The “Ghost” round

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.

6 thoughts on “The “Ghost” round”

  1. The oddity of firing a round of the old ammo after switching to the new ammo isn’t so odd; the round had already been chambered.

    I nearly had my own little unsafe incident when coming off the live-fire range at NTC. My gunner had pulled the 240C and put it on top of the turret while doing something else. I started to disassemble it for cleaning and was not pleased to find a round chambered; especially as I’d been straddling the machine gun mount when he was taking it out of the mount. At this removed I no longer remember whose responsibility it was to clear the weapon when coming off the range, but one or the other of us had screwed up royally.

    ex-M-3A0 gunner and TC

  2. This gun is crazy. I had the hardest time with BGST (Bradley Gunnery Skills Test) after many years of TCGST (Tank Crew Gunnery Skills Test).

  3. The only thing I had a hard time with in BGST was hooking up the damn feed chutes. Not a whole lot of room for these fat fingers to work in.

    1. I had a hell of a time with them for a long time, but one day, it just seemed to work, and ever after, I always was able to hook ’em up with no problems.

      As to clearing the coax, that was always the BC’s job in my day. So was cleaning it. Clearing the feeder on the 25 was the gunners job. We’d usually have the BC clear and pull the coax, then get out of the turret to give the gunner some room to work. Pulling the feeder wasn’t really hard, just awkward, and getting the BC out of the way made it a little easier.

  4. Ultimately, the BC/TC is RESPONSIBLE for all weapons. He may not physically clear it, but he should check them. (That’s all 4 weapons in the tank….).

    1. “I am responsible for everything my crew does, or fails to do”

      You’re correct, of course. As an NCO, I sought and accepted responsibility.

      But my point was there was a division of labor. The gunner (often an NCO himself) was responsible for doing his part. And there were crosschecks as well. I checked his work, he checked mine, then (on the range, anyway) the Range Safety NCO would check. Never had a problem myself.

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