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  #1  
Old 10-24-2010, 07:18 PM
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Default S&W 625-JM Catastrophic Failure/Accident

I thought I would share my experience with the community here. I had a almost brand new Smith & Wesson 625 Jerry Miculek 45acp completely blow up at the range.

The gun had almost 400 rounds through it, about half factory, half reloads. Took it to the range Friday morning and started shooting it. I was shooting cans at 25yds and having a great time. The loads I was shooting were 5.5grs. of Universal behind a 230gr Hornady XTP, Winchester brass, CCI primer. I had shot 30-40rds and on the 6th shot of my cylinder I felt a jerk downward and felt something whistle past my head. I looked down at my revolver and, well, if you look at the attached pictures you can see what I saw. Fortunately, no one was injured. I never found the missing piece.

I've reloaded over 5,000rds on my Dillon 550 in the last year-rifle and pistol, and have been reloading for many years - so I'm no stranger to reloads. I'm sort of confused at what could have happened. I'm ruling out a double charge because of the rare chance that it would happen on the Dillon powder measure and there would have been powder run-out that I would have noticed. There was absolutely no barrel damage, so it wasn't a squib load followed by a full strength load. The only thing that I can thing of is a brass failure of some sort.

Maybe someone out there that has seen something like this can weigh in with some ideas. In the meantime, this serves as an excellent reminder as to what dangers there are anytime you are at the range. Eye and ear protection are not a suggestion, they are a necessity.

Also, anyone have any suggestions as to what I can do now with it? I assume that S&W will ask what I was shooting, and when I tell them "reloads" they will say sorry and hang up. Either way, I'm calling them on Monday to chat. I have found that it made an excellent conversation piece at a gun show I was at this last weekend....
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:25 PM
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WOW! We're just glad you weren't injured. It will be interesting to see what S&W has to say and I'll bet they'll want to look at your revolver. The vast majority of kabooms like this are caused by overpressure loads. A friend of mine did the same thing to a beautiful Colt Python. He sent it back to Colt and they concluded that the powder charge in his reload detonated instead of burned, and ofcourse since he was shooting reloads it voided any warranty. Let us know how things turn out.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:27 PM
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So I am sure I understand, the cases to the left and right had already been fired?
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:29 PM
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First and foremost I am glad you are still here to post this

It's only a gun, you can get another one, glad you weren't seriously injured.

Maybe you might turn into a Ruger fan

I'm sure you know what you're doing with reloading but once S&W gets wind that you were using non-factory ammo I don't think they will do much as far as replacing the gun.......
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:30 PM
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Looks like a double charge to me. But wow! I'm really glad no one was hurt!!!!!!


Did this happen two days ago, or a week ago friday?
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:31 PM
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Wow is right. I'm not an expert, but my vote would certainly be the dreaded over-charged round, I cannot see where a brass split would cause that... I'm sorry about the loss of your beautiful gun, and am very happy to see that you were not hurt.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:35 PM
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mm, Glad to hear you're OK and every one else also. Using Universal, max load appears on the Hodgdon web site as 5.6 grs. Were there ever any indications of an over pressure/charge with your reloads? Primers, cases sticking?
I would think S&W would want to look at the gun, could be a case of metal fatigue/failure and not your reloads.
Again glad you are OK

Bill
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:43 PM
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I'm glad you're unharmed.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:54 PM
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In order to be a double charge, I would have had to have a round in the mix that didn't get any powder per the way the dillon press works - the remaining rounds loaded all were pulled and taken apart and I found no errors in what I had reloaded and we didnt have one at the range. I pulled bullets on about 75rds when I got home.

The rounds on either side were already fired. And one more thing to note, the bullet from the round that blew up the gun was found at our feet with a cut to the nose about 1/8inch deep.

I really appreciate the kind responses, its hard not to be shook up about it. Serves as a stark reminder of safety.

I've reloaded this recipe at least 700 times with no primer problems, brass splits ect. I've found reloading data range to be 5.1 to 5.9 from published books, so I figured I was within range even if a extra .1grs did get thrown. My Dillon has always been quite good with consistency though.

Thanks....

Last edited by mmhoium; 10-24-2010 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:57 PM
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That's weird.

I can't quite understand what happened to the brass in the opposing chambers and why they appear to so clean.

If a rounds had detonated, I can see it blowing off the top third of the cylinder, but it should have left the empty brass alone.

Regardless, I'm very happy you are okay.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:57 PM
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Could it have fired with the cylinder not fully indexed into position?
I wouldn't think so but no clue how the bullet got that damage.
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:00 PM
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Forget about the gun. You won.
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:02 PM
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Joni- thats kind of what I was thinking as well. Seems possible.

A double charge would explain a lot, its just hard for me to think of how it would happen. Always possible...
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:10 PM
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The only failure I've seen that was as dramatic was a post-war K-38 which was destroyed by a double charge of Bullseye behind a 148 gr BBWC. We did find all the missing parts, except the rear sight. The cylinder failed in two pieces. We found the last piece as we were leaving. It was on the hood of my '63 Impala. It hit the windshield with enough force to punch a tiny pinhole all the way through the safety glass.

That was the first round fired that day of those reloads, and the last. When examined, all the remaining rounds were double charged. They had been reloaded on the club Star "Automatic" press. Someone had reconfigured the machine to load 158 gr SWCs with 5 grs Unique and neglected to change the rather complicated powder charger back to the usual setting for 2.5 Bullseye.

My two cents: I think this had to be an overpressure situation. In the late '60 through the '70s I stopped using Auto Rim brass. For one thing it was hard to find and when you could the cases were prone to failure. On a couple of occasions, cases split form the web to the case mouth and around 180 deg of the base. They had to be punched out with a section of cleaning rod, but there was no damage to the revolver.

Glad you are alright. Guns can be replaced. Fingers and eyes, not so easy.

Last edited by Texas1941; 10-24-2010 at 08:12 PM. Reason: sp as usual
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:27 PM
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I'm glad you're unhurt! That's what matters most.

It's too bad you were unable to find the piece(s) of metal that blew out of the cylinder. My guess is that Smith would want to look at all of them in order to determine whether there was some structural failure in the cylinder rather than overpressure. I'm thinking that, possibly, some weakness in the cylinder wall, perhaps a microscopic crack, might have accounted for the blowout rather than an overloaded round. On the other hand, those blown out shells are suspicious.
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:38 PM
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As I'm looking at the help that I am getting here and factoring in the bullet that I found on the ground, I think that chamber number 6 was unfired and it was the 5th round that was indexed. The brass looks fairly clean on chamber 6 and thinking of the way the cylinder indexs, it makes sense because that would have been the next chamber up for the firing pin. And on top of that, the cut in the bullet on the ground matches up nicely with the frame if the bullet was propelled forward while still in the "on deck" cylinder hole. There is also an odd cut in the cylinder wall between the round that was indexed and the brass from the previous fired round. Who knows...
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:43 PM
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I had a wierd happening several months ago with my Dillon 550. One case got a half load and the next case got a load and a half. Turned out a small piece of stryafoam was in the powder, (I think from the seal on the powder container), jammed up temporarily in the drop tube and only dropped a half load then came loose and dropped the other half, plus a full load. I noticed power was almost to the top of the case and stopped before I put a bullet in. Found the piece of stryafoam in the over full case. Pulled the bullet in the prior case and found it had only received a partial charge. One could have caused detonation, or at least a squb. the other could have also a caused a kaboom. All because of a piece of scrap stryafoam. Not the fault of the Dillon powder measure. It has always been accurate to +- .1 gr.
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:51 PM
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If you had a high primer then it may have gone off which might have caused this failure. When the round being fired went off the round next to it also went off due to a high primer already being in contact with the frame.

I'm thankful that you're uninjured and here to tell us about it.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:56 PM
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Glad you are not hurt. You might want to see if smith will do anything for you. If it was not a high pressure load it might have been a metal problem with the pistol. I had my 442 blow up couple of months ago. I was shooting with standard winchester .38 spl.(I have several non +p guns so I never shoot or buy +p ammo) when on the 15th round of the session I felt a strange recoil checked the pistol and the barrel was missing. The frame had cracked under the barrel and it was laying in front of the bench on the ground. Sent it to smith and they said they couldn't fix it and sent me a 642 to replace it. Not real happy, they wouldn't say what happened and I lost my 442 no dash nickel finished. But at least I didn't have to eat the loss and buy my own replacement. And yes I am an idiot, I didn't think to take any pictures until the day after I sent it off.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmhoium View Post
I thought I would share my experience with the community here. I had a almost brand new Smith & Wesson 625 Jerry Miculek 45acp completely blow up at the range.

The gun had almost 400 rounds through it, about half factory, half reloads. Took it to the range Friday morning and started shooting it. I was shooting cans at 25yds and having a great time. The loads I was shooting were 5.5grs. of Universal behind a 230gr Hornady XTP, Winchester brass, CCI primer. I had shot 30-40rds and on the 6th shot of my cylinder I felt a jerk downward and felt something whistle past my head. I looked down at my revolver and, well, if you look at the attached pictures you can see what I saw. Fortunately, no one was injured. I never found the missing piece.

I've reloaded over 5,000rds on my Dillon 550 in the last year-rifle and pistol, and have been reloading for many years - so I'm no stranger to reloads. I'm sort of confused at what could have happened. I'm ruling out a double charge because of the rare chance that it would happen .
It ain't that rare. I have seen quite a few 1911 .45 barrels blown to pieces by a double charge. I have no idea about yours, but they do happen.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:08 PM
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The reason I said the double charge would be rare for me is because of the way the Dillon works, versus charging individual rounds on a reloading tray (which i have done before). Rare might not be the right word though, certainly possible.

I really appreciate the responses. It is helping me out quite a bit with possible scenarios.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:18 PM
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Could powder have 'bridged' in the hopper tube and then dumped an over charge when that one was in the drop station? Perhaps the couple of rounds that passed thru the charge station got almost a full charge but left 1/4 or so each, then that one got the overcharge when it was cycled? That has all the looks of a bad overcharge, I can't see a situation where metal fatigue would would fail with enough force to launch the top strap.
The only catastophic failure that comes close to that one i've seen in 30 years of reloading was caused by a 10 grain overcharge (17.5 instead of 7.5) in a M57 and it was not that bad, the top strap was buckled and the top of the cylinder looked like yours, the only thing holding the barrel in was the pin, it wobbled. (Not my reloads but a friend who had been distracted by one of his crumb crunchers)
That could be explained by the thinner wall of the cylinder in a .45 vs a .41.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:40 PM
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I’ve seen 6 incidents attributed to double charges, 2 in person. Five were 45 ACP, the other was a light load in a 44. The one thing common to all was the Dillon 550. All but one were very experienced with the 550.

My money is on a double charge.


Dennis.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:44 PM
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Glad that you were not injured. Something similar happened at a public firing range last year close by; a bystander got a piece of cylinder through the brachial artery of the upper arm and nearly bled to death.

As for the cause....well, I think you have it figured out: double charge/overload of some sort. The end result of the above described accident looked virtually identical to yours.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:53 PM
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More than likely, it was a powder problem. I just wonder if something else came into play.

Like I said before, I immediately went home and spent the afternoon with a bullet puller to eliminate the batch that had been produced with the faulty round. I went back and counted brass and it was 63 rounds that I pulled bullets on. None of the rounds were off by more than .1grs. In my own twisted logic, I would think that if one got too much powder, the one before or after would get too little, but I may be off base on that one. Either way, I'm taking a break on loading pistol ammo for a while. I enjoy rifle reloading much more, and if there was an overcharge with those, I'd have powder all over the counter and no way to seat a bullet. I pulled the powder bar out of the Dillon as well and I saw no reason for failure on it (for whatever thats worth).

I feel very lucky to be able to pass on this story - there really was no better way for it to go. Like a previous poster said, I already won this battle. Thanks.
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Old 10-24-2010, 11:05 PM
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Glad you were able to walk away from this & without injury.
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Old 10-24-2010, 11:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart 44 View Post
The one thing common to all was the Dillon 550. My money is on a double charge.


Dennis.
Me too. I had a double charge in a .44 mag loaded on a 550. Luckily it was supposed to be a light load and luckier yet, it was in a Redhawk. I had to drive the case out of the cylinder with a hammer and punch.
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Old 10-24-2010, 11:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmhoium View Post
In my own twisted logic, I would think that if one got too much powder, the one before or after would get too little, but I may be off base on that one. Either way, I'm taking a break on loading pistol ammo for a while.
No. All it takes is to get distracted and cycle the lever twice without rotating the shell plate.

I'm very sorry about your gun but very glad you're OK.
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Old 10-24-2010, 11:25 PM
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My first reaction is a double charge. Like you pointed out it's "the rare chance that it would happen on a Dillon powder measure", but it is still a real chance. You might want to consider using a slower burning powder that a double charge would overflow the case and be obvious.

Bottom line: the only thing of real importance is that you are still here, in one piece, and healthy.
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:29 AM
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Dibs on the grips and front sight. Just glad your ok
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:47 AM
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mmholum;
First of all, I am glad you made it through this without injury. It is not pleasant to loose a gun but you can make that back (losing a hand or an eye would have been MUCH, MUCH worse!)

I can only speculate. It appears to me that all three cartridges went off (common with a catastrophic accident). It has every appearance of a double charge of fast burning powder.

I have two 550B's and it is possible to have a double charge even with a progressive press with auto advance. I have seen it.

Send those picutures to Smith and they may want to take a look at your ruined revolver. If so, they will pay to have it sent in. Any thing that they offer to do for you will be out of the goodness of their hearts. They are not apt to offer to warrantee this loss (unfortunately).

It should be a reminder to us all, that we need to maintain "eternal vigilance" to avoid a similar mishap. It could happen to any one of us.

Dale53
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:53 AM
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Glad you came through this OK..
Think I'll print out your images and post them over my loading bench.
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Old 10-25-2010, 01:54 AM
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Pictures like that just scare the heck out of me. I am really glad you survived this with no damage to hands or eyes.
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Last edited by DCWilson; 10-25-2010 at 01:56 AM.
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Old 10-25-2010, 02:27 AM
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I think it's and under load not overload.
A double charge is unlikely with the dillon according to a few members. But and under load is possible, a jam or obstruction of the powder and there is just a little powder in the shell.
And an under load is often more dangerous than overload. The ignition is to slow ending in extreme detonation.

The shock wave of such a detonation can cause other powder to ignite to and the problem is complete

Last edited by Jeroenw114; 10-25-2010 at 02:30 AM.
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Old 10-25-2010, 06:37 AM
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I destroyed my 629MG 4.5 yr back with a slow to release bullet. The load was a Magnus 300gr LSWC over 6.2gr Titegroup in a .44 Magnum case yielding 820 fps. The problem was what I had been shooting previously that day - .44 Russians and Specials - 200 of them. The long .44 Magnums had to be shoved into the chambers - I knew better. The physical maximum charge one could put in that case and still seat that long 300gr LSWC was ~10 gr - 11 gr was safe, according to Hodgdon's. 12.4 gr was impossible - I actually tried... but over 10.2 gr started compressing the propellant and offering significant resistance in pulling the lever on my Dillon 550.

In my case, it was late in the day - I was out of Russians and Specials - I had just a box of the subject rounds. The first two determined the drop - the third & fourth shot hit the 16" steel at 110 yd - the fifth one burst the gun - the sixth one was still intact, just squished it's case... I pulled the lead out easily (See photo.). I was blessed - a nick in my safety glass lens and a bloody small spot on my bare left arm were all I had to show for the experience. I found everything but the subject round's primer and a sight screw. It produced no recoil and only a muffled 'Boomff' followed by tinkle tinkle as the parts landed. I had instantly destroyed a $530 revolver only ~1.5 yr old - and which had launched only ~6-7 k rounds - only a few real Magnums - all made on that 550..



I called S&W. When asked, I told them it had probably shot it's only commercial rounds at their factory. Be honest with them. They sent a pre-paid label - and called me with their findings. The gun was dirty - the big bullet didn't exit fast enough for the fast burning Titegroup and a pressure spike occured, bursting the cylinder and the topstrap. The barrel was fine - and returned to me. The metal was tested - and found not to be a problem. They called me back - said they couldn't replace it - but I was a good customer. They subbed a standard production 4" 629-6 - when one came off the line in two days - for my MG - I was elated - the charge, with overnite s/h, was < half what I had paid for that new MG. The dealer didn't even charge me a xfr fee! I made out - honesty pays. Hodgdon's said that 6.2gr Titegroup behind a stuck bullet would have burst a Ruger, too.

Speaking of burst revolvers, S&W's burst upwards - Rugers go outwards and back.

Stainz

Addendum: As it should, such a catstrophe gives one pause for concern. Certainly, existing homebrew ammo is then all suspect. I dissected over 350 such loads - all fine. Of course, it only takes one. I attempted to make double loads - with no primer for safety. As I said, there was no way over 10.2 gr was going in a .44 Magnum case with that long and deep seating bullet without compression. The OP had something else going on - perhaps a high seated primer - to set off that adjacent round. He was indeed fortunate not to be hurt. Let's all be careful with our reloading - double check our powder drop settings... and always shoot the long cased rounds before the short cased ones... I knew better...

Last edited by Stainz; 10-25-2010 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 10-25-2010, 07:51 AM
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Firstly, you could have seriously hurt. Glad you are OK>

How is this on a theory--you say if you had a double load on the Dillon 550, you would have had to have a round with no powder at all.
Hmm.....could the round before the KB have been the no powder round and that bullethead was lodged in the barrel and your next round was the KB.
That would explain the "missing round" with no powder and also perhaps the bullerhead at your feet.
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:12 AM
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I use Universal Clays for skeet loads in both the 20 ga. and the 28 ga.

I have never had a problem with the powder bridging in the 20 ga. loader, but in the 28 ga., since the drop tube is a little smaller in diameter, it sometimes happens.

I load on MEC Grabbers, progressive loaders, so there is a powder charged dumped with each stroke of the handle, so I have developed the habit of giving the handle a little extra bump when it reaches the top of the stroke just to dislodge any bridged powder in the tube.

Universal is somewhat bulky and fluffy, so it is bad that way.

Do not rule out a double charge, or something on that order, like a 1/2 charge in one cartridge followed be 1-1/2 charge in the next one.
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:44 AM
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I haven't tried it to confirm this, but I believe a charge of 11 gr. of Universal would overrun the case. I load 4.3 gr. of regular Clays in a 550, and it looks like a double would almost overflow the case. In any event, it would be next to impossible to overlook when placing a bullet in the case. Still, anything is possible. One reason, and the only reason I can think of that I'd like to have a 650. Not due to auto index, but rather the fifth station where you can use a powder check.
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:47 AM
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Good to hear no injuries were sustained as a result of this incident. it has some of the appearances of an overcharged case. Personally I have switched to Trail Boss for my revolver loads to hopefully avoid any double charge.
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Old 10-25-2010, 11:34 AM
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congratulations on surviving and thanks for posting. Looking forward to the final call on 'what caused the problem'.

Trail Boss double charges overflow the cases.


Question: Is it at all possible a bullet lodged in the seating die, and was later double loaded into a case?

I use a 650 Dillon the past decade, and despite it's many virtues, does requite due diligence in all phases of operation. Even given that comment, the 650 is far safer IMHO than the 550 I used for 20 years prior to the 650.

please advise on your findings.
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:25 PM
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Thanks for posting. Those photos scare me.

It's not just reloads that can blow you up. I was firing my (new to me)Taurus Tracker in 17hmr yesterday. I was shooting Federal ammo and the round didn't go "BANG!" it was more of a "pfffftt". I looked at my wife and said "that didn't sound right". I swung out the cylinder checked the barrel; blocked!
I'm positive that if my wife had been shooting and that "dud' had been in her gun she would have followed it with another round.
Admittedly the Tracker is way over built for the 17hmr but I'd rather not put it to the test.

Today I’m in search of a 5/32s brass rod.

Last edited by handejector; 11-02-2010 at 08:56 PM.
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Old 10-25-2010, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmhoium View Post
I enjoy rifle reloading much more, and if there was an overcharge with those, I'd have powder all over the counter and no way to seat a bullet.
Glad you're OK. Will a 45 ACP case hold a double charge of the powder you used? Or does it overflow like your rifle loads?


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Old 10-25-2010, 03:22 PM
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I really appreciate the thoughts guys. And I can't even explain how happy I am to be here in good health.

I've ruled out barrel obstruction because there was absolutely no barrel damage. I've seen guns with barrel obstructions that get shot. In all of them, there is some sort of evidence whether a barrel bulge or a ring in the barrel where the obstruction was. Borescope showed a clean bore with almost no fouling (30rds thru the gun since cleaning).

Right now, I'm kind of leaning towards the "detonation" explanation or a distraction at the press and I pulled the handle twice. But on the same note, when I tried to recreate the double charge (without a primer and taking significant safety precautions) my press wouldn't seat the bullet I was using. Even when I put some elbow grease into seating the bullet it still was significantly underseated. Wouldn't even come close to fitting in the cylinder. That kind of puts me leaning more towards the detonation explanation. Could have also been something crazy like a charge-and-a-half from the dillon, but it would certainly be a chance encounter - but thats really all it takes, one chance.

I will probably be calling S&W tomorrow and talk with them. They will probably want the last say on what really happened. All of the help I have received here has helped immensely. I feel much better at carrying on an intelligent conversation with them.

On a side note, I had an offer last night for a guy to buy it from me (local friend) so he can use it in his firearms safety courses that he teaches. Seems like a fitting retirement for the gun if Smith can't do anything for me.

Really appreciate the information and experiences from everybody here.
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Old 10-25-2010, 03:55 PM
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Glad you are OK. I don't know if I would rule out a scrib load on the previous round fired. You mentioned that the bullet found at your feet had a cut. It seems possible to me that if the previous bullet lodged in the barrel the next bullet would have hit it causing the cut. All of the pressure went upward and then disipated enough that it would not bulge the barrel but still have enough pressure to push both bullets out. Do you have any pic's of the bullet?

Just a thought. Regards.
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Old 10-25-2010, 06:31 PM
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Not sure what caused that but I'd pretty much rule out brass. I've seen magnum brass split the entire length of the case on several occasions during the last 40 years and never had a gun come apart like that. Glad you're ok, that would be a real scare! Talk to Smith and tell them what happened. I'd even ask them if they'd like the gun for examination but you may be right about warranty work(although I don't think they'll hang up!).
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Old 10-25-2010, 07:15 PM
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I called S&W today, after being transferred a few times, I talked to a gentleman who was very interested in more information about what happened. They wanted the gun shipped to them immediately and emailed me a prepaid packing slip. He even asked me if I had taken any photos of what happened or shared with anyone about my experience. I was honest the whole way through. He told me they would take a look at it and it may take a while, but they will get back to me with what they thought happened. Now we wait...
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Old 10-25-2010, 09:39 PM
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Have seen such damage, in an N frame; but it resulted from 3 simultaneous discharges of sub-standard, store-bought ammo. Glad you kept your digits.
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:44 PM
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Glad your ok, I use a high volume powder so if I would pull the handle 2 times with out indexing the powder spills out the top of the case makes a mess, but thats better then a blown up gun! HERCO works good in 45,10mm,38special. Using a powder like win231 in a 38 special case if its a light load you can triple charge it and no powder will come out of top of case.
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Old 10-25-2010, 11:00 PM
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OK, since nobody else said it,

"God-d*mn MIM cylinders".
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:22 AM
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