1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

So I blew up a 1911 (Kaboom)

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by essayons21, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. essayons21

    essayons21 Well-Known Member

    *Updated- Looks like it wasn't a double charge... check Page 4*

    A cautionary tale for those getting into progressive reloading...

    I have been reloading for about 6 years now. I started with a Lee hand press, moved up to a single stage bench mounted press, got a second single stage and have been loading many thousands of rounds in all calibers. In all that time I have had precisely one bad round that did not get any powder. In the same time I have had a higher failure rate from factory loaded ammo.

    So I recently sold some factory ammo at inflated prices and purchased a Hornady LnL AP press. It took some searching to find shellplates, but I quickly got everything set up and loaded up about 100 .38 Special, half plate WC and half lead RN, and about 250 rounds of .45 ACP, half 230gr lead RN, half 200 gr lead flat nose.

    I went to the range last week, and after spending a few hours on the rifle range, headed over to the pistol side. Burned up a couple hundred .22lr with no issues other than a "new to me" Single Six splitting cases on some 50 year old .22 ammo. I then tested out my .38 loads, getting some outstanding accuracy from a 2" J-frame. No issues.

    Then I loaded up a magazine of my .45 reloads. They were 230gr Proofmark lead RN over 5.9 gr of Hodgdon Clays Universal, a load I have been using for years. Hornady lists a max load of 6.2 gr for this combo. I was shooting an older Para 14.45. I fired the first round, then two in quick succession, then the fourth. Recoil felt funny, I felt something hit me in the face, heard the magazine hit the ground, and I looked down to see this...


    I was wearing glasses, and got two little pin prick holes in my face, one above my lip, one right below my glasses on my cheek. I think some projectiles were stopped by my glasses as there is a little chip I don't remember being there. Wear your glasses folks!

    More pictures....


    My non-firing hand.

    Target. The fourth shot is low right

    Magazine (It was forcefully ejected)

    I never did find the rest of the barrel. Other than needing a new barrel, the frame and slide look fine. I will certainly have a smith check it out before installing a new barrel.

    So its pretty clearly a double charge. I use the Hornady powder cop... but I was having problems while loading .45 and had to fiddle with the timing on the press and tweak the auto priming as well. I also had to adjust the decapping die because it wasn't fully decapping the old primer and causing the press to hang up. This caused me on a few occasions to double charge cases as I attempted to decap the stuck cases, which I was aware of and promptly removed those double charged cases. Every 10-15 rounds I also weighed the powder charge. The highest I found was 6.1gr. I have obviously set aside the rest of the reloads and will be pulling and weighing the charges to see if there are any more. I find it hard to believe I missed more than one, but then again I don't know how I double charged the one that blew up the gun.

    But obviously I missed something... What lesson is there to learn? I was hoping some of the more experienced progressive reloaders on here could help me out. How often do you weigh charges while reloading? Do you use a powder cop? If you have issues with a press while reloading do you set that batch aside?

    Any suggestions are appreciated.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013
  2. Dave P

    Dave P Well-Known Member

    "So I recently sold some factory ammo at inflated prices..."

    Uh, maybe the Gun Gods saw thru this indiscretion, and decided to punish you for it.

  3. bds

    bds Well-Known Member

    Glad you are OK and were wearing eye protection.

    Just goes to show a KaBoom can happen ... with any gun, any brand reloader, any powder, any type bullet, etc.

    Now, to root cause analysis discussion for identifying the source of the KB and to prevent another future incident ...
  4. ny32182

    ny32182 Well-Known Member

    Any time the press jams to the point you have to take cases off the shellplate to fix, without question, you need EXTREME attention dedicated to putting them back in the correct stations or double charge is definitely a possibility.

    I don't powder cop. What I do is mount a bright string of LED lights on the frame of the press (650 in my case) right next to the toolhead and I do a visual sanity check on every charge as I'm putting a bullet on top. Light shines directly into the case and squib or double would be very obvious visually, at least with the 9mm I'm loading on there. Maybe .45 is different, you'd have to try.

    Are you sure it was a double and nothing else is a possibility?

    It also sounds to me like you had too much "busy" going on while tweaking the setup. If I have to tweak something in a station, be it initial setup or follow up tweaking, I don't do it while trying to load with cases everywhere. I empty out the press, get one case, manually place it in the relevant station, and then tweak/run/tweak/run as many reps as needed until it is right, before repopulating the press with components for progressive loading. That way your attention is not divided and you know exactly what happened to which case.
  5. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Well-Known Member

    this scares the cr@p out of me.... as your background sounds very similar to mine....

    I started progressive reloading on a Load Master in Januarry and fear a double charge, only a little more than a squib.

    When I'm done setting up the press and am ready to run the first rounds through, I only run one at a time around the horn. Then I don't have 5 things in mid-stage to remember if I have an issue. Once the case feeder is on line, if I have an issue, I manually remove each case as it's dropped (no gate to stop them from dropping) and toss them back in the funnel. This way I can fix my issues without the shell plate re-filling every pull.

    These photos look familiar. Have you posted them b4 on a different forum?
  6. essayons21

    essayons21 Well-Known Member

    It wasn't a squib + another round, pretty sure its not bullet setback, I have a good tight taper on all the other rounds, certainly the right powder. I use mixed range pickup brass but I don't think a bad case would cause such an explosive kaboom.

    Anything else I'm forgetting?
  7. essayons21

    essayons21 Well-Known Member

    Nope... this happened Tuesday.
  8. dmazur

    dmazur Well-Known Member

    The only advice I can offer is to think of progressive reloading as a process, rather than a bunch of individual things which can be tuned while the process is "in play".

    The instructions for my press describe how to set up each station correctly, in order, before beginning progressive operation. The theory is that, once everything is adjusted, you shouldn't have to stop and adjust a station.

    I stop every box (50) for a break, which I use to label the box, make an entry in my reloading spreadsheet, fill a primer tube (every other box), and throw a powder charge into a special case with a spent primer. I also run every loaded round through a case gauge and do a visual inspection for primer seating depth. During this break, the press is completely clear. All cases have been run through.

    Have I ever made a mistake? A couple of times. I once found a bad charge during the check and pulled a box of 50 apart as a result. Cause: loose linkage on the powder measure, resulting in under charges. Another time it was a loose shellplate and I found cocked primers.

    I've loaded many thousands of rounds and these are the only two incidents.

    Even the folks who maintain that single stage presses are the only safe way to reload make mistakes.

    Mistakes happen.

    If you have control over the process, you will make uniform rounds. If the rounds are being assembled using safe load data, they will also be safe as well as uniform.
  9. Hondo 60

    Hondo 60 Well-Known Member

    Well that sucks! :fire:

    I ashamedly admit I did something similar not too long along ago.
    I lost an SP101.

    When I have issues (extremely rare because I have a Dillon)
    I dump any unbulleted cases.
    I also do NOT mix headstamps, so I can weight each round.
    While this is not fool proof, by not mixing headstamps, the rounds all weight within 1-1.5 grains.

    I'm not bragging about having a Dillon, but did, atleast for me, eliminate almost all issues.
    I tried the cheaper Lee progressive (Pro1000) & boxed it back up because it was just too frustrating.

    I'm honestly not trying to start a flame war with those who like the Pro1000.
    I'm just stating my experience.

    Please, please, please stay safe my friends.
  10. powell&hyde

    powell&hyde Well-Known Member

    Dang, glad your ok.
  11. bds

    bds Well-Known Member


    That's the simple reality we must accept and factor into our reloading practice. Had OP used a different brand press, would that have prevented the KaBoom?

    The key is regardless what equipment we use to reload, we must develop safe and effective reloading practices/QC checks that will catch overcharge from mixed up load data, overcharge from improper weight verification, uncharged cases, double charged cases and improper neck tension.

    Talk of a particular brand press may have prevented a KaBoom is like saying using a different brand powder may have prevented a KaBoom.

    It's not the machine but the person behind the machine. ;):rolleyes::eek:
  12. chris in va

    chris in va Well-Known Member

    Sorry about your gun.

    This is precisely why I still use my Hand Press after two years of reloading. I wouldn't even feel comfortable with a turret press. With my setup i can triple check every stage of cartridge development including visual inspection of powder level. Heck I just recently made the bold leap to a powder measure!

    True, but I liken it to driving a 1988 Ford Taurus vs flying a Gulfstream V. Both will get you there, but the plane has a LOT more going on that needs attention.
  13. Bovice

    Bovice Well-Known Member

    With Universal, you have big enough charges to visually verify. If the case is brimming with powder, you doubled it.

    I use the same press you do, and before I seat a bullet, I visually inspect the charge. Never had a squib or a double charge.

    Root cause of this is not having your press set up before putting powder in the Hopper, possibly going too fast, or too much distraction. Take it as a warning, you can lose your fingers if you aren't careful.
  14. fdashes

    fdashes Well-Known Member

    that was not a kaboom,,,,definately a kablewy. Glad you are ok
  15. ConcernedCitizen

    ConcernedCitizen Well-Known Member

    RCBS Lockout Die.

    I visually check every case, but would't feel comfortable loading without my lockout die.
  16. blarby

    blarby Well-Known Member

    Well, at least it appears that you just lost a BBL- have it inspected, of course, but another testament to the 1911.

    Also, why is it everytime I see that blue koolaid sitting on the shelf across from me, and it starts to simmer in my concious mind to get it out, a thread like this appears ?

    I'm fully commited at this point to only using it for speeding up my brass processing- I will never use a progressive for charging cases.

    My condolences on your loss.
  17. GT1

    GT1 Well-Known Member

    Man! :eek: Glad you didn't get hurt.

    The process got you. Meaning you were trying to reload at the same time as setting up(re-setting) your press. When more than one thing went wrong it was time to clear everything away and start over from the beginning to make sure it was all working right before completing a single round.
  18. Tom488

    Tom488 Well-Known Member

    As you found out, a powder cop isn't infallible - if you don't pay attention to it, you don't notice the double-charged case. Same with eyeballing the powder - if you lose your focus, you don't notice it.

    Dillon's powder check is a little better, as it has an audible alarm. Of course, it only works on Dillon machines (though it may be possible to modify other presses to get it to work).

    This is why I prefer the RCBS lockout die. It will physically lock up the press (not allowing the case to enter it's die) on a double charge (or a no charge). There's no way to ignore that... the handle stops moving.

    I've never had it actually lock up on me (other than testing it out), but when I was teaching a friend to load, somehow he managed to get a double charge in a case, and the lock-out die locked up solid.
  19. returningfire

    returningfire Well-Known Member

    I too, am glad everyone is OK. This is the reason I have stuck with my single stage press all these years. I had a friend that accidentally (as in progressive press) fed his Glock a 40 cal. round with a double charge of powder. It wasn't pretty but it sure scared the crap out of everyone. I made a mental note right then that single stage press is all I need.
  20. bainter1212

    bainter1212 Well-Known Member

    I load on a single stage. I double charged an '06 round once, luckily a double charge doesn't quite fit into an '06 case. My wife had interrupted me to do some kind of chore I had forgotten to do, I did it and came back to loading. Lost track of where I was at. Told my wife no interrupting, now she doesn't like my reloading hobby anymore :)

Share This Page