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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had an "incident" this past weekend that could have been fatal, but thankfully wasn't.

My wife & I were staying at a fire tower up near the Canadian border for the weekend. We took all of our guns with us to get in some range practice.
We were almost finished shooting and I had some ammo left for the .38. We decided to shoot it off and get in some more target practice with the Model 14.

While we were shooting we had some reloads malfunction (to use the term loosely).
I was using a box of reloads that I friend had built.
For the record, he has been reloading for nearly 30 years.
I unknowingly had 4 casings split on me while ranging in my Model 14. One bullet is now jammed in the barrel after slamming into another that apparently was jammed in the barrel from the shot before.
I had only fired 23 rounds prior to the malfunction. #24 & #25 was the end of the shooting day for my wife & I, needless to say.

2 shots involved here. I will try to keep them straight.
It seems that the "1st" shot casing split and only pushed the bullet partially thru the barrel. My wife & I never noticed the malfunction. The "1st" shot felt and sounded normal (BANG), no difference from all the others, same sound level & standard recoil. The "2nd" shot darned near took of my hands. It made a "BOOM" much louder than my .357 and the recoil was worse than anything I have ever experienced.
The "1st" bullet popped out as if in slow motion. My wife and I saw it actually bounce off the target and back toward us. Her face was nearly white and she asked me what just happened, as if she thought we should be dead or something.
I told her that I thought the gun had just "BLOWN UP".
I put it down to make sure it was safe and a few minutes later picked it up and checked out what had happened. I opened the cylinder, popped out the casings then looked at the barrel. I was shocked to see the bullet in the end of the barrel.
I picked up all of the casings and discovered that 2 of them were cracked, nearly from top to bottom. I then started scouring the ground for what had "popped out". I thought it was the bullet from the shot before and it had been pushed out of the barrel from the last shot. Well I guess I was right. I actually managed to recover the "1st" bullet after about a 1/2 hour of looking. It is shown in the pics.




The "2nd" bullet jammed in the barrel and my Model 14 is now useless, and pics will show that too.
Look at the reflections between the jammed bullet and the ejector pin. You can see the curves in the reflections showing the small bulge in the barrel.



When we got back to our room I searched thru all of my brass and discovered that 4 casings had been split.
I am taking my Model 14 to the gunsmith this week to see if there is any damage the to rest of the revolver, and see if it can be salvaged by just replacing the barrel. I don't know if the frame or cylinder were damaged in the back blast. He will know for sure. I will let you know later.
The end of the story is I will never fire anything but factory loads from now on.
NO MORE RELOADS FOR ME, Thanks !!!
Thanks to Smith & Wesson for building such a strong barrel and a quality gun. It saved my life!
 

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There's reloads and then there's bad reloads.

Same thing certainly can happen with factory loads. My B-I-L experienced a pressure event that destroyed his Kel Tec P40 (?). A factory Winchester white box .40 S&W round was the culprit.

I had a factory dud round keep me from shooting a perfect score on my first Texas concealed carry qualification test.

Your barrel is bulged but the rest of the revolver is likely fine.
 

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I would reconsider just using factory ammo. I would do a little poking around and I think when some of the reloaders in here have a look at that brass they can tell you why those cases split. I suspect what happened but dont feel I have the experience to run my mouth on the issue.I would say though that I would not right off reloads.Being a careless reloader is like playing with grenades. But some one who is meticulous and follows all the laws of reloading actualy crank out safer than factory loads.
I can understand being upset with what happened and I definatrely am not making light of it. I am realy sorry your barrel is toast on such a nice gun.
I think the jury is still out on the cause of it and I would wait and see what some of the guys in here have to say.Did you ask the reloader where he got the brass and how many times it had been used?
 

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Gear,
Sorry to hear of your misfortune.
I've saw a lot of split cases over the years, some had been loaded
just to many times and others were newly fired factory ammuntion.

Back in the 70s S&W marketed some nickled cased ammo.
I shot some of it in my 357 and got several split cases, maybe 40 or fifty out of a thousand rounds.

Oh course I only shoot my own handloads and have done so for over forty years with nary a problem.

Hope you find a replacement barrel for you revolver and have it back on the firin' line soon.

Su Amigo,
Dave
 

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I was only close to one blow up. A couple of years ago a friend and I were shooting at one of Jarrett rifles ranges on the Cowden Plantation. My buddy had a custom JP AR 15 cost some where around $2,500.00 for just the rifle. I arranged for the purchase of the rifle it had belonged to a gun writer friend of mine. The writer gave my buddy the load info he had developed.

We had been shooting a number of different guns and I had been sitting next to my friend looking thru a spotting scope. He had never shot the JP Ar and had loaded the ammo per the gun writers instructions or so he told me. He set up with the AR and I then realized it had a muzzle brake so I told him to hold up while I moved behind him not wanting to take the blast from the brake. When he shot there was a strange sound not a sharp crack of a normal shot and I thought I saw pieces flying right and left off of the gun.

The barrel was welded to the bolt the action was bulged in the middle and parts and pieces had blown off, the magazine bottom was blown away as well as the scope .


Fortunately I had moved or would have more than likely caught some of the shrapnel and my friend was holding the gun with his left hand on the rear bag rather than holding the forend. Neither of us had a scratch!

My first thought was he had shot twice and the first bullet had lodged in the barrel. We took the rifle over to Jarrett's shop and Jay Jarrett pulled a couple of the unfired bullets so we could look at the powder. The powder was definitely not what he had been told to use and we later found out he had accidentally used Lil gun powder.

I had purchased several guns from JP and while they were definitely not at fault I called and asked if he thought the gun was worth looking at. I spoke with John and he said send it in and they will rebuild it at cost! I have no idea what if anything was salvaged from that gun but they provided my friend with a new gun at fraction of the original cost.

JP Rifles are very good people to deal with as are Jarrett's who took time out of their day to deal with a problem that was not theirs and at no charge.

The moral of this story is that if you meet a concrete contractor from the Columbus Ohio area and he offers to let you shoot his guns with his reloads or even worse shoot your gun with his reloads run like hell! Oh and you may want to double check your components before assembly.

Len
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Listening to your comments, and looking more closely at the ammo I had shot - I'm pretty sure these casings were reloaded numerous times before and didn't catch it sooner. I was my screw up for not being more careful about my ammo. I have never had this happen before, and never considered it happening at all. In my life time I have put probably close to 25,000 rounds or more down range and outside of a few misfires and 1 hangfire, I have never experienced a failure like this. This one almost cost me dearly.

I hope that if nothing else some other newbie out there reads this and heeds all of your advice.

I should have known better, but........
I've never fired reloads before, but with ammo costs being so high and ammo being so difficult to get, I didn't say no when my friend offered me a box of his reloaded ammo to use.
Because of the ammo costs being so high, I thought I could fire off the "Cheaper reloads" and keep the good stuff for when I really needed it.

Lesson learned.
Well, the "cheaper ammo" just cost me at least the price of a barrel and the value of a fine handgun, and damned near some serious injury. Using fresh ammo would have been much cheaper.
When my wife & I were setting up to shoot I made sure she knew this was to be treated like a normal range shoot and she was to be at least 15 ft behind me, just in case (Same for me when she was shooting). One did the shooting and the other was on the spotting scope. Good call I guess.

For the record - I was not quick shooting. Shots were placed about 5-10 seconds apart so she had time to log the bullet impact on the target.

I'll look for a few more comments befor I close this out.
Thanks for the positive input guys !!!
 

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A couple of comments on the split cases...

Length wise splits are pretty common with old brass that is beyond it's useful life... but I have never heard of such splits causing much if any problem with low pressure pistol/revolver cartridges... I have had these splits many times and have always thought of it as natures way of telling me to trash the brass...

Sort of guessing here, but it seems to me the first round you got was a squib load... i.e. little or no powder it the case... which caused a bullet to lodge in the barrel... the second was an over charge (probably a result of a clog in the drop tube of the powder measure clearing when the next charge was dropped resulting in a double charge or nearly so...

The bulge in the barrel is a result of firing with the first bullet lodged in the barrel... good news here is that revolvers with bulged barrels often still shoot as well as they ever did... and the damage is just cosmetic... but you are wise to get it checked out by a 'smith....

Sort of good news/bad news I suppose...but not as bad as it could have been.

FWIW

Chuck
 

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Several year back while at a local PPC match a friend of mine had a similar incident happen. While shooting his revolver with light .38 specials he had four or five lead wad cutter bullets lodge in his barrel?
Strange things can and do happen with handloaded ammo. He must of been trying to get the powder amount down to lighten his recoil for the sake of a quick recovery?
Steve
 

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Gearchecker, as Cxm said, the split cases are a common thing and not the cause of your problem, and I think he identified it pretty well.

These incidents can be costly, and may seem quite dangerous at the time, but I can't recall anyone being hurt in the bulged barrel incidents I know of - only their pride. Your description of the event being louder than your .357 doesn't surprise, but may not be an indication of the actual danger present.

In general, most handloaders make it a practice not to shoot handloads made by others, and there is good reason for that. Don't be turned off on handloading by this incident. If you need to save the bucks over factory loads, there is a lot to be said for handloading, and when you do it yourself and control the process, you feel a lot more confident. As someone who started loading as a teenager and it still doing it forty years later and without a single incident (knock wood!), I hardly think a thing of the process - until I read some of the horror stories here and elsewhere!
 

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I've be a re loader for over 25 years. I've done it all as far as mistakes. Your ammo had 1 with a low/no powder charge and another hot. Like what was said previously.

Making hand loads is serious business. I don't make them for speed but for safety. It saves me money and I've enjoyed making my own all this time. I've learned to check all primers that they are seated correctly and all have the proper powder charges. It's a inspection step, (to prevent a loss of gun or fingers) that I feel is timely but necessary.

Sorry for your problems, but your gun will live on, The barrel my be Ok too, yet there might be a ring where the bullets came together.
 

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Second the cxm comments on likely scenario of this incident.

I shoot 10's of thousands of reloads a year. Split cases are not infrequent in using old brass, especially nickle brass. I've reloaded for nearly 30 years and have seen many kinds of operator error, reloading error, etc. I've never had any indication of split pistol cases ever causing incidents such as yours.

Yes it is terrifying when such happens. I won't tell you of my own 44 mag incident years ago, other than to report that my conviction a squib load was far more probable the initial event than the split cases.

PS:
great photos, and good detective work....I just believe your conclusion is in error...good luck in future range time....
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It was a "Squib" after all.
I talked with a Smithy up here and he said the casing did have powder in it. He thinks the bad one was a probably partial 1/4 load or so. The casing shows full powder burn and the primer did fire properly.

He asked me to weigh any ammo left from the ones left and let him know what the ranges were.
Out of the 20 rounds, full ammo weight - They ran from 11.6 grams. up to 12.4 grams. He said that any at 11.7 gr total weight was over charged for the load built considering the casing, primer and bullet weights, and nearly all of them are over charged. He thinks that the guy setup enough powder for 50 or 100 rounds and went thru his load cycles without checking for balanced powder fills.
He also said that (my problem squib) was more than likely filled only partially and he didn't notice because he got all the rounds loaded that he expected too, not accounting for the over/short loads.
Lastly I got the instructions never to use ammo somebody else loaded -
Sound Familiar?
LESSON LEARNED AGAIN.

I'm still looking for a 6" replacement barrel to my S&W 14-3 though - anybody got one to sell?
I also want a 6" barrel for my 19-3 Comabt magnum .357
 

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Sorry to hear of your misfortune but remember the important thing and that is your eyes and hands, you still have both.

As for the needing a barrel I disagree, I believe you now own a perfect canidate for a custom 3" by having that barrel cut, crowned and resighted and have the smith do a round butt mod and action tune while your at it. You'll have a dandy pistol you will cherish and the memory to boot.

my .02
-2sigs
 

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Yes I also would agree with the Reloads aint all bad school of thought.
I've been rollin my own since late 80's and I don't shoot others loads, I don't load pistol ammo for others and rifle ammo only for 2 family members and that is since I weight each powder charge individually and am extremely meticulous about rifle ammo production no matter who is shootin it, It's a quality thing.

I think a bit of reading into Reloading metallic cartridges and a few bucks put away here and there then buy the single stage press and other items needed. Then my friend you will enjoy loading AND shooting the quality ammo YOU craft. It is a real pleasure to put loads you carefully created into the chamber kfjdrfirii

be safe
-2sigs
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
lllfaaaa You know I think I will need to look into reloading.
I shoot 6 different ammo types and they don't come cheap except for the .22 LR. It very well may pay off in a new hobby too. AND the misses shouldn't complain too much when she is shooting thru the savings with me.
We might even learn how to do this together. Certainly something to seriously think about doing.
Beats the devil out of working on an old broken down tractor that hasn't run in 2 years, and costing me a fortune trying to figure out what is wrong.
 

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gearchecker said:
It was a "Squib" after all.
I talked with a Smithy up here and he said the casing did have powder in it. He thinks the bad one was a probably partial 1/4 load or so. The casing shows full powder burn and the primer did fire properly.

(He asked me to weigh any ammo left from the ones left and let him know what the ranges were.
Out of the 20 rounds, full ammo weight - They ran from 11.6 grams. up to 12.4 grams. He said that any at 11.7 gr total weight was over charged for the load built considering the casing, primer and bullet weights, and nearly all of them are over charged. He thinks that the guy setup enough powder for 50 or 100 rounds and went thru his load cycles without checking for balanced powder fills.)
He also said that (my problem squib) was more than likely filled only partially and he didn't notice because he got all the rounds loaded that he expected too, not accounting for the over/short loads.
Lastly I got the instructions never to use ammo somebody else loaded -
Sound Familiar?
LESSON LEARNED AGAIN.

I'm still looking for a 6" replacement barrel to my S&W 14-3 though - anybody got one to sell?
I also want a 6" barrel for my 19-3 Comabt magnum .357[/quote

I feel that weighing loaded ammo is not a true indication of powder charge as we can have 2-3grs difference in the weight of cases as well as a grain difference in bullet weight even with factory bullets. I have found this by weighing a lot of cases & bullets to try to improve accuracy. Thanks Frank
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
klgasilBRVO My comment about not shooting reloads is not a pointed comment about reloaders or the care you all put into it.
It is a comment about the reinforcement that you shoot only what you load, if it's reloaded.

The general consensus is that you don't shoot ammo somebody else reloaded.
I can live with that. I will more than likely end up loading my own ammo within the next year. Mostly for getting more into "the shooting experience" I love shooting, should have gotten back into it 20 years ago. But since I'm fairly (re)new to this it will take me a little while to get into the curve.
I used to shoot a lot, but got out of it back in the 80's when I first got married and the wife & kids spent all of my income.
Now that I'm in a little better position, and the kids are all grown up, and I have an (ex)wife that no longer spends my income.. It's my turn.
My current wife loves shooting, and guns, and the outdoors and plans on elk for dinner every now & then. I think it'll be okay with her if I learn to reload my own ammo.
I shoot .38 special, .357, .45, 30-30, & 30-06 & 22 LR so far and still want a .40 & a 44 mag.
Reloading is probably a good choice here.

I appreciate all of the input -
welldone This forum is one of the best examples of what a forum is for.
People discussing issues without ragging and putting each other down and helping others understand the answers to their questions.
It is also really cool seeing so many S&W's in such great condition in one place.

It looks like I'm getting another S&W soon. That makes 3 so far this year.
I have an old 48 Ford tractor that I can't get to run and a guy at work offered his S&W 44 Mag, 8" + some serious cash on a trade deal.
He lost his shooting finger in an accident and the nerves never healed right. It is too painful for him to shoot from the recoil, so he is giving up shooting handguns. He tried the left handed thing and it doesn't work for him. He will stick to rifles and I will probably get the 44.
I will post pics if I get it.

Thanks,
Gregory
 

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good thoughts, gearchecker, on getting into reloading.... hpzl;n; kfjdrfirii kubvcabo

be advised, you don't actually "SAVE" money from doing such....

what you get is a LOT more ammo for any given $$ than purchasing retail;

what you get is a LOT more insight into the incredible complexities of the ballistic sport;

what you get is a LOT of satisfaction in the production of your own custom loads;

Reloading becomes a type of meditation akin to tying your own flies or raising your own vegetables. The rewards far outweigh whatever $ amount you spend with a whole new universe of experiences unexpected and unpredicted.
 

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Re: Blowout on the mountain. Anthing like this happen to you

Gearchecker I understand all about ex-wife and kid spending all the money. You are not the only one that has happened to. Not gonna say another thing about it either, but don't let any of that get in the way of counseling sessions with your Smith... bobw
 
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