Help diagnosing a problem


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cpirtle
August 31, 2008, 12:45 AM
Hey all, hoping you can help me out with a problem I've been having.

On average about 1 out of every 50-70 rounds I am loading is a squib.

The squib is always powerful enough to send the round down range whether shot from a pistol or rifle.

Here's some data"

Press: Hornady LNL with auto powder drop

.38 special
125g RNFP's
2.5 & 2.8 grains of Clays (have tried both with same results)
Winchester primers
Mixed brass


I have cleaned my equipment a few times and the fact that the failed loads are so few and far between I don't necessarily think my powder drop is throwing inconsistantly.

Just typing this I am starting to wonder if it's the charge holes in my brass, or some of my brass in general... I know I have some milsurp stuff in there... :confused:

Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

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ants
August 31, 2008, 01:12 AM
It's the powder charge, and the powder. Not the brass.

Clays is a hot, fast burning powder. You use small charges of it. But that means it is very sensitive to small variations. Normally it meters fairly well, but 2.5 and 2.8 grains is difficult to meter reliably with any mechanical powder measure.

You'll have to use your scale to weigh each charge. Or change to a different powder. Or change to a lighter bullet that requires a larger volume of Clays.

You should also develop a habit of looking in EVERY case after you drop the powder. I've been reloading since 1968 and I look in EVERY case before setting the bullet. Yes, my friend, EVERY case for 31 years.

And don't take squibs lightly. They are very dangerous.

goon
August 31, 2008, 02:07 AM
Yep, I also check every case. I don't weigh them all but I do visually inspect to make sure that each one has "the same" amount of powder. It has saved me a couple times when foreign stuff somehow gets in the case.

The charges also look light to me but I haven't reloaded .38 for awhile.

Also, you might be getting lube in your casings that could be contaminating your powder. The only squibs I've ever had were from lube inside my casings.
Maybe you're getting enough that not all the powder is contaminated, still leaving enough to ignite and push the bullet out.

Jim Watson
August 31, 2008, 02:10 AM
Flake powder is bridging in the measure or drop tube.

I once had that happen loading .38 wadcutters with 2.5 gr 700X, which is probably worse than Clays. The measure on my old CH would occasionally deliver a ONE grain load. I never stuck a bullet but I had three or four very weak loads before I figured it out. I changed powders, 3.2 gr W231.

Same thing again, trying to use 700X for 9mm subsonic. I thought 3.3 gr and the Dillon measure would work. But it didn't. Back to HP38 (off the 231 production line.)

Third time has been the charm, loading light .45 ACP with 700X (I am stubborn about using it for pistol loads, I prefer it for shotgun and always have some around.) I took a trick from the SASS Wire for loading tenderfoot ammo. A $6 acquarium air pump strapped to the measure provides just enough vibration to settle the flake powder into the measure bar without packing.

If you don't want to do that, you should load a finer powder. My Friendly Local Gunsmith used Bullseye for years, then went to Vihtavouri N310.

1858
August 31, 2008, 04:49 AM
The squib is always powerful enough to send the round down range whether shot from a pistol or rifle.

Then that's not a squib. A squib load will result in the bullet getting lodged in the barrel ... that's the definition of a squib. If the bullet is leaving the barrel then I'm assuming that the shot sounds different or you feel a difference, hence your concern. Either way, this could be due to too little powder, a bad primer, an incorrectly seated primer, an odd distribution of powder in the case, even an undersized bullet etc. Have you examined the primer and case of the rounds that you call "squib" loads? Does the primer look different, is there a difference in the carbon pattern or amount in or outside of the case etc?

:)

rg1
August 31, 2008, 05:25 AM
You mentioned "mixed" brass. Have you noticed whether the low powered round was from the same brand of brass? Some .38 Special brass might have thinner case walls and the bullet does not have enough grip on the bullet. The bullet in certain brands of brass might be loose and moving forward from the recoil of other rounds fired. Check a batch of loaded rounds. If you can push the bullet deeper into the case with thumb pressure or pushing against the side of the bench, then you have a problem with loose bullets. Also, when expanding with your expander die, if you can feel no resistance at all when the expander enters the brass case then it's a sure sign that the brass is thin or your sizing die isn't sizing enough.

SASS#23149
August 31, 2008, 11:36 AM
are you filling up the powder hopper,or nearly so?If you just dump in say enough to do a hundred rounds,the weight might not be enough to make the powder flow correctly.

buck460XVR
August 31, 2008, 12:20 PM
I was taught that because some types of powder is "position sensitive" that using a powder that nearly fills the case, even with powder puff loads, will keep powder from being forced away from the primer during recoil and handling. Havin' no experience at all with Clays, I have no idea how much of the case a load of 2.5 grains fills. Either way, I believe it is a powder/load based problem and iffin it were me, I'd try a different powder before I got a round stuck in the barrel.

ArchAngelCD
September 1, 2008, 01:11 AM
I like Clays for my .38 Special target rounds but don't use it any longer because it does not meter well. What you are calling a squib from what you are saying is really a very light load since you are reporting the bullet goes down range. What's happening is you are getting way too light a charge on those 1/50 that don't shoot well. Like I said, Clays doesn't meter well, especially with that light a charge.

You might eliminate the problem with a heavier charge since Clays will meter better with a larger diameter opening. Hodgdon recommends a starting charge of 2.5gr and a Max charge of 3.5gr Clays under a 125gr lead bullet. If you bring the charge up to ~3.2gr you will have a better chance of a consistent charge. (or you could use W231 like I do...)

BigJakeJ1s
September 1, 2008, 10:36 PM
You might eliminate the problem with a heavier charge since Clays will meter better with a larger diameter opening. Hodgdon recommends a starting charge of 2.5gr and a Max charge of 3.5gr Clays under a 125gr lead bullet. If you bring the charge up to ~3.2gr you will have a better chance of a consistent charge. (or you could use W231 like I do...)

The Hornady PM does not change the diameter of the opening to vary the charge, it varies the depth of the chamber, which is loaded from then end.

Do you consistently give enough time at top and bottom of stroke for the PM chamber to fill, and then dump its entire contents into the case?

I'm not sure about the "definition" of a "squib" load, but I agree with the others that it doesn't sound like it is a primer-only load (no powder).

Andy

Steve C
September 2, 2008, 12:56 PM
Are you using the Pistol metering chamber for your Hornady powder measure? The one that comes with the loader is good for 10 grs and up but for less than 10 grs of powder you need the pistol meter to get constant results.

ArchAngelCD
September 4, 2008, 04:31 AM
Sorry Andy, I don't know anything about that Hornady powder measure but it sounds like Steve C has the answer...

cpirtle
September 5, 2008, 02:25 PM
Thanks for all of the advice and sorry for disappearing, my wife and I decided to take a little trip on the motorcycle this week.

I am going to work up some cowboy loads using a different powder because after reading all of this an some testing I think I am getting inconsistant charges.

It's not always easy to tell what each load feels or sounds like while you are on the clock so I took a box of 50 to the club and I saw a lot of differences shot to shot from a 3" J frame.



To answer some questions:

My Friendly Local Gunsmith used Bullseye for years

I used Bullseye for a while but switched because it was so dirty, maybe I'll go back..

If you just dump in say enough to do a hundred rounds,the weight might not be enough to make the powder flow correctly.

Early on I had the same thought and purchased one of those baffles that go in the powder hopper, no change unfortunately.

Are you using the Pistol metering chamber for your Hornady powder measure?

Yep, pistol meter.

Thanks again!

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