We all do it. We pour a handful of ammo out of the box, stuff it into magazines and then go blasting. However, you should not do that with the ammo you will use in concealed carry. Why? Because, as a friend of mine has been known to say, “It is Murphy’s law, not Murphy’s suggestion.”
I’ve pulled bad ammo out of boxes. I’ve seen it on the range and in classes. Bad ammo happens to good people, and as hard as the factories work to prevent it, it always will. After all, there is nothing made by the hand of man that is perfect.
Bad ammo may be a one-in-a-million occurrence, but we all know when it will happen to us: When you can least afford it. So check your concealed carry ammo, and it would be good if you followed this sequence.
Check the Box
Just recently, I received a shipment of ammo that was mislabeled. The carton said .357 Magnum. The individual box labels said .357 Sig. Inside was .357 Magnum ammo. If you had gotten the boxes and not looked, you would have been really annoyed. You bought what you thought was .357 Sig for your pistol and instead would have gotten .357 Magnum for your revolver. While they are ballistically equivalent, they are not functionally equivalent.
Open the box. Look at the ammo. Check the headstamp. If it doesn’t look right, find out why, and get the right stuff.
Another potentially disastrous example occurred decades ago. A box of .44 Magnum ammo, with one round in the 20-round box different. It was a .44 Special case, but loaded with the same bullet as the 19 .44 Magnums in the box, and loaded to the same length. Clearly, someone at the factory had plucked a .44 Special case out of a bin, and then tossed it back, but tossed it into a .44 Magnum bin. In a .44 Magnum revolver, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, but imagine if that had gone into a Colt SAA or a Charter Arms Bulldog or some other small concealed carry revolver.
Check the Load
Look at the bullet. Is it what it says on the box? If you picked up a box of JHPs for concealed carry, and the rounds (or one) has an FMJ in it, something is wrong. If they are all JHPs, inspect each bullet to make sure the edge of the JHP is cleanly made and uniform. After all, when the round is feeding, it is the bullet that will hit the ramp and cam up and over. If there is something wrong with the bullet mouth, it may not feed well or at all.
Also, check the case mouth. A turned-in mouth, a bulge or an un-trimmed neck, can cause chambering problems. This will be the atomic wedgie, after the action spring has tried to close the slide. When that happens, we all smack the back of the slide to get it closed, and that’s a recipe for failure.
Check the Rims
Rims on brass are lathe-turned. The automated lathe spins the extruded case and cuts the rim to size. If the wrong cutter is installed or if the cutter breaks, a bit of brass wedges in place and the case is wrongly held, the rim would be formed wrongly and it won’t chamber. The other potential failure is that it won’t extract. Both of these are problems in a concealed carry situation.
I don’t recall that I’ve ever seen the wrong rim, since the wrong rim on a handgun cartridge might not even be possible. But I’ve seen cases where the rim-cutting step got missed.
You need rims, and rims differ according to the cartridge. Make sure yours are correct.
Check the Cartridge Bottom
Look at the base of the cartridge. Is the headstamp correct for what you bought? Is the primer in flush or slightly below flush? Is it smooth and un-marred? If the concealed carry round is supposed to be sealed, do you see sealant?
The one thing here we need to know that we can’t check is that the round have a flash hole actually drilled/punched. Only firing the round will tell you that, so we have to let Murphy have his one-in-a-billion chance here.
Drop and Roll
Roll each cartridge across a level surface. Use a table, a workbench or another smooth surface. If it won’t roll smoothly and evenly, it might be out-of-round. It could have gotten squished in the machinery or even stepped on at the gun shop. On rifle rounds, watch the bullet tip. Does it remain on-center, or does the tip visibly wobble? That wobble might be because it is off-center, tilted, mangled or the wrong bullet.
You can also, at least in pistols, remove the barrel and drop-check each round. With a clean chamber, drop each round in. Does it fall fully into the chamber? When you turn the barrel over, does it fall out of its own weight? If so, good. If not, then don’t use it for concealed carry. Use it for practice.
If you don’t want to pull out the barrel or if you are checking rifle ammo, then get a Wilson case gauge, and use it to check your loaded ammo.
This all might seem like a bit much, but here’s a question; do you have so little spare time in your life that you can’t check the ammo in your concealed carry magazines? That’s what, 25-30 rounds? You spent days and weeks researching concealed carry ammo and several range sessions making sure it was reliable, accurate and that you could deal with the recoil. And you can’t spend a minute or two doing this?
As a final tip, any ammo that hits the ground hits the practice bin. And even then, it must be either clearly yours or factory in good shape. It is too easy to break a gun from being cheap. Don’t be cheap with your concealed carry equipment.