S&W M&P15T Epic KABOOM

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An ARFCOM readers S&W M&P15T suffered an incredible catastrophic failure, probably the worst I have seen.

NVCapCop reports

My S&W M&P15T was destroyed today with an epic Kaboom (catastrophic failure).

I did not suffer any major physical injuries – received a welt on my left bicep (MagPul AFG hold) that looks like a bad bug bite or bee sting from shrapnel impacting my skin. A tiny little cut on the left forearm as well as lots of tiny red dots on inner side of elbow. The injuries felt kind of like a rug burn a few hours after the event.

Cartridge #45 out of the first 50 round box. USAammo 223 55 gr FMJ Lot #2906113.

The ammo was recently purchased USAammo, remanufactured on once fired LC brass. As you can see from the pics, the usual parts suffered catastrophic damage. The Troy quadrail seems to have helped keep the upper receiver from completely coming apart.

The destruction: Both sides of S&W factory upper assembly, the dustcover, both front corners of the magwell, hairline fractures directly under the left and right sides of the picatinny rail, cracked barrel extension in the middle of the feedramp, factory lower bulged on the bolt catch side. The PSA MPI bolt, the Failzero bolt carrier, and the PMag were completely damaged also.

Possible damage: BCM vltor gunfighter CH, RRA 2 stage trigger/hammer, pivot pins.

Update 7/26/11: Spoke to the CEO this a.m. He is eager to investigate the ammo lots so KBs don’t happen to other purchasers. He admitted that some of his ammo has been overpressured due to “Western” powder supplier using powders with faster burn rates. The overpressure would also explain why my buddy had so many stuck cases of .308 175 gr. match ammo in his ArmaLite AR-10.

[ Many thanks to Nathan 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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  • Rodger Young

    Meh, I’ve seen one where the barrel separated from the upper. ;-)

  • Nadnerbus

    Yet another reason to stay away from reloads.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a KaBoom that didn’t involve reloads, or at least have the possibility of involving them.

    I’m sure reloads are good for many people, but for a casual shooter like myself, I will just not take the chance. I know there is nothing guaranteeing it doesn’t ever happen with factory ammo either, but it sure seems less common.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Nadnerbus, this was not a reload. It was reused brass, which is common.

  • jdun1911

    That was a lot of money that went with the KB!. Lots of expensive parts went by-by. Still, it’s much cheaper than a hospital bill.

  • Jason

    It’s really not fair to put the name of the gun manufacturer in the headline along with the word “KABOOM”, while burying the name of the ammo manufacturer a couple of paragraphs down. Someone skimming past quick could easily get the wrong idea. If the ammo was defective – and apparently they’re admitting it was – then there’s not a whole lot the gun maker could do, and it’s akin to a headline reading “Horrific Wreck!” over an article about an accident caused by drunk driving. It’s the idiot behind the wheel or the cartridge in the chamber, not the make of the vehicle or the gun.

  • burntkat

    please explain now ‘reused brass’ is not a reload???

  • http://jackbootedliberal.com Joshua

    This may be a stupid question, but if the company knew the rounds were overpressure WHY THE FUCK DID THEY SHIP THEM?!?!?! Seems like gross negligence to me. What am I missing here?

  • Jesse

    They are reloads they are just factory reloads. If I’m understanding correctly.

  • Ben

    Bub-bye PMAG lol

  • http://www.borntoventure.com Brad

    So USAammo’s CEO has admitted they know their ammo may be bad due to the wrong powder charge being used? It sounds to me like USAammo owes you a new firearm and the word needs to get out for people to stop buying from them. I have several hundred rounds of .308 and .45ACP that I now consider questionable due to their chief’s statement.

  • Freiheit

    “Nadnerbus, this was not a reload. It was reused brass, which is common.”

    How is that not the same thing?

  • Freiheit

    “He admitted that some of his ammo has been overpressured due to “Western” powder supplier using powders with faster burn rates. ”

    So where was the big email blast to all the gun rags and blogs about these bad batches of ammo?

  • Jeff

    Ouch, thats 1000$+ down the drain, especially with the failzero carrier
    I was also beginning to like USAammo too. Hopefully they get their kinks worked out.

  • David

    So who pays for a new rifle? Shooter?

  • Sid

    Can’t put a number or even questimate on the number of military ball rounds I have seen fired in ARs. I enlisted in 1986 during the last days of the M16A1. I was in the first US Army Basic Training company to qualify with the M16A2. I have been around the M4 since re-enlisting in 2006.

    Never, ever experienced an overpressure event with military grade ammo. All of that “pop-and-no-kick” training has been wasted. And, admittedly, I have seen some weapons stressed to the point that only God knows why we did not see a malfunction.

    I am not questioning the validity of reloading (or reusing brass). But I ask the field of commenters here. Is this a concern for semi-autos or is there less risk in reloading when using bolt-action weapons?

  • Andrew

    Almost sounds like USAammo knew there was a problem….

  • Mark

    Yikes. What, in this context, is a ‘western’ powder supplier?

  • Chuck Haggard

    This looks almost EXACTLY like a co-worker/friend’s AR after it went high order due to a HSM .223 reload during a carbine class down in Tulsa.

    I’ve seen several of these over the past few years. This is why I won’t shoot ANYBODY’S .223 reloads in my guns.

  • Bo

    That’s why I like to roll my own.

  • DukeNukedEm

    What is the difference between reused brass and reloaded brass?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Ok, good point about being “factory reloads”. But is once used brass ever the problem? If the cases had been new the problem would have been the same.

  • Legion

    Ammunition manufactured by reloading once fired brass? Hmmmm, sure sounds like a reload to me. Add in a manufacturer who has apparently switched powders WITHOUT re-evaluating the load specs and you get criminal negligence. Rather than “evaluating” customers firearms that he’s destroyed, how about he gets the research done so that his reloads produce the proper pressure & velocity. Wait, that costs more than just cranking it out nonstop & letting the customers be the lab rats? Lets do the cheaper one!

  • Lance

    Yeow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Steve whats with destroyed firearms and posting them man that’s a dusy.

  • Tinkerer

    So, an AR-15 kabooms. There’s a shocker.

    I google “AR-15 catastrophic failure” and a whole bunch of destroyed aluminum receiveres appear.

    I google “Steyr AUG catastrophic failure” and all I get is one MSAR clone with some broken lugs on it’s bolt, and still managed to fire some rounds inbetween FTFs and FTEs. Once the bolt was replaced it continued working just right. Take that for the fear of bullpup rifles and kabooms.

  • Just Saying

    “He admitted that some of his ammo has been overpressured due to “Western” powder supplier using powders with faster burn rates.”

    They don’t test each batch upon delivery? And if a particular supplier wasn’t delivering consistent propellant, I can’t see why an ammo manufacturer would keep buying from them. For me, one time in delivering something out of spec would be enough to never use them again (as the supplier should be testing their product before they ship).

  • Jeff

    “He admitted that some of his ammo has been overpressured due to “Western” powder supplier using powders with faster burn rates.”

    Why was the ammo not recalled then????

  • don dallas

    Wow, this is one of the reasons I don’t use factory loads, except with rimfires.
    While factory loads are good for some, I don’t always trust products from factory producers, for instance, I shot some aguila rimfire ammo recently out of my 22 and I questioned its safety, as it seemed to be over pressure and the powder appeared to be corrosive. I don’t want to take any chances with my life. So reloads it is for me.

  • don dallas

    As a side note, Nadnerbus, I similarly believe that some should not attempt reloading, as I feel some are compelled to do stupid processes, hence all the blown up guns. But if you use good equipment and follow safe procedure, reloading is perfectly safe with many added benefits over factory stuff.

  • TwoZero

    “Nadnerbus, this was not a reload. It was reused brass, which is common.”

    So the brass was fired once and then “reloaded”…

    Sounds like a reload to me – just because it was done on a commercial basis doesn’t change the fact that this was once fired brass that was reloaded.

  • howlingcoyote

    Used brass is still used brass. One does not know how many times it has been reloaded to the point that is no good.
    Federal, Winchester, Remington all make 223 Rem. in 55 or 62 gr. loads, and all new brass cases.

  • NikonMikon

    I’m sorry but I will NEVER buy USA Ammo, this is the SECOND KB I’ve heard of regarding that ammunition. The last time I heard about it was back in 2006 or 2005. Looks like not much has changed…

  • http://www.alfredivy.per.sg/blogger AL

    From the parts list the upper and related parts is a write off. Since only the lower is a registered part, is it still possible or safe to reuse it? Build another?

    Sounds like material for a new post on TFB.

  • Peter Ball

    Manufacturer better pay for a new rifle or we’re boycotting them!

  • Cymond

    This is bad, but doesn’t seem as bad as http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2011/04/13/big-ar-15-kaboom/ which completely shredded the upper. It’s still awful, but I’m actually impressed by most kabooms. It’s danged impressive that they aren’t a whole lot worse considering the pressures involved.

    I’m not set up for reloading and know nothing about the subject. However, how can brass be reused if it isn’t reloaded? “remanufactured on once fired LC brass” seems to imply that it was fired, picked up, and professionally “remanufactured” into a new round by reloading it with a new primer, powder, and bullet. True, these professional reloaders are supposed to be using similar setups as first-time loads. Therefore, the resulting product shouldn’t be any different than new (except for the brass). Really though, any ammo is risky. Federal has recently recalled several lots spanning multiple calibers.

  • jdun1911

    Sid,

    Like Lance posted on another topic, “No gun is safe from bad ammo”. Bad ammo from factory or reloads will cause KB! I’m surprised tho that you haven’t seen KB! or experience KB! in your long experience. You are a very lucky person.

    It is not if but when KB! happen. The higher the rounds count, the higher chance there will be a KB!. When I said higher rounds count I mean total rounds on all caliber and firearms. It statistic that sooner or later you will have a KB! due to whatever reasons.

    Another poster from Arfcom pointed out KB! is not uncommon. Yes I have few KB! under my belt.

    Tinkerer,

    You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    No gun is safe from KB!. The reason you see more AR15 KB! is
    1. It is the number one rifle in the USA. Has been for the last 30 years. Sooner or later if you’re firearm hobbies you will own one.
    2. Lots of people shooting AR15 that means higher chance of going KB!. That statistic.
    3. Afrcom is one of the largest if not the largest firearms board. Anything that is related to AR15 will be posted. That means lots of KB! to see.

    I have a large collection of pictures of KB!. I have seen many serious injuries due to KB! like a kid losing one of his finger from firing his dad bolt action rifle at the range.

  • Clayton

    Tinkereron 28 Jul 2011 at 8:29 am

    “So, an AR-15 kabooms. There’s a shocker.

    I google “AR-15 catastrophic failure” and a whole bunch of destroyed aluminum receiveres appear.

    I google “Steyr AUG catastrophic failure” and all I get is one MSAR clone with some broken lugs on it’s bolt, and still managed to fire some rounds inbetween FTFs and FTEs. Once the bolt was replaced it continued working just right. Take that for the fear of bullpup rifles and kabooms. ”

    What are the ownership numbers of AR-15′s vs Steyr AUG ?

    I know the AR-15 is an extremly popular rifle, and a newer shooter would probably be more inclined to purchase one over a Steyr AUG. Bottom line, what the ratio of owned AR-15′s to Steyr AUGs? ( I don’t know ). I would think that the greater ownership of AR-15′s would lead to more known issues.

    Like I said that is just a theory, I own neither and know nothing of what the numbers are comparatively for ownership. Just a thought!

  • Chuck Haggard

    “Once used brass” often is a problem.

    Much of the available once fired 5.56 brass has been run through SAWs, which causes the brass to stretch more than it would when run through a rifle.

    Much of this brass has been stepped on, subjected to moisture, left on ranges for God knows how long before ending up at the reloader, sorry, factory.

    Then, since all of these outfits buy brass from PDs all over the country, you have no idea how many times the brass has been reloaded.

    Then, much of the QC that a good home reloader would give is impossible for a factory to pull off as they have no idea what the brass they get has been through before they get it, and volume makes it impossible for them to sort brass, etc.

    I don’t shoot reman .223 anymore, I’ve seen too many guns blown up.

  • Pop N Fresh

    Tinkerer, that hardly seems like a fair argument. The sheer number of ar’s being fired in both the military and civilian circles vs the handful of aug’s and msar’s completely destroys your point. It’s a statistical drop of water in the ocean.

  • Bubba1

    Was it resting near a Glock?

    I wonder if USAammo in a Glock is a double Kaboom?

  • Lance

    There arnt that many AUG owners out there there over priced and yes they can blow up too but not too many people own them so you hear far less about AUGs going KB.

  • jdun1911

    AL,

    No, from what I read the lower shouldn’t be used again.

    Chuck Haggard,

    There is a point where the brass (rifle caliber) will not stretch anymore. In my experience it is around the 3 reload.

    As far as I know Police Department do not reload.

    Cymond,

    Brass cost a lot of money. You should save your brass. If nothing else you can get good money for them or even trade it for a good gun. Never give it to the range.

    Once fire brass mean just that. It only fire once. You can reload as many time as long as there is no internal damage inside the brass.

  • Chuck Haggard

    I’m well aware of what once fired bras is, and that the remanufacturers have no way to guarantee that the brass they use is actually only once fired.

    I was the rangemaster for my department for several years, and I have been involved in police firearms instruction for over 24 years, I have a pretty good idea what goes on in police firearms training programs.

    Years ago we used to sell/trade our brass to HSM for reloaded .223 ammo, until we had several rifles go high order. That’s when I really started to think about what is involved in such endevours.

    If HSM, as one example but most of the reman ammo makers do business the same way, was picking up brass from us, and everybody else they could get brass from, and then reloading that brass, brass that had already been reloaded and shot, hence why it was laying around our range, then the next time we buy ammo from them, how many times has the brass been used?

    The answer is no one knows, and no one has any way of knowing.

  • Tinkerer

    To everybody saying “too many ARs, too little AUGs, not a statistically sound comparison”:

    Remember, Google searches all over the world, not just in the US of A. Make a google search and you’ll find the AR-15 kb! all around the world, and the AUG kb! in the same planet. And there are quite some AUGs being used here, in the rest of the world.

    To jdun1911: “no gun is safe from kB!”.

    True, but not all guns take kB! the same way. Look at the pics from the blown M&M15T, and you’ll see that it exploded from inside it’s bolt assembly. That’s because of it’s inherent design flaw: pumping hot, high-pressure combustion gasses right into the bolt carrier -which simply cannot take the overpressure we saw-. In any piston-operated gun -including the AUG-, the overpressure never goes inside the bolt carrier. Think about it. In the only documented kb! I found with a simple search -with not even a Steyr AUG, but with a MSAR-, the overpressure tore some lugs from the bolt -and it takes a whole lot of power to do so-, but even so, the bolt held locked and didn’t explode.

  • Tinkerer

    @Lance

    “overpriced AUGs”

    There’s a common misconception. The price is set by the demand. If there are few rifles, and people want them, the price will go up. And people might want them -willing to pay high prices, and so pump up their prices- because they’re cool rifles, or simply because they actually ARE great rifles.

    The same thing happens with SIGs: they’re quite expensive in the US, but that’s not because the factory makes them expensive: it’s because there are few SIGs, and people want them badly -most likely, because they are actually GOOD-.

    If the SIG or the AUG were bad guns, people wouldn’t want them -no matter how rare they were-, and their prices would plummet. But we don’t see that: we see rifles that keep their values, and even gain some. There’s a reason to that: people want them, because they’re actually GOOD.