Hot Loads in the Magazine

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Harrier
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Hot Loads in the Magazine

#1

Post by Harrier » July 9th, 2018, 2:29 pm

Hot Loads in the Magazine

This is a letter I wrote but never sent…. Didn’t think it would do any good but maybe someone reading this can benefit from the experience…

A few weeks ago, I was at my range testing 50gr Nosler Ballistic tips for my DPMS AR 223 16” heavy Varmint barrel. As usual when working up loads, I consult several manuals from the early 70’s up to current OEM data. In the past I have sometimes used magazine articles I considered reliable info, if published in reputable magazines by well known authors. I do not use data found on the internet unless it comes directly from a manufacturer’s website such as Hodgdon, Alliant, Nosler etc

There isn’t a nice way to put what happened… at the very least; shooting loads published in a Guns & Ammo article I almost blew up my rifle. See attached photos of two case heads…

Before your brain goes numb and you close your ears thinking I made a common newbie reloading mistake, let me indicate that I have been reloading since the 1960’s, I have experience loading at least 25 calibers and have worked up test loads when there was no data available for the powder I was using. This isn’t my first Rodeo.

As often is the case, some sources have starting loads in excess of other’s max loads. I typically note that and based on a judgment call, start somewhere in the lower middle range and work up in small increments, while maintaining awareness for various well known pressure signs. This practice has worked just fine so far.

One powder I wanted to try with the 50gr Nosler BallisticTip, was Reloader-7. However I couldn’t find OEM data for that particular bullet, but I did find some close to it.

• My Sierra datasheet lists a 50gr Spitzer at 23.0gr Max @3200fps for the 20” AR …or 24.0 gr @3400fps in a 24” bolt gun.
• The 1967 Speer manual shows a 50gr at 23.0 max, @3376 fps from a 24” Sako.
• Lyman #44 lists 22.5 max @3154 in a 20” AR for their 50gr listing.
• My 1994 Nosler Manual #4 doesn’t list Re-7 for the 50gr.
• In their 1995 & 1996 data guides, Alliant lists a 50gr Hornady JSP @3195fps with a max charge of 21.5gr for 53000 PSI. I noticed that they also list a max charge for Reloader-12 of 27.0gr @3335 fps at 52300psi.

However, the1996 Guns & Ammo article “The 223 Remington” by Bob Forker, he includes a chart of load data that lists a 50gr Nosler with a starting charge of 23.0 gr and a Max load of 26.5 gr @3325fps.

I’ve been reading Bob Forker for many, many years… His name is right up there with Taffin, O’Conner and Skelton among others, so his name holds some weight. And, since the article shows a picture of an AR-15, it implies that even if they are over manual listings, these loads are safe in this type of rifle in particular (assuming its likely due to the higher pressure 5.56 operates at). Knowing that there is a wide margin between standard loads of the past (where there weren’t a rash of kabooms) and the docile loads of today, I should have known better but figured this to be credible data considering the source and worth of at least one test string.

Getting back to load testing… I loaded up five rounds with 23.5, 23.8 25.5 and 26.0 gr of Re-7.
All test loads are hand dribbled into a calibrated RCBS 10-10 scale. Notice that the first two are at approximately10% lower than the G&A listed max of 26.5 and that the 25.5gr load is1 full grain lower than the 26.5gr the article lists as max.

At the range I shot the first two loads without incident (23.5 & 23.8).

Shot #1 of the 25.5gr load blew the primer completely out, ripped the rim off the case leaving it in the chamber, covered the front of the bolt with burnt powder residue and jammed the next cartridge into the head of the case stuck in the chamber. I used a cleaning rod to easily dislodge the case but found a piece of brass stuck under the extractor. The blown primer was nowhere to be found inside or outside the rifle. My chrono registered 3441 fps and it was obvious something wasn’t right.

I disassembled, cleaned and inspected the bolt and didn’t see any obvious damage.
re7 Blown.3.jpg
re7 Blown.4.jpg

I know I should have stopped right there but after a moment considering that I might have made an error, maybe over-charging that one load, I decided to try one more shot. This time the result was exactly the same and the chrono showed 3433fps – so I knew it wasn’t a mistake and I was deep in dangerous territory. Of course, I immediately stopped shooting this load, and pulled all down when I got home. I checked each one and they were all at the designated powder weight with an OAL of 2.255”, so the load recommendation in the magazine had to be questionably overpressure – not just for this gun but in general.

I believe it is rare to have such an overcharge recommended in a mainstream magazine and in retrospect, comparing the recommendation to load manuals I can only think it had to be a typo. Perhaps Mr Forker was looking at Reloader-12 data instead of RE-7.

I understand how I let this happen but now I suspect any and all load data recommended by G&A. I don’t think I can trust info from any magazine again. I also wonder if there is microscopic metallurgical damage to my bolt and question if I should replace it, just to be safe.

I realize this article was published 20 years ago but that only underscores the longevity of your magazine. Since then, I can only hope G&A has instituted additional checks for published load data.

This also underscores the value of starting low and working up.


That's my opinion... and I'm stick'in to it...
but.. I might change my mind.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#2

Post by Suck My Glock » July 9th, 2018, 4:09 pm

Well, I think this can be chalked up to using data for old formulations with newer formulation powder.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#3

Post by shooter444 » July 9th, 2018, 4:38 pm

Suck My Glock wrote:
July 9th, 2018, 4:09 pm
Well, I think this can be chalked up to using data for old formulations with newer formulation powder.

My thoughts, exactly.

I'll also add, count your lucky stars Harrier, after that poor decision (IMO) of shooting another in the same load range, you are one very lucky man.

If that was the problem!

I load 36gr Barnes to just over 4,000FPS with Ramshot X-terminator. Ramshot load data with X-termintor and a 50gr bullet puts your 3,400 FPS, about mid range in their chart.

50 NOSLER B-TIP 25.0gr 3,292FPS 27.8gr 3,589FPS 61,915PSI 2.260 C

With their max load FPS being higher, brings me to believe your 3,400FPS chrony results should have been an OK load. So, My advice is, you may want to do a, more in depth, investigating. Everything doesn't seem to add up right, to me.

p.s. Which powder did you use? I tried to re-read and find which powder you loaded, but quite after a few paragraphs. That could be a possible culprit to start with.

Glad to hear you and your weapon are in one piece.
"A LIE REPEATED OFTEN ENOUGH BECOMES ACCEPTED TRUTH"... Nazi Propaganda minister-Joseph Goebbels

"IN THE AGE OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH IS A REVOLUTIONARY ACT"... George Orwell - author of '1984'

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#4

Post by Harrier » July 9th, 2018, 6:22 pm

This actually happened a few years ago, not a few weeks ago as the beginning says..
I think I mention Reloader-7 as the powder several times. (I use Re-7 as the abbreviation.)
That bottle of powder was bought Aug. 2013 - did their formula change between 1994 ?

Yep, I'm one lucky dude,
Yep, it was dumb to pull the trigger a second time,
Yep this one is on me.

Right or Wrong, Rationalizing for my defense... even though I did do several manual look-ups and I knew the article data was way out of range, I also note that it's not uncommon to have one source's start data to be well above another source's max data. That happens all the time.
Add to that the presence of the AR in the magazine article and I probably rationalized that the book data was for 223 pressure and the article was using 5.56 pressures. The fact I made up some test loads in the 23.5- 25.8 was a good start but I should have done a few additional increments in the 24.x range on my way to the 25.5 load. I would have probably caught the pressure signs before getting to that point. The Speer data shows 3776 from a 24" and even the 3200-3400 fps listed in the Sierra datasheet is not all that far off the 3441 my crono read- what is different is my 16" barrel vs their 20"AR or 24"Bolt test barrel.

The lessons learned here are that
1. no matter how long you have been reloading, you still can blow yourself up (more-so because you have experience under your belt helping you make risky decisions) and
2. you can't trust magazine articles to give reliable load data not found elsewhere.

ETA... One other factor I keep forgetting (and this may be it- is that the AR barrel is a DPMS varmint bull barrel with a 223 chamber, not 5.56... .
I recall sometimes having pressure issues in other instances where my 556 barrels don't have any issues, so it could have just been way too much for that barrel.
That's my opinion... and I'm stick'in to it...
but.. I might change my mind.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#5

Post by AZ1 » July 9th, 2018, 9:21 pm

When I buy a powder I usually have the cartridge and bullet choice made, so I find current data and store it with the powder or in a binder. That way if years later I still have that powder I can use the data I saved rather than risking a formula change disaster. I know manufacturers want to keep a known name, but they are putting people at risk if they change the formula.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#6

Post by Harrier » July 10th, 2018, 9:28 am

I hear ya, but I don't think it was a powder reformulation - IMO it was an error by the source- either author or magazine and here's why...

Manufacturers have a vested interest in keeping canister powders within spec over the life of the name- they usually discontinue it and replace it with a new name/number… and Yes, I’m aware of Unique being modernized by reformulation, but special cases like that are few and far between.

We are seeing this now with all the new powders coming out and the old tried and true names are being retired. Those are the new formulations. They would have a mess on their hands with all the manuals and data published over the years suddenly being changed and the resulting lawsuits for damages. It’s far easier and less costly to replace names.

I couldn’t afford to buy powder and stash it just for one load. I usually have a large selection of powders on hand for use across the several calibers I load for. I have at least 2 dozen load manuals and file folders full of magazine load columns. I do a lot of research before starting a load and I’m not perplexed when there is no actual data for what I’m trying to do. i find out more info until I'm confident I should be ok.

I agree that load data from the 60's thru 90's is generally hotter than that found after 2000. Part of that is that pressure measuring technology has advanced and when CUP was replaced by PSI measurements a lot of the old loads were re-assessed as unsafe. I generally don't use data from Speer #8 or Lyman # 44 for that reason.

But OTOH I don't recall hearing about guns regularly being blown up with the loads from those manuals either, so even though they may be hot, they are not totally out of the realm of possibility.

Also remember that any published data has to take in account any old war relic from the early 1900's that might fire that cartridge.

If stored properly, as long as it hasn't gone bad, powder doesn't change much over time. I've compared old cans of powder from the 60's to fresh bought stuff several times over a chrono and I can't recall any significant difference.

back on topic... I did a search trying to find any info if Re-7 was reformulated and came up with zilch.

I also reviewed powder burn rate charts I have from 2000 to 2018 and noted the Reloader-7 position relative to similar powders (IMR-4198 & AA-1680) and also powders immediately faster (AA-5744 & H4227) and slower (AA-2015, Re-10, H-322).

Despite the number of listed powders going from 110 to 150 and differences in powders listed, the positions of all those powders stayed the same. So short of any info to the contrary from Alliant, I don’t think the powder has changed one bit.

Attached is the article, read it and even compare some of the other loads listed against early manuals (the ones I checked were within good ranges) then tell me if you would trust the data for Re-7 if it was the only one available for the particular bullet you were trying to load…(Nosler Ballistic tips often have different load ranges than Speer-Hornady-Sierra)

I guess I can't attach a pdf so...jpg will have to do
GA98 223 Load Article-1.jpg
GA98 223 Load Article-2.jpg
That's my opinion... and I'm stick'in to it...
but.. I might change my mind.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#7

Post by Flash » July 11th, 2018, 9:58 am

The switch from CUP to PSI was because they found a way to attach a strain gauge to guns and measure pressure.

What they found was that some of the old loads had pressure spikes that were too fast for the copper pellets to catch, but the strain gauge was plenty fast enough.

So, they dropped the loads a bit in some cases with some powders.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#8

Post by azrik » January 23rd, 2019, 12:18 pm

The strange part of that chart is it shows less powder for a lighter bullet...
40gr bullet max RL-7 at 23.5
50gr bullet max RL-7 at 26.5

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#9

Post by deanq » January 24th, 2019, 9:02 am

Suck My Glock wrote:
July 9th, 2018, 4:09 pm
Well, I think this can be chalked up to using data for old formulations with newer formulation powder.
That's not it at all!!!
Every chamber is different, every lot of powder is different and many lots of bullets are different. That is why every reloading manual in existence says to start low and "work" your loads up. What's safe in one firearm may not be safe in another. Even some factory ammo can be too hot for some chambers (firearms). Don't take shortcuts and blame the powder. JMHO

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#10

Post by nvgdude » January 25th, 2019, 8:35 pm

Looks to me like a clear case of the magazine publishing the wrong data. I have never used Re-7. But I know it's a rather fast powder. Much faster than say Reloader-15.

What makes me think it's an error in the data is that in the same chart (3 lines above), they have a 40 grain Sierra with a lighter charge. That's an immediate Red Flag. A 24% heavier bullet should pretty much never have a lighter charge than the lighter projectile.

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Re: Hot Loads in the Magazine

#11

Post by backcountry » February 4th, 2019, 8:32 am

Harrier,

Thanks so much for publishing this story. I've had my own KABOOM and I know how hard it is to be candid about what happened. I blew up my Ruger with factory 357 Maximum. They bought my gun.

My event caused a few months of jerking triggers. My confidence was lost and I was always looking for that next KABOOM. I found myself repeating that oft used phrase,
"This too shall pass"

This event is what got me into reloading my own. I trust myself more than the factory.
We all need theses stories to keep us sharp.

Backcountry

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