Double charge results with pictures


December 4, 2006, 10:29 AM
I don't know if this was previously posted or nogt so I'll put it up anyway. Here's an idea of what can happen if you double charge a reload. This is not my gun or my doing, just an email I recieved thru the pipeline.

Greetings all.

A shooter for 10 years, I'm a relatively new reloader having purchased a Dillon RL550B about a year ago. To date, I've made and shot perhaps 3000 rounds without incident. Recently, however, I learned a most valuable lesson from what could have been a life-altering experience. I'll share this first-hand account with you hoping to educate reloaders and shooters about the potential dangers of our sport. I realize that this incident was most likely caused by inexperience and carelessness, so there's no need point it out :)

I was the proud owner of a Colt Anaconda 6-inch .44 magnum with a nice red-dot sight. Reloading was the only way I could afford to shoot it on a regular basis. Several days ago, I was at the indoor range terrorizing unsuspecting sheets of paper as I usually do: mostly .45ACP's through my 1911 and an occasional cylinder or two with the Anaconda.

Both guns were shooting great. About 30 minutes into the evening's activities, I once again load up the revolver and step to the line. First shot was a bullseye, as was typical for this rig. Second shot - KABOOM. I felt an unbelievable recoil and was pelted all over my face, chest and arms by fragments of metal and glass. An incredible pressure wave stunned me as if I were punched in the head. I shook it off and looked around. The scope was on the floor. The gun was still in my hand, but didn't look as it did mere seconds ago. A friend rushed over and with clear presence of mind, checked me for injuries. Whew. I emerge without so much as a scratch. Miraculous, considering what just happened. The shooting stall contained the flying shrapnel. Approved safety glasses, without a doubt, saved my vision. Long sleeves, a cap and good ear protection also prevented certain injury. I hate to say it, but dumb luck played a part as well.

At this point I gather up the pieces and attempt to make sense of this catastrophe. It's not good. My second shot violently exploded, splitting the cylinder into three pieces and causing chambers one, two and three to be blown wide open. The shock caused a chain reaction, immediately setting off rounds three and four. The bullet from round three was recovered on the floor near my feet. It was severely mangled because it's exit path was partially blocked by the frame of the gun. Unsupported by the cylinder, the brass case blew open as if it were made of paper. Luckily, both bullet and case didn't fragment too badly and perforate surrounding humans, including me. Round four went off cleanly down range, though not through the barrel. Round five was somewhat damaged - the bullet was pressed into the case by about one-eight of an inch. A little more and it may have detonated as well. Round six was in perfect condition.

The rest of the gun was equally distorted. The top strap was nearly separated from the frame. Seams between the various metal parts were wide and uneven. I thought "Damn, it's completely destroyed".

Here's where my education begins: Lacking any sophisticated test instruments, the load I was using felt comparable to any factory ammo I had used in the past. 9.0gr of Titegroup behind a 240gr SJSP. This was 10% below the maximum load as published in the Hogdon manual. It shot with consistent accuracy and was economical because it was the same powder as I had used in the .45. I now realize my quest to economize reloading may well prove to be the source of this misfortune.

Titegroup is a very fast, clean powder requiring low charge weights for large calibers. Prior to this event, I reasonably assumed this to be an ideal situation. Less powder, less fouling, less cost = more trips to the range. That is until you realize a few things. 9.0gr in a .44 magnum case is, more or less, a drop in a bucket. In subsequent tests I've recently performed, it's all too possible to double charge a round and have it go unnoticed in a progressive loader. That is not to say that I've been loading with a casual attitude. I cannot, for the life of me, recall a moment of distraction where I could have possibly doubled one up. Nevertheless, I now own several fragments of stainless steel that were once a finely crafted firearm. Happily, none of those bits are lodged in my forehead. For all those interested, you can view high resolution photographs of the beast's mortal remains here.

It is my hope that sharing this horror story will inspire folks to take an extra bit of care while enjoying their sport. I've since sent the gun to Colt for expert analysis. While it's my speculation that a double charged round caused this, perhaps a post-mortem by the factory will render an alternative conclusion. Unlikely as it may seem, I'll post an update if the latter is true.


I spent a good half-hour on the phone with the Colt engineer that performed the post-mortem. Their metallurgical tests showed no problems with the grain structure or hardness of the steel. In a nutshell, the gun was not defective. Unfortunately, Colt would not officially speculate on the cause of the failure. Off the record, the engineer did say it was most likely a double charge.

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December 4, 2006, 10:53 AM
That certainly is scary. not owning a progressive, I don't really know, but how would you double charge a round? Is it not auto-indexing?

December 4, 2006, 10:54 AM
Double charge or a "detonation"? Do you know what the reload was? Powder and amount?

December 4, 2006, 12:00 PM
9.0gr of Titegroup behind a 240gr SJSP is what he put in the report.

December 4, 2006, 12:18 PM

December 4, 2006, 12:22 PM
But it IS a good reminder of just how easy it is to have something very bad happen.

Charles S
December 4, 2006, 12:27 PM
I am glad you were not hurt.

I hate that you lost the gun.

Re-loading is not without danger. Good luck.

December 4, 2006, 12:47 PM
To use a powder that fills the case. Like 296 or Unique.

December 4, 2006, 12:49 PM
I know someone who did something similar with 240 gr JHP and um.. I think 8.5 gr of Bullseye. He was being "thrifty" and bought the powder that he could get the most loads out of for the performance. At the time he was a fairly new reloader working with a Lee Pro 1000 progressive (I know, I know, but bear with me). So he loads a bunch and go to the range. The gun he did this to was a 7.5" Ruger Redhawk. The standard model since this was before the "Super" was designed and built. Imagine the surprise of his brother (He wasn't even shooting it) when he touched off a double charge of Bullseye.. Several people on the benches beside him felt that blast. They had to beat the cylinder open with a hammer, when they got it out of the frame, the primer from the cartridge fell out, and then they had to extract the brass from the cylinder also with a hammer (Federal brass). They sent it back to Ruger, and the cylinder went oval but did not fail like the one above. Ruger fixed it, checked the frame and it was ok, and then Ruger refitted a new cylinder for it.

So he figures he charged the case, took it out of the press, looked at it to make sure there was powder, placed it back in the press, did not cycle it to the next station, and then re-charged the case not seeing the now double charge of Bullseye. He then proceeded on until his brother "found" the oopsie. After that he never again tried to be "thrifty" and utilized data and powder that would either be obvious as a single charge, or would spill if a double charge were made. He switched up to powders like 2400, H110, etc. Lesson learned. 18 gr of tightgroup is probably similar to 17 gr of bullseye.. BOOM!

I advise you follow the same advice, make sure if it's a double, you KNOW something is amiss because powder just spilled.


Dave P
December 4, 2006, 01:04 PM
Rough calculations say 9 gr of powder was about 30k PSI, but 18 grains gets you up to 120K PSI!! Yikes!

Car Knocker
December 4, 2006, 01:21 PM
but how would you double charge a round? Is it not auto-indexing?

Not all progressives are auto-indexing - the Dillon 550 immediately comes to mind.

Even with an auto-indexing press sometimes a double charge can result when the ram isn't lowered all the way and then raised again - for example, you raise the ram and feel that the shellplate hasn't indexed fully and the edge of a case is hitting the edge of the sizing die; you lower the ram a bit, nudge the shellplate and the raise the ram again.

Sometimes powder will bridge and not drop into the case; that results in a squib load and likely a double charge (if the charge volume is small enough).

new reloader working with a Lee Pro 1000 progressive (I know, I know, but bear with me).
Lots of folks like the Lee progressive and use them to make ammunition of the same quality as produced by higher-priced presses. A double charge can happen with any progressive through inattentiveness.

I tend to be a belt and suspenders kind of guy; I use bulky powders that would make a substantial under- or overcharge obvious, I use a Lock-out die on my 5-station press that physically stops the process when it detects an over- or undercharge, and I still make an effort to visually verify the charge as I put a bullet on the case at the seating stage.

Jim Watson
December 4, 2006, 01:24 PM
The only gun we have ever had demolished on our range was a .357 being shot with maximum loads of Bullseye. With room for two. Maybe three. The really bad part was that it was a case of "You are out of ammo? Here, shoot mine."

I load pistol ammo on progressives. It is not much trouble to set a strong light behind the press and look at the powder level in the case as you set the bullet. What can be tough is the discipline to do it EVERY TIME.

You can get powder detectors and lockout dies if your press has a space for one. You could use one on a 550 if you seated and crimped in one step which is feasible with revolver calibers.

Glad everybody survived. It is not usual for the shooter to get hurt by a blown revolver, but the bystanders are at risk.

There was a bizarre case of a wrecked gun in CAS a while back. It was loudly touted as an instance of "light load detonation" by a handloader too smart to ever double charge a case. They fooled with his setup until they found the cause. His machine could stick a bullet in the seating die with wax lube buildup. He apparently didn't notice that, set another bullet, and then seated that one and the stuck one. So he had only one powder charge but with two bullets over it. Blooie!

Uncle Don
December 4, 2006, 01:36 PM
I'm sorry you lost your gun, but it's replaceable. I'm happy you weren't hurt and I thank you for sharing the story. Don't think this happened only because you're new at this - many of us with more rounds under our belt become complacent if we are not fully attentive. In the end, the gun did just what it was supposed to in that it gave way were it did so your body exposure was minimal. You're a lucky man.

December 4, 2006, 03:25 PM
This isnt his gun...

This is not my gun or my doing, just an email I recieved thru the pipeline.

Uncle Don
December 4, 2006, 04:56 PM
Geeze, how did I miss that?

Charles S
December 4, 2006, 05:00 PM
I guess it would help if I read the whole post..... Oh well I am in finals working on my Masters I am a little brain dead at this moment.

December 4, 2006, 05:33 PM
loudly touted as an instance of "light load detonation" by a handloader too smart to ever double charge a case.

Yep. I don't doubt 99.99% of blowups are double or triple charges, but detonations can occur. This is the best reason I can think of NOT to use Very Fast powders in big cases that need slow powders. If you want to download use medium speed powders. Less likely to get in trouble and less likely to double charge a case and not notice. I bought some Zip powder, got it home and it takes up such a small amount of space I will not use it even for fast powder applications. My preferance. Be carefull out there. :)

December 4, 2006, 08:48 PM
I am glad you were not hurt

This isnt his gun

Thanks for clearing that up for me. I'd be crying in my wheaties if I blew up an Anaconda. Hopefully I never experience that with my Ruger Super Redhawk.

Once again I repeat, It's not my gun

BTW, click on the link for more pictures

December 4, 2006, 09:20 PM
We had a 1911 range gun blow up years ago.

Guy was shooting his loads (this was the last time personal rounds were fired in a range gun). He goes rapid, has a squib with enough power to lodge bullet and cycle slide. Follows up with a full load. Results weren't pretty and we're kept on hand as a lesson.

Reloading, while fun, is serious business, just as anything related to firearms is. Utilized due care and caution, and most importantly Pay Attention!

December 4, 2006, 10:29 PM
IIRC, "detonations" have NEVER been reproducible in the's a theory, usually applied to rifle cartridges rather than handguns, and is often used as a warning, but it's not a phenomenon actually proved to exist.

Sort of like Evolution.

It was probably a double-charge.

-- John D.

December 4, 2006, 10:34 PM
I'd be crying in my wheaties if I blew up an Anaconda

... and I'd be waaay too chickensht to post that I had blown up my gun. You would however see some like new reloading equipment in the classifieds!

December 5, 2006, 11:15 AM
IIRC, "detonations" have NEVER been reproducible in the's a theory, usually applied to rifle cartridges rather than handguns, and is often used as a warning, but it's not a phenomenon actually proved to exist.

Absolutly true, they cannot reproduce it at will, but in certain situations something goes terribly wrong, so I say just don't risk it. :)

December 5, 2006, 11:46 AM
I know...I don't. Was just making that statement for the record here.

I use bulky powders like Blue Dot for my reduced rifle loads -- except for Ed Harris's well-proven "The Load," 13 grains of Red Dot in a 30-caliber class cartridge case -- and for handguns, I don't use reduced loads at all.

So I'm not worried about "detonation" even if it does exist.

-- John D.

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