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Author Topic: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?  (Read 24335 times)

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Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Ladies and gents..

I would like to know whether any of you know of a case where a cartridge failed to discharge (whether the pin strike was insufficient or whether the primer simply failed to ignite), and the shooter immediately attempted to fire the cartridge again and some damage or potentially dangerous condition to do with the gun ensued. I'm not talking about mistakes/safety issues on the part of the shooter, I am talking about potential problems with the gun, specifically any mechanical damage or obstruction that could be caused by trying to fire the misfired cartridge twice. Also, would it make a difference if the shooter ejected the cartridge, loaded it into a magazine/cylinder again, and tried to fire it that way, as opposed to simply refiring? I exclude rimfires in this question.

Thanks very much for your help.
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

Offline Geoff Bruton

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Good morning, Brandon,

I have actually had two cases within the space of a week in which misfired cartridges were submitted.  One involved a semi-automatic pistol, the other a revolver.  In the case with the semi-automatic pistol, the primer had been struck at least twice, and failed to fire.

Ordinarily, in the case of a hang fire / delayed fire cartridge, the shooter should wait for a approx. 30 seconds prior to extracting the cartridge from the chamber.  This is to prevent injury to the shooter in case the delay in ignition is such that the cartridge ruptures when no longer supported by the chamber walls.

However, in both of the cases submitted, I do not see any potential for damage to the firearm since the cartridge was in the chamber when attempted to be fired.  With the semi-auto, the firearm will not cycle if the cartridge fails to fire - no recoil, therefore no energy for extraction and ejection.  Indeed, the shooter in one case attempted to fire the cartridge twice, but to no effect.  With the revolver, the chamber simply rotates our of alignment with the bore.  There is the potential, I suppose, of the revolver cartridge being a hang fire, and then discharging when out of alignment - though this did not happen in this case, and is consistent with a misfire.

As for the situation when the cartridge could then be reloaded into a magazine or cylinder and attempted to be fired again, the same situation would apply.  If the cartridge is 'dead', it will simply sit in the chamber.

In your question you exclude rimfire cartridges - though I would include them in the scenarios described above.

As an aside, there is the potential of having a squib load in which the projectile may become lodged in the bore.  This has much more serious consequences when it comes to firing the following round.  However, as per your question - if the cartridge fails to fire, this would not occur.

I hope this has helped to answer some of your questions - and I'm sure that there are others who will pitch in!  :)

Warm regards to all,
Geoff.
Geoff Bruton
Ventura County Sheriff's Office
Forensic Services Bureau

Jerryp

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Brandon
I had a case where the shooter was a licensed pistol holder shooting in a competition. He was attempting to unload his semi auto firearm by manually pulling the slide rearward with the expectation that the cartridge would extract and eject making the firearm safe.

The cartridge extracted but failed to eject. When the shooter released the slide the cartridge became jammed between the ejector and the breech end of the barrel. The ejector struck the primer with enough force to detonate it.  The cartridge fired outside of the chamber causing the cartridge case to rupture and projectile to travel a short distance without passing through the barrel. I don't know if the shooter was injured.

Image 1 shows the ejector mark on the primer as well as the ruptured cartridge case.
Image 2 shows the ejector.
Image 3 is the fired bullet with the barrel mark on the nose and no rifling marks.

Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2006, 04:01:17 PM »
Thanks Geoff and Jerry, for great info!

To conclude, would you say that there is no reason why a shooter should not perform a second strike on a cartridge that has misfired (assuming for now that it is a centrefire cartridge in a pistol)? Is there no possibility of damage to the firing pin as it travels that extra distance to strike the primer? And if the cartridge is manually ejected by the shooter, inspected and replaced in the magazine, and then rechambered, is there any possibility of damage to the firing pin if it is now not aligned with the impression on the primer, but now hits the edge of that impression? I am thinking of eccentric pin strikes here.
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

Offline Doug Lancon

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2006, 05:23:07 PM »
Brandon, if the barrel is unobstructed and the cartridge is in battery in a firearm that it would normally be safe to fire in (correct caliber and not falling apart) then it would be safe for the firearm and the shooter. 

As to whether the firing pin would encounter damage due to excessive travel on your second shot scenario, that is doubtful.  To make the misfired dent in the primer the hypothetical firing pin would have to travel "x" distance.  To fire again and hit the exact same spot would only require it to travel "x" once again.   

With multiple overlapping impressions of the firing pin, it is possible that the primer may be punctured.  I have fired pistols where the primer was punctured on the first impact of the firing pin. 

If the primer mixture ignites with a punctured primer the primer cup may "blow out" of the cartridge or melt some. 

Just make sure that you are wearing your ppe's and when in doubt, shoot from a rest.
Doug Lançon

Jerryp

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2006, 11:58:35 AM »
Brandon
RE: 2nd attempt to fire a cartridge

I agree with DL.
The only reasons I can think of for a cartridge not to fire after the firing pin strike is: 
1) Primer has been deactivated. This can happen for a number of reasons which do not matter here
2) Firing pin did not strike hard enough.
3) Firing pin is not aligned with cartridge

If the ammo is correct for the firearm a second attempt to fire should not be a safety issue or cause damage to the gun.

Quote
To conclude, would you say that there is no reason why a shooter should not perform a second strike on a cartridge that has misfired (assuming for now that it is a centre fire cartridge in a pistol)?

Generally speaking I would not attempt to fire a misfired cartridge in my personally owned firearm. That’s just a personal preference that I use with my guns. I make second attempts on reference collection guns and case guns regularly.

RE: Firing pin damage
Quote
Is there any possibility of damage to the firing pin if it is now not aligned with the impression on the primer, but now hits the edge of that impression? I am thinking of eccentric pin strikes here.

I attached an image of a misaligned firing pin strike.( it not eccentric)  I don't think there was any damage to the firing pin in this instance. (Although I was not looking for any damage). The firearm fired subsequent to this instance.

Generally speaking, damage to a misaligned firing pin would be dependant on many variables (quality of the firearm would be one) that would have to be considered on a case by case basis.

Hope this helps  :)
« Last Edit: September 02, 2006, 12:00:37 PM by Jerry Petillo »

Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2006, 12:36:12 PM »
Thanks Doug and Jerry, that clears it up for me nicely!
By the way, Jerry, I assume the shooter who discharged that round by means of the ejector was somewhat shaken by the whole experience...it looks like something I would rather avoid.
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

Jerryp

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2006, 12:52:48 PM »
I'm sure he was shaken.

If your interested I know where you can get a 40 SW caliber para ordnance real cheap  ;D

Offline Doug Lancon

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2006, 11:28:16 PM »
On the ejector striking a firing pin incident - you might hear warnings about that happening with a number of pistols.  I had a gl@cK instructor warn against catching a live cartridge when unloading by covering the ejector port with the hand cycling the slide.  Kind of a smooth move until the ejector strikes that one firing pin and discharges the thing in the palm of your hand.

JP, hope Ernesto didn't mess up your holiday too much; I'm glad he didn't come here. :)
Doug Lançon

Offline Aaron Brudenell

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2006, 02:33:24 PM »
Brandon
RE: 2nd attempt to fire a cartridge

I agree with DL.
The only reasons I can think of for a cartridge not to fire after the firing pin strike is: 
1) Primer has been deactivated. This can happen for a number of reasons which do not matter here
2) Firing pin did not strike hard enough.
3) Firing pin is not aligned with cartridge

I've seen a number of failures to ignite on a first strike that have to do with harder surplus/military primers or reloaded ammunition with incompletely seated primers.  The latter case fails because the first firing pin blow took energy to seat the primer and only makes a shallow impression.  In either case, a ruptured primer is a possibility due to initial weaking of the primer by the initial blow.  I've experienced this personally with a number of handgun and rifle cartridges with little ill effects, however, all precautions should be taken and if you don't need to discharge the failed cartridge, I wouldn't tempt fait needlessly.

Here's a pair of military surplus cartridges that were fired in an 8mm Mauser.  The one on the left fired normally (note the shallow impression, typical of this ammunition) and the one on the right was restruck after a failure to fire and the primer ruptured on the second hit during firing.
Aaron Brudenell
Firearm Examiner
Arizona Dept. of Public Safety
520-746-4644

Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2006, 03:22:49 PM »
Aaron, thanks, that's great info, I am learning a lot here. Was that surplus 8mm ammunition reloaded at all, or is it a genuine case of factory-loaded ammunition failing because of a second strike?

Edit: I forgot to ask whether there is a potential for damage to be caused to the firearm because of a ruptured primer (assuming the setup at the time is the same for a properly chambered round)?
« Last Edit: September 04, 2006, 03:27:15 PM by Brandon Bertolli »
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

Offline Aaron Brudenell

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2006, 04:45:53 PM »
The 8mm ammunition was factory surplus (Yugoslavian, 1952) and it failed to discharge on the first firing pin strike.  I simply recycled the cocking throw of the bolt and fired again--what I noticed was a good bit of smoke and air pressure comming from the bolt but otherwise I found no damage to the gun or myself. 

I consider this case to be unusual in that with this same ammunition and two other guns, I had multiple failures to discharge on the first strike with no problems of any kind on follow up strikes.  In one case, the firing pin of that rifle had to be cleaned thoroughly of cosmoline (I mistakenly assumed it had been cleaned unlike all the others I cleaned myself) and the second rifle had an old/weak firing pin spring that had to be replaced and neither has since suffered any further misfires.  Also, neither of those rifles gave failures to fire with commercially loaded (non-military) ammunition before or after their respective fixes.

Here's another case of pierced primers that had to do with the firing pin design.  A pair of similar .38 Spl. revolvers had deep penetrating firing pins with a truncated cone shape that had particularly sharp corners (where the firing pin's ogive met the meplat). 

<see photo below>

Primer failures were frequent with each gun and did not appear to damage the firearm or shooter (me).  This happened with a wide varriety of ammunition brands.  Those primers that did not rupture appeared to have very deep impressions.  Subsequent polishing of each firing pin to reduce penetration depth and round the profile solved the issue and left more standard looking firing pin impressions.

Damage to a gun following a pierced primer is not likely but not impossible--I suspect damage would be limited to immediate areas near the primer puncture or weak internal structures of the firing mechanims along the path of least resistance of rearward escaping gases.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2006, 06:13:28 PM by Aaron Brudenell »
Aaron Brudenell
Firearm Examiner
Arizona Dept. of Public Safety
520-746-4644

Jerryp

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Re: Any safety issues from attempting to discharge a misfired cartridge again?
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2006, 07:57:39 PM »
Aaron
Thanks for adding to the reasons for primer failure. I hadn't considered handloads and was unaware of the issue with military surplus.  O0

 

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