Soldier Mutilates Hand By Hitting .50 Caliber Round

While mounting the M2 machine gun onto the turret system of his MATV during pre-combat checks, this soldier experienced difficulty inserting the locking pin on the MOD 93 machine gun mount.  The soldier then attempted to force the locking pin into place with a rock. After this failed, he then secured a loose .50 cal. round, using it to hammer at the locking pin, attempting to force the locking pin into place.  After several hits with the .50 cal. round, the primer activated, setting the round off in the soldier’s hand. Extensive injuries were suffered to his right hand, middle, ring and pinky finger.

See the official weapons safety message memo – HERE
*Warning Very Graphic*

It’s really unfortunate when Darwin comes for soldiers… but hitting a live round? COME ON.. how does he think his machine gun fires?  This incident would have been a bit more understandable if it occurred in the heat of combat, but the memo specifically states the soldier was mounting the M2 onto the turret, pre-combat.

On the bright side, I guess he get a ticket out of Trashcanistan.


24 COMMENTS

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Josh June 4, 2010 at 12:53 am

God damn! I can’t even imagine how anyone would think that would be a good idea. It looks like that whole hand should be a goner, but doctors can do some pretty amazing things; maybe they can salvage part of it. Ouch. You would think that this isn’t the kind of lesson that needs to be learned the hard way, but hopefully the posting of that bulletin makes everyone else think twice before trying something like this!

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Aleksandr Mravinsky June 4, 2010 at 01:56 am

At least he tried a rock first. Reminds me of a story awhile back about a teacher who kept what he thought to be a deactivated .50BMG as a paperweight. Tried to smash a fly with it and the round went off. I don’t remember if he lost his hand or what.

With damage like that to his hand, the soldier seems lucky that shrapnel didn’t hit his face.

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Halo_Storm June 4, 2010 at 02:11 am

You might want to re read the article, it says he used the round to hammer the pin in, not hit the round with a rock.

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Admin (Mike) June 4, 2010 at 02:42 am

oops thanks halo

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Dave June 4, 2010 at 02:00 pm

He tried hitting the locking pin with a rock first, then switched to hitting the locking pin with a round when the rock didn’t get him the results he was looking for.

I’ve always wondered about weapon systems (like the ACR) that encourage you to use a round as a tool (also thinking of California’s AR requirements of using a tool for a magazine release).

I really don’t think it’s a good idea…

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Ross June 7, 2010 at 09:54 pm

There’s nothing wrong with using the bullet itself as a tool to pry or to press pins through… it’s when you get people trying to hammer on things that it becomes risky. I’ve heard a few stories similar to this, but it seems most of us have enough brains not to do something so stupid. There’ are always a few that manage to get through training without being weeded out, unfortunately.

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CinSC June 4, 2010 at 07:08 am

Occasionally, I look at self-inflicted wounds to remind myself of the dangers of careless firearms handling. It’s good medicine. However, I’ll leave this one to the imagination. Ugh!

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Admin (Mike) June 19, 2010 at 03:26 pm

hehe same. It’s one of the reasons I don’t reaload (yet) cause I’ve seen some scary pictures of what can happen if you do it wrong.

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Pete June 4, 2010 at 07:37 am

what I can’t understand is why he resorted to that in the first place, in all of the vehicles I rolled in we always at least had a small bag with some basic tools, including a hammer, with us for stuff like this…

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Snowdog June 5, 2010 at 12:05 am

he probably would have had to climb down from where he was on top, climb into the vehicle, find the tool, then climb back up to finish the job. So instead, he got lazy. :P

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NV Smith June 5, 2010 at 03:36 pm

-Safety, safety, safety.
-What do you want to bet he gets a VA disability rating out of this? I hope the mandatory 15-6 investigation declares the accident “not line of duty.”
-The following comments have nothing to do with this incident; I think the idiocy has been sufficiently covered.
-I like Ma Deuce & hope DoD gets off its collective dead rear end and fixes the only thing worth improving: the barrel change system.
-Another Ma Deuce accident due to stupidity: many years ago during a reserve weekend one of our officers decided that a Ma Deuce familiarization would be an acceptable substitute for a real training plan. Accordingly he acquired two HB-M2s, ammo, and a 25 meter M-16 zero range. Since I was a small arms repairman and an experienced range safety NCO I was asked to act as a safety NCO. I refused and refused to have any connection with firing .50 cal on a 25 meter range with no apparant purpose other than to let some guys get their jollies by pumping lead downrange. I told the OIC that the setup was an accident waiting to happen and would shut down the range if he ordered me to act as the safety NCO. The LT was smart enough to dismiss me without prejudice and I wandered off. I heard about an hour later that there had been an accident. After firing a couple of hundred rounds without letting the guns cool, one had a failure to fire. Instead of letting the gun sit and cool down, as stated in the manual, the operator pulled back on the charging handle while, for reasons known only to himself and G*d, put his left hand underneath the gun to catch the ejected round. Can you say “cook off”? Even if the round hadn’t cooked off he probably would have been severely burned by the ejected round. As it was he was exteremly lucky that the round cooked off just as it started to extract so he “only” got numerous pieces of brass in his hand and severe burns. He was also fortunate that we were on Ft Lewis and the base hospital had a good trauma clinic.
-I know that the soldier involved retained use of his hand but I never found out what happened after the investigation. Since I wasn’t present during the accident the investigating officers evidently didn’t believe there wasn’t any need to interview me.
-Yes, I went to a different unit shortly thereafter and then returned to active duty.

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Josh June 5, 2010 at 06:40 pm

“I hope the mandatory 15-6 investigation declares the accident ‘not line of duty.’”

If that was a joke it was in poor taste. If you’re serious, then I’d suggest you need your head examined. If you’re serious then I think you should be required to be 1) the PR person in charge of dealing with the backlash for trying to withhold disability payments for a soldier injured in Afghanistan, and 2) the attorney representing the Army in the inevitable lawsuit that would follow, where you can try to convince a jury that this soldier was injured, in Afghanistan, while attempting to mount a machine gun for fun, and that he was not doing so “in the line of duty.”

Clearly this happened while on active duty in a combat zone, so on the face of things a reasonable person would think it was in the line of duty. I would presume that there was no alcohol or drugs involved, so your options for calling this not in the line of duty are what? Intentional misconduct or willful negligence? I don’t think anyone would argue that this was “intentional misconduct;” your better bet would be to call it “willful negligence.” However, “willful negligence” would be the intentional performance of an unreasonable act in clear disregard of a known risk, and the performance of this act would have to carry with it a high probability that harm would be caused. I’ll bet that if you polled other soldiers that perform the same or similar duties as this one, you would find that it is not uncommon to use a live round as a “tool” when nothing else is handy. I would think nearly EVERY soldier has used a live 5.56 round to poke out the receiver pin on an M4, or to adjust the front sight post. Frequent use of a live round as a tool would mean it was not an “unreasonable act,” and would refute any notion that it carried with it a high probability of harm.

Regardless of how stupid it sounds in hindsight, I imagine using a round like this has probably happened frequently with no consequences. And regardless of how careless or stupid you think it is, it happened while this young man was doing his duty by serving overseas in defense of the U.S. I think it’s extraordinarily rude and callous to suggest that just because there may have been some measure of negligence involved that he doesn’t deserve any disability for his permanent disability and disfigurement, which occurred during a combat deployment, no less. We have no reason to suspect he was anything less than a fine soldier, honorably performing his duty to the United States, who, through negligence and circumstance, ended up severely and permanently injured.

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NV Smith June 6, 2010 at 08:18 am

Josh,
-For the record I receive a VA pension for combat related disabilities.
-Also for the record I spent about 20 years as a firearms safety, hunter safety and basic marksmanship instructor with state and NRA certifications.
-My 15-6 investigation reference was with respect to the .50 cal incident at Ft Lewis and not to the incident in Afghanistan.
-Even so, on reflection, I withdraw and apologize for my NLOD comment. My anger is still aimed at idiots who let the Ft Lewis accident occur. I have secondary issues with the soldier involved because, like me, he was a prior active duty NCO and knew better. As you so accurately point out, however, he shouldn’t suffer because of a set of circumstances not of his making.
-I sincerely hope that the trooper in Afghanistan recovers without any disability at all. But, Josh, I hope that you won’t take issue with me for hoping that the Afghanistan incident is used as a teaching point to avoid similar incidents in the future.
-I completely agree with your final comment: “We have no reason to suspect he was anything less than a fine soldier, honorably performing his duty to the United States, who, through negligence and circumstance, ended up severely and permanently injured” and I wish him all the best fortune in the future.

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Brian November 23, 2010 at 03:59 pm

But using a round as a pushing device by the tip of the bullet is different then hammering on something with the primer end. Remember it is a center fire primer so you will get a couple lucky strikes but every so often you will hit the primer and the round will detonate.

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vnvet November 23, 2010 at 07:56 pm

WHAT ? Did you read the ALL the replies ? Its a NO brainer hitting the case head will ignite the primer FOR SURE. But, he was not and he proved you don’t have to. Anyone that handles ammunition, is into reloading and is not a novice knows how delicate primers can be. Boxed Warnings on lables. DO NOT BANG OR DROP. OR Store with powders with reference to reloading..

tbonicus says:
June 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm

” I was there for this incident, the NCO that was with him said he had the palm of his hand over the bullet, and that he wasn’t striking the primer against the pin. “

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mike June 6, 2010 at 01:13 pm

Soldier failed the ten percent rule (you must be at least ten percent smarter that the equipment you are using) and his leaders failed him in training.
Many other sites are questioning the veracity of the safety msg- I could sworn I had seen that image before but on another safety message. then again, a lot of traumatic hand injuries involving firearms look the same.

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vnvet June 7, 2010 at 04:40 pm

Does anyone know EXACTLY how the GI was holding the round ? I ask this question as I had heard from a source he WAS NOT hammering away with the case head, rather, the side of the case rim. One does NOT have to whack the case head to ignite a primer. Anyone who is experienced in handling of components specifically primers knows that merely dropping them, banging them around etc., can ignite a sensitive primer.

I do find it incredibly hard to believe that the GI was actually whacking away on the locking pins of the M2 with the cartridge base. There is blame going around the DOD on this serious accident, but only the blame of stupidity can be applied IF he was indeed smacking the primer end.

Please only reply if there is factual information regarding how.

Thank you

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mary June 11, 2010 at 08:05 pm

OUCH! :(

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ASR June 17, 2010 at 09:52 am

The only safe round is one with out a bullet, primer, and powder…..

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Ross June 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Without a bullet? Without powder and primer (or with a primer that’s been struck and no powder) a round is entirely safe.

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tbonicus June 25, 2010 at 08:51 pm

I was there for this incident, the NCO that was with him said he had the palm of his hand over the bullet, and that he wasnt striking the primer against the pin.

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vnvet June 26, 2010 at 08:49 am

Thanks for reporting that. Do you know of any formal investigation memo stating the details ?

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