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Two Kabooms, Same Cause

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by JayPee, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. JayPee

    JayPee Well-Known Member

    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.

    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011
  2. bds

    bds Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Well-Known Member

    One can out at a time & triple check everything is my way too.
  4. jcwit

    jcwit Well-Known Member

    Thank God no one was hurt!
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    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.

  6. armoredman

    armoredman Well-Known Member

    I agree, one container at a time and triple check that it's the right one. I like that Accurate containers are color coded...
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    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.

  8. Rule3

    Rule3 Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. RandyP

    RandyP Well-Known Member

    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
  10. Mike1234567

    Mike1234567 member

    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.
  11. Hondo 60

    Hondo 60 Well-Known Member

    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!
  12. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. wanderinwalker

    wanderinwalker Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. longdayjake

    longdayjake Well-Known Member

    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.
  16. mdi

    mdi Well-Known Member

    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...
  17. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    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 !
  18. Hardtarget

    Hardtarget Well-Known Member

    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!

  19. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Well-Known Member


    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.
  20. Maj Dad

    Maj Dad Well-Known Member

    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...

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