May 19th, 2019

Blood and Gore — Injury After Pistol Powder Loaded in Rifle Case

Varget Kaboom TiteGroup Hand injury reloading fingers accident

This is a grim tale. A man almost lost the use of his right hand, and did suffer terrible injuries to his fingers. All because he picked the wrong bottle of powder off the shelf. We have run this story before, and we will continue to run it every year, as a caution to our readers. This mistake is easy to make, but the consequences can be dire. Always, always double-check your powder labels before you start the hand-loading process. If you don’t, you may not have a hand to load with next time…

Similar Labels, Disasterous Consequences
The shooter, Denny K., was assembling some rounds for his brand new 7mm-08 Savage hunting rifle. He thought he was loading with Hodgdon Varget. Instead he had filled his powder measure with Hodgdon TiteGroup, a fast-burning pistol powder. The labels are similar, so the mistake is understandable. But the results were devastating. Here’s what 41 grains of TiteGroup can do in a 7mm-08:

Varget Kaboom TiteGroup Hand injury reloading fingers accident

Posting on the Firing Line, in a thread entitled “Lucky to Be Alive”, Denny writes:

“This is the hardest post to post. I know if I had read it a week ago my comment would have been: ‘You have no business reloading’. I had everything perfect, except pouring the wrong powder in the powder measure. I type this slowly with my left hand, embarrassed but … possibly saving someone else a tragedy or, like me, a long drive to the Emergency Room and surgery to save my finger.”

CLICK HERE for bigger, more graphic photo of injury.
Varget Kaboom TiteGroup Hand injury reloading fingers accident

The Still-Sealed Bottle of Varget
Denny did not initially comprehend exactly why the kaboom happened. He thought maybe his new Savage rifle was at fault. Then, on his return home, he discovered something…

Denny wrote: “The seven-hour period it took to go to ER, transport to Trauma Center and surgery made me think it was a Savage rifle issue. Brand new rifle, new brass, triple-checked loading data. The next day I was humbled when I realized the Varget powder was still sealed.

I knew what powder to use. I thought [Varget] was what I used. Not until the following day did I realize the Varget was still sealed.”

At that point, Denny realized what caused the accident — “operator error”. He knew he had to warn others about using the wrong powder: “I knew I needed to share my mistake, even though it is embarrassing, just to remind people. I’ve been reloading for 30 years…”

Editor’s Comment: Denny was not a novice reloader. His experience demonstrates that this kind of mistake can be made by any hand-loader, even one with decades of experience. Be safe guys, take your time when you load your ammo. Remove powders from measures after your loading sessions (pistol powders can look very similar to rifle powders). And by all means CHECK the LABEL on the jug. As the TiteGroup label says: “A little goes a long way.”

It’s not a bad idea to separate your pistol powders from your rifle powders, or perhaps even load for pistol in a separate part of your workshop.

Permalink News, Reloading, Tech Tip 12 Comments »
February 5th, 2017

AR-15 Kaboom — “The Worst … I Have Ever Seen”

AR15 AR-15 Kaboom explosion pistol powder accident catastrophic destroyed
AR15 Kaboom big photo

This shocking photo of destroyed AR-15 bits and pieces was posted on Facebook by William Walter, a firearms instructor. William said this was “The worst AR-15 blow-up I have ever seen. Has anyone else seen one this bad?” It is indeed catastrophic. Seeing the above image, our friend Grant Ubl wrote: “that is most definitely THE most FUBAR’d AR15 that I have ever seen”.

Luckily the shooter sustained only minor injuries — nothing worse than a broken finger tip. But his AR-15 is certainly toast. The lower was polymer. Note the past tense. According to Walter: “It was a polymer lower and polymer magazine. Pieces of both were distributed up to 25 feet from the bench he was firing from.”

The cause of the Kaboom is somewhat mysterious. The Kaboom occurred on the 4th round fired — the first three went OK, and there is NO evidence of a squib load (i.e. no bulge in barrel). This was definitely NOT a .300 BLK round in a .223 Rem Chamber. William Walter suspects that pistol powder may be involved, but that has not been confirmed.

First thing I suspected was bore obstruction, but there wasn’t any sign of it. The case head literally atomized…you can see the brass residue on the parts. The bolt was split in two also. This was number four fired during load testing. The previous three were fine…no high pressure signs on the primer. — William Walter

One Facebook poster noted: “We had one similar here in PA about 14 years ago. The guy used Winchester 231 instead of Winchester 748 and ended up with a pile of parts very similar looking. The rifle went Kaboom on his first sighter in offhand and no one was injured surprisingly. The carrier looked like someone cut it down the middle with a torch very similarly to this picture. It also cut the bottom of the carrier and all three pieces look like a peeled banana.”

Walter stated that here: “[The shooter] had fired four rounds of the same load. He was shooting Win 748…24 grains with a 77 Sierra. I will reserve my theory until after we discuss as to not steer the conversation.

On reading that, Dennis Santiago posted: “Did you mean WW 748? That’s on the fast side powder for a .223 meant for lighter bullets. 24 grains with a long bullet like a Sierra 77 would be way too much.”

Walter noted that there was a possibility of some pistol powder getting into the catridge that detonated: “[The shooter] said he does load pistol and this was first time loading rifle. He said he used his 650 powder measure, but also a funnel and trickler.” Considering that, one poster suggested that maybe pistol powder was still left in the bottom of the powder measure.

It will be interesting to determine what exactly happened here. The remaining rounds from the same loading session will be pulled down and analyzed. A discussion of this incident appears on the Precision Shooting Journal Facebook Page.

Question to our readers: What do you think was the probable cause of this catastrophic Kaboom?

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 9 Comments »
November 30th, 2012

How Ammunition Reacts in a Fire — SAAMI Video Report

The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) has produced an amazing 25-minute video that shows what actually happens to sporting ammunition involved in a fire. This video shows the results of serious tests conducted with the assistance of professional fire crews. We strongly recommend you watch this video, all the way through. It dispels many myths, while demonstrating what really happens when ammunition is burned, dropped, or crushed.

Watch SAAMI Ammunition Testing Video

Over 400,000 rounds of ammunition were used in the tests. Some of the footage is quite remarkable. Testers built a bonfire with 28,000 rounds of boxed ammo soaked in diesel fuel. Then the testers loaded five pallets of ammo (250,000 rounds) in the back of a semi-truck, and torched it all using wood and paper fire-starting materials doused with diesel fuel.

The video shows that, when ammo boxes are set on fire, and ammunition does discharge, the bullet normally exits at low speed and low pressure. SAAMI states: “Smokeless powders must be confined to propel a projectile at high velocity. When not in a firearm, projectile velocities are extremely low.” At distances of 10 meters, bullets launched from “cooked-off” ammo would not penetrate the normal “turn-out gear” worn by fire-fighters.

We are not suggesting you disregard the risks of ammo “cooking off” in a fire, but you will learn the realities of the situation by watching the video. There are some amazing demonstrations — including a simulated retail store fire with 115,000 rounds of ammo in boxes. As cartridges cook off, it sounds like a battery of machine-guns, but projectiles did not penetrate the “store” walls, or even two layers of sheet-rock. The fire crew puts out the “store fire” easily in under 20 seconds, just using water.

Additional Testing: Drop Test, Projectile Test, Crush Test, Blasting Cap Test

Drop Test
The video also offers interesting ammo-handling tests. Boxes of ammo were dropped from a height of 65 feet. Only a tiny fraction of the cartridges discharged, and there was no chain-fire. SAAMI concludes: “When dropped from extreme heights (65 feet), sporting ammunition is unlikely to ignite. If a cartridge ignites, it does not propagate.”

Rifle Fire Test
SAAMI’s testers even tried to blow up boxes of ammunition with rifle fire. Boxes of loaded ammo were shot with .308 Win rounds from 65 yards. The video includes fascinating slow-motion footage showing rounds penetrating boxes of rifle cartridges, pistol ammo, and shotgun shells. Individual cartridges that were penetrated were destroyed, but adjacent cartridges suffered little damage, other than some powder leakage. SAAMI observed: “Most of the ammunition did not ignite. When a cartridge did ignite, there was no chain reaction.”

Bulldozer Crush Test
The test team also did an amazing “crush-test” using a Bulldozer. First boxes of loaded ammo, then loose piles of ammo, were crushed under the treads of a Bulldozer. A handful of rounds fired off, but again there was no chain-fire, and no large explosion. SAAMI observed: “Even in the most extreme conditions of compression and friction, sporting ammunition is unlikely to ignite. [If it does ignite when crushed] it does not propagate.”

Blasting Cap Test
Perhaps most amazingly, the testers were not able to get ammunition to chain-fire (detonate all at once), even when using blasting caps affixed directly to live primers. In the SAAMI test, a blasting cap was placed on the primer of a round housed in a large box of ammo. One cartridge ignited but the rest of the boxed ammo was relatively undamaged and there was no propagation.

Video Timeline

  • 2:10 Impact Test (ignited outside firearm)
  • 3:40 65-foot Drop Test
  • 5:08 Bullet Impact (.308 Win firing)
  • 7:55 Blasting Cap Attacks
  • 9:55 Bulldozer and Forklift Tests
  • 12:20 Boxed Ammo Bonfire
  • 15:37 Bonfire without Packaging
  • 17:21 Retail Store Simulation Burn
  • 20:55 Truck Trailer Burn
Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo 3 Comments »
June 3rd, 2010

Fire and Explosion at Nosler Plant in Bend, Oregon

Nosler Fire and ExplosionAt around 2:15 on the afternoon of June 2nd, there was a fire and explosion at the Nosler production plant in Bend, Oregon. Apparently the accident started in the ballistics tunnel testing area. Employees reported a flash, then smoke followed by a “massive explosion” which was felt many blocks away. One employee who saw a bright flash alertly activated a fire alarm which helped speed the evacuation process.

Nosler Plant Fire and Explosion VIDEO Report

Thankfully, all the roughly 100 Nosler employees were able to evacuate safely, and there were apparently no serious injuries. The fire and explosion did do significant damage to the 80,000 square foot Nosler building. When fire crews arrived, they found major damage to the southeast corner of the Nosler plant, with thick smoke still pouring out.

Damage could run into the millions of dollars. A number of city blocks were evacuated and cordoned off. Right now the cause of the fire and explosion remains unknown, but the Bend Fire Department, state police agencies, and the federal BATF are commencing investigations.

CLICK HERE for Nosler Fire Damage Photos | CLICK HERE for KTVZ.com (Bend, Oregon) News Report

Permalink News 1 Comment »
June 12th, 2009

Shocking Video of Catastrophic Barrel Failure

In the shooting sports, safety always has to be your number one priority. Even if you have a safe load, if the barrel is obstructed in any way, such as with mud in the barrel, a squib bullet, or a bore-sighting tool left in the barrel, the barrel can blow up, pealing back like a banana skin. Serious injury or even death can result. Below is an amazing video showing a catastrophic barrel failure caused, presumably, by a barrel obstruction — probably mud or dirt. You can see the barrel blow apart, starting at time mark 0:25 seconds.

YouTube Preview Image

The rifle is a Browning stainless A-Bolt, caliber unknown. We don’t know for sure, but the barrel probably became obstructed when the shooter allowed the gun to rest muzzle down on the ground, so some mud collected in the bore. Below, we’ve grabbed five frames from the key section of the video. You can see the barrel split into two segments. This shooter, who was NOT wearing eye protection, was uninjured. He is is lucky that the action held and no metal shards blew backwards.

barrel explosion
Permalink - Videos, Hunting/Varminting 5 Comments »