An MoD report has concluded that ‘inadequate’ training was the ‘causal factor’ in the death of Lance-Corporal Joe Spencer. 

‘If a causal factor is removed from the accident sequence, the accident would not have occurred.’
Report definition of causal factor

He suffered fatal injuries after his L115A3 Sniper Rifle discharged at Tain Air Weapons Range in Scotland in November 2016. He had been sheltering in an ISO container, resting the butt of the rifle on his boot and had the suppressor pressed against his chin.

The report found that at the end of a firing drill, weapons were not unloaded correctly. As a result, 2 ‘unsafe weapons’ were left unattended, and it is ‘extremely likely’ that LCpl Spencer’s weapon was also not unloaded correctly.

It states that a “series of errors, shortfalls and poor judgement” at an army weapons training exercise led to the death of L/Cpl Spencer and concludes that it was an “avoidable accident”.

The report said: “Whilst resting his chin on the weapon’s suppressor, equipment or clothing most probably snagged the rifle’s trigger inadvertently, resulting in its discharge. That his weapon was in an unsafe condition with a round chambered was extremely likely to have been caused by an incomplete unload drill being carried out earlier that day.”

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
john martin

The amount of times I carried out this drill and still there was always one idiot. It will never change while humans are in the chain.


Again with the Scotland thing, if the range was in England you would make a point of saying only the city or county whereas if it’s something in Scotland under no circumstances whatsoever do you say the city or county. Can you, and the media in general, please stop trying to drive a wedge between us at every single opportunity?


I’m sorry but I fail to see what you are getting so angry about. The very unfortunate incident occurred on a training area in Scotland so what’s the problem of the UKDJ from mentioning in their article on the incident where it occurred. If it had happened in England, Wales or NI then im sure it would have been mentioned that it had taken place in England, Wales or NI.


UKDJ is based in Glasgow, Scotland I believe


Tragedy for the family and I’m sure those on the scene will likely be traumatised. For all the rules and procedures that exist to avoid such ‘accidents’ it really does come down to basics. Unfortunately when you are working with rifles day in day out people get complacent.


I call bullsh**. Improper training? Of a Sniper? Who was resting his chin on the suppressor? Set off by clothing in the trigger guard? This was not negligence, this was suicide. I do not know of any military not even a militia West or East African militia or the Middle East where you would be told it is okay to put your chin on the end of a gun barrel. This is basic firearms safety. This is the Army and the MOD attempting to deny responsibility for their missing the signs of depression and instability. Then blame the instructors for… Read more »


I’m willing to bet he wasn’t as sniper but was in sniper platoon. if he was badged , whilst a shame, he should have known better than to rest his chin on top of the weapon. the trigger is so light when a round is in the chamber, even I mistakenly fired it off by placing my fat finger ‘lightly’ on it. at least it was pointed down range. the safety isn’t applied if there is no mag on the weapon. if it was a new lad to the platoon then it’s a rookie mistake. why they ruled out suicide… Read more »


Seems to me a major failure by his NCOs and range safety officer to allow weapons to leave the line without being positively and conclusively made safe.


Maybe. I have had NDs the way you describe,but not with my pant leg as they describe. What gets me is the chain of events. For that many coincidences to happen at once? I don’t buy it. I have seen units Military and police departments cover up suicides before. It never works out in the long run and is in the end more damaging. As their are usually several reasons they attempt to hide a suicide. 1. For the family. No one wants to deliver that message to someone’s parents, spouse, and definitely not their children. 2. The more likely… Read more »


within the last month there have been WAY to many serving and former soldiers that I know of take their lives. personal friends.
what’s done about it? boxes are ticked and arses are covered.
the brass protect their neck.
as the lads have been saying for years ‘they don’t give a fuck’. no wonder nobody wants to join

John Clark

I do find this report troubling, I can only go by my personal experience, but every range I shoot on ( or ever have), firearms have to be shown to be safe.

That certainly mean a bolt action rifle has to have its bolt open and clearly showing an empty chamber.

It’s the Range Officers job to visually check every firearm is safe after every detail.


there’s no officer in snipers. it’s not an officers job, they’re not needed or wanted.
pride is taken in that role and I’ve never met an unprofessional sniper platoon. all they want is the army to get with the times and give them competitive equipment. so I’m not buying this bullshit finding from the MOD.

Daniele Mandelli

Reaper I thought all Ranges had Range Safety Officers? Not attached to the Snipers but to the range in use? To prevent shit like this happening?


ummm… ?


I’m kidding. the sniper commander would be the rso but he’s also trying to other jobs as well. from my experience there’s never the right people around due to them being spread around all over the place.


I have never been in the military service, however I have owned firearms and learn to shoot them as a civilian. The one thing that was drilled into me by my firearms “mentors” was to always treat them as if they were loaded. Never point them at anyone even if you know the weapon is not loaded. Just call it Firearms Discipline or Safety. To say that the clearance & safety of the weapons is to be the responsibility of the senior officers is ludicrous. It should be the responsibility of the person holding it. They are the one’s using… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I have never fired a weapon before.

To me it sounds UTTERLY NUTS that a trained soldier places the nasty end of the weapon under his chin??! Where the ***k is Elf and Safety? That should be the most unnatural thing in the world for a soldier.


Suicide or extreme stupidity. Contrary to popular belief, suicide is actually less common in the armed forces and amongst veterans than the general population, once all factors such as age are taken into account.
Compensation is an important factor in the legal proceedings following a death in the forces these days.
The claims awarded following the voyager nose dive incident are absolutely ridiculous.

John Clark

Let’s be a bit careful with our language here guys, remember someone died and it must be appalling for his family. From the information available, it’s astonishing that an accidental discharge can happen on a shooting range, with the training and safety procedures in place. Range safety is basic common sense. You only place your finger in the trigger guard when you’re ready to take the shot. You never point a firearm at anyone, including yourself and always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded. At the end of the shooting detail, you remove the magazine, visually confirm the chamber… Read more »


It’s not just astonishing, it’s literally unbelievable. I have never seen any gun without a trigger guard, does anyone with expertise in the subject know wether its even possible to snag one’s clothing on a trigger?I can only imagine that someone is trying to maximise the compensation for his family by accepting blame on behalf of the army.


Looking at a picture of an L115a3,it’s very difficult to imagine how the trigger could snag on clothing or anything else.


It’s a precision rifle, if the striker is cocked and safety off it wouldn’t take much to release the trigger. Having said that I agree with some of the posters, many the circumstances indicate this could have been suicide.
I can’t see how a trained soldier would rest their chin at the end of an L115a3 weather he thought it was clear or not. You just don’t do things like that.

John Clark

We need to be very careful in our assessment here. But it would unfortunately appear that way.

Just to reiterate the point, there are many checks and stops in place to ensure a loaded and cocked firearm aren’t left unattended.

Every single rule in the book would need to be broken by everyone involved, for this alleged accident to take place!


Having carried and fired SLR and gimpy, how the fuck do take a weapon that length and with a suppresor, tuck it under your chin? This is bollocks, lads would get skittish if you were pulling through an SLR and whilst looking through the barrel pointed it their way.

Someone is telling porkies.

Former RM

Very sad, but this really does look like a suicide. Any shooting done on a military range is always finished with a full unload, then checks made by the RCO (Range conducting officer, this doesn’t need to be an officer but can be any rank with range qualifications) before you are even allowed off the range. There is no paperwork to sign people off. It would be very easy to take ammunition away in your pocket though. The L115A3 is a very long weapon and especially long with the suppressor fitted. I honestly don’t believe there is anyway to ‘accidentally’… Read more »