“Squibs” are rare, but dangerous, firearms malfunctions. A squib load is when a bullet is fired, but there’s not enough expanding gasses to push the bullet all the way out of the barrel. This leaves an obstruction in the barrel, and when another round is fired, the results can be quite explosive. Squibs are dangerous, especially with large centerfire calibers.
Imagine if the shooter hadn’t been mag dumping 80’s hip style and instead the rifle had been near the shooter’s face!
This is why you should ALWAYS wear quality eye protection while engaging in shooting sports.
If you suspect a squib, STOP FIRING.
Signs of a Squib Load
Squib loads can be presented in multiple ways.
- Squibs are usually accompanied with a soft pop – it isn’t the full sound of a gunshot, but louder than just a click. Unfortunately this can be easily missed on an active firing line with hearing protection.
- Recoil from a squib is usually very light. This is a much more tactile feedback from a squib. If a shot feels very light compared to other shots in a string, stop, and check for a squib.
- A small puff of smoke is possibly the easiest to identify sign of a squib. A small puff of smoke can come out of the barrel or come out of the action for a squib.
- On a semi auto rifle or pistol, a squib will partially cycle the action. If there’s a puff of smoke and the action doesn’t cycle, look out for a squib.
Let me repeat, if you suspect a squib, STOP FIRING. It can be very easy to dismiss it an keep firing, especially in a competition environment.
How to clear a squib load
First, hold the firearm pointed down range and wait a few seconds. Sometimes a squib isn’t a squib, but a “hangfire.” Hangfires can be slow burning powder which results in a round going off several seconds after the trigger was pulled.
After waiting a moment, drop the magazine and clear the chamber. Double check the firearm is empty, and disassemble the firearm to look down the barrel from the breach – do NOT look down the barrel from the muzzle.
If there was a squib, daylight won’t be coming through the barrel.
The squib can be easily cleared with a simple ramrod or cleaning rod being shoved down the barrel. Sometimes squibs can be a little tough to push out, but not impossible.
This is why it’s always a good idea to bring a cleaning rod to the range to clear barrel obstructions.
Examples of squib loads
Watch out for squib loads
Shooting sports are not completely danger free. It is important for shooters to be able to recognize and diagnose malfunctions, especially squib loads. Failure to recognize a squib load can have explosive consequences.