A few years ago, a longtime gunsmith friend of mine on Vancouver Island, BC, alerted me of a rifle blow-up.
I have posted ten relatively high quality images of a brand new SAKO bolt action rifle in .300 Winchester Magnum caliber, with synthetic stock, and fluted barrel. On the 15th shot out of the box, it went KA-BOOM! The first 14 shots were from a box of Hornady factory ammunition. The fifteenth shot was from a new box of Federal factory ammunition.
The barrel is now in three totally separate, longitudinal pieces, the receiver is split down the middle, with left and right halves, and the forestock is a black plastic memory. The cartridge case is split from mouth to case head, and looks like a three-petaled flower.
With the limited number of images available - here are my thoughts on the event:
To my non-professional (since I don't get paid for my opinions,) eye this is a failure caused by included flaw(s) in the barrel steel. Once the barrel started to fail, the fractures continued forward, generally along the edge where the flutes join the major diameter of the barrel. Note, in the image of the cartridge case, there does not appear to be any significant swelling, or deformation, of the case head, itself, and I can not see any melted brass or brass flow evident on the cartridge case, itself. I cannot see any brass flow in the shattered area of the split barrel, either. To my mind, that precludes the possibility that it was a high pressure round causing the failure. (Unfortunately, I do not have any images of the case head, itself, or of the bolt face, which would give us additional evidence, one way or the other.)
The shooter was NOT seriously harmed because he was shooting from the bench, apparently wore proper protective gear, and had his arms cradled under the butt - in the rear sand-bag area.
The complete set of images can be seen at: Sako KA-BOOM
Rick A. Shay
Here is an update I received later on the Sako Ka-Boom From Stoeger, Canada:
Stoeger Canada Ltd. October 15, 2004
Sako has discovered an error in the material used for a small number of barrels in recently shipped Sako and Tikka stainless steel rifles.
Unfortunately, the error was not detected until after some of the rifles were shipped to customers, including you.
The condition of these rifles is such that the barrels could rupture when the rifle is fired. FOR THIS REASON, FIRING THE RIFLE COULD CAUSE INJURY – AND POSSIBLE SERIOUS INJURY – TO THE SHOOTER.
The serial number and models of the rifles delivered to you that have this condition are attached to this letter. If you have any of these rifles in inventory, please notify us immediately and we will make arrangements to send you replacements.
If you have delivered any of these rifles listed with this letter to customers, please provide us with the name, address and telephone number of the customers immediately so that we can arrange for a replacement of that rifle directly with the customer. It is imperative that your customers not shoot the rifle involved and send the rifle to us as soon as possible. We will make arrangements with your customer.
Any communication from you concerning this issue should be directed to: Stoeger Canada Ltd.
1 (800) 263-1945 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org