An unfortunate event was recently brought to my attention. The technical term for it is a “Catastrophic Failure”. What it really means is the wrong thing went BOOM.
The real shame here is the destruction of a Colt. That’s almost enough to make a grown man choke up. This was supposed to be a Squib but I wasn’t there to see it. The fact of the matter is that there were/could have been multiple forces at work here.
- The repeated use of high pressure rounds will weaken even the best steels. Look at the cylinder as a bomb casing with holes at each end. The only difference is that the explosive devise was made to propel part of itself down the barrel. With constant or sudden high pressures a Catastrophic Failure is just waiting to happen.
- Loading a round to hot is extremely dangerous. Once the pressure of the load exceeds the shear strength of the steel there is nothing that can be done. The metal will fail.
- As dangerous as hot rounds can be there is another that is far more dangerous. Far under powered rounds.
- Add either one of these with a revolver that’s out of timing (the cylinder doesn’t fully turn or over turns) and you have the bullet impacting the forcing cone, trying to spin it’s way into the barrel and increases the pressures heading back toward you hand. Combine that with a revolver that has eaten more than it’s share of hot rounds or the far under charged round and you’re lucky to keep your hand.
You wouldn’t think that #3 would be the case. All it can do is be a squib…right? Well that all depends. With under charged rounds you end up creating something very unexpected. With normal rounds the primer can only ignite the back of the charge allowing it to burn back to front. With it undercharged it allows the sparks of the primer to ignite both the front and the rear of the charge. As they burn together they sent shock waves in opposite directions. They bounce off the interior walls without loosing strength. The faster and more chaotic they bounce the greater their strength and the more dangerous they are. It always results in the destruction of whatever houses the round in very harmful ways.
Not having seen this particular one happen I can’t say which was the cause of the accident. I do, however, want to tell you to be careful. Watch how you treat your firearms. Take good care of them and they will take good care of you. Excessive pressures, not to mention on a regular basis, increases the wear of the gun far too quickly. Use some common sense and stay safe.