Titegroup & Detonations
Gary Reeder Custom Guns is about two miles from my house. I've been talking to Garry about this for the last week or two. He builds custom revolvers, single actions mostly. He makes 500's but only on his strengthened custom frame.
I've long heard that a small charge in a large case could detonate rather than burn. Powder companies always write this off to a reloader getting a double charge in one case. I'm positive that that wasn't done here.
All the charges were weighed out on one of the new RCBS powder systems. After being put into a case the next die on my Lyman turret checked powder heights. Beyond that the RCBS powder system counts the number of charges it has delivered and I line the cartridges up in a row where I can see them all. This doesn't absolutely guarantee that I didn't make a mistake but it certainly reduced the odds.
The charge was exactly as specified on the Hodgdon web page using the cast bullet that they recommended.
Apparently there have been problems with the 500. Call it a detonate or a double charge. Whichever. The bottom line, however, is that you can get into serious trouble here.
In my case I was wearing very very good safety glasses. The recoiling hammer hit the frame which were made of very strong plastic. Cut the frame right in two. Oddly enough doing that stopped the recoil so I wasn't even scratched. Still the couple minutes it too me to recover and find a mirror to ensure that I was all still there were, well, not a thrill.
I called Hodgdon to suggest that maybe they might want to put up a warning about small charges in large cases. They informed me that that was out of the question. That they didn't make mistakes, period!
The gun is at Smith to see how much it would cost to repair it, if that is possible. Oddly enough, however, a fellow I know has made an offer on the gun that is too good to pass up.
The Smith & Wesson collector's web site has a long thread about this. They also have picture of a single action 500 Magnum that split its barrel lengthwise. Apparently serious problem with this cartridge aren't all that rare.
Personally you couldn't give me another 500 magnum nor the upcoming 460. Also I'm not much of a fan of reduced charges nor titegroup.