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Old February 27, 2009, 01:41 PM   #1
ryalred
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Catastrophic Failure of Rifle Due To Double Charge of Blue Dot

Following are photos of a .257 Wby Mag (Vanguard) that had a catastrophic failure apparently as a result of firing a round that had a double charge of Blue Dot.





For quite some time I have been shooting reduced recoil loads that I have loaded using Blue Dot powder in my .30-30, .243, and .257 Wby Mag. I have never had a problem and have developed some very good loads using Blue Dot.

I had been working up some new reduced loads for my .257 using the 117 grain Hornady BTSP. At one point in my reloading process my wife had walked into the room and had asked me several questions. After finishing our conversation, I completed loading the set of variously charged cartridges. It was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted to go out and try them, so I hurried and got my ammo and gun and went to shoot.

I was shooting the lowest charged cartridges first and was working my way up, watching for pressure signs. The ammo was shooting really well when it happened. I pulled the trigger and for a few seconds I didn't know what had happened. I vaguely remember seeing the scope coming back at me and I knew something wasn't right. I looked down and saw that my gun was demolished. I realized I had had a catastrophic failure and went to check myself in the mirror for injuries. I was bleeding several places on my face and around my eyes.

I hurriedly picked up the pieces of the gun. The barrel was laying out in front of my shooting bench about 7 feet and it was intact. I went home an cleaned my wounds. I am so very fortunate--there were no serious injuries. I could easily have lost an eye, or even have been killed, but only minor cuts and bruising occurred!

I sent the gun into Weatherby to make sure the rifle wasn't at fault. It wasn't. They said it was the result of firing an extremely high pressure round in the firearm. Although I have never double charged a load before, apparently I did this time, and it was a double charge of Blue Dot.

I am sharing this incident as a warning of just how dangerous it is to use Blue Dot or other fast burning pistol powders for reduced loads in rifle ammunition. I am blaming no one but myself and I'm not saying its going to happen to everyone who uses Blue Dot for reduced charge loads. I know that thousands of rounds of Blue Dot charged rifle ammo has been successfully fired. I believe this event occurred because of negligence on my part. I believe that I allowed myself to become distracted while reloading this batch of ammo.

If you continue to load rifle ammunition with Blue Dot, PLEASE BE CAREFUL! Do everything you can to keep from double charging a load and do everything you can to check to make sure you haven't double charged any cases.

I am blaming no one except myself for this mishap. I am so lucky/blessed that I did not suffer a serious injury. You might not be so lucky.
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Old February 27, 2009, 02:02 PM   #2
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WOW, I've never seen a rifle damaged that bad. Glad your injuries were not any worse! That's a lot of pieces flying around. Lucky some finger weren't ripped too from the looks of the damage.
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Old February 27, 2009, 02:10 PM   #3
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WOW!!!

Thanks for the story and I am very glad you are ok. I love it when people share issues such as these because it makes me take a real close look at my processes for reloading. Also, we can all take a lesson from you on "manning up" and taking responsibility for what happened. Many people would have tried to find someone to blame and been filing a lawsuit against the gun company, bullet manufacturer and the company that made the soles of the shoes that carried the person to buy the components to reload.
You da man!
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Old February 27, 2009, 04:39 PM   #4
Go Kiwi
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Wow - hard to imagine how you still have fingers to type with Always good to see people sharing a serious safety heads up and reminder that we are playing with fire so to speak.

There are safer options for reduced recoil loads out there: http://www.hodgdon.com/PDF/Youth%20Loads.pdf these work well and dont require filler or leave room for a double charge. Basically any load for H4895 at up to 60% of max
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Old February 27, 2009, 04:41 PM   #5
hardhit
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MAN You are so lucky that you were not seriously hurt lost an eye or worse i have seen this once before but this guy lost an eye and needed Surgery for deep cuts to his face and he was Scared for life,

God was looking down on you, im am sure you will never make the same mistake again to be honest

I have never herd of anyone using blue dot in a 257 wby mag for shooting reduced recoil loads you picked the wrong cartridge for that type of shooting.
The 257 wby likes near max loads of slow a burning powder.
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Old February 27, 2009, 04:56 PM   #6
James R. Burke
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I am very glad you are o.k. The rifle is a bummer but it can be replaced you can't. Glad you shared that. Makes us all think a little more. I always try to use a power that gives me the largest fill for a few reasons. You cant double charge that way, and most the time you will get a much more accurate round. Again glad your o.k. and thanks again for the post.
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:00 PM   #7
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G'day, glad to hear that you are OK. Any chance you can claim warranty on the scope?
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:36 PM   #8
David Wile
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Hey Red,

Glad to hear that you are still in one piece. With Blue Dot and the interruption of your loading process, I wouldn't be one bit surprised to find out that it was a triple charge. I, too, like to use reduced charges, but I simply choose a slower powder that fills the case more than half way. Can't double charge that way, and it is easy to look in the cases and see all the powder levels.

When I have worked up a load for a cartridge where there is no modern load data, I start out with a faster powder like Blue Dot or 2400. I start with a charge that is so low there is no possibility of it being too hot. Of course when doing that, you have to make sure the low charges actually make the bullet clear the barrel.

The last one I did was for an 1876 model Winchester in 40-60 caliber where we had to have loading dies made by RCBS, and we also had to make 40-60 cases out of 45-70 cases. The first load was so low the bullet barely went 20 feet out of the barrel. I continued up the charge weights by a grain each shot, again making sure the bullet cleared the barrel each time. After ten or so shots, the rifle started to make a "cracking" sound, and the primers started to show some signs of starting to flaten. We kept raising the charge until the primer was really flat and decided that was our "hot" load.

Having the load data we gathered for the fast powder, we then studied modern load data for similar cartridges and came up with a very reduced charge of a slower burning powder, and we started the whole process all over with the slower burning powder. Again, our starting loads were very low, and we had to make sure the bullets cleared the barrel. Again we worked up to what we considered our "hot" load by viewing the primers, and then we backed down to a milder load that still "cracked" when shot. Having the load data for the slower powder, we were able to also come up with similar loads for other slow powders.

Looking at your pictures, I was wondering if your barrel can still be used in another action?

Best wishes,
Dave Wile
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:48 PM   #9
SKULLANDCROSSBONES65
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G'day.
Quote:
Looking at your pictures, I was wondering if your barrel can still be used in another action?
I had the same thought, I am wondering what the new chamber size will be.
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Old February 27, 2009, 06:14 PM   #10
David Wile
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Hey Skull,

I would think the chamber could be measured to see if it still chambers properly. It looks like the action took all the pressure. I would be curious if a gunsmith could determine whether the barrel could be reused or even rechambered?

Best wishes,
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Old February 27, 2009, 06:27 PM   #11
Unclenick
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Glad you are OK.

I have to say that's the oddest rifle burst I've ever seen. I've never seen one that disassembled the action that didn't blow up the chamber first, yet the barrel appears completely intact? Something's peculiar there. The split receiver and the chipped boltface recess rim (if I'm seeing the photo right) make it appear the casehead blew up as if it had fired without the bolt being fully closed. Any chance that occurred? Second, would you mind giving what the load should have been? If you don't want to publish it, please PM me with the intended charge and the bullet length and the COL used. I would like to calculate what the double charge pressure would have been?

Nick
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Old February 27, 2009, 06:45 PM   #12
Slamfire
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It is so remarkable that given such destruction, that you came out OK. Thank Goodness.

Thank you for posting these pictures. Such visual images really reinforce the caution warnings that come with reloading manuals.
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Old February 27, 2009, 06:55 PM   #13
bobn
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i double charged a 45 acp once. i also redoubled my caution mode while reloading. thank the Lord for your relitively minor injuries. bobn
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Old February 27, 2009, 07:10 PM   #14
Tex S
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Wow. Glad you're ok.
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Old February 27, 2009, 07:46 PM   #15
JAYBIRD78
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Glad you are ok. LUCKY



I think the scope is still usable.
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Old February 27, 2009, 09:23 PM   #16
L'derry
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That's some damage! Glad you're OK and only had minor injury.

Also thanks for your post. Some guys wouldn't do it. It's not easy to say "I made a mistake". So three cheers to you for sharing and maybe saving someone else from this type of problem.
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Old February 27, 2009, 09:30 PM   #17
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Catastrophic Failure of Rifle Due To Double Charge of Blue Dot

I shoot a lot of reduced loads. Glad you are OK. With such loads I think it is imperative to look into the cases with a flashlight and verify that all powder levels are the same. In fact, I do this with every round I load, reduced or not.
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Old February 27, 2009, 09:43 PM   #18
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Glad you're OK and thanks for posting with the pictures. I hope this makes some of the newbies take heed of the safety precautions that sometimes seem to be discounted based on some posts I've read.

Again, glad you're OK.
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Old February 27, 2009, 09:52 PM   #19
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Jeebus it's for posts like this that I go an extra step.
Maybe I'm paranoid....but I weigh each and every round that I reload after I've finished a batch...as a safety check... am I the only one?
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Old February 27, 2009, 11:31 PM   #20
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Gad! I'm really surprised that you weren't hurt any worse than you were!

Honestly, I've never done any reduced power rifle loads -- yet. I can see the day, in the not so distant future, where I will be doing so. I'll keep that in mind.

That said, I'm all too familiar with the hazards of double (or triple) charging. I do a lot of handgun reloading, and of that I do a LOT of .38 Spl using low volume, high energy powders such as HP-38 and Bullseye. Knock on wood, but I've never double charged yet, even though with such low volume powders you really can't tell if you've double charged even by visual inspection. My SOP is that if I am interrupted on any one case, or have any question about it, the best practice is to dump the case and start over on it. Better safe than sorry.
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Old February 27, 2009, 11:50 PM   #21
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Distractions are dangerous.

Good article in last months Readers Digest about such things - how a small distraction can have huge reprocussions.
I worry about overcharging so I take a few seconds after loading and weigh all rounds on a digital scale.
I am not looking for 4 or 5 grs. but if I ever find one that is 10 grs or more I will check that round out.
Thanks for you input. Happy and safe shooting from now on.
Helps all of us to be a little more aware of what we are doing.
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Old February 28, 2009, 09:26 AM   #22
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Man you are lucky to be OK. That gun kind of looks like some of the guns PO Ackley Blew up testing action strength. I have seen a few guns let go but nothing like that. It does look like the gun fired with the bolt not all the way closed. The action has all the damage and the barrel looks fine.
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Old February 28, 2009, 11:09 AM   #23
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Blue Dot issue?

There are some strange warnings about Blue Dot that I don't undersand the physical reasoning for. See the "sticky" at the top of this forum.

I WONDER if the Blue Dot light load in such a large case was producing extremely large pressure spikes, due to some sort of internal pressure waves that affected burning rate or something like that. These would not be evident in the velocity or recoil, but could have caused cracking to develop in the gun metal over time with repeated exposure. If so, then MAYBE a SINGLE-CHARGED case could have caused the receiver to split open like we see in the photographs.

I suggest that you contact Alliant and ask them what they think about using Blue Dot for this application. They might do the equivalent of "No comment" out of fear of liability, but I think that it is still worth trying if you intend to keep using Blue Dot for low-power loads.

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Old February 28, 2009, 12:53 PM   #24
ryalred
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Thanks to all for your replies! Weatherby did not recommend using the barrel for another application. They say it may have been stressed enough to have weakened it?

One note I don't believe I mentioned in the original post is that I always check all the cases in a block, using a flashlight, for overcharges. My flashlight batteries were low and so the light was dim, but I didn't take time to replace the batteries (another mistake). In such a large case, a double charge of Blue Dot is not easily seen, but it can be.

As some mentioned, I believe I'm going to start weighing all my completed ammo on my digital scale. I'll not be looking for small changes, but enough to indicate a serious overcharge.

Thanks again.
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Old February 28, 2009, 01:12 PM   #25
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Refreshing to see someone step-up and admit fault.

Thanks for sharing the photos. Glad you came out ok aside from an expensive mistake.

I think it's impressive to see someone step-up and admit fault without the lawsuit-oriented speculation that seems so common in society today. Kudos.
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