Air Force M4 Carbines Fire . . . Empty Brass?

air force m4

This photo of a military K-9 handler firing an M4 has been making the rounds on the interwebs over the past couple of weeks as comic relief on social media (including TTAG’s entertaining accounts) and as a generic stock photo for news articles.

When you see it, you’ll probably laugh. An empty brass case appears to have been Photoshopped flying out of the muzzle as though it was the projectile fired by the M4 . . .

Naturally, it isn’t hard to believe someone unfamiliar with guns would be stupid enough to do this.

We’ve seen it on the Discovery Channel in their oh-so-very educational animation teaching us all how rifling works. Just, you know, minor details were missed.

We’ve seen it in “advertisements” from our under-educated friends in the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex. In fact, mistaking a complete cartridge for the thing that flies out the business end of a firearm is shockingly common.

Of course, in this case it wasn’t the entire cartridge, but just an empty case. Which means it could potentially be a legitimate photo, right? An ejecting case caught on camera in just the “right” place?

Ha! Come on! Get outta here. No freaking way.

Why? Well . . .

• No visible gas from bolt carrier or muzzle
• Shooter’s finger is already off the trigger, which is certainly possible but awfully quick
• Brass looks suspiciously clean
• Brass has no apparent tempering discoloration, which is very obvious on nearly all 5.56 NATO. Even in photos where the brass is much blurrier than in this photo.
• This M4 has to be over-gassed to eject a case at, what, like 1:00?
• You’re telling me that case is flying, spinning, and flipping through space and crosses the plane of the barrel just as it happens to point directly down range precisely as the photo is taken?
• I mean come on, seriously?

Thankfully the photos on Nellis AFB’s website are all credited to the photographer who took them, and we tracked down Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver via social media.

Guess what? The photo is real. Not edited. A totally legitimate and ridiculous coincidence.

A1C Sarver sent us a photo of the original as displayed on his camera’s screen. He says it’s legit; just lucky happenstance. Awesome!

The funny thing? This is wilder than some idiot in the marketing department not knowing how a metallic cartridge firearm works.

Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction!

comments

  1. avatar Matthew says:

    Absolutely love it 🙂 A1C needs an award for ‘Most Unlikely Photo of the Year’

    The only hint that it’s not Photoshop is that the empty case is ever so slightly out of line with the barrel of the gun. My assumption is that photoshoppers would have ensured that it was perfectly in line.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      much ado about nothing…

  2. avatar jwtaylor says:

    I thought it was photoshopped too until I saw that it was an Air Force photographer that took it. That would have been at least an Article 15 for him if he had done so. The military has some pretty strict rules about that.
    Just crazy lucky timing.
    Also, SSG Gulyas, put your damn lid on. -SSG Taylor

    1. avatar Jon says:

      Give him a break. The Chair Force isn’t used to real training like us 11B’s received. And, no helmet = operator status. DUHH…

      1. avatar DaveW says:

        You are full of it. Many USAF units go through training with other branches of service, and in competitions have actually beat their opponents. Not one base under the protection of USAF Security Forces, going back to Vietnam has ever been over run. Our specialized units are trained by both military and civilian police. We have units on par with the green beret, rangers, etc. And our pilots can fly higher and faster than yours. LOL

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I think peoples’ assumption when they saw this photo without context or much in the way of attribution on the internet was that some marketing or stock photography firm added the empty case. It wasn’t clear in most of the reposts that it was an official Air Force photo, etc (not that many people, including me, were aware that this sort of photo manipulation is specifically forbidden).

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        A million years ago the DoD did a special on me and I learned a bit about the process.

    3. avatar Rocketman says:

      And maybe he did photoshop it, realized later that what he did could land him in a world of trouble, and then made up the story that it was just a million to one lucky photo to keep him out of Leavenworth.

      1. avatar TomC says:

        THAT seems actually more likely than the one in umpteen bazillion odds of the shot being real. The “proof” that he can display the same photo on the screen of his camera proves nothing more than that he knows how to load a memory card into the camera.

        Sorry, Airman, but I’m still not buying it.

        1. avatar Mike H says:

          Many DoD photogs set their cameras to record initial imagery to a format called RAW. (To deal with claims like the one you’re making) This means that the original image and its metadata will always remain unaltered and must be saved to another format to be edited. Air Force photogs are generally very competent and there’s no reason to think this one went out of his way to fool people, which, as stated before, is totally against regs. Anyone interested ought to ask his boss what format that original image was shot to before accusing him of generating misleading imagery. That is a cardinal sin for DoD photographers.

        2. avatar KBonLI says:

          If you zoom in on the photo you will see the cartridge is out of focus but the barrel is in focus. This tells me that the cartridge may be almost aligned with the barrel but further away.

        3. avatar LarryinTX says:

          *Closer*. To be farther away it would have to have been ejected from the left side of the rifle.

    4. avatar MikeJH121 says:

      Blue on the mag used to mean BLANKS. I guess I should check all those blue nades and claymores i may or may not have. LOL

    5. avatar Pelvicpunch says:

      CATM ranges are typically no hat/no salute areas like the flightline, which explains him with no cover.
      They have been at every base ive been to at least.

  3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I cannot decide which is funnier in that Everytown graphic:
    (1) Illustrator depicted an entire cartridge coming out of the barrel.
    — or —
    (2) Illustrator chose what appears to be a 6.5mm Jap cartridge.

    1. avatar MyName says:

      Also, illustrator thinks that front sights work like barbs on a fish hook.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Oh, good catch! (Pun intended!!!)

        That front blade site does look quite inaccurate.

      2. avatar Rokurota says:

        Ban front sights!

      3. avatar Bearpaw says:

        I think the cartridge is a 20mm cannon round.

  4. avatar R D Armstrong says:

    It could be legit as the brass appears to me to be closer to the camera than to the bore axis. if it bounced off the brass deflection bump on the receiver it could in theory be snapped in that postion

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      It is legit. I’m getting the feeling you didn’t read the post?

      1. avatar CA ST says:

        Why hasn’t the bottom half of brass deformed from squeezing through a barrel? Wouldn’t the entire case dimensions have been changed to match the neck and shoulder? Why are those parts visible? It’s either fake or a coincidental timing as brass from another shooter crossed the muzzle of another rifle as the photographer snapped the picture.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Yeah, you didn’t read the post.

  5. avatar Hannibal says:

    Glad someone bothered to look into it before I snarked and sent it to friends (also glad that I read until the end)

  6. avatar MyName says:

    Before I read the article, I looked closely at the top photo and was going to argue that it was real. The differential focus between the shell and the muzzle appear to indicate that the shell is closer to the focal plane than the barrel and/or in motion. Also, it appears to be a little large for a 5.56 round relative to the barrel – also indicating that it is closer to the focal plane. I’d wager that a relatively long focal length is involved as well. That is one awesome perfectly timed accident.

    Well done A1C Sarver!

  7. avatar arc says:

    I spend hours every day in front of photoshop and I say its lucky timing. The artifacts aren’t disturbed and the visual quality of the spent brass is spot on with everything else.

  8. avatar FedUp says:

    I thought you could launch brass with the flash hider if you put a blank in the chamber…

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Oh, and the magazine has tape on it, training dummy (blank) blue…

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        No BFA.

        1. avatar Owen says:

          You could get one shot with a blank and no BFA. Then you could manually cycle it like if you had a blocked/misaligned gas tube. It sucks but it works. I’ve seen it with weak reloads that won’t cycle the bolt.

          Now would that be allowed? I have no idea.

    2. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      You can launch cleaning rods very strongly using blanks. Strong enough to penetrate thick plywood….not that soldiers would do that….out of boredom…lol.

    1. avatar jimmy james says:

      that was my order of HiPoints as I only do New York reloads.

    2. avatar DaveL says:

      I note there was apparently a Chicago connection. Someone in the Chicago underworld has ways of getting suspiciously specific information about large firearm shipments. They’ve been robbing freight trains out of rail yards for years.

    3. avatar Big E says:

      A $5000 reward for someone that stole 400(!) guns? Seems paltry. Shouldn’t Douches for Gun Safety offer $100,000,000 or something? If saves even ONE life…..

  9. avatar Matthew says:

    I remember seeing a picture of a speed shooter (probably Jerry) with an entire magazine worth of brass in the air… it’s been a while so I don’t have a source but sometimes the camera can capture awesome things!

  10. avatar Owen says:

    Reminds me of this video game faux commercial.

    “We fire the whole bullet. That’s 65% more bullet” – Cave Johnson

    https://youtu.be/6i-nMWgBUp0

  11. avatar retmsgt says:

    Seriously, though, if it were possible to fire a cartridge case out of a rifle, what would the ballistics on it be like. Light weight, one end open, rear end weighs more than the front – it would be an interesting study in ballistics and physics.

    1. avatar MyName says:

      Well, you could find a case close to the bore diameter of a muzzle loader (using it as a patched load would probably be wise) and find out. You can’t do it with any of my muzzleloaders though.

  12. avatar Matty 9 says:

    I’m starting to think that ALL the anti-gun animus is based on lacking of understanding. This BS reinforces my theory!

  13. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    People who know nothing of firearms,such as politicians and media shouldn’t take artistic license with them as it makes them appear a fool or is that tool.

  14. avatar Henry says:

    So his “proof” is a photo of the other photo. Well, I’m certainly convinced! Because there’s absolutely no way to jam an edited photo back onto a camera’s media. That’s just crazy talk.

    1. avatar Big E says:

      How would you suggest he “prove” he didn’t edit the picture? Maybe the FBI should investigate…….

      1. avatar Henry says:

        I don’t suggest there’s any possible way he can. That’s why him trying just makes it all look even more fake.

      2. avatar Blurb says:

        They’re busy this week.

  15. avatar Mort says:

    Love it, Jeremy.

    Deja vu… Note my comments under the TTAG article “The Black Eyed Peas Release School Shooting Music Video to Support Gun Control” circa September 22, or so.

    That’s the poster. 😂 And I get that; it’s par for the course with those neutered monkeys. But that Discovery Channel rifling animation video… just unacceptable… a disgraceful display of ignorance.

    Anyway, this is one of those “at first glance” “Solway Firth” “spaceman” photos… it makes sense when you imagine it in 3D. 🤓

    Be safe.

  16. avatar el Possum Guapo Herr Standartenfuher they think we're making pizza's" Oberst von Burn says:

    The picture is fake, someone threw the shell casing like a dart, it’s an m16/m4 it’s shell casing is stuck in the receiver. Ha

  17. avatar Ragnarredbeard says:

    While I appreciate that the shooter is wearing some kind of ear pro, the yellow foamies aren’t enough. Shame on you SSgt Gluyas.

    Note: 24 year AF retired guy who flew on planes and knows how bad the yellow foamies really are.

  18. avatar Another Ed says:

    “Shooter’s finger is already off the trigger, which is certainly possible but awfully quick”

    Look again. The finger is still on the trigger.

  19. avatar Wally1 says:

    It is actually possible to launch the cartridge case out the barrel of a AR type rifle, but it’s not what you think, I’ll explain. Years ago when I was in the army, we were out on a field problem, (Training) out in the desert near Mountain Home Air Force base in southern Idaho. Yes there is desert in southern Idaho! We had M-16’s with the blank adapters screwed on the end of the barrel, this allowed the increased pressure to cycle the action when using blanks for training. There were tons of prairie dog towns in the area. Being the ingenious, motivated and bored to death soldiers we were, we quickly found out that by removing the blank adapter from the end of the barrel and placing a previously shot blank cartridge case with the expanded crimp in the muzzle, it fit perfect into the muzzle of the barrel, then tap it on a rock to seat it tightly in the barrel, then chamber another blank cartridge, Firing this will propel the empty cartridge case in the end of the barrel out to about 50 yards. We shot and stunned many prairie dogs like this. It soon became a competition for accuracy. So yes, it is actually possible to shoot the cartridge case out of a M-16.

    1. avatar G-Runt says:

      Thank you for your service! LoL

  20. avatar Tionico says:

    This article, WITH the ensuing commentary, is one of the FUNNIEST pieces I’ve seen in a long timr.

    I think the coup de gras is the last post, guys on maneouvres in Southern Idaho, only dummy rounds, figured out how to shoot prairie dogs with already spent blank brass…..

    Yup. Grunts, bored, will always find SOMETHING. Reminds me of some of the stories an old friend has told me about his training days as a SEAL. Using found objects and materiel to concoct a VERY potent explosive system that completely destroyed a concrete observation bunker, winning the prize three day leave in a war games exercise by commandeering the ambulance used to ferry shift-change officers at the HQ bunker that had to be taken to win the prize… by staging a fake injury along the ambulance’s path, then overpowering the ambulance and crew, then calmly driving to the HQ bunker, walking right in to the door, opened for the “replacment officer team” and informing them they’d just been captured…..
    I missed out on all that because of the number I drew in the draft lottery. but some of the antics I’ve heard from those who drew low numbers make me think that, in spite of all the horrors, many made the best of it all.

  21. avatar Qwerty says:

    Cartridge hell! That there’s the top secret hyper-hollow point!

  22. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    Golden Oldies,because once wasn’t enough.

  23. avatar Don says:

    The question is what kind of light is he running on that set up?

  24. avatar Catnip says:

    Do you copy/paste articles? I saw that at least a week ago.

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      I like Jeremy but thought the same thing. I used to read TTAG every morning but over the last two years have drop to just scanning it twice a week or so.

  25. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    YuP reprint articles and no Daily Digest as of late,I know a retrospective of last years best articles to take up pages.

  26. avatar Frank M. says:

    Great post, Jeremy. Thanks for tracking this down.

  27. avatar A. C. says:

    Reminds me of this (15 seconds):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpDEO6sPdJI
    but the video is for real.

  28. avatar Bruce Clark says:

    I know this is basically a joke. But the promo for EVERY TOWN USA. isn’t. And it demonstrates exactly how ignorant the anti-gun lobby is. In reality, how would anyone in their right minds even consider following the advice of simple minds such as those? I guess the key words from that last sentence would be “simple minds”…..

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email