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Avoiding Match Disasters: Understanding and Preventing Squib Loads

Avoiding Match Disasters: Understanding and Preventing Squib Loads

The Dangers of Squib Loads in Shooting Sports

In the high-stakes world of competitive shooting, a squib load can quickly turn a great day at the range into a nightmare. Understanding what causes a squib load is crucial for every shooter, especially when time is of the essence, and safety is paramount. Standard Range Officer protocol is to stop a shooter if they suspect a squib load has occurred, but with the pace and intensity of the timer, it’s not always an easy call to make – especially in my case when two shooters are on the line at the same time.

What is a Squib Load?

A squib load, often an unassuming yet dangerous occurrence, happens when a bullet is inadequately propelled out of the barrel. This can be due to a lack of gunpowder or a significantly reduced charge in the cartridge. When a shooter fires a squib load, the bullet may lodge in the barrel, creating an obstruction. If another round is fired behind this obstruction, it can cause severe damage to the firearm and potentially injure the shooter.

Recognizing a Squib Load

During the Jeff Kirkwold Memorial 3 Gun Match, I encountered a squib load firsthand. Despite shooting with a reliable Springfield XDm9 5.25″, I experienced a failure to cycle. Initially, I attempted the standard Tap, Rack, Bang method, often effective for addressing common ammunition problems or a not fully seated magazine. However, this approach is not suitable for a squib load, as it can exacerbate the problem.

The Subtle Danger

The challenge with squib loads is their subtlety. The sound of a squib load firing can be deceptively quiet, easily overlooked in the heat of competition. This was the case during my shoot-off. Despite my efforts to quickly resolve the issue, I eventually realized that a round had failed to chamber due to an obstruction – a classic squib load scenario.

Learning from Experience

This experience was a valuable lesson. Often, in competitive shooting, the pressure to perform can lead to hasty decisions. However, it’s crucial to approach firearm malfunctions with a methodical mindset. If multiple rounds have been successfully fired before encountering a problem, it’s essential to diligently investigate the cause rather than hastily attempt to clear it.

Root Cause Analysis

For those who encounter a squib load, especially with factory ammunition, promptly reporting the issue to the manufacturer with the lot number and relevant details is crucial. In my case, it was a hand load, prompting a review of my reloading process to identify how the squib load occurred.

In conclusion, understanding and preventing squib loads is vital for anyone involved in shooting sports. Always remember, safety and a methodical approach should always be prioritized over speed, especially when dealing with potential squib loads.