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Squib Loads: What Are They?

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What is a squib load?

A squib load, also known as squib rounds or just a squib, is when there is insufficient force behind a bullet to exit a barrel.

This type of malfunction can happen for many reasons, such as fouling in the barrel, loading with too light of a charge, i.e., low powder load, or an improperly seated projectile. The most common causes are improper primer ignition or lack of gunpowder.

A squib round is extremely dangerous. It can cause severe injury to a shooter and catastrophic failure of one’s firearm, so it is important to learn about them.

I’m often surprised to find out that many newer shooters have no clue what squib loads are. I think it is important they learn about them just as new shooters have to learn the four fundamental gun safety rules.

This article will explain what squib loads are and why they occur. It will also offer some remedies and prevention methods that you can use if you ever experience this problem before it becomes dangerous.

What Is A Squib Load?

A squib load, or squib, is a type of firearm malfunction in which the fired projectile does not have enough power behind it to exit the barrel. This usually happens when there is a lack of enough propellant gas to push the projectile completely out of the barrel and down the barrel’s bore.

The squib load creates a distinctive popping sound and produces little or no recoil. A squib load is especially dangerous because it can cause severe damage to the firearm and injuries to the shooter or other people in the vicinity.

What Causes A Squib Load

A squib round can be caused by a variety of different issues.

One cause is the use of low-quality ammunition that does not have sufficient power to push the projectile out of the barrel. Shooters who reload their own ammunition usually encounter squibs the most.

Typically, inexperienced reloaders may produce a round without any or enough gunpowder–a powder charge issue caused during the powder loading process. As a result, there won’t be enough force to propel the bullet out of the barrel.

Primer malfunctions can lead to the same result, too. A primer may have been seated wrong or damaged during the reloading process.

This has happened to be about a dozen times. I use a Mark 7 Revolution reloading press that is automated. It reloads so fast that sometimes if I don’t ensure all settings are correct, it may seat a primer incorrectly.

While reloaders tend to encounter squib loads the most, shooters using factory ammo can also experience them.

Another potential cause of squibs is a barrel obstruction that prevents a projectile from being pushed out. If a gun isn’t cleaned often or properly, dirt, debris, and fouling can cause an obstructed barrel.

What To Do If You Have A Squib Load

If you encounter a squib load, there are a few things you should do.

First, stop shooting and make sure your firearm is pointed in a safe direction and eject your magazine so you cannot inadvertently fire subsequent rounds.

Next, use a barrel or cleaning rod to slide down the barrel of the gun to determine if you do have a squib and where the projectile is stuck. If you slide your rod through one end of your barrel and see it on the other side of your barrel, you don’t have a squib.

What is a squib rod?

You can use your rod to push the projectile out. If that doesn’t work, then you may need to take the gun apart for a more detailed fix.

Anyone who reloads their own ammo should absolutely have a squib rod of some kind.

Finally, if squib loading often happens with your ammunition, then chances are good that the squib load is being caused by low-quality ammunition or lack of pressure in your chamber.

You’ll want to use different ammo or make sure to quality check your remanufactured ammo–if you are a reloader.

How To Prevent Squib Rounds

To prevent squib loads, it’s important to make sure you’re using quality ammunition. As mentioned above, lack of gunpowder or primer issues are common reasons behind squibs.

Next, you need to ensure that the gun barrel is clean of any obstructions or debris. You may also want to make sure your barrel is properly aligned with your cartridges.

To fix this problem, try cleaning your gun more often, and be sure to put some kind of covering over your muzzle when shooting in dirty areas.

Knowing The Difference Between Squib Loads And Misfires

Squib loads can be extremely dangerous. They can ruin your firearm, and they can cause severe injury and even death.

It’s important to know how to tell the difference between a squib and a misfire.

Many shooters are taught the immediate action drill, or the ‘tap-rack-bang’ technique when they hear a click and no bang. Many shooters subconsciously perform the technique as soon as their gun doesn’t fire.

If one executes this technique while there is a squib in one’s barrel, it can lead to some serious problems.

To avoid this from happening, pay attention to any, or all three, of these signs:

  1. After squeezing the trigger, you will hear a distinct pop, rather than just a click. The pop results from the primer being struck with sufficient force by a gun’s firing pin. You will also notice little to no recoil force.
  2. You may notice a distinct smell similar to that produced by a cap gun.
  3. You may also see a bit of smoke caused by the primer being struck.

If you notice any of these signs, stop immediately and check to see if you have a squib load.


A squib load is when a round does not have enough force to push a bullet out of a barrel, and thus the bullet becomes stuck in the barrel.

Squib loads can occur for a variety of reasons, including an obstructed bore or breech face, improper bullet sizing, over-pressured rounds, poor quality ammunition with low powder content, fouling accumulation inside the chamber area due to insufficient cleaning of primer residue on cases from firing multiple shots without interruption, or even just bad luck.

Knowing what a squib is, how to detect one, and how to prevent them will help ensure you remain safe and you do not damage your firearm.

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About the author


Myles is the Founder of Tactical Hyve, a competitive shooter, and a life-long student of all things dealing with the tactical and self-defense worlds.

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