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A Big Fear of Mine

I’ve recently gotten into progressive reloading, and have several thousand rounds under my belt at the point. Enough to worry about this as a real possibility. While there are things I can get for my Hornady LnL press to boost the level of automation, a certain reduction in speed and some amount of manual steps forces me to pay more attention to what I’m doing, and offers more opportunity to catch something.

When reloading .223, I had powder stick in the mechanism and dump a light charge into one case, and then overflow the next case. Fortunately, with the powder I’m using, the charge pretty much fills the case, and all it made was a mess. But if that happened in a pistol round? Good chance I wouldn’t notice. I have Hornady’s Powder Cop, but there’s enough variation in how powder lays it would be hard to catch an overcharge. It’s useful, but not a precise instrument. It’s best, I think, for catching no-charges, which is also potentially fatal to your firearm if you plant the squib bullet in the barrel and follow up with another cartridge.

I also worry about this as a match director now. It’s not only my loads, I have to worry about the loads of the guy I’m standing behind. Shoot enough, and be around guns enough, and the law of averages will catch up with you at some point.

18 Responses to “A Big Fear of Mine”

  1. Mike Q says:

    This is a large part of why I stopped loading for the normal cartridges that I shoot a lot of. With the drop in ammo prices, it just isn’t worth the risk of damage to a very expensive pistol if I make a single error. I still have the loading setup for exotic and magnum cartridges where the savings are much greater. If I ever get a bug to get into real precision shooting I’ll probably reload for that. But those cartridges would carefully be weighted and loaded one at a time and I don’t see a double charge as a realistic possibility.

    • countertop says:

      Exactly!

      Basically, the only thing I load for these days are rifle rounds and high pressure 45LC loads for my Ruger Blackhawk.

    • aerodawg says:

      Yep. I started loading in college cuz it was cheaper when I was broke and had free time. Now I have a lot more money than time so unless it’s an exceptionally expensive or rare round I don’t bother.

      Even in college I was paranoid enough to try and pick bulky loads that a double charge would overflow, even mostly loading on a single stage press.

  2. CRAIG OZER says:

    I accidentally double charged a .45ACP in my Dillon Square Deal after loading many thousand rounds of multiple calibers over the years. Blew up my Glock 21! Plastic flew…chamber expanded into the slide rendering the gun into a paper weight.
    Fortunately no injury.

  3. Ian Argent says:

    This is why I’ve never considered reloading. I don’t have the obsessive attention to detail I feel I would need.

  4. Sigivald says:

    What little reloading I’ve ever done has been single-stage, which makes it super easy to catch the rare mis-charge.

    Of course, it’s also super slow, so ugh.

    • Zermoid says:

      Same here, if I had ever gotten into competitive shooting I might have gone progressive, but for hunting and some practice ammo I can load up alot of ammo in January and February when it’s too cold to do much else!
      Must admit, after over 30 years of loading I got one loaded with no powder, no clue how as I load from a block and powder all at once and check for even powder levels.

  5. countertop says:

    My face got peppered with tiny bits of something and stun for a few minutes but it did not break the skin. I had a slightly shadow on my face around my safety glasses giving me a bit of a raccoon appearance.

    This is why its important to wear SHOOTING glasses while shooting.

  6. Dave says:

    There are not guarantees. I’ve had a commercial squib, I’ve had commercial 500S&W with split cases. I’ve come around to the conclusion that yes, you can make several hundred rounds per hour of reloading throughput, but… to get big numbers of throughput, you’re not paying attention to everything like primer depth, powder charges, bullet seating depth, etc.

    I ended up putting a cheap LED flex light over the bullet seating position, after the powder drop. Eyes on the powder, or stop. Because I had a powder dispenser go bad on me, would not return fully to battery and with small pistol charges like about 5.5 grains or under it was possible to have a token amount of powder in the case. Enough to launch the bullet but not clear a pistol barrel. Live and learn.

  7. Hank Archer says:

    A friend was reloading .30’06. Planned to use 50.7 grams of powder. Digital scale – actually was set to 57.0 grams. First round blew up a pre-64 Winchester 70.

    Minor shrapnel injury to right hand. Had to have it removed at emergency room.

    • MikeQ says:

      Removed the shrapnel or the hand?

      • Alpheus says:

        I’m guessing the shrapnel was removed, rather than the hand, because otherwise the injury would have been minor.

        Having said that, the ambiguous pronoun “it” had me asking the same question.

        (This same type of ambiguity allows me to insist that “Bingo” is the name of the farmer, and not the dog.)

  8. very good. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Grey Mobius says:

    I don’t use a progressive press so I have the opportunity to visually inspect a tray full of shells to compare the amount of powder and can discard any that look under or over filled.The LED flex light is ideal.

    Many precision benchrest shooters [maybe most] don’t weight their individual charges other than to reset their measures for different powders. Consistent use of the measure and discarding any charge that doesn’t “feel” or look right leads to very consistent velocities and precision.

    Sebastian, have you looked into using a powder that nearly fills whatever case you are loading? Trail Boss comes to mind. Inspect for a under charge and an overcharge usually spills over your bench.

    • HSR47 says:

      In my experience, you can generally get a feel for how full a case should be without needing to see them all at once.

      As for consistency with certain rifle loads, that’s why I intend to get one of those automated machines for dispensing individually weighed charges — For things like .30-06, I don’t want to risk having powder bridge in a volumetric measure; I’d rather have each charge individually weighed.

  10. Billll says:

    I added a widget to my progressive setup that puts a plunger into the cartridge right after the powder stage. It has a bright blue led that lights up if I’m over my charge, and the top of the plunger won’t show any motion if the case is empty. Caught several overcharges and a few empties.
    http://billllsidlemind.blogspot.com/2017/04/reloading-protection.html

  11. The Old Coach says:

    As you know if read his blog, Joe Huffman just blew up his race gun.

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