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Discussion Starter #41
Sorry for the confusion. The OP thought his range book of notes was picked up with the rest of the evidence but I didn't get it. He only has five powders "recently bought". Three are slow, stick powders; H-1000, 4831SC and Re22. He has two powders for pistols he hasn't loaded for in 'quite a while': H4198 and H-4227. The purpose of the range trip was to chronograph loads but it wasn't set up for the accident. I'm surprised the bullet left the barrel.

He's recovered and doing well. There's no loss of senses and considering such a blow up (with a $&#@^* plastic bolt shroud, too!) that's truly a miracle of some kind.

I pulled down another loaded round paying closer attention to the powder. 23 grains dumped out of the case, same as #2. A very careful probing with a wire indicated a column of hard powder directly under the bullet. Off to the side, was softer and the wire 'broke through'. The dumping revealed a fragile 'stick' of powder that broke apart easily but evidently part of a column of compressed powder under the bullet. Total weight of the charge, 63 grains. The powder looks just like the other two: Short and thick with angular ends and 'other stuff'.

Has anyone got H-1000 to look at?
 

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That's an important clue, I expect. This powder may not only be mixed, but deteriorated. Powder clumping together is one of the various deterioration signs. On The Firing Line, member Slamfire posted information from a U S Navy test in which M80 ball was artificially aged for, IIRC, eighteen months at about 140 degrees. The result was the powder deteriorated in a way that preferentially destroyed the deterrent coatings. That resulted in increasing the burn rate of the nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin that hadn't yet deteriorated. Firing the ammunition at the end of the aging exercise showed pressure for the control lot kept at normal temperature was about 48,000 CUP, but the aged lot ran at something like 72,000 CUP. I have no idea if more or less aging would have made pressure higher or if they stumbled upon the worst case, but obviously the potential for this to do worse was there. Deterioration by breakdown of the nitrocellulose and additive matrix would explain those odd looking broken grain ends.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
Why can't I like that twice? Thank you. Very helpful.
 

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Elk Whisperer (Super Moderator)
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Just took this, powders identified are all from Alliant



If any of the faster powders got mixed elsewhere then there coulda/woulda been a big problem coupled with deteriorated powder (?)

OUCH!!!

RJ
 
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Discussion Starter #49
I appreciate the pics and replies.

There seems to have been infiltration of the powder supply and a compressed load turning into a hard, dense lump that altered 'burn rate' into a 'detonation'.
The shattering of the bolt rim and separation of the lugs from bolt body and a notable absence of gas cutting/melting of brass and steel indicates a very quick release of pressure within the action. This explains the energetic ejection of the bolt from the rifle after breaking the safety lug and bolt stop and then through a man's face.
I'll share info all I can.
 

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The 4227 I used back in the 70's in .410 shotgun and 357 magnum was a flattened ball powder, very shiny too. I no longer have a sample to photograph.

Regardless of how hard packed those charges are, or how 'deteriorated' they might be, I just cannot accept that your mechanical manipulations used in digging it out has created different significantly different diameters of extruded kernals, nor how any of it turned into the various ball types present. I recently knocked down a half box of 6.5x06 100 grainers that was loaded back in the 80's over (too) heavily compressed 61gr charges of the old H4831 in LC63 cases. Yes, I was once young and immortal, but the old 98 Mouser action didn't shed its lugs. Once jarred free the pulled powder didn't look any different than it did when new.

Didn't this thread at some earlier time state that the OP's powders were purchased in the last year from a dealer? New containers of powder are unlikely to rapidly deteriorate, especially since the deployment of steel and plastic containers which replaced the spiral wound cardboard containers of decades past. I have an old little RV trailer I converted into a portable loading room/shooting bench that has had several partial containers of powder stored in it for many years, hot as heck in summer, freezing cold in winter, but always dry. To date I have seen no evidence of any change in their shapes, smell, or performance. I'll be hard to convince that sample of powder you have pictured there wasn't intentionally mixed through either ignorance, indifference, or outright malice. 4831 or RE22 don't magically morph into ten different shapes and sizes while we sleep, regardless of the container they are in, compressed or otherwise. What possible forces can be at work inside a cartridge case that can transform an extruded powder into a ball powder? I clearly see both types in the sample photo, as well as multiple diameters of extruded kernels. Extrusion cuts don't change angles either, and powder kernels are hard and brittle, not malleable. They crush or cut with difficulty under pressure, they don't bend or flatten like putty does.

Therefore, I'd want to look at the canister that powder came out of. Then I'd send the lot number to the manufacturer along with a small sample of this mystery powder. They have the resources to sort this out and I expect they have reason to want to. Myself? I think a lot of tampering post packaging is at work here. Like maybe the little grand kids came over and held a tea party in the reloading room...Whee! Powder is kinda fun to pour after all, and they wouldn't know the difference. Maybe the OP should look in ALL of his containers? Or throw all of them into the garden and start over?
 

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I loaded some 45-70 with a decently compressed load of H335 with a 325 gr FTX. Well within published load ranges and velocity. I pulled one down 2 years ago and noticed that the powder was packed in there very tight and I had to "thump" the case to get the powder out. This thread has me thinking I need to pull down every one of them and develop a different load. Especially since my son is the one who shoots that rifle the most any more.

I can deal with a bolt through my head a lot better than I can through his.
 

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The Troll Whisperer (Moderator)
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Couldn't agree with avesteve more! Something is amiss from factory packaging to case reloadiing.
 

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Discussion Starter #53
My pictures of the powder can be misleading. With high winds and 30%RH, powder has a lot of static. Some of the short round grains look like ball powder but I can assure you there is no ball or flake powder in any of these loads. The strangers in the case are half diameter sticks with a slightly greenish cast in sunlight. I have an eyepiece cam from my big stereo microscope that may take better pictures.
There are misshapen 'chunks, and 'logs' of unknown origin and bits of broken grains but no flakes, no balls or flattened balls.

I started 60 years ago to understand 'blow-ups' and tried to duplicate what I thought it meant. I can tell you with absolute certitude than not even a low-tech Mauser Model '95 will blow the bolt out of the gun when loaded with compressed Bullseye and the heaviest bullet. It wont shed its lugs if a bullet is lodged in the bore and that bullseye load fired behind it, either. Butcher paper wrapped around the action shows where the dangerous gasses go and register the bits and pieces that fly off, but the BOLT stays in the action.
Shedding locking lugs and letting the bolt go is unique in my experience.
 

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The Shadow
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1a) Didn't this thread at some earlier time state that the OP's powders were purchased in the last year from a dealer?
1b) New containers of powder are unlikely to rapidly deteriorate, especially since the deployment of steel and plastic containers which replaced the spiral wound cardboard containers of decades past. I have an old little RV trailer I converted into a portable loading room/shooting bench that has had several partial containers of powder stored in it for many years, hot as heck in summer, freezing cold in winter, but always dry. To date I have seen no evidence of any change in their shapes, smell, or performance.

2) Extrusion cuts don't change angles either, and powder kernels are hard and brittle, not malleable.
Steve, I completely agree about the "mixing" of powders, based upon the pictures. Also think your suspicion of grandchildren at play is perfectly reasonable.

For some discussion on a few points you made.

1a) Sometimes you have to read between the lines. This event has covered two threads and several pages each, and specific details have been sparse, and details seem to change.... Remember that we were told all the powders were bought in the past year.. Then maybe one of them hadn't been loaded in a long time.. Then again, maybe they are just "recent purchases". Those are all quite different things. When going on an EMS call, we frequently get told that someone has "recently" been prescribed, or diagnosed with.... The reality is that "Recently" typically means sometime between last week, and the heavy side of a decade.

1b) I agree that current plastic containers are certainly better than the former paper bag, and IF it were current serviceable powder; then no it likely wouldn't be an issue. That being said, if you grab last seasons Norma reloading manual; they did some very wonderful pressure testing on "sealed" bottles of powder. In fact good powder does change and can change rather quickly. This brings up some very important points that many often don't know, forget, or ignore. First, the actual powder isn't always a singular thing from one production run, that is all brand new. Quite often it is a blend of various lots, ages, or suppliers. So while the bottling event is "Current", that doesn't speak to the actual powder. Second, "signs" don't accurately or reliably tell the handloader NEARLY what they think it does.
Again take a look at the pressure data in the Norma manual, or read the sticky with pressure data for the beginner that I posted. 80,000 psi, No primer issues, no case stretch, no high velocities.

2) That may be the case when a reloader opens his bottle of powder, but during the manufacturing process it is very much like wet dough being run through a child's pasta maker. The consistency of the kernels in a bottle would be a better indicator of mixed lots than anything. Also remember the extruded powder is about surface area and for simplicity, internal "bubbles". If the powder begins to break down, those bubbles collapse and the shape changes.

Cheers
 

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I'm at a loss. The only empirical evidence in this case is a shattered firearm, a shattered face :(, an improbable bolt failure, and one closeup photo of "mysterious smokeless powder/s" that after very close examination by my eyes cannot be a singular powder type. Some of those kernels look like desiccated cat poo while others look like 4831 or 4350, and then there are the "bits".

That said, there certainly is an odd appearance what was the stressed 90* intersection of the lugs and bolt body. That area doesn't to my eye scream brittle, nor does the torn surface suggest embrittlement or poor heat treatment. I'm leaning toward repeated application of near yield stress. Like one proof load after another after another etc. until the lugs just couldn't stand one more such application.

A friend and I used to campaign a drag car. On about the 8th run as he shifted from 3rd to 4th at near 115mph Terry looked as if he had made an intentional right hand turn into the corn field that boarded the track. He emerged somewhat later none the worse for wear other than a battered grill and hood. The cause was a twisted off right axle shaft where the spline met the outer edge of the differential side gear. We instituted an inspection protocol of the axle shafts after each weekend event. Those axles always looked perfect until about week 3 or 4, depending upon the number of runs they had endured. Then all of a sudden after 8-12 runs a barely noticeable offset in the spline became viable where a shear had began to form. Whereupon we scrapped that axle. Those shorn off bolt lug surfaces sure look a lot like the ends of our twisted off axle. For what it's worth Chryslers Axles Rockwell tested 47 to 48C. I admit I don't know what the failed bolt might have tested. Note: that axle didn't fail at launch when stresses were highest, it waited until the 3-4 shift when the stresses were only about 1/4 of what it had been exposed to only seconds earlier.

Is it possible that rifle was subjected to repeated extraordinary stresses that it might have survived a few times without obvious damage? Who among us carefully examines the bolt lugs on our rifles each time we shoot it?

It is very strange for the bolt to be so cleanly released as it was. Ordinarily blow ups indicate an off axis event where the top or bottom of the action in the area of the lugs bend prior to the rupture which puts the bolt into a high force off axis bind. Thus restrained by tremendous friction and bending forces the bolt stays put...more or less...until the receiver ring cracks and the barrel is released, or the case head vaporizes, cuts away a locking lug and blows out the magazine and stock. None of these things seem to have happened here. In this event it seems the bolt lugs departed first in unison, resulting in an unimpeded expulsion of the bolt by on axis forces. The balance of the damage to the rifle is incidental to the loss of containment once the lugs said goodbye.

Has there been any examination of the action lug bearing surfaces? Any sign of battering, or angular material displacement?

Stuff like this drives me nuts! I hope I don't develop a flinch just from reading these two threads:confused:
 

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Discussion Starter #56
avesteve-- I've got the gun and ammo. The lugs are captured between the receiver ring and the remains of the case head. They failed in tension, not shear.
The powder lot numbers are being researched now. At this time the fact the powder in some of the unfired rounds is near a solid, compressed clump between bullet and flash hole.
It has been suggested by a blast engineer the boat-tail bullet pushed hard into a fine grain powder might make a 'shaped charge'. I'm just passing on information to others at this point.
 

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Solidity is important to detonation, as detonation is ignition energy supplied by a compression wave traveling supersonically through a solid rather than by the slower mechanism of a flame front traveling between the grains to supply ignition energy as heat (deflagration; normal powder burning). Indeed, one definition used to separate combustion by detonation from combustion by deflagration is that the former is faster than the speed of sound in the explosive material, while the latter is below the speed of sound in the explosive material. The shaped charge concept would tend to compress the bullet's boattail and push it forward, which you would need to recover the bullet to see (it may still be in the barrel if the explosion was fast enough; I've seen that). Shaped charge effect would, again, require the high speed of detonation and not just deflagration, which is too slow to make that work.

The fatigue model would require multiple high-pressure events, and that raises the question as to how many of these loads were fired, and were there any conventional pressure signs on them? To cause multiple round fatigue, I would expect there to be substantial pressure signs on the other rounds, with primers falling out of loose pockets, bolt face gas jet pitting, sticky bolt lift, and all the rest. Do we know if the shooter had any such signs? But if some of the loads fired normally before this event occurred, it's another sign of deterioration because I have some old surplus rounds where it has occurred, and in the box it randomly began with one cartridge here or there while the others remained fine.

The only sure test I know for deterioration is to determine if the diphenylamine stabilizer has been consumed. It takes a chem lab to do that analysis. All powder is deteriorating from the moment it is manufactured, due to residual acid radicals left by the nitric and sulfuric acid mix used to make cellulose into nitrocellulose. The breakdown itself produces nitric acid radicals that will breakdown other nitrocellulose molecules and so on in cascading and exponential fashion if allowed the opportunity to, giving raw nitrocellulose a fairly short life expectancy. The role of the antioxidant stabilizer in powder is to grab those acid radicals before they cause that cascading breakdown. In this fashion, the powder is able to hang on longer. But the antioxidant is gradually consumed the same way baking soda is gradually consumed if you put enough vinegar on it. When the powder's antioxidant is, the cascading breakdown is allowed to go forward. Other than storage at subzero temperatures, I don't know a way to slow that further.

You occasionally see premature breakdown reported. This is most likely because the lab cost to check for the amount of remaining stabilizer is high enough and time-consuming enough that the temptation to just go ahead and blend without testing is high. Blending is not done for the bulk grade powders used in most commercial and military ammunition, so that ammunition always has the full potential storage life. Manufacturers can use bulk powders because they have pressure testing equipment to check loads with. Most handloaders aren't equipped to check the pressure, so they must rely on databook recipes for which safe use requires lower lot-to-lot burn rate variation than bulk powder has. The tradeoff is a lower shelf life except when the bulk lot comes out close enough to the right burn rate to allow blending to be avoided.

I still have some 20-year-old Varget from a large order whose grains are a greenish-gold color. No more recent stock to look at. Whether the presence of grains that color in the "4831SC" means Varget was mixed with the 4831SC or just that Hodgdon sourced some 4831SC from ADI at some point when Valleyfield couldn't get around to making any and got that surface color and then later used it for burn rate control blending, I don't know. That's what the distributor has to work out.
 
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Discussion Starter #58 (Edited)
Here's the five previous fired cases. I can see two ejector and extractor marks on all cases. Rim expansion between once fired and twice fired is 0 to .0005 (.5345 is present on all but two. They're smaller.
The center-rear case has been fired three times.
#6 is a mess.
 

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The container looks like a .300WSM cartridge that was ready to shoot next edit. but the gun blew up. There's already a thread on it.
I figured that was where this was going. Good luck in your quest. You’re doing a great service sir.
Rex
 

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I'm hoping somebody has a can of this sitting around. I'm only trying to find out if your 4831 SC looks like this one (is said to be).
Specifically, the angular cuts on the big grains and the few half size grains seen at 9:00.
It would be helpful to have a picture of the can the powder came from, too.
My advise is turn the powder into fertilizer or burn it. Trying to ID powders based on what it looks like is sorta like playing Russian Roelette in many cases IMO.
 
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