Firearm Malfunctions: The Evil Squib

  • November 16, 2023
  • By Jared Daub
Firearm Malfunctions: The Evil Squib


Meet arguably one of the worst Firearm Malfunctions: The Evil Squib. I know some of you already know what a squib is, some of you do not. This quick blog is for those who might not know what a squib is, what they look and sound like, and how to fix them.

The Definition of a Squib.

In the fireworks world, a squib is a firecracker that lights, the fuse burns, but it sputters out to has a tiny little “puff” instead of a full explosion. Similarly, in the firearm world a squib is when a round goes off with enough energy for the bullet to leave the case, but not enough energy to leave the barrel. In other words, You’ve got a bullet stuck in your barrel.

Why squibs are so dangerous:

Squibs are inherently dangerous malfunctions because SOMETIMES it is nearly impossible to know that one just happened. Sometimes it is obvious, but often, your gun will sound and feel almost identical. The scary part of this situation is if you send another round through the barrel. Depending on the caliber, this can have pretty nasty side effects. With pistols, your barrel might just bulge, your slide might crack or get lodged, or the pistol can have a more dramatic effect. Caliber and ammo load plays a huge role in this.

What causes a Squib Malfunction?

Squibs are the result of an issue with ammunition almost always. Typically, a round is undercharged or missing powder altogether. A primer alone can often create enough energy to push a bullet out of a case. They can also be caused by a faulty primer leading to an incomplete burning of the powder charge. Water contamination of ammunition can also cause inconsistent firing. Bullet diameter can also be a factor. If a bullet is very out of spec, it could lodge in a barrel. Additionally, shooting an incorrect caliber can cause the same issue. Squibs are rarely caused by the firearm itself unless there is a large barrel blockage of some sort.

Signs of a Squib in your firearm:

In my experience, I’ve NEVER had a rifle squib. That isn’t to say that rifle squibs aren’t possible, because they are, I just have never experienced one. That being said, a rifle squib would potentially be more catastrophic if you sent another round behind the stuck round. Here are some signs that your firearm has just experienced a squib:

  • VERY light recoil in comparison to previous shots.
  • Distinctly different audible report from the shot, usually quieter than previous rounds.
  • Distinctly more gas/smoke from the action and chamber compared to previous rounds.
  • Sometimes a bullet that is stuck will not allow more ammo to be chambered.
  • A Round goes off, but you don’t hear or see the impact on your target or berm.

These are not all exclusive, but if you see ANY of them, you should stop and verify the condition of your firearm before proceeding to shoot more.

Fixing a Squib:

The solution can vary wildly depending on how far the bullet is stuck in your barrel. Most often you will need to clear the firearm, remove the barrel from the receiver or slide, and use a wooden dowel to shove the bullet back out of the barrel. Sometimes, like in the video below, you will find the bullet basically just falls out. Other times, it will take a SUBSTANTIAL amount of work. Usually the further down the barrel it is lodged, the more force is required to get the bullet dislodged. The good news is: If you caught it before you sent another round, the risk of damage to you or your firearm is nearly zero.

Will you experience a squib?

If you shoot often, eventually you will experience a squib. Using quality ammo is your best defense, but squibs CAN and DO still happen. Pay attention to your firearm. Listen, look, observe each shot. If something seems off, STOP. This is also why I am a HUGE advocate of sticking to one or two fighting pistols and rifles and knowing them front to back. When something sounds off, you’ll know. If you ever think you’ve experienced a squib and you are not sure how to deal with it, find your local dealer, call them, and get instructions from them. They will be able to help you.

NEVER look down your barrel, put your hand in front of the barrel, use steel rods or metal to dislodge a round.

We included a video below to discuss the topic of squibs. Give it a look. Also: Leave a comment below if you have ever experienced a squib. Your comments WILL help other people!

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