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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  • clamp

    What a waste. I hate to see cool revolvers like that destroyed by negligence. Sad Panda.

  • To be honest, this topic kind of pisses me off. There are many people in the world who simply do not have the attention to detail to load their own ammo (or drive). They go to the range with their approximately measured charges, or even worse, hot loads, and insert them into other people’s bodies. I refer to the fingernail of brass I carry in my left fore-arm from someone’s hand loads. This shit can kill.

    • hojo, that is bad. I am pleased you survived.

  • Aurelien

    That guy is an ass.

    Blowing an original new service like that.

    Glad he’s okay, but damn that pisses me off.

  • Don

    This is why there will always be a small benefit to single stage reloading and sanity-checking the powder volume one last time before seating.

    -D

  • Jerry

    Is it possible the revolver was just out of time or failed to lock up on this particular occasion?

  • Big Daddy

    Nobody is really sure why it happened.

    BUT……

    I would never, ever have fired an older weapon with any rust on it let alone with full loads. If that were my gun I would probably leave it as just having it and if I had to fire it I would use lower powered ammo. Not even think about reloads unless they were well under powered. Old metal is old metal, you don’t have to be a metallurgist to know how steel degrades over time, it looses it’s strength.

    It’s not only about taking the load but what consistent force will do to the working parts. It could well be it fired while not directly lined up with the barrel because of the metal involved with the mechanical parts being stressed.

    I read a whole article about firing older weapons, I wish I saved it. But the first thing they said was any antique weapons should never even see close to full loads. They were talking about old west stuff but it also applies to guns that old too. If made in 1921 that’s 90 years old….that’s old steel. And those days they did not have things like magnafluxing and could not really test the metal like we can do now.

    In fact it was determined that one reason possibly the Titanic went down was the soft steel used in the rivets to hold the steel plates. I saw a program on cable and they brought some rivets up and tested them, they were way too soft. Ships plates were not welded yet. This gun was made less then 10 years after the Titanic so I’m sure their metallurgy was still very primitive. It might have had soft parts when it was made.

  • Kevin

    I like how he was “was working up a load that I figured would be appropriate to the gun.”

    I bet that CTD has some in stock that won’t blow your gun up…..

    Damn, that’s sad.

  • Emperor Fabulous

    I have not reloaded before so I don’t know how effective this would be, but couldn’t one weigh each finished cartridge once it’s reloaded? Wouldn’t a double charge of powder show up as weighing more than expected?

    “Old metal is old metal, you don’t have to be a metallurgist to know how steel degrades over time, it looses[sic] it’s[sic] strength.”

    Unless it is corroding, steel won’t lose strength just by aging, at least not in anyone’s lifetime.

  • Big Daddy

    Sure it does, due to constant heating and cooling. Even keeping it locked away the temperatures can reach 130 degrees or more if it’s in an attic in the western US. Then cooling down, every day locked away for 90 years…through the summer and winter heating and cooling…….that’s what I mean by old metal. Plus if it were near a coastline then you have more corrosive sea water in the air or a lot of humidity. 90 years of constant temperature and humidity flux, old metal is old metal.

    From what I read it was in a box wrapped in an oily rag.

    Old metal is old metal unless it was kept in a temperature and humidity controlled place.

    Try taking any metal object then start the process of heating and cooling it, you’ll see how fast it degrades. Modern steels are one thing but we’re talking about something made when they did not have the hardness testing they have now.

    Like I said it could have nothing to do with the frame or the barrel or even the cylinder. It could be the simple mechanism inside that mis-aligned the cylinder and barrel causing this to happen.

  • Martin (M)

    Big Daddy, old metal is just old, not unreliable or weak. Gun barrels, in particular, get stronger with use (sans abuse). The vibrations from firing actually causes the crystalline structure to align and become even more resilient. Honestly, even thermal cycling a piece of metal makes it stronger (as if a 100 degree cycle would affect steel). Any factory firearm made in the 20th century should be just fine shooting a normal load in the absence of any obvious damage, such as corrosion, worn parts, or physical damage. Pre-20th century firearms should be handled with care due primarily to modern propellants.

    Of course, each gun should be considered on a case-by-case basis and all factors considered. Chiefly among them is their origin. War-time manufacture in places under duress increase the likelihood of having a weapon made with inferior materials.

    In this case, the unfortunate Colt in question was destroyed because of ignorance/stupidity, not because it was old. It appears to be in good condition and shouldn’t have failed using commercial ammunition.

  • Jerry

    This is an interesting thread and I must leave one more comment. Until recently the only gun I’ve had misfire was a black powder revolver.

    I have an EAA Bounty Hunter in 357 mag. I reload. When I reload I take care to follow the recipe so I don’t get a KaBoom. When I have accidentally put a “double charge” the case would overflow. ( I hate when that happens.) Anyway, at the range one day the EAA didn’t fire. I didn’t know why. The bullet didn’t even show the slight dimple of firming pin on the primer.

    When I got home and started examining the action I found out the cylinder wasn’t locking in place. Momentum would carry past battery. Cocking slowly didn’t always lock in battery either, I could rotate the cylinder to the next charge.

    I consider myself well cared for by God. Had the cylinder had a little more friction it may have stopped in just the right spot to produce a catastrophic failure.

    I have a 1970, Mark 7 1911. I reload mild loads for it. The rating on the recipe is between 600 and 700 FPS. It is a really sweet shooter, old metal and sweet.

  • Mark

    I’ve reloaded handgun cartridges for many years, one of the calibers being .45 Colt. Loaded correctly, cartridges for that piece should not have been a problem.

    I’d like to know the powder he used, and the nominal load weight in grains, as well as the weight of the bullet.

    The .45 Colt is a very old cartridge and, in its original low-pressure black powder form was used in early Colt and S&W revolvers. Modern smokeless loads must NOT be used in these older revolvers.

    Careful loads in a Colt New Service in good condition, no sweat.

    Large pistol cases like the .45 Colt are easier to double-load with fast powders like Unique (a favorite for such cartridges). Unfortunately, you run a very high risk in such cases of destroying your weapon. I make it a point to hand fill a case with what I absolutely know is the correct powder weight, and use it as the “gold standard” as I load. Every last case gets visually checked one at a time before I seat. Every one. In 30 years-plus, I have never overloaded a case. Or forgotten to load a case — which can also be extremely dangerous.

    One thing to note. I’ve read in the past about a danger inherent in UNDER-loading large cases with fast powders in an attempt to get down-loaded “practice” or sub-standard velocity rounds. In this case detonation can result.

    In a correctly loaded case, powder does not explode, it burns. Extremely rapidly of course, but it burns. The powder is still burning as the bullet proceeds down the barrel, increasing in velocity the whole way.

    When a powder charge inside a case detonates, the flame from the primer lights off the entire load all at once and the pressure soars almost instantaneously to a very high level. It’s thought this can happen with small charges in large cases since such a large proportion of the powder charge is exposed to the primer flame front. Something else to be aware of.

    IMHOP, that accident was not “old metal” but the result of a double charge (or more) of fast powder.

  • gyrfalcon

    Unfortunately a lot of people who reload have the “overclocking” mentality some computer users have… They keep wanting to push their luck until things burn out or blow up. Lee talks in great depth about how as little as a 1% powder increase can push a cartridge above safe pressure levels.

    Personally I don’t care to push my reloads. Who really cares about 100fps when you run the risk of killing yourself?

    On the computer side of things at-least you don’t get physically hurt.

  • Michael

    This is the result of at least two over looked elements of the 45 Long Colt. First is the fact that older models especially those not made by Ruger are not safe to put modern ammunition through. Reloading a round for an old Colt is not a good idea unless you make every effort to produce super low pressure loads. Second, is most likely the hand loader accidentally double charged this round. It happens all the time with the faster burning powders. I have loaded thousands of metallic cartridges with not one double charge that slipped by me. The only reason I caught the double charges over the years, was due to the slow burning powder wouldn’t allow a double charge without making a big mess due to the powder charge being greater than what would fit in the cartridge, thus it spills out of the case.
    fastnflat
    “When seconds count, the police are only a few minutes away!”

  • Michael

    One more comment on this. I’ve been loading with single stage presses for almost 3 decades and have never damaged a weapon or doubled charged a case. That doesn’t make me an expert, but rather cautious. After working in the gun and reloading industry and seeing one after another fine weapons destroyed, and people seriously injured by lack of consideration for the process of building a round. I’ve come to the conclusion that most accidents are the result of the hand loader focussing on economics rather than performance and safety. Using fast burning powders can save a few pennies on your product, but that savings comes with a great deal of responsibility to inspect each round carefully prior to seating the bullet. There have been times when I loaded with fast burning powders, not often, but when I did I would set a round up side down in the mouth after each charge was weighted and dropped. By doing this I not only eliminated the double charge probability, but I was forced to inspect each case when removing the up side down round when the seating step began. Fast burning powders are out there, use them, but take steps to absolutly eliminate a double charge! I’ll admit I’ve double charged when not using this method with slow burning powders, but it was the fact that a slow powder was in use and I unmistakably saw my error with over flowing cases. That accident was the cause of operator error, no doubt about it!
    “When seconds count, the police are only a few minutes away!”

  • Greg

    Look at the failure.

    This is obviously an over pressure issue- look at the BENT topstrap.

    As for metallurgy – Come on folks. If you have taken Metallurgy 101 , you will realize that steel doesnt ” degrade” with age, even if it has been in an attic.

    Obviously someone put too much powder in. I have seen similar in a large volume case- a .45 Colt. 6.2 grains Unique is ok. 12.4 grains is not a good idea.

    Regards

    GKT

  • Big Daddy

    I’m not necessarily talking about the barrel nor the frame. I am talking about the mechanism. If you read what the guy said and showed it looked more like it was OUT of battery. That could possibly due to the mechanism.

    Look at any exploded view of the mechanical parts to a revolver. A weak spring or other mechanism might have caused that condition.

    A 90 year old spring……

    http://outdoorebooks.com/ebay/coltNS/receiver.jpg

  • Big Daddy

    Metallurgy 101

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/v7pg36613l216jk2/

    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijc/2010/279540.html

    I think what those abstracts are saying that yes indeed steel degrades over time due to corrosion and constant temperature variations over time.

    Sorry but old metal is old metal. Corrosion as in pitting goes deeper then the eye can see and only through testing can it be determined if it degraded and how much. But it did in fact degrade over time if there is outside corrosion in the form of pitting which is what was possibly described by the owner of the gun.

  • Thomas

    No offense, but “screw Metallurgy 101”, I shall introduce you to “Test Chamber 101 Starting with REDUCED LOADS”.

    I’ve got some 17th century stuff I occasionally touch off for grins and I’ve been doing this sort of thing since the 70s.

    Bad charge, bad steel, metal fatigue, only the shooter knows, and TRUTHFULLY, they often won’t admit when it’s their fault OR DO NOT REALLY KNOW, depending on how avid they are.

    But, from the peanut gallery: If it’s collectible and you’re shooting it for grins, don’t go anywhere near high end loads as it’s pointless. If it’s not collectible and you’re working up loads, go SLOW and if in doubt on a new build or antique you want to fire regular level loads in, TEST CHAMBER IT.

    Many hands, and eyes have been saved by such prudence.

    Smith mate of mine was working on some of his famous “bear hunting revolvers” and got a bad batch of steel and the cylinder went grenade…in a test chamber…and he sorted out the metallurgical faults and made another one with the correct steel and same proper heat treat, and it first got fired in a TEST CHAMBER as well…

    A gun fired in a test chamber is worth more than two blown off hands and blindness…

    …just saying.

  • Emperor Fabulous

    “I think what those abstracts are saying that yes indeed steel degrades over time due to corrosion and constant temperature variations over time.”

    You really shouldn’t put forth articles as evidence of the correctness of your side when you don’t have the faintest idea what those articles are saying. The first one is about steam pipes, a very different situation (as in way more extreme) than a firearm sitting in an attic. The second one is trying to come up with a theoretical model for corrosion.

    The revolver that went ‘Kaboom’ was blued. Bluing wasn’t done just for looks, it was done as a corrosion inhibitor.

  • Greg

    BD

    Steel corrodes. Thats true

    There is no evidence of corrosion. Absent corrosion and REAL extremes o temperature, steel will last essentially forever.

    GKT

  • Michael

    Even if it jumped out of time it wouldn’t have lifted the top strap with such precise and centered elevation. I’ve personally seen heavy framed revolvers such as Ruger Super Black Hawks that were double charged and they looked exactly like that revolver. I’ve also seen revolvers that fired out of time and it didn’t completely diminish the revolver to scrap. Out of time does some damage, but it isn’t any where near the type or degree of damage of this one. This revolver is without a doubt or question an issue of excessive pressure, such as would be the result of a double charge. Additionally interesting iss the charge that was used. The suggested data doesn’t call for a charge of Unique that light for any of the recommended loads for the old service revolvers unless using a round ball. All other charges call for a minimum of 7.5 grains. Reducing a charge beyond safe levels, max. 10% or SAMMI recommendation is not a good practice.

  • Michael

    By the way, a double charge of Unique reaching some where over 12. grains even exceeds the maximum charge data for a new model 45 Long Colt, Ruger or Contender. If I owned an original like that one I would have just put it away and reaped benefit of a show piece rather than deplete its value by actually using it, or in this circumstance, destroying it beyond any value. What a shame. I remember a man I sold a top of the line Weatherby 7mm mag to that wanted to hand load for it. I sold him everything he needed to load and offered to teach him the entire process. His stinking pride kept him from accepting my humble offer and the next day he came in with this spectacular rifle totally destroyed along with numerous deep wounds from chunks of the reciever that went flying in every direction. His failure was not knowing how to adjust the resizing die and as a result the bullet wouldn’t stay in the mouth of the case. It just fell down inside of the case and he fired the round anyway! Ka Boom! He stated that the dies were defective until I showed him how to set them up and then he had to eat a big helping of crow.

  • Michael

    Hey there Big Daddy,
    You are absolutely correct! Metal does get old and fatigued and if pitting is present there is no telling how weak the metal actually is without modern testing being performed. The gun never really should have been fired to be honest. Its an old collector and should have been kept only as a collector piece. Enough said. I just get so upset when I see the result of poor and disrespectful hand loading practices that can be avoided with safe guards being implemented.

  • jdun1911

    Emperor Fabulous,

    To answer your reloading question.

    It might. You first need a precision scale that can weight the full cartridge.

    Unless it’s match bullet (+- .5 grain) the weight between can be +- 5 grains. You also have to deal with the different weight between the cases.

    Here is the 45 colt load data. From as low as 4gr up to 35gr depending on the powder.

    http://www.handloads.com/loaddata/default.asp?Caliber=45%20Colt&Weight=All&type=Handgun

    I think people should learn how to reload. It’s a good skill to have and it doesn’t take long to learn the trade.

    Lee basic reloading kit was the first I used. It’s inexpensive and does everything. Not the fastest but it work very well and I still use it from time to time.

    Lee have a 50th Anniversary Kit that contain everything you need to start reloading. Lee kit use to come with a large hard back book for step to step instruction on reloading and a large reloading data. It looks like not the case anymore.

    http://www.leeprecision.com/html/catalog/rlpress2.html

  • And folks wonder why I always load “light”…. and won’t use another person’s reloads, unless I have known them for several years and trust them or watch when they reload. Too many bulged cases and stuck cases from other folks stuff taught me early on….. super hot loads to “push the limit” ain’t worth the risk to either your body or the gun.

    To give folks an example of how I light I load our fun/play loads, my wife was shooting some of my 9mm reloads in her new XD-9, and a bunch would not eject properly….. the problem… I needed to add 0.2 grain more powder… they now work great, good accuracy and delightful to shoot. Heck, we even use medium loads for hunting elk and deer, afterall, the animals aren’t wearing Kevlar vests.

  • Michael

    Having been in the retail gun industry and a hand loader for many years has left me with an absolute refusal to ever, ever, shoot someone else’s hand loads! Unfortunately most hand loaders don’t do it the right way. They ignore steps thought to be unnecessary or too time consuming, and usually they focus most of their intent for hand loading on economics. When the primary reason for hand loading is based on economics, it is likely going to end with a bang and someone, or their gun getting damaged. I’m as careful as it gets and made a mistake 2 days ago while loading some .357. Fortunately I have safe guards in place that won’t let mistakes go unnoticed.
    “When seconds count, the police are only a few minutes away!”

  • Some things will make a man cry.

  • Michael

    In response to Doc Clary,
    I wouldn’t say I load hot, but I always load the slower, or even slowest burning powders listed for each cartridge. In doing so I accomplish four elements of hand loading. One is I’m reaching good velocities, achieving consistent pressures well within the SAMMI recommendations, and accuracy is certain to be at its near best and often listed in the data as most accurate load, and last but not least, it is physically impossible to accidentally double charge a case. On the other hand, I realize my firearm is getting a working over with these type loads because of the high velocities they will produce even at the lower end of the load spectrum, and I don’t get a whole lot of life out of my brass either. But over 2 decades of this type of hand loading has never caused me a problem or as yet burned a barrel or indicated any excessive wear?
    “When seconds count, the police are only a few minutes away!”