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MagTech Reminds Us about Squib Loads and Hang Fires

*This post uses sample photographs found around the internet. Unfortunately I was unable to find and identify all owners of the images to give proper photo credit. They are not my images.


If you use fresh factory ammunition that has been properly stored squib loads and hangfires are incredibly rare, but they can happen, and a combination of the two happened to me on camera while testing the much-requested Magtech steel-case 115gr 9mm load. The prupose of this post is not to smear MagTech, as it can happen with any ammunition.


Instead I'd like to take this opportunity to go over what can happen, how to handle it, and how your firearm choice can greatly impact the outcome.

I saw this Hi-Point barrel in person at a trade show. Fortunately 45acp is a low-pressure round and the barrel was well made. The owner fired but didn't see an impact on target and continued to fire, stacking round after round behind the squib.
I saw this Hi-Point barrel in person at a trade show. Fortunately 45acp is a low-pressure round and the barrel was well made. The owner fired but didn't see an impact on target and continued to fire, stacking round after round behind the squib.

Squib Rounds

What is a "squib"? Squib loads are primed, but do not have enough or any gun powder in them. They can be identified while shooting by the sound of a , "pop" instead of a, "bang".

This squib round almost made it out.
This squib round almost made it out.

What is the risk of a squib? The biggest risk of an under-charged load can be the destruction of your firearm and personal injury. Quite often the bullet will leave the case, but not make it all the way through the barrel and become lodged. Because the bullet is stuck in the barrel sometimes there is enough pressure for a semi-automatic firearm to cycle. An unwary shooter then pulls the trigger again but the second round and all of it's full-force pressure are stopped in the bore but the first stuck round. This can result in a permanently-damaged barrel, and the pressure of the full-force round then attempts to exit through the chamber and into the firearm. More on protections against this later.

The weakest point of the system will be what bursts. Some manufacturers have such places engineered into the firearm to protect the user. Not all firearms are created equally.
The weakest point of the system will be what bursts. Some manufacturers have such places engineered into the firearm to protect the user. Not all firearms are created equally.

What Should You Do? If you are shooting and hear a "pop" without the "bang" or notice significantly less recoil than normal:

  • STOP SHOOTING.

  • Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction for 30 seconds or so in case it's a hang fire.

  • Remove the magazine and field strip the firearm.

  • Check the bore for an obstruction. If you can't see daylight through the barrel there is a projectile stuck in it.

  • Use a cleaning rod, or preferably a wooden dowl to not damage the rifling to push the bullet out of the barrel. This can require significant force depending on the caliber and how far you have to push it. Seek the shortest path out. Sometimes that means pushing the bullet back towards the chamber.


Hang Fires

What is a Hang Fire? Hang Fires happen when something was wrong with the primer or possibly the powder and ignition is not instantaneous. I became familiar with them in my youth enjoying inexpensive surplus firearms and even cheaper surplus military ammunition. 60+ year old 8mm Mauser ammunition, 150rounds in a bandoleer for $9.99 or a tin of 440 rounds 7.62x54r for $75. This can also happen with modern ammunition if it is not stored free from humidity (keep it out of the garage) or perhaps environmental conditions at the factory weren't right.

You pull the trigger and hear the click of the hammer or firing pin drop and nothing happens, then a moment later the round fires!


What is the risk of a hang fire? The round didn't fire the moment you were prepared to, but may still fire when you're not prepared. Where is the muzzle pointed the moment that round goes off?


What Should you do? Hearing a "click" and no "bang" could potentially mean a hang fire.

  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and wait a few seconds. It feels like an eternity, but so can the results of not waiting.

  • Clear the firearm. This is the sticky part. That round may still go off so put it in a safe area. The good news is that an unchambered round will at worst explode the case and send lightweight case shrapnel in random directions with no more force than random spall; if you have good eye protection on you'll be ok, might need a bandaid if a piece stick into your skin. Remember, the projectile is the heaviest part of a round and so without a chamber directing pressure it's the case that goes and without a barrel to project with guidance and continued force those case pieces aren't going to carry much energy. It's gone from YouTube, but YouTube MatV2099 once filled a popcorn maker with .22lr and to everyone's surprise the popcorn maker survived. He did the same with a magazine of 7.62x39. Some of those clips still exist in the video below your entertainment and education.

  • Check for bore obstruction.


Not all firearms are created Equally.

In the event of a case rupture, squib you didn't notice during rapid fire and then tried to shoot again, or any other catastrophic failure of the ammunition the firearm you are using may determine how bad of an event it is for you.

This example from RECOIL shows how Glock's lack of a fully-supported chamber sends forces downwards and in this case split the barrel when a second round on top of a squib.
This example from RECOIL shows how Glock's lack of a fully-supported chamber sends forces downwards and in this case split the barrel when a second round on top of a squib.

Forunately, the hang fire squib I recently encountered made it out of the barrel and I was firing slowly enough to recognize it. Additionally I was using a Grand Power K100 which has plenty of built-in protection for the shooter.

Uneven chamber support =  uneven chamber strength and an inspiration for pressure to go somewhere other than out the barrel.
Uneven chamber support = uneven chamber strength and an inspiration for pressure to go somewhere other than out the barrel.
  • Fully Supported Chamber: This means that the case is supported all the way around which not only improves performance, but also means that explosive forces have no choice but to head out the barrel (path of least resistance).

  • Stepped Chamber: This is only used by a few manufacturers such as Walther and Grand Power, but essentially there is a small step at the end of the chamber where the case ends, stepping up to the diameter of the bullet. This gives further support during ignition and reduces loss of pressure; ensuring maximum pressure goes towards propelling the bullet. This is why Walther and Grand Power handguns tend to chronograph slightly higher speeds than same-length equivalents without a stepped chamber.

Grand Power Mk12 and Mk23 billet internal internal chassis.
Grand Power Mk12 and Mk23 billet internal internal chassis.
  • Billet stainless internal chassis: Should pressure have entered the frame of the gun it would have had to overcome the strength of a billet stainless steel chassis before attempting to hurt my hand. I don't think the short burst of 35,000psi could do that while filling the internal space of the handgun. The only other manufacturer I've seen do this is Ranger Arms who does it to a lesser extent.


Metal baseplates may help with speed, but come with a risk in the event of an ammunition catastrophic failure.
Metal baseplates may help with speed, but come with a risk in the event of an ammunition catastrophic failure.
  • Plastic magazine base plates: While the competition guys like to setup their race guns like race cars and sacrifice potential safety for speed, believe it or not a plastic magazine baseplate can save you. Those baseplates are an intentional weak point to permit pressure to blow out the bottom of your grip rather than trap it. If you've ever seen footage of an AR15 blowing up you've seen that the GI magazine design is also designed with the same intention. This is one of the reasons why BUL Armory includes plastic baseplates with the new EDC model, but aluminum with the TAC model which they know is more likely to be used as a competition model. The irony of course is that many competition shooters load their own ammunition and so may be putting themselves at greater risk if they are not careful.

Another GLock-pattern chamber blown open, likely by firing a second round on top of a squib.
Another GLock-pattern chamber blown open, likely by firing a second round on top of a squib.

The point of this piece was not to deter or scare anyone out of shooting, but to remind us of the risk that can happen to anyone at any time. Use quality ammunition and take good care of your ammunition. There's nothing wrong with wanting to shoot quickly, but make sure you're doing it with a quality firearm and quality ammunition.

There were more Glock examples on the internet than anything else, but likely because there are more Glocks in circulation than anything else. Such failure can happen with any gun and any firearm. The differences are how the firearm will handle it. We do not know the backstories of the pictures used for illustration.


Please share your experiences with squibs and hang fires in the comment section below.

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