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One of the leading causes of firearm-related injuries among firearm owners is ammo malfunction. Today, we are going to check out the top 3 ammo malfunctions, what they are, how they occur, and possible prevention methods.

Now, let’s dive in. First, what’s ammo malfunction?

What is Ammo Malfunction?

Well, I’m sure you know what the ammo is. But if you don’t, don’t sweat it. Many so-called firearm pros don’t know the difference either. So let’s clear that out first.

The ammunition commonly known as ammo is the propellant or material that is shot out of the firearm. The ammo is what is commonly referred to as the bullet.

Now, an ammo malfunction is when the bullet doesn’t come out of the firearm the way it’s supposed to. When you pull the trigger on your firearm, a round is meant to come out at tremendous speed towards the intended target. If your ammo does anything but that, then you have an ammo malfunction.

Ammo malfunctions can stop you from neutralizing a threat or using the firearm for whatever legal reason you got it. So let’s dive straight in to check out the top 3 ammo malfunctions. The first on the list is a misfire.

1) Misfire

A misfire in simple terms is when the ammo fails to leave the firearm properly. This is very common with handguns and the common cause of misfires is the firing pin.

The firing pin in your firearm is a small hammer-like Metal that strikes the rear of the cartridge or ammo. When you pull the trigger, the firing pin hits the back of the cartridge where the primer is located. The strong hit on the primer causes a spark that ignites the gunpowder. The ignition causes an explosion that pushes the propellant or bullet out of the cartridge and towards the intended target.

When the firing pin doesn’t strike the primer as hard as it should, then you will have a misfire meaning that the propellant will not be discharged properly.

So what causes an ammo misfire?

The most common cause is a dirty firearm. Every time you use your firearm, dust and leftover gunpowder is left in the chamber. Over time, there will be an accumulation of debris inside the gun and this can prevent the firing pin from striking as it is supposed to. Let’s check out the next malfunction.

2) Hang Fire

A hang fire is not very common. Though if you are using an old rifle or handgun from the civil war years, you might want to pay attention to this. A hang fire in simple terms is when there is a hang or delay in the ejection of the propellant from the firearm. This is when the ammo doesn’t leave the firearm quickly. You shoot, but nothing comes out till after a few seconds or minutes.

So why does this happen?

The most common reason for a hang fire is a wet cartridge or ammunition. Probably you got the ammo wet or you were a victim of poor ammo sale. When the cartridge or ammo is wet for some reason, then the ignition will be delayed when you pull the trigger.

As explained earlier, when you pull the trigger, there is an ignition that leads to an explosion of gunpowder. This whole process can be hindered by just a drop of water. When you pull the trigger, instead of the loud bang and then the ammo is ejected, you get a small pop and then the ammo remains in the firearm for a few seconds or minutes.

You are probably thinking, I have seen movies where firearms were shot underwater or in the rain. How come the ammo didn’t get wet? Well, the reason for that is because what you saw is a modern firearm.

Modern firearms are more reliable and waterproof than old firearms. That’s why I explained earlier that a hang fire is more common with old guns. So if you have an old rifle and the ammo is wet, it’s best to put it down for a while.

Now, let’s check out the last on this list, the dreaded squib load.

3) Squib load

I’m sure you have heard the cliché; save the best for last. In this case, I saved the worst for last. A squib load is an ammo malfunction that occurs when you pull the trigger but nothing comes out.

This is different from a hang fire. With a hang fire, the ammo will still be ejected but after a while. With a squib load, you get nothing and one reason why this malfunction is so dangerous is that firearm users tend to pull the trigger and fire another round when they notice the bullet didn’t come out. That would be the dumbest sh*t in the universe. If you pull the trigger and you see nothing come out DON’T FIRE ANOTHER ROUND.

So why does this happen?

There are a few reasons squib load occurs but the usual culprit is insufficient gunpowder. When there isn’t enough gunpowder in the chamber, then there will be no ignition and as such, no ammo will leave the firearm chamber.

There is good news though, squib loads rarely happen. The malfunction is largely limited to rifles that require the user to load the gunpowder in the chamber directly and this is a common feature of old firearms.

Modern firearms are designed to use ammo that has been loaded with gunpowder from the factory. So you are most likely not to even see or experience this malfunction. But this doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is.

How Do You Know You Have an Ammo Malfunction?

Let’s check out some tips to identify an ammo malfunction:

  • If you feel a stronger or weaker than usual kickback
  • If the ammo isn’t discharged from the firearm.
  • If you notice a delay in the discharge of the ammunition
  • If you hear a pop or tick instead of the usual bang in the firearm.

All of these are possible indications of an ammo malfunction.

So now that we covered the malfunctions, let’s check out some prevention methods.

How To Prevent Ammo Malfunction

1) Always inspect the ammo before loading. This helps you to spot any fault in the ammo and prevent a malfunction when you pull the trigger.

2) Maintain proper firearm maintenance. This includes cleaning and proper storage. When the firearm is stored properly, dust and debris will not accumulate inside the chamber. Also, when you clean, you get rid of excess gunpowder in the chamber.

3) Learn Proper Firearm Handling. Another possible cause of ammo malfunction is terrible firearm handling and control. If you don’t know how to carry, control, and use a firearm, then you increase the likelihood of a misfire.

So what do you do in case of an ammo malfunction?

What To Do In case of an Ammo Malfunction.

  • The first thing to do is to point the firearm down range and away from anything you don’t want to destroy.
  • Next, call for help. If you are at a range, call the instructor’s attention to the malfunction.
  • Wait to see if the firearm fires. In cases of a hang fire, you might still get a shot but after a while.

Tip: The average time to wait for handguns and shotguns is 15 seconds. For muzzleloaders, wait 60 seconds.

  • Next, inspect the firearm. Slowly and carefully, inspect the firearm to know what went wrong.
  • Remove the cartridge or shell from the chamber.

Final Words

Overall, ammo malfunctions can happen to anyone regardless of your experience with the firearm. So be careful and in case you happen to experience an ammo malfunction, take proper steps to handle the situation or call for help. But whatever you do, don’t shoot another round and always point the firearm in a safe direction where it can’t harm anyone. So there you have it. For more firearm tips, stay glued to this website.

Rell is a network engineer with over 10 years of experience in IT management and network optimization. He has a passion for firearms and previously worked with the US military in California, where he gained knowledge and experience in the gun world. Rell is a firearm instructor and range safety officer who runs a website for gun enthusiasts, where he provides information on gun culture, safety, and maintenance.

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