Saturday, May 21, 2011

Things That Aren't Supposed To Happen, But Do

My father and I were at the range last Friday for our normal practice and stress relief session, just plinking away with .22's. I was shooting Remington 36 gr. Golden Bullets, and had shot about 75 or 80 rounds when, during a string of rapid fire noticed the bolt had, for lack of a better term, a stutter at the end of it's cycle on the second or third round of five in the magazine. Golden Bullets aren't the cleanest or most reliable cartridges in the world, plus I'd put approximately 400 of them downrange the week before and hadn't cleaned the gun since. So my brain sees the slide move into battery a little slower than usual, chalks it up to DIRTY GUN, LAZY SHOOTER, gets a good sight picture on the target, and decides to pull the


Then my brain says "What the HELL was that!?!" as smoke explodes, FAST, out the sides of the gun where the barrel/upper receiver meets the frame, and WAY more smoke than usual explodes out of the chamber. My second thought, after the initial shock, was that a Kaboom just occured. My left thumb, which was held alongside the upper receiver in a high grip, right on the loaded chamber indicator, immediately begins throbbing, which I took to be a good sign. After all, if the loaded chamber indicator had blown off/out of the gun, I might have lost a chunk out of my second favorite thumb. Which would suck. I immediately safed the gun, put it down on the table pointed in a safe direction, and inspected my hands. Other than quite a bit of carbon fowling all over both hands and a quickly appearing, oddly loaded chamber indicator-shaped, reddish bruise on my thumb, all was well.

Next I checked the gun. I am not a gunsmith, engineer, etc., so this is my laymen's take on the situation. After the Kaboom, the bolt appeared to have cycled almost properly. It picked up a cartridge out of the magazine and moved it forward, but failed to load it into the breech. I dropped the magazine and cleared the unchambered round. I quickly looked at the chamber, mostly just to confirm that there was no live ammo in the pistol. Locking the slide back, and telling my dad what I was about to do, I looked down the barrel and saw this:

You don't want to see this when looking down a barrel. 

"OK, so I won't be shooting this particular firearm anymore today." I kinda expected that to have happened, so didn't look at the gun any further and stowed it away. I knew I could probably run a cleaning rod down the barrel to clear it, but honestly, I didn't want to mess with it. We had other guns with which we could keep shooting and I didn't know if there was any other damage to the firearm. Best to take it home and give it a thorough inspection in the armory, aka, the garage.

Later, I took the bolt out and, under a much brighter light than those at the indoor range, saw this:
Yes, I know how dirty the chamber is. It's quite clean now. 

I was NOT expecting that. My inspection at the range mostly consisted of clearing live rounds out of the gun and checking the barrel. My initial diagnoses at the range was that a squib round (Rd. #1) failed to exit the barrel, causing Rd. #2 to cause the Kaboom. I was wrong. What I think might have happened is that the case on Rd. #1 failed and ruptured on detonation, sending the bullet downrange, but weakening the case enough to allow the extractor to rip the rim off the case. This is borne out by the fact that there was a keyholed bullet impact extremely low on the target, very far (24" +) from any other holes. Rd. #2 then, when the bolt picked it up from the magazine, partially pushed it's way into the case of Rd. #1. which explains the slow cycling I noticed, and seated just enough to allow me to complete a trigger pull, send the firing pin forward, and blowing most of the propellant gases out the sides of the gun and into the barely opened chamber. The bullet on Rd. #2 did not have enough energy to exit the barrel and thus ended up 1/2" from the end.

I sprayed some oil into the barrel, let it set for a bit, then gently tapped the bullet back down the barrel toward the chamber with a cleaning rod and mallet, only encountering resistance when the bullet met the chambered case. A sharp rap of the mallet popped both out of the breech and onto the work table. I continued field stripping the gun, cleaning and inspecting each part: no damage that I could see. Frame looked fine, as did the chamber area and barrel. After a thorough cleaning, reassembling and hand cycling the pistol revealed no loss of function.

I guess I'll find out soon, as today the big white FedEx truck of love brought this to me:

Again, the gun looks fine and I'll take precautions when shooting for the first time, but I can't wait to get back to the range.

No comments:

Post a Comment