Mind the Ammo

Here are a couple of benign cautionary tales regarding ammunition which could have ended tragically. There are some important takeaways here that gun owners should heed.

Over the past month I’ve come across a couple of stories having to do with ammunition that could have ended badly. I’m going to share them with y’all as there are a few lessons to be learned from them. Lessons that are better learned from stories rather than experience.

The first story comes from a firearms instructor who was given a bag containing some loose rounds of ammunition. The bag included a single all black plastic 12 gauge shotgun round. This round was assumed to be a dummy round which was destined to a collection of 12 gauge dummy rounds. Right before the round was added to the stash of dummies, the round was inspected closely and was surprisingly found to be a live round of uncommon plastic bird shot. Had the live round not been inspected prior to use it could have led to anything as innocuous as an unexpected bang during a malfunction drill or as disastrous as damaged property during dry fire practice.

There are a few lessons to be learned from that story. The first lesson is that caution should be exercised when adding dummy rounds to a dummy round stash to ensure a live round doesn’t mistakenly make its way into that stash. Additionally, inspecting dummy rounds before use in dry or live fire practice to ensure they are in fact dummy rounds is an excellent idea to practice.

Another lesson from the story is the use of a real backstop during dry fire practice. This goes along the lines of practicing the second rule of safe gun handling which is often stated as, “never point the gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy”, and practicing the fourth rule, “be sure of the target and what lies beyond it”. Given the trigger will be pulled during dry fire practice and the gun may have what is expected and confirmed to be a dummy round chambered in it, having the firearm pointed at something that can stop a projectile from zipping through things that shouldn’t be shot can mitigate the risk of an unexpected, albeit negligent, discharge. A favorite backstop of mine when I dry practice at home is a stack of old books or printer paper. Another option is body armor rated to stop the cartridge the firearm is chambered for. Regardless of what one uses, a hard backstop is important.

The next story comes from a fellow reader who recently went to a shooting range with a friend where they were shooting a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard while waiting for a newly acquired Crimson Trace green laser to be installed on a Sig Sauer P365 XL by the range’s gunsmith. After the friend worked his way through a box of .380 Auto with the Bodyguard and the reader was getting ready to shoot it, the reader saw the gunsmith at the edge of peripheral vision holding up the cased up Sig with one hand and thumbs up with the other. The reader excitedly retrieved his gun, brought it to the shooting lane, hurriedly uncased it, opened up a box of ammunition labeled with 9mm, loaded the magazine with five rounds, inserted the magazine and shot a round that failed to eject. The reader racked the slide and fired a second round which also failed to eject. Disappointed by the failures and thinking the Sig, which is carried and shot regularly, might be in need of deep cleaning, they packed up and headed home. Later that evening, the reader discovered the problem. The box of ammo he opened, which he thought was 9mm, was actually another box of .380 Auto which was also labeled as 9mm Browning Court and had been mistaken for 9mm Luger. In this case, the reader only experienced two malfunctions. The outcome could have been a lot worse.

The lesson from the second story is very similar to the first lesson from the first story: carefully inspect the ammunition to confirm it is the correct cartridge for the firearm before using it. Shooting a different cartridge than what a firearm is designed and manufactured for is dangerous. The outcomes can range from something as negligible as a malfunction to a catastrophic failure which permanently renders a firearm inoperable and seriously injures the shooter (or worse).

Let’s face it, shooting is fun. However, safe gun handling remains of the utmost importance. Rushing through safe practices and taking short cuts increases the likelihood of negligent discharges which can have dire consequences. As such, slow down and exercise caution before making a gun ready for use. Also, mind the ammo.

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