Improving 40SW reloading safety

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Ken45
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Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by Ken45 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:02 pm

Over ten years ago, I had a case rupture in 40SW (Sig P226). Assuming that I did something wrong, that chased me away from reloading 40SW. I haven't reloaded 40SW (or hardly even shot it) since then. I just didn't trust it!

I just recently bought a Springfield EMP in 40SW. Love it! So I have carefully started reloading the caliber. I inspected each case before reloading, toss any that showed any noticeable bulging. That wasn't good enough!

Last weekend I had a round that refused to go into battery and I could not extract it either. Finally with light tapping on the slide, I got it into battery and fired the round but the gun was still jammed. When I finally got the brass out, I could see a section where it was scraped up from binding.

I bought a Wilson case guage and 20% of my rounds failed the case guage although only three had slight difficulty manually dropping into the barrel. They probably would have fired okay. But I could see where a little more diameter could be a problem.

I also bought a Lee "Bulge Buster" and Lee factory crimp die. I mounted it in my old Rockchucker single stage press that has been jobless for 15 years (I knew there was a reason I kept it!). I have been processing all my 40SW brass and now every finished round passes the case gauge test!

I checked the Sig P226 and it will fire almost 1/4" out of battery! That's a lot of unsupported brass! I suspect that many kabooms may be more "out of battery" issues than weak brass.

Redding also makes a similar bulge buster:
Redding G-RX Carbide Base Sizing Die Kit 40 S&W
It is more expensive but is carbide. The Lee bulge buster works best with case lube.

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by willbird » Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:33 pm

I'd throw away the cases that fail the gauge...the bulge buster does not correct the damage from the bulge, that is permanent.
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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by Ken45 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:54 pm

willbird wrote:I'd throw away the cases that fail the gauge...the bulge buster does not correct the damage from the bulge, that is permanent.
Bill,

fired brass will not pass the gauge. I just went down and checked twenty cases and not a single one would fit in the gauge. The gauge is the minimum SAAMI spec and most chambers are slightly larger and the brass expands to the chamber size and will not pass the gauge until it is resized.

It is my understanding that brass is somewhat flexible and that's why it can be safely reloaded. A slight expansion isn't a problem. I think the biggest risk is oversize brass not fully chambering and the gun firing out of battery.

I have seen some used brass with a significant and obvious bulge on it. Those, of course, I would pitch.

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by SMMAssociates » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:57 pm

Ken:

That's pretty much what happened to my buddy's EMP in 9mm using Glock-fired cases.

Should not be a problem to use cases that have been through that Lee die if they pass the gauge....

The EMP's are just tight....

Watch the OAL, too - apparently the .40 doesn't like it when the projectile is set too far back. Some pressure issues.

(I don't reload, but I read :D....)

I've only seen a setback issue once - just the other night, actually. I was swapping my EDC's and when I cleared the one going into the "clean and store" bin, the round that had been in the chamber looked like a .38 wadcutter! Put that one aside and grabbed a fresh one.... (.45 ACP.) I'll probably fire that round when I think of it - my big Paras won't mind, and the .45 isn't supposed to be that itchy, but I'd definitely watch for it in the .40S&W.

I've got the workshop about half ready to start reloading. Missing is the $$$.... :(

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Stu

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by Ken45 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:16 pm

Stu,

Yes, 40SW is a round that needs caution, even with factory ammo. There is an article on The Gun Zone that documents a DOE investigation a kaboom on the Los Alamos training range where they had a kaboom! with factory ammo that had been rechambered a few times. They documented the set back and there are a few pictures where it's visually obvious.

Yes, I tend to think .45s are a much more relaxed gun but there's a discussion on the 1911 board where a guy had a kaboom with an expensive custom 1911. No body is sure if it was a double charge or what. I'm wondering if it was an out of battery discharge.

It wouldn't surprise me if the EMPs are tight. They are very nice guns.

Good luck on your reloading. I totaled it up the other day and I've reloaded 75,000 rounds. I had no idea, LOL. I guess I need to go back and total it up by caliber to figure out which guns have been shot that much. I suspect it is the Colt Gold Cup, S&W 686 and CZ-75B. But I never suspected they had that many rounds down range.

I haven't been doing much reloading or shooting during the past ten years but I intend to get back into it. It's kind of strange, my shooting dropped off after we bought the farm and I could just go out the door and shoot. Too many other things that took up my time.

Ken
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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by MS-OH » Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:15 am

Thanks Guys! I went to shoot my Xd40 today that has not been shot for a couple of months, and after reading this thread, got curious. I cleared the pistol and checked the chambered round OAL vs. the top round in the mag and did I get a surprise. I mic'ed the two, and the chambered round measured .009 less than the unchambered round! Both were originally set to a 1.125 OAL which is what the particular reloading manual I used specifies for the bullet I am using. Not sure what to do with the "shorty", I may take it apart and re-seat it. One quick question, how much of a crimp are you guys using? I am just crimping enough to take out the bell mouth from the expander.
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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by Ken45 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:29 am

I know they say just to use a minimum crimp to hold the bullet, just enough to take out the belling that has been done. I go a little more. I can see a slight taper on the case mouth. Very little but it's there. I have not had a problem with that.

You might want to take that round and rechamber it a half dozen times and remeasure and let us know what you find.

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by CADguy » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:35 am

We've discussed bullet setback in a couple of threads here and it sent me running with my calipers to check my .40 S&W carry rounds since I knew some have been rechambered more than a couple of times. The OAL's ranged from 1.012 to 1.029 on these. So I grabbed a box of never-chambered rounds and found they exhibited the same range. These are Winchester Supreme Elite PDX1 180 grain. My Federal rounds which had also been rechambered but set aside when I bought the PDX1 ammo came in at 1.125 +/- .002 in OAL. I've read that a setback of a tenth of an inch (.100) can double the pressure - obviously very dangerous. But what about this variation in DPX1 production alone? Rounds that I have rechambered don't seem to change (but it's a Glock with the more generous chamber). When you're talking a spread of .017, it's hardly perceptible to the naked, untrained eye. So how much is too much?

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by NRAInstructor » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:44 am

Bullet "setback" due to rechambering has never really been a concern of mine. That's just me personally.

As far as crimp, I use a very slight taper crimp. When I'm loading a new batch, I will take the first two or three, verify the OAL, check to make sure they chamber correctly and then press the projectile against a wooden bench with a good bit of force to see if the bullet moves. If it does it's too loose. If it goes too far into the chamber, too much crimp.
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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by Ken45 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:57 am

CADguy wrote:When you're talking a spread of .017, it's hardly perceptible to the naked, untrained eye. So how much is too much?
Well, it all depends.... :shock:

No one really knows until a gun goes kaboom!

I would definitely be more wary with a hot load (something loaded to the max) and especially in a more risky caliber like 40SW. It also depends on the powder used. Some powders are more linear, but other powders suddenly spike. Just on what I've heard, Bullseye is safer and more linear, Universal is thought to be more spikey.

Something like .357 or .44 with all their extra case space probably wouldn't be a worry even if you were shooting it in a semi auto ;-) Of course for most of us, rechambering a revolver isn't a worry, LOL.

BTW, the report I saw on the Los Alamos incident and investigation, there was a very visual difference in some of the reloaded cartridges.

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by CADguy » Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:49 am

Ken45 wrote: ...No one really knows until a gun goes kaboom!

...BTW, the report I saw on the Los Alamos incident and investigation, there was a very visual difference in some of the reloaded cartridges.
That's pretty much my point. I saw the report and the length difference was quite obvious as would be the tenth of an inch that could double the pressure. I guess the .017 spread on the DPX1 must not be a problem as the ammo gets great reviews at the online suppliers.

I believe the Los Alamos report didn't rule out the possibility of a barrel obstruction as well which would certainly be a significant factor in the KB.

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by Ken45 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 10:00 am

CADguy wrote: I believe the Los Alamos report didn't rule out the possibility of a barrel obstruction as well which would certainly be a significant factor in the KB.
I know that barrel obstruction was one of the early considerations because of the condition of the barrel.

But based on their standard procedure of removing and rechambering rounds, their documented measurements of setback from rechambering is an eye opener.

I've heard and heeded the warning about rechambering rounds for a long time. In my mind, the Los Alamos documentation affirms the real risk. Along with that, some of the ammo manufactures and firearms manufactures likewise warn of the same risk. That's enough warning for me!

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by unknwn » Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:59 am

As regards the setback problem with some calibers, .40 S&W being notorious and the subject of this particular post.
I purchased a cannelure tool from CH4D with an intention of imparting a cannelure to the casing just below the bullet seated depth.
There is plenty of factory ammunition out there in other calibers that are configured like this, why not handloaded .40 S&W ?

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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by willbird » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:26 am

The best way to prevent setback is to load the gun, and leave it loaded, and shoot the round in the pipe :-).

I am curious about the statement about the sig being able to fire 1/4" out of battery ? Is this just a striker drop, or actually a primer pop ? Typically the geometry of the gun prevents the striker or hammer from actually hitting the firing pin. I could say a 700 remington will fire with the bolt handle partway up...but in reality it cannot fire unless the striker forces the bolt closed first, which usually uses enough energy up that the gun will not fore.

With the gun 1/4" out of battery I would be far more worried about lockup than unsupported case, in most designs 1/4" out of battery means the locking lugs are not engaged at all...most of the "kabooms" look like the gun was locked up properly when it happened.
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Re: Improving 40SW reloading safety

Post by SMMAssociates » Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:13 pm

willbird;

The wife (and the neighbors) get upset when I do that :D....

I have a round here - somebody's JHP "SD" load - with a definite and visible setback. More than 0.017", although I never mic'd it. That's the only one I've seen. I've got two .40's, and one's occasionally subject to emptying by more conventional means.... The other one's essentially a range gun - never kept loaded unless I get the itch to carry it.

The real issue, I guess, is that the .40S&W case is just a little too small to start with, and pressure increases past safe margins are possible if the powder charge is compressed past the appropriate setback. IMHO, the cannelure would be a great idea for reloading.

It's also a good idea to check that "removed" round for setback (ought to be easy to make some kind of gauge) and maybe rotate more deeply into the magazine when doing an unload for storage. IMHO, some combination of "not quite adequately sized" and frequent "handling" is necessary. One .40 I have - not the "range gun" - was frequently taken to the range (after being unloaded), and then reloaded as soon as it got back home, with only one cartridge showing a problem after more than a year. It's not a legend, but I don't think it's a panic.

Regards,
Stu

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