A Reddit post this week offered a unique opportunity to explore one of the more dangerous ammunition malfunctions you might run into on the range that’s a little hard to believe. But, there’s a photo that’s pretty convincing once you realize what you’re looking at.
For lack of a better term, we’re going to call this a super squib.
A squib round occurs when a propellant charge is underpowered or doesn’t fully ignite. There’s enough force to get the bullet out of the chamber, but it gets stuck somewhere in the barrel, obstructing it.
The danger occurs when you have a squib round, but don’t recognize it, and unknowingly fire a fully charged round behind it into an obstructed barrel. Depending on how blocked the barrel is by the first bullet, the pressure from the second round could cause a gun to explode.
A squib load will feel strange and have a underpowered sound when fired. To safely clear the bullet from the barrel once a squib load is identified by looking down the bore, disassembling the gun, and using a brass cleaning rod or punch of adequate length to force the bullet out of the barrel.
Just be sure not to scrape the rod against the rifling while doing so. In either case, you’ll likely need to tap the rod a good bit with a rubber mallet or small hammer. On rifle-length barrels, you’ll likely need a tool designed for the task, which many gun ranges have on hand.
But, invariably, there are very unwise shooters out there that attempt to clear a squib load specifically by doing what you’re not supposed to do: firing another bullet after it to push out the first bullet. It’s a good way to blow up a gun and lose an eye, or just a good way to destroy your barrel.
Then, there are guys like the owner of the gun barrel pictured above.
Reditor u/hungrybathsaltzombie writes that he and his gunsmith got to talking and he brought out this hunk of metal and told the story behind it.
A customer was using handloads in an otherwise unidentified Smith & Wesson revolver, so goes the story, when he encountered a squib round.
He then proceeded to fire the gun 14 more times, trying to clear it.
Thankfully, the beefy barrel and the gun’s cylinder held up to all that pressure, but the 14-times lucky shooter ended up filling his now-distorted barrel with compressed lead and copper, obviously trashing it.
In case you can’t make it out, or believe it, the photo is a shot of the barrel cut in half lengthwise. (The gunsmith replaced the barrel for the customer.)
Each of those little copper-colored curved lines down the center is the beginning of another bullet that has been compressed against the others in front of it. The barrel’s muzzle is on the right.
Let this serve as a public service announcement. If you should run into a squib round, clear it the right way and keep shooting. Don’t do this.