Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Empties back in pocket in gunfight? Urban Legend?

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

This is one of those stories that will never die, because every instructor (us, too, they said sheepishly) has found it useful as a way to hammer home the importance of training as you will fight. (We’ll quibble with some parts of that on another day: for instance, nobody should do 100% of range fires with hemmet and bodammoor, and any military unit that requires that is commanded by Simple Jack). Here’s the story, as recounted by one of our mo’ entertaining commenters:

But at a certain point, too much bad practice will get you killed.
There were always field reports of cops back in the day trained to shoot on square ranges, found dead after a gunfight as they were trying to put their ejected brass in their pockets, just like the penny-pinching departments had drilled into them at the range year after year.

It’s such a great story, that everybody who doesn’t know where it came from thinks it’s an urban legend. Massad Ayoob thought it came from cop talk about the Newhall Incident (multiple CHP killed in the 1970s). In this link Caleb mentions self-promoting assclown Dave Grossman, who is an Old Faithful of bad information, and Caleb, being a smart guy, discounts Grossman’s typically unsourced bullshit. Then, though, he paraphrases Mas citing Bill Jordan as a possible source of what he calls “anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties”.

In his Handgunner article, Ayoob mentions that former Border Patrol officer Bill Jordan wrote in the 1960s of officers finding spent brass in their pockets after a gunfight with no recollection of picking it up. Unfortunately, that information is anecdotal at best, and as we’ve seen with the Newhall incident, anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties isn’t reliable.

Apparently Caleb hasn’t checked the reference, which is easy enough to do. Jordan does indeed include the story in his book, No Second Place Winner, but it’s not, as Caleb seems to think, an apocryphal story. Jordan names a name and refers to a single, specific incident. So for Urban Legend hunters everywhere, here’s your chance to bag that trophy. I give you, Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965. We have added some paragraph breaks to introduce some desperately needed white space:

A question often asked of themselves by young officers is, “How will I comport myself in the face of fire? Will I stand up or will I break?” On the surface this would appear to be a question which can be answered only if it becomes an actuality. As a matter of fact the answer can be given with very little chance of error. Almost invariably a man, provided he does not have too much time to think, will automatically do what he has been trained to do. Again provided that his training has been thorough and intensive.

An example in support of this statement comes to my mind: A few years back a Border Patrol team became involved in a discussion with some contrabandistas in which they were considerably embarrassed by one of the smugglers holed up in some brush about 200 yards away. His presence unduly complicated the proceedings in that he was armed with a .30-30 rifle with which he was enthusiastically underscoring points in the argument made by the main group of his compatriots. The Border Patrolmen were armed only with .38 Special revolvers which put them at somewhat of a disadvantage under the circumstances. However, two of the three men applied themselves to the task of routing the nearby enemy while the senior officer, Sam McKone, took up the question of the rifleman in the brush.

They tell of a western epitaph which reads, “Here lies Tom Jones. Committed suicide by betting his pistol against a rifle at 200 yards.” This could be a normal result of such a contest, but Sam McKone is not one of the Jones boys. Among his other marksmanship awards is a gold medal declaring him to be a Distinguished Pistol Shot.

Additionally, being shot at was not a matter to distress Sam unduly, since it was not exactly a novel occurrence in his life. To make a long story short, by applying a little Kentucky windage and an educated trigger squeeze, Sam scored three hits which made the rifle shooter lose all interest in the fate of his companions and start thinking solely of his own welfare, here and hereafter.

What has all this to do with the statement that a man will do unconsciously as he was trained, provided the training was thorough and extensive? Well, after the fight someone noted that McKone’s pocket was bulging and politely inquired as to what might be spoiling the drape of his trousers. Puzzled, Sam thrust in an exploring hand. The pocket was full of fired cases. During the fight, without realizing he was doing so, McKone, an old reloader, had saved every empty!

And there you have it — the probable ur-instance of the story of the guy who saved his brass in a gunfight. And no, he didn’t wind up dead. Jordan’s book was a huge success for a shooting book, and generations of shooters have read it, and, as you can see by the excerpt, it’s entertaining to read. A lot of his ideas on revolvers and leather have fallen obsolete in the last 50 years, but a great deal of good info is in there, and it’s one of the classic books of pistol shooting.

You can find it online here, and download it in .epub (iBooks), .mobi (Kindle), or scanned, OCR’d .pdf file and a handful of other formats. The scan is of the 1977 printing of the 1965 original. It’s a very worthwhile book, even back in the seventies when we bought it for the first time.

Incidentally, in the Massad Ayoob article referenced by Caleb in the quote above, he references a “forthcoming book” on the Newhall murders by Mike Wood, which did indeed come forth, in 2013. The book is called Newhall Shooting – A Tactical Analysis: Survival Lessons from One of Law Enforcement’s Deadliest Shootings, and despite the cringe-inducing “tactical” in the title, it’s a fantastic book — and germane to this discussion.

On pages 56 and 57 of that book there is an extensive footnote about the facts of Officer Pence’s brass (which he ejected onto the ground, it was not in his pocket) and some informed speculation about how the brass-in-pocket story got started: at the same time as many Newhall-driven changes in training, CHP also changed training to eject empties onto the ground, not to save them. Here’s a tiny excerpt of a very long footnote:

In the wake of Newhall, the CHP made an intensive study of training practices and made many corrections to ensure that bad habits that would jeopardize officer safety on the street were not taught during training. One of these corrections was a requirement to eject brass onto the ground during training and to clean it up later, rather than eject it neatly into the hand and drop it into a can or a bucket, as has been the practice before. It is believed that instructors and cadets of the era may have mistakenly believed that this change in policy was due to a specific error made by Officer Pence during the fight. The myth began, and it was innocently perpetuated throughout generations of officers in the CHP and allied agencies.

Wood’s book, like Jordan’s, is outstanding, but we can’t give you a link to a free one — you’ll have to buy it like we did.

Zombie Headshots with Jerry Miculek

It’s amazing, but we can’t even keep up with all the gun stuff that’s coming out. So in order to get a post up that doesn’t require a ton of writing, we’re going to fob off another Jerry Miculek video on you. In this one, Jerry tries to reenact some of the script-driven trick shooting of the AMC series, The Walking Dead — using the same weapons some of the actors in the show use.

We have to confess, we watched The Walking Dead’s first two — or three? — seasons. The first season was fairly engaging, for a zombie flick, but the second season – or was it the third? – left us cold. The season that turned us off, whichever one it was, was one characterized by the former leader Rick spending all his time brooding, sighing, and generally acting morose. He looked like some escaped Royal Hospital for Overacting patient, emoting lugubriously amid his teethmarks on the scenery. The leader of a band of survivors in desperate times does not have the freedom to go moping about like the unwanted turkey-baster baby of Alanis Morissette and Sylvia Plath in a world without antidepressant meds. Who really cares about that? Not us, anyway.

We’re a little bemused by the whole zombie thing. Our best guess is, in the same way that Japanese monster movies of the 1950s were a distortion of the fear of nuclear war, that couldn’t  really be addressed by filmmakers at the time, the zombies are a decent proxy for Moslem terrorists, who Hollywood PC renders unusable as screen villains. It’s OK to whack zombies: they’re already dead, after all.

But we’re always in for some good killin’, or re-killin’ as the case may be.

And Jerry addresses a question that every shooter has to ask himself — are those running headshots even possible? Even Jerry, it seems can make a mistake, but when the Zombie Apocalypse strikes, he seems like a pretty good guy to have in your redoubt. He hits the walkers with AUG w/EoTech, “backwards-rotating” Colt Python, Mossberg 12-gauge pump, a Cold Steel Katana, and, naturally, a Barnett Crossbow. Laughing, naturally. Does he hit ‘em? Watch and see. (some good high-speed video, too).

It’s good to have him walk through the stage after shooting it, and explain what was going on.

Is it repeatable under stress? I dunno. They wasn’t attacking me. I was attacking them.

The coolest detail of all comes at the end: Jerry’s got a new reality show, Shootout Lane, in the works.  2nd Coolest detail? If you use the discount code JERRY10, you can save 10% on Zombie Industries targets (the ones in his zombie stage)., where the zombies are afraid of the humans – and that’s the way it should be.

(Hat tip: Guns Save Life. Thanks).

Don’t Take Our Word on Dry Fire. Take Keith’s.

Keith Sanderson, a reformed Marine, is a pretty good shot. Good enough to go to the Olympics. He doesn’t have any of the hooah tabs we got. He doesn’t have the hooah tab we haven’t got (Sapper). He’s got the tab that’s not so hooah, but that’s king of them all: the President’s Hundred tab. In these videos he doesn’t so much show you what he does, as he coaches you on how he got to be ranked #1 in the world, with minimal live fire (350-400 rounds total) in the 6 months prior to the two back-to-back World Cups he won.

There’s some good advice here. Do you know what you can get from dry-firing with your eyes closed? The first video will explain.

Shooting Practice at Home

This was shot on the range with a bunch of Marksmanship Unit students, so there’s a little wind noise, and an interruption when he busts a guy’s chops for having his cell phone out.

“I’m going to give you two drills that are the most important things youre ever going to do. One is dry fire…” The other is holding drills: one minute on, two minutes off, eight times a day, for seven days. (This cures the shakes from tiring holding up the pistol).

“Accept nothing but perfection.”

“Be intensely critical during dry fire; accept nothing but perfection. When you put bullets in your gun, you’re not critical any more: you’re just trying to do it as best you can.”

Dry Fire Practice

“Two types of drills I do for live fire: dry fire and holding drills.”

“My ratio of dry fire to live fire is 100 to 1. I cannot overemphasize the importance of dry fire.”

“You can never dry fire too much.”

“Never underestimate it. Never think that you’ve trained too much dry fire. And never think that you need to go out and shoot live rounds to get better. Because you don’t.”

Like we said, there’s a ton of wisdom here, and your tax dollars already paid for it (except for our overseas readers; our tax dollars paid for it, so you can have double the enjoyment).

M1 Thumb, Illustrated

“It takes all kinds to make a world,” is an aphorism left behind for the benefit of mankind by our sainted grandmother. The wisdom of this saying seems more profound with each passing year. Like — the guy who demonstrated M1 thumb for the benefit of all of us, whose complete (high-speed and regular-speed) videos are available at this interesting post on The Firearm Blog, along with pictures of the gruesome aftermath.

Ow. That’ll leave a mark (and it did).

In a world dealing with Ebolavirus and Enterovirus-68, the painful but non-life-threatening malady, M1 Thumb, might seem trivial. But a lot of people nowadays, 40 years after the rifle disappeared from its last vestiges of National Guard service, are now getting an M1 without the benefit of the boot camp training on the system that their grandfathers had.

Many people think that M1 Thumb is caused by being too slow on the, well, thumb when depressing the follower of the Garand’s integral magazine to close the bolt, but that’s not really it. The M1 has a bolt hold-open, on the left side of the receiver; what will make the bolt bite is if the bolt is held back not by the proper hold-open catch, but by the follower itself. With only the follower holding the stout operating parts and their stiff spring back, depressing the follower can lead to an instant thumb that gives you all the purple of an Iraqi voter, without any of the satisfaction of having voted for someone of your own sectarian bent.

Back in the antediluvian epoch, Granddad learned this so he could do Inspection Arms with the firearm, and he usually had one slow kid in the platoon to be an excellent Bad Example Training Aid™. Go to the TFB post to see how to do it right and how to do it wrong, with helpful icons of healthy thumbs-up, and bruised thumbs-down.

Maybe some time we should run a post about Degytaryev Eye, an occupational hazard of those that would dismantle an RPD without prior instruction.

Thank You for Carrying your Gun

bergeronsA Louisiana restaurant offering tasty Cajun food — that’s not terribly special; it’s the local cuisine (well, ½ of it; we can’t forget Creole), like steak in Texas, or lobster in Maine. But Bergeron’s Restaurant in Port Allen has a discount policy a WeaponsMan can get fat on: carry your gun to the joint, take 10% off your tab.

So far, it’s been a hit. Olivia Carambat stopped by for lunch on Thursday with her Smith and Wesson 38.

“There’s so many people who are trying to take our guns away and the government makes stricter gun laws. They forget that we really do, we’re given the right in the Constitution to keep and bear arms,” says Carambat.

Criminals beware: Cox says he gives out about 15 to 20 discounts each day.

“I think they would come in with a gun to rob me and just have lunch.”

Customers say Bergeron’s Restaurant is serving up some good cajun food, with a side of second amendment rights.

“If somebody walked in here with a gun and wanted to hurt us. We’re not defenseless,” says Carambat.

Owner Kevin Cox says that anyone carrying a legal weapon is eligible for the discount, but you must have the gun with you inside the restaurant to get it.

via Port Allen restaurant offers discount for carrying gun | WVLA NBC33 | Baton Rouge News, Weather and Sports.

According to the USA Carry concealed carry reciprocity maps, many states’ permits are honored in easy-goin’ Louisiana. So you can load up your 9mm or .45 and load up on jambalaya at Bergeron’s. You just have to be prepared to show Kevin Cox your firearm. Open carry of hand and long guns is also legal in the Pelican State, but the local open carry advocacy organization asks you not to OC a long gun at this time; while OC of both is legal, only handgun OC is borderline customary. One step at a time, mes amis, no?

So… Road trip?

Hat tip: good ol’ Bob Owens at Bearing Arms.

PA State Police Medevac Two Troopers

Pennsylvania_State_PoliceWe heard about this early last evening as it came over the scanner. At first we did not want to publish it as it provides a data point for any hostile feeding information to fugitive Eric Frein, but  it was in the media by midnight1, so we might as well.

For reasons known but to the injured men and the PSP officials who have interviewed them (neither has life-threatening injuries), the two of them climbed up a single deer stand, as part of the operation whose leaders still seem to think that they have encircled Frein. We don’t know what the two troopers weighed, but we do know that cumulatively, it was too much. Down came the stand, troopers and all.

The troopers did their Wile E. Coyote plunge at about 1645, and over three hours later, at 1955R, the call for medevac aircraft went out over the air. The State Police initially were uncooperative with the media:

State police Trooper First Class Connie Devens in an email confirmed the injuries, which she described as non-life-threatening, and said a Medevac helicopter was requested for assistance.

She declined to release further information.

A log of emergency broadcasts obtained by shows the call for the injuries came in at 7:55 p.m. in Barrett Township, Monroe County….

The log indicates two injured parties were being flown for treatment, one to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township and another via a federally owned aircraft.

The PA media are saying that the two troopers fell through the floor of the stand. Reportedly, they climbed it to see if Frein was in the blind, and that’s why two of them were up there. Assigned to the Harrisburg barracks, they may have been city boys unaware of any of the 1,000 lists of tree-stand safety dos and don’ts that are out there. They were treated at Lehigh Valley Hospital and released.

Presumably they were heli-lifted because the difficulty of the terrain precluded ground evacuation; a night medevac in the mountains is a hell of a risk to be taking, for injuries that don’t even require hospital admission.

Where’s Frein2?

That’s the question on our mind as the manhunt for the cop-killer enters its 19th day — or is it the 20th? The police have found weapons, cigarettes, some rudimentary caches, and two improvised grenades. But they haven’t found Frein. There have been numerous Frein “sightings,” but the woods are teeming with cops from a variety of agencies, as AP photos show. And they’re all dressed differently. For example, when a stop line “anvil” is established, it tends to be manned by uniformed State Troopers like these:

PA State troopers

But the mobile “hammer” supposedly driving him through the woods tends to comprise younger, fitter officers and agents, organized into “squads” by contributing agency. These men are dressed in several different camouflage patterns, like these ATF Agents in multicam:

ATF Agents

Tentative conclusion: Frein is over the river and through the woods, and the “sightings” are cops seeing each other. Presumably the guys in charge have considered this possibility, and are exercising extreme control measures to prevent blue-on-blue shootings. But the long delay between the cops’ tree-stand plunge last night and the call for evacuation seems to suggest that their control measures might be deficient.

So what’s going to happen with Frein? Our guess is that 2 months, or 2 years, or 2 decades from now he’ll get pulled over for a bad taillight in some faraway state, and some road cop will be astounded to learn he’s just bagged a wanted cop killer.

The only question is whether the PSP will still be beating up the rugged hills where they last think they saw him, 2 months, or 2 years, or 2 decades from now when some other agency stuffs him in a paddy wagon and packs him up for the trip home to court and prison.

However it shakes out, it’s been a hard year for the troopers of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Update on the Range Accident casualty, Trooper David Kedra

Flags at the State Capitol and in Montgomery County, PA, are flying at half-mast in memory of Kedra, who was fatally heart-shot, according to our information, with a negligent discharge by a PSP instructor in the course of transition training onto the agency’s new SIG pistols. (Ironically, the PSP moved to the SIGs because of its inability to stem a tide of negligent discharges with its previous two service pistols, which were Glocks). They were not stacking-up, training force-on-force, or doing anything but introducing the new pistol, which the PSP has been rolling out at a much faster rate than any of its previous acquisitions (the Pennsylvania State Police probably has more experience changing pistols than any two agencies nationwide). Kedra was DRT, but they medevaced him out of pure hope. As we predicted, the PSP is releasing minimal information about the mishap.

“Preliminary evidence indicates that Trooper (David) Kedra was struck by a bullet accidentally discharged by another member of the Pennsylvania State Police,” [spokesman Capt. James] Raykovitz said in a news release. “However, more specific information regarding the investigation will not be released at this time.”

Well, we’re getting the information anyway. PSP Troopers talk, and they have friends, and instructors talk to instructors, and the DA’s office might as well be equipped with the Giant Voice from some Iraqi airbase. The decision has already been made not to charge the instructor — it was made before the “investigation” began, but will not be released until a decent interval has passed. Once that is complete, the kabuki dance of negotiating a reprimand or suspension will begin between the PSP and the union representatives or lawyers; most likely outcome is an “exploding” reprimand that will be in the instructor’s file for X years, and then be removed; and the instructor will return to routine duties, probably milking speeders for the Travelers’ Tax on the interstate.

That article linked above has only a couple lines of official information (which we quoted above), but it contains a lot of reminisces of unlucky Kedra. Here’s a couple if you don’t Read The Whole Thing™:

“He was extremely proud to be a Pennsylvania state trooper and he showed it,” said Trooper Derik Frymire, who worked on Kedra’s squad. “He wanted to see everything, he wanted to be a part of everything, he wanted to learn everything and those kind of qualities make an outstanding patrol trooper.”

Joe Alkus, a criminal justice professor at Temple, said his former student had visited to speak at one of his introductory classes. Alkus recalled once asking Kedra what he thought was the best day of his career.

“He says, ‘Every day is my best day because I love being a trooper,'” Alkus said.

Well, he died doing what he loved. We often say that about folks, whether it was some ill-fated climbercicle on Everest, the skydivers who just bounced on Cape Cod, or our bros who go down with their face to the foe. We are not out of place saying it over the memory off a young cop who died in what should be the safest place in the world; the saying is no less true for being commonplace. Last year we went to the wake of a young cop who died of a massive coronary due to an unsuspected congenital defect, on the way home from training. Like Kedra, he died at the cusp of what might have been a great public service career, doing what he loved, full of plans and hopes.

Like Kedra, he will be remembered forever by those who knew him, and those who did not will look at his picture, in the black border, on the academy wall and try to. That’s all the immortality you get on this side of the Choir Invisible, friends.

You can’t dwell on what might have been, you can only see what actually was, and say, “It was enough. Rest ye now, in comfort that others have taken up your watch. The watchmen pass, but the watch abides.”


1. They have scanners, too, damn their eyes.
2. Incidentally, the media are pronouncing him “Freen” but a lot of the cops are calling him “Frain” in their internal communications. What’s his name, really? To slightly misquote Willie Nelson in a not altogether bad movie, Barbarossa, “He’s Mr. Shit!” (Which is an old Spanish/Mexican expression translated figuratively into English: “¡Esta mu don mierde!” This concludes your Special Forces Functional Language Program enrichment session for the day).

Probably not lawful self-defense

This Viral Brothers video may have been entirely staged for all we know, but it shows a guy, er, defending his property from vandalism:

“Pardon me, have you got any grey poop on?”

No, you can’t shoot, or even fire a nonlethal but disabling device at, someone who has vandalized your car. Can. Not. Do. In most jurisdictions you can’t even shoot them for stealing your car, and in some you can’t plug them for setting it on fire (there at least you have an argument that they were using lethally hazardous “force,” but we sure wouldn’t want to be in front of a jury with that as our lawyer’s best argument).

The irony is, of course, that poop can kill you. Ask the 37 people who died in the German e.coli outbreak a couple of years back. We vaguely remember that organic vegetables  — brussels sprouts? — were the pathogen’s path to the vulnerable upper end of human digestive tract, and that the most probable source of the e.coli in the sprouts was farm laborers doing you-know-what where the rest of us eat.

If this wasn’t a staged prank all along, with all on-screen talent in on the joke, Mr Angrypants may have committed a serious felony with his little gadget. If you want to tase people for $#!=s and grins, the only safe way to do it is to join the police.

Put a HRT on ‘em — 1985 style

This video, found on Soldier Systems Daily, is a 1985 briefing on the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. The HRT was riding high at the time, coordinating closely with military special operations forces assigned the hostage rescue mission (overseas; FBI had authority stateside), and years from its appalling 1990s performances that included a sniper team getting (deservedly) indicted for homicide and saved only by a legal maneuver that introduced a technicality preventing prosecution.

The video starts with some action video of live-fire training in tire houses, and then goes into individual section briefings on equipment, arms, snipers, etc.

As you can see from the video, their TTPs are really dated now, but at least in terms of HR assault this was the heat in the Reagan years. (So were the mustaches).

Unlike their military counterparts, the FBI HRT members are all very well compensated, sworn Special Agents, college graduates who must have already been selected into FBI and succeeded in training as SA’s before applying to HRT.

A significant minority of them were at the time military veterans, mostly former officers, and that’s probably even more true today. (The guy with the Randall on his belt is one who’s at least seen some ARSOF cross-pollination).

They’re obviously pretty tactically hopeless in the woods. This is one thing that hasn’t changed.

A wise old friend who had served his country as a combat soldier and as an intelligence officer once explained the mindset difference to us: “Soldiers suck as spies. Spies suck as soldiers.” He would illustrate this with many pungent examples from Army and CIA history, most of them unclassified now. But the whole thing extends into a nine-square matrix when you factor in cops (and the FBI are simply glorified cops), who suck at soldiering and spying. (Despite the fact that more FBI guys are doing spook stuff than chasing Mann Act violators these days).

And soldiers and spies? They suck at being cops, and we can quote further examples….

Two Interesting Pistol Jams

Tam at A View from the Porch, who, thank a merciful God, is back posting (albeit with comments muzzled, which in her circumstances is understandable), earlier this month finally experienced some jams with her well-shot (and thoroughly documented) 9mm Walther PPX. Two jams in one session, actually, and both of them have some lessons for us, even though all our Walthers are so old they were made when lots of people still thought Hitler had some good ideas.

It confused us a bit because she listed the second, more interesting, jam first. We’re going to turn her order around and list them in chronological order, which is also the way they appear if you go to her blog and scroll down (way down, now, as these were posted 7 Sep 14). Our main points are: what are the causes, how do you ID and reduce the stoppage when it occurs, and what preventive methods are possible.

Jam #1: Magazine Jam-Up

Here’s Tam’s post. She notes that:

[One round in the mag] had enough friction with the side of the magazine that it bound up, and the spring and follower tried to force the bottom round past it, They were wedged tight enough that they needed to be poked out with some vigor.

ppx mag malf 2

She notes that she’s also seen a similar jam in a S&W M&P. We’ve seen this jam in a lot of double-stack mags, mostly but not all pistol mags, mostly but not all double-stack, single-feed mags. We’ve seen this a lot with M9 mags, especially el cheapo no-name aftermarket mags, but also with some issue mags. (We have not had trouble with Mec-Gar or Beretta factory mags, which we think are also Italian Mec-Gar mags produced for Beretta).

How do you recognize it?

It shows up, from behind the gun, as a stovepipe or as slide closed on an empty chamber. (Tam’s pistol stovepiped, and it was immediately obvious to her).

ppx mag malf 1As you can see, a couple of rounds have jammed in her mag, and all the rounds above that are not being fed. The “slide closed on an empty chamber” variant is particularly insidious; it’s a rare shooter who’s so attuned to the gun as to pick up a loaded chamber indicator’s failure to, well, indicate a loaded chamber. So you get click when you expect boom; an irritant at the range, but more serious if you, in the immortal phrase of unfortunately mortal, late Paul Poole, “dry fire in a firefight, mwah-hah-HAH!”

If you shoot enough to see this failure, you will come to recognize it with a glance in the magwell (neither rounds nor follower showing up between the mag’s feed lips is a dead giveaway). Note that while this exact problem is, by definition, restricted to double-stack mags, single-stack mags can have a similar problem when a round tilts “just right” and jams inside the magazine.

A loaded or partly loaded magazine in which the top round is not retained by friction, and just falls out, is also an indicator of this problem. The rounds above the jam can be easily shaken out of the mag; the rounds below are trapped behind the jam.

Immediate Action?

Recycling the slide doesn’t help, as the mag is not feeding rounds. Sometimes the jam will respond to a sharp blow on the mag base or pistol butt, but the sure-fire (no pun intended) immediate-action drill is to dump the jammed mag, check the gun is clear of loose rounds, and load a fresh mag.


The causes can be: oversized rounds, mung (especially gritty mung) in the magazine, and bad mags. Mis-sized ammo and mung are normally hadmaidens of bottom-feeding at the ammo counter, but not always (as we’ll see).

Magazines themselves have lots of failure modes. Mags can have dents or deformities that you can’t see with the naked eye but that can be measured — and that can cause this problem. They can also have surface issues: rust and pitting on the inside of the mag can create enough friction to encourage rounds to hang up. There are things you can do to repair mags, although most smiths don’t have the tools on hand.

With magazine issues, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action,” as our hero Auric Goldfinger amiably pointed out to his guest. For the average trigger-and-hammer-applicator, the right thing is to expend the mag as a target (so that no one can ever rely on it) and replace it with a new one, if it has done this to you three times. Untold mischief is caused in military units and police departments (especially academies or other training facilities) from bad mags that are turned back in to supply and keep circulating. Supply hates to face the fact that mags are an expendable item; every dollar spent on mags from the supply account is one that can’t be spent on other equipment. But don’t let their economy leave you with the dreaded “Dry fire in a firefight!” Poole is laughing, wherever he is, but that ain’t funny.

The feed system is a very critical part of any autoloading or automatic firearm and the best preventive measures are (1) to clean and maintain your magazines, (2) to use only high-quality mags, and (3) to weed out ruthlessly all substandard mags.

Jam #2: Magazine Jam-Up

Here’s Tam’s post. And here’s what she says about it (at somewhat greater length):

The second one was the more interesting because in the middle of a rapid-fire string, I got a dead trigger.

The slide was too far out of battery to fire, fortunately. A smart rap on the rear of the slide only succeeded in getting the case stuck further. With the assistance of an RO, the round was extracted and a quick examination of the breechface, extractor claw, feed ramp, and chamber mouth showed nothing obviously out of the ordinary.

As she quickly figured out, being a sensible and systematic troubleshooter, the trouble wasn’t the gun. Here’s what it was:

overlength_winchester_9mmSing with us, kiddies: “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong….”

The culprit is the round on the right, with a random exemplar round from the same box on the left. Now I need a good caliper to measure it. It appears almost to be roll-crimped rather than taper-crimped.

I can’t count this malfunction against the PPX, since the round was subsequently tested in my Gen 3 Glock 19 and one of my M&Ps and wouldn’t fully chamber in either.

We can’t judge it with the Mark I eyeball on that photo, although we could probably use the photogrammetry tools in photoshop or GIMP to have a hack at it. But several dimensional failures could have caused this: bad taper on the case, case length too long, bullet badly seated. Most pistol rounds headspace on the case mouth, including the 9 x 19, so odds are the case length was too long or the taper insufficient (probably the former, given the thing imitating a no-go gage in three different brands of 9mm pistol).

As a side note, this malfunction tied the gun up hard; if somebody had been shooting at me, I’d have been hosed.

This wasn’t with Acme imported-from-Bufugliland steelcase crap; it was economy bulk Winchester, but still, Winchester ammo. Name brand ammo has fewer brand rounds than budget stuff, but not zero. An occasional bad round is kind of inevitable when you produce ammo in great bulk: you can’t measure every case and every round, so you rely on statistical quality control. SQC is great stuff, but just because you have got your standard quality out to four nines to the right of the decimal point, your error rate is still nonzero. Somebody’s going to get the turkey round, and this time, it was Tam. 

How do you recognize it?

It shows up as a failure to chamber. Trying to force the slide or bolt home will either succeed in chambering the round (in effect, the gun becomes a resizing tool) or, more likely, lock the gun up tighter than the action’s ever been. (This is part of why the forward assist on the M16A1 and its successors was always a bad idea.

Immediate Action?

Recycling the slide or bolt is the only possibility, but it might require force and/or tools, especially if the gun has been forced towards battery. Take great care to prevent a negligent discharge when clearing the gun. (Be cognizant of the rules if you’re at a range, and make sure the RO knows you’re having a problem. They may have a policy you need to follow). Save the stuck round for examination. Note the lot number of the failed ammo (if it’s available) and contact the ammo manufacturer.


This is pretty much a bad ammo thing. Relegate that lot of ammo to training only. It probably does not make sense to change ammo brands, unless your brand is “Uncle Bubba’s no-name mixed-brass reloads). Preventive measures include careful ammo selection, and, if you’re seriously expecting combat, ammo inspection (World War I fighter pilots used to do this to prevent jams of their MGs due to slapdash ammo quality). We should probably do a post on bench and field-expedient ammo inspection sometime.

“Non-Traditional Legal Analysis” of Self-Defense Case

Law-ScaleAndHammerSurely you remember the George Zimmerman trial? We mean the one in the courtroom where he was acquitted in about the length of time it took the jury to choose a foreman. But we understand if you may be thinking of the much louder one that took place in the media, where the President and the press sentenced him to be hung, drawn and quartered, salted, boiled and eaten, with the trial to follow, in no particular rush since the outcome was already res judicata and known far and wide.

Well, the University of Miami law school has decided that its assembly line for unemployed JDs would not be complete without a course on the case, to be taught by a lawyer from the firm that managed the other trial (the media-circus variety). Andrew Branca, who tweeted the bulk of the trial from a live TV feed, and wrote extensively about it, brings the snark:

A short-course on the Zimmerman trial could, of course, be utterly fascinating, if taught by the attorneys actually involved: Angela Corey, Bernie de la Rionda, and John Guy for the State, and Mark O’Mara and Don West for the defense. The trial strategies and tactics involved, the various decision-points and choices made, how set-backs were overcome, or not overcome, would all be vastly insightful.

Alas, that is not what this course is to offer. Its focus will instead be far less substantive: social justice, generally, and a great many specifics never actually relevant to the trial. Among these are:

  • “federal civil rights violations”–none were ever found, despite tremendous resources devoted by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • “Stand Your Ground”–never at any point relevant in either the physical confrontation nor the criminal trial
  • “international human rights standards”–oofah

At its heart, of course, the Zimmerman trial was simply a very straightforward and traditional case of an aggressor committing a vicious aggravated assault upon an entirely innocent victim, that victim lawfully defending themselves with a legally carried pistol, and the aggressor dying as a result of that lawful act of self-defense.

There’s not much room for “social justice” there, however, so instead in this course  “…students will engage in non-traditional legal analysis, exploring the literature on the sociological intersection of race and the law, and examine and reflect on complementary forms of advocacy, such as the use of the media as a tool of advocacy….” (emphasis added)

“Non-traditional legal analysis”? “Sociological intersection of race and the law”? “Use of the media as a tool of advocacy”? Yeah, that sounds like Crump & Park, alright.

Question: How’d that work out for them in the Zimmerman trial?

But wait, there’s more: “The course will highlight . . . the ability of music to communicate messages that impact legal reform.”

Music.  Oofah.

via Trayvon Martin | George Zimmerman | University of Miami.

We think “oofah” is Andrew’s version of “Lord Love a Duck.”

Look, Zimmerman is a poor candidate for sainthood, but he didn’t murder anybody. And when “social justice” comes to conclusions diametrically opposed to the actual justice system with courts and everything, it earns its scare quotes.

It’s worth going to the original post at Legal Insurrection to see one of Andrew’s finds — the same airheaded attorney that will teach this “class” in a four minute snit (stet) on the Greta Van Susteren show after Zimmerman was acquitted. You will be amused to learn, having seen her struggle to match wits with Van Susteren, that her undergrad minors at Georgia were Political Science and African American Studies, both of which require a student to fog a mirror for an
“A”; and her law degree is from Florida State University Law, another assembly line for unemployed JDs which places about two-thirds of graduates in law positions. The single biggest employer of FSU Law graduates is government.