Tuesday, April 13, 2010


So today I'm out on the pistol range with a new shooter I'm instructing. She's got a couple of new pistols that a gun shop that gave her her CCW class sold her despite the fact that they were pretty much inappropriate for her needs and skill level. One of the guns was a Ruger SP101, which was actually ok provided that she shoot it with light .38 Special loads in order to get the feel for it. Of course they just sold her several boxes of .357 magnum ammo to go with it, and the result was predictable--the recoil and noise was such that she wound up scared of it and she'd flinch so badly that she couldn't even hit the target. Nice job, gun shop. You got rid of a gun and made some money but ruined a new shooter.

So I gave her some .38 Special loads that I put together on my loading bench. They were much lighter and she was actually enjoying shooting them and starting to put them nicely on the target when all of a sudden, the gun made a funny sound--instead of going "BANG", it went "Pffftttt..."

Fortunately she was still apprehensive of the gun and my command for her to stop shooting was superfluous. She handed it back over, and when I dumped the rounds and checked the bore, my fear was confirmed: There was a bullet lodged tightly in the barrel just to the rear of the front sight. DAMN!!!

Apparently there was no powder or just a little powder in that case, and the result was that the bullet was only moved forward a few inches, where it wedged itself into the barrel. No real harm there, but the firing of a subsequent full-power round into that plugged barrel would have been very ugly and almost certainly painful.

I've loaded and fired thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition over the years but that was the first squib load that I've put together--as far as I know--since I started reloading. And of course it doesn't hit me--it hits a new shooter that I'm working with. How embarrassing.

It actually took some doing for me to get my student to stop blaming herself and/or her gun for the problem. She wasn't confident at all on the range, and that definitely didn't help. But I assured her that it was my screw-up, committed in June of '08 per the data on that ammo box, and that I owned the problem 100%. Luckily, the local gunsmith at the shop where I do a lot of business was able to bang that bullet back out of the barrel with no damage to the gun and no cost to me. Still, it was a lesson learned--pay attention when charging your cases and make sure that there's actually powder in each and every one of them before you even screw the seating die into the press.

But it ended well. My student is now shooting .38 Special loads instead of full-power .357 Magnum rounds and she's starting to gain confidence and competence her pistol. She's also trading a six-and-a-half inch barrel Smith and Wesson 686 that her shop sold her--for concealed carry--in for a new Ruger LCR in .38 Special that she fell in love with at my gun shop.

So all's well that ends well...but it'll probably be a while before I stop shaking my cartridges and listening for the sound of powder moving around inside before loading them into my firearms. Yeeesh!


  1. No harm, no foul, and a lesson learned... I've had a couple of squibs over the years, and I STILL have no idea why... I've weighed rounds, shaken rounds, etc... but every once in a while... phsstt...

  2. Anonymous1:44 PM

    I had one re-load squib once - in a .45 acp 1911. Luckily it was not powerful enough to cycle the slide, so I had no chance of firing another round down that obstructed barrel.

    Your post is a good reminder to keep and ear open when firing reloads in a revolver!

  3. Anonymous7:57 PM

    Happy to hear your guns are okay. Never had the misfortune to get a squib load before, and pray that I never do.