in the handloads he was shooting. But either way it was an expensive mistake, and could have been a lot worse.

    • JamesRPatrick

      I would get a second opinion.

      • John Shore

        Yeah, probably a good idea. Shotgun barrels can be straightened and the bulges taken out without harm to the barrel, IF the bulge is fairly far forward from the chamber and forcing cone. So long as they’re in a lower-pressure area, and the metal is not cracked or thinned, there usually isn’t permanent damage.
        Send it off to Ruger.

  • BillC

    Your first sentence needs a double negative to say every safety briefing one always hears the subject.

  • JamesRPatrick

    Get rid of that stupid goddamned banner ad.

  • MrEllis

    Wait, you’re mad they never said anything about safety before, so you get mad they say something about safety? This is how divorce happens…

  • John Shore

    I had to diagnose and deal with the aftermath of a squib load in a Glock 22 after it was fired with ‘remanufactured’ ammunition recently, when the gun came to me with the slide binding firmly fully to the rear. The shooter who brought it in said that he had not noticed any unusual noise, but that he and another shooter had had to push a bullet out of the barrel after firing a round or two and noticing that there weren’t enough holes in the target. . . After clearing it, I discovered that the slide stop was down as it was supposed to be, and that a ‘smack’ on the back of the slide put it back into battery; The slide then reciprocated just FINE until brought back fully to the rear.
    With the slide removed, I found that the barrel would move smoothly back and forth until it was moved forward and tilted ‘down’ as it would be with the slide full back, at which it would bind firmly in the hole at the front of the slide. Sticking the barrel in from the front, the binding was even more obvious. There was clearly no mechanical interference from the rest of the gun, so the barrel was at fault.
    Although no damage was visible inside or on the outer surface of the barrel, installing a ‘test’ barrel and reassembling the gun had the gun working perfectly.
    A straight-edge held along the length of the original barrel showed it to be bulged in the middle–just enough to prevent it from sliding smoothly through the slide opening at the muzzle.
    Luckily, Glock barrels are quite stout, and the round fired BEHIND a stuck one to create the final one was also ‘mild’–otherwise, things may have been different. A new barrel cured the binding problem, and no one got hurt, the gun back in service.
    So, tell me more about the use of reman ammunition, and how it’s just as good as factory. . .

  • jerry young

    We teach things like this at our CCW classes, but with all the classes going online I fear that the new shooters will lose out on this type of instruction

  • Patrick McIntyre

    Wish someone had caught mine at an IDPA match in Liberty Hill Texas. Pretty much ruined a $1200 Kimber!

    • rkh

      wow, did you keep your composure or freak out in shock?

      • Patrick McIntyre

        It was a “tap, rack…baboom” scenario. And I kept trying to get the gun running. Wasn’t happening. Hang my head and load up for the house kinda thing.

  • Mikial

    Excellent post, Miles. Also thanks to Patrick McIntyre for posting the picture of his barrel.

    I’ve explained squibs to my wife, but it was helpful to have her watch the video and see what one might look like, and then to see the picture of the barrel.

    My ex (spits on the ground) fired a second round after a squib once and seriously damaged her gun. To the credit of the ammo manufacturer, they paid to have the gun completely rebuilt and even reimbursed me the cost of the box of ammo.

    I ended up with the gun, and occasionally carry it as a BUG.

  • skusmc

    Just to reiterate what the author said, squib loads can happen in factory loads and I’ve seen it happen. I probably wouldn’t have caught it if it didn’t also FTE on me.

  • BigFED

    Up until about a year ago, I worked at an indoor range (primarily handguns and handgun caliber long guns) here in Texas. About the worst “squib” event that happened on our range involved involved, wait for it, wait for it, a retired Marine NCO that had ALL the answers without knowing all the questions!!! He comes in, pays up an goes out on the range, no problem as he had been there before. He comes off the line a few minutes later complaining his Taurus M85 revolver “wasn’t working”. I went out on the range to retrieve it and see what was wrong. First clue, cylinder wouldn’t pen, second clue, a bullet was sticking out the front of the barrel. As they say, this wasn’t my first rodeo, so I had a very fine hard wire that I was able to get between the cylinder and rear of the barrel. Working carefully, I was able to cut thought bullet lodged in the forcing cone area and get the cylinder open, for what that was worth!!! Five empty cases. This DOLT had actually fired all five rounds of the ammo that had been in that pistol for who knows how long along with enough oil to THANKFULLY reducing the cartridges power to the extent the went thpp, instead of KA-BOM!!! I just gave it back to him and said I was NOT going to do ANYTHING else to “fix” his revolver! Last I heard he managed to sweet talk another gunsmith into “fixing” it. (Drill/mill out the projectiles in the barrel and hand work the rest of the crap out.) I didn’t want be responsible for putting that gun BACK into his stupid hands!!!