Serellan writes about a recent squib incident he experienced. A squib is when a bullet does not have enough powder to exit the barrel. It is exceptionally dangerous because if you don’t realize the bullet is stuck in the barrel, and then fire another, you could easily a serious KABOOM. He writes …

Squib fire with Hornady Critical Defense 9x18mm, in my Polish P-64. I have never had a malfunction with hundreds of rounds through the gun. Luckily the squib was very obvious, as it was the first round out of the mag. Because of the nature of the debris coming out of the ejection port, I believe this round did not have powder in it.

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Obviously this is a dangerous situation, luckily I am familiar with squibs and did not attempt to fire the weapon again. If this had been a self-defense situation the weapon would have been put out of commission. This is especially grievous in self-defense ammunition.

Thanks for sharing!

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  • iksnilol

    Just load a blank into the chamber and shoot the squib out 😛

    • daniel

      just be careful you aren’t watching the crow while doing it, or you are BEGGING for bad karma.

    • Porty1119


      • iksnilol


        At least it shouldn’t happen from what I know. I mean, when the bullet is set back into the case it increases pressure, so if the bullet is going the other way it should actually decrease the pressure.

        Probably wouldn’t cycle tho.

        • MR

          IIRC, You’re not supposed to allow any room between the charge and the projectile in a muzzle loader due to the potential for kabooms. I imagine it’d be the same in this case.

          • lol

            That is for black powder, due to its (fairly violent) burn rate.

            I still would not try shooting it out with a blank, way too risky. Just a hammer, wood dowel, and a padded vise will do.

        • lol

          the barrel/bullet fit is going to be much, much tighter than the casing fit.

          for most firearms, there is a very small starting space before the bullet hits rifling, the tip is usually set back a thousandths or so or just touching this.

          Trying to unseat a bullet wedged tightly in the rifling would cause bad, bad pressure spike, which may or may not cause an explosion.

          Not worth the risk when the other solution is a large mallet and wooden dowel.

          • iksnilol

            It might work in a revolver due to cylinder gap venting excess gas. Still, a mallet and dowel works best I believe.

            Somebody should really test this stuff (for science of course). Take 3 Hi-Points or something, and lodge a bullet in each barrel at various distances. Thinking one close to the chamber, one in the middle of the barrel and one close to the muzzle.

            Thinking since they are Hi-Points it would be cheap to test it.

          • throwedoff

            Hi-Points are blow back operated relying on the sheer weight of their slides to delay extraction of the fired case, so your experiment with them would only be legitimate with blow back operated weapons. Your experiment would also need to be tried with different delayed extraction firearms of which there are many different types.

          • iksnilol

            We gotta start somewhere.

            Or we could just get a Glock and 3 spare barrels for it. Would be way more expensive tho.

    • sometrend

      wow! asking for trouble there! aside from black powder blanks, most are loaded with very fast burning smokeless powder! stuff 1 of those in a gun with an obstructed bore and you`re very likely to spring a few leaks!!! in your body that is!!

      • iksnilol

        What? It worked for Brandon Lee.

  • FightFireJay

    It’s doubtful that only a primer could propel a bullet nearly all the way out of the barrel.

    • G19 to 23

      I have seen it with short barrel .38s shooting all lead rounds, but I do not think a Jacketed round will make it out; seems like there will be too much friction.

    • HSR47

      I’m pretty sure I had it happen with plated/jacketed ammo in my P238: It sounded more like a quiet pop than the expected loud bang, the recoil was practically nonexistent, and the slide only moved about 1/4″ rearward. All that indicates either no powder, or a VERY light powder charge.

      Still, the projectile cleared the barrel, and it appeared to have made it through the target even if it didn’t go much further.

  • A

    Not good for a line of ammo called “critical defense”

    • FightFireJay

      Everyone makes a lemon sooner or later.

  • Oof, that’s one of the worst malfs I’ve ever seen with Hornady ammo.

  • Mickey R

    Well this sucks… Hornady Critical Defense is my chosen carry ammo for my P-64. Looks like it’s time to consider other brands.

    • Bill

      A sample of one is no reason to dump a perfectly good type of ammunition. If you make enough of anything eventually a bad individual will slip through quality control.

    • throwedoff

      If you have a digital reloading scale, you can weigh each one. If all are within a one grain range, you are okay. If you find some that very by three or four grains, I would suspect them of lacking powder.

  • Sulaco

    My last experience with a “squib” load was watching a .50 cal sniper rifle poof orange smoke and no bang or recoil when fired. All those standing around immediately knew and started shouting about a squib. Shooter knew and stopped firing. What a mess to get out of that barrel. Shooter decided it was a very under or no powder load round…

    • Stijn Van Damn

      eeh, shooter decided, well, what else would it be? that is the very definition of a squib load to begin with.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    So you drill it out or what?

    • Martin M

      Simple lead bullets are easy to push out with a cleaning rod. Jacketed rounds usually require a wooden dowel and varying degrees of pounding.
      Cleaning rods shouldn’t be struck hard since they bend easily and could damage the bore. A wooden dowel won’t damage the bore.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Makes sense.

      • John Shore

        You would be better off with a non-mushrooming material as the driving rod: A brass or steel rod just under bore diameter, and longer than the length of the barrel. The bullet should be forced back toward the chamber unless, like this one, it is right at the muzzle.

        • Bill

          You’ll want to use a brass rod; depending on the size and hardness of the steel you could theoretically ding some of the rifling. Brass rods also need to be cleaned as they are usually soft enough to retain grit and debris.

          I might pound a bullet out backwards if it was right the chamber or I couldn’t be sure the rod was straight, but generally speaking barrels are one-wayand everything goes from back to front.

    • Christian Allen

      I tapped it out with a rod:

  • Lance

    Good job at knowing what goes wrong and stop shooting when a sqib happens.

  • Joe

    Just the tip….

    • Tritro29

      I admit I giggled.

  • FWIW: Christian Allen (Serellan) is a former game modder, turned legitimate game designer. He is currently working on a tactical shooter titled Epsilon.

    • Steve Truffer

      “legitimate”? There’s nothing illegitimate about modding, its an excellent way to extend the life of many games, and to provide feedback to the developers as to what consumers would like changed in a sequel (See: Fallout).

      • I meant it in terms of receiving a regular paycheck, 401K, and health benefits. Modding in the late 1990s/early 2000s couldn’t provide that.

      • nadnerbus

        Modding is cool, except for when the mods get released to the general community and a-holes then go on to screw up the game for everyone that wants to play it as-released.

    • Christian Allen

      That’s me. 🙂

  • G23 to 19

    I will not carry Hornady pistol ammunition, nor even shoot Hornady at all if I can avoid it just for this reason. A round of Critical Defense I carried in my LCP for 6 months after I purchased the gun had a hang-fire when I finally got around to shooting it up. I know hangfires are very rare with modern ammunition, but I could distinctly hear and feel a short pause (likely 1/4 to 1/3 of a second) from when the hammer fell to ignition of the round. I switched over to Gold Dots that day and haven’t looked back. I still have that box of Critical Defense with 24 rounds in it.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Not to ruin your day, but Speer had to recall an entire lot of Gold Dot rounds from back in 2001-2002. There are also a few anecdotes around of Gold Dot squibs; not many, but they happen to every manufacturer. If you’re really the paranoid type, I guess you could try weighing every last round that you use.

      • Twilight sparkle

        The worst ammo I’ve had expierence with has been federal, I still use them for some stuff but never handgun ammo, I had one round of 380 that the primer was never seated in which seemed forgivable at the time; but, right after I decided to check my gun and magazine because I had noticed the missing primer after loading up. So I went to eject the chambered round from my bersa it pulled the bullet out of the casing and flung powder all over the place. Needless to say that box got trashed at the range. I’m sure it was something that just escaped qc but I felt funny about them for awhile.

  • Goody

    Reloading is a great hobby to have!

    • Just Sayin’

      Yeah, like my quality control is better than Hornady’s? There are to kinds of reloaders, those who have forgot the powder and those who haven’t…yet.

      • Twilight sparkle

        more like three, you forgot about those which measured too much powder

      • HSR47

        I work for an FFL that owns and operates a variety of reloading equipment, up to and including machines from Ammoload and Camdex.

        Most commercial equipment physically probes the case after the powder drop, and stops the machine if the powder charge is outside the set margin, which is generally fairly narrow.

        It’s also important to understand how they actually measure powder. For the most part they measure powder by volume using a disk with specifically calibrated holes drilled in it: The powder drops into the disk in one position, and then rotates around until it drops the powder into an empty case. Because the powder tends to settle over time (when you leave the machine idle for much more than a handful of hours), before you can load ammo you need to physically stir the powder in the tube between the hopper and the measure, and then weigh every powder charge (and correct if necessary) until it is clear that it’s behaving correctly.

        Given the above, and that the loads we use tend to be closer to max than min (Most of the shooters we load for want ammo that meets minimum power factor for USPSA/IDPA), loading a squib would generally be extremely difficult to do.

        Further, given that Hornady is using new brass manufactured to a consistent standard, I imagine that they’re able to set their case probe/powder check far more precisely than we can.

      • Goody

        For load development, practice, plinking or new shooters I’ve had a few upside down primers or forgot powder from loading with the radio or other distraction. None have made it to the range let alone the mag before pulling.

        For “when it counts” ammo, I can meet 100% consistency.

  • Mike

    In all honesty, after seeing how filthy the tips are on the other two, non-fired, rounds, I am not sure that I would blame the ammo manufacturer. If I had to guess, I would say that these rounds have sat in the magazine for some time and the owner managed to either soak the gun in oil, or body sweat plus dirt. The moisture would ruin the powder.

    • INFI

      I run 9mm 135gr Critical Duty in all my Glocks, the elastomer tips get dirty in the magazine when you shoot the rounds before them. Just the way it is.

  • INFI

    I love Hornady and use a ton of their bullets. But this is completely unacceptable for defensive ammo. If you still have the box, write down the lot number and contact Hornady, I’m sure they will make it right.

  • Dougboffl

    I carry Hornady Critical Defense factory loads and cycle them out of service annually. Hornday states the Crit.Def. bullet’s cannelure groves (at point of case contact) help prevent projectile setback with multiple chamberings of the same bullet. For carry guns being put away safe at end of day and then re-chambered for carry the next day or something. I’m wonder if those cannelure groves might not seal projectile to case neck 100%. On a very small or even micro level, if the round(s) are carried in high moisture/dirt environment (IWB, armpit or Florida) could there be degradation of the charge from lack of a perfect seal? Looking at these pics, seems the unfired rounds have seen some carry or abuse – see discolored red-poly tips (dirt from being the top round in a pocket carried backup mag?) & corrosion marks on cases & small chinks on the rims (maybe from repeated extractor contact?). The gun’s finish looks very worn like it sees or has seen a lot of carry time (a P/64 – I get it). Hornady – if you are reading this – ya’ll need to checked this out and then if merited, label Crit. Def. with a short Carry/Duty Life and “inspection warning”. The whole idea of the cannelure is for repeated carrying/cycling and this possible issue is directly opposite to that premise.

    • HSR47

      You really shouldn’t be changing the loaded state of your carry gun that often; Perhaps some kind of bedside lockbox is in order, so that you don’t constantly have to cycle your ammo in/out of the chamber of your carry gun, and so that you can keep it handy should you be forced to fight off a nocturnal intruder.

      • Christian Allen

        I don’t. Please re-read my post.

        • HSR47

          My reply was directed at Dougboffl; Looking to the right of my username on my post directly above will confirm this.

    • lol

      RE: moisture:

      The cannelure is just helping the case have a good “grip” on the bullet, to prevent movement. it has little to do with sealing.

      The smoother portion behind the cannelure does this, its wedged very tightly against the case for 1/4 inch in most cases, its a better seal than most gaskets are made to, so little chance of moisture buildup.

      That being said, a defect in the bullet can cause a groove along this to let moisture in. (a ripple in the copper jacket, a small bulge, etc.)

      But I find it very difficult to believe this would have made it past QC, a defect like that is extremely visible and may cause the bullet seater to hang up.)

  • ostiariusalpha

    My brother noticed the same on his .40 S&W HCD ammo. Seems the polymer tips soak up whatever slight brass tarnish or other pollutants are around like they’re RIT dye.

  • Tenacious221

    Look at the box of ammo and please tell us the lot number.

    I use this ammo and want to know if I have a box from the same batch.

  • Rooftop Voter

    My first squib fire happened in 1969 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when I was stationed there. A few of us decided to shoot up some old ammo of various calibers at the pistol range and from the locker I drew a .38 wheel gun with some really old ammo. Everything was going smoothly until one round just went poof with no recoil. Yeah, a squib fire. Nobody brought tools so we finished up and went back to the ordnance shop and removed the bullet there. Since the pistol range was on the Leeward side of the base, we had to take the famous Gitmo Ferry back over to Mainside and during the short voyage, the remainder of those suspect rounds made it over the side into the channel. I believe that they were made in 1938 but not too sure.

    Since then, I believe I have experienced 4 squibs and all of it was from commercial ammo. Every now and then everyone gets a lemon.

    Side-bar: Cookies made in 1943 still tasted good in 1969. Two sugar cookies packed in a round can with that wafer type paper cushioning them top and bottom and one in-between; not bad!! Came in an OD can and using the trusty P38, opening them was easy.

  • maodeedee

    I carry Underwood 115 grain Plus+’s in my P-64. Recoil is stout but the ballistics are closer to a 9mm than a 380. I have tried the Hornady’s in it and haven’t had a problem but any ammo is capable of malfunctioning.

    I also carry critical defense/critical duty ammo in both my Glock 23 40 caliber and my Glock 20 10mm. There is hotter ammo available for the10mm but for indoor home defense I like something with less muzzle blast.

  • @serellan — Did you contact hornady and inform them the lot number etc? Also by any chance did you use a bullet puller to see if the rest of the box has consistent charges?

  • BigFED

    Amateur!!! I had a retired “Marine” come off of our range with his Taurus M85 .38SPL. “It won’t fire after the first five and he couldn’t open the cylinder!” he says! I wish I had a picture. He decided to fire the five rounds he had kept in it “forever”. The fact that NO HOLES showed up on his target at 3 yards was NOT a big enough clue! It was his good fortune that this retired “Maroon” didn’t have a catastrophic event and it is only due to the fact he kept the STAINLESS gun well (over well) lubricated with WD-40 and EVERY round had been basically reduced to a primer only load! Last round jammed the projectile in the forcing cone and cylinder chamber totally locking it up. Yes, FIVE 130grn FMJ bullets in the 2″ barrel. While I COULD have rescued the pistol, I refused. I told him it was a “Devine beings” way of telling him he shouldn’t have a working firearm!!! I found out from another person that knew this guy that another gunsmith cleared the bore and “fixed it” for him.

  • BigFED

    The one thing I find “unusual” about this event is the fact that the ammo has a cannelure. Most, I say “most” semi-auto ammunition does NOT use cannelure on the bullet unless that projectile is intended for use on other caliber compatible loads including revolvers, but it should NEVER be used for crimping! A cannelure is used on many/most revolver rounds to prevent “set forward” of the bullet during recoil by crimping the case mouth into the cannelure. While a good though, using a cannelure and CRIMPING a semi auto is NOT proper since the auto round “head spaces” on the case mouth! This is why it is highly recommended to NOT cycle the same rounds in an out of a semi-auto since that CAN allow a projectile to be “crammed” deeper into the case, causing a real issue when it is fired!

    From the article, it is not clear whether these were reloads using the HCD bullets or OEM ammo.