Strange Case Failure

Has anyone see case failures where the entire case was significantly elongated? (UPDATE: Commenters have pointed out that these are normal-sized cartridges jammed into separated case heads that remained in the front of the chamber when the new round was being chambered) I reviewed the above photo in an email yesterday. Tom wrote …

This photo is of some A-MERC 5.56 rounds that went through my Mini-14 yesterday. On two occasions, the round fired and the case completely separated. When the bolt cycled, it extracted the base of the case while the front stayed in the chamber. When the bolt shoved the next round into the chamber, obviously it did not go into battery. The shooter cycled it by hand which resulted in the extraction of the weird looking long rounds. It wasn’t until it happened a second time that we looked at the extracted round and decided something was not going right. We found several cases like the one on the right that had split but not completely separated. Some splits were circumferential like those shown, but there were several with longitudinal splits.

When I got home, I did a search for A-MERC and found numerous complaints, dating back to 2006. Nearly all were about the quality of the brass, including primer pockets out of alignment, splitting of the case mouth when reloaders inserted bullets, splitting of the pockets when primers were inserted, and so on. Complaints weren’t limited to 5.56, but included other calibers as well.

To be fair, I don’t remember where or when I got this stuff. A-MERC may have cleaned up their act, but to be safe, I’m going to have a little cull session before my next range trip.

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.


  • jaime

    I’ve had case web blowout with pistol brass from amerc in both 45 and 9mm reloads. I avoid using these for reloading ammo.

  • Pete

    Bullsh*t. Complete and total bullsh*t. That’s all…

    • mikee

      Laserbait – I totally concur with your observations. This kind of case head separation also occurs with straight walled wildcat cases. I have had 6.5/257 Ackley Improved and 6XC cases separate in bolt action rifles this way. All the cases have had 20 or more reloads and the indicators were a bright white ring in the mid section of the brass case. All brass with such indicators should be discarded as they have gone past their use-by date.

  • Laserbait

    Not BS at all. It’s called case head separation. Seen that happen many times, had it happen to me 2 times in my AR.

    Brass when reloaded too many times becomes weak just above the case web from the brass flowing. You can actually see a ring form around the outside of the case. It’s even more pronounced on the inside. Cartridges that are loaded hotter will have this problem faster.

    In a bolt action, it’s not so bad, because you’ll see the problem immediately, & be able to clear the chamber before stuffing a new cartridge in the chamber.

  • Jason

    Yes, I’ve seen case heads ripped off, and following rounds jammed inside the ring of brass left in the chamber on a number of occasions, usually with brass that had been reloaded once too often. This story speaks well for the Mini-14. Whenever I’ve seen this jam in an AR-15, it could not be cleared simply by cycling the weapon. The round would get well and truly wedged, requiring disassembly and a pliers or other tool to remove it.

  • HCS

    The cases aren’t elongated. its just that they are broken in half and a fresh round was jammed into the top half of the case. I’d imagine its pretty exciting getting a failure of that sort. Wouldn’t some gases escape and make for some backsplash?

    • Flounder

      That seems like the most likely situation. If you look at the extra long cases you can see a line going across them about halfway up the case. So good call man.

  • HCS is correct, its just a fresh case shoved into the chamber behind the first one with the case head separation like Laserbait said.

    Normally it is cause by brass that has been reloaded just one to many times. I had one happen to me with a 243 when I was in High School. I ended up throwing away all the brass I had with the same head stamp.

    At this point I would be questioning the brass acquisition of said ammo company.

  • Nathaniel

    HCS is correct. It is curious that the user did not notice this right away. Pay more attention next time, I suppose.

    • Tom

      The “Tap, Rack, Bang” drill does not include immediately checking the ejected round to see why the malfunction occurred, so it was not obvious to us what was going on.

  • z

    I work corrections where we use minis. It happened on one rifle since minis are chambered for 223 and someone put 5.56 through it

    • Nadnerbus

      Minis should be chambered to shoot both .223 and 5.56 spec ammo. They designed it specifically to be compatible with both assuming standard commercial and military specifications.

      • Nadnerbus

        Though to add, that might not be the case with the ones issued to law enforcement agencies.

  • Mike Knox

    Well, at least the brass got pulled out. Usually you need casting alloy and some barrel tools to take those out..

    • 9 times out of 10 a chamber brush will pull them. Barring that, a broken case extractor is easier to use.

  • Roger

    I’ve had experience trying to reload Amerc cases in .45acp. Not going through the dies well, primer pockets misaligned. I now discard any Amerc cases I find in range pickup brass.

  • TCD

    This type of case failure is most often associated with a rifle that is out of the headspace specification! The situation is easily tested by removing the ejector from the bolt and then using the correct No-Go gauge. The bolt should not close completely on the No-Go gauge!

    The problem is exacerbated by shooting hot loads in the rifle and/or shooting 5.56×45 in a 223 Rem chamber where you have substantially higher pressures.

    I believe that Ruger does say that Mini-14s can safely shoot 223 and 5.56 rounds but does not address the wide range of 5.56 loads from very mild to very hot…

    Case head separation is usually right at the base of the case and is caused when the brass is work-hardened by multiple full length resizing without annealing the brass. Case head separation is usually preceded by cracks right at the base where the resizing “donut” can be seen as a shiny ring.

    Happy Safe Shooting!

  • jon

    it is hard to tell in this picture, a close up of the break in the brass would be great, but it appears to be “Season Cracking” which is a result of poor or absent case annealing at the time of manufacture…

    its good to know before i bother buying any that Amerc cases have such Quality Control issues.

  • Zermoid

    I’ve had a few 30 M1 carbine rounds separate like that after multiple re-loads, mostly attributed it to overuse and work hardening of the brass combined with their tapered case being blown out while firing and then being forced back to slightly undersize in reloading. usually requires a cleaning rod to knock the front section out of the chamber though for me.

    Never have I seen anything like that in new ammo, I assume it was new ammo?

  • Al T.

    This is not a new issue with Amerc. Very poor performance and QC issues came up about ten or twelve years back.

  • I bought one box of Amerc .30 Carbine; lousy accuracy, and of a box of 50 eight cases split on firing. After that, never bought any more of their ammo.

  • Lance

    Someone wasnt being careful while reloading….

  • Tweak

    If the headspace is in spec and those are reloads then I’ll bet that they used M249 brass. The headspace dimension on M249 is significantly longer than that used on the M16 and full length resizing doesn’t make the walls thicker.

  • Beaumont

    I shot quite a bit of A-Merc in .45ACP. It functioned well, but I did not reload the cases. In .32ACP, I found numerous rounds not properly taper-crimped, allowing the bullet to slide back into the case. And of course, complaints abound about the brand.

    The company filed Chapter 11 in 2008 & I believe they may be out of business by now. I plan to sell the A-Merc brass I have for scrap, since I could not in good conscience allow it to go to an unsuspecting reloader.

  • Joe

    Had this exact thing happen twice with my mini-14 and factory reloads. Interesting failure.

  • EthanP

    I’ve had similar case problems twice, both with hand-loads.
    1) 7×57 in a circa 1900 Remington rolling block. I suspect that the chamber was long and wouldn’t meet SAAMI specs. The cases failed 60% of them on the second time around.
    2) .303 British from a WW2 (1943 date) No 1/3.
    Ammo was Norma reloads on the first reload. I never had first time failure with any other brass.
    Including Norma 6.5Jap and 6.5Italian.

    The first was an obvious cause. The second I never figured out.

  • Mike Knox

    I’m wondering why a broken case seems strange. Used to happen a lot of times with the M16 when the DoD mishandled it..

  • Mike

    Not a new issue at all. A-Merc brass is notorious in the reloading community. Awful, awful stuff. I sot it out and use a pair of pliers to crush any I find just to keep it from accidentally winding up back in my press.

    • BillCa

      Some years ago we found a bunch of this stuff at a range clean-up. The brass was so embarrassingly bad that we sorted it out into a bucket and took it to a metal recycling center just to prevent anyone from using it again.

  • mick

    1.) I had the same thing happen in 1969 when training as a 45B10, I test fired a M1919 that had a worn barrel ratchet clip. The barrel rotated out when the 10 round test belt was fired and the last round fired with a case seperation like that and the dummy round went in and removed the front end of the seperated case from the chamber. Cause excessive headspace. 2.) Fired reloaded cases in a MKIII Lee Enfield that would fire new cases without problems but allowed the case to streached enough to have a ring around the case where it would seperate when reloaded and fires sometime in the future. Headspace was within allowances but near the long side.

    And yes the rounds looked as in the picture.