This could have ended a LOT worse

Radman

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Probably a brass issue, however I saw this long ago in a very old, well-used rifle, (likely with several thousands of rounds through it), although it shot extremely well.
It turned out to be the rifle itself. Measuring the bore where the loaded cartridge rests, the O.D. was not only oversized but also slightly elliptical. (Not likely the case here....I'm just saying)
 

Radman

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Nov 23, 2019
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Probably a brass issue, however I saw this long ago in a very old, well-used rifle, (likely with several thousands of rounds through it), although it shot extremely well.
It turned out to be the rifle itself. Measuring the bore where the loaded cartridge rests, the O.D. was not only oversized but also slightly elliptical. (Not likely the case here....I'm just saying)
I.D. sorry
 

DSheetz

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I had a similar experience with some Winchester brass a few years back . It was a problem with the brass it's self they sent me a box to ship all of the remaining rounds back to them and then sent me new .
 

Scooter 45ACP

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As I mentioned in the Free Components for Kids thread, I let my friend borrow my .243 for his daughter to try out, and gave them some reduced load rounds as well as some full-strength (not max) loads. Well, Monday morning I got a text from Stewart with the words “We had a little problem” and this picture.

View attachment 287736
I called him right away and was relieved to learn that nobody was hurt. In fact, he said nobody noticed anything until his daughter opened the bolt and the spent case did not come out. Wisely, they put the gun aside and moved on to shooting his wife’s .308. Later in the day, a cleaning rod easily did the trick and they were able to get the case out of the chamber with just a couple of taps.

When I met Stewart to get my gun back, we took a look at the bolt face. Here are a few pics from different angles, before and after cleaning it with some Hoppe’s No. 9 solvent.
View attachment 287746 View attachment 287747View attachment 287750View attachment 287751

I did not see anything that stood out to me, but those with more expertise and experience might notice something important that I missed. I don’t have a bore scope and therefore can’t really get a good look at the chamber. I think it might be a good idea not to shoot the gun again until I have a gunsmith take a peek in there and tell me if there was any damage.

Stewart’s wife happened to be videoing her daughter shooting, and she sent me a slo-mo of the shot. In it, you can see a puff of smoke come out near the bolt. Nobody, not even the shooter, noticed the puff of smoke as it happened; they only saw it when they looked at the video later. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to attach the video, but if I did you'd see she's a lefty shooting my right-handed gun, without safety glasses, so the fact that smoke was the only thing expelled around the bolt is doubly lucky.

So after profusely apologizing to my friend repeatedly, and thanking whatever supreme power in the universe it was that saved me from a lifetime of remorse for maiming a child, I naturally started to think about what caused the incident. The two most likely things would seem to be too much powder or faulty brass. Here are the particulars of the load:

Bullet: Hornady #2430 80 grain FMJ
Seating depth: 0.035" off lands
Powder: 25.0 grains of H4895
Primer: WLR
Case: Winchester Super-X

The powder charge was based on load data from the Hodgdon and Sierra websites, since my Lyman 50th edition didn’t list H4895 for 80 grain jacketed bullets. Hodgdon showed starting and max loads as 35.0 and 38.0 grains respectively, and Sierra indicated 32.8 and 35.4. As many of you know, H4895 is a powder specifically noted by Hodgdon as being suitable for reduced loads. Using the instructions from their website, I multiplied the maximum load (38.0 grains) by 60% to get 22.8 grains as a starting load. I actually started my load work up at 23.5 and eventually found that I got good results between 25.0 and 25.3 grains.

The brass was purchased online from an individual, not a retailer. The seller indicated they were new primed brass, but they varied quite a bit in their condition. Some were shiny bright like new, and some were corroded inside. In fact, during load development about a quarter of them failed to fire, which I attributed to primer corrosion. Of the remaining brass after that, I set aside the worst of them, and the ones that had what I judged to be mild corrosion I decapped, wet tumbled in Lemi-Shine and Dawn (no media) and put fresh primers in them. Since then I have fired 30 rounds of this load in this gun without incident.

I use a single stage press to reload and weigh each charge with a Lyman Micro-Touch 1500 digital scale. When loading fired brass, I inspect each case before sizing/decapping, after tumbling, and after bullet seating with a small hand lens, rotating the case a full turn each direction while checking the neck/shoulder area and again looking at the base. Because these were supposedly new cases, it’s quite likely that I did not give them the thorough inspection I normally give to fired brass. I honestly don’t recall. As I noted above, the corrosion was on the inside of the cases, not on the outside. Would an inspection of the outside of the cases have made me reject any of them? Can’t say for sure, but I still should have given them a thorough look. Maybe I should have discarded them immediately, as I couldn’t really get a good look inside. Several people told me they should be good to shoot, but they were going on my description of the corrosion, not first-hand observation. It may be unlikely that the corrosion created a weak spot in the case, but it’s not impossible. If it was enough corrosion to make the primer go bad, who knows what it did to the case?

After weighing a powder charge and pouring it into a case, I immediately seat the bullet, as recommended in the Lyman reloading manual. Some people like to charge all their cases at once and then seat their bullets, but I feel the Lyman procedure makes it less likely to double charge a cartridge. Does that mean I couldn’t have put a double charge in one or more of them? Absolutely not. In this instance, a double charge would have been 50 grains, 12 grains (32%) over book max. Not as bad as doubling a max load, but still a significant overload.

Typing all that out, checking my reloading notes, etc. helps me to go over things in my head and get them all straight. Having done that, here are the decisions made and lessons learned:
  1. Always inspect every case, regardless of it’s initial apparent condition. Even new cases can have flaws that made it past the Quality Control department of the manufacturer.
  2. I can no longer trust this particular bunch of brass, because I can’t definitively determine the cause of the case rupture. Accordingly, I’m going to put my new-to-me collet-type bullet puller to use and disassemble all these rounds, re-use the powder, bullets and primers, and chuck the brass. It’s just not worth the risk. If after pulling the bullets it’s obvious which cases are virgin brass I might save those, but any that don’t look brand new are out.
  3. Re-double my efforts to make sure I am not interrupted or distracted during loading, especially during the charging/seating process. I don’t recall any interruptions that may have caused me to double charge a cartridge, but my memory sucks these days so it’s a very real possibility.
  4. I’m having serious second thoughts about letting other people shoot ammunition I reload, at least until I’m more experienced. It felt awesome to think I was helping a youngster choose their first gun and shoot their first deer; I don’t even want to imagine how I would have felt if Caleigh had been disfigured, blinded or worse.
I would be interested to hear what other things jumped out to people that they think I should be considering or changing in my reloading habits. Any thoughts are welcome.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully others pick up something useful from my experience.
Most certainly a blessing from above that that nobody was injured, I've had this happen a few times over the years and nearly always came down to case failure from corrosion on the inside making weak spots in the case, hardly ever does it damage the gun just a good overall cleaning and it should be good to go, looking at your fired cases it was most defiantly not an overload and I think all turned out well but I would discard any remaining brass from the lot
 

DesertDweller62

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The most important fact is that no one was injured. I recently did some reloading for a buddy and had bought some "once fired cases" on line. When I was reloading them I noticed a huge difference in primer pocket fit of the new primers... some were the normal tightness and some the primers almost fell out... In fact one did. Also there was a marked difference in the finish of the cases. This experience has me becoming very wary of buying "used" brass. DD62
 

emp1953

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Sep 29, 2013
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Sorry, should have posted pics of primer. Here are the five cartridges she shot. The one that ruptured is on the far left. While it looks a little darker than the others, it's not really. It's aggravatingly difficult to get even lighting on all five at the same time, so they don't all look the same. Looking at them all with a bright light and hand lens it doesn't look to me like anything blew past the primer. I don't believe these are military brass.

View attachment 287757
The top two left have flattened primers compared to the other three which still show rounded edges. This tells me that there was higher pressures in those top left two. You reloaded these, do you regularly check the accuracy of your scale. I always keep a good beam balance scale around to keep me honest and a set of check weights as well. How old was the powder? What were the weather conditions? is 4895 one of those powders with temperature sensitivity, which might get amplified in the reduced load.
 

PddPdd

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Not related to the brass failure, but was any of the powder clumped when you disassembled the other rounds?
 

jjmp

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Brass that’s been shot has powder residue, it should always be tumbled,if not with temperature changes moisture is attacked to the powder residue and corrosion starts .
 

J-B welder

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The top two left have flattened primers compared to the other three which still show rounded edges. This tells me that there was higher pressures in those top left two. You reloaded these, do you regularly check the accuracy of your scale. I always keep a good beam balance scale around to keep me honest and a set of check weights as well. How old was the powder? What were the weather conditions? is 4895 one of those powders with temperature sensitivity, which might get amplified in the reduced load.
I think that is probably due to variation in primer seating depth. When I first started reloading I was very attentive to primer flattening and noticed that sometimes primers would be flatter in the lower range of my work ups than they were in the hotter rounds. Then I started checking primer depths more closely and also did some reading and came to the conclusion that primer flattening is not always a sign of excessive pressure.

I have an old Lyman M5 I'm refurbishing, but don't currently have a useable beam scale to check the digital against. I use the check weight every fifth round to make sure the digital hasn't gone whacky.
 
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DSheetz

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I use a primer pocket cutter to make them all the same depth . Then I like to hand seat the primer it just makes me feel better about them .
 

J-B welder

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I use a primer pocket cutter to make them all the same depth . Then I like to hand seat the primer it just makes me feel better about them .
That would certainly make them more reliable as an indicator of excessive pressure. Since I'm not shooting over 300 yards it probably wouldn't pay noticeable dividends in the accuracy department.
 

fmuguira

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Nov 6, 2010
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The words ‘used brass’ from someone I don’t know concern me and raise my eyebrows. My guess is that’s the problem. In this type of situation you really have no idea how much the brass was really fired, if it’s been oversized, over-pressured, annealed incorrectly, etc, etc. Just my mind spinning….
 

jbs2014

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Dec 31, 2015
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Arizona
I can assure everyone here that this incident was NOT caused by an excessive pressure situation.
The reduced load was used EXACTLY as the powder manufacturer says it should.
The incident was a bad piece of brass failing just above the web…it happens, brass gets inclusions, go’s brittle over time etc, ad nauseum.

Cheers.
Could something similar to what the OP posted cause a rifle to explode?

I have picked up brass on a M249 range before that had damage similar to what the OP posted.
 
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