Demonstration of why you should wear safety glasses while shooting

Yesterday I was shooting my Calico M950.


This is a 9mm pistol with a 100 round helical magazine that feeds from the top.

I had a round that failed to go off when I pulled the trigger. I waited a minute to make sure it wasn’t a hang fire, cleared the round from the gun, set it aside, and finshed shooting the contents of the magazine.

I removed the magazine from the gun, made sure it was empty, locked to bolt back (it doesn’t lock automatically) and made sure the breech was empty.

So now I had this one bad round left. I could see the dimple on the primer from the firing pin, so it was struck. The round otherwise looked normal. I figured I might as well see if I can get it to fire (this was probably bad move #1).

I dropped the round into the breech, released the bolt, and without inserting the magazine (this was bad move #2), aimed, and fired.

There was an exceptionally bright flash from the top of the gun. My first though was…

You know, it’s probably not a good idea to fire this particular gun without the magazine inserted.

Then I felt something strike me in the face. My next thought was….

Yes, its definitely not a good idea to fire this gun without the magazine inserted.

At this point I’m thinking that the shell, instead of ejecting downward, ejected upward though where the magazine feeds and hit me in the face. This shouldn’t happen though. The ejector pin is part of the bolt assembly, and should function even without the magazine.

I set the gun down, and reach up to check my face for damage. My next though was…

Wow. Thats a awful lot of blood.

I don’t however, feel any major damage. So where is all the blood, now all over my shirt and all over the floor, coming from? Teeth! Check teeth!. Ah, good, all my teeth are intact. The inside of my upper lip does feel a little strange though. So, ok, shell ejects backwards, hits my upper lip, pushing it into my teeth, tearing the inside. Not fun, but I’ll live. I get a handkerchief from my dad (who was standing next to me), and use it to stop myself from bleeding all over everything. My dad doesn’t see anything on my face that makes him want to dial 911, and the bleeding quickly slows to something that isn’t scary. Ok. Time to pack up, head home, and get cleaned up.

I pick up the M900, and go to open the bolt to make sure the gun is empty before putting it away in the case. Hmmm. The bolt is jammed closed. And then I notice something metallic on the inside of my upper lip. I discover what seems to be a tiny piece of shell casing that has obviously gone through the front of my upper lip and out the back. And there is a large chip knocked out of the front of my glasses.

So the gun somehow sprayed shrapnel at me. I decide I better go to the ER and get an x-ray to make sure there aren’t any metal bits somewhere scary that I haven’t noticed. So we pack up the guns, hop in the car, and go.

On the way there I call my wife. “First, before I say anything else, I’m ok, so don’t worry. I’m going to be home a little late…….”

At the ER its determined that all the wounds are tiny and don’t require any bandaging or stitches, and that there is one metal fragment stuck in my right cheek and one just at the top of the left eye socket. Most of the blood came from the one small hole that went all the way through my upper lip.

I always wear glasses, so I don’t normally think about the need to wear safety glasses while shooting, but it should be noted here that had I not been wearing glasses, I would have lost my right eye.


So now I need to go see a plastic surgeon to decide if the fragments should be removed.

I got home that evening, and did an ‘autopsy’ on the gun. With the bolt removed you can see where the shrapnel came from.


The shell never ejected. Instead the primer and top of the shell blew out.


The bullet is lodged in the barrel, about an inch down from the breech. So it looks like the gun fired without the bolt all the way closed, and without the magazine inserted there was a fairly direct path from the exploding shell casing to my face.

Whats strange is that bolt is designed so that this can’t happen. There are a set of rollers on the bolt. With the rollers retracted, the firing pin can’t reach the shell.


Only with the rollers extended will the firing pin hit the primer.


and there is only space for them to extend like that when the bolt is fully closed.


So at this point I’m not sure what went wrong or how to make the gun safe to fire again.

16 thoughts on “Demonstration of why you should wear safety glasses while shooting”

  1. Glad to hear you’re generally fine!

    That said, I can say there’s one benefit to my eyesight being so bad that I have to get polycarbonate lenses just for them to fit in frames and that is the fact that they double as shooting glasses. Of course, the lenses really are a little too small to be the best option, but they protect the eyeball for the most part. But your story does make me think twice about relying on them exclusively.

  2. You were very fortunate. Glad you’re ok!

    Get the gun to a gunsmith. It may not be repairable. A bullet jammed in the bore is very bad and requires lots of care to free without destroying the tolerances of the rifling. Unlike a squib load, your round was sent into the bore briefly at firing pressure before the gases found a more convenient exit point. That would concern me greatly. My other concern would be the condition of the bolt and chamber. It looks like there is damage to the front edge of the bolt in your pictures.

    I don’t have enough familiarity with the M900 to tell you if the roller system was working properly. I don’t know if the magazine is required for proper locking.

    All in all, a testament to the value of eye and ear protection.

  3. …and that’s when those fateful words echoed throughout history: “You’ll just shoot your eye out, kid!”

    Were there any icicles around?

    (A Christmas Story still remains relevant.)

  4. I also wear corrective glasses. For shooting and working in the wood shop I had a pair of safety glasses made that have heavier than normal frames, toughened lenses and side flaps to protect the sides of my eyes. I use these when my allergies (or dust in the woodshop) prevent me wearing contacts and conventional safety glasses.

    Yes, I look like a dork wearing them, but at least I can be sure I’ve done as much as I can to ensure that I will forever be able to look in the mirror and see that I look like a dork, instead of looking cool and losing my eyes instead.

    The funny thing is though that they cost a lot less then my everyday spectacles.

  5. The problem is not with the gun, the problem was with the ammo. The gun should run fine. As long as the roller lockers are not out of round or chipped it should lock and function properly. I would also inspect the feed ramp for any chips. I doubt that you would find one. The frame looks good (good job on the pictures by the way) and there seems to be no damage to the rails. The best way to get the bullet out is the same way a gunsmith would, using a brass rod (as thick as you can get at home depot or Brownell’s) and a mallet. Once that is out inspect the lands and groves for any visible chipping after a good cleaning.

    What seems to have happened (my educated guess since I cannot inspect the gun first hand) the gun functioned properly up until the point that the reloaded round lodged in the barrel due to unknown conditions. During the extraction and ejection cycle the pressure buildup found the weakest point in the shell and blew it out at the feed ramp. Quite common with reloads that were loaded with damp cases. It has happened to me once in a 1911 on accident and was able to recreate quite consistently to show others.

    Just so you know I am not some gun nut that thinks I am a gunsmith, I was a certified Glock, H&K, and Sig armorer. I worked at a gun range for 3 years as their gunsmith where I built and maintained most of their class 3 weapons. (We did have a manufactures licenses) And I served in the military and my secondary specialty was small arms.

  6. Glad to hear you’re basically OK.
    I don’t think your Calico malfunctioned as much as the weak cartridge just blew apart and found a exit path once the bolt started to retract. The propellant exiting through the back of the brass probably caused insufficient pressure behind the bullet, which is why it’s still in the barrel.
    That said I’m not qualified to critique Calico’s.
    Take care and here’s hoping you and your hardware fully recover.

  7. This is also another reason not to wear those stylish new glasses that hardly cover your eyeball, let alone the whole socket. My wife bugs me about my big glasses, but they protect the whole socket for just that reason.

  8. Your first few rounds should probably be shot while you’re wearing a face shield… Just in case.

  9. I currently have 3 Calicos.
    1 carbine and 2 pistols, one of which I bought from my brother a few years ago for $100.
    He also gave me an extra 50 round mag, 2 extra firing pins and a set of springs for the bolt assembly.
    His also exploded while firing soon after he bought it.
    It blew the mag off, and into pieces, and broke the bolt as well.
    The company answer at the time was that they had a batch of bolts not heat treated properly.
    They replaced the bolt with a new one, fixed the broken mag and gave him an extra as compensation for the trouble.
    No troubles since with any of these weapons, and we fired thousands of rounds through them.
    Have you had any experience with them multiple firing?
    I have found that with anything less than 124 grain rounds, I routinely get 3 round bursts before it kicks the bolt back far enough to engage it. Kinda spooked me the first couple times but now I like it.
    I avoid anything under 124 unless I actually am looking for the practice on “burst” mode.

    I for one am going to buy a bunch more magazines before the Dem’s make them illegal to buy again.
    Might invest in more barrels, bolts, firing pins, springs etc. as well.
    I am glad I bought them years ago when I bought my pistol with an extra mag for under $375!!
    Wish I had bought 10 so I could sell them at today’s prices!

  10. Dan: Sounds like you have a serious problem. Just look at what the ATF did to poor Olofson and his malfunctioning AR-15.

  11. Where can I get a scope mount for my calico? The one in your picture looks like it attaches to the magazine. I have a carbine and the pistol with the 50 and 100 rd mags. Any help would be appreciated. I think these guns are still made in argentina.

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