By Chris Hernandez

I stood in line at the range, waiting my turn to qualify. Other officers cycled through the qualification course, moving from firing position to firing position and changing mags at top speed. I was a little nervous. I had a lot to prove . . .

I was 23, painfully skinny (5’7” and about 120 pounds soaking wet), the lone city boy in a department full of countrified cowboys, and had just been hired a month earlier. I was also one of the few military guys around, and was still in the Marine Reserve. My background as a Marine armorer and marksmanship coach had probably been a significant factor in the decision to hire me. Now here I was at the range, with all the other officers, about to qualify. If I screwed it up, in their eyes I would deflate pretty quickly.

None of that was a big deal. I could handle pressure. But I was a little worried about my weapon, which I had never fired before. I was the only one on the department who carried this type of weapon, and the other guys made sure I knew it. They carried SIG Sauers, Berettas, Smith and Wessons, and Colts. None of them would lower their standards and carry a piece-of-junk, untested “plastic” GLOCK like mine.

This was 1994. Some police departments were still insisting that GLOCKs were too dangerous to carry, and certain people with severe psychological problems kept repeating the old “porcelain-handled GLOCKs can’t be seen by metal detectors!” nonsense. I had bought the .40 cal GLOCK 22 in a rush after being offered a job by this department and then discovering they didn’t issue duty weapons.

When I reported for the first day of field training I was carrying a weapon I had never fired. I had owned and fired GLOCKs before, but with this one I was pretty much operating on faith. That wasn’t a good feeling.

So despite my worries, I was relieved when qual day finally arrived. Now I could prove my weapon was reliable, and not have that nagging doubt that my brand-new pistol would fail when I needed it. After I qualified, I figured the guys would shut up about GLOCKs.

My turn came. I stepped up to the rangemaster’s table. He was a crusty old Marine Vietnam vet. His qualification to be rangemaster was that he was a crusty old Marine Vietnam vet. He counted out the proper number of rounds for the qual course, and held out a handful of old military surplus ball ammo. I took it and quickly loaded up my three mags.

I stood at the first firing position, waited for the command, and locked and loaded a mag. As I always do before a qual course, I bounced a little on my toes, stretched my neck, took a few deep breaths. I felt 22 pairs of eyes on my back. Every other officer on the department was watching the skinny new city boy, the guy who allegedly had tons of weapons training but still chose to carry a plastic gun. I was about to show them bastards that I was a Marine, and that my weapon was about ten times better than whatever they carried.

The rangemaster yelled, “Begin!”. I drew my weapon from its security holster in one smooth, quick motion, sighted in and squeezed the trigger. The hammer fell. And nothing happened.

What the. . . ? I reached up and yanked the slide halfway back to recock the weapon, then sighted in again and pulled the trigger. The weapon fired this time. I pulled the trigger again. Nothing.

Crap! I went through the tap-rack-bang drill. The weapon fired again and double fed.

I pulled the mag partway out, turned the weapon sideways and cleared it, then slammed the mag back in, racked the slide and fired again. And had a failure to eject.

By this time the other officers had gleefully taken note of my troubles. Despite my intense focus on my pistol and the targets, I heard their loud laughter. As I fought my way through the course, several officers made catcalls like “That’s what you get for carrying a piece of crap plastic gun!”

About thirty malfunctions later, I finally fired my last round. Maybe ten live rounds lay in the dirt around me, rounds that I had to dump during malfunction drills. I hadn’t managed to get through more than two rounds without either a failure to fire, failure to feed, double feed, failure to eject, or stovepipe. The guys behind me were beside themselves. I ignored them and walked to my targets. My rounds were, of course, all over the place. And more than half of them had keyholed, hit the target sideways, from a distance of no more than 25 yards. I turned away in disgust, and tried to avoid the jeering expressions of my coworkers.

As I walked back to the rangemaster’s table, I wondered, What the hell happened? I wasn’t limp-wristing the gun. I’ve fired GLOCKs before and never had even one problem. Something has to be wrong with this gun.

I told the rangemaster, “I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was bad ammo or something. Can I try it again?”

The rangemaster gruffly nodded, grabbed a handful of 9mm ammo and said, “Yeah, here you go.”

I looked at the rounds and shook my head. “No, I need .40 cal ammo.”

The rangemaster’s eyebrows sprang up. “You’re firing a .40? I gave you 9 mil earlier.”

The rangemaster was about a foot taller than me, but I think my eyebrows rose so high they were even with his. And suddenly it occurred to me: he had given me old military surplus ammo earlier. But there was no such thing as old military surplus .40 cal ammo. I had loaded up and fired the wrong caliber.

I’m a cop, folks. Nothing gets by me.

We immediately tore down my weapon and inspected it. Nothing looked damaged. I put it back together, loaded up with the right ammo and ran the course again.

I didn’t have a single malfunction. And my accuracy was pretty damn good. I don’t remember my score, but it was worthy of a Marine marksmanship coach. I strutted off the range, and made sure my coworkers knew that not only was my GLOCK reliable, but it even worked with the wrong ammo.

There were no more insults about my weapon after that. I think the only comments I heard about my GLOCK came out of my own mouth. “Hey Joe, when your piece-of-junk 9 breaks during a shootout, just toss me your mags. I can fire 9 or .40 through my GLOCK.”

Chris blogs at chrishernandezauthor.com. He is an active law enforcement officer in Texas who splits his time between military and police work. He’s also the author of Proof of Our Resolve.

57 Responses to Perfection, No Matter What Caliber You Feed It. Well Almost

  1. This is pretty amazing.

    That said, I really want to see a Mythbusters style treatment on this, if only to see it for myself.

  2. I had a student at the range last month who chambered and fired a 9mm through his XD .40. It worked fine but sounded weird.

  3. As soon as I read “handful of military surplus” I thought to myself “Oh, this is going to get interesting…” 🙂

    • i thought “huh? military surplus .40 cal in 1994, thats weird. however i didn’t put any other thought into it.

        • I was all lined up to question military surplus .40 as well. Was already framing a correction in my mind til I read the rest of the post. Wonder who’ll be the first to read just that far and then fire off a comment?

  4. Great story. I loaded my G23 (.40-cal) with 9-mm once. The first round fired, but it didn’t cycle properly. I noticed a big bulge in the brass case and figured out what happened. Embarrassed (even though nobody around me knew). But, no harm, no foul.

    • I accidentally loaded 9mm into my glock 32 (357 SIG) and it cycled fine and didn’t hurt me. While happy I wasn’t hurt I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

  5. This is JUST like a range trip I had with my Marine infantry friend! Except his Glock19 was fed 9mm ammo. But it still malfunctioned over and over and over and over.

    He eventually traded it in and has an XDs that actually runs properly now.

  6. As soon as you first said he handed you Milsurp ammo, I immediately thought, “Wait. Milsurp .40?”

    In my less learned days, the very first time I ever shot handguns of any kind, my Uncle took me to the range. He had 3 Sig Sauer pistols. A P226 in 9mm, a P228 in 9mm, and a P229 in .40. Somehow, I accidentally loaded one of the P228 magazines into the P229. The gun fired and immediately had a FTE. My uncle somehow immediately sensed that something was bad wrong other than a standard ammo malfunction. He took the gun from me and cleared it and quickly figured out what the problem was. The spent casing was heavily deformed; it looked like it had been shortened to the length of a .380. The P229 was completely unharmed and the round actually landed about 10″ from the center of the target at 7 yds.

    • “As soon as you first said he handed you Milsurp ammo, I immediately thought, “Wait. Milsurp .40?”

      ‘Twas a TSA overbuy, it was!

      “Crazy Mel went and bought TOO MUCH AMMO for Uncle Same!” Discounts are DEEP!

  7. Yeah, 9mm ammo in a .40 is bad, .40 in a 9mm is even worse 🙂

    BTW, for those of you who haven’t read “Proof of Our Resolve,” it’s a great read. Highly recommended!

  8. I have actually put my Glock 17 mag in my Glock 22 once and pulled the trigger. Scared the crap out of me when I realized I had a live 9mm round bouncing around in the chamber loosely. It surprises me that yours held up to multiple 9mm shots in a .40 chamber, but at least makes me less frightened looking back on my similar experience.

  9. don’t ask how I know but
    .380 fires in a 9 but FTEs
    Things don’t sound right? stop till you figure it out. Bulged case.
    Wife has a PK380
    Changed range table protocol then and there.

  10. I think there is something to be learned from this which has something to do with Marines and Cops but I’m not quite sure what it is,,,,,,

  11. Good story, and I’m glad you and the G 22 weren’t hurt. I’m a Marine and LEO, I’ve never fired the wrong round through the wrong chamber. The closest I’ve come is when I negligently dropped a 20 gauge round into the chamber of a 12 while trap shooting. I recognized it for what it was, and removed the round.

    • Probably off topic but I was wondering is it possible to make barrel inserts for double shotguns to fire smaller gauges? IE 12 gauge to 16 gauge?

  12. I’m still curious about that pesky Glock hammer that failed to ignite the first round…

    “The rangemaster yelled, “Begin!”. I drew my weapon from its security holster in one smooth, quick motion, sighted in and squeezed the trigger. The hammer fell. And nothing happened.”

    • I hope you are being sarcastic and know that Glocks don’t have hammers as they are striker fired.

      • +1

        I was fussing to my wife about this exact thing yesterday after we saw “The Heat”. The woman has a talent for extreme eye rolling…

        • It’s tough being the gun guy in those situations. We take a lot of flack for pointing out what hollywood gets wrong.

          It does matter if the soldiers in a civil war movie are armed with 1873 springfields……to us. Apparently, no one else gives a sh!t.

  13. As soon as I saw Milsurp, I thought where would .40 Milsurp come from? I can just picture thousands of us all having that reaction reading this article.

    Not that I fired the wrong ammo, but the only reason I own a Glock is due to wrong ammo. I bought 4 boxes of what I thought was .40 S&W and after opening the third box at the range had a WTF moment as I looked at funny bottle-necked pistol cartridges.

    I had apparently bought 3 boxes of .40 and one of .357Sig. I was so intrigued by the .357Sig I went back to where I bought the ammo and said – “You need to sell me a gun that will fire this round.” They had a Glock they gave me a smoking deal on and I then proceeded to procure more firearms chambered in .357Sig over the years. Still not a real Glock fan, for me it’s the grip angle; but I still have that one Glock I bought.

    • Gun nut. 8>)

      But seriously…. I’ve purposely bought ammo for calibers of firearms I didn’t own yet (but intended to buy). I have not yet bought a gun to match ammo I obtained by happenstance. Obviously, I am not yet a big enough gun nut….

  14. So an experienced Marine armorer thinks Glocks have a hammer and can’t tell the difference between 9mm and .40.

    Interesting.

  15. You’d be surprised by how many people intentionally shoot .380 in 9mm Mak pistols. Mostly odd Fudds that acquired a Makarov in the 1990s, but who don’t seem to grasp the concept of buying ammo online.

  16. awesome article. i don’t understand how you couldn’t have felt the difference in size when loading the ammo, but whatever. cool to know that if you are in REALLY desperate need of a working gun but don’t have proper ammo, you can use a caliber one size down.

    • My Springfield XD-40 will eat 9mm. It DOES sound funny but it shoots. And my old PA-63 in Mak can do 380, even my Nagant Revolver 1944 can shoot 32’s.

      The Medusa Model 47 revolver can shoot anything from 357 to 380 anything between .0355 and .0357 you can load a 380, 9mm, 38sp, 357, in any order you wish.

      • Also .38 Super, 9×23 and a number others. I have a Medusa. It’s fun to load a different round in each chamber of the cylinder at the range. People think you’re crazy.

        • If you count all the actual cartridges in that range it adds up to 117 total. Although the Medusa lists 25 actual.

          We need a Gun maker to remake all be it better, a new all encompasing 9/38 shooter.

          Can’t get 9mm pick up some 38+p, grab some Mak.

          Have you ever tried 357 Sig?

  17. Buddy of mine and I went to the range once. He shoots a Glock 19 and I shoot a 23 and we set them down side by side during cease fires. I’m sure you all already know where this one is going. I still have the bulged 9mm shell casing he fired from my gun to remind him of his fail from time to time.

  18. I showed up to my ccw permit qualification with my 9mm xdm, but I forgot the mags in my other range bag. The instructor, a former police officer, offered me a glock 19 he had in his bag. Never used one before, but i don’t think i could have done better with my own gun. Awesome gun. Felt great to shoot. Definitely on par if not better than the Springfield. The G19 is now on my wish list.

  19. Had a guy from a neighboring dept train with us. He was shooting a sigma. Could not understand why all the malfunctions. His 5 yard groups looked like 25 yard 00 buck spread. I took his loaded gun and fired for group. 5 shots at 5 yards and about a foot group. I noticed some key holing. When I ejected the mag out, I noticed 9mm ammo in it. Sure enough, his sigma was a .40 cal…
    Things that make you go hmmmm.

  20. Not much on Glocks,really like a hammer fired handgun,auto or wheel gun.Have heard of firing 9mm in ,40cal.before,won’t hurt anything.Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

  21. I had a similar experience when my gf loaded a couple magazines for my 40 caliber Sig with 9mm ammo when we were at the range.

  22. It’s so funny that now my generation looks at plastic weapons as completely normal and utterly reliable.

    Come to think of it I don’t own a single weapon with wood other than my VZ61.

    Everything is fantastic plastic.

  23. Guys,

    Sorry that I mistakenly described a Glock as having a hammer. I know Glocks are striker fired. I tend to think in terms of “dropping the hammer” when shooting. I even thought that way when I was a tank gunner, even though the rounds are electrically fired.

    Thanks to everyone who read and commented. Putting the wrong ammo in my weapon was one of the more dumbass moves I’ve pulled, and I’m fortunate that no damage to me or the gun resulted. Hope you guys enjoyed the story.

    Chris Hernandez

    p.s. Happy Birthday to the greatest country the world has ever known.

  24. .44 mag goes bang through a .454 casull too! Wasn’t shooting very accurate, but the lack of pounding recoil gave it away! No misfires though…

  25. We picked up some oddly shaped brass at Zia R&P Club range outside Albuquerque a couple of years back.
    Consensus was it was 9mm put through a .40 Glock, as evinced by the “Glock smile” & distended case walls. There were around a dozen of them.
    Some people are born lucky……..

  26. I took a tactical shooting class with a Glock 19 9mm, and I took my new Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380. The “instructor” loaded up the Glock magazine out of the box of .380 and proceeded to try to show me how great he was, using my weapon and ammo. He couldn’t figure out why the gun wouldn’t properly feed. It did go bang every time, but it wouldn’t cycle. I discovered the problem when he gave the gun back to me. Quite an expert, and another Glock that shoots anything.

  27. When I bought a Glock 23 at a gun store (not Academy or Wally Mart), I asked the guy to throw in a couple boxes of ammo thinking he knew what he was doing. Came home and found boxes of 9mm in the bag. Now you know why women have such well practiced eye rolls.

  28. I can’t blame him either. I fired 2 rounds of 9mm from my Kahr CW40 (chambered in .40, for those unfamiliar with Kahr). It actually fired and fed, but it SOUNDED really weird and after the 2nd round it failed to go into battery. So I stopped and realized I had filled my magazine from my wife’s open box of ammo that was sitting right next to mine. The rounds did key hole. After breaking down and inspecting the weapon, I continued to shoot with the RIGHT ammo.

    Have probably 800 rounds through since that happened, and never seen a failure since. Or before that either, besides a round of cheap blazer stuff that was bad from the factory. I do love my little Kahr.

  29. The same type of thing happened to me, but I was firing a full-size S&W M&P .40. Somehow one 9mm round got mixed into a box of .40 Winchester Rangers. It ended up in the middle of a mag full of .40. I was shooting away when I had an incident. I shot, it fired the 9MM round, but then it failed to eject the 9MM empty. The slide went back chambering the next round of .40 and pushing the empty 9MM case into the barrel. I pulled the trigger and immediately knew something was wrong. I examined the pistol and the dust cover where the rail was located was completely gone. The gun was locked up tight and I could see a bulge in the barrel. My hand was unhurt, but the pistol was a total loss. Smith ended up sending me a new M&P at cost, even though they were not at fault.

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