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Old November 18, 2017, 11:40 PM   #1
Radny97
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Help me figure out the cause of my squib

Had my first squib yesterday. (First at least of my own reloads. I’ve had a squib from factory ammo as well.) And I’m trying to figure out the cause. Here’s the load and the gun:
38 special
158 gn xtreme plated round nose
4.6 gns of Winchester 231 (which is on the edge of +P)
S&B small pistol primer
Heavy crimp (probably too heavy, but that won’t cause a squib i believe).
Indoor range, ammo was at room temperature. I have shot over 3000 rounds with this load with no problems, but this was the first time shooting this load out of this particular gun.
Gun was an Astra NC-6. It has a ring in the grip that allows you to adjust the hammer spring. It is set on the second to heaviest setting, but it’s still light enough that it won’t ignite CCI primers sometimes. This was the first time shooting it with S&B primers.
I had several light strikes with the S&B primers before the squib. I️ am certain that the primer was fully and deeply seated. I️ am very particular about that and had double checked this batch of ammo as soon as I️ had the first light strike during this shooting session.

When i loaded this batch of ammo i used some case lube for the first time to see what I️ thought of using lube with handgun ammo. Just the crappy Lee tube of paste. Applied a small amount to every tenth round.

Prior to the squib there was another round that seemed to have under-powered ignition but did send the bullet down range.

When the squib occurred there was primer ignition and the bullet traveled roughly half an inch past the forcing cone. There appeared to be some powder in the case and around the bullet base but not a lot. Bottom of the bullet was so blackened you could not see any of the copper plating. Also some yellow grains of powder indicating insufficient ignition.

It wasn’t caused by a temperature issue so I’ve boiled it down to a couple of potential causes but I’m open to other ideas.

1. Could be insufficient powder. I’m using a Lee Auto Disk, which has been flawless in over 3000 rounds of this exact load. So this would surprise me, but it’s possible.
2. Could be that some of the case lube i used got inside the case and contaminated the powder. Not sure if case lube will even effect powder that way, but since it is the only thing done differently to this batch than what I’ve done to any other batch, i have to consider it as a possibility.
3. Could be partial ignition of the primer. I don’t know if that is even possible, but since i got so many light strikes i have to consider it as an option as it is another unusual change that i had with this batch that i have not had previously.
4. Could be poor ignition due to the position of the powder in the case. This would surprise me because I’ve shot this load so many times without problem. The squib was the second round in the cylinder so the recoil from the first shot should have jostled things up enough inside the case of the second shot that this would be a non issue, but i guess it’s possible.

So I’m kind of stumped. I’m guessing it’s number 3 or number 1. But I’d appreciate any other thoughts or input as i would like to avoid this from ever happening again if possible.

Thanks



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Last edited by Radny97; November 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM.
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Old November 19, 2017, 12:46 AM   #2
hdwhit
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The fact you observed a low power round before the squib strongly suggests that there was an issue with the powder measure throwing gradually lighter charges until there was none at all.

In my case, my reloading procedures call for no fewer than three (3) visual checks for the powder in the charged cases. One, when the powder is put in the case. A second done by holding the reloading block at an angle under a strong light and observing the shadow cast across the powder charge by the curvature of the case mouth. And a third check made just before seating the bullet. On many occasions, I have found the uncharged/under-charged case on that third check.

Statistically speaking, if you have a squib, look to your reloading procedures for where you failed to detect a case that had no powder rather than looking to blame components. A squib is a systemic failure since you should be assuming that every component in your reloading stream can - and will - fail, so you need to be double and even triple checking each step.
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Old November 19, 2017, 08:33 AM   #3
PA-Joe
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Are you double tapping the handle to drop the powder into and out of the measure?
Did you notice any hot loads while firing?
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Old November 19, 2017, 08:46 AM   #4
Nathan
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Lee Auto Disk
That is most likely your answer. Even if you use a higher quality tool, you need to be visually confirm powder is in every case before putting a bullet in. Just my experience.

I weight check any I feel are low or high. Great confidence builder or identifier of issues.
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Old November 19, 2017, 08:56 AM   #5
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What metering disc are you using with the Auto-disc? The standard pre-formed holes or the micro-adjustable powder bar?

I found that using the micro-adjustable bar below 4.5gr. of W231/HP38 to be problematic and can lead to partial case charging. That's mostly the cause of the squib load.
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Old November 19, 2017, 09:02 AM   #6
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I believe your issue could be with the primers. Have heard many bad reviews from handloaders that have light strikes to failure to ignite to squibs.
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Old November 19, 2017, 09:31 AM   #7
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I'll give my insights, though there are folks on here with more experience.

Primers: bad primers do not really cause squibs. Incorrect primer selection can cause ignition problems like using a standard primer with a large volume of ball powder....i.e 58 gr of H335 called for a magnum primer to ignite it reliably. But it won't squib, just won't be consistent. I had a bad lot of CCI-250's and they just failed to ignite. Which is what happens with bad primers.


Extra case lube could cause a squib. I had some factory ammo with oil in the case that caused squibs. I found out by pulling then apart and sent that ammo back promptly.

Too little powder can obviously cause a squib as powders generally need to hit a certain pressure to burn cleanly and thoroughly .

Finally, a plugged primer pocket could cause a squib too. If you tumble in certain media like Walnut shells...I have seen pieces lodged in the flash hole.
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Old November 19, 2017, 11:39 AM   #8
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Hope you are able to figure this out. I recently had my 1st ever and after taking a few apart afterwards I found 2 with wet, clumpy powder. Attributed it to wet tumbling the brass and trapped water.
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Old November 19, 2017, 11:46 AM   #9
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Considering there was little travel and you did not have a mess of burned and unburned , too little powder would be the issue.

A primer will blackened the back for a bullet nicely all by itself.

Having done that the distance your bullet moved in pistol is spot on for little or no powder.
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Old November 19, 2017, 12:04 PM   #10
mikld
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When the squib occurred there was primer ignition and the bullet traveled roughly half an inch past the forcing cone. There appeared to be some powder in the case and around the bullet base but not a lot. Bottom of the bullet was so blackened you could not see any of the copper plating. Also some yellow grains of powder indicating insufficient ignition.
This tells me the primer worked, but there was no/not enough powder in the case to fire.
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Old November 19, 2017, 03:05 PM   #11
Radny97
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Thanks guys. I’m using a Lee Classic Turret press so checking each case after the powder drop is not practical unless i want to start single staging it, and at the amount I’m loading for competition that just wouldn’t work.
I’m just using the regular disc, not the adjustable bar, so I️ don’t think that’s the problem.
I didn’t have any extra hot rounds but i only shot 25 or so of the batch of 100 so we’ll see if that happens when i shoot the rest this week (through a sturdy GP100 just in case).
I️ agree that the culprit is probably little or no powder. Thinking back i remember letting the powder get pretty low in the dispenser before refilling it. It wasn’t all the way to the bottom or anything but it makes me wonder whether there was enough mass on top to push the powder all the way into the dispenser hole rather than letting a little bit bridge because there wasn’t enough weight on top.
What do you think?
Also i just saw a comment on Facebook where a competitive shooter i know said that he’s seen lots of squibs using a combo of xtreme bullets and W231 powder. Has anyone else seen that?


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Old November 19, 2017, 04:03 PM   #12
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That might be a lube migration issue. Try soaking the lube off in mineral spirits and dip in Lee Liquid Alox and let dry.

The primer could also be the culprit. I've not had any of the S&B primers, but have heard a couple of people complain they were hard to seat, like the Russian Tula and Wolf primers. I do have experience with the Tula primers, and the issue is that the edges of the cups have burrs, so they have to be pushed in pretty firmly to go all the way to the bottom of the primer pocket. You may have had a primer that didn't seat fully and so the firing pin strike knocked the anvil loose, the priming mix broke up, and you got ignition flame that was weak and spread out over a longer total burn time than is usual. It's a known phenomenon.

Another factor is that 231 is an old St. Marks ball powder formulation. Even though it's a fast powder, it likely needs hotter sparks than, say, Bullseye or Red Dot or Clays or N310. If so, you want a primer that has some aluminum powder and Barium Nitrate in it to get hot sparks. Most any domestic brand will do. Additionally, you have a case that has some empty room in the powder chamber. Sometimes you will get better ignition consistency and performance using a magnum primer in such a case. The main purpose of a magnum primer is to make more gas than a standard primer, thus to better set the start pressure up in a larger magnum case. But a lot of empty space can require more gas to pressurize and ignite well, too.
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Old November 19, 2017, 04:21 PM   #13
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Here is my list of possible causes for a squib.

1. No powder, or too light of a charge. (There is good chance the the disc stuck, or did not go all the way forward.) It has happened to me using Win231. I caught the problem quickly. I backed off the screw on the measure about a quarter turn or so. It leaks a wee but not enough to bother me.

2. Clogged flash hole in the case. I have had this happen with range pick up brass that I did not check good enough. The decapping pin poked a hole in the dirt clod in the case, and knocked out the primer. There was not enough room for the primer to fully light the powder. There was unburned powder all in the magazine of the rifle that happened in. I changed my QC methods to checking inside of each case after sizing them, to make sure nothing is inside of them.
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Old November 19, 2017, 04:32 PM   #14
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Find this very odd and troubling.

I too load with S&B small primers, HP-38/231, plated bullets on a Lee turret press. So far everything I've loaded has fired and I'm almost thru a brick of these primers. Honestly. I have had more problems with CCI primers than I have with either Winchester or S&B.

I also don't see how looking into a case between powder drops is a problem while using the turret. I also use a Lee Pro1000 and don't have a problem on that press either. I look at each case before placing a bullet and if something doesn't feel right after a powder drop I remove that case and check weigh on the beam scale.
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Old November 19, 2017, 05:59 PM   #15
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If there was powder in the case and it was a mis fire for primer or lube reasons, there should be a gooey bunch of semi burned powder and unburned powder grains/flakes all over the place when you opened the cylinder .

As there is no where for the powder to have gone, lack of powder would seem to the 100% suspect.
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Old November 19, 2017, 06:38 PM   #16
Radny97
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I️ know the primer was fully seated. S&B primers do go in very hard and you have to be careful in seating them. But after my first light strike and before the squib I️ checked all the rounds and there weren’t any high primers.
There was not any gooey substance and very few unburned flakes. I’ve seen a squib with lots of unburned powder from a factory load and it all turns yellow. This had very little unburned powder. There was some, but very little. But the base of the bullet was very black.
I’m thinking more and more that it was a lack of powder.
Now i need to figure out how that happened. I’m very particular about putting the arm on the press down all the way on the powder drop. I’m thinking it could be from letting the powder in the hopper get down too low and there wasn’t enough weight on top to ensure a consistent powder drop.
Any other ideas on what could cause it to not charge with powder?


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Old November 19, 2017, 07:07 PM   #17
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Sounds like a light powder charge. In measure powder can bridge or the level get low in hopper which gives a light drop...any number of little things can happen. It's no fault of your operation.
I have gone back to single stage loading just so I can look into each case and make sure the charge is correct. A no charge lodged a bullet in the forcing cone, tying up the revolver (thank you Lord) ...that made me rethink my method of reloading.
I now look into each case twice before a bullet gets seated...better safe than sorry.
Speed is nice but I don't want to give up confidence in my ammo.
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Old November 19, 2017, 07:46 PM   #18
kmw1954
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Loading on the turret press with the Lee Auto Disk measure using HP-38/231 powder for 9mm.

The powder is fine enough that I have never seen it bridge or not flow. The Lee measure is also a very simple design with one spring and very few moving parts. As the shell goes into the die the shell pushes the measure body upwards which activates a lever that pushes the disk forward. The powder hopper holds the disk down onto the measure body and over the lever that advances the disk.. If a case is in the press and raised into the die the measure will activate. Because of the way it is assembled and designed there is really no way for the disk to skip a charge. Unless there is no powder flowing into the disk.

The only way for it to not work is if the disk jumps the lever that pushes the disk forward. In order for that to happen it must raise the powder hopper which would cause a huge mess with powder leaking everywhere. Which I believe would be quite noticeable.

Every now and then I get a stroke that sticks and the measure jumps and have found when this happens the charge will always be heavy.

I have yet to recall seeing a light charge come from the Disk measure with fine powders but then I also always keep my powder hopper at least half full. It just stays more consistent that way.
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Old November 20, 2017, 12:05 PM   #19
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I think if you research/google "checking powder charges in a turret press" you'll find a lot of info. I've seen several "hints" in various forums for checking and helping to check charges in cases while in a press; lights, mirrors, etc....
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Old November 20, 2017, 12:12 PM   #20
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Can anyone explain why those two happened in sequence?
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Old November 20, 2017, 01:20 PM   #21
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4.6 grains of Winchester 231 is over max for either a jacketed or cast/plated 158 grain .38 Special. Isn't a suggested powder for +P loads on Hodgdon's site either. In any case, a plated bullet is not a jacketed bullet.
However, squib loads are 9 times out of 10 caused by the operator failing to check that there's powder in the case. Have you pulled the bad rounds and looked?
"...partial ignition of the primer..." There's no such thing.
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Old November 20, 2017, 07:28 PM   #22
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My guess is you short stroked it on the upward stroke, once just enough for a short charge, and again for very little to no charge. If you don't go the full stroke the disc won't travel far enough for the powder to drop through the charging hole. It's easy to do this if you get into a rhythm for speed and get sloppy on your technique. Just go at a reasonable pace and make sure of full strokes.
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Old November 20, 2017, 09:58 PM   #23
Radny97
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Lyman 49th says max for a 160 gn cast is 4.9. +p is 5.2. I’m certain I’m okay on the load.
Question is what caused the squib.
I’m increasingly certain that it was caused by an insufficient drop of powder, probably because i let the powder get too low in the hopper. I am pretty particular about not short stroking it, but i have to acknowledge that as a potential possibility as well.


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Old November 20, 2017, 10:15 PM   #24
Jim Watson
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Lack of powder. If the powder failed to ignite, it would still be there.
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Old November 20, 2017, 11:09 PM   #25
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Maybe there was a bug in your powder measure. Did you notice any chitinous remains in the empty casings?
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