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The Super Blackhawk Blew Up

This is a discussion on The Super Blackhawk Blew Up within the Gun Stories forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; I mentioned a little of this story in a post on the reloading forum and said I would post the complete story here. Forgive the ...


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Old May 24th, 2015, 05:28 PM   #1
 
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The Super Blackhawk Blew Up

I mentioned a little of this story in a post on the reloading forum and said I would post the complete story here. Forgive the long post, but I think it is a good story.

I went to a chert pit near where I lived and went often to shoot. There was a crude shooting table with a metal roof over it and many people went there to shoot. I got out and my next door neighbor was there. He was walking in circles and about to have a come-a-part.
I said, “What is wrong.”
He said, “My gun just blew up.”
Laying on the shooting table was a Ruger Super Blackhawk. The side of the cylinder was blown out and the top strap was stretched enough that the barrel was pointing downward a few degrees. As best I remember we found the piece of the cylinder that blew off, but it was in the 70's so I am not sure. The first thing we wanted to do was unload the gun. There was no way to turn the cylinder but we finally got it out of the gun.

How in the world did this happen? Well a friend of his (I’ll call him Jo Bob) gave him a box of 44 magnum reloads. He had loaded them for his Smith and Wesson Model 29. He told my neighbor (I’ll call him Tommy Ray) that they were “hot loads” but they were listed loads in his manual. They were he said “max loads” but should be fine. Jo Bob said he had shot a cylinder full of them in his Model 29 but he thought they were too hot for it. The box had written on then end that they were 240 grain bullets over 10.6 grains of a particular powder. Since the Super Blackhawk was reputed to be a very strong gun they would be fine in it. Because of the price of 44 shells Tommy Ray was glad to get them. Even though Tommy Ray’s gun was a new model he only loaded 5 rounds in the Ruger (old habit). When Tommy Ray fired the first round it was naturally next to the empty chamber. The outside of the cylinder between the one fired and the empty cylinder blew completely off.
We decided he needed to know what the load in those “hot” 44 magnum loads were. I ask Tommy Ray if he knew a guy by the name of Richard P. He said he did. I told him Richard had a kinetic bullet puller and would be glad to pull some bullets and weigh the powder. They might figure out what happened. I mentioned to Tommy Ray that I never loaded max loads for my 357 magnum with fast burning powder. That I had the theory that it was straining my gun and not getting as much velocity for the pressure generated as a max load of slower burning powder. For max loads I normally used W296 and nothing faster than H2400. I was not familiar with the powder Jo Bob had used to load the MAX loads in the 44 magnums, but it must have been fast if 10.6 grains was maximum.
Tommy Ray and Richard pulled some bullets and what do you know. They had 16.0 grains of powder and not 10.6 grains.
So Tommy Ray called Ruger to see what they would do about the gun that blew up. I would have never called Ruger as I would have thought they had nothing to do with the gun failing and I would have been embarrassed to ask them for anything. Maybe TR (Tommy Ray) thought if the Smith 29 shot 6 of them and did not fail then the Ruger should have also. Who knows? So TR tells the Ruger Man (RM) that his gun blew up. The RM said we don’t guarantee our guns shooting reloads. So TR tells RM that he doesn’t reload. So the RM asks TR, “Were you shooting reloads when the gun failed.” Well TR would not lie so he said he was. The RM told TR he could help him out. That they would help him out because they would like to have the Super Blackhawk to study the failure and the metal composition of the firearm. RM offered TR a super deal. Not sure exactly, I don’t remember, but I believe it was less than $100 to replace the gun (I think $60). TR said great what do I need to do. RM said ship us your gun with a letter describing all you know about the failure and a check for the amount I told you. Then he said is there anything you would like different on your replacement Super Blackhawk. TR said what about stainless steel. RM said OK to that to and just wanted to know where TR wanted Ruger to send his gun. He said Mac’s Clubhouse in East Gadsden. RM said put that in the letter.

Well all is well that ends well. Tommy Ray got his not-defective blown up Super Blackhawk replaced with a Stainless Steel Super Blackhawk for less than the price of a trade. And most importantly, no animals or humans were harmed during this incident.

This story is the truth as I “remember it” with no embellishments that I am aware of.

And that is why I have three rules for reloading. I put the on the thread about Shared Reloads. I will reiterate them here:
Rule Number 1: I don’t reload for anybody else.
Rule Number 2: I don’t shoot anybody else’s reloads.
Rule Number 3: Always obey rules Number 1 and 2.



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Old May 24th, 2015, 06:03 PM   #2
 
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Great story to remind us about reloading, even using our own reloads we have to be careful and always follow the proper relaoding guides.
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Old May 24th, 2015, 06:27 PM   #3
 
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The super blackhawk is strong but any gun has limits. I cannot even imagine what the pressure must have been from 16 grains vs 10.6. Luckily no one was injured.
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Old May 24th, 2015, 06:44 PM   #4
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Great story and good on Ruger.
Thanks for that!
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Old May 24th, 2015, 06:52 PM   #5
 
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As soon as I saw the word 'reloads' the rest was a given.

I overheard a story in the LGS where a guy called S&W and asked them about shooting a particular load in a M29. Their response was to NOT shoot it in their gun but to use a Ruger.

I think the general consensus is Ruger makes a stronger gun, period. Every 'blowup' story I've ever read has one key word in it: reloaded.
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Old May 24th, 2015, 08:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike12 View Post
As soon as I saw the word 'reloads' the rest was a given.

I overheard a story in the LGS where a guy called S&W and asked them about shooting a particular load in a M29. Their response was to NOT shoot it in their gun but to use a Ruger.

I think the general consensus is Ruger makes a stronger gun, period. Every 'blowup' story I've ever read has one key word in it: reloaded.
Almost every blow up I have heard of was from reloads as well except one Colt python that became untimed over its use and blew up.
Whats funny is that I own a model 29 in 44 magnum, and I have read lots about shooting 44 magnum rounds constantly will prematurely wear it out. I have had to send mine back to smith since my trigger pivot pin sheared off. It was repaired and back in service, but I am still reluctant to shoot alot of 44 magnum rounds in that pistol for fear of wearing it out. I have not seen this happen, or heard of it happening in a ruger.

Maybe more that adds to the ruger is stronger theory is the reloading manuals. For instance the 45 long colt used in the 1873 colt revolver, and a stronger load of the same 45 colt caliber for ruger revolvers, it specifically states for the ruger. I can say with the 5 or 6 ruger revolvers I have are very strongly built, compared to the 1873 colt clone I own. They are built stronger than my smiths as well.


In the end I only shoot my reloads, and I don't share my reloads except with close family.

Last edited by Tacky; May 24th, 2015 at 08:03 PM.
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Old May 25th, 2015, 03:47 AM   #7
 
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What was the powder?
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Old May 25th, 2015, 11:53 AM   #8
 
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smintnframe,
I do not know what the powder was. I loaded Unique, 2400, 296, and 4227 and it was not any of those I don't think. Some time after it happened I looked in my Speer #9 and Hornady Vol II to see if I could figure it out. The box of reloaded ammo was no longer available. He probably threw it in the river.
Some don't notice the fact that the reloader, who I called Jo Bob, had already fired 6 of them in his Smith model 29 before he gave them to my neighbor and it did not wreck the 29.
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Old May 25th, 2015, 12:27 PM   #9
 
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Good story indeed. Glad for the happy ending. And, I believe your "Three Rules" are worthy of being chiseled in stone.
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Old May 25th, 2015, 12:54 PM   #10
 
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If "reloads" are the only thing you have ever heard about blowing up a gun.......maybe some of you should do some more research. There is a thread here right NOW about a Scout rifle blowing up with factory Federal loads. And it's not the first and won't be the last.

As far as the story above..........if all that is true, is the 29 Smith THAT much of a better pistol than the Ruger.........not likely, as Rugers are pretty well known to take HOT loads. Common sense might lead one to believe there was a flaw in the cylinder, at least it would me, given the circumstances.

Just a small amount of research about the load and common powders used during the time frame, would reveal that 16.0 grains of about any of the common powders would NOT be over max, unless it was Unique, which is likely a good possibility. I have an older manual that lists a MAX load of Unique at 14.0 gr under a 240gr jacketed bullet. Another common powder then was Herco, with a max of 14.0 grs, but even that is a compressed load. So lets say it WAS Unique and at 16.0 grs, that is a 15% over charge. HOT, no doubt.....destroy a gun......NO................Also I can find NO powder in ANY book that lists anything around 10.6gr as anything resembling a MAX load in a 44 mag

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Old May 25th, 2015, 01:05 PM   #11
 
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Quite an account of how to ruin a gun and 'high fives' to Ruger for the customer service in replacing it. Wonder what the Ruger engineers found if anything? Good set of rules also to follow. I reloaded once for a guy, around 200 rds of 38 Spec wadcutters, at what it cost me for the components. He fired around 18 of them, then I found out later he sold the gun along with the ammo. Didn't make me very happy.

I always thought and understood a quality single action such as a Ruger was stronger than any swing out cylinder double action revolver due to the cylinder pin and stronger frame. Makes sense when you look at them. Also a lot stronger lockup, also due to the cylinder pin.

I've heard of and seen a lot of reloading gaffs by reloaders that try to cut corners in reloading, don't follow basic and common sense rules. Reloading in a hurry, some sort of booze drinking while reloading (saw a Smith Model 15 ruined by double charge of Bullseye by a guy who HAD to have a bottle of Jack Daniels on his bench), guys trying to load max/max+ loads turning their gun into a handheld howitzer (thinking it was macho to do so), mixing powders(caught one guy that had a quarter pound of a fast burning powder for 9mm and was going to pour it into another partial can of another brand of some fast burning powder to save room in his storage locker. He figured they were all the same anyway). I 'bust my can' as a heavy equipment operator, work to buy quality guns, and don't want to ruin them or cause myself or any one any injury to produce poor or dangerous ammo. I enjoy reloading as much as I do shooting! Take care all!
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Old May 26th, 2015, 05:14 PM   #12
 
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Ruger took care of him beyond what anybody could logically expect and that was one point of reporting the incident. I just meant to post an interesting story. It just happens to be one with a lesson and there has been some discussion on the thread.

There is some I don’t remember about this story, but some of the facts are firmly etched in my head. The box said 10.6 grains of powder. The cylinder next to the one which fired was empty. The piece of the cylinder which blew off was part of the one which fired but mostly the empty one next to it. The top strap was stretched and the barrel was slightly pointed downward. The Super Blackhawk was still warm from the one shot when we were removing the cylinder. I was not present when they pulled the bullets nor when they weighed them. I only knew what my neighbor told me.
I wondered then and wonder now if the metallurgy of the gun was not up to par. I wondered if the empty cylinder had anything at all to do with the failure. I said I did not know what the powder was, and I don’t, but I just looked at a Winchester data booklet “Fifth Edition 6/79" which listed Winchester 231 maximum load at 11.0 grains with a C.U.P. of 38,000. Who knows what 16.0 grains of W231 would be like on the C.U.P. scale.

I don’t know much about gun history but I remember reading an article concerning chamber pressure measurement. When psi rating was developed and various calibers were being tested and rated something interesting was discovered. Some loads which were considered safe and within specifications under the CUP (copper crusher method) measurement were way over the rated PSI pressure (piezo-electric conformal transducer method). This existed almost entirely with very fast powders in handguns. The article I read said the pressure spike was so quick that it did not read accurately with the CUP method. It also does not cause gun failure for the same reason. The piezo-electric transducer can measure this quick over pressure spike. So the handgun reloader stands to be most affected, but is this a serious problem? No, it’s not. The lesson I see in this is for the reloader to take advantage of the wide range of handgun propellants we have today. Don’t try getting high-velocity loads with the quickest burning propellants. In spite of some wonderful mid-rate and slower handgun propellants on the market. Some reloaders are still trying to get top velocities from Bullseye, W231, HP-38, 700X, AA No. 2, and other very quick-burning handgun propellants. There is however a point where this quick pressure spike causes catastrophic gun failure and not just premature gun wear. Save those economic quick-burners for your target loads.

Iowegan replied on a Thread titled “.357 magnum, old school loads” and put a great deal of light on the pressure reduction of the 357 magnum loads. They are not necessarily "lawyer loads" but protect our guns. Great reading from him as usual. Check it out if you can find it.
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Old June 2nd, 2015, 08:24 PM   #13
 
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More Rugers are ruined by idiot handlloaders trying to make dinosaur killer super max reloads than anything else.......

MY golden rule is if you need more power, step up a caliber.......don't load .357's to the absolute limit if you get "magnumitis", just buy a .44 Magnum.......or a .454.....

Factory ammo is not exempt, I almost blew up a Kahr Arms semi auto Thompson when a CCI Blazer .45 squib load lodged a bullet halfway down the barrel, the next round struck it and bulged the barrel. Kahr fixed it for free provided I included the empty box of CCI so they could get the lot number.
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Old June 2nd, 2015, 08:43 PM   #14
 
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Here's the thread mentioned above.

.357 magnum, old school loads.
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Old July 25th, 2015, 04:15 AM   #15
 
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Whenever any of my friends or clients want me to help them with reloading I insist that they bring the weapon with them so we can test fire some loads in my test tunnel to get the correct load. Always keep powder in its correct bottle with the label intact or throw it out if you are unsure.
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