Thursday, July 14, 2016

Misfires, Bloopers and Hangfires

If you shoot much ammunition, you will have misfires.  They are most common in .22 rimfire.  The priming process for .22 sometimes results in a missed spot on the rim of the .22 cartridge. When that happens to be the spot the firing pin hits, the priming compound is not set off, and a misfire occurs.  Most of these misfires will fire when they are rotated and struck again in a different spot.  Some .22 firing pins are designed to hit two spots at once, making these misfires less likely. 

The next most common misfires are from reloaded cartridges, especially those produced on progressive loading set ups.  It is easy to be producing cartridges at a good rate, and to miss that the powder reservoir needs refilling.  Then the question becomes "when did I run out of powder?".  Sometimes careful weighing of the cartridges can prevent the necessity of pulling the bullets and inspection.  I have had a number of misfires where there was no powder in the case, and the primer barely moved the bullet a short ways down the barrel.

Problems with malfunctioning primers are next on the list.  Primers can be seated backwards (most are caught during inspection), not seated completely, or contaminated with petrolium products.  It doesn't take much oil to "kill" a primer. 

Water is far less of a problem if the primer is dried completely after it becomes wet.  I had a couple thousand primers become thoroughly soaked in a flood.  The priming compound in the primers was the consistency of wet plaster.  I did not want to throw them away, so I carefully dried them outside. The Arizona summer has a dry heat.  Temperatures reached over a hundred and ten. 

I and a close friend used those primers in .38 wadcutter reloads.  I do not recall having a single misfire.  The cardboard primer boxes were stained a bright yellow from the styphnic acid in the priming mix.

The least common are blooper rounds and hangfires. 

I recall three instances where I had noticeable numbers of bloopers and hangfires.  A blooper round is one where there is a significant reduction of sound, yet the bullet or shot manages to clear the barrel.  Shooters should be alert to situations where the shot sounds or acts differently.  When it happens, inspect the bore!  Placing another shot after a projectile is lodged in the bore will ruin a good barrel, and may have worse results. 

The first of the three instances occurred when i was given an partial, unlabled container of a couple of dozen .38 short Colt rounds.  They were obviously quite old, and had been subject to considerable poor storage.  I was curious if they were still viable.  I estimate they were over a hundred years old.   They produced a combination of misfires, bloopers, a few near-normal rounds and a couple of hangfires. 

If you have never experienced a hand fire, it is .. interesting.   The delay between click and bang was very noticeable, estimated at between  a tenth and a quarter of a second. 

The next set was from a few boxes of paper shotgun shell reloads that I had purchased as part of the estate of my friend George "Tex" Ferguson, the much decorated WWII veteran.  They has gotten soaked in the same flood mentioned above. 

I dried them out and used them for dove hunting, where I was not too concerned if I had an occasional misfire.  Must functioned perfectly well; but I had a few misfires and one spectacular hangfire while swinging on a fast crossing dove 35 yards out.  The click ... boom! seemed close to a quarter second.   I must have been doing follow through properly, because the dove fell out of the sky!

The last episode happend a few days ago.  I decided to check the sights on a Glock 23 that was new in the box.  I had obtained it in a trade.  It fits my holsters. I decided to make sure it shot where the sights pointed. 

I took it to the Ranch and fired three rounds off hand at 50 feet.  A couple of the round were in the right place, but one was off a bit.  I moved back to 100 feet, with a similar result.  One of the rounds was decidedly low.  I decided to be a bit more carefull.  I went back to the bench for the full 60 yards of the pistol range, used a rest, and was surprised to see the bullet hit the dirt half way to the target!

The rounds were of unknown provenance in a plastic bag.  They looked like factory Winchester jacketed hollowpoints.  All the headstamps were Winchester.  There were about 40 loaded rounds and a few empty cases. I do not remember exactly where they came from.  Of the 40 rounds, half seemed to give full power performance.  Another 14 or 15 produced shots that were definitely less powerful, but which worked the action.  Six were decided bloopers where the fired case stayed in the chamber, but the bullet cleared the barrel.  Three of those were hangfires!  I had never seen that happen before with what appeared to be relatively fresh ammunition in good condition.

Without a case lot number, there was not much that could be done.  I fired off all of the bag so that I would not rely on it in the future. They might have been reloads, but I could not be certain.  I have two theories.  Either the primers were partially contaminated with oil; or this might have been an early lot of ammuntion with lead free primers.  The early lead free primers had a shelf life of about three years, then they started to go bad.  The performance of the .40 ammo that I fired would be consistant with that. 

If you shoot enough, you will have misfires, bloopers, and hangfires.  Keep the muzzle pointed down range, and be sure to check your bore if there is any doubt.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This is very good information for those that are new to reloading. with the continually increasing limitations on ammo the reloading process is becoming much more popular, Hang fires cause a lot of accidents. new gunners need to realize how those kinds of accidents happen. when it goes click without some kind of a bang they need to keep the barrel pointed down range even while they are finding out why. all of those kinds of problem are rare but they need to know what is going on and how to deal with it. I have only had one hang fire in over 50 years and it was .22 ammo. I find discarded duds all the time and pick them up and rotate the primer strike and fire them off. I save the fired slugs and recast them. stir in a little flux and they clean right up. borax is a good flux. well it works well for me. I have two ten pound electric posts. I was up by Prescott once and found a tree stump that I took almost 8 pounds of slugs out of. The last time I ordered I got six sticks of bullet lube. I am interested in the paper you have on primers. I am the original DIYer. the only way to destroy the reloading hobby would be to terminate the production of primers.