Close Call At Norpoint

During the Nov. 26 match at Norpoint Shooting Center, one of the shooters (Todd Epps) experienced a “squib load” and was (thankfully) stopped in time by range officer Robin Taylor. A “squib load” describes what happens when the gunpowder is accidentally left out of a cartridge. The primer fires, creating a noticeable “pop,” but with no powder to push it, the bullet stays lodged in the barrel. Trouble arises if the shooter clears the malfunctioning cartridge and fires another shot.

The overpressure created by firing a “live” round in a blocked barrel is usually enough to bulge the barrel (at best) and can blow pieces of the barrel and slide in all directions (at worst). Damage to the pistol is certain, and injury to the operator (or bystanders) is likely. Taylor heard that distinctive “pop” and shouted “stop” but Epps didn’t hear him clearly — until Taylor grabbed his shoulders, narrowly stopping him from firing again.