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Squib Loads | Active Response Training

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Because I see occasional squib loads when shooting .38 special ammo, I start every snub revolver class by allowing the students to fire a primed case to feel the difference between a squib and a full power round. It’s an idea I stole from Micheal de Bethencourt.


I got this email last week:


“Hello Greg. Took your first snubby class and wanted to say THANKS for the lesson and practice firing of a squib load. While firing the 642 today at the range I pulled trigger and heard and saw the pfft sound of a squib and knew immediately what had happened and was able handle it safely.


Not sure what would of happened if I hadn’t experienced it in your class.


Thanks again”

With every ammo company in the world producing as much ammo as possible, quality control is slipping. I think we will start seeing more squibs in ALL calibers. You should recognize the distinctive lack of sound and recoil. Stop firing and check the bore for obstructions.



Bullet lodged in barrel after squib load


Here’s how to identify a possible squib:


-Quieter than normal report. Squibs can happen with any type of cartridge (including rounds fired out of rifles, shotguns, or semi-automatic pistols). The most obvious indication is that the gunshot sounds different. It is much quieter than a normal round. Usually it is just the sound of the primer popping. If you hear a gunshot that is about 1/4 the normal sound, stop and check for a blocked barrel.


-Loose gun powder falling out of the gun. If the powder charge doesn’t ignite, it is generally shot down the barrel behind the bullet. When you open up the cylinder, a bunch of loose gun powder may fall out. It’s a pretty good indication that you have a blocked barrel as it would have otherwise been blown out the end of the barrel.


The amount of loose gunpowder that fell out of my barrel when I tilted the muzzle up on a .38 squib


-No hole in the target. The bullet may be stuck in the barrel or may have fallen to the ground shortly after exiting the gun. In either event, you won’t see a hole in your target when you expected to see one.


-If shooting a revolver, a bound up cylinder. Occasionally, a squib will drive the bullet out of the cylinder, but it will not have the power to carry the bullet all the way into the barrel. The bullet gets caught partially in the cylinder and partially in the barrel. On a revolver, that locks the cylinder tight. You can’t pull the trigger, cock the hammer, or open the cylinder. That’s a pretty good indication that something is screwed up.


What should you do if you suspect a squib?


Most importantly, STOP SHOOTING! You don’t want to take the chance of an obstructed barrel blowing up your gun if you continue firing.


Unload the gun and inspect the barrel to ascertain if there are any blockages. If the bullet is stuck in the barrel, use a cleaning rod and a mallet/hammer to drive the bullet out of the barrel. I normally do this from the muzzle end as inserting a longer rod through the frame opening (where the closed cylinder resides) is generally difficult.

Driving the bullet out with a cleaning rod.


After you get the bullet out, inspect the barrel of any bulges, cracks, or deformities. If you don’t find any, the gun should be as good as new after a thorough cleaning.


Be extra cautious with any additional ammunition from the same lot.

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