Blowed-Up Guns


A case-full of Bullseye did this Rossi in.

Brothers and sisters believe me, when a handgun blows up in your hands it will ring your chimes! That doesn’t necessarily mean it will physically hurt you. In fact most of the dozens of blown up handguns I’ve heard about have done no physical damage to the shooter.

What I mean is having one blow right there in your own two mitts not only scares the hell out of you, it will ruin your confidence in your ammunition and your know-how in general. I can state this will absolute certainty because I have experienced it.

The date was April 1, 1991. I remember exactly because it happened to be our 13th wedding anniversary. Yvonne had a little bit
of a head cold and was napping on the couch, so I took a couple of Colt SAA .45s down to my steel target range to plink for a bit at a dueling tree. The first five shots bounced the paddles back and forth as proper. The Colt .45, a 1914 vintage one that had been given to me by Hank Williams Jr. the first time he visited me here at home, was then reloaded with another five handloads. At the first shot the Colt blew with a sound sort of like a FIZZ-BANG. The top strap detached at the rear and bent forward and the top half of the cylinder just disappeared. It could still be in orbit for all I know. I was unhurt.

Duke managed to blow up this nice 1914 vintage Colt SAA .45.

A friend of Duke’s blew the topstrap off this very nice Colt SAA
.38-40 with powder he bought “cheap” at a gunshow.

Run Away!

As strange and as silly as it might sound my very first impulse upon looking at the ruined Colt was to run; run to nowhere in particular but just to leave that spot. My second instinct was to pack up my gear and quit shooting. I did neither. Instead, I loaded up my second Colt .45 with factory loads that I also had along and shot those 50 rounds slowly and carefully. It was sort of one of those “get back on the horse after he bucked you off” kind of things.

What caused that Colt to blow? To this day I have no idea. That day I had 200 rounds of handloads with me. The bullets of the remaining 194 were pulled and the powder charges weighed. None were abnormal. One “expert” insisted that I had stuck bullet number five in the barrel and then the gun blew when round number six was fired. Ok, dimwit, in that case who smacked the dueling tree’s paddle on that fifth shot, the tooth fairy? The most hilarious comment offered was the fellow who said it had to be the air space in the huge .45 Colt case because “You know; air cannot be compressed.” Yeah dummy in that case what did you put in your bicycle’s tires when you were a kid?

Long ago I gave up trying to figure out what happened because I’ve heard literally of dozens of other handguns that have blown up. The one single thread running through each and every one of those instances that I personally know about is the shooter was using handloads.I personally do not know of any handgun blowing apart with factory ammo. Could that be why the gun companies only warranty their handguns with factory ammo?

Do I only shoot factory loads in all my handguns now? Nope. I’m an avid handloader and a darn careful one. I don’t begrudge the time spent at the reloading benches; consider it quality time spent with precision tools. And I certainly don’t reload my own ammunition in order to save money. One fellow I know does just that and is always looking for bargains on powder, primers and bullets at gun shows. He got a bargain alright! It was a can of powder labeled Unique and it didn’t bother him that it had been opened. When he loaded up his vintage Colt SAA .38-40 with his usual Unique load, the cylinder split and the topstrap simply disappeared. Lots of savings there, huh? I have nicknamed this fellow Shrapnel.

Trail Boss

Here’s one thing I have done with my own reloading, however. With large capacity revolver cartridges — those originally designed for large dollops of black powder — I only use the new IMR Trail Boss propellant now. It is “fluffy” to the point you can’t get a double charge in a case, it will overflow. Normal charges pretty much fill up even huge .45 Colt cases to the base of the bullets. That property alone takes a lot of variables out of the handloading mix.

Take my word for it. You don’t want to blow up a gun. It will ruin your day — and doesn’t do a thing for the gun’s value.

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