Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz
It all began innocently enough. But there were clues.
Remember the Dasher project from earlier this year?
I had a big double 600 yard IBS match this past weekend and I needed to load at least 100 6mm Dashers for this match. Unfortunately, every evening seemed to be spoken for, so where does the time come from? We’ve all been in this position at one time or another. So what do we do? Why we make time of course!
A nephew plays football for the local high school and I try to go to his games when possible, but this Friday night just wasn’t going to work for me. It was raining, but that didn’t deter my wife, so she went to the game and I stayed home to load.
I got all 100 Dasher cases resized without complications except my Forster Benchrest Dies didn’t want to eject the spent primers reliably, but I got the sizing die adjusted eventually and all went well to that point.
I didn’t have time to clean the cases so the next step was priming. I normally use a Lee Auto Prime but for this operation the Lapua primer pockets are so tight I felt the Auto Prime was in jeopardy so I primed them with a Forster Co-Ax Primer Seater. The Forster Co-Ax Primer works very well but is a little more difficult to load with primers.
It was time to charge the cases and my jug of Varget was handy, but getting lighter by the week. Luckily Dashers don’t eat much. In the interest of time, I setup a Lyman DPS powder dispenser to my load, set the auto repeat and began to charge cases. The charges were fluctuating occasionally so I had to move the unit to a more solid setting which solved the issue, but interrupted progress. I also felt it was dispensing slower than normal. That happens when you are in a hurry. Usually I can dump the powder, hit the repeat button, pick up a bullet set it in the case mouth, transfer it to the Co-Ax and seat it partially, lower it and turn the cartridge 180 degrees and finish seating the bullet. That method has given me great concentricity over the years. Is it necessary with the Co-Ax and dies? Probably not, but old habits can be hard to break.
Because I was trying to make time I was dumping the powder faster than normal and it was bridging or worse yet, you try to double charge one that already has a charge. If you don’t catch that condition you have a mess. I experienced all of the above that evening. Never fails, it just does not pay to load distracted or hurried.
I had just gotten a box of the newly run #1570 pointed 107 grain 6mm MatchKings and didn’t have time to sort them, so I loaded from the box.
I get to the match and have great relay draws.
Okay, I get all setup and have a hard time getting on target, but manage to figure that out before time expired. Ready on the right, ready on the left, ready on the firing line, commence firing and the match begins. About my third shot, the firing pin falls, but no recoil. Uh-oh – no powder!
I lifted the bolt handle to clear the action and it’s auto eject time. The case flies out and the bolt stops on the bolt stop. Because I was able to lift the bolt with my thumb and fore finger it slipped from between my fingers right out of my hand, propelled rearwards by a small amount of unknown trapped gasses. There was some force, but no explosion, just a dull pop like uncorking a bottle. The bolt wouldn’t move its’ full travel forward or back afterwards due to a jammed bolt stop. Hmm, go figure, but it had done its job. A couple of taps on the bolt stop and problem solved temporarily, but a new pin will make it whole again. We realigned the cocking piece to restore full bolt stroke and shot the next relay. Beyond that no other damage.
We’ve all experienced firing uncharged cases and there is never any danger attached with ejecting one after the primer has been fired. Most of the time the bullet doesn’t even exit the case.
Duds, which are fully loaded cartridges with defective ignition, should never be ejected right away due to the possibility of the “smoldering” powder charge igniting the ejected cartridge with the bolt unlocked or on the ground, causing a potentially catastrophic situation.
So what really happened?
Thanks to input from friends and competitors, we figure I failed to fully charge the case and only got a few kernels of powder in the case. There was enough powder to force the bullet about 2 inches up the bore and enough pressure to obturate the case, sealing the chamber. So when I lifted the bolt handle, the bolt body was able to move rearward unimpeded with some force. Would waiting 60 seconds, 5 minutes or even 10 minutes let the pressure bleed off – I don’t know, but I can tell you this – lifting the bolt sure does.
Oh yes, the bullet was removed with an blunt cleaning rod, a shot of Kroil down the muzzle and a few taps of a dead blow hammer.