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Stuck bullet: primer fires, but doesn't ignite powder

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Thirties, Feb 2, 2005.

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  1. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    Here is a photo of a plated 125 grain bullet stuck in the barrel of my snubnose Colt DS. The primer went off, but failed to ignite the charge. And yes, there was a charge, as it left flakes all over the place when I opened the cylinder.

    [​IMG]

    Load data (temperature 32ºF):

    bullet: Berry 125 grain plated FP
    primer: WSP
    OAL: 1.430
    powder: Win231 3.6 grains

    I had fired four cylinders of this type of ammo in single action mode. Then I switched to double action. This happened with the first shot of the 5th cylinder of the double action.

    Anyone have any suggestions what happened, and/or what I should to to prevent it?

    The gun is new to me, but I'd fired it on two previous occasions with no problems.

    Can this be caused by stray lube in the primer pocket or case mouth? I'm just guessing the reasons here . . .
     
  2. griz

    griz Member

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    I have no clue why the powder wasn't burned, but the fact that it made it that far and didn't clear the barrel is incredible
     
  3. Maxinquaye

    Maxinquaye Member

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    I had this happen to me in a very light load of AA#9 in my .454 casull. Primer went off and drove the bullet about 2 inches into the barrel...all the powder was actually compressed behind the bullet in the barrel! Damndest thing I ever saw. I'm betting it was just a really light load...had a couple click...boom's on that same batch as well.
     
  4. BigBob3006

    BigBob3006 Member

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    Thirties,

    I think you must have had at least a partial powder burn in order for the bullet to have reached that location in the barrel. What contaminated the powder charge is anyones guess. If the situation was as stated, the primer doesn't create enough pressure to move a bullet through a barrel without some assist from powder gases. This is especially true in a revolver. The cylinder is not a tight eough seal on the bullet to allow pressure to build and force the bullet through the barrel. Usuallya pistol bullet is crimped and the primer doesn't build enough pressure to even force the bullet out of the case. If the bullet were to move, it would only move as far as the leade. Any pressure would then flow around the bullet and escape through the cylinder gap. ;) I could be wrong, and if I am, I apologize. But I have a feeling my leg is being yanked on pretty good. Have fun and God bless. :)
    Bob.
     
  5. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

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    Modern Handloading by Richard Lee pp 412
    357mag 125 gr
    start load 7.2.... max 8.1 of 231.

    I don't know if this is a 38 or 357, but in either case, you're probably too low
    and will stick a bullet HTH
     
  6. only1asterisk

    only1asterisk member

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    That load should have no problem clearing the barrel. You certainly had some combination of problems that caused poor ignition. Low temp., contaminated powder/primer, light strike, poor crimp, etc.

    David
     
  7. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    Folks, I'm not pulling any legs here. This is a photo of what resulted. Maybe some powder did burn, but there was a lot of it unburned.

    This s a .38spl gun (Colt Detective Specials were only made in .38spl), and, although the load is light, I'd fired many rounds from this batch with this gun and a 4" Smith model 10. Don't forget, these are not jacketed bullets. They are plated. There is a load in the Lyman book for 121 grain lead round nose that starts at 3.4 grains of W-231. I wish I'd chronographed the thing, bit it was on the cold side, with deep snow and a bright day with deep blue skies — bad chronoghraph conditions.

    I'm trying to figure out where the problem lies: the load (contamination); the primer (not seated deeply enough); the gun (weak double action strike)? But there is no single thing that tells me what the cause was. Any more ideas?

    In any case, I'm sending the gun to a 'smith for a cleaning and check-out. I was going to do this anyway, but the stuck bullet speeded up the decision.
     
  8. LAH

    LAH Member

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    Gee Thirties it's really hard to say what happened. If I had to choose sides it would be with thoses who clain poor ignition. I fired a few rounds with only primer ignition and have never seen one make it that far. 231 isn't that hard to burn so most likely a lite charge but still that's just a guess. I love that picture and BTW, nice Colt.
     
  9. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    Can you further explain what you mean by "poor ignition"?

    Does it mean that the primer didn't ignite fully?

    If so, is this due to a light happer strike; a primer seated not all the way into its hole; a faulty or contaminated primer?
     
  10. LAH

    LAH Member

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    I'll say up front I don't really know. You have mentioned lite primer strike again. Have you done a "trigger job"?

    231 ignites so easily it's hard to think that most anything wouldn't set it off. Or at least burn it enough to get the bullet out the barrel. I will guess lite powder charge. And please I'm not challenging your loading skills it's just sometimes things happen. Anyway, it's just a guess on my part. God Bless.
     
  11. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    No problem, I'm inviting people to challenge my loading skills, my judgement, my gun, etc.

    I'm just trying to find answers here.

    As for trigger job, I bought this gun used from a dealer a month ago. It's a 1966 gun. So who knows if it had a trigger job.

    As I said, it's going to a gunsmith for check out, clean and lube, clear the bullet, and bring back to original specifications.

    As for the light load, yes, 3.6 grains is on the light side, but not off-the-charts light. And I had just fired 26 rounds of this load with no problems using the same gun also in double action.

    I'll be interested to hear what the 'smith says about the action on this gun. The firing pin is a bit jiggly, but not any different from my Smith model 10's firing pin. I think that the slight looseness, or "give" is to avoid breakage. But I'm certainly not a Colt expert.

    Thanks, fellas, for your replies on this . . .
     
  12. only1asterisk

    only1asterisk member

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    You had powder in the case and it didn't burn.

    Your case may have had lube in it that killed some of the powder or primer charge.

    The primer charge could have broken and some of it was lost between the factory and your priming the brass.

    Your DA pull is on the light side and firing pin didn't wack the primer very hard. (primers are USUALLY an all or nothing deal, but quien sabes?) Could your gun be dirty? Could your lube have frozen?

    The powder wasn't really 231! (some slow burning powders will not ignite with light loads, don't happen to accidently use 296 by any chance?)

    It was cold. Warmer weather makes for better ignition and higher velocities.
    If it gets cold enough velocity can drop enough to stick a bullet that would otherwise be fine in summer. The longer you were outside, the colder the ammo got.

    Powder position. Small charges that take up little case room can move around. When all the powder is next to the bullet and none is around the primer it complicates ignition and reduces velocity.

    Bullet crimp. Plated bullet require you to reduce the amount of crimp you use. If there was a slight delay in powder ignition and there isn't enough crimp to delay the bullet, the effect is the same as increasing the effective case capacity. You get less pressure from the same amount of powder. (even if it had all burned).

    Some of these things are more likely than others. I would have to say, were it me, the most likely thing would be refilling the powder measure with the wrong powder. 296 and 231 come in identical containers. It could happen, but I don't lube 38 Special cases.

    In your case, maybe it is more likely that there was some case lube that remained on the case and ruined the primer.

    Also, the combination of cold and powder position with a marginal primer could maybe cause this.

    It all seem pretty reasonable to me.


    David
     
  13. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    David, thank you very much for the troubleshooting options. Your list was very logical, organized and helpful.

    All of them make sense, except the W296. I don't have any. I'm only using W231 these days, as I'm going through the exercise of learning how to determine the best (for me) loads in .38 special. During this process, I'm only using W231. I make a strict habit of always leaving on the bench the powder container I'm currently using, while the other powders are all on a lower shelf nearby.

    One item you mention blinks at me . . . it was cold, but 32ºF is much warmer than other times I've shot this same batch/load. I did stay out there longer than usual; I set the ammo box on a post rather than leave it in my pocket as I usually do; and I did drop one round in the snow before I brushed it off and loaded it in the gun.

    Although I don't remember which round I dropped (the cold numbs the mind as well), the other two items — length of time, and box not in pocket — may very well have combined to give me this misfire in the first round of the fifth cyliner of ammo.

    The gunsmith will let me know if there is a light hammer strike when he's received and looked at the gun.

    Meanwhile, I'm going with the cold factor.

    And I'll not be loading the 3.6 grains W231 with this bullet any more. It wasn't as accurate as the higher weight loads anyway.

    Thank you, David, for helping me focus on the problems. It was a great help.
     
  14. LAH

    LAH Member

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    One note here. I have no problem with the charge weight of the load you were using. I thought maybe the weight of the charge in this one case was the problem.
     
  15. acerman

    acerman Member

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    I had the very same thing happen using WW296 in a 357Mag case with a 125gr plated (Berry's).Plenty of unburnt powder jammed up against the base of the bullet that stopped about halfway down the barrel of a 31/2".From the noise it made,it sounded like a very lite load.But, there was sure a large amount of unburned powder. :cuss:
     
  16. Black Snowman

    Black Snowman Member

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    With the hang-fires you mentioned as well I'm guessing it's either a bad primer lot or contaminated primers. It's possible it's contaminated powder as well. Contaminated with what is the question. Have the primsers or powder been exposed to anything that could effect them? Solvents, high humidity, etc . . . particularly while loading?
     
  17. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    It us not likley the powder or primer batches were contaminated. Tyhis was one incident on its own.

    I plan to fire the rest of the batch with my Smith model 10.

    As soon as I can get to UPS, I'm shipping the gun to a 'smith.

    I am almost convinced it was the cold. The other problems are easier to trouble shoot. I'll load new batches, etc.

    Thanks all for your replies.
     
  18. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I have READ:

    Win 231 is more temperature sensitive than most powders. I have seen stories of .45 era IPSC shooters putting ammo boxes over car defroster vents so as to make Major power factor on a cold day. Is ignition and combustion affected or just burn rate? I dunno.

    Complaints of Winchester primer quality when they changed to the unplated cups in the blue boxes. I haven't had any trouble but others have. Misfires yes. Weak fires? I dunno.

    Why are you sending the gun off?
    To whom?

    Edit to add: This is not an unknown phenomenon even in factory ammo. My local gunsmith was carrying a .38 with Cor-Bon JHPs. He had one not clear the barrel. When he ejected the case, a lump of melted and fused powder about the size of a pea fell out. Ammunition is loaded by the millions and billions, home and factory. Sometimes you get one that is just not right and The Answer may never be known.
     
  19. Thirties

    Thirties Member

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    "...the answer may never be known..."

    You got that right!

    Today I fired off the rest of the rounds from that batch in my 4 inch S&W model 10. It was the same temperature as yesterday (32ºF), but this time I kept the rounds in my pants pocket (warmer?). In any case, they all went boom. I couldn't test them in the Colt DS, as I'm unable/unwilling to remove the stuck bullet.

    I guess one could very carefully drill a hole through the center of the bullet from the nose to the base; then use a larger bit; and then a larger one. Eventually, one could grip the protruding nose with a pliers and the bullet would collapse and come out. But I'm dreaming, really. I've hammered out bullets before that were stuck in a barrel, but this one is different (see photo).

    I'm sending it to experts who will also go over the gun for me and let me know what it needs, etc.

    Not yet decided between Pittsburgh and Hartford. Leaning toward Pittsburgh.

    Thanks again for the advice . . .
    .
     
  20. mete

    mete Member

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    I have seen this before and it was handloads in a 44 mag. An occasional round would ignite primer but the primer didn't have enough power to ignite powder..Force enough to push the bullet into the barrel.It was caused by a bad batch of primers.
     
  21. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Member

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    Pure speculation

    I'd go along with the folks who say the bullet made an odd trip - so far and no farther - rather than hanging up at the forcing cone (revolver bullets under pressure will bump up to a barrel shape as they are unsupported in passing from the cylinder throat to the forcing cone and squeeze back down) or venting all the pressure and sticking in the throat.

    Hence I'd guess excessively weak bullet pull - the primer had to push the bullet so the primer fired yet the 231 failed of significant ignition - in a rifle I'd think about a crocodile throat with excessive friction from the mud flats of an eroded barrel as stopping the bullet - I can't imagine that the Colt has a choke bored barrel so it's still hard for me to see the bullet making it that far and no farther.

    Cold and powder position maybe with the powder up against the bullet and the bullet moving too quickly and so allowing the powder to be scattered without kindling.
     
  22. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

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    OK guys...

    we'll try this one more time

    According to the Winchester Components Catalog (guess they'd know)

    pp31...125 grain..start charge 4.8 gr..max 5.3...14,100psi..vel 840

    dude...you're 25% below minimum..I don't know where you got your load, but I'd STRONGLY suspect it's too low (unless Winchester doesn't know anything about their own powder)

    You've got a dangerously low charge of temperature sensitive powder in cold conditions. They do not list 231 for normal 38 Sp., only +P.

    You've got to build enough pressure to make the powder burn correctly. I'd suspect 231 is too slow to burn in this application. Even with +P and a light bullet, you're only getting 825 fps. My miniscule brain says this adds up to a "too slow" powder to be optimum for this application. Now, add 25% undercharge and cold temps and you've got problems.

    I'd suggest a different source for loads...like the free Winchester manual... HTH
     
  23. griz

    griz Member

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    It might be a light charge but 231 is definetly not too slow for a 38 special load.

    Anyway I'll try a couple guesses, and they are only guesses.

    1. Contaminates in the case. Something like a blade of grass or a drop of water could keep the powder from burning all the way.
    2. A freak chance of all the variables being on the low side for just one round. For instance the lightest of all the powder charges in that batch combined with the cold and a weak primer.

    Again, this is speculation on my part.
     
  24. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

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    Ok...

    I'm trying to get my brain around this...

    why do Winchester and Lee not know that this is too low a load? When they say "starting load", I think they mean this is where you're supposed to start

    you say this is an "'OK" load....

    sez who????

    Inquiring minds (at least mine) want to know

    Anything I know about loading.......

    Low charge + low temps + low bullet weight = incomplete burn = problems

    Now, I know I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but if I get a bullet stuck in a barrel, the first thing I'd think about is increasing the charge to make more pressure

    If I remember college physics correctly...Boyle's Law is PV=nRT. Pressure, temperature & volume relationship. Low temperature and low pressure (low powder charge seems to be the culprit along with the ambient temp). You're on the very, very low end, and slightly low charge and/or slightly low primer combination equals problems.

    I'd bet REAL good money that if you follow Winchester's load manual, you'd be fine. If I'm wrong, please tell me why..
     
  25. griz

    griz Member

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    Sorry for the confusion. When you said it was too slow of a powder, I assumed you were refering to the powder burn rate, not the velocity of the load. 231 is a "fast" powder, even in a load that is slow. I wasn't tryin to comment on Winchester's, or anybody's, minimum load. In fact I have never tried 231 in a reduced load so will not comment on the load he used.
     
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