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A friend of mine, a Range Officer, handed me a jar of loaded ammo in various calibers the other day, saying I might be able to salvage some of the components, and I might also find some things “Of Interest” in there. These were rounds he had found on the ground and on various benches after people had left, and he’d been collecting them for awhile. I took it home and started rummaging through it, and what I found scared the bejezus out of me.

Some of the rounds were misfires, which are common with reloads as well as factory rounds. But when I started looking through the pile of unfired cartridges, I realized why some folks don’t want to sit next to a guy with reloaded cartridges. After seeing this, I can’t say I blame them.

Example #1: A 45ACP cartridge, loaded by someone who clearly didn’t flare the case neck enough to let a plated bullet in without shaving off a substantial amount of the jacket and some lead as well. He apparently tossed it aside when it wouldn’t chamber. If he’d been paying attention, he’d have noticed a lot more than that, and in fact, this round should never have been reprimed, let alone reloaded.



It’s pretty obvious why it wouldn’t chamber, and I’m kind of surprised he didn’t just mash it in there anyway, given his obvious carefree attitude. He’s lucky he didn’t. Look close.



That thin, scribed line tells me that this case was less than one bazillionth (scientific term I just made up) of a whisker from letting go the LAST time he fired it. Had the case been properly flared and the bullet seated properly, I have little doubt he’d have fired it again. Speaking from experience, I can tell you the three things that probably would have happened, in a 1911-patttern gun.

#1, at the moment of ignition, the shooter’s face would have been peppered with hot brass fragments and powder granules, as the pressure blew the back of the case out, and the gases were vented backwards, instead of the way John Browning intended them to go.

#2, the remaining rounds in the magazine would have been blown out the bottom of the mag well, taking the follower, the spring, and the floorplate with them. Given a pistol held at full arms’ extension, that would put those items on a collision course with the shooter’s crotch. Were the shooter wearing a fiberglass cup, he might not suffer much. Without one, physical pain would be a certainty. I can personally testify about that part. It hurts.

#3, unless the pistol was wearing metal grips, or Pachmayr’s (which have steel plates in the sides, shielding the mag well) the grips would likely shatter, spreading shrapnel and debris out both sides. :eek:

Example #2: Another 45ACP, with an obvious split peeking out from under the shaved jacket. I don't know if our intrepid reloader didn't see it, or didn't care, but the results upon firing would have been unpleasant. The shooter might have not suffered, but the gun most likely would have, even if only a little. I like to remind new shooters that chamber damage from ruptured cases isn't instant erosion, it's a gradual process that distorts the chamber dimensions until accuracy is noticeably diminished. One thing IS for sure......this round would not have survived the stress of firing!





Example #3: This 38 Special case was a loaded round when I encountered it. I broke it down, dumped the powder, saved the bullet, punched out the primer, then tossed it in the recycle bin. Awhile later I thought better of it, fished it out, and snapped a photo of it. This kind of thing makes me crazy.

HOW CAN YOU RESIZE, DEPRIME, REPRIME, DROP POWDER AND SEAT A BULLET WITHOUT SEEING THE SPLIT IN THIS CASE?



Example #4 is something I'm including even though I can't say for sure this happened during the reloading process, but I still find it interesting. A mangled 357 Magnum, bent and crunched, and I can only speculate on how it got that way. I've seen cases mangled this way in leverguns when the bullet was trying to enter the chamber at an angle, and got mashed by the lifter and bolt. That could explain how it got bent. But when that happens the cases are usually badly scuffed, and this one isn't.





The second shot shows the deformity a little better, and makes me think that if the case hadn't been so bent, our friend might have tried to load and fire it anyway. I doubt this was a reload, that looks to me like a Speer bullet, seen less frequently in reloaded ammo.

My reloading process involves a lot of case inspection in good light, and the above examples are why. One trick I always do is to stand all my empty brass up, so I can see the case mouths. Splits down the side are not unusual, but splits at the mouth are far more common, and easy to see if you use this system.



Primer pockets getting loose? Mark the headstamp with a red marker, which means "Don't load this brass anymore." When you get the fired brass out of the tumbler, red-butt rounds go straight in the recycle bin.

Okay, my feet hurt from standing on this soapbox...........But once in awhile I get a wake-up call like this jarful of ammo, and it scares the holy schnizzle out of me. There are some very scary reloaders out there, and I just pray they're not at the next table when one of their little creations comes apart.

So endeth this sermon. Go ye, in peace and safety. 8)
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

What can I say but that this badly needed saying?

The 45 ACP case in the first photo was especially a concern. A blown case ain't fun, agreed.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Great post, PJ, I nominate this thread for a sticky. Great idea on improved neck inspection, I'm going to start doing that.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Yes, please make it a sticky. It just amazes me some of the things that people will or will not do!
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

I've seen that mag issue before. The case probably wasn't fully into the shell holder when he seated the bullet. The case got unevenly "resized" by the side of the seater die. You'd think the case would slide in and center itself, but sometimes it doesn't...
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Hey PJ you've made a few mistakes to recognize the winners.


Me I've seen most of these while reloading. Thing is like my friend PJ and I and a whole bunch of others, we have caught them becaue we recognize them.

Thanks John, I appreciate the pictorial of a bunch of nasties in our world of handloading.

Above all like the thread says stress case inspection, as a reloader we know what to look for most times but have to relay this info to our brethren because most will never see this unless they reload.

Do take time to inspect your reloads, and above all respect what we do and remember what we are giving the novice reloader here in a most valuable education that of lore and expierience. Keep it going guys we need the bad with the good, if you have any examples please show us, if you can.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

The split .38 case is nonsense. If you are paying attention you can hear a split case in a bin full of empties. That's why I don't watch TV or such when I'm reloading... I need to be in 'the Zone.'

Doesn't everyone look at the loaded rounds when you are putting them in the boxes after loading? ...let alone into the magazine prior to firing?

Jeepers... :eek:
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Great post PJ!! I thank you for that, up close every easy to see. I for one would like to see more pics of the good, bad, and ugly results from reloading. How about including some of cases that you guys know are safe, but...life is going to call the case dead for the next reload, in other words starting to show signs. Mr fixit
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

I'm happy to list my own mistakes if it will help other people, especially those new to reloading. I do my best to learn from my mistakes, and I've made some doozies. I have a system I've developed over a couple of decades of reloading, but every reloader has to do things their own way, based on how they reload.

The biggest boo-boo I ever made was using the wrong powder. I weighed every charge, and they were all the exact same weight......but they were horribly overloaded. I fired one, decided it was startlingly violent, but fired another one anyway. It was just as bad, so I went to find the fired brass. When I picked it up, the primer fell out. If that doesn't give you a serious sense that something is horribly wrong, nothing will. I wound up breaking down the rest of that box. I don't know what powder I'd loaded them with, but it wasn't the one I thought it was! :eek:

I know I'll probably catch some heat for saying this, but I'd bet that most of the "Uninspected Brass" I've shown above was used in Progressive Presses, by reloaders who assume a lot. They dump it out of their tumbler, pour it into their case-feeder, and don't bother to look at it. Nothing else I can think of would explain that 38 case with the huge split down the side. The more of this stuff I see, the less I'm inclined to think I need a progressive press. I'm not saying progressive users are careless slackers, but my time-proven reloading system totally precludes making these kinds of mistakes. Every case gets the once-over when it's re-primed, and again when I charge it with powder.

One thing I've learned over time is that if you have a split case in a batch of several hundred is that they make a totally different sound than the rest. It's like a bell ringing to me, I can hear it a mile away. I tumble my brass in a rotary tumbler, then pour the brass and media into a Dillon media separator. As I'm rotating the separator, if there's a split case in there, I can hear it, and I hunt it down and pitch it. My hearing isn't all that good, and if I can hear a split case ringing, anyone can. All you have to do is PAY ATTENTION. There are a hundred reloading mistakes you can make, but most can be avoided if you pay attention. Three of your five senses can tell you when something's wrong. Use them, and save yourself a lot of grief, embarassment, and the cost of a new gun, not to mention them problems that come with spraying your rangemates with shrapnel. I've never done it, but I know a lot of folks who have blown up guns, and I don't ever plan on joining them.

You know why I call my reloading system "Idiot-Proof"? Because I can be an idiot sometimes, through distractions and interruptions during the loading process. I haven't had an issue with a reloaded round in ten years or better, because i'm scared to death of having one, and I make SURE it can't happen. Call me paranoid, but I'd rather be safe than horribly sorry. And so should everyone else who reloads.

My most common mistake was having a round with no powder. I've pounded a lot of stuck bullets out of (mostly pistol) barrels, and it's not a big deal, but it still tells me I'm not doing things right every time. Now I inspect every powder charge before I seat a bullet, and I don't have those problems. Paranoia will make you a better reloader!

Simply put, if you don't respect the power you're dealing with.......you have no business playing with powder and primers.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

thanks papajohn for posting this, when it comes to gun and reloading, you can't talk about safety to much,
Craig
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

papajohn

Good post and a good reminder to inspect all cases. I am basically self taught on how to reload. I did ask a lot of questions when I first got started at 15 yrs old. 34 yrs later, I still am learning!

JD338
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Pappajohn,
Another good method for finding a split case neck is to place your thumbnail on the case mouth and turn the case with the other hand. The split will hang up on your thumb nail. Works with better 44s and 45s. they also feel different when re-sized.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Excellent post, PJ. Being super careful while inspecting brass and making absolutely sure that I'm using the right powder in the right amount when charging cases have kept me from having any disasters at all in all my handloading years. If I nudge the scale, for example, and I have done so a number of times, I rezero the scale immediately. I've never had a case in which the nudge made any appreciable alteration in the weight setting, but one never knows. The only time I've had a problem with a handload was with one loaded by a friend who did not charge the case with powder before seating the bullet. That tied up a revolver for the rest of the day.

I have occasionally in the past purchased reloads that were astoundingly inaccurate in my guns, but they were not at all dangerous.

Being safe is a whole lot better than being sorry.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Brian in FL said:
Being safe is a whole lot better than being sorry.
Precisely. And Shel told me to remind everyone that it's generally a lot cheaper, too. ::)
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Thank's for this thread PJ. I'm about as paranoid as you are... if not more. So paranoid today TWICE I dumped the powder out of the case back into the pan on my scale to be sure although I knew it was sure. Just trying to develop good habits right off the bat. I did make one booboo already and that was getting once fired brass mixed in with new but I think it can handle ON more minimum load of 296. After that I'm tossing it though.
 

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Re: Why I Stress Case Inspection!

Your brass should be able to stand up to more than two reloadings, there are exceptions and always check, but so far I have used some of my brass 5x.
 

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Some scary pictures up there.

This leads me to some of my own questions. I have some hornady LE brass that I've been using for 13.5gr reddot/15.7gr trail boss loads and they've been loaded about 3-4 times now. Two of the brass are showing a bright ring around the were the webbing would be and conveniently right were the die stops as well. The case isn't bulging after I shoot it, but from my Speer manual it says keep an eye out for cases with those bright rings around them. (yet all the pictures in the manual show belted magnum cases and the ring is a bit above the webbing) I can't imagine 3-4 loads of this low pressure load doing it in this quick. I'd have to admit though, they did have 45.3 grs of H4198 behind a 300 gr remmington HP fired once through them. My question is then, chuck the cases or...?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Dill, the cases should be fine. The ring is most likely from the polished ring of the dies stopping at the same place when you resize them. Carbide dies, maybe? You didn't specify what caliber.

The bright ring that appears before incipient separation is from stretching and then being forced back to normal dimensions..............something that primarily occurs in bottlenecked, rimless rounds. The brass thins above the web, and the shiny ring appears a cycle or two before the brass thins to the point of breaking, or separating from the head. I don't think that's what you're seeing, but knowing the caliber would help.

Rimmed rounds won't separate unless they're being oversized by quite a bit. If you want to make sure, straighten out a paper clip, put a 90-degree bend in it 1/3" from the end, and scrape the inside of the case above the web. If there's a crack there, you'll feel it. If not, the ring is from the resizing die, and is perfectly normal.
 
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