Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Range Trip – 4/23/2013 . . . . God saves a fool . . .


This “Spring” is playing hell getting our steel and rifle shoots under way. We had a total of 5 show last night with temps in the high 30s / very low 40s and the wind hanging in there at about 20mph. Let’s just say the weather could have been better!

Still, Doug and I had the two stages set before anyone else arrived. So few showed I made it a “freebie” as opposed to our normal $10 fee.

The other hitch here is just plain ammo – I don’t care the caliber. My last 500 round brick of .22LR cost me $70. My last 6 boxes of 9mm cost $30 each. That’s just a bit rich for me . . . . . I’m sure that the price and availability is having an effect on our attendance.

As I had said earlier, I’ve switch to my Springfield .45Cal 1911 for the year. So last night I use a very, very, very, very old box of ball ammo. Let’s just say it had a nice patina! J Still, it worked fine! I had a partial box of old steel JHP too, they well and truly sucked!! Finally, a partial Ziploc of .45Cal reloads from a friend. They fed fine but shot about 6 inches lower than the old ball ammo. So, plenty of practice with clearing drills with the JHPs and “Kentucky windage” to compensate for my friend’s reloads.

I had one run slightly over 6 seconds. I’ll take it. We have one fellow who comes – and he did last night as well – that runs a custom race gun. 9mm. Holy crap – 3.24??? Heavy sigh. I have some work to do!

The whole ammo shortage has many of our shooters reloading their own. The old heads have decades of practice and have much to teach us newbies. I hope to have my reloading gear up and running in the next few weeks, so I am sucking up all I can from these guys. They are more than generous with their time and in sharing their experiences.

And yet . . . . a person has to be willing to LISTEN to all this knowledge to actually learn from it . . . . gratefully God took pity on one shooter last night and saved his ass and probably his hand as well. I want to pass this story on NOT as a criticism of him, he’s actually a pretty friendly and outgoing fellow. He would simply rather “know” everything and speak rather than listen. Perhaps his experience will provide someone reading this post with a willingness to slow down a bit.

He was shooting a compact M&P .40Cal semi-automatic pistol. Not idea of the model, I didn’t check. He had spent a fair amount of time talking about how he had finally had to get into reloading, hashing over bullet types, powder manufacturers, loads he had “worked up”, brass from his company range (he’s a security guard at a nuclear plant) . . . . friendly conversation, yet it was obvious he was very, very new at the whole reloading thing. (I recognize this because it is exactly where I am at the moment – a newbie at reloading!) He’d just went out, gotten his equipment and went at it . . . . .

From his first couple of rounds it was apparent something was “off”. His weapon fed poorly, he had about a 20% failure to fire rate. He was not having a good night! On about his 3rd round of fire and probably his 2nd or 3rd round in his magazine, all I heard was a “PPHHHHTTTT!!” and that was it. Casing wasn’t ejected, no bang . . . and my head is screaming SQUIB!!! STOP SHOOTING!!!” His body is just doing the “slap, rack, shoot” clearing drill . . . . and he had a failure to feed. The casing was ejected, a new round stripped but when it went to seat in the chamber, the slide refused to close.

He cleared a couple more times, but the weapon would not feed properly. So, he stepped out of the box and went back to the range table. Since he had had so many failures earlier, he took some time to just check the ammo. He emptied his magazines, grabbed a new stock of reloads and stepped back into the rotation. Next time in the box . . . . same thing. Every round failed to properly load. He racked every round, went through two magazines, slapped the back of the slide . . . . to no avail.

About this time I gotta believe the Good Lord was wondering why he was even saving this guy’s butt – he seemed so determined to make his weapon fire, his brain was simply not engaged. Yet, the Good Lord hung in there to allow this fellow to learn his lesson and keep his hand.

The second time back at the bench he finally asked one of the old heads if they had any thoughts. One of our RSOs asked if he could examine the weapon – permission was given and the RSO field stripped the gun. Looking down the barrel . . . . all he could see was darkness! Looking into the chamber, all he could see was the ass end of a .40Cal FMJ ball. The shooter had, indeed, had a squib round. The only thing that saved his hand (other than the Good Lord’s sense of humor) was that the bullet had obviously barely exited the casing before it became lodged. The consensus was that he had forgotten the powder and the charge of the primer was enough to push the bullet out of the casing, but not the barrel. Luckily, is wedged early enough that the next round couldn’t seat properly. If it had, had the next round been fully seated in the chamber with the slide fully closed – the weapon could well have disintegrated when he fired that round. I suspect real damage would have been done to his hands and face. Who knows for sure, but the fellow really “dodged a bullet” . . . . quietly literally.

So what are the lessons?? For me, personally, I knew it was a squib and I could not get the words out fast enough. Gotta work on that.

For him, and all of us learning a new skill set, take some time to learn it well – and use resources around us. There was any number of skilled reloaders at the chapter that would have been willing to teach this guy how to reload reliably. Would that have prevented this from happening? Who knows – but it couldn’t have hurt. Bottom line, when learning new stuff – don’t hesitate to ask someone who’s “been there, done that” . . . .

It might save a hand!


  1. Good range report - and a mighty close call for the lucky handgunner. I only hope he learned something.

  2. Yepper. Lesson learned long ago: If the last round sounded or felt different from the ones before it--STOP! Check the weapon carefully before resuming use. There was a reason that something was different. Figuring that out becomes your priority, not finishing the course of fire.

  3. Attention to detail, and ANOTHER reason to not have ANY distractions anywhere near when reloading. A friend has a whole bunch of scars and only partial use of his left hand from a double charged .357 round that he lit off and blew a S&W Model 19 up.

  4. Rev Paul - yep, obviously wasn't "his day" . . . .

    Murph - agreed.

    Old NFO - I suspect it was his "work flow" that got him and one of the rounds just got out of rotation. A good lesson for everyone to keep their attention focused on the task at hand!

  5. One of the most humbling lessons a person can learn is that they will ALWAYS have more to learn. I try to remind myself of that every day.

    1. Yep - right there with ya! However, it seems that the "universe" has no problem reminding me I still have a long way to go . . . . :)

  6. I'm extremely careful, and I literally missed the powder on a .38 round I had loaded. Luckily I knew it wasn't right and on top of that it was a revolver and the bullet got jammed in the forcing cone and locked up the cylinder.

    .38 in a .357 Mag is the way to go for so many reasons when learning how to handload/reload. Semi-autos are trickier as you need to look for the sweet spot with having the action function to having "too hot" of a load with poor accuracy (keyholeing in particular). The .45 shooting low, for example is probably because that load is much "lighter" than the factory rounds were.

    But.. now if I'm shooting anything, I'm very conscious of something not sounding right and if it's a light sounding load I do stop and check for a squib. I'll be honest it scared me and it was absolutely my fault. (Did I double charge another round? Should I pull all 49 that are left?)

    Now the primer I had that didn't fire yesterday.. Winchester's fault... ;)

    This includes factory ammo. When you start taking a caliper to "white box" and see as much as 0.2" deviation in bullet setback then your own hand loads don't seem all that bad...
    Once you figure out a "pet" load, they are much better than factory...