Hunting rifle goes Ka-Boom after 50 000+ rounds

    During a discussion about “when’s the right time to change my barrel” on a rifle these pictures surfaced, along with some wisdom of dos and don’ts.

    The rifle pictured is a Winchester M70 in .308 Winchester. Now don’t be alarmed if you have this rifle.

    Most likely this rifle has seen somewhere in between of 50 000 and 80 000 bangs without any serious issues like this, and anything has its limits of wear and tear.

    I understand the rifle was used by a Shooting & Hunting club as a loaner, and changing the barrel was probably never a subject brought up as the maximum distance it shot was most likely in the region of 80 meters (87 yards).

    There’s probably no reason to challenge the accuracy at that distance, especially as it was used at moving targets as well (shooter’s test to get a hunter’s permit, elk/moose hunting).

    Similar ka-booms have happened with two CG2000 (Carl Gustaf 2000) that had over 30 000 rounds.

    The Word of Wisdom is not to shoot over 15 000 rounds in your “Class 1 caliber” (major) hunting rifle.

    Below: By the looks of it the cartridge is fine and not to blame – at least from this side! The primer is still intact and not blown out, indicating no over pressure.

    Below: This looks terrible, but luckily happens rarely. This rifle had seen extreme usage and simply reached the point of no return. Perhaps a small crack in the rifling, that just grew and grew until the inevitable.

    To avoid it make sure you keep some track of how much you shoot, especially if the rifle is used by many shooters as a loner. This barrel had probably seen in the region of 50 – 80 000 rounds through it, that’s extreme.

    If you’re only hunting a few times per year, no need to worry if you’re using loads within recommendations. You’re barrel is only going to see a few seconds of real barrel life in its life-time then.

    I was going to change my barrel on my competition AR15 which I thought had seen somewhere between 10 – 15 000 rounds (guesstimated) when a friend gave me some hand loaded 73 Berger match bullets, which instantly changed the rifle to a 3 MOA to a sub-MOA shooter.

    Personally I try to budget the cost of a new barrel with the riflers I shoot a lot, add a little percentage of the cost per round you shoot.

    If the Hunting Club had considered the barrel like a consumable they would probably kept track of how far this rifle had “traveled”, and the accident would never had happened. I hope they learnt something and now keep better track of the usage.

    What is your experience? Have you seen a barrel in a major caliber go beyond 50 – 80 000 rounds?

    All pictures by Hakan Spuhr, used by permission.


    Another example of what you shouldn’t do is to shoot 22 squibs into your PCC rifle.

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics, thermals and suppressors. TCCC Certified. Occasionaly seen in a 6×6 Bug Out Vehicle, always with a big smile.