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Reloads - A Cautionary Tale
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April 24, 2022 - 2:21 pm
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This episode may not be the most enjoyable to watch, but it reinforces what all us shooters should already know about trusting unknown reloads.  Mark

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April 24, 2022 - 3:10 pm
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Mark and others, indeed not fun, but very important to reinforce the adage of not shooting what you aren’t sure is in it!  There can also be other variables as well, such as if the brass is old enough to be corroded inside from mercuric primers or perhaps being cleaned with a liquid containing ammonia, etc.  Thank you and your acquaintances for sharing the cautionary tale.  Tim  PS.  Old or remnant powders fertilize flowers rather nicely!  

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April 24, 2022 - 3:44 pm
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 Another great video,Mark.Shows what can happen with the wrong powder .I will be even more cautious when loading after this video.Smile

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April 24, 2022 - 4:04 pm
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     Thanks Mark for sharing, this is a true learning experience. My hats is off to the shooter for making his experience less likely our experience.

 On a related topic. During this ammo shortage I have bought at gun shows what was represented as new ammo only to find out later they were someones reloads.This is not uncommon and sometimes hard to tell. Tom

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April 24, 2022 - 6:43 pm
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Great video Mark.  Never seen the after effects of a load gone wrong like that on a Winchester.   That image is one of those that will stick with you down the road, and when working up your own ammo.  Luckily no one was hurt.  Thanks for sharing.

Chris

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April 24, 2022 - 7:43 pm
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Mark –

I too, appreciate you making and posting this video.  That was some amazing destruction.  Since the ammo shortages in recent times, I have also seen more reloads for sale.  This includes gunbroker.

It seems likely that round that blew the action up contained a powder charge similar to the one in the photo that was texted to you. It appeared that round was partially filled with pistol powder.  Pistol power can be dangerous in rifles, particularly because it is much more possible to get a double charge in a case and not notice it.  An extra degree of caution is needed when using pistol powder.  When I am loading a rifle case with rifle powder, a double charge is usually not possible as powder would overflow the top of the case.  And that’s something you’re going to notice.

I am wondering what sort of synergistic effect might have been caused by the combination of powders that may have been in the case? I guess we’ll never know but I would enjoy hearing thoughts on the matter.

As far as what happened, as Mark mentioned, the likely culprit may have been the powder for some of the loads was taken from a garbage powder container.  Many of us have these.  Yes, they are often emptied in flower beds, but that is usually done periodically.  Another practice I have seen is an empty powder can serve as a container for this purpose.  This is a flawed idea of course.  I’ve also seen examples where salvaged powder is placed in an empty powder container – different from the powder that has been salvaged.  Sometime a label can be taped on the container – and labels can fall off.  One common scenario is when a handloader passes on.  All of his stuff (e.g. partial cans of powder, reloaded ammo, etc.) end up on gunshow tables.  I’ve known guys who buy such reloads at gunshows.  They’ll say something like, “I checked the loading manual and the load written on the side of the box is reasonable.”  My response, are you sure that label is for those loads?  Then the response might be, “well, I’ll tear a round down and check it.”  Mark’s example is a great example of the flaw with the, “sampling” strategy – Mark did disassemble one of the loads and it appeared fine.  And in this case if, “sampling” consisted of checking 100% of the rounds, the problem would have been revealed.

I agree that the image of the terrible destruction of the M1894 action is an image that will stick with me for years to come.

Thanks again to Mark for posting.

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April 24, 2022 - 9:24 pm
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As a follow-up comment, with the Model 1894, we do not have a terribly strong action.  The action was designed for black powder cartridges.  In my Ross rifle research, I’ve done some researching of the strength of various rifle actions.  A bit over a century ago, E.C. Crossman did some destruction rifle action testing.  Interestingly enough, when he was seeing what it took to destroy a Mauser action and a Ross action, he threw in a Winchester M1886 (.40-82) and a Model 1894 (.30 WCF).  Particularly relative to the Ross, he was able to easily blow the M1894 apart.  Wundhammer assisted him with the testing.  Crossman’s final comment on the Model 1894, “Therefore we’ll pass on from the 1894, ‘allowing’ that is is strong enough for the shells it shoots, but about as modern in actual strength as is the 1873 model.”  By the way, it was 30 grains of Sharpshooter that did the M1894 in.  As I understand it, Sharpshooter originated in 1897 with Laffin & Rand and went from them to Dupont and ended with Hercules Powder Company.  It was discontinued about 1950.  There’s not a modern equivalent but I have read it is closest to Alliant 2400.  I believe this was why Crossman chose if for his destruction testing.

Of interest to me was Crossman’s inability to blow the Ross action.  We are talking the later Ross multi-lug action – similar to the Weatherby MkV action – the Ross action being very ahead of its time.  Cross kept stuffing more powder into the .280 Ross case.  When he got to 55 grains:

“The 55 grain load is the limit in this case unless you resort as I did to extreme measures.  They were these:  The 56 gr. load was weighed out, all the powder that could be gotten into the shell was put in, then a bullet was seated full length in the powerful Ideal loading tool, compressing the powder.  The bullet was pulled out with pliers, and more powder was added in the room thus made, and the bullet again was seated home.  Two applications of this gentle suasion were necessary to drive in the 58 gr. load – and I desire to say that there was no room for a dance in that shell after I got through compressing that powder by three times driving down a bullet onto the powder with all the force in the lever of the Ideal tool.  Then we sought the range with a long string among our accessories for he trip.  Desiring to give the bolt all it could handle, I greased every shell with mobile lubricant, softened in the sun, so the bolt would get the full backthrust.  The oiled chamber made a different performance too. “

So – stuffing the case of the .280 Ross (close to the same case capacity of the 7mm Remington magnum) with essentially pistol power – and compressing it down with mechanical exertion three times to fit a maximum powder charge in – and then on top of it, greasing the cases!  

Crossman comments, “As an indication of what was going on in this rifle, the Hercules Powder Co., makers of Sharpshooter, who made some tests for me, report that 45 grains of Sharpshooter, and the 140 grain bullet, gave 68,000 lbs.  We used the 180 gr. bullet and ran up the charge to 58 grains, which the makers say must have far exceeded the 100,000 lbs. mark.  Yet this rifle is still in the ring able to fire cartridges.”  (by the way, I’ll bet the Hercules Powder Company testing did not include greasing the cartridges).  (It seems to me Mr. Crossman sincerely did everything he could to blow the bolt on that Ross).

So, the bolt on the Ross held and the rifle could be fired after the testing was completed.  This did not mean the rifle was completely unaffected by the testing.  Crossman summarizes:

“Sole damage done by three 45 gr. loads, one 50 gr., one 58 gr. and one 56 gr. load of Sharpshooter powder with 180 gr. bullet, blowing off extractor, pushing in bolt head at extractor cut, fusing lower side of bolt face, and slightly spreading and fusing the extractor slot cut in sleeve.  The rifle can be be loaded and fired with full charges with perfect safety, and ease, and it functions normally except the extractor is gone.”  

I apologize for running away with a tangent on Mark’s thread.  The point I’m making is about the importance of action design.  While it is true improvements have been made in the steel used in rifles over the past 100 years, the Ross rifle Crossman was testing was about as old as the rifle Mark showed us.  In fact, the M1894 Crossman used was #175656 (circa 1903).  Again, my main point is the difference in action design.  Remembering this when shooting these old lever actions can be huge. 

I’d love to post a link to this article.  Sadly, I just have a paper copy.  But, it is from the Outer’s Book, March of 2013, pages 289 – 293.  

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April 25, 2022 - 4:33 am
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Mark-

Did you examine what was left of the bore? When I see a firearm destroyed in this manner I always want to see if an obstructed bore could have been a factor. The easiest way to raise pressures is with an obstructed bore. Pistol powder, maybe. A cocktail of mixed powders, who knows? Very painful video, beautiful 1894 reduced to scrap or a learning tool. 

 

Mike

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April 25, 2022 - 1:09 pm
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TXGunNut said
Mark-

Did you examine what was left of the bore? When I see a firearm destroyed in this manner I always want to see if an obstructed bore could have been a factor. The easiest way to raise pressures is with an obstructed bore. Pistol powder, maybe. A cocktail of mixed powders, who knows? Very painful video, beautiful 1894 reduced to scrap or a learning tool. 

 

Mike  

That was my first suspicion when I saw the barrel, but the bore was clear and pristine.  I should have mentioned that in the video.  Mark 

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April 25, 2022 - 2:23 pm
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steve004 said
As a follow-up comment, with the Model 1894, we do not have a terribly strong action.  The action was designed for black powder cartridges.  In my Ross rifle research, I’ve done some researching of the strength of various rifle actions.  A bit over a century ago, E.C. Crossman did some destruction rifle action testing.  Interestingly enough, when he was seeing what it took to destroy a Mauser action and a Ross action, he threw in a Winchester M1886 (.40-82) and a Model 1894 (.30 WCF).  Particularly relative to the Ross, he was able to easily blow the M1894 apart.  Wundhammer assisted him with the testing.  Crossman’s final comment on the Model 1894, “Therefore we’ll pass on from the 1894, ‘allowing’ that is is strong enough for the shells it shoots, but about as modern in actual strength as is the 1873 model.”  By the way, it was 30 grains of Sharpshooter that did the M1894 in.  As I understand it, Sharpshooter originated in 1897 with Laffin & Rand and went from them to Dupont and ended with Hercules Powder Company.  It was discontinued about 1950.  There’s not a modern equivalent but I have read it is closest to Alliant 2400.  I believe this was why Crossman chose if for his destruction testing.

Of interest to me was Crossman’s inability to blow the Ross action.  We are talking the later Ross multi-lug action – similar to the Weatherby MkV action – the Ross action being very ahead of its time.  Cross kept stuffing more powder into the .280 Ross case.  When he got to 55 grains:

“The 55 grain load is the limit in this case unless you resort as I did to extreme measures.  They were these:  The 56 gr. load was weighed out, all the powder that could be gotten into the shell was put in, then a bullet was seated full length in the powerful Ideal loading tool, compressing the powder.  The bullet was pulled out with pliers, and more powder was added in the room thus made, and the bullet again was seated home.  Two applications of this gentle suasion were necessary to drive in the 58 gr. load – and I desire to say that there was no room for a dance in that shell after I got through compressing that powder by three times driving down a bullet onto the powder with all the force in the lever of the Ideal tool.  Then we sought the range with a long string among our accessories for he trip.  Desiring to give the bolt all it could handle, I greased every shell with mobile lubricant, softened in the sun, so the bolt would get the full backthrust.  The oiled chamber made a different performance too. “

So – stuffing the case of the .280 Ross (close to the same case capacity of the 7mm Remington magnum) with essentially pistol power – and compressing it down with mechanical exertion three times to fit a maximum powder charge in – and then on top of it, greasing the cases!  

Crossman comments, “As an indication of what was going on in this rifle, the Hercules Powder Co., makers of Sharpshooter, who made some tests for me, report that 45 grains of Sharpshooter, and the 140 grain bullet, gave 68,000 lbs.  We used the 180 gr. bullet and ran up the charge to 58 grains, which the makers say must have far exceeded the 100,000 lbs. mark.  Yet this rifle is still in the ring able to fire cartridges.”  (by the way, I’ll bet the Hercules Powder Company testing did not include greasing the cartridges).  (It seems to me Mr. Crossman sincerely did everything he could to blow the bolt on that Ross).

So, the bolt on the Ross held and the rifle could be fired after the testing was completed.  This did not mean the rifle was completely unaffected by the testing.  Crossman summarizes:

“Sole damage done by three 45 gr. loads, one 50 gr., one 58 gr. and one 56 gr. load of Sharpshooter powder with 180 gr. bullet, blowing off extractor, pushing in bolt head at extractor cut, fusing lower side of bolt face, and slightly spreading and fusing the extractor slot cut in sleeve.  The rifle can be be loaded and fired with full charges with perfect safety, and ease, and it functions normally except the extractor is gone.”  

I apologize for running away with a tangent on Mark’s thread.  The point I’m making is about the importance of action design.  While it is true improvements have been made in the steel used in rifles over the past 100 years, the Ross rifle Crossman was testing was about as old as the rifle Mark showed us.  In fact, the M1894 Crossman used was #175656 (circa 1903).  Again, my main point is the difference in action design.  Remembering this when shooting these old lever actions can be huge. 

I’d love to post a link to this article.  Sadly, I just have a paper copy.  But, it is from the Outer’s Book, March of 2013, pages 289 – 293.    

Yes, you are correct about the 1894 being a rather weak design. The 1910 Ross action has gotten a bad rap for a century due to the fact that as built the bolt could be disassembled and reassembled improperly by the ignorant so that when locking up the multiple lugs only rotate to 1/4 engagement with receiver lugs. PO Ackley found it to be stronger than the 98 mauser, 06 springfield, lee enfield and just about evry other service rifle. Only the Arisaka was close in blow up tests. Personally I won’t shoot any reloads that I haven’t personally done. Not worth it to save a few dollars.

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April 25, 2022 - 5:08 pm
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I’m still sitting here dumbfounded.  Very powerful video.

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May 2, 2022 - 8:57 am
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Thanks for useful video! For me as a newbie it is really important to know such things

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May 3, 2022 - 1:03 pm
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Charlotte Bridgefstone said
Thanks for useful video! For me as a newbie it is really important to know such things  

You’re very welcome, Charlotte!  I’m glad to hear it was helpful.  Mark

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