Monday, November 26, 2012

Reloading follies

Yesterday I took some .40 reloads out to the range, working up a new load. Now normally I'm very regimented and compartmentalized in my reloading process, doing everything in batches, one step at a time. When using the single-stage press, I process all of my brass, and then I sit down at the reloading bench and put primed brass into the loading block, charge each one with powder, inspect the entire tray to make sure that each cartridge has powder, then start seating bullets. No other loading blocks with un-charged cases are allowed anywhere near the press when I'm seating bullets.

Well yesterday, I screwed up. Somehow, fifteen test loads got assembled without a powder charge, meaning that I inadvertently skipped the charging step AND failed to inspect the block before moving over to the press. So it was a double screw up.

Well I went out to the range and started test-firing. The first two magazines or cartridges at powder charge "A" and "B" fired just fine. The third--batch "C"--the ones with no powder...well let's just say that it got kinda quiet out there on the range.

Quiet except for some curse words, that is. The primer alone exerts just enough force to drive the bullet into the barrel just firmly enough so that a dowel and a hammer is required to knock it back out. First round bad off of a batch meant that that batch got quarantined and autopsied. Sure enough, the remaining fourteen were powderless.

As we used to say in martial arts: "Owah-tana-siam". (Say it to yourself fast if you don't get it.)

In all my years of reloading, this is the first time that I've ever messed up like this. It'll be the last time, too. But it just goes to show that you've got to pay attention when doing this stuff, as even a moment's carelessness or distraction can bring about a major catastrophe. In this case, I got off light with some no-charge rounds. But many others over the years have double-charged rounds and put in twice the powder by mistake, and a lot of them wound up going to the hospital and then to the gun store to replace the pistol that they'd just destroyed.

I related this today because there are at least three people that I know who read this blog that are novice reloaders. Moral of the story is that even up old-timers can mess up if we don't pay attention, so you newbies to reloading damned sure can.
This can be avoided for the most part though by getting a routine down where you do everything the same way every time, and have several points in the process where you check your work before continuing. I could have caught this screw-up on the loading bench and should have, but I was rushing and didn't follow my own routine. It can happen you you too if you reload, but now after your having read this, it shouldn't, should it?

Go forth now, and make ammunition free of the ammo companies, government interference and the scarcities brought about by panic-buys and hoarders. Just make it good and make it safe.


  1. "It'll be the last time, too."

    You do realize you have just brought every reloading god, gremlin and trixter down upon your head . . . . right?? :)

    Pokin' the bear sir, pokin' the bear . . . .


  2. Glad it was a "harmless" mistake. Be safe!!

  3. I have been reloding since 1971 and in the 1980s/90s used to load .38spl wad cutters a 1000 at a time once loaded a box of 50wc with no powder try that in a S&W K38 MODEL 14 the primer pushes the bullet just far enough for it to lock the cylinder and prevent it turning or opening a mistake you only make once.

  4. A good reminder for us all ML. Thanks!

  5. You made a mistake reloading?

    I refuse to believe was gremlins or something.

  6. Yep, glad it went THAT way instead of the OTHER way... Did you figure out how it happened???

  7. Get a progressive press. Even just a simi-progressive like a Lee Turent press.

    Makes screwing up harder (not impossible just harder.)

    I've got FOUR presses.

  8. Glad your mistake wasn't more serious. As a cautionary tale, I made a similar mistake while loading 12 gauge slugs a couple of years back. Unhappily, I mistook the subsequent squib for a misfire and shot another 12 gauge slug behind the stuck one. I was lucky it was only a $1000 mistake ($300 for the blown-up shotgun and $700 for the ER visit, x-rays and minor surgery - luckily no permanent damage to my left hand)

    The laws of physics don't care who you are or how many years you've been doing it. If you put the gun in a particular state and pull the trigger, the same thing will happen regardless if it's a novice or an expert pulling the trigger or the reloading press handle.