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I stuck a bullet in the barrel...

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by junkyarddog, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. junkyarddog

    junkyarddog Member

    Hi All,

    I'm developing 38 Special loads for a 586 6" using HP38, Berry's 125 grain HP, mixed brass, and MagTech small pistol primers at 1.470 OAL. When I fired the 7th shot, it was quieter and softer. The bullet stopped about 1.5 inches before exiting the barrel. This was supposedly a 4.3 grain charge. A couple of weeks ago, I started at 4.1 grains and found the tightest groups around 4.3 or 4.4 grains. This trip was to zero it in.

    The casing from the round that got stuck was sooty at the mouth. What caught my attention was the forcing cone and the front of the cylinder for this round was a yellow brown color. There was another case that had a few yellow brown colored specks of unburnt powder. This is a first for me; everything else was black. Has anyone seen this before?

    My first thought was I undercharged. I use a Frankfort Arsenal digital scale. It is sensitive to temperature and battery level. If it gets into the low 50s or the battery isn't new, it can drift and not zero properly. A new scale is on top of my list.

    But the yelow brown color is making me think. I remember reading a post about faulty primers that yielded yellow brown resdue, but it wasn't MagTech though. I doubt it's the powder. I've shot about 20 MagTech SP primers ( I had mostly Winchesters last time).

    What do you think?
  2. LawofThirds

    LawofThirds Well-Known Member

    Almost sounds like unpressurised burning of the powder. Like the crimp wasn't holding onto the bullet and the primer pushed the bullet into the barrel and then the powder burnt.
  3. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Well-Known Member

    Did you load this ammo on a progressive press?
  4. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Well-Known Member

    Glad you weren't hurt!!

    I'm with Mr Thirds & WEG. Probably poor crimp or not enough powder. Since you had already been loading 38, I assume the dies were set and had not been changed over the last 2 weeks, that leaves the powder. The black tells me the pressure did not seal the case to the chamber wall.

    How did you measure the powder? What kind of powder measure was used? Were 10 dumps run through to allow the PM to settle out before loading commenced? Balance beam scale or electronic?

    There's simply all sorts of room for error with these tests. :scrutiny:
  5. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    Your comment of mixed brass caught my attention. If there was a short case in the bunch it could result in a light crimp. Just a thought.
  6. dawico

    dawico Well-Known Member

    Does that load mostly fill the case? I had that issue trying to load down 44 Specials, and there wasn't enough powder in the case to get reliable ignition from the primer. The primer would push the bullet into the forcing cone, but it would stick in the barrel. I never had the weird colors though.
  7. NCsmitty

    NCsmitty Well-Known Member

    IMO, you should be using a bit faster burning powder like Bullseye or Hodgdon Titegroup. You may get a much more consistent burn with medium speed loads and lighter bullets.

    Last edited: Feb 12, 2011
  8. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    That powder and others of simular type, will leave a yellowish residue if it is ignited outside of a sealed enviroment. So I would say based on the fact that you were using mixed brass, a short one didn't get crimped sufficiently to get complete internal combustion. This resulted in excessive exterior ignition, which didn't produce adequate pressure to push the bullet completely through the barrel. I would measure your brass after resizing it and trim it all to same lengths so your crimps will be equal on all the cases.
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    What powder?
  10. 243winxb

    243winxb Well-Known Member

  11. 243winxb

    243winxb Well-Known Member

    You under charged the powder or lack of neck tension/bullet pull with your mixed brass. 4.3gr is the starting load on Hodgdon with jacketed.
  12. brickeyee

    brickeyee Well-Known Member

    If you burn off the graphite coating (and any deterrent coatings used) of most powders they are a pale yellow underneath.

    It sounds like you had incomplete 'burning' of the powder.

    It could be caused by an inability to build pressure quickly enough to sustain the reaction initiated by the primer flash.

    Contaminated powder (water,oil) an inadequate primer flame can all cause incomplete 'burning' leaving behind the core of the powder granules.
  13. Sport45

    Sport45 Well-Known Member

    HP-38 is the same as W231 and is easy to light. I don't think the crimp made a difference as neck tension should have provided plenty of resistance for the powder to get started.

    I'm thinking you didn't have any powder in that one. If the powder had failed to ignite you would have seen a bunch of it in the barrel behind the bullet, not just a yellow tinged stain around the forcing cone. The stain is residue from the primary explosive in the primer.

    I've had primers launch cast bullets completely through the barrel of a 1911 so sticking a plated bullet well into a barrekl is believable.
  14. junkyarddog

    junkyarddog Member

    Thanks everyone for the replies. It could be the crimp and not enough pressure building before the bullet takes off. The first batch had a heavier crimp. I backed off because I was afraid I may cut through the plating and thinking I was shortening the brass life unnecessarily. Looking at the crimp mark on the bullet I tapped out, it probably can take more crimping. These 7 cases measured between 1.140 to 1.151. Surprisingly, the one that stuck was actually the longest one. Lyman's 49th list the Trim to Length at 1.149. The 7 cases comprised of 1 Winchester, 1 Federal., 4 RP +P, and 1 RP. The one that stuck is the RP regular, so I'm not sure if it's thinner than the others and have less neck tension.

    Just as an experiment, i weighed a couple hundred pieces of brass of different calibers and brands and found they can vary over 2 grains even with the same headstamps. With different brands of the same caliber, it can vary over 6 grains. That's also how I found out batteries don't last long on this scale.

    Both batches were done using Lee dies and crimped with the FCD on a Lee single stage. The batch from 2 weeks ago were individually weighed and trickled on a Frankfort Arsenal digital scale. This batch, I used the Hornady LNL powder dispenser and the pistol micrometer metering insert mounted on the Lee press. I randomly weighed half of the charges. But if the scale isn't accurate enough, that may be a false sense of security. I did make some adjusments to the charges in favor of the scale when there was a discrepancy, but according to the scale it was a few tenths of a grain.

    The die adjustments did get changed since, but I readjusted them using a dummy round created before I started load development.

    It's far from filling the case. I tilted the muzzle up before firing.

    Sorry for being so long winded. I'm trying to answer everyone's questions / offer more info in response.

    It's possible that one could have been empty. At the base of the recovered bullet are tiny yellow brown granules. Does the primer discharge anything like that? If not, then I probably undercharged it.

    I selected OAL of 1.470 based on the Lyman manual. If I shorten it to 1.455, how much will that help with neck tension by having more bullet in the case? How much would it help combustion with the increased pressure?

    The following is my game plan:
    - Get a better scale, probably an RCBS ChargeMaster.
    - Apply a heavier crimp.
    - Consider shortening OAL.
    - Use same headstamps. Are case lengths from 1.140 to 1.155 too wide of a spread?
    - Use only Winchsster primers until I have consistent results. During the shortage, I bought what I could at quasi resonable prices. 2 weeks ago, I shot test loads using both MagTech and Winchester, and they did fine.

    Again, thanks everyone for your replies and suggestions. I really appreciate it.
  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    I trim my .38 Spl brass to 1.140 to get uniform crimps. I seriously doubt that is the problem though.

    4.3 Grs of W-231 should have gotten that bullet out of the barrel, even if it was away from the primer and against the bullet.

    I have to agree with previous posters who said that case was undercharged.

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