The Hidden Costs of Buying Cheap Ammo The debate over the best ammo has been raging on all over the interwebs for a long time and is hotter than a +P+ round. But while most gun owners seem to be more than willing to spend their well-earned dollars on the self-defense rounds, we all become tighter than a duck’s ass when it comes to spending money for target practice. The idea of saving money leads many an otherwise responsible gun owner to seek out cheap factory or –ahem– reload ammo. Using the cheap ammo can put you and your beloved gun at risk. The inherent dangers, specifically squib loads, will be discussed after which you will need to consider whether it’s worth risking your firearm to save a few dollars. Background We have had several customers visit us at the shop recently with ammo issues perceived as gun problems. We’ve seen some trivial misfire concerns likely caused by faulty primers and gunpowder; these were easily solved by throwing the shitty reload ammo in the trash that was bought at a gun show. More startling however we received a firearm where the initial diagnosis from a non-qualified gunsmith at a gun range was that the upper we had sold was “no good”. At the range, the workers had tried to help the customer reload the firearm and attempted to shoot it but couldn’t get it to work. We duly helped the customer and, after Russell (our real gunsmith) spent all of 2 seconds disassembling the weapon found a bullet lodged in the barrel- good thing they were unable to get the next round in the chamber. Two main points here; 1) Be wary of “pros” at the gun range, and 2) Stay focused when shooting. Be aware of odd sounds; spent casings that do not eject; a gun that does not fully cycle upon firing; a click rather than a bang when you pull the trigger etc. These are all warning signs that something didn’t occur how it was intended and the next steps you take are vital to your safety and the future functionality of your firearm. So let’s look at the squib load. Beware the Squib Load You’re at the gun range and you’re firing your new Glock 19 Gen4. The gun looks badass in the BFG finish (we received a new shipment this week – I need one Joe!) and you’re shooting is smooth and precise. However the gun malfunctions; it doesn’t cycle, you hear a click and fizzing sound rather than a regular bang and the spent casing is not ejected. Was this a simple FTF? You aren’t sure. At this point DO NOT rack the slide and try to fire another round. Safely remove the magazine, disassemble the firearm and check the barrel for blockage. A squib load is when the pressure produced by the gunpowder is not great enough to force the projectile (bullet) out of the barrel. Instead it becomes lodged within the barrel. If you rack the slide, chamber a new round and pull the trigger the pressure from the new round will not be able to exit via its usual route (muzzle). Using simple physics the pressure will be expelled where there is least resistance; that will now be closer to the breach which is not good. The catastrophic failure will cause irreparable damage to your firearm and could cause you great harm. What Causes a Squib Load and What To Do When you Experience One? There are a few causes, and it happens in the manufacturing process. More than likely it’s caused by one of the following factors; a bad primer or insufficient gunpowder. This is why the use of reloads should be at your discretion; I would never recommend purchasing reload ammo. NOTE: If you are an avid reloader and do this yourself that’s another story. When you buy reloads at a gun show you don’t know what you’re getting into; why risk your own health and your beloved firearm in order to save a small amount of money? This is not to say you cannot get squib loads in factory ammo because you absolutely can. In cheap ammo it is more likely because the quality system is simply not as controlled as that for better ammunition. Your chances of squib loads are greatly reduced however when buying factory loaded ammo. If you are unfortunate enough to experience a squib load there are a few things you need to do immediately. As stated above you must not attempt to fire another round through the firearm until the malfunction has been determined. If a squib load is then confirmed you are not out of the woods just yet. You must have a qualified gunsmith inspect the firearm. If you are at a gun range and they do not have a qualified gunsmith, DO NOT take their word that the firearm is “probably fine”. They have no idea what they are talking about and you need to consult a specialist to be sure that you are safe. There is a possibility that the structural integrity of the internal parts of the firearm are damaged and to continue firing after clearing a squib is dangerous without having a gunsmith doing a full inspection. Conclusion If you look at your firearms manual you will likely find a reference to the use of reloads; it voids your warranty. Now some may argue that warranty on a gun is irrelevant and it will work just fine; you could well be right. If you load your own rounds and inspect fully the casing, gunpowder weight and primer then you will probably be okay; but remember you are your quality control inspector. When you buy reloads from somewhere else, you just do not know what process was followed, and in that situation the risk outweighs the benefit. The point we’re trying to make is that firearms can be ineffective and outright dangerous to the user when you load them with cheap, nasty ammo. Only use reputable brands and beware the “seconds”; whether you believe they exist or not it is something you do need to be aware of. Statistically all factory loaded ammo could have issues, however the higher grade components and subsequently more stringent testing performed by more reputable companies greatly diminishes the risk. And if you aren’t sure, ask a gun store owner who deals in ammo all day every day. Do yourself a favor; spend the extra money to buy some good target ammo, even if it’s just for practice.