Yep. We all make them. And you know the old saying, “You learn from your mistakes.” Well, here’s a variation on that sentiment – “Learn from other peoples’ mistakes so the you don’t repeat them yourself! Here are a few of mine… Over the years I’ve saved samples of mistakes to use them in reloading classes and in my book. Following are some of the more notable ones, not all mine!
I tried to load a bullet and had forgotten to expand the case mouth. I was in a hurry and obviously gave the handle a good tug before I realized what was happening. Needless to say, the rest of the cases were expanded properly.
That doesn’t mean we learn our lessons easily, however. Here I repeated my mistake. But with jacketed bullets. The gilding metal jackets are harder than the brass. In this case it literally caught on the brass and simply ripped the sides out. You’d think after the first one that I would have realized what I was doing. Must have been having a “senior moment,” however, because it took two before reality set in!
This was just plane dumb! I threw a set of dies in my turret press and didn’t resize because a) I was in a hurry to get to the range (remember – speed kills!), and b) it was new brass (which I usually size, but didn’t because as I said, I was in a hurry!) So I flipped the dies to the expander die and, yep, ran the first case up without checking the setting! Needless to say, if I’d put a bullet on this case it would have practically fallen in! The less? Check your die settings – every time.
Here’s another bone-headed stunt similar to the one above. This time I ran a finished cartridge up into a crimp die without checking the settings. You’d think I’d learn…Does that look properly crimped to you? It’s crimped all right…!
This is one you don’t see every day. This case and shell holder won’t come apart. Want to know why? Again – in a hurry! Dropped a primer in the priming arm and didn’t bother to make sure it landed correctly. It was sideways. I ran the shell down on the priming arm and seated the primer – sideways! Yep. You guessed it. It doesn’t fit. So the case can’t slide off the shell holder. Now, if you “Google” this sort of fiasco, lots of people will tell you lots of ways of getting this apart. I even read one article where they said put it in a pot with a lid on the stove and heat it until you set the primer off! Well, I called CCI and spoke directly to the experts – who make primers. “Cooking” one off is fine if you like breathing toxic gases. Otherwise just throw it out (more accurately, turn it in to your local fire department who have the proper channels for getting rid of “hazardous” waste. The shell holder’s only worth a couple bucks. It’s not worth trying to salvage.
Here’s another one… Seeing a pattern here? Again – in a hurry! This time I ran a case up into a sizing die so quickly I didn’t even have it all the way into the shell holder! Seeing a pattern here? Getting the idea that speed isn’t one of the better goals to have when reloading?
This one should be a no-brainer. It’s rather obvious that I tried to insert primers into cases that had had military crimps – without the benefit, of course, of having the military crimps properly removed!
Okay, I’ve saved the best for last. These photos were shared with me with permission to reproduce as a “teaching moment.” How many times have we all had a situation where we had a primer that we thought was “just not seated enough?” And we gave it another “push…” As long as you don’t have a tube or tray full of primers, the risk is generally limited to that one primer going off. Not fun, and – like the primer stuck in the shell holder above – probably not healthy to breath. But not a huge risk nevertheless. In a hand priming tool a primer going off sends the force through and out the case. And as long as you are not foolish enough to use a hand priming tool with the cases aimed at your face, the blast is away from you. Likewise with a press. If a primer goes off in the primer arm, the blast goes through the shell holder and case and out towards the die.
This gentleman, however, decided to further seat a primer – that was in a finished cartridge. Yep. Powder, bullet, and all. Now, since the round wasn’t in a chamber when it went off, it did not explode with the force it would have had in a gun. However the force of a round going off outside of a chamber sends the force in all directions. So while it doesn’t drive the bullet out of the case, it has a nasty habit of expanding in all directions, turning pieces of case into pieces of shrapnel. As you can see from the following photos, the reloader was lucky. He saved his hand and his finger was repairable.
The most amazing part of the story? This reloader had thirty years experience. The moral of that story? None of us can let our guard down, even for an instant!
Here’s an example of what not to do when picking a powder for a load formula. These pics were posted on Facebook and we were given permission to run them as a “teaching moment.” This person mixed up his/her powders for this charge, and used a pistol powder instead of a rifle powder. Pistol powders are considerably hotter (faster) and obviously didn’t do this rifle any favors. We don’t know if there were any personal injuries, but these pictures illustrate why powder selection is so critical. Which is also why one of the cardinal rules is to never have more than one powder out of storage at a time, to further minimize the risk of confusion.
Joel Guerin, Versailles, Kentucky