Does anyone know of a catastrophic failure, where a modern gun blew up in someone's hand that DOESN'T include a variation of the phrase "so I was taking my reloads to the range to try them out..."
You see it on the blogs and in the forums. A picture of a revolvers cylinder blow apart, or the chamber of semi-auto bulging out in an ugly matter with a deformed mag well adding to their woes. They always seem to have a hot load in there. Even squib problems don't have catastrophic failures, that I've seen. I even remember a Ruger revolver with MULTIPLE bullets stuck in the barrel because the first was a squib. The barrel looked fine, except they sliced it down the middle to show the problem. If they had dug out the lead it might have worked fine.
And I've seen OLD photos of failed 1911. From 80 years ago. That might be a metallurgy limitation.
But has anyone confirmed a failed modern gun blowing up using (presumably faulty) modern factory ammo? (there are a precious few.)
Of course you could get a blowed up and ruined gun with an out of battery failure. The round isn't seated and supported in the chamber and the bolt isn't fully locked when it goes up. That's more a fault of the gun and not a ammo problem. But you DO see very broken guns when it happens. So that counts, I guess, and could apply to just about any semi-auto.
Bad things could happen with a revolver that is used enough that it doesn't lock up tight and isn't centered on the barrel when the hammer comes down.
But to get really spectacular failure, where your handgun doesn it's best impression of a hand grenade, you need to reload. Though I have been looking for exceptions to that rule.
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There is one way to get factory ammo to ruin your day and destroy a gun. A way I had heard of, but didn't fully understand until this post, and then only because I stumbled over it in the research. And it's a common thing I DO. I, obviously, need to address this danger.
It's called bullet set-back or setback.
You go to the range with your CCW for practice. You don't want to shoot your expensive self-defense ammo, so you remove your magazine and the chambered round and use ball ammo. After the session is over you replace the self-defense round that was in the pipe into your magazine and then reload the mag and set your gun to Condition One, with a round ready to go in the chamber. Next month you do the same thing again at the range. And the next month. After a year, that one bullet has been replaced back in the mag and shoved back into your gun's chamber TWELVE times. More if you go to the range more. Presumably you haven't shot at bad guys in the intervening year. I have to do this procedure at home on range day because I live in Maryland, but the principle is the same
Why is this a problem? Well, the feed ramp on your pistol pushes a little bit against the front of your first bullet. This may cause the bullet to bet shoved a little further back into the brass cartridge full of powder. This may compact the powder into a tighter space and it might jam that bullet into the brass so it sticks a little harder. When you go to shoot the round at a bad guy the compressed powder and/or stuck bullet could cause an excess amount of pressure that can burst the chamber.
This is the definition of BAD! Bullet setback of perfectly fine factory ammo fired out of a modern firearm can destroy a gun and maybe hurt you.
And I was blissfully unaware of this in anything but briefest glimpse of the theory reading in the margins on the intarwebz.
Then I saw reports of police ranges where it happened, and dug around a bit and learned what I just told you.
If you keep reloading that top round in the mag into your semi-auto it can explode. All because of something you did that you didn't have to do.
Apparently, some guns are worse for causing this situation than others. Some ammos are too. Which ammo? My ammo? Which guns? Any of mine? I don't know!
Why didn't I hear about this from all the bloggers I read? I may have heard Tam mention it but didn't bring two and two together. Why didn't my CCW trainer mention this? Why does this happen to cops, presumably they have had a few hours of firearms training. I know infantry type people and they never mention it, but they tend to not unload reload as much, maybe. I had to dig around internet gun failure reports for a while to learn about this type of problem.
What of the New Saturnian Thunderclap neophyte shooter that was getting into guns back in 1975? With fewer books and no internet and learning from his grandfather in the passed-down knowledge tradition we all used to learn from would leave him woefully unprepared.
I'm still learning about setback, and you should educate yourself, too, if this is news to you. Yes, it seems that reloads tend to do this setback thing more than factory ammo, going back to my original point of 'do you know a gun exploding using factory ammo' at the beginning of this post. But factory ammo is not immune. Most of the examples I see are Glocks, but 1911s are not immune, either. Nor is whatever you are shooting.
I even see the failure referred to as 'KB' or 'kB'. I guess that stands for KABOOM! (Though one form of kB may be Glock specific and refer to a case failure near the base. The effect from setback or case failure for the user are the same. Ow.)
And now it has scared the hell out of me.
I don't know yet how I am going to change my procedure, other than shooting off self-defense ammo more frequently and inspecting ammo before putting it back into battery for carry.
One thing I might do is have a box of the same brand self-defense ammo and when I strip out a round replacing it with a brand new round each time.
Ideally, you just put the round in a magazine one, then fire it down range, never putting a round back in the mag. Ideally.
Setback can't be TOO bad or it would happen more often on just that one time the bullet tip touches the feed ramp on its way into the chamber then down range.
Some brass cases are crimped around a groove or ridge in the bullet when made at the factory or at home. Is my ammo crimped like this? I don't know. Can reloading weaken the brass so this crimp fails to hold bullet where it belongs? Probably.
This can happen with revolvers, too. Another thing I think I remember Tam mentioning in conjunction with uncrimped .45 ACP brass in a 625 style revolver. Then the bullet can move forward out of the case as well as back. And forward or back, that can't be a good thing.