June 30, 2008

16 Injured in French Army Shooting Demonstration When Real Bullets Are Used Instead of Blanks
— Ace

Seems like a high body count for an accident.

A military shooting demonstration in southeast France on Sunday left 16 people wounded, including children, when real bullets were used instead of blank ones, officials said.

Four of the wounded were in serious condition, including a 3-year-old child, Bernard Lemaire, chief of the regional administration in Aude, said on France-3 television. Fifteen of the injured were civilians.

A Defense Ministry official said the incident occurred during a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks. The official said investigators will look into why real bullets were used.

No information was immediately available about what kind of weapon was used.

The soldier who fired the shots has been detained, Lemaire said. He said the injuries were likely an accident but that it could have been a "criminal act."

Thanks to chickpea.

Posted by: Ace at 08:34 AM | Comments (49)
Post contains 170 words, total size 1 kb.

1 That's going to leave a mark

Posted by: Joe at June 30, 2008 08:38 AM (QcPNi)

2 How did the French get a hold of real bullets?

Posted by: Benson at June 30, 2008 08:41 AM (qzcNU)

3 I like the fact that it was during a hostage rescue demonstration.  Makes me wonder if those kids were acting as hostages.

Posted by: Wilkeson at June 30, 2008 08:43 AM (APBcM)

4 If I'm ever a POW, please don't let the French come to rescue me. Also, please don't let Wesley Clark sum up my military career...

Posted by: Nose at June 30, 2008 08:45 AM (oBHED)

5 Lucy Ricardo moment: "Wait a minute... If this demonstration was using REAL bullets, then that means that the French military is using... OH NO!" Splains a lot.

Posted by: Korla Pundit at June 30, 2008 09:35 AM (FHlAi)

6 This really smells fishy to me, or to anyone with military experience.  Semiautomatic weapons, such as the French FAMAS rifle, require a Blank Firing Adapter (BFA) in order to cycle when shooting blanks.  Conversely, if live rounds are fired from a weapon with a BFA, severe, catastrophic damage will result to the weapon, and probably to the shooter.  So this incident requires that a BFA was not installed on the one weapon, which coincidentally was also mistakenly loaded with blanks.

Further, blanks sound different from live rounds.  TV and the movies fake nearly everything involving firearms, so most of what non shooters think they know about them is wrong.  A high velocity rifle bullet is supersonic, and makes a crack independent of the discharge of the weapon.  Anyone who's ever heard incoming rounds knows the sound, it's unmistakable.

So we have to assume that two simultaneous mistakes were made on the same weapon, accompanied by the shooter not realizing he was firing live rounds, and shooting 17 bystanders.  Just doesn't sound at all right.

Further, I can't imagine the unit NCOs not inspecting every trooper and weapon before the exercise.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at June 30, 2008 09:44 AM (nyHxK)


I agree with Steve.  Only weapons created by Hollywood can fire more than one blank without a blank firing adapter.  Without it there is no mechanism for chambering the next round.  The blank adapter mostly seals off the end of the barrel.

If you fire a live round through a weapon with a blank adapter on it, it will blow up in your face.  If you fire blanks without a blank adapter, then you will come to a dead halt after the first round--and maybe end up with a jam that will take many minutes to clear.  The soldier had to know it was live rounds, because otherwise he would have had a blank adapter on.  If the blank adapter was on, there would have been one fatality instead of 16 wounded.

Posted by: arminius at June 30, 2008 12:27 PM (CX71c)

8 How could anyone possibly not know they were loading live rounds?

Posted by: Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg at June 30, 2008 12:50 PM (y67bA)

9 "No brass, no ammo, Sergeant!"

For the other moron vets, how many freakin' times did you have to utter this phrase?

Damned shame. Hopefully the wounded will recover quickly and completely.

Posted by: IllTemperedCur at June 30, 2008 12:52 PM (Ds4I5)

10 a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques

If that's true, their techniques suck. I always thought in a hostage situation it was all about identifying targets and not spraying and praying.

Maybe the guy thought he had blanks so he could fuck around and 'pretend' to shoot any and everyone but it seems that's bad form to. Also it seems after hitting the first 10 or so, you might notice something is up

Something is definitely odd about this.

Posted by: DrewM at June 30, 2008 12:57 PM (hlYel)


A Defense Ministry official said the incident occurred during a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks.

They've should've stuck to their tried and tested protocol:  surrender to their demands.


"No brass, no ammo, Sergeant!"

Not a vet, but quite a few times myself during ROTC.  I remember once, they shook down everybody's pant legs, pulling them out of boots, finding a few cadets who jammed some spent brass down there hoping to score a nice little souvenir.  I had never seen someone truly piss themselves of fright before.

Posted by: EC at June 30, 2008 12:57 PM (mAhn3)

12 That's the highest body count by a French unit since 100 200 years....err ever!

Posted by: WunderKraut at June 30, 2008 12:58 PM (Jys/H)

13 I once turned in a clip to the armorer that was short one round.  There was hell to pay. 

This kind of thing should never, ever happen.  I hope the wounded recover completely and quickly.

Posted by: cranky at June 30, 2008 12:58 PM (/aSPO)

14 Knowing the French, this probably wasn't an accident. Just ask the crew of the Rainbow Warrior.

We like to make fun of the French for being a bunch of pussies, but that only applies to certain of their national politicians. Down lower on the food chain, it's a different story. You absolutely, positively do NOT want to mess with the French police, who do not take kindly to troublemakers, or your relatives might find your body only after it's been dumped off the short end of a Marseilles loading dock.

Posted by: OregonMuse at June 30, 2008 12:58 PM (FO+YO)


What's his name?

somebody had to ask

Posted by: IreneFingIrene at June 30, 2008 12:58 PM (nqlWD)

16 A Defense Ministry official said the incident occurred during a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks.

Le Waco, n'est ce pas?

Posted by: Herr Morgenholz at June 30, 2008 12:59 PM (5aa4z)


5 "No brass, no ammo, Sergeant!"

Right.  It's difficult to imagine how this could have been an accident.

Posted by: Bugler at June 30, 2008 12:59 PM (YCVBL)

18 In all fairness to the French, they've probably never seen live rounds before and have no idea what they look like. 

Posted by: runninrebel at June 30, 2008 01:00 PM (0n9wc)

Posted by: doubleplusundead at June 30, 2008 01:04 PM (fYRgj)



If you think the Gendarmeries are such badasses when it comes to troublemakers, then why did they get their asses handed to them by "youths of indeterminate ethnic orgins" last year and the year before that in Paris?

Posted by: EC at June 30, 2008 01:06 PM (mAhn3)

21 EC beat me to it. Oregon, I think that the reputation of the French police and especially the CRS is based on their behavior with the riots of the 50s and 60s against the Algerian debacle. Unfortunately they have indeed become pussified.

Posted by: iamnotachef at June 30, 2008 01:09 PM (nwJit)


I saw this over the weekend and I assumed that they were using SMGs for the demonstration. And my first thought was if they loaded their own magazines, how could the soldier not know that it was live ammo and not blanks. And secondly this was during a hostage rescue - isn't the point to only fire at the perps? How do you end up firing at the audience - that's goes against all the firearms training I've ever had.

My dark thoughts are that the soldier in question has Hussein or Muhammad somewhere in his name.

Posted by: Maetenloch at June 30, 2008 01:11 PM (D7Mah)

23 The French hostage rescue team then promptly surrendered to the injured 3 year old...

Posted by: Grendel at June 30, 2008 01:12 PM (i58mj)


Civilians injured?

Children, too?

Somewhere there is a Palestinian saying, "Damn! that's some good PR."

Posted by: Bart at June 30, 2008 01:14 PM (tPE8b)


OregonMuse is right on a certain front, though... while their politicians and evidently gendarmerie may be a bunch of pussies, if you want wet work done in this world, you call the French. It is precisely because they are so unprincipled that they are as good as they are.

BTW- found this on YouTube for all you Heavy Metal fans, and for anyone who likes cool aviation shots... it's the French AF flying Mirage F-1s in Chad set to "Reach Out" by Cheap Trick. That was my favorite song off of that soundtrack, and the footage is pretty impressive.


Okay, I tried to get it to appear as something else than the URL in the hyperlink box- can someone explain to me how that works?


Posted by: tmi3rd at June 30, 2008 01:18 PM (WG2sq)



You mean DGSE spooks?  If I were considering which nation had the best field agents for doing wet work, then look no further than the Israelis.


Jews....is there anything they can't do?

Posted by: EC at June 30, 2008 01:21 PM (mAhn3)

27 What a clusterfuck. Was this a demo or a wild west show?

Posted by: Rocks at June 30, 2008 01:22 PM (Q1lie)


Jews....is there anything they can't do?

Make good ham?

Posted by: Maetenloch at June 30, 2008 01:23 PM (D7Mah)

29 Jews....is there anything they can't do?

Eat bacon. Other than that and shellfish, they pretty much got it all covered.

Posted by: DrewM at June 30, 2008 01:24 PM (hlYel)

30 Seems like a high body-count for the entire French army--including those in Afghanistan, who haven't killed any "Indians lately"

Posted by: Jacques Chirac at June 30, 2008 01:40 PM (fj5Pu)

31     "Hostage freeing demonstration..."? 

The Movie SPEED comes to mind.   "Shoot the hostage!"

Posted by: Melodic_Metal at June 30, 2008 01:42 PM (JFsBJ)

32 Steve got it right.  A BFA is so obvious when fitted its impossible for the supervising NCO and armorer's to not notice it missing.

The crimped ends on blank rounds are also impossible to confuse with live ammo.  Literally, a blind man can tell the difference.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 30, 2008 01:58 PM (dcqty)



It would be hilarious except that there were kids involved.

Is it S.O.P. to shoot the hostages also?

Perhaps they have been reading the Al Qaeda manual instead.


Posted by: Cluebat from Exodar at June 30, 2008 02:01 PM (y67bA)

34 Gotta go with the sceptical commenter's above. This whole incident smells fishy.
Although , these are French NCO's we're talking about .

Posted by: Aubrey at June 30, 2008 02:23 PM (o521D)



I hear you- it's just that in my experience, you don't have to wait as long for DGSE to get to you on their to-do list... Mossad tend to have a lot of work on their plates. unlike us, Mossad seem to strike as soon as they identify a target.


Posted by: tmi3rd at June 30, 2008 02:24 PM (WG2sq)

36 They don't tell you what the weapon was. It seems like a low body count (or rather, low fatality rate) for someone using rifle ammunition, even poodle-shooter grade (5.56). Given that this was a hostage rescue scenario they were enacting, it is more likely pistol ammunition. Even a weapon like an MP5 needs a BFA to cycle properly.

I've used light machine guns with wooden training rounds. These have a muzzle attachment called a 'bullet masher' to shred the rounds safely but the weapon will feed and cycle without it.

Until we get more details this is just speculation.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 30, 2008 02:28 PM (2FZO3)


@somebody had to ask:

I suspect his name is uh, not all the French if you get my drift...

Posted by: Claude at June 30, 2008 02:36 PM (+Bqd5)

38 Perhaps these "youths" were trying to burn the duece and a half the soldiers showed in?

Posted by: LF Mayor at June 30, 2008 02:53 PM (AkPCZ)

39 dammit, up in I meant

Posted by: LF Mayor at June 30, 2008 02:54 PM (AkPCZ)

40 That's the highest body count by a French unit since 100 200 years....err ever!

200 years is just about right.

Let's not forget that the French under Napoleo kicked the utter crap out of every army in Europe for a good decade, before Napoleon inexplicably decided to winter in Moscow.

Posted by: DelD at June 30, 2008 04:11 PM (jt9I3)

41 Bet ya that's more people shot in one incident by Frenchmen than since they bugged out of 'nam.

Posted by: torabora at June 30, 2008 04:24 PM (lFglV)

Okay, I've got to come to the defense of the French. I've done it before here, and I'll do it again.

The French aren't pussies. However their political culture and its human functionaries place a high premium on realpolitik and calculating, unprincipled policy formulations, which leads to the sort of actions (or lack thereof) that reveals itself in what is for all intents and purposes cowardly behavior that result in morally dubious outcomes.

Let's not forget that the French in the First World War took on what has been arguably characterized as the finest army in history to that date (i.e., the German army in 1914) and defeated it. Yes, the British played a huge role in that defeat and the Americans were important to the final outcome, but it was the French who suffered the most and gave the most in that conflict.

As for the Americans--we were important more for merely showing up than for the fighting we did. I'm not belittling our sacrifices and successes and if the war had lasted beyond November 1918 we would have assumed burden of the fighting--and dying. Petain said words to the effect that "the Yanks and tanks" spelled doom for the Germans, but ultimately it was the French who brought the hammer down on the Huns.

Lest it be forgot, the French and the Germans fought the largest and longest field battle in history at Verdun. The French went toe to toe with the Germans, and won. The French suffered some 380,000 casualties, but they hung in there, inflicting around 330,000 casualties on the German.

Or consider the First Battle of the Marne. After losing upwards of a half million men (that's right--500,000 men KIA, WIA, MIA!) in the Battle of the Frontiers in early August, the French retreated for two weeks, then turned on their pursuers and defeated decisively them along Marne River nine, just outside Paris. Military men and scholars will tell you that retreats are very hard on armies--the latter tend to crumble and fall apart. For an army to recover, counterattack, and triumph after retreating two weeks--well, that shows steel, pure steel, in the hearts and souls of the French poilus and in France itself.

Upon the conclusion of that battle the German commander, Moltke, reputedly told the Kaiser: "Sire, the war is lost."

The Germans were baffled by French resilience. After the war, von Kluck, one of the German army commanders, declared: "That men who had retreated for ten days, that men lying on the ground half-dead from exhaustion were able to pick up their rifles again and attack at the sound of the bugle: that was something we had never reckoned with; that was a possibility we had never discussed in our war colleges."

And let's not forget, either, French cran (balls, or guts) in the Battle of Dienbienphu. The French lost that due to a wretched operational plan and even terrible leadership at the highest levels of command, but not for want of courage and fighting ability.

Turn the French loose, and they'll do just fine.

Posted by: Steve (aka Ed Snate) at June 30, 2008 05:04 PM (AZwSr)

43 So far today....
Eddie the Eagle: 1
French "professional" military: 0 (16 errors)

Posted by: exdem13 at June 30, 2008 06:20 PM (fenBi)

44 Obviously the Joos did a Jedi mindtrick while they were loading their magazines with live rounds.

Posted by: combat18 at June 30, 2008 09:10 PM (onLkk)

45 Should anyone wonder why the good Inspector Clouseau was French?

Posted by: Paul Albers at July 01, 2008 02:13 AM (55CQT)

46 Even with a small caliber pistol round, the recoil difference between blanks and live ammo is dramatic.  Also, it took 16 hits before they realized something was wrong???  Fishy at best.

Posted by: CharlieDontSurf at July 01, 2008 01:48 PM (a+FC7)

47 Some great comments on this! I just wanted to add that the Brazilians also have demonstrated their unique hostage rescue skills by doing a demonstration with live rounds and real people. They too, shot up a lot of folks and a few died if I remember correctly. I've looked all over for a link, but I can't find one, you will have to take my word for it. It happened a few months back. They were all scratching there heads as to how the demonstration could have gone so wrong. I've been in Brazil for 3 years and I keep thinking there is nothing more here that can surprise me, but they always find new ways.

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