Does anyone have first-hand knowledge of a "chain-fire" accident?


Kentucky Rifle
June 1, 2003, 11:56 AM
I guess I can understand how a heavy recoil plus a weak or unstable primer could cause a "chain-fire" in a tubular magazine fed rifle. However, the possibility seemed so remote, I never gave it much thought. Indeed, I had almost placed such a thing in the "Old Wives Tale" catagory. Yesterday though, I listened to a conversation between two experienced shooters on how a chain-fire accident might occur.
If you loaded your rifle with "pointy ammunition" or even a round-nosed bullet that matched up to the primer of the cartridge in front of it, a heavy recoil might cause the primer to touch off the round.
I've never read a post or even heard a conversation about such a thing until yesterday. I do however, remember reading a magazine article (including pictures of the ruined rifle) years ago. That has been the only time I've ever read something regarding a chain-fire. However, I did go check the 158gr, .357 mag Hydra-Shocks that I purchased for my Marlin 1894. The primer of the "front cartridge" wasn't even close to matching up with the nose of the "rear cartridge". This was a wierd thing to listen to, but it sure sounded like a horrible thing in which to be involved. Anybody ever heard of such a thing actually happening?

KR (Yes, I'm still alive!)

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Badger Arms
June 1, 2003, 12:36 PM
IIRC, studies were done on this years ago. The conclusion was that it was a virtual impossibility for several reasons. I think this was Hatcher's Notebook, but don't quote me. The reasons it unlikely were that the noses of pointed bullets don't generally rest on the flat of the primer, they like to ride on the rim around the seated primer or diagonal in the magazine. If one or more bullets rode directly in line with the primer, they might detonate, but the bullets don't come flying out. In fact, the recoil of the rifle that caused the initial discharge impart more energy than the cartridge detonating behind a pointed bullet. Said energy pushed the bullet out and the remainder of the energy just blew the side of the magazine out. I seem to recall that only one cartridge could be made to discharge at a time because of the cushioning effect of the chain of of bullets.

To answer your question, No, I don't have any first hand experience and nobody else pobably will.

June 1, 2003, 12:49 PM
durnit, then why doesn't anyone make pointy 30-30 rounds!?

Badger Arms
June 1, 2003, 01:04 PM
I was referring to chain fire. That one round went off is reason enough for me not to use pointed bullets.


Mike Irwin
June 1, 2003, 02:52 PM
The French were so worried about the possibility when they designed the 1886 Lebel that they took some interesting steps with the 8mm Lebel ammo.

First, it had a very large rim. This served to tip the nose of the cartridge down so that the bullet point would lie well below the primer of the cartridge in front of it.

Second, the case had a double taper, which served to accentuate the tipping down effect provided by the large rim.

Third, the primer itself was small and the primer cup was quite hard.

Finally, the rim itself had a large, deep circular groove in the face, which served as a "catch" to lock the bullet nose of the round behind into place and keep it out of range of the primer of the round in front.

American ammo manufacturers in the early years took extra pains to protect the primers, as well.

I've got several early .30-30 cartridges loaded by Winchester that have a primer shield over them, essentially an extra cup of metal with a hole in the center into which the actual primer fit, with the entire assembly fitting into the primer pocket.

June 1, 2003, 03:10 PM
While not related to rifles, there have been examples of chain fire occuring in black powder pistols where the other rounds in a cylinder were set off due to a lack of sealing grease or the use of a wad between the powder and the bullet.

I have no first hand experience of this but have read accounts of this happening.

June 1, 2003, 04:26 PM
Concerning magazine tube chainfires with the newer Marlin .45-70's. Evidently, some of the meplats had an edge that cought the primer of the preceding round during recoil. Dunno whose bullet design cause the problem, I'm partial to Beartooth, but I only run .45-70 in my Ruger #1 and Siamese Mauser - no tube mags.

June 2, 2003, 12:24 AM
Go ask on the Cowboy shooting sites like the SASS Wire ( . There have been several instances of this happening reported there, usually with Henry reproductions. It is easier for this to happen with Henry's due to lack of a wooden forearm and the exposed tab of the follower. The cartridge follower can get caught (either on clothing or the shooters hand), then when released can slam the cartridges together, setting one off. This wasn't a problem with the original 44 rimfire ammo, but the reproductions are all in centerfire, usually 44-40 and even with flat-nosed bullets a high primer can sometimes get set-off. Sometimes the shooter is lucky and just gets fragments in his wrist and arm, sometimes they are unlucky and lose fingers. Just depends on where the cartridge that goes off is in relation to the shooters hand. Rarely does more than a single cartridge get set-off; so it's usually blamed on a high primer in that cartridge.

Mike Irwin
June 2, 2003, 12:59 AM
I had a BP revolver chain fire happen with a cheap Italian replica a few years ago.

There are two ways it can happen -- from powder flash (which is why the chambers should be topped off with grease after the bullet is seated, or from primers being set off.

The revolver in question was a case of primer flash as the caps didn't fit the nipples correctly.

It certainly will get your attention.

Joe Demko
June 2, 2003, 08:28 AM
Ditto on the BP chainfire. Had one in a cheap Spanish-made Remington revo replica. Both the gun and I were unharmed, but now I know what the end of the world will sound like.

Kentucky Rifle
June 2, 2003, 10:56 AM
I hesitated before even posting such a thing. I kept thinking about it though, each time I looked at the tube. I think I'll stick with the 158gr Hydra-Shocks. In .357 mag, the H-S bullet won't touch the primer of another cartridge in any place that I can see, unless you cant the whole cartridge sideways WAY more than would be allowed by the width of the magazine tube. What a thing to happen!
I thought about a Henry. Henry makes a .44 but not a .357. In the end, I went with the Marlin because I'd had some experience with Marlins and I LIKED the looks of the wood forearm piece. Just a preference, but it looks better to me.


June 3, 2003, 07:07 AM
Maybe 50 years ago as I entered the driveway for the range, an ambulance was screaming its way out. When I got to the line, I saw a crowd gathered around a bench that had the remnants of a 94 and some blood.

The handguard was splintered and the mag tube was in two pieces and there were some spitzer-loaded .30-30's around the bench.

Never heard what damage occured to the shooter.

I have a few old "collectible" .30-30 cartridges that have the "shrouded primer", a teency primer bushed into the rear of the case. They were safeguard-intended as a hedge against the unthinkable.

Joe Demko
June 3, 2003, 07:27 AM
Some of the Remington pump rifles used tube magazines that were "twisted" in such a way as to prevent the tip of one cartridge from touching the primer of another. Did that system not work or simply not catch on? Unless Remington holds a patent on it, it would seem a simple enough modification for any manufacturer to add to a tube fed gun.

Mike Irwin
June 3, 2003, 11:45 AM
Remington had a patent on it, and I believe that it only really worked with short rounds like pistol rounds. Long rounds didn't see much benefit.

June 3, 2003, 07:57 PM
The Remington pump action rifles with the twisted magazine tube were the Models 14 and 141 in the rimless remington rifle calibers, and the Models 14 1/2 and 25 in the rimmed pistol length calibers.

The 14 and 141 came in the typical rifle calibers of the day - 25, 30, 32 and 35 Remington. These are the rimless versions of the 25-35, 30-30, 32 Win Special and the totally unique 35 Remington that is still widely available, unlike its' smaller cousins. These rifles could benefit from the twisted magazine tube's ability to use pointed bullets.

The model 14 1/2 came in the rimmed calibers of 38-40 and 44-40 while the Model 25's were in 25-20 and 32-20. I supposed they could have used pointed bullets, but I've never heard of anyone loading pointed bullets in these calibers.

I'm currently trying to resist the pull of a Model 14 1/2 in 38-40 that's sitting in one of the local gunshops.

Jim K
June 3, 2003, 11:21 PM
It seems that there have been cases of bullets in a tubular magazine setting of the primer of the round ahead, but the cause is not exactly what most folks think.

This seems to happen only with two or three rounds in the magazine. When the rifle fires, the cartridges tend to stay in place (see Mr. Newton on this!), which means they move move forward in the magazine. If there are a lot of rounds, they tend to move slower because of the weight, and they can't move far. But if there are only two or three rounds, they move forward against the magazine spring, then the magazine spring shoves them back, fast and hard enough to fire a primer if the bullet nose is shaped just right. Also, since at this point, the cartridges are sort of in flight, the bullet points won't necessarily be responding to gravity and laying on the bottom of the magazine.


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