This didn't happen in a match, and it was in a rifle, so perhaps this shouldn't exactly live in the "Match Screwups" thread, but it IS a ScrewUp, so I thought I'd post it here so others could learn from my mistake.
Last weekend I finally got to the range to break in my new precision rifle. It is my first custom rifle and I wanted to properly break it in per the manufacturer recommendation and started by shooting a single round, then cleaning the bore. The plan was to shoot ten rounds, cleaning after each shot. At shot four things went wrong: the shot sounded "off" and I heard what sounded like the spinning noise associated with a ricochet. When i looked up, my muzzle brake was sheared off at the rear ports. I thought I shot a double charged round or that it had come unscrewed and off center, but soon realized that the spear tip clearing jag I had been using was not on my cleaning rod. Evidently it came off and remained in the barrel. I think it was near the muzzle because there was no damage to bolt/receiver and the case showed no signs of excess pressure, probably because there was an avenue for gas pressure to escape. The rifling is damaged, the brake is toast, and I probably need a new barrel. No one was hurt.
This could have ended completely differently. I've used that cleaning rod for 15 years and have never had a jag or brush come unscrewed before. I've never had a double charge or anything that has damaged a pistol or rifle while I was using it. I am super lucky that I didn't get a bolt in the face. I think of myself as a very safety conscious shooter/hunter/competitor and this is worst mistake I've made at the range.
A couple takeaways:
- Next time I put anything in the bore of a rifle or pistol, I am going to triple check that it came out.
- I was chatting with my friend at the range. Would I have noticed the missing jag if we hadn't been talking? Maybe, maybe not. Next time I'm performing any type of maintenance I will focus 100% of my attention on the task.
- We competition shooters always wear eye protection, but only occasionally does it get "used" to prevent an injury. This was one of those situations that eye protection was made for. Thank god I didn't need it.
I'm super lucky that this will only cost me some money and regret, and nothing more permanent. Just wanted to share this as a reminder that when things go wrong with firearms, they do so quickly. Keep your mind on what you are doing, even if it is something like routine maintenance.