9 Catastrophic Gun Malfunctions You Can Learn From
Daniel Xu 01.22.15
Before most shooters even touch a gun or enter a shooting range, they are taught the fundamental rules of gun use. Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and so on and so forth. However, those basic rules do not cover all scenarios, and some shooters find themselves woefully unprepared for rare occurrences such as the much dreaded squib round. Other events, such as out-of-battery detonations or improper handloading, could also have very dangerous consequences.
Here are 9 cases where pulling the trigger did not produce the intended effect. Most cases involve squib rounds—bullets that become lodged in the barrel due to an underloaded round—but all provide a valuable lesson. Educate yourself beforehand on identifying and solving malfunctions. A resource on different types of malfunctions and how to deal with them can be found here.
Some videos include strong language or graphic images.
“Took the rifle to the range and after 100 rounds the rifle suffered a catastrophic failure (literally exploding in 2),” wrote the person who posted this video to YouTube. “Luckily my friend KTdevildog was alright. Ammo being used was MBI 5.56 55gr FMJ. We assume the reason the firearm exploding was due to a ‘squib’ round, which is basically when a round get’s lodged in the barrel creating an obstruction and giving the gas the and pressure no other way to go than back.”
The standard US service rifle for both World War II and the Korean War, the M1 Garand has earned its reputation as a powerful and accurate rifle. For many history buffs and gun collectors, the Garand is also a popular choice due to its background. However, as you’ll see in the video above, it is far from indestructible.
The cause of the explosion has not been confirmed, but many viewers are throwing out theories such as a squib—a bullet lodged in the barrel due to an underloaded round—or problems with the ammunition. The prevailing thought is that it was an out-of-battery detonation.
“The 7th round jammed, which is nothing unusual for this gun,” wrote arizonagirl24, who posted the video to YouTube and also claimed to be the shooter. “It happens all the time. That is why I didn’t really hesitate to shoot the final round. We were using newer ammo, so we don’t think that’s the problem. My brother has been looking at his M1, and we noticed it will still fire with the chamber not fully closed. The chamber can be open up to 1/2″ and the weapon will still fire. We think that’s what happened.”
She also claimed that neither her or her brother were seriously injured by the blast, although she did receive lots of splinters and some bruising.
Dealing with a malfunction during a competition can be stressful, but remember that safety—for both you and bystanders—come first.
“Rifle Competition Fail—Squib Load—.223/5.56 -Shooting a 3 Gun competition in NC—moving to the rifle portion of the stage and seemingly got a squib load—blew up my gun—busted extractor, upper receiver, bolt catch,” wrote the video’s uploader. “Long story short—if your round isn’t chambering—find out the reason before you force something down the pipe—I just didn’t have time to check it in the race.”
There is little backstory behind this video, although the uploader mentioned that the malfunction may have been caused by a handloaded shell.
It is not every day that your rifle dissembles itself very suddenly and very loudly in your hands, but this shooter had the misfortune of it happening to him with this Century Arms AK-74 clone.
“This was the first time we had fired the weapon and as you can see it didn’t turn out well. A complete review will be coming soon,” wrote Brendon Davis, who uploaded the video to YouTube.
The owner later posted online that he had contacted Century and they believed it was a headspacing issue.
There is no video for this one, but as you can tell, the malfunction was quite significant. It just goes to show that not even muzzleloaders are exempt from spontaneous detonations. However, this explosion could have easily been avoided.
Most black powder muzzleloaders come with instructions that emphatically warn you to not use anything other than black powder, and any seasoned shooter will tell you that swapping powders can be a recipe for disaster. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently put up a photo of a completely shattered muzzleloader on its Law District 7 Facebook page. According to officials, this was one accident was not caused by a malfunction, but rather a lapse in judgement. The incident occurred in Martin County, where an unidentified man poured smokeless powder into a black powder-only muzzleloader. What resulted was the firearm exploding like a grenade and ripping off the man’s fingers.
OutdoorHub spoke with Corporal Eric Doane, who responded to the incident. Doane said that the malfunction occurred in the man’s backyard after several family members brought it over for practice.
“The man who fired the gun loaded the muzzleloader with smokeless powder which had been taken from 20 gauge shotgun shells,” Doane said over the phone. “He had run out of black powder and had actually cut open the shells and ended up pouring 75 grains of powder into that muzzleloader. Once again, smokeless powder is several times more powerful than black powder, so it would be like putting a 300-grain charge of blackpowder into a muzzleloader.”
The gun had essentially become a pipebomb and exploded as soon as the shooter pulled the trigger.
“We were shooting guns at the local range, and my friend was firing the [rifle] and it kept jamming, but we thought he cleared it,” wrote the uploader of this video. “Eventually we think two bullets were left in the tube, and when the bullet fired, it exploded… one funny thing to watch is after the gun explodes, my friend checks his face to make sure his features are still all present…. we joke about it now, but at the time, it was scary.”
Many shooters will tell you that a well-made revolver is among the most reliable of firearms, and they’re not wrong. However, sometimes things like this can happen.
“The barrel of a gun range’s rental Taurus stainless steel .357 magnum blew clean off after we fired about 20 rounds through it,” wrote the uploader. “I happened to be taking video at the time. The guy shooting had some slightly burned and battered fingers but was otherwise fine. Ammo was factory Magtech bought at the range, and the only other ammo we had with us was .22 LR.”
Sometimes a catastrophic malfunction could very well be life-threatening. This shooter—firing what appears to be a Vulcan .50 caliber rifle—was injured after the gun explodes and shoots bolt back at him.
“All things going great and we hear a extremely loud boom. Screaming ensues,” wrote one user on AR15.com, who claimed to be at the incident.
“Well, come to find out this was the FIRST SHOT FIRED from a Brand new Vulcan .50 cal using factory ammo. The bolt lugs disintegrated, the charging handle sheared from the bolt, and the bolt exploded backwards and lodged into the guys neck area,” the user wrote. “They found the charging handle about 30 feet behind him in the grass while the paramedics were tending to him. Ambulance arrived quickly, and I’m no doctor, but it looked like the guy was going to be alright based on the fact they didn’t seem to be too worried while tending to him.”
Do you have any scary stories you want to share? You can leave your experiences in the comments below.