Two Kabooms, Same Cause


September 18, 2011, 07:12 PM
About 15 years ago a friend called me one morning and announced that he had gone to the range and had somehow blown up his beautiful custom Mauser rifle. Unable to determine a cause, he asked me to come over and examine all of his reloading procedures for any possible errors he might have made. He was a meticulous loader, but I agreed to have a look anyway.

After an exhaustive examination I asked him to open the cabinet where he stored his powder and there was the cause staring me in the face. On one shelf, standing alone, there were two similar appearing cans of powder, one of Olin 296 pistol powder and another of Olin 760 rifle powder. I poured a small quantity of each into saucers and then managed to pry the magazine open far enough to get a badly bent loaded round out. We straightened it enough to pull the bullet and pour the powder out. By comparing this sample with the powder in the saucers, it was obvious that the powder in his 7X57 mm case was unmistakably the 296 pistol powder, fifty something grains of it. He had failed to carefully read the powder number on the cans, and had grabbed the wrong one, destroying a beautiful rifle and endangering life and limb. He had only scratches from flying wood but was otherwise unhurt. The front receiver ring had split on one side almost in two and brass fragments came back down the left locking lug raceway hard enough to knock a chunk of steel out of the bolt sleeve. The magazine box was blown out and the rounds were badly bent. The stock was toothpicks, but that wonderful Mauser bolt and receiver ring held.

Yesterday, some fifteen years after that event, at our Club's Military Matches, one of our shooters asked to address the group about having blown up his beautiful custom Mauser .257 Ackley Improved rifle. To make a long story short, he had done exactly the same thing my friend had done 15 years earlier and two thousand miles away - mistaken Olin 296 pistol powder for Olin 760 rifle powder and loaded fifty something grains of the pistol powder into the .257 Ackley Improved case. It blew the scope off and shattered the magazine box and stock, but the receiver ring and bolt held. The scope hit him in the head but did no real damage.

This gentleman said he had been in a time crunch and had made the mistake of handloading in haste.......he loads some 30 different calibers and has been a loader for forty years and knew better.....and he wanted everyone to know that the risks of hasty loading had come home to roost in his case bigtime. Fortunately, the round he fired was a test load loaded at the lowest powder charge shown in his manual.

I can only speculate about what would have happened in both of these instances if the loaders had been loading otsix-size cases with otsix-size powder charges.

Read your powder cans carefully. I'm sure you've heard that before.


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September 18, 2011, 07:23 PM
After a scary test fire at the range that resulted from mixing up powder/load data, I have since used the "One powder bottle on the bench at a time and triple check load data" rule. :D

Safe reloading practices just can't be emphasized enough.

Glad the shooters were OK at both incidents.

September 18, 2011, 07:32 PM
One can out at a time & triple check everything is my way too.

September 18, 2011, 07:44 PM
Thank God no one was hurt!

September 18, 2011, 08:10 PM
There are any number of different powder cans & powder names that could be easily confused with each other.

Bottom line is, some folks probably just shouldn't be reloaders.


September 18, 2011, 08:20 PM
I agree, one container at a time and triple check that it's the right one. I like that Accurate containers are color coded...

September 18, 2011, 08:47 PM
WW-296 has an Orange label, and says 296 on it.

WW-760 has a Hot Pink label, and says 760 on it.

But you still have to read what a powder can says on it before using it.


September 18, 2011, 09:10 PM
I keep my rifle powder and primers in a different space than my pistol primers and powder, Plus the one powder out at a time rule.

September 18, 2011, 09:53 PM
I consider myself very fortunate in that the ONLY two powders I use are WIN 231 and HP-38. I never worry about mixing them up -lol

September 18, 2011, 10:52 PM
I'd need some sort of coping mechanism to minimize the possibility of such an error. I'd limit any given caliber to just one powder and only a couple different bullets per caliber. Then I'd store all the brass/bullets/powder in the same box or cubby hole. The bullets would be labeled with the proper amount of powder. If I HAD to use a different powder for a very different bullet, e.g. 168gr vs. 220gr for .30-06, then I'd keep the different bullets in with the correspondingly correct box with the correct powder. Lastly, the boxes (or cubbly holes) would each be labeled with the contents so I could never place the wrong components in them.

Hondo 60
September 18, 2011, 11:16 PM
I'm a - one powder on the bench at a time - type guy myself.

One thing I've found that helps me is to use different brand powders.

Like I use Tite Group and AA5.
They come in very different looking containers.

I know that's not a substitute for triple checking, but it does make it a bit easier on me.

Stay Safe My Friends!

September 19, 2011, 07:43 AM
One can out at a time is the way to go, but it does not correct choosing the wrong powder to begin with.

I refer to my reloading records before getting the powder out and write the charge, powder and COL on a note card to have on the bench in front of me.

On powder cans, I put a piece of white tape/label on the lid and write the powder name on it. Another way to see the powder name from another angle.

Of course only one powder on the reloading bench at a time. My powder storage is far enough away from the bench that I have to get up from the chair to go to powder storage. Powder gets cleaned up and measures emptied before moving on to the next powder. Also, at the end of a reloading session. I do not leave powders in the measure after I am finished reloading for the day.

This is no place to cut safety corners.

September 19, 2011, 08:32 AM
First off, glad nobody got seriously injured over these mistakes!

Second, this is why I always double check the load I'm trying to create, reading out loud to myself. Then I go to the powder cabinet and pick up the powder can, reading the label out loud. Get to the bench, compare the data to the label on the canister. And yes, I did catch myself grabbing H4350 when I wanted H4895 one day: looked at the canister in my hand, looked at the .30-30 load data in front of me, said "Wrong one, read it again." But that's why everything gets repeated and triple checked.

September 19, 2011, 10:44 AM
An angel must have been guarding him but I agree too many stu--- people try to reload because it looks easy and the procedures seem easy enough. But reloading is a tough job and you have to pay attention all the time. Not a part time job.

September 19, 2011, 12:13 PM
I have never made the mistake of putting the wrong powder inside a casing, but I have made the mistake of putting the wrong powder into a full can of a different powder. :(

I have since built me a new bench and keep all the powders I am not using on my old bench. Now, the only powder near my presses is the powder I am using.

September 19, 2011, 12:27 PM
I am extremely grateful that I've never had a kaboom. But mebbe it's because I'm anal about my techniques. I not only observe the "one powder on the bench at a time" rule but I also place the can next to the powder measure, and a sticky note with the powder and load on the front of the measure. That way I look at the can/note nearly every time I drop a load and double check before I put the powder back in the can and put it away.
Jes an old guy sharin' his ideas...

September 19, 2011, 04:34 PM
I made the same mistake, but because of safe guards I have built into the process, I recognized the mistake before the loaded rounds even made it into the cartrdige boxes.
It's imparative to make rules for our selves with check and double check points. Mine is keeping the powder I am working with right there on the bench, and then when pouring the unused portion back into the container, I have made it a requirement to read the lable for the second time in the process.
We are human and do error. To say it will never happen to me is ignorant and heady. But by having no nonsense safe guards built into the process we can minimize mistakes, but never totally eliminate them. Reloading is inherently risky to some degree, but how carefully we do it is completely up to us, and often a determining factor when issues present.

* Never attempt to reload when you are tired, impaired or distracted !

September 19, 2011, 07:50 PM
May I first say I'm glad no serious injury from the two ka-booms.

I've read all the threads in response to this topic because I wanted to see how everyone keeps this hobby of ours safe. I've learned some extra steps to make this safer for myself and the other shooters beside me at the range. Some stuff I already do. I'll be adding several "fire walls" to my practices!

Thanks guys. I learn a lot from The High Road!


September 19, 2011, 08:01 PM
Never attempt to reload when you are tired, impaired or distracted !


I kept meaning to make some loads for over two weeks, but every night I was wiped out, and every morning before work, I couldn't get up early enough to make it worth it to get started.

Then, Thursday last week, I got a nap, and was raring to go. I was still putting loads together at midnight, but I was wide awake, alert, etc.

+1 to one powder, one box of bullets, one type of case, and one type of primer on the bench at a time. If I'm making 5 or 10 loads and varying stuff for working up something, I load, box, and label those 5 or 10, swap out the component I'm varying, and then load those 5 or 10.

+1 to not hurrying. Yeah, we want to load quick, but it's more important to load right.

Maj Dad
September 19, 2011, 11:09 PM
When I was an impecuious Army sergeant with a wife and 2 kids at Ft Bragg, I mixed up/messed up a pound of powder by pouring some different powder into it - a brand new, dearly bought pound. I considered all manner of ways to salvage, it but I finally poured it out (don't remember where; wasn't much Hazmat then). From that moment on, I was a one-powder on the bench crusader since that made it impossible for me to reload & shoot until I scraped up enough to buy another.

Now, I keep my powder in a closet in the shop, and bring out one container at a time - double checked and verified. As soon as I finish, back in the container & back in the closet. It has caused me some extra steps and extra time, and has avoided issues like this so far. You simply cannot reload and relax your awareness - else kaboom...

September 19, 2011, 11:22 PM
I finally poured it out (don't remember where; wasn't much Hazmat then).
Don't discard powder as it makes good fertilizer. Sprinkle around your flower bed, lawn, shrubs and trees. :D

September 20, 2011, 12:28 AM

I too abide by the one can on the bench rule. I never leave powder in the powder measure. I always look at 2 or more sources of data. Before seating bullets, I always do a visual check on how much powder is in the casing.

I arrived at these precautions after some time in reloading. Yes, I made some boo=boos early on. Happy no kabooms. A forum like this with so many good ideas would have been great at the time I started reloading. We didn't even have computers then.

September 20, 2011, 01:44 AM
Being color bling, I can see they are different colors, but I can't tell what color they are.
Basic rule--read the label.
The can of powder stays right next to my ChargeMaster or powder measure and that is the only powder can in the room.
However, if you don't look and read the label every time, the one powder rule only means that you will have the wrong powder out.
I had a mouse-fart kaboom. Loading for my S&W M52, I'm shooting loads that ranged from 725 to 800 fps.
I shot two rounds and on the third, the gun made a "strange" noise, the slide came back half way, and there was a small trail of smoke coming from the barrel/breech. Looked, and I had a case web failure. Looked for my other two case and they had slight bulges. Went home, removed the case and the gun was fine, no damage. Broke down the two remaining rounds and the charge weight was perfect.
I looked at the barrel and there is a fair amount of unsupported case in the S&W barrel. I can only conclude that the use of old cases and an unsupported barrel lead to case failure at normal charge weight. It I had been an overcharge, it couldn't have been such a mouse-fart. There are only two failure modes when I am loading test rounds--no powder or two charges. Neither SHOULD be possible since I have the ChargeMaster weight the load then the load goes through the Lee PTE die and I cycle the press to seat the bullet on the just charged case. Thus, there is really no way to get a partial overload.

September 21, 2011, 01:16 AM
This gentleman said he had been in a time crunch and had made the mistake of handloading in haste.....
Lets hope his day-job isn't filling prescriptions at Walgreens.

September 21, 2011, 09:53 AM
"He was a meticulous loader,"

Perhaps not. But maybe powder makers should do something helpful, perhaps make the labels different colors and put large different numbers on them. ?? ;)

September 21, 2011, 10:12 AM
I'm not reloading yet but this thread has me thinking of ways to prevent miskates.:) I posted earlier about putting brass, bullets, and powder together in the same box with info on the bullet boxes/bags. I'll probably add my own labels to the powder cans/bottles too.

September 21, 2011, 01:27 PM
Adding more labels may make us pay attention better? I wonder...

September 22, 2011, 02:02 AM
I had a boo-boo just last weekend.I was finishing a batch of 30-06's when my charming 4 year old granddaughter came down to "help Papa." I am gone on the road for weeks on end,and hate to not let her hang out with me.But this time I was charging cases,and evidently let her distract me.I loaded 30 rounds,and was filling out my load info paper,my final check,when I realized I had over charged by a full grain.Whoops! Cost me an extra hour to pull,and then recharge,but I am sure glad I did the final check.

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