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Gunfighter Moment – Larry Vickers

In nearly every single class I teach these days, I see problems with factory ammunition (defects). Five years ago they were uncommon, today they are common place. It’s a byproduct of the amount of ammo being produced and consumed by the shooting community in this day and age. A word to the wise would be to both check visually and chamber check any self defense handgun ammo you trust your life to regardless of the brand.

Be safe and have a good one – see you at the range.

-Larry Vickers
Vickers Tactical Inc.
Host of TacTV


Larry Vickers of Vickers Tactical is a retired US Army 1st SFOD-Delta combat veteran with years of experience in the firearms industry as a combat marksmanship instructor and industry consultant. In recent years he has hosted tactical firearms related TV shows on the Sportsman Channel with the latest being TacTV of which Bravo Company is a presenting sponsor. Larry Vickers special operations background is one of the most unique in the industry today; he has been directly or indirectly involved in the some of the most significant special operations missions of the last quarter century. During Operation Just Cause he participated in Operation Acid Gambit – the rescue of Kurt Muse from Modelo Prison in Panama City, Panama. As a tactics and marksmanship instructor on active duty he helped train special operations personnel that later captured Saddam Hussein and eliminated his sons Uday and Qusay Hussein. In addition he was directly involved in the design and development of the HK416 for Tier One SOF use which was used by Naval Special Warfare personnel to kill Osama Bin Laden. Larry Vickers has developed various small arms accessories with the most notable being his signature sling manufactured by Blue Force Gear and Glock accessories made by Tangodown. In addition he has maintained strong relationships with premium companies within the tactical firearms industry such as BCM, Aimpoint, Black Hills Ammunition, Wilson Combat and Schmidt & Bender.

Larry Vickers travels the country conducting combat marksmanship classes for law abiding civilians, law enforcement and military and has partnered with Alias Training to coordinate classes to best meet the needs of the students attending the class.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Alias Training & Security Services. Each week Alias brings us a different Trainer and in turn they offer us some words of wisdom.

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17 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Larry Vickers”

  1. Mr.E.G. says:

    What should we be looking for? The only defective ammo I’ve ever encountered was cheap steel case 9mm rounds that didn’t like to eject properly. I couldn’t spot any difference between those rounds and typical rounds (obviously they looked different, but there was apparent defect).

    Can anyone describe the procedure used to check ammo?

    • Ben says:

      The method I use to inspect my match ammo is simple and straightforward.

      1. Visually check that primer is present, seated flush with head of case, and not inserted backwards. Primers not fully seated account for many ammo related light strikes because the firing pin will transfer its energy into fully seating the primer rather than igniting it. Missing or backwards primers are more obviously undesirable.

      2. Remove the barrel from your handgun and chamber check each round by dropping it into the chamber. It should seat fully with only the force of gravity and should fall free when you upend the barrel. Any round you need to help fully seat with a tap or pull from the chamber should be put into your practice ammo box. The problem you’ll have with rounds that don’t freely slide into and out of the chamber is that one of two things may happen. First, the weapon may not go into battery. Or second, after firing the case expands and won’t extract from the chamber causing the gun to lock up hard. Hard as in you have to beat the thing against a table. Not something that’s tap-rack-bang-able. It’s happened to me once in practice and I’ve seen it in a match.

      I don’t do this with my practice ammo but, in a uspsa or idpa match, time spent clearing malfunctions figuratively kills you. In a defensive situation it may be a more literal situation.

      • SGT_Mike says:

        +1. Ben’s advice was given to me by a salty vet 27 years ago when I became a cop. And I’m still passing it on today. It’s a simple way to eliminate a potentially catastrophic problem.

      • bryanscle says:

        Good advice, just throwing the idea out there but can you weigh it also to ensure it has powder/ close to the correct amount?

        • PPGMD says:

          You won’t be able to tell that. Between scale error, brass margin of error, and bullet margin of error you aren’t going to be spot rounds that are missing powder.

          Squib loads are unusual (I’ve had one in well over 100,000 rounds shot), and doubly rare in defensive ammo which has higher QC as range ammo.

      • Hubb says:

        Great advice Ben.

      • PPGMD says:

        Or get a match chamber gauge, like an EGW gauge. If it passes that gauge it will drop into any production gun and most custom guns.

      • Mr.E.G. says:

        Thank you very much. I appreciate the tip.

        On a somewhat related note, how concerned should I be about ammo that gets discolored from being carried? I carry an XDS 9mm and two spare mags. I carry the spare magazines in a sticky holster on my ankle, as this comports with the office environment I work in. But being in close proximity to my skin causes the rounds to discolor over time. The jacket on the round gets sort of a purple hue to it. It only takes about a month on my person before the discoloration occurs, and, of course, it only occurs in the rounds at the top of the magazine.

        Is any of this a cause for concern? Every so often I replace my carry rounds with new ones, and the old ones get used at the range. So we’re not talking about 2 year old bullets or anything like that.

        Again, thanks for the advice.

        • Bill says:

          If it’s the bullet jacket I wouldn’t be overly concerned, BUT i’d make sure that the surface of the bullet was still as smooth as prior to any discoloration so as to not hang up on feed ramps.

          “Every so often” for ankle guns especially probably shouldn’t exceed 6 months, due to their proximity to dirt and water.

          I also tend to unload and reload and my mags every so often so that no one round is constantly getting chambered, extracted and ejected during administrative tasks.

  2. Adun says:

    Although this is an unfortunate result of ramped up production, what really bothers me is when we identify what is clearly a bad lot (multiple boxes of ammo from the same lot being defective during range time) and then you get shrugged off by whatever company made the stuff when you send them a friendly email with a heads up. Usually we don’t even want something from them, just trying to make sure no one gets stuck with bad ammo, but the number of responses we receive are exceedingly low, if any.

  3. I thought it was just me, glad to hear that somebody like LAV is noticing more problems with commercially loaded ammo. Anymore I stick with the larger commercial brands, shy away from the smaller guys, and never use anyone’s reloads. Ever.

  4. John Carp says:

    This is absolutely truth! Just this last RQ, I found in the same box of range ammunition ( Praise God ) a round of 9mm ammunition with a reversed primer. Have the round and another from the same box and lot in my range bag. Because of demand and possible at the behest of the LE and shooting community this company produces “range” ammunition around the clock.
    I’m not going to say the manufacturer, because this can happen to any production product! I’ll say they are a very mature American iconic brand.
    I was taught years ago by Dick Marcinko, not only to visually inspect every round of duty ammunition for defect, but to CAREFULLY cycle each round through its intended platform, manually for undetected defect. 27 years later this holds true.
    Just say’in
    Please be careful out there!
    Very respectfully

  5. Roy Woodall says:

    Another good in service check for duty pistol ammo is after it has been in the gun a while is to wipe off the rounds with a rag and stand them up on a flat surface. The short ones need to be discarded.

  6. Dave says:

    That’s why I reload. Over 32,400 rounds and not ONE failure. It takes patience but that’s why I believe I’ve never had an issue yet (knock on wood)