Firearms malfunctions: Squibs, stovepipes

Officer Dewey Shootornot found himself in a real pickle when he heard that all too familiar muffled “pop” at the precise moment when a pair of armed robbers chose to send a volley of bullets his way. No matter which way he turned the gun, poked it, pulled on it, shook it, or banged it on a nearby lamp post, he simply could not dislodge the faulty round.

Unfortunately, thanks to the malfunction—a squib round—, Officer Shootornot found himself on the receiving end of a baker’s dozen of gunshot wounds to the place where the sun rarely ever shines (he’d been in full retreat mode when the rounds hit).

A squib round, like the one that nearly cost Officer Shootornot his life, is a real danger, especially for police officers and military troops who are sometimes forced to engage in a gun battle with bad guys.

Squibs are caused when a bullet does not have enough force to exit the barrel. This malfunction is typically caused by a round having a primer but a lack of the proper amount of, if any, gunpowder

Primers are located on the flat end of casings opposite the bullet, either in the center (centerfire) , or on the side (rimfire). A trigger-pull causes the firing pin to strike the primer, an action that generates enough heat to ignite the gunpowder. When the gunpowder explodes it sends the bullet on its way to the intended target. Squib rounds, however, remain lodged inside the gun barrel and, if the trigger is pulled a second time, the new bullet strikes the one lodged inside the barrel and … BOOM! The weapon could explode or fall apart. It’s a very dangerous situation. So, if the shooter hears that faint “pop” they should not pull the trigger a second time.

A stovepipe occurs when a bullet casing does not fully eject from the weapon and becomes stuck in the slide/ejection port. When stovepipes occur the weapon will not fire. This type of malfunction typically occurs due to dirty extractors, malfunctioning extractors, or the improper handling/holding of the firearm when shooting (limp-wristing). Limp-wristing is especially common with certain Glock semi-automatics.

 

Modern Weapons for Villains

Your Villain’s Toolbox

Are the villains in your tales growing weary of having to choose from a limited supply of murder weapons? Do you hear them sigh each time you type the words Glock, Oleander, chainsaw, wood chipper, candlestick, and severed gas and/or brake lines? Who can blame them for their dismay? After all, for decades now they’ve reached into their toolboxes to find the same old tired instruments of death, time and time again.

Well, thanks to a handful of computer geeks and hackers, your bad guys will soon have a new method of “whacking” the cleverly-crafted characters you’ve designated for the grave. Now, instead of having to chop, hack, shoot, and slice, killers can keep their hands spotlessly clean while tending to their evil business.

How will they do it, you ask? Okay, imagine this … your evil-doer, I. Stoppa Uhart, is on a tight schedule, needing to kill several people before the noon hour. So he whips out his handy-dandy, hand-held pocket computer, otherwise known as a cellphone. He sets a special app to the scan mode. And … presto! He’s located three people nearby who’re connected to insulin pumps. He pushes a few touchscreen buttons and … WHAM! The pumps each deliver a lethal dose of insulin to the unsuspecting victims. The murderer switches off the device and goes on to his next appointment … the hospital trauma ward where there should be plenty of morphine drips.

The best part of the whole deal (for the killer) is that there’s no physical evidence to tie him to the murder—no fingerprints, no trace evidence, no shell casings, no murder weapon … nothing.

The Ultimate Death and Destruction…Button

Across town, Uhart’s first cousin and partner in crime, I. Maka Ubleed, is standing by at the freeway, ready to switch on a hacking program that would soon give him control of the on-board computers regulating the systems of nearly every passing vehicle. His button-pushing-finger, poised and ready to act, trembled slightly as it hovered above the bright red key marked “Press Here For Death And Destruction.” Yes, in just a few minutes there’d be a massive auto crash and countless deaths and injuries.

Death and Destruction with a single clickSound like fantasy to you? Well, it’s not. The hacking of these types of programs is relatively easy to accomplish with technology that’s readily available. And, if hackers already have the ability to control our medicine and our vehicles, what’s next? Our food and water supply, power grids, and … no, not that. Not our Kindles!

It’s true, folks. The day may soon come when a band of evil hackers decide to gain control over all e-readers, and that would surely mean certain and instant death for us all. Either that, or we might be forced to do the unthinkable … buy and read real books. What a “novel” idea …

 

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Chicago Typewriter

 

This is what it looks like to peer down-range from behind a Thompson fully-automatic submachine gun. You can actually see a spent cartridge ejecting at the lower right-hand side of the picture, just above the major’s right elbow.

The Thompson is an extremely heavy weapon that’s capable of firing 900 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition per minute, and let me tell you, that’s fast. The experience of firing one of these babies is like no other. I took this photo and was peppered with gunpowder during each burst of gunfire, even from the distance where I stood, which was as you see it. I didn’t use the zoom. We took this shot in a controlled situation while wearing full protective gear and employing other safety precautions. I say this because I don’t recommend this method of photography. It’s not safe. Gee, the things I do for you guys.

The Thompson was extremely popular in the 1920s among both law enforcement and gangsters alike. The notorious John Dillinger and his gang amassed an arsenal of these “Chicago Typewriters.” The FBI and other agencies, such as the NYPD, also put Tommy Guns to use in their efforts to battle crime. In fact, the weapon became so popular in law enforcement circles it earned another nickname, The Anti-Bandit Gun.

Chicago Typewriter

 

This is what it looks like to peer down-range from behind a Thompson fully-automatic sub-machine gun. You can actually see a spent cartridge ejecting at the lower right-hand side of the picture, just above the major’s right elbow.

The Thompson is an extremely heavy weapon that’s capable of firing 600-900 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition per minute. And let me tell you, that’s fast. The experience of firing one of these babies is like no other. I took this photo and was peppered with gunpowder during each burst of gunfire, even from the distance where I stood, which was as you see it. I didn’t use the zoom.

We took this shot in a controlled situation while wearing full protective gear, and employing other safety precautions. I say this because I don’t recommend this method of photography. It’s not safe. Gee, the things we do for research.

The Thompson was extremely popular in the 1920s among both law enforcement and gangsters alike. The notorious John Dillinger and his gang amassed an arsenal of these “Chicago Typewriters.” The FBI and other agencies, such as the NYPD, also put Tommy Guns to use in their efforts to battle crime. In fact, the weapon became so popular in law enforcement circles it earned another nickname, The Anti-Bandit Gun.

Here’s a brief video of the Thompson, complete with a 100 round drum magazine, in action.

Imagine one of these in the wrong hands.

 

Rifle and shotgun combonation

 

Recently, I received an email from a writer who was working on a scene where the killer wanted to throw the police off his tracks by firing bullets, instead of shotgun shells, from a shotgun. The question was if this was realistic, or not.

Well, no, you can’t fire an actual bullet from a shotgun. Slugs, yes, but not bullets. However, there is such a thing as an over/under shotgun and rifle combination. These unique firearms have been around for years and the design is simple. A rifle barrel is mounted above a standard shotgun barrel.

Various versions of the rifle/shotgun are available. For example:

The Savage Model 24 is a combination 12 gauge shotgun and 30-30 rifle.

30-30 round

12 gauge shotgun shell

Savage Arms .22 LR over .410 gauge shotgun.

The top barrel fires .22 caliber bullets. The bottom barrel is for .410 gauage shotgun shells.

Here’s a video showing the use of an over/under combo rifle and shotgun. Warning. The language of these folks is a bit graphic. Also, their safety habits are nonexistent—no hearing or eye protection among other things. I used this video as an example mainly because it’s the only one I could find that shows someone loading ammunition into the weapon.

Please be safe when handling firearms!

So, to sum up the writer’s question about throwing the police off the killer’s trail by using bullets in a shotgun…it won’t work.

* I also saw a discussion about this topic on a popular writer’s discussion group. So, thanks to Wally and crew for today’s blog idea.

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As promised, we’re going to give away a DVD of the entire 5th season of The Closer.

To win, be the first person to correctly name the character played by Kyra Sedgwick’s real-life  husband in a 1978 film with John Belushi.