PSA for NFA owners/Machine Gunners

by Miles

Something that every Marine Infantryman has pounded into his head at SOI is the Five Point Safety Check while clearing his open bolt weapon systems (SAW, M240). The purpose behind the check is to ensure the feed pawls are in working order and to clear out the various depressions in the weapon system for a shell, link, or live round that might have somehow gotten stuck and thus made operation of the machine gun impossible due to the stoppage. However, one of the most important parts of this process is for the shooter to keep his head down, top of his kevlar helmet facing towards the chamber. This is in case a live round “cooks off” and blows out the chamber and in the gunners direction.

The below video is a classical, textbook example of why these procedures are in place to begin with. I wasn’t the photographer, but was standing a feet away from him. The incident took place on Camp Leatherneck in 2013 while myself and a buddy were attending a charity shoot run by the Estonian contingent on Camp Bastion. Now, the Estonian soldiers running the shoot were their rear echelon guys, the clerks, drivers, etc… who stay on the camp while their armored infantry guys went out on patrols. No knock against them, but this might play into why the gunner didn’t follow proper clearing procedures (which, even if he did, he didn’t have a kevlar to stop the round that would have come out anyways, but at least his head would have been down). Honestly I’m not familiar with the Estonian small arms manual, so maybe they don’t follow our clearing procedures when it comes to open bolt weapon systems. Either way, the guy narrowly escaped getting his noggin blasted and instead just got his cheek slit open from the shell coming out of the chamber, and a sweet bar scar story to tell for the rest of his years. In case anyone is wondering through my sarcasm, the guy survived, but his FROG shirt was absolutely covered in blood, that’s what I saw because I didn’t actually see this happen due to my back being turned to it.

This is directly from the Marine Corps’ Machine gun manual, on page 2-9

When opening the feed cover, make sure the weapon is on the ground away from your face. With the weapon on your shoulder, possible injury could occur if a round goes off when the cover is raised.

And a graphic from the Army to illustrate the five points to check

In addition to this blood curdling war machine demonstrating proper technique with the 240.


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

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  • Nate_naah Nate_naah on Sep 22, 2015

    If only I could afford the weaponry such that this would be an issue..... :(

  • Zebra Dun Zebra Dun on Sep 22, 2015

    I recall distinctly with residual fear that hang fire on that particular M-40 106 RR one fine August day in CLNC.
    Things and events can be both scary as hell and awesome at the same time was my thoughts.