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December 31st, 2023

Safety Considerations When Using Progressive Presses — USAMU

Accurateshooter.com USAMU progressive press reloading

For many years, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) regularly published reloading “how-to” articles on the USAMU Facebook page. In this article, the USAMU’s reloading gurus address a question frequently asked by prospective handloaders: “Should I buy a single-stage press, or a progressive?” The USAMU says the best answer is Solomon-esque in both its wisdom and simplicity: “Get BOTH!” However, there is definitely more to the issue, as the USAMU explains below.

USAMU Reloading

Progressive Press Safety Considerations

by USAMU Staff
Many are the beginning handloaders who have asked a friend about their “setting up” a progressive press for them. The idea is that the newbie could then just feed in components and crank out buckets of practice ammo without needing to really learn much about handloading. Tempting though this might be, that’s simply not how it works. Such an approach might be ok if there were never a malfunction with either press or operator, but that’s unrealistic. Our hypothetical newbie would then lack the knowledge to problem-solve most situations.

usamu progressive reloading press RCBS

Worse yet, several different handloading operations would be occurring at different stations on the progressive press at the same time. It takes an experienced operator to keep track of, and truly understand the significance of, all those potential mini-problems. Loading without this experience is a recipe for potential disaster – such as a double powder charge (especially with pistol cartridges) dropped while the loader was attending to some other function, etc. Progressives are an animal unto themselves, and while they offer many benefits, they do take some getting used to – even by experienced handloaders!

ILLUSTRATIVE HORROR STORY
Here, enter a 40-year veteran handloader who decided to jump onto the progressive bandwagon late in his career, having used only single-stage presses all his life. A High Master NRA High Power Rifle competitor, he had no background in competitive pistol shooting, where historically most progressive presses are found.

Experienced Action Pistol shooters have typically encountered multiple episodes in which shooters “skipped” a powder charge for some reason, leading to a squib round and a bullet possibly lodged in the bore. Thus, at matches, it’s reflexive for them to yell “STOP!” in unison if they see a shooter get a “click” vs. a “bang”, and rack the slide to keep firing. This writer has personally seen several pistols saved in just such scenarios over the years.

Click No Bang — What NOT to Do
Our High Master set up a popular progressive press and began turning out .223 Rem 100-yard practice ammo with abandon. He was using a moly-coated 52gr match bullet and an economical, fast-burning surplus powder that gave great accuracy. Once on the range, he began practicing strings of rapid-fire. All was well, until he heard “Click!” rather than “Boom”.

Lacking the above experience or onlookers to halt him, he reflexively operated the charging handle on his expensive, custom NM AR15 Service Rifle, and the next trigger squeeze reportedly registered on seismographs over at least a three-state radius. He sat, uninjured but bewildered, until the hail of expensive bits and pieces quit raining down around him.

When the smoke cleared, he immediately cursed the horrid, evil, demonically-possessed progressive press for this, his first-ever reloading mishap. His $1400 NM upper was ruined, but thankfully, his $800 pre-ban lower… and he had escaped injury.

This tale is told not to discourage the use of progressive presses, but to emphasize the need to EASILY and IMMEDIATELY KNOW what is happening with the press at each station, every time the handle is cranked. Not to do so is, as they say, “bad ju-ju.”

It illustrates why we at the USAMU Handloading Shop agree in recommending that new handloaders should begin with a single-stage press. Once one thoroughly learns the steps in each phase of handloading by repeated experience, then one will be qualified to move on to a progressive press.

The single-stage press will REMAIN virtually indispensable for one’s entire handloading career, even after having purchased a progressive press (or two). There are endless small projects that are best handled on a single-stage press, and a poll of USAMU’s Handloading staff reveals that not one would willingly be without his single-stage press, despite owning at least one progressive.

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November 9th, 2023

Beware Barrel Bore Obstructions — They Are Very Dangerous

Obstructed Barrel Explosion Accident kaboom
Above is a sectioned barrel showing an 80gr Sierra that was fired in a .223 bolt action with a cleaning rod in the bore. Both the bullet and the rod are still in the bore.

A Negligent Shooter Gets Lucky
“Here we have a story so filled with negligent acts that I can only marvel that the shooter survived the experience. The photo and narrative were provided by the gunsmith who took in the repair job, my comments are in italics. It’s worth reading, we can’t get enough safety warnings in our hobby.” — GS Arizona, Rifleman’s Journal

Description of Incident (with Commentary)
The shooter had a stuck case in his .223 chamber. The stuck case was actually a loaded round that didn’t fire. It wouldn’t extract because it was a .222 case that got mixed in with his .223 brass. [He had loaded the wrong brass.] I saw the loaded round with an 80gr bullet in it and a light primer strike. Negligent Act #1: Wrong brass was mixed in with the brass being reloaded.

The shooter removed the stuck case with a 3-piece aluminum rod. Negligent Act #2: Hammering out a loaded round with a cleaning rod. People have been killed doing this as the round can fire and drive the cleaning rod right into you. I remember one such incident about 5 years ago, the shooter was pounding out a stuck round, the cleaning rod went right through him, he didn’t survive.

The shooter didn’t notice only two segments of the cleaning rod came out when he removed it. Negligent Act #3: If you put anything at all down the barrel of a rifle you’d better make darn sure you got it all out before doing anything else!

He then chambered another round and fired it. Negligent act #4: If you’ve had a barrel obstruction of any kind, and if you’ve put something in the barrel, look through the barrel before proceeding! Within the past two years I know of an incident in which a benchrest shooter was killed in exactly this manner. The pressure built up and the rifle bolt came out of the receiver and into his chest.

The shooter is ‘OK’, but did not escape unscathed. He said there was a huge explosion and after regaining his senses found he was bleeding heavily from his forehead. The blood was thick enough that it ran in his eyes and he couldn’t see. In his words “I thought I was going to die”.

He has what looks like a pretty deep cut about an inch long on the side of his head, right in line with his right eye starting where the eye socket turns out to the side of the skull. And no telling what he’s got in the way of brass particles embedded in his forehead.

He was shooting on private property, and was alone when this happened. Negligent Act #5: Don’t shoot alone! Accidents happen, this is just one more example. If we could predict accidents, we wouldn’t have them. Always shoot with at least one other person.

He managed to get the bleeding stopped, or at least under control, packed his car and drove himself home without seeking immediate medical attention. Negligent Act #6: This one could have cost him his life after being lucky enough to survive the incident. There’s no way to know what’s happened just after an incident like this. He should have been at a hospital getting checked for shrapnel in the head.

The rod and slug could not be driven out. Since the barrel had a high round count there was no point in trying to salvage it. Note that the aluminum rod is expanded to a tight fit in the bore for the first couple inches. The base of the bullet is a little over 2″ from the mouth of the chamber.

What we’ve seen here is negligence and an absolute indifference to the established rules of safe reloading and gun handling, from start to finish, capped off with the shooter’s foolish avoidance of medical treatment. This shooter is lucky to be alive, but he’s surely used up all his luck. Don’t assume you’ll be so fortunate.

This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal website, which is no longer available.

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September 29th, 2023

Four Articles on Shooting Sports USA Worth Reading

Shooting Sports USA

NRA publication Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA) has thousands of articles online, all free for the reading. Many of these stories have been written by top competitors, including National and Olympic Champions. You will find SSUSA articles spotlighted every week on the NRA Competitive Shooting Facebook page. We recommend you bookmark that page as a valuable resource. Here are four notable SSUSA articles that have been featured on Facebook this month. Go to SSUSA.org to see even more current articles, with new content every day.

Shooting Sports USA Mirage Read optics scope

Here is an insightful, fairly lengthy 1850-word article about the phenomenon we call mirage. The article explains how and why mirage appears, how it can best be monitored, and how mirage can indicate both wind velocity and direction. Top competitors follow the adage “Mirage is your friend”, because mirage can often be the most important indicator of wind variables — sometimes even more important than wind flags. “The mirage is more sensitive than the flags since it has less inertia and momentum”, wrote Desmond T. Burke, in his book, Canadian Bisley Shooting, an Art and a Science.

Well worth reading, this SSUSA article talks about the properties of mirage. Here is a sample:

“Mirage — can make all the difference between a shot landing squarely in the X-ring or being victimized by an undetected downrange breeze. The true power of mirage is found in its ability to betray the subtlest of breezes downrange. Its fluid movement… can not only provide wind direction, but speed as well.

Typically, the ability to detect mirage is maximized on warm, sunny and sultry days. Expect mirage to be most pronounced in mid-morning or early afternoon, although it ignores these rules with regularity[.]

Mirage is extremely powerful at identifying winds of less than 12 mph, particularly those gentle breezes subtle enough to not even bother moving the flags.

When there is no wind, or a gentle head or tail wind, mirage will appear to be ‘bubbling’ directly up from the ground. Many call this ‘boiling’, and it is probably the easiest of all to detect.

As a general rule of thumb, when wind speed increases, overall height of the waves produced by the mirage is reduced. Large peaks and valleys in the waves mean that particular mirage is being driven by a very slight breeze. Conversely, crest size is reduced with wind speed, making it harder and harder to detect, until the mirage disappears entirely at somewhere around 12 miles per hour. In other words, the taller mirage’s waves appear, the slower the breeze.”

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

Shooting Sports USA barrel maintenance break-in procedures Glen Zediker

Authored by the late Glen Zediker, this article covers barrel break-in procedures. It is particularly useful for dealing with factory barrels. We CAUTION readers — with outstanding, hand-lapped custom barrels from top barrel-makers, you may want to do very little break-in — clean sparingly and keep barrel heat low. Do NOT use abrasives aggressively. On our Krieger and Brux barrels, we simply wet-patched every 2-3 rounds for 20 rounds and the barrels shot superbly from the start with minimal fouling. But for factory barrels, a moderate break-in process may prove beneficial.

Zediker explains: “Lesser, lower-cost barrels are going to have more pronounced … imperfections within the bore[.] These imperfections are largely tool marks resulting from the drilling and rifling processes. And if it’s a semi-automatic, like an AR-15, there might be a burr where the gas port was drilled. The goal of break-in is to knock down these imperfections, thereby smoothing the interior surface.”

Shooting Sports USA pistol cartridge kaboom safety blowout

As one who has experienced a cartridge case-head blow-out with a 9mm pistol, this Editor is very conscious of the risks involved and the damage a blow-out can do to the pistol, to the magazine, and (worst of all) to the shooter. Even with new brass, the possibility of a case failure is always present. And even if the case remains intact, we’ve seen primer failures that create a dangerous jet back towards the pistol shooter. That’s why shooters should always employ protective eyewear whenever they shoot.

Shooting Sports USA revolver forcing cone repair damage

We love our wheelguns, but there’s no doubt that forcing cone damage can occur, particularly with hot loads and if your cylinder-to-barrel gap is excessive. This article explains how to inspect your revolvers, and how to mitigate the likelihood of forcing cone damage. The article also explains how to clean your revolvers properly. This is very important to avoid build-up of lead and powder residues.

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July 20th, 2023

.300 Blackout Fired in .223 Rem AR — Recipe for Disaster

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56
Photos and Facebook post by Tactical Rifle Shooters

Yet another .300 Blackout disaster. Unfortunately, that .300 Blackout cartridge can fit in a .223 Rem chamber. Shooting a .308-caliber bullet in .223 bore is a recipe for disaster.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56The .300 AAC Blackout aka “300 BLK”, is a compact 30-caliber cartridge designed to work in AR-15 rifles. It has a shorter cartridge case to accommodate the bigger 30-caliber bullet while still fitting in a standard AR-15 magazine. Unfortunately, that’s the danger. A careless shooter can toss a .300 Blackout cartridge in with .223 Rem rounds without noting. And because the case-head size is the same as the .223 Rem (5.56×45) the rifle’s bolt assembly will happily chamber and fire the .300 BLK round. Problem is, that forces a .308 diameter bullet down an undersized .223-caliber bore. Not good!

This images were provided by Tactical Rifle Shooters on Facebook. The message was clear: “Don’t try to run 300 Blackout in your .223/5.56mm. It won’t end well. The problem is identical rifles and identical magazines but different calibers.”

Image from Accurate Shooter Forum. Cutaway shows the jammed .30-Cal bullet:
.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

For those who MUST have a .300 Blackout, here are some things you can do:

1. Use different colored magazines for .300 Blackout vs. .223 Rem.
2. Fit all your uppers with caliber-labeled ejection port covers.
3. Mark .223 Rem upper handguards with the caliber in bright paint.
4. Mark all .300 BLK Rounds with heavy black marker.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

Comments by Folks Who Viewed these .300 Blackout Disaster Photos:

“The .300 Blackout is simply a badly-designed round. A properly-designed round would have had a feature in the shape that would have prevented cross loading in the first place.” — D. Santiago

“I almost made that mistake… I had a magazine of 300 BLK inserted in my .223/5.56 all night. Fortunately, I never pulled the trigger. Once I realized the mistake, I almost got ill. [After that incident] I no longer own a 300 BLK.” — B. Welch

“Happened to me hog hunting from a helo. Gun exploded in my face.” — B. Hood

“Fire-forming projectiles [is] so wrong in centerfire!” — M. Stres

“Had some dude come into the store the other day wanting .300 Blackout ammo to shoot in his 5.56 AR. It took 15 minutes of explaining for him to understand you got to have a .300 Blackout Upper!” — R. Williams

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gunsmithing, Tactical, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
June 30th, 2023

Primer Chain Reaction — Flash Ignites More Primers in Tool Tray

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

Here is an important safety reminder for readers who employ hand priming tools with trays of multiple primers. In this instance a primer detonated while being seating in a pistol cartridge case. This caused a “flash-over” which instantly ignited multiple other primers in the tray. That, in turn, caused a small explosion which broke the tray and Hornady Handheld Priming Tool. The user, a Forum member, reported this last summer in our Shooters’ Forum.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboomReport by Forum Member about Primer Flash-Over Incident
I had a small scare the other day while reloading. My experience might be a helpful reminder to people to keep safe and follow proper procedures and not be sloppy.

A primer popped (went off) when being seated and (while hot) flashed over into the tray causing other primers in the tray to detonate. That, in turn, broke my Hornady Handheld Priming Tool and injured my hand.

Here is my loading area after the incident. Note the damage to the hand priming tool. I’m not not sure where the rest of the pieces are.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

Injuries to User — Multiple Cuts on Hand and Forearm
This photo shows the resulting cuts to hand. Fortunately they seem superficial. Note — I was wearing latex gloves so my hand had some protection.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

The blast also blew my glasses off my face and they landed about six feet away. Be careful folks and wear your eye protection! EDITOR: Guys — This is yet more compelling evidence why handloaders should always wear eye protection!

More Details — Primers Were Federal LP, Case Primer Pockets Had Been Checked
The forum member noted: “Just in case people are interested, I didn’t notice anything different from usual. Cases were Privi Partizan (PPU) factory brass on their fourth firing. The primers were Federal Large Pistol. The cases had been ultrasonic cleaned and the primer pockets checked prior to priming. I had primed around 50 cases during this session before the accident.”

Here is a close-up of “flashed” primers — note the empty but dented cups and triangular “anvils”:

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

This incident happened using a Hornady Handheld Priming Tool, as shown below.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

Two other Forum members reported feeding issues with this particular Hornady handheld priming tool and one other member, Kiwi Greg, suffered a multi-primer detonation causing injury: “I had the same thing happen a few years ago now with the same Hornady hand primer with 50-75 [Federal 215M primers] in the tray. Made a bit of a mess of both my hands, blew primers and tray all around my large workshop. Scared the [heck] out of my employee who was near me at the time. Some stitches, bandages and it was all good, [but with] some wicked scars… I think a primer had turned side-on when being put into Bertram .408 CT brass which had nice tight pockets and required more force than usual. I use RCBS [priming tools] now with a flat bar that slides across to prevent sympathetic detonations. I hadn’t heard of it before, but found out it wasn’t that uncommon after it happened.”

Thanks to Boyd Allen for finding this post.
Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 6 Comments »
May 24th, 2023

Fingers Blown Off with Smokeless Powder in Muzzle-Loader

muzzleloader muzzle-loader smokeless black powder overcharge Kaboom fingers sever

What you see above is what happens when you shoot the wrong powder in a muzzle-loader. Specifically, a charge of smokeless powder was used instead of black powder or black powder substitute. The difference in energy (by weight and volume) between black powder and modern smokeless powder is huge. You should never, ever run smokeless powder in a black powder recipe. The result can be catastrophic. In this case the hapless shooter lost a couple fingers. So he got a free twin-digit amputation, thanks to his reloading mistake. The lesson to learn here is to always double-check your propellant before loading. And never “re-bottle” smokeless powder into a different container with a different label (or worse yet, no label at all).

This incident happened in Indiana a couple years back. As reported by the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), this was a classic case of “user error”: “Corporal Eric Doane worked a firearm accident last night in Martin County that resulted in the shooter losing a couple fingers. This is what can happen when you shoot smokeless powder out of a muzzle-loader designed for black powder.”

Credit to The Firearm Blog for finding this story.

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January 21st, 2023

Bloody Disaster — Loading Pistol Powder 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 7 Comments »
June 3rd, 2022

.300 Blackout Round in .223 Rem AR Upper — Instant Disaster

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56
Photos and Facebook post by Tactical Rifle Shooters

Yet another .300 Blackout disaster. Unfortunately, that .300 Blackout cartridge can fit in a .223 Rem chamber. Shooting a .308-caliber bullet in .223 bore is a recipe for disaster.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56The .300 AAC Blackout aka “300 BLK”, is a compact 30-caliber cartridge designed to work in AR-15 rifles. It has a shorter cartridge case to accommodate the bigger 30-caliber bullet while still fitting in a standard AR-15 magazine. Unfortunately, that’s the danger. A careless shooter can toss a .300 Blackout cartridge in with .223 Rem rounds without noting. And because the case-head size is the same as the .223 Rem (5.56×45) the rifle’s bolt assembly will happily chamber and fire the .300 BLK round. Problem is, that forces a .308 diameter bullet down an undersized .223-caliber bore. Not good!

This images were provided by Tactical Rifle Shooters on Facebook. The message was clear: “Don’t try to run 300 Blackout in your .223/5.56mm. It won’t end well. The problem is identical rifles and identical magazines but different calibers.”

Image from Accurate Shooter Forum. Cutaway shows the jammed .30-Cal bullet:
.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

For those who MUST have a .300 Blackout, here are some things you can do:

1. Use different colored magazines for .300 Blackout vs. .223 Rem.
2. Fit all your uppers with caliber-labeled ejection port covers.
3. Mark .223 Rem upper handguards with the caliber in bright paint.
4. Mark all .300 BLK Rounds with heavy black marker.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

Comments by Folks Who Viewed these .300 Blackout Disaster Photos:

“The .300 Blackout is simply a badly-designed round. A properly-designed round would have had a feature in the shape that would have prevented cross loading in the first place.” — D. Santiago

“I almost made that mistake… I had a magazine of 300 BLK inserted in my .223/5.56 all night. Fortunately, I never pulled the trigger. Once I realized the mistake, I almost got ill. [After that incident] I no longer own a 300 BLK.” — B. Welch

“Happened to me hog hunting from a helo. Gun exploded in my face.” — B. Hood

“Fire-forming projectiles [is] so wrong in centerfire!” — M. Stres

“Had some dude come into the store the other day wanting .300 Blackout ammo to shoot in his 5.56 AR. It took 15 minutes of explaining for him to understand you got to have a .300 Blackout Upper!” — R. Williams

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May 10th, 2022

Beware Barrel Bore Obstructions — These Can Cause Blow-Ups

Obstructed Barrel Explosion Accident kaboom
Above is a sectioned barrel showing an 80gr Sierra that was fired in a .223 bolt action with a cleaning rod in the bore. Both the bullet and the rod are still in the bore.

A Negligent Shooter Gets Lucky
“Here we have a story so filled with negligent acts that I can only marvel that the shooter survived the experience. The photo and narrative were provided by the gunsmith who took in the repair job, my comments are in italics. It’s worth reading, we can’t get enough safety warnings in our hobby.” — GS Arizona, Rifleman’s Journal

Description of Incident (with Commentary)
The shooter had a stuck case in his .223 chamber. The stuck case was actually a loaded round that didn’t fire. It wouldn’t extract because it was a .222 case that got mixed in with his .223 brass. [He had loaded the wrong brass.] I saw the loaded round with an 80gr bullet in it and a light primer strike. Negligent Act #1: Wrong brass was mixed in with the brass being reloaded.

The shooter removed the stuck case with a 3-piece aluminum rod. Negligent Act #2: Hammering out a loaded round with a cleaning rod. People have been killed doing this as the round can fire and drive the cleaning rod right into you. I remember one such incident about 5 years ago, the shooter was pounding out a stuck round, the cleaning rod went right through him, he didn’t survive.

The shooter didn’t notice only two segments of the cleaning rod came out when he removed it. Negligent Act #3: If you put anything at all down the barrel of a rifle you’d better make darn sure you got it all out before doing anything else!

He then chambered another round and fired it. Negligent act #4: If you’ve had a barrel obstruction of any kind, and if you’ve put something in the barrel, look through the barrel before proceeding! Within the past two years I know of an incident in which a benchrest shooter was killed in exactly this manner. The pressure built up and the rifle bolt came out of the receiver and into his chest.

The shooter is ‘OK’, but did not escape unscathed. He said there was a huge explosion and after regaining his senses found he was bleeding heavily from his forehead. The blood was thick enough that it ran in his eyes and he couldn’t see. In his words “I thought I was going to die”.

He has what looks like a pretty deep cut about an inch long on the side of his head, right in line with his right eye starting where the eye socket turns out to the side of the skull. And no telling what he’s got in the way of brass particles embedded in his forehead.

He was shooting on private property, and was alone when this happened. Negligent Act #5: Don’t shoot alone! Accidents happen, this is just one more example. If we could predict accidents, we wouldn’t have them. Always shoot with at least one other person.

He managed to get the bleeding stopped, or at least under control, packed his car and drove himself home without seeking immediate medical attention. Negligent Act #6: This one could have cost him his life after being lucky enough to survive the incident. There’s no way to know what’s happened just after an incident like this. He should have been at a hospital getting checked for shrapnel in the head.

The rod and slug could not be driven out. Since the barrel had a high round count there was no point in trying to salvage it. Note that the aluminum rod is expanded to a tight fit in the bore for the first couple inches. The base of the bullet is a little over 2″ from the mouth of the chamber.

What we’ve seen here is negligence and an absolute indifference to the established rules of safe reloading and gun handling, from start to finish, capped off with the shooter’s foolish avoidance of medical treatment. This shooter is lucky to be alive, but he’s surely used up all his luck. Don’t assume you’ll be so fortunate.

This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal website, which is no longer available.

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April 28th, 2022

Cleaning Rod in Barrel Caused Catastrophic .338 LM Kaboom

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction
CLICK HERE to zoom image.

We first ran this story a few years back. We’re republishing it today as a reminder to our readers that safety should be their paramount concern at the range. Avoid distractions and always check your barrel for obstructions before you chamber a round or pull the trigger. A moment of inattention can result in a catastrophic kaboom.

Discharging a .338 Lapua Magnum round with a cleaning rod in the barrel — that’s a recipe for disaster. What happens when a fired .338 caliber bullet and a cleaning rod try to occupy the same place at the same time? Well you get a catastrophic kaboom, with metal pieces flying all over the place, and a shooter very lucky to escape without serious injury. This incident occurred recently in Manatee, Florida, as reported by Sniper’s Hide member Queequeg. We thank SnipersHide.com for granting permission to publish these revealing images in the Daily Bulletin. CLICK HERE for more Kaboom info from the ‘Hide.

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction
This story should serve as a chilling reminder to follow proper safety practices whenever you are at the range. Always check to make sure there is no obstruction in the bore BEFORE loading a live round.

.338 Lapua Magnum + Cleaning Rod + Inattention = Kaboom!

Kaboom at Manatee!
Sniper’s Hide member Queequeg recently published shocking photos of a catastrophic kaboom involving a .338 Lapua Magnum (Savage action). The action was blown off the rifle, shrapnel went through the roof, and the barrel split at the tenon before taking an excursion downrange. The action did crack in the front but the lugs remained engaged so the bolt did not slam to the rear (luckily for the shooter).

Here’s the report: “This happened [January 20, 2014] at the Manatee Gun and Archery Club. Al, Ren and myself were there with a couple other folks. Ren was at bench 12, I was at 13. The fellow at 11 was running a Savage .338 Lapua. He had a very bad day! He damn sure could have killed himself and quite likely Ren as well.”

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction

Queeqeg added: “After the boom, I heard Ren ask ‘Are you alright’ and then turned to look in time to see the fellow reacting in total shock — literally stunned. Ren and I went over to him and could not see any major injuries. Ren was uninjured as well but had a lot of fiberglass splinters on him. The barrel nut is what I presume punched the two holes in the roof. The shooter is a regular there[.] He had been having a problem with sticky cases though he said he was certain the loads were mild. That’s why he was content to knock the sticky ones out with the rod. He simply forgot to remove the rod after knocking out the last stuck case. You can see what happened next.”

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction

Kaboom Manatee Savage .338 LM, Lapua Magnum, catastrophic, explosion, cleaning rod, obstruction

To learn more about this incident, go to the original Snipers Hide Forum Thread. There you’ll find more details and four pages of related discussions.

The Important Lesson Here
What did the .338 LM shooter do wrong here? You will say — “Well that’s obvious, he left a cleaning rod in the barrel and then shot a round.” Yes, that was a potentially fatal error. But that was his second mistake — one that occurred only because he made a more fundamental judgment error first.

The FIRST mistake was not acknowledging the problem with his ammo. Had he heeded the warning signs, he would still have a rifle (and an unsoiled pair of trousers). When he first observed that he was having problems with extracting cases, a warning light should have gone off in his head. Presuming his extractor was not broken (and that the chamber was cut properly) he should have been able to extract his brass if he was running safe loads. The lesson here we all need to learn is that if you observe a serious ammo-related issue, it is time to stop shooting. Don’t try to invent work-arounds just to extend your range session, when there are clear signs that something is wrong, very wrong.

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
October 19th, 2021

Four Good Tech Articles from Shooting Sports USA

Shooting Sports USA

NRA publication Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA) has thousands of articles online, all free for the reading. Many of these stories have been written by top competitors, including National and Olympic Champions. You will find SSUSA articles spotlighted every week on the NRA Competitive Shooting Facebook page. We recommend you bookmark that page as a valuable resource. Here are four notable SSUSA articles that have been featured on Facebook this month. Go to SSUSA.org to see even more current articles, with new content every day.

Shooting Sports USA Mirage Read optics scope

Here is an insightful, fairly lengthy 1850-word article about the phenomenon we call mirage. The article explains how and why mirage appears, how it can best be monitored, and how mirage can indicate both wind velocity and direction. Top competitors follow the adage “Mirage is your friend”, because mirage can often be the most important indicator of wind variables — sometimes even more important than wind flags. “The mirage is more sensitive than the flags since it has less inertia and momentum”, wrote Desmond T. Burke, in his book, Canadian Bisley Shooting, an Art and a Science.

Well worth reading, this SSUSA article talks about the properties of mirage. Here is a sample:

“Mirage — can make all the difference between a shot landing squarely in the X-ring or being victimized by an undetected downrange breeze. The true power of mirage is found in its ability to betray the subtlest of breezes downrange. Its fluid movement… can not only provide wind direction, but speed as well.

Typically, the ability to detect mirage is maximized on warm, sunny and sultry days. Expect mirage to be most pronounced in mid-morning or early afternoon, although it ignores these rules with regularity[.]

Mirage is extremely powerful at identifying winds of less than 12 mph, particularly those gentle breezes subtle enough to not even bother moving the flags.

When there is no wind, or a gentle head or tail wind, mirage will appear to be ‘bubbling’ directly up from the ground. Many call this ‘boiling’, and it is probably the easiest of all to detect.

As a general rule of thumb, when wind speed increases, overall height of the waves produced by the mirage is reduced. Large peaks and valleys in the waves mean that particular mirage is being driven by a very slight breeze. Conversely, crest size is reduced with wind speed, making it harder and harder to detect, until the mirage disappears entirely at somewhere around 12 miles per hour. In other words, the taller mirage’s waves appear, the slower the breeze.”

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

Shooting Sports USA barrel maintenance break-in procedures Glen Zediker

Authored by the late Glen Zediker, this article covers barrel break-in procedures. It is particularly useful for dealing with factory barrels. We CAUTION readers — with outstanding, hand-lapped custom barrels from top barrel-makers, you may want to do very little break-in — clean sparingly and keep barrel heat low. Do NOT use abrasives aggressively. On our Krieger and Brux barrels, we simply wet-patched every 2-3 rounds for 20 rounds and the barrels shot superbly from the start with minimal fouling. But for factory barrels, a moderate break-in process may prove beneficial.

Zediker explains: “Lesser, lower-cost barrels are going to have more pronounced … imperfections within the bore[.] These imperfections are largely tool marks resulting from the drilling and rifling processes. And if it’s a semi-automatic, like an AR-15, there might be a burr where the gas port was drilled. The goal of break-in is to knock down these imperfections, thereby smoothing the interior surface.”

Shooting Sports USA pistol cartridge kaboom safety blowout

As one who has experienced a cartridge case-head blow-out with a 9mm pistol, this Editor is very conscious of the risks involved and the damage a blow-out can do to the pistol, to the magazine, and (worst of all) to the shooter. Even with new brass, the possibility of a case failure is always present. And even if the case remains intact, we’ve seen primer failures that create a dangerous jet back towards the pistol shooter. That’s why shooters should always employ protective eyewear whenever they shoot.

Shooting Sports USA revolver forcing cone repair damage

We love our wheelguns, but there’s no doubt that forcing cone damage can occur, particularly with hot loads and if your cylinder-to-barrel gap is excessive. This article explains how to inspect your revolvers, and how to mitigate the likelihood of forcing cone damage. The article also explains how to clean your revolvers properly. This is very important to avoid build-up of lead and powder residues.

Permalink - Articles, Handguns, Tech Tip No Comments »
August 7th, 2021

Priming Kaboom — Primer Flash Sets Off Multiple Primers in Tray

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

Here is an important safety reminder for readers who employ hand priming tools with trays of multiple primers. In this instance a primer detonated while being seating in a pistol cartridge case. This caused a “flash-over” which instantly ignited multiple other primers in the tray. That, in turn, caused a small explosion which broke the tray and Hornady Handheld Priming Tool. The user, a Forum member, posted this report this morning in our Shooters’ Forum.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboomReport by Forum Member about Primer Flash-Over Incident
I had a small scare the other day while reloading. My experience might be a helpful reminder to people to keep safe and follow proper procedures and not be sloppy.

A primer popped (went off) when being seated and (while hot) flashed over into the tray causing other primers in the tray to detonate. That, in turn, broke my Hornady Handheld Priming Tool and injured my hand.

Here is my loading area after the incident. Note the damage to the hand priming tool. I’m not not sure where the rest of the pieces are.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

Injuries to User — Multiple Cuts on Hand and Forearm
This photo shows the resulting cuts to hand. Fortunately they seem superficial. Note — I was wearing latex gloves so my hand had some protection.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

The blast also blew my glasses off my face and they landed about six feet away. Be careful folks and wear your eye protection! EDITOR: Guys — This is yet more compelling evidence why handloaders should always wear eye protection!

More Details — Primers Were Federal LP, Case Primer Pockets Had Been Checked
The forum member noted: “Just in case people are interested, I didn’t notice anything different from usual. Cases were Privi Partizan (PPU) factory brass on their fourth firing. The primers were Federal Large Pistol. The cases had been ultrasonic cleaned and the primer pockets checked prior to priming. I had primed around 50 cases during this session before the accident.”

Here is a close-up of “flashed” primers — note the empty but dented cups and triangular “anvils”:

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

This incident happened using a Hornady Handheld Priming Tool, as shown below.

primer flash explosion Hornady handheld primer tool kaboom

Two other Forum members reported feeding issues with this particular handheld priming tool and one other member, Kiwi Greg, suffered a multi-primer detonation causing injury: “I had the same thing happen a few years ago now with the same Hornady hand primer with 50-75 [Federal 215M primers] in the tray. Made a bit of a mess of both my hands, blew primers and tray all around my large workshop. Scared the [heck] out of my employee who was near me at the time. Some stitches, bandages and it was all good, [but with] some wicked scars… I think a primer had turned side-on when being put into Bertram .408 CT brass which had nice tight pockets and required more force than usual. I use RCBS [priming tools] now with a flat bar that slides across to prevent sympathetic detonations. I hadn’t heard of it before, but found out it wasn’t that uncommon after it happened.”

Thanks to Boyd Allen for finding this post.
Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, News, Reloading 6 Comments »