Lessons Learned #3

Written by Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager Mark Walker

When I first started shooting competitively, I read all the books I could about how to make my ammunition shoot as accurately as possible. One recommendation was to try and keep all your cases with the same number firings on them to help keep neck tension as consistent as possible. This made sense to me so I decided to only load the amount of ammunition I was going to need for the match that I was attending. That way I would have no extra loaded ammunition left over to have to shoot to keep those cases on the same firing as all of the others.

There was a 600 yard benchrest match at the St. Louis Benchrest Club coming up that I wanted to attend, so I loaded only the ammo I needed and headed up to the match. The first several targets were ok but nothing to write home about, so for the last target I decided to watch a different range flag to see if that would help. If nothing else, maybe I would learn something about the wind and the match wouldn’t be a total waste.

In 600 yard benchrest it is very difficult to see your bullet holes especially if there is a lot of mirage so you don’t really know what kind of group you have shot until you see it scored on the wall. I proceeded to shoot the last target only when the flag told me to and I was down to my last round of the day. The flag showed the condition I wanted and I pulled the trigger. Of course, nothing happened. I sat there and looked at the rifle and wondered what went wrong. I motioned for the range officer and, to be safe, we let the rifle sit for a bit in case of a hang fire. Once enough time had passed, I opened the bolt and inspected the cartridge. Shaking it revealed that there was indeed powder in the case. The firing pin hit on the primer looked good and was identical to all the other cases that were fired earlier. It looked like a perfect round otherwise. Since I was disqualified because I didn’t have five shots on target, I was pretty bummed out.

After the match, I went into the club house to hang out with friends and watch the awards ceremony. As I was visiting, a buddy went over to look at the targets. When he returned he said “Hey Walker, you might want to look at this.” On the wall was the last target I had shot with four shots into less than ¾ inch! Of course, the best chance I had for a great target was ruined by one round that wouldn’t go off.

Upon further investigation once I got home, the culprit was determined to be a primer that did not have any compound in it. Of all the years and thousands of rounds I have fired, that is the only primer with no compound that I have ever seen and of course I had to find it then. I now load at least five to ten extra rounds each match just for such emergencies. While it was a bad experience at the time, it taught me a valuable lesson that has saved me grief many times since then.

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4 Responses to Lessons Learned #3

  1. Roger says:

    Truly Mark, that must’ve been sickening. Roger


  2. firstriverbend says:

    I too have had a similar thing happen. It was a bent case shoulder on a 308 round that would not chamber in the M1A, during a High Power match. Last round, 600 yards, no reserve ammo. 😦
    While the group was nothing to write home about, I was just starting out, but it too taught me to have a bunch of backup ammo ready. In this case a backup magazine, ammo, etc… 🙂
    No such thing as too much backup stuff at a match! I also learned to not drop a round and not check it more closely after picking it up too.

    I too have had a primer without compound. Luckily not during a competition, but a couple during practice. To me it seemed as though there was a period of time a few years back where I was getting some poor primers, but that seems to have passed. Two with no compound, one with no anvil. Go figure!


  3. DAVID RUPPEL says:

    What a bummer that was! I forgot 2 rounds once but it really didn’t matter the way I was shooting that day. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John Richards says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing!


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