[Ed. note: Defective ammunition is relatively rare, but it does happen. Aaron’s experience is not unique. Make sure you check your ammo for damage to prevent potentially dangerous problems.]
Recently I attended an Advanced SWAT course that our regional Tactical Officers Association offers each year. During the week of training there are several different range courses that teams were put through. While training on the Tactical Pistol course our team we were being pushed hard to get through the 4-hour block of training. When the course of fire was completed we had just enough time to load magazines and get back on line.
To facilitate the ease of loading, our team emptied dozens of boxes of ammunition into a couple of military ammunition cans and an empty cardboard ammunition box. Grabbing loose ammunition, and trying to hurry on reloads just about created the perfect storm for a catastrophic failure.
The following pictures are of one such .40 caliber cartridge that I pulled out of the can and thankfully noticed before loading into a magazine. One side appeared fairly normal, the other side … well something went horribly wrong. This was Speer 165 grain FMJ training ammunition, but I’ve seen manufacturer’s defects on other rounds too.
Even major manufacturers occasionally have manufacturing defects. Quality control and quality assurance are usually top of the line, but there will always be times that something slips through. In this case there were two cartridges in similar condition. The first I tossed into the trash thinking it was a fluke. When I found the second one I kept it to illustrate the point of this article.
Regardless of if you are training, preparing your duty gun, or home defense gun, shooters need to examine every aspect of their equipment to ensure that everything is in operating condition. Most of us conduct periodic examinations of our firearms for just that reason, but I imagine that there are more than a few of us who simply grab ammunition out of the box and go to loading without much more thought to it.
And what about down-loading ammunition from your home defense gun, off-duty, and even duty gun every once in awhile. Exposure to the elements, especially for duty weapons, can play havoc on weapons that only get fired a couple of times a year. I’ve seen more than one officer go to download duty ammunition for a training exercise, only to find that ammunition showing signs of rust from exposure.
Ammunition is probably a serious contributor of failure to fire or failure to eject problems. Can you imagine the failure that this round could have caused if it had made it to the barrel?
Check your firearms, check your gear, and yes, check your ammunition before you put your life on the line. Mistakes happen even under the tightest of inspections. Catch it before it catches you!