Hey, responsible gun owners! Are you inspecting your ammunition before you use it? Of course we want to purchase quality ammo from reputable sources and store it safely (and use it in a timely manner). But we also want to look it over before loading it in a magazine. Do not just assume that a factory-loaded cartridge is good to go simply because it came out of a name-brand box. (Your life may depend on it!) And if you reload ammunition (for classes or for shooting matches), don’t overlook the importance of double-checking to be sure your rounds are reliable and accurate before trusting them in your gun.

Check Your Ammunition

First, it’s always good to check your ammo to be sure you have the correct caliber. Next, see if the projectile looks right. For instance, bullet setback from loading the same round in the chamber over and over again could eventually pose a problem. Look for any imperfections. Check the cases to be sure they are in good condition (no cracks or dents), and make sure the primers are seated properly (flush and right-side up).


It’s also good to examine your ammunition for chamber fit, whether you’re using it for training, for competition shooting or for protecting your life. You can try plunking! In other words, you can drop each round into the chamber of your firearm (by field-stripping the gun and removing the barrel). The round should fall freely into the chamber, making a “plunk” sound (hence the origin of the name). The round should also fall freely out on its own when you invert the barrel. If the round doesn’t do either one of these motions, there is potentially a problem, and you may want to mark (or remove) that round.

You can also drop the rounds into a special device like a chamber gauge, which checks one round at a time (you don’t have to take your gun apart), or a shockbottle, which is typically designed to work with a 100-round ammunition box so you can plunk test an entire tray of ammo at one time. Just keep in mind that a case gauge might not be the exact same dimensions as your gun’s chamber. Sometimes rounds will still fit in the barrel but not in the case gauge (or just the opposite: The rounds fit in the case gauge but not in the barrel).

About Beth Alcazar

Boasting several training certifications including TWAW, SIG Sauer Academy, ALICE Institute and I.C.E. Training, Beth Alcazar is enthusiastic about safe and responsible firearms ownership. She has nearly two decades in the firearms industry and is a Certified Training Instructor and Senior Training Counselor for the USCCA and Training Counselor, Chief Range Safety Officer and Certified Instructor for the NRA. The associate editor of Concealed Carry Magazine, Beth also uses her experience and degrees in language arts, education and communication management to author the Pacifiers & Peacemakers column as well as Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals.