One of the oddities of the 25mm main gun of the Bradley is its feed system. It has two feed chutes that load two different types off ammunition, generally armor piecring (APFSDS-T) or high explosive (HEI-T). Because of this sprocket driven feeder and the external power used to drive the gun, once you load the feed chutes with ammo, you actually need to disengage the safeties (electrical and manual) and cycle the weapon one time to put a round into the feed tray*. This is called “cycling the ghost round” since you go through all the normal steps of firing, but no rounds are fired. It is like a ghost in the machine. The trick is remembering that you DID in fact cycle the ghost round.
Sometimes what happens, if you don’t follow your checklist like you’re supposed to, is you get to the firing line, see your first target pop up and squeeze the trigger and have a misfire. That’s when you find out if you’ve practiced your immediate action drills enough.
What’s worse is if you cycled the ghost round, and forget…
So there we were, at the range in Colorado. It was a brutally cold day, and the platoon’s vehicles were on line, waiting for the snow to abate, and visibility to improve enough to commence firing. We were supposed to have rounds in the chutes, ghost rounds cycled, and electrical and manual safeties on. And turret drive power was supposed to be set to “off.” While waiting, the range maintenance people went downrange to work on one of the target lifters that was being a little recalcitrant. Up goes the target, down goes the target. One of the Bradley Commanders (NOT on my vehicle!) decided to engage in a little impromptu training for his brand new gunner. Somehow, his brain housing group failed to engage. Because he decided, while real live people were downrange, to demonstrate how the ghost round cycled. Turret drive on, electrical and manual safety off, squeeze the trigger. Between the two mental giants in the turret, neither of them could recall that they’d actually gone through the checklist less than an hour before, to include cycling the gun. The end result was a training sabot round leaving the muzzle in an unplanned, but nonetheless very real, firing. The 4 or 5 range maintenance people standing around the target were not at all amused to have a 12.7mm slug go zipping past them at somewhere around 2500 feet per second.
The end result was one NCO suddenly became a former NCO, and one brand new gunner found himself shuffled off the work in the headquarters company in some stupid job like coffee-fetcher. No one was killed or injured, but a whole lot of us learned (again) the value of checklists, and keeping your head in the game, and out of your ass.
*another oddity is that when you change from firing one type of ammo to the other, the first round of your next burst will be of the previously selected ammo. For instance if you engage an armored target with APFSDS-T, then switch to HEI-T to engage troops in the open, your first round against the troops will be an AP round. The round will not hit anywhere near the troops because of the ballistic differences between the rounds, and the sights are automatically adjusted for whichever ammo is selected.