Ruger LCR Kaboom

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Posted by Mike Lewis at LMS Defense Forum …

I was conducting a Concealed Carry Handgun class on 1 May 2010. There was a student training with a Ruger LCR that she stated had less than 100 rounds previously fired through it. She was using CCI Blazer 158 grain TMJ +P ammunition, and had fired approximately 25 rounds so far in the course without any cause for concern.

The student was in the middle of firing a two round engagement drill under my supervision; she fired one round then informed me that she thought her trigger was “stuck”. I took the firearm from her, assuming that she had possibly taken the cylinder out of battery, and attempted to put the cylinder back into battery. Upon looking, I noticed that part of the frame subassembly (the barrel sheath portion) was blown off, and the barrel split. I checked to see if the cylinder was stable, and the cylinder turned slightly in my hand before apparently being bound by the split barrel. I was able to clear the weapon, at which point we removed it from the firing line and inspected shooters for injuries. As there were no injuries resulting from this failure, we examined the firearm and replaced it on the firing line with one of my revolvers a S&W J Frame that performed flawlessly), so she could continue training.

In my opinion, this was most likely not a shooter or ammunition-induced failure. I checked the owner’s manual to ensure that this firearm was rated for +P ammunition, which it is. The cylinder and topstrap show no visible damage; neither does the right side of the firearm.

It appears that the chamber was not properly aligned with the bore when the round fired, and that the bullet struck the forcing cone out of alignment. The bullet most likely took the path of least resistance, leading to the catastrophic failure of the barrel and frame subassembly.

I have spoken with the VP of Ruger, as well as sending a letter to him concerning this failure; he seemed to be very interested and understanding of our concerns.

[ Many thanks to Mik for emailing me the link. ]

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Redchrome

    Looks like a cast metal barrel.
    Count me out for buying one.

  • SpudGun

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – high pressure rounds in teeny tiny carry guns is a fool’s errand. The minature parts and light frames just can’t take the abuse from these types of rounds.

    I don’t care what the manufacturers say about it being +P capable, it’s madness to shoot hot rounds and not expect any problems.

    Like a fat relative sitting on a lawn chair, it’s a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ there will be a catastrophic failure.

  • http://love-a-luddite.blogspot.com Jim

    The policies that died with Bill Ruger Sr. are quality control and customer service. I am not the only life-long Ruger fan to finally have sworn off any new Ruger production guns and to have dumped the last of the RGR stock. Bill might have objected to the LCP, the SR9, and now the LCR, but if his marketing people had persuaded him to offer them he would have laid down the law: “Make sure the damned things work!”

  • DavidR

    Weird. Out of battery problems in revolvers are usually a failure to go IN-to battery. However, the cylinder of this gun looks to have gone *past* lockup, so I would immediately look to the cylinder stop as being at fault.

    Wild speculation–could the slight flex in the LCR’s frame (the flex that shooters often credit with allowing the lightweight LCR to be a manageable shooter), could that flex also disrupt the lockup geometry???

    Glad no one was hurt!

  • ericire12

    Time for a recall

  • RuffRidr

    Mike Lewis did an excellent job going the extra mile for his student as well. I am sure the thoroughness was much appreciated.

  • Andy Fields

    Glad no one was injured and I agree that it likely was not indexed properly. The firing pin strike mark on the primer should conform that if it’s offset to the side. The overpressure that must have taken place would have been quite a test for that deeply fluted cylinder and it looks like it held up well. I had an older Colt Police 38 years ago that did this and shattered the forcing cone making it very hard to remove the barrel. Ruger has always been good to me and I am confident they will make it right.

  • James G

    Thats kind of scary… I recently got one of these and have been carrying it daily. Hope this gets investigated and Ruger gets to the bottom of this.

  • arleigh

    while it is sad to have equipment failurers , confidence lost in manufacturers, I have prefired to train with the lightest loads knowing full well that heavy loads are reducing the life of the piece quite rapidly.
    I become accustomed to the light rounds , and let the heavy rounds supprize me, and I perform much better. It’s just my way.
    Shooting range environmnts are hardly comparble to real life situations, so for target practice , very lite loads are more practicle.As for clocking and chamber invironments, I would check my revolvers periodicly for slop especially at the point the trigger falls the hammer. Had some smiths I got rid of because of slop. My rugers all seem quite trust worthy. About the only problem lately is my .22 mag convertable, was the transfir bar hanging up against the fireing pin. Easy fix.I don’t like the transfir bar, but oh well.

  • Bill Lester

    Well said Jim.

  • Vin

    Glad the shooter, or anyone else on the line wasnt injured. But it’s crap like this from the newer Rugers (recalls, failures) that makes me nervous about the SR-556 i’m waiting on…

  • chuck

    I bought the LCR w/laser for my wife shortly after they hit the market and she has put at least 500 or 600 rounds down the tube without a problem.

  • chuck

    QUOTE:”Redchromeon 24 May 2010 at 11:46 pm link comment
    Looks like a cast metal barrel.
    Count me out for buying one”.

    The 1-7/8″ long barrel, with a 1:16 twist, is made of 17-4 PH aerospace grade stainless steel, chosen for its strength and dimensional stability during machining and heat treatment.

    It is my opinion that it failed to go into battery.

  • ap

    Check youtube for that flame cutting LCR video… that was all I needed to see. I’d rather shoot an FP-45 Liberator. Man, I wonder what they did to beef this thing up for .357?

  • Frank B

    newer Rugers?

    count me out!

  • Thomas Kelly

    Looks like a squib caused that to me. Look at the bulge in the barrel. When the live round was fired behind the stuck bullet, it swelled the barrel and caused the aluminum shell to break away from the liner. If the shell casings shown are the ones removed from the revolver, it wasn’t out of time. You can tell by the center hits on the primers.

  • dagamore

    I noticed that it failed on the side of the barrel that has the ‘warning’ on it, could that ‘safety warning’ could have weakened the barrel? could they be safer with out the lawyer words on it?

  • DJ Niner

    I see the LCR is now being offered in .357 magnum.

    Hope they figure out what the problem was with this one, and (if applicable) correct it before the magnums hit the street, or we might be seeing more photos like this one…

  • Dave

    The .357′s have a stainless upper frame, not alloy.

  • Henry Bowman

    Tough photo to interpret, looks like somebody smeared caulk on a barrel. Got any photos from topside or front?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Henry, no other photos were published.

  • F_G

    Why was the cause possibly being a squib or PIP load so quickly dismissed? Mike only stated, “In my opinion, this was most likely not a shooter or ammunition-induced failure.” What evidence was present to indicate it was weapon related? If those fired cases were removed from this weapon at the time of the incident, they most certainly disprove the out-of-time theory, those primer hits couldn’t be any more centered.

    I’ve had an LCR for about 3 months now and have put over 500 rounds through it. Admittedly 400 were standard pressure, but 100 have been +P. I would certainly like to know if this a firearm related failure.

  • http://pupista.blogspot.com William Miller

    “I checked the owner’s manual to ensure that this firearm was rated for +P ammunition, which it is.”

    It sounds like this check was done _after_ the incident.

    Can we assume compatibility checks between gun and ammo are done _before_ class begins?

  • http://drstrangegun.blogspot.com DrStrangegun

    IMHO Tom Kelley has it… if those are the cartridges in question, then the revolver was not out of time and the only way to cause the isue as described in the article is to have ‘slop’ suddenly develop in the crane and twist the cylinder, which would have been noticeable (glaring, actually) before and after the incident.

    The barrel is swelled and split… I don’t think that happens with a forcing cone strike, which from everything I’ve seen usually results in a mangling of the frame, the barrel threads (in pistols with rear-threaded barrels), a warped cone, frozen cylinder, and in the worst, fracturing of the top strap and subsequent seperation of the barrel and frame front segment, or failure of the barrel threads (i.e. spits the barrel downrange).

    When a barrel swells in a localized point uniformly, it’s usually due to obstruction immediately ahead of the bulge. I can’t determine if the bulge is uniform from one photo. However, if the bulge is a single-sided spot, I could see where a fragment of a jacket or some other buildup of material could have caused a local bulge. If a cone strike were to have done this, the bulging would be much more of a yielding bend, and the contacted area (the dark spot on the bulge) would be much more spread out, and likely would have broken the front of the shroud as well as the threads (greater leverage).

    So… I’m calling barrel obstruction. If you were to make a demonstration and put a copper pipe inside a tight-fitting clay tube, and then hit one edge with a hammer, the yield point would either be a bend right at the edge breaking the tube there, or a collapse in the middle with an ovoid cross-section. To break the tube an inch from the end you’d need to pack something in an inch down and hit *that*, putting localized stress on the inside of the tube at the position you want the metal to yield, and not hit hard enough to cause further structural yielding (in barrels, inertia takes care of that, the pressure is gone before enough force is emplaced to do more damage)

  • F_G

    This is definitely a case of not enough info, we have one picture, an opinion and conjecture. Forcing cone strikes I have witnessed in the past did different kinds of damage than that portrayed in the picture. This particular weapon is a bit different because of the aluminum shroud over the stainless barrel which blew away when the barrel bulged.

    I have to agree with Thomas and the Dr., with the limited info and pictorial evidence we have this is a squib/PIP load, obstructed barrel issue.

  • Indy_Guy_77

    Nit Pick @Dave:

    Stainless steel IS an alloy.

    Would also like to say that the barrel obstruction also seems like a convincing enough explanation.

  • W H Kelley

    I recently had an issue with blazzer 44 spl ammo. A case mouth had a piece 3/16″ wide and 1/8″ deep come off and cracked 1/2″ back from case mouth. Speer/Blazzer worked with me on this issue and were very helpfull. I have seen a scandium Smith 22 barrel split also. Could have been alot of causes for this one. Even though 25 rounds had been fired depending on conditions could a forieghn object have gotten into the barrel? The cases show center hits to the primers signifying that cylinder was closed. ( and due to mechanics and enginering most recolvers wont fire unlocked) Could the crane have gotten sprung? That dosnt really show either. It would be interesting to examine the bore with a bore scope and some magnification. Measurements of the throats in the cylinder might also shed some light. Less than 100 rounds and 25 at the class fired sounds like a bad spot in the barrel let go to me. Occasionally voids or even weak areas occur even in todays improved manufacturing. Why I suggest looking inside with a bore scope, that might shed some light on what happened.

  • Gene

    Has anyone seen the lcr get a perfect silver ring around the rear of the cylinder?

    I have fired 30 rounds and have dry fired about the same. Looks like the cylinder stop is dragging and wore the coating off.

    Other than that, i ilke it. Easy to handle and very accurate

  • tom

    Gene, mine also has a silver ring around the rear of the cylinder. i have fired 30 or 40 rds. could this be a bad thing? the one in this photo apears as if the cylinder stop has never touched.

  • Gene

    I spoke with Ruger customer service this morning. They said all of the lcr’s they have in the office have the same ring. He said it is normal and nothing to be concerned about. I told him I have several revolvers and none have that type of wear, again he said it is nothing to worry about. Other than looks, it isn’t a concern.

    When I told him about seeing lcr’s with several hundred rounds throuh them and no ring is visible he said “some do it and some don’t”. Since the cylinder is stainless steel there is no safety issue.

    Other than the ring I like the weapon so I am not sure how to proceed next, guess I’ll see how iy looks after a few more rounds :)

  • Thomas Kelly

    The ring comes from the cylinder latch coming up early, instead of dropping into the bolt notch leades as it theoretically should. Old model Ruger single actions and Colt SA(along with the clones) are timed properly to drop into the leades and don’t ring the cylinder. When you see a Colt or OM Ruger with a ring, it is from closing the loading gate and lowering the hammer without going to full cock, then rotating the cylinder till it locks.

    Early rising of the latch makes the firearm more reliable in my opinion. If it is timed to drop into the leade, it is possible for the cylinder inertia to cause it to run past the bolt notch if you cycle it briskly and slow up at the last moment before reaching full cock. Or, if it is dirty and the latch is sluggish. Early rising of the latch pretty much makes overshooting the notch impossible, but the side effect is the ringing of the cylinder. Reliability is higher on the list of priorities for this firearm than a cosmetic ring.

    The ring can be minimized by gently polishing the edge of the latch that touches the cylinder when it rises early.

  • Gene

    Thank you for the information, it makes sense.

    I agree reliability is the highest priority, it just seems ruger should have either made a more durable coating or made it with a brushed or polished steel.

    Ah well, if the ring is the only issue i have, it is a great day :)

    all in all I like it a lot. Great weapon.

    I am going to get the tritium front sight next, looks promising. It looks more squared though, think it may get hung up while drawing from a pocket holster?

  • Randy S
  • don landrum

    why +p anyway in a lightweight???

  • Mark Reising

    I am an instructor in Ohio, and about a year ago we had a student that was shooting Blazer 158 gr +P and he suffered a squib load. Unfortunately, he continued to fire the gun 3 more times, pushing the first stuck round out of the barrel and stacking 3 more up in the barrel and spliting the barrel at the forcing cone, splitting the frame at the same location and springing the frame out of square enough that the cylinder would not open without assistance from a hammer. The revolver was a Rossi and I was suprised that it did not have a more catastrophic failure. The remainder of the ammo was returned to CCI, including the remainder of the case that the dealer had. CCI replaced the ammo and might have replaced the gun except we made a deal with the student to keep the gun as a training aid.

    I would not discount the possibility that this LCR kaboom was caused by a squib load. We’ve seen squibs in CCI Blazer, Remington and Winchester over the last year.

  • greg d.

    I also suspect a squib. I’ve had 500 rounds of regular .38 and 700 rounds of +P through mine and it still looks good as new. Then again, there’s a possibility of having a lemon.

  • M.D. Isaac

    Interesting failure. If the cylinder was out of alignment enough to do that much damage, how was the firing pin able to strike the primer? If out of battery by a few thousandths, I don’t believe this much damage would occur, just shearing lead, or exterme leading at the forcing cone. I need a bit more info…

  • Steve

    I’d look for a sqibb load in that barrel. Doesn’t look like it was outa time to me.

  • Tom F

    I have put over 100 rounds thru mine. No problems and no rings. I have not used 38p yet. Good info. Keep us posted about Ruger response.

  • http://linkcomment Frank Knipfer

    I agree with the gentlemen that said teeny guns shouldn’t shoot +P loads. I have a LCP, that no way am I going to shoot anything but standard loads thru. Hornady CDI’s seem reasonable but they are not +P’s. If want to shoot +P’s out of a small gun make sure it is all steel and not plastic.

  • Charlie Donato

    What is the maximum grain of ammunition recommended for the ruger lcr 38?

  • http://yahoo mike wandrick

    that may be the reason that I switched to 1911′s with 5″ barrel

  • AlNino

    Dammit! I was just about to buy one. I love shooting my dad’s Ruger. However, that one is about 40 years old. QC must not be a priority these days.

  • Gene

    I have has my LCR for 7 months and have fired over 1000 rounds of a mix of +P and standard loads.

    No crack or broken pieces

    I have had people come to me at the range saying they bought a s&w or other light weapon and when I let them try mine they wish they had gone with my LCR

    Not sure what the original person did to break her LCR but if I had to bet, it was from shooting reloads that were way too hot prior to the class incident.

    At this point I would, and have, recommend the LCR to anyone that wants a reliable, easily concealed, and very accurate carry/defense weapon. I know 2 people at the range and 2 family members that have purchased, and like, the LCR based on shooting mine. No better testament to the weapon than that…

  • Mark

    The American Rifleman put 10,000 +P rounds thru an LCR with no problems.

    • Ed209

      don’t they get paid to publish info like that??

  • Julio

    I bought one. After putting about 1,500 rounds through it, I sold it. I had issues with it and wasn’t sure I’d be able to rely on this weapon for defensive carry. I have a Smith 642 airweight that I prefer when carrying a revolver.

  • Dad

    I need more info and to look at the gun but I am leaning towards barrel obstruction as the cause. From the photo I can’t see how it was an timing issue before the barrel ruptured over hals way to the muzzle. I could be wrong and things happen, but something doesn’t smell right here.

  • Bob Z Moose

    I know I’am late to the party, but is anybody had this problem with an SP101? Extra weight means extra safety (plus the ability to use hotter rounds :) ).

  • jeff

    I am a firearms instructor as well and this looks like barrel obstruction damage to me.
    I also showed this to my father who is a former crash investigator for the airforce and he agrees that this is most likely damage from some foreign object obstruction in the barrel being hit by another bullet.
    the exact nature of the obstruction is undetermined by just viewing a picture, however the most likely casue is a squib.

  • Mountain

    Looks like a squib to me too.

    The fact that the gun held together as well as it did is amazing, considering it’s a lightweight “plastic” revolver!

  • Vassily

    Kudos to the instructor for inspecting all shooters in the area for injuries not just those closest to the incident or relying upon them to report injuries.

    Something so important and so easy to overlook during an incident of this nature.

    Great Job.

    Vassily

  • DougGa

    Have new 357 version with killer factory grips and the best feeling trigger I’ve ever owned or felt on a double action revolver. Even a shorter smoother stroke and crisp snap than any Smith I own. I adore my wife’s S&W 442 with Crimson laser but the LCR is more elegant and innovative, ergo, and concealable. I carry with 38+P and like the way it shoots, feels and plenty of stopping power, or whatever todays buzz word is. I feel more confident with the LCR357 on accuracy and consistency. I see no cutting, melting or quality issues. The frame is stainless steel with a black finish, I believe. Not plastic. I’m not shooting any reload mixed brass ammo like they sell at most gun ranges. I doubt I will have any issues and if I do, I’ll send it back and have the failure diagnosed without fidding with the gun, ammo and I’d want to let someone REALLY identify before causing more confusion and hassles than help. My first thought when buying was GET THE 357 due to the strength and versatility for about 50 bucks that aint bad. By the way there are no quality issues with mine, it’s tight, crisp total precision, very solid feeling and held up under about 400 rounds of 357, 38+P and regular 38special today. It was a gun we kept going back to today over and over, shot every bit of ammo I had, even went back to the car and got the rest. I have a gut feeling I made the right choice over just buying another 442 Smith, I love this one a little more than the 442 from an accuracy and smooth trigger pull, ergonomic point of view.

  • 45Super

    Generally speaking, a misaligned chamber is evidenced by off center primer strikes and bullet shavings from the forcing cone–it happens from all manufacturers once in a Blue Moon. An obstruction usually does not correct itself and is easily confirmed visually (if the barrel is short) or by inserting a pencil (for example) down the barrel.

    I love how quickly people give up on things these days. Google “glock blow up”. Ok, so, after seeing THOSE pics, you won’t own a Glock, hmm?

  • ander35

    I am not surprised. I bought a 357 LCR and the cylinder feel weird. Sometimes it doesn’t seat without some Jimmying and sometimes when I am pushing the release it feel “sticky”.

  • tomkatt

    We noticed that the higher recoil with light weight revolvers has caused bullets to be dislodged from their casings and protruding from the front of the cylinder causing the bullet to block the rotation. this is not a problem with the heavier revolvers.