Seems that it always happens after stretch of things more or less working out, that the stars and planets align to pull you back into earth’s orbit. As a result of this immutable fact of life and fate, we have developed a lexicon of bromides to fit the situation, such as:
“Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop”
“Pride Goeth Before the Fall”
“What Goes Around Comes Around”
You get the idea. Or to put it another way,
“to get to the crux of the matter…”
I have mentioned elsewhere in these pages that my re-entry into the shooting sports was subsequent to a hiatus of darn near 25 years, and possibly even more. The other day I was out practicing the Service Rifle National Match Course (80 round) and my intent was to shoot 10 rounds in each phase with one of my M1 Garands and the other 10 rounds in each phase with one of my Match AR-15’s. Since this was just a practice, I felt perfectly OK expending some ancient reloads from 1988 labeled “Practice and Fun Only.” This pretty much said to me, “tired brass.”
Well I got on target and sighted in with the Garand and I had begun the Slow Fire offhand 200 Yard phase and I was having fun. I just love shooting the old workhorse. Anyway I had gotten off about 13 rounds, sighters and record and…
“Huh, a failure to chamber!”
I extracted the partially chambered round, which fell about 3/8” short of battery. I inspected it and it looked OK. But hey, you never know, maybe the shoulder was bumped or something.
So I attempted to chamber another round and the same outcome. I immediately thought, “Case separation!”
I looked around at the brass scattered at my feet, and I discovered, not one, but TWO partial cases. The case necks had severed just in front of the shoulder and the rest of the case necks were all cracked. I also found one of the severed case necks laying on the ground. Apparently it had ejected with the case. Well the Garand got cleared and put back in the case, and I shot the remainder of the course of fire with the AR.
Back at the shop, I tried getting the case neck, which I presumed to be caught in the chamber throat, out by pushing a new bore brush through from the muzzle end, but that didn’t work. So, time to explore inventive thinking…
Mulled it over, and came up with the idea of fashioning a hook from some ductile wire, some leftover suspended ceiling wire actually, into a chamber length tool to insert from the chamber end past the throat and to pull back out, hopefully hooking the neck.
I actually had little faith that this would work, as I had ginned up all manner of horrific scenarios of permanent damage, forcibly jammed brass irretrievably pressed into the throat by the following two rounds jamming it forever.
Well apparently the gods weren’t that angered with me as the trick worked! It came out slicker than snake snot. Good cleaning and we were back in business.
The moral of the story is simple, When the brass starts getting old enough that you actually think about reloading and labeling it as old, or tired, or “Practice and Fun Only”, toss it into the salvage brass bucket instead! Just for the record my trip to the range is a two hour round trip, and had I not had both rifles and sufficient ammo for each, my day would really have been ruined!
Scrap Brass is Scrap and not worth the time at either end of the reloading process! Keep track of use cycles!
Here’s two more related articles regarding Brass Cycle Life:
“Reading Your Spent Cases – Learning to Be Your Gun’s Best Friend”
“That Bright Ring – Incipient Case Head Separation” Talk about page turners… WOW!