The importance of eye protection

Images like those below are chilling to those of us in the shooting community, as they should be. Sometimes we forget just how dangerous our hobby can be and we become lax. When we become lax we accidentally double charge a round while reloading, or we hear a pop vs. a bang and fail to check the bore of our firearm before firing the next round. We sweep others with the muzzle. We put our finger on the trigger when we shouldn’t. And sometimes we forget to wear eye protection.

The AR15 pictured here exploded unexpectedly on its owner this week. The source of the failure isn’t known for sure, but I’m fairly sure the cause of this catastrophic failure was an over pressure round based upon my inspection of the rifle. We don’t have all of the details of what happened, so I’m not going to name brands in this article. My goal isn’t to unnecessarily defame the manufactures of the rifle or the ammo, it’s to drive home the importance of making sure we always remember the basic rules of safety while engaged in our sport/hobby. Pay attention. Practice good muzzle discipline. Keep that finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Wear hearing protection. Pay attention while reloading and double check your work. Always wear eye protection.

Yes, I’m guilty of taking my eye protection off at times while shooting and you’ve seen me do it in videos. On hot humid days my eye wear will often times fog up making the use of magnified optics difficult, if not impossible. When I see grenaded firearms such as this one, it reminds me how foolish I am for taking my glasses off regardless of my reason.

If the owner of this firearm had not been wearing eye protection he likely would be blind in one or both eyes right now. If that doesn’t send a chill down your spine there’s something wrong with you.

Please folks, be safe out there.

All of the major components of the exploded AR15.  You can see the total destruction caused by the likely culprit - an over charged round.

You can see the total destruction caused by the likely culprit – an over charged round.

From the rear you can see that both sides of the upper receiver split.

From the rear you can see that both sides of the upper receiver split.

The bolt and carrier both were blown apart by the over-pressure.

The bolt and carrier both were blown apart by the over-pressure.

exploded AR15

The chamber area of the destroyed AR15.


MAC is an avid shooter, former MCSF Marine, NRA member, Oath Keeper and is commissioned as a Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Known for his videos on the Military Arms Channel, he also writes for The Bang Switch, for Shotgun News (Be Ready!) and freelances for Guns & Ammo. MAC has been a life long shooter who has an interest in all things that go "bang" but gravitates towards military type firearms.

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  • JC


  • Chris – Va

    Seen a round undercharged get stuck in the barrel and next round does that.

    • MAC

      When that happens you will see evidence of it in the barrel. A bulge or visible ring in the bore can usually be seen. I inspected the rifle and the bore was fine. I’m not qualified to say what the cause was with absolute certainty given I don’t know all the facts of what happened though, which is why I’m not discussing manufacturers.

  • Lothaen

    The tiny pop is a dead giveaway for anyone to do a “timeout” and inspect the rifle. I had a tiny pop out of my brand new SBR VZ61 and I put it down, thought about it for a second and took the gun apart at the range.

    The bore was obstructed by a .32ACP round deep enough to allow me to chamber the next round. IF I had chambered that next round and pulled the trigger then there goes my hand / eyes / new SBR.

    Good reminder to us all.

  • Mat

    Does he own a 300blk? I ask because the hornady 110 will fit in a 223 chamber and this will happen. From my own experience I blew one up by mixing mags.

  • AH

    I was shooting reloads in my XD one day, and noticed one of the rounds didn’t go bang, but I did hear the pop of the primer. Looked down the bore and couldn’t see light. After field stripping the XD I saw that a bullet had gotten stuck. Not sure how I must have missed a step for some reason in the reloading process or something. Had I pulled the trigger it could have ended badly.

    • Zyn

      usually a squib load in a semi-auto pistol doesn’t have the power to push the slide all the way back and chamber the next round. I’ve had sever squibs from WWB in my XD, and not a single one chamber the next round… thankfully there was enough of a pop to push the bullet out of the barrel… but i still checked it after every pop-no-bang

  • Marcossa

    This website would be much easier to read if the text were black instead of grey.

    • MAC

      You’re the second reader to mention this. I’ve changed the font color to black in this post, hopefully that helps. By default my theme uses gray text. I have to remember to make it black, which I will likely forget from time to time.

  • JP


    Thanks for this article. It is a great reminder for those of us who shoot as well as reload like myself.

    Thank You

  • Brandon L

    To me the chamber looks ok, the barrel extension looks blown a part. I wonder if the round went off before it was full chambered and the bolt locked into place. I don’t know how damage from an unchambered round would look compared to over pressure.

  • johnM

    It is interesting that the chamber seldom ruptures. Might be stretched a bit, but not broken. The weak point, the case head, gives way, and destroys the action, but not the barrel. Modern barrels are incredibly strong.

  • dabiginch

    Why is it that we gunners do not want to listen??? We just have to learn the hard way.

  • Mike Hasel

    Thanks for sharing Mac! Complacency kills! We all endeavor to instruct our youngsters on the proper techniques for safety and marksmanship, but this reminder brings back memories of military training about the “Pop, no kick” dilemma presented by a dud or squib round. Emphasize to your young shooters the awareness to look and listen while shooting, recognize unpredictable action, and check the bore if they have doubts. Somewhere I have a series of photos of a rifle used by a Marine unit that trained on the combat movement range and went directly to the live-fire range after without checking the bores…they lost 5 rifles, but luckily no lives! … 5.56mm is on the low end of high power cartridges, but it is amazing how much damage that little case can do. Don’t teach the perfect scenario… teach about duds, magazines not seated, and catastrophic failure! Take care of your rifle, recognize the problem, and make sure that you BOTH come home from the range in one piece!

  • Kevin W

    I still wear eye pro and it is not the most comfortable because I wear glasses. Good reminder because I don’t always wear it. Always listen for an audible pop instead of a bang and stop shooting!

  • icepick37

    Last time I went shooting w/o eye protection will be the last. :p I wear glasses, but that’s a silly reason not to wear some actual eye protection. Have seen way too many incidents on the Internet to subscribe to “won’t happen to me”-ism.

  • AH

    Yeah I could use some new safety glasses. I need something that is comfortable because I wear glasses. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


  • Jeff Baker

    That’s a catastrophic failure to be sure. If you’re not willing to discuss manufacture, can you comment on whether the carbine was mil-spec? I’m guessing no, but I don’t know enough about metallurgy (or the genesis of the ‘kaboom’ in question) to speculate further (e.g. would a mil-spec rifle have survived?). God bless you for your service, stay safe.

  • EJ

    If you want to stop your glasses fogging up get some Barbasol(shaving cream). Shake the can, put a small dab on your fingertip, spread it over the lenses and then gently wipe it off with a soft cloth. I couldn’t shoot in an Alabama summer without it! Saliva works in a pinch as well, but your lenses will be somewhat blurry until it dries.

  • Joel

    It’s probably not what happened in this case, but the following is something to consider.

    Sometimes instructors seek to “instinctivize” tap-rack-bang. That is, they want to make it an automatic or second nature, immediate activity. However, there really isn’t much difference between a click and a pop (a dud and a stuck bullet). Some shooters may miss that difference. Doing tap-rack-bang on a “pop” could be very dangerous.

    Just something to think about. Some of us are more likely to encounter a faulty round than a heated gunfire exchange. We need to act appropriately in either case.

  • Gort

    IraqVeteran8888 video showed how a Mosin could handle over pressured ammo. Pretty amazing

  • LMOMechTech

    One thing that must be considered is that damage like this is also duplicated by firing a ‘squib’ load followed by a normal round. Depending where the errant bullet lodged in the barrel is, pressure build up may be at the breech if the bullet is lodged not far down the barrel therefore causing the pressures to build up excessively right at the breech.
    In this case, the barrel might not show signs of obstruction. Like stated and can’t be over-stressed is that when reloading ammo, take your time and be deliberate in your checks of loads. It only takes one time to make for a very interesting event…be safe…speed in reloading is ‘not’ a good thing.

  • Tim

    I’ve reloaded 223 for a while now. I can’t see how this is an over pressured round caused by an overload of powder. Most 223 powders fill the case atleast 85-90%. Some loads I use are even compressed loads, making a double charge pretty hard to do.

    • MAC

      Don’t assume all powders are the same. Some powders are safe to use compressed charges, others aren’t. You most certainly can over charge a .223 and blow a gun up. I didn’t say this was a double charged load, only that it was an over pressure load most likely. Also, the fastest way to turn a .223 into a grenade I can think of is to use pistol powder by accident.

  • Josh

    That will pucker your butthole.

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  • lbsbandit

    Is it bad that i’m not surprised its on a “Zombie” lower?

  • Ian Rupert

    Guys who wear glasses, save up and have a pair of RX safety glasses made. You will be glad you did. You can see so much better than having to wear a pair of big safety glasses over your regular glasses, and it’s much more comfortable and cool (temperature AND in how it looks!) Get the side shields, too. The ones I wear are made by 3M called Horizon. Very comfortable and very sturdy.

  • Robert

    Remove the case from the chamber. If it is deformed forward in any way, it is an indicator that the rifle fired out of battery.
    Just a thought.