Yesterday I was at an outdoor range enjoying some of the beautiful spring weather we are having. A gentleman came and was setting up to shoot next to me with a Gen 2 Glock 19, and I started talking to him.
I noticed that his ammo came in unmarked, white cardboard boxes, with styrofoam trays like WWB, and asked what type of ammo he was shooting. He said it was some reloads he and his buddy had made. They had loaded the rounds with lead semi-wad cutters. I made a comment that Glock says not to shoot lead ammo through there guns, and he said that he had never heard of such a thing, and that he shoots these all the time through his 19. So, at this point I started to worry a bit, but, his firearms handling was safe, and he was shooting fairly well, so I just went back to enjoying my range time.
I was reloading mags when I saw a rather odd sequence of events happen. The gentleman was shooting with his left hand (although he was right handed, he was practicing with his off hand as many of us do on occasion). When he fired a round, it didn't quite sound right, then there was more smoke than normal, no ejected round, and the magazine went flying out of his Glock. My initial reaction was "I guess he bumped the mag release with his left hand during recoil." but that didn't account for anything but the magazine. He pretty much immediately put the Glock down, and started looking at his hand.
It was rather obvious what had happened by the time I walked over there. His hand had a lot of black residue on it, and a couple of minor cuts. I asked if he was okay, which he said he was fine, but was done shooting for the day. I told him we should probably take apart his 19, and make sure it was okay (we were the only two on the range.) When he cleared it a mangled 9mm casing came out with significant case head separation. The round had left the barrel, and there was no obvious damage to the barrel, no bulges or anything like that. There was however, significant leading on the inside of the barrel, that was very obvious. He said he cleaned it after every range trip, so I don't know if just 70-odd lead rounds caused that much leading, or if he was cleaning with a solvent that doesn't reduce lead fouling. But I would think any buildup would be apparent during prior cleanings. The magazine had some plastic shaved off around the ledge where it is held in by the magazine release. The gentleman proceeded to pack up his things, including the un-shot ammo, and left the range.
So I learned a few things from this whole episode:
1. Read the owners manual that comes with your firearms. If the manufacturer says not to use a certain type of ammo in the weapon, there is probably a reason for that. This also clarified for me what can happen specifically with Glocks and lead ammo.
2. While I had paid attention to the ammo at first, I stopped worrying about it and went back to my own shooting when it looked like the guy knew what he was doing. We were set up about 15 feet apart. Had he had a worse over-pressure problem that did more than just blew out the magazine, that could have been bad for me. It should of been a bigger warning flag to me when he said he had never heard not to shoot lead in Glocks, and does it all the time. I had offered to give him a box of 9mm FMJ when I first noticed the lead bullets, but I guess he was just going to do things his own way. So, I should continue to pay attention to the voice in the back of my head that tells me when something is amiss.
3. While at the range, pay attention to those around you, and be willing to share information with others. I thought that it was fairly common knowledge not to shoot lead in Glocks, but maybe this guy never had actually heard it before. I'm not the "I told you so" type, but while we were looking at the barrel and leading inside, I explained how the lead build-up creates a smaller diameter bore which leads to greater pressure, and I am pretty sure the lesson was learned. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, and the firearm wasn't destroyed. I did suggest he get a Lone Wolf barrel if he wants to continue shooting lead.
4. While the "cup and saucer" technique seems to have gone away for the most part, I will still occasionally see it at a range, or in one of my classes. Someone saw it on TV one time and thought it looked like a good idea or something. I don't think things would have gone well for this fellow if he was using that hold, which would have been in the way of the magazine, which ejected rather forcefully. The pressure would of needed to find another way out.
For all the Glock-lovers, this isn't a dig on Glocks. I was actually shooting my Glock 36 yesterday, since it will be getting more use with the nicer weather coming. But, I think this is something that Glock owners need to be made aware of.