Saturday, August 03, 2013


I've been a Bad Blogger lately.

Too distracted by personal events, I haven't kept up with news that I think is interesting to this audience.  Well, that's Hubris.  Still, things have been going on in my life that *_I_* think are interesting.  Here's an example:

Wimpy Loads:

Last Friday (last weekend in July) .. I received a communication from The Hobo Brasser to the effect that he was going Under The Knife soon for repairs to his knee(s), and the Saturday match at Dundee was the last time he would be shooting until he and Spicy-Lady would Snowbird to Texas for the Winter.  I agreed to meet him at the match so we could squad together.

Scene shift to Geek Central .. that cluttered garage where I keep my reloading equipment and supplies.  Since the GeekGun (10mm STI Edge) was still hors d'combat at the gunsmith (a consequence of a KaBOOM! in March of this year), I decided that The Beloved Kimber was the only viable alternative for last-moment rearmament.

I hadn't loaded .45ACP ammunition for well over two years, so I was pleased and surprised to find a box of 300 Semi-wadcutter 200gr bullets (made by a man who hasn't been in business for 10 years), some Winchester Large Pistol primers, and half of a 1-lb canister of Vihta Vourhi N330 powder.  Checking my loading log, I determined the 5.0 grains of VVN330 was the correct load, and I set my Bullseye powder measure accordingly.  My records indicated 1.275" OAL was adequate, but I settled for 1.262 as my preferred bullet-seating depth because .. I just had a feeling.

I only managed to load 100 rounds, because it took me a while to swap my dies from the Dillon XL650 Turret to the Lee Turret press ... the XL has not served me will lately, as it does not cycle primers properly.  But that's another story.

The next day, Saturday, I showed up late at the Dundee match but was pleasantly surprised that the squad was still on their first stage.  When my turn to shoot came up, I was confident that I had fresh ammunition and I was eager to shoot.

When the buzzer went off, I engaged the first of 12 targets (at point-blank range) and The Beloved Kimber went .. Ker-POP!

The load was so light that, although the bullet cleared the barrel and put a solid A-zone hit on the target .. the slide didn't cycle properly!  It ejected the spent brass, but the following round jammed.

I cleared the jam, tried the next round.


Okay, one more time:


It wasn't a fluke.  EVERY round in my magazine was too lightly loaded to properly cycle the slide.  I gave up.  The match fee was $17, and the cost of gasoline for the 170 mile round trip was .. well, more than that.

I stuck around for an hour, but as Norman the Ungrateful pointed out:  "IPSC is not a spectator sport".  I went home to pout, and to contemplate my sins.

A couple of days later, Guy Neil ("Front Sight" Reloading Guru, who lives in the area) emailed me to ask what happened.  His impression was that I got stove-pipes.   I explained that the empties ejected okay, but the following rounds weren't seated in the chamber because the load was too light to cycle the slide correctly.

Then I started thinking.  Where, exactly, did I get that load of gunpowder? And why was it inadequate to the purpose?

I realized that this was part of a 3-pound batch which I picked up at the prize table at the 2003 Open/Limited Nationals in Bend, Oregon.  This stuff was ten years old!

Later, I went back to re-examine the canister.  The markings on the label indicated that the batch was actually manufactured in 1998 ...15 years ago.

The powder didn't appear to have drawn moisture, and it was tightly sealed so I don't think that moisture contributed to the problem.

No, my best guess (and it's only a guess) is that the gunpowder deteriorated in a sealed, water-tight container due only to age.

There's a moral here, and that is that if you don't test your ammunition before you got to a match, you probably are setting yourself up for failure.

I had experienced that once before, in 1996, when I loaded a batch of 9mm with a new 115gr LRN bullet and took it to a match.    The OAL was okay, but the bullet shape was one I had never tried before (I had been shooting conical bullets).  Turns out that the mere bullet shape was sufficiently different that the round wouldn't seat in the chamber of my SW659.  Go figure.  (At least that time, since I hadn't shot a single round, I got my match fees back!)

I'm pretty sure there's a moral to this story. 
I don't care.
I'm still pissed.