Match Killer Woes: The Squib Load

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Tap, Rack, Bang! Maybe not this time…

The first thing that went through my mind when I pulled the trigger and nothing happened – Tap, Rack, Bang. This immediate action/no-hesitation method of bringing a semi-automatic firearm back to operation is very effective for common ammunition problems or failure to fully seat a magazine. But – throw a squib load into the mix and it can be a recipe for disaster.

I had the pleasure of shooting the Jeff Kirkwold Memorial 3 Gun Match this past weekend, run locally by the folks at P3 Multigun and for a very noble cause – all proceeds went to the Task Force Dagger foundation. This match was unique in the sense that participants were shooting more for the purpose than that of the prize table (of which was also outstanding, let me tell you). Day 1 we shot traditional 3 Gun Nation rules, and Day 2 was a shoot-off seeded by the prior day’s results.

Squibs are nothing new, but in 3 Gun (or any action shooting sports) they become a bit problematic when one is intending on tap-rack-banging the problem out due to the clock running down. Most of the time, the RO or Scorekeeper are paying enough attention that they’ll catch it if you don’t – but that pop is so inaudible that it’s easy to not understand what just happened and proceed as normal.

It was the shoot-off portion of the match on day 2, in my first bout I had done a pretty terrible job with the rifle plate rack and was scrambling to put the pistol to work, a Springfield XDm9 5.25″. It took me a bit to make those shots start to connect with the absurdly large 8″ plates, but the intensity of competing directly against another person can add that kind of pressure. By the 3rd or 4th shot, my XDm failed to cycle, so I ran the slide to strip a fresh round off the mag and attempt to quickly assess why. Everything looked fine, but I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention as the next round refused to chamber. A relaxed mindset might have quickly determined that it wouldn’t chamber due to an obstruction, but feverishly battling time I decided to drop the mag and try it all again. Same thing. Huh? By this time my opponent was already done with the full array, so my mind gave up on finishing and slowed to the point of legitimate problem solving and understanding why the round wouldn’t chamber. Pulling the slide back and peeking into the chamber, you could see the bullet just into the lands.

Luckily, the bullet was not far enough into the barrel to allow me to chamber another round, or my method of quickly working through the problem would have certainly caused irreparable damage to the gun and probably my person.

What I enjoy most about shooting this sport is the constant learning opportunities, and this instance was no different. Having previously had problems with light strikes on CCI 500 pistol primers, it was very easy to quickly dismiss the possibility of a squib as the issue in the heat of competition and attempt to mitigate it as such.

Lesson learned here – Tap, Rack, Bang is intended to solve an issue with a mag that might not be fully inserted. If a person is able to fire a few rounds off before encountering a failure, he should have a little more diligence in identifying why it occurred and not be so quick as to jam another round into a potentially obstructed barrel.

Furthering the lesson, one needs to review root cause of the squib – if it’s factory ammo, contacting the Manufacturer with the lot number and any details should be top of the priority list. In my case, it was one of my own hand loads, and I need to go back to my notebook to determine which part of my process allowed a squib load to occur.

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About The Author

I'm just another avid 3gunner here to share my experiences as a newish competitor in a rapidly growing sport.