1895 Winchester-Lee Ka-Boom

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Forgotten Weapons has the story on an 1895 Winchester-Lee rifle that exploded three days ago. The rifle was firing ammunition made from modified .30-40 Krag brass at the time of incident. Fortunately, the owner was only mildly injured.

Ian of FW speculates that the .30-40 brass commonly used to create 6mm Lee Navy ammunition might not be strong enough after modification to accept load data for that caliber. I’m of mixed opinion. On the one hand, the original .30-40 Army did have a thinner case web, which could lead to problems when firing ammunition based around the original 6mm performance specification. On the gripping hand, it seems unlikely to me that modern .30-40 Army brass would be so weak as to invite those sorts of problems.

I don’t think it’s early enough to conclude that bad metallurgy is the culprit, but it is important to remember that metallurgy and safety standards both have come a long way since the late 19th century. Of course, modern ammunition – even modern handloads – are also much better, so any handloader following the book when loading for an old rifle should, in theory, be alright.

Pictures of the kB can be found in this imgur album.

Stay safe, everyone.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Peadair

    Just being picky. If you are going to use gripping hand, you need to have three options. On one hand, on the other hand, and on the gripping hand.

    • mosinman

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who got that!

    • The other had was busy holding my hot cocoa at the time.

      • Peadair

        Being a Motie makes reloading a breeze.

        • Y-man

          Yes! I know that reference!

  • MP

    Nice job not linking the real source: http://www.reddit.com/r/guns/comments/2l3oha/my_rifle_went_kaboom_on_me_today_today_has_not/

    edit: or maybe the dude spammed every forum with his story.

    • More likely they took it from the real source Ian.

      • Ian McCollum

        The shooter posted his account on both Reddit and the CMP forums.

    • J.T.

      Ya. Reddit is the real source. Redditors use Imgur to host their albums. If there is something on Imgur, there is probably about a 80-90% chance that it was for a post on Reddit.

  • ryobiwankenobi

    6mm Lee can be much more easily made from 220 Swift cartridges, except for the whole turning down the rims on a lathe part

  • idahoguy101

    Isn’t the 6mm Lee Navy the parent case for the 220 Swift? If so why recreate the cartridge use 30-40 Krag brass?

    • I am not sure. .220 Swift seems the obvious choice to me, yes.

  • Zebra Dun

    Some old rifles are better as wall hangars than as shooters.