Situational Awareness at the Range


People are often prone to advocate that we should do everything in training exactly as we would do it “for real.” And in the vast majority of instances, I believe their argument has merit. However, we need to adjust our behavior sometimes based on safety concerns, range limitations, and other less than real factors, such as training ammunition. Frangible ammunition has been discussed here in the past but I am here to give you another example of how we need to be attentive at the range. The photo above shows a comparison photo of the front portion of a frangible round that was recovered from a shooter’s AR style rifle. Yes, the rifle type is important here.

The shooter was on line and had completed a drill shooting on steel. He cleared his rifle and stepped off to await his next run. When he returned to the line, he again made ready and attempted to shoot the drill. He came up on target and pulled the trigger, with no result. He did his immediate action drill and attempted again, with no result. One more time of the immediate action drill, and some application of the Forward Assist, he came up on target and was abruptly stopped by the range officer. Luckily the range officer had observed the chain of events and was not happy with what he saw. He had the shooter clear his rifle and examine the rounds and his chamber / barrel.

A quick breakdown of the rifle and a sunlight check revealed an obstructed bore. A few firm taps with a cleaning rod expelled the tip of the projectile. The ground around the shooter was checked and the case of the offending round was found, (above photo) along with the two rounds the shooter had cycled through in attempting to fire the drill. The location of the suspect round was several feet to the side, where the shooter had finished the previous drill. This leads us to the following analysis: The projectile broke off of the offending round at the end of the previous drill. When the shooter cleared his rifle, he observed a cartridge eject from the rifle as one would expect to see. He did not retrieve the round, which is not uncommon. When he stepped back to the line and loaded the rifle the broken projectile was pushed further into the barrel but, not far enough to allow the rifle to fire. The chambering of the second round was almost enough to allow the bolt to fully close. The shooter observed this and then applied the Forward Assist to get the round to fully chamber. Had the shooter gone on to fire the round the results could have been catastrophic. Luckily the range officer was able to deduce that something might be amiss and stopped the shooter.

So, what can we take away from this? First, we need to be mindful of potential issues with certain ammunition types, especially frangible. Second, we need to accept that while we might strive to perform some tasks, such as immediate action drills, as if we were on auto-pilot, we need to be able to pull things back a hair based on the actual situation we find ourselves in. We aren’t robots and should be able to make adjustments in our behavior based on real time observations of the situation at hand. Third? Well, I never really cared for that forward assist and this certainly didn’t change my mind. But, that might be fodder for another article.

This entry was posted in Ammunition, AR15/M4, Long Guns, Training, Weapon Maintenance by Doug Flavin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Flavin

Doug Flavin has been a State Trooper in New England Since 1992, serving in patrol and Tactical Operations. He is currently assigned as a full time member of his department's SWAT team, with 16 years on the team. He has served as an operator and also sniper instructor. He recently retired after 24 years in the Army National Guard, serving as a Military Policeman and ending his career as the NCOIC of the state marksmanship training section. Doug is a recent addition to the instructor staff at OpSpec Training. He is also rumored to make one one hell of a clam chowder.

3 thoughts on “Situational Awareness at the Range

  1. At the last Graham Combat class I attended one of the shooters had a squib in his pistol. Fortunately one of the instructors noticed it before he tried to fire again.

  2. I’ve had a similar incident happen once, i borrowed some 556 ammo from work once and went out to shoot it but unlike this situation the entire projectile made it about halfway down the barrel. The bolt never cycled and the recoil and muzzle blast was very weak. Fortunately I was paranoid enough to check the barrel before firing off the next round. Just like this story i ran a cleaning rod through it and poked out an entire 556 round, i still keep it as a reminder.

  3. This is an excellent case for good range officers during training. Nothing wrong with trust but verify.

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