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November 08, 2006

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Why Rifle Makers Go Gray

Here’s another little jewel that came over the Internet, and it shows what happened when some hunyak neglected to remove his bore sighter before pulling the trigger. Neat split, huh?


A friend of mine who lacks my nearly limitless wisdom asked why, in such cases, the obstruction isn’t simply blown out of the bore. That’s because pressure builds so quickly that the barrel is at the limits of its strength and beyond before the pesky collimator can be blown clear.

I don’t know if the owner of the rifle was hurt or not. Maybe he just had the hell scared out of him. But I do know of one case, years ago, where the consequences of a plugged bore were dire. A range officer whom I knew got a surplus P-17 Enfield service rifle, a .30/06, and shot it for the first time with some handloads a friend gave him. The action came apart, and the ejector took out his right eye. In order to save the other eye, the doctors had to give him massive doses of cortisone, which destroyed the lining of both hip sockets. And so this poor man is now on crutches, with one eye.

No one knows precisely why the gun blew. The barrel may have been clogged with Cosmoline, or the handload may have been too hot, or both; it really doesn’t matter. The point is that if you are not careful, things can get out of hand in less than a heartbeat—and the results will be permanent.





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I don't know about the other people reading this but I don't buy this. To me it looks like someone cut the barrel and split it by hand. Also, they tested this on Mythbusters and welded a steel plug in the barrel and didn't get this type of result. This just seems to picture perfect to be real. I don't care how much pressure there is, the barrel has way more strength than that bore sight in the end.


It looks pretty real to me. I've seen other pictures with similar results. That isn't what always happens with a plugged bore, but I believe it is genuine.
What were the results of the Mythbusters thing? I wouldn't expect them to see this if they welded a plug into the barrel. The welding of the plug into the barrel would have made the end of the barrel stronger by joining the walls with the plug.


I hate to break it to you non-believers but barrels often do split like that. Take a gander at this Sako, though it was a tad worse:

Ralph the Rifleman

I have seen blown guns before,mostly shotguns,peeled like a banana,so I believe this could happen. One black powder shooter mixed nitro powder in his rifle, and blew apart the chamber sending a "chunk" of steel past his head.
It peeled like that barrel.

Bill Sinclair

As a Brit with 50 + years in the UK gun trade I have seen similar results. We have 2 proof houses where all guns must be tested and it does not stop this happening from time to time. Bill


In response to mbaker if you watched myth busters they did this with a brand new shot gun and the metal plug was welded in when the barrel seperated it did so at the weld where the barrel had been weakened. So it wasn't exactly the same thing.


Trust me fellows, I saw this happen to a rifle that was strapped to a 4-wheeler. Mud had gotten slung up in the end of the barrell. The guy stopped to take a shot and it split like a loaded cigar. Luckily no one was hurt. When he brought it into the shop he told me he did not know what happened, but I saw mud on the rifle and ask him what he had been doing and I just put 2 and 2 together.


Wow! No one called each other names or implied a lack of mental capacity. This surprises me more than the barrel blowing out. But, a barrel blowing out doesn't really surprise me. And if you're like me you're tired of all the negatives spewed during the elections anyway. My gunsmith keeps "parts" to show at Hunter's Ed. He would love this one. I can't tell if there is a bolt in the gun ... hopefully, the guy's okay.


And this is why some intelligent person first came up with the idea of using a long string to pull the trigger on old or redone rifles before shooting it yourself. Either that or let one of your associates who you don't much care for do the job.

P.S. Dave, in you nearly limitless wisdom, what exactly is a hunyak, anyway?

Dave Petzal

To Matt: Hunyak (or honyak) is a term I picked up from Jim Carmichel and fell desperately in love with. The word, not Carmichel. He used it to denote an oaf, a dunce, a person of little taste or culture.


Kinda reminds me of when I was perusing a really nice gunstore in Phoenix a few years back. This guy walked in with his hand wrapped in about 12 yards of gauze. The store owner says "Can I intrest you in a firearm". Guy says "Nope I got plenty of guns". Owner says "hey, what happened to your hand?" Guty says "I shot myself while I was cleaning my Ruger P89". He then relates the story to everyone in the store as if he had shot a record buck, laughing about it all the while. After he was finished, the silence was deafening. He promptly left out of embarressment. Myself I was just disgusted and worried knowing there were more out there like him......


Umm Bull S#%@ it takes more than something as simple as a bore sight to do this and on mythbusters they also packed the barrell full of dirt amongst other things with no result the welded plug was after they couldnt get the elmer fud result and wanted to try one last thing.


seems odd that the barrel is split in nearly perfect 4's. I'm not saying its fake I'm just saying it looks fishy


I heard of a guy whos kid stuck a crayon in the end of a gun and then he went hunting and got killed when he shot it. Good idea to keep it locked up and check the barrel now and again.


A few years ago, I was plinking at metal silhouettes with a single shot .22 I had owned for a number of years, when all of the sudden, the shot I had just fired sounded like a cannon. When my wife came out to see what had happened she began picking brass shrapnel from my forehead as I picked up the remains of my shell extractor and tried to figure out what happened. the chamber was swollen notably and by now the blood had gotten worse. We finally picked out all the shrapnel and stopped the bleeding. when I sent the remains of the gun and the shell to the manufacturer of the ammo, they called me on the telephone and repeatedly asked as to my health, I assured them I was fine and they admitted that due to some unknown reason the shell had gotten a double charge of nitroglycerine primer solution and caused the explosion. they made excellent restitution and called periodically to inquire as to my health. as a survivor, not at fault, let me assure you, there is nothing so frightening as an explosion right in front of your face, no warning, no expectation,just plain "common sense FEAR" !!!!
Mistakes are still made, folks, let's not let them be ours !
...Bill Coffey

Ralph the Rifleman

Dave P-
Do the gun manufactures still use the "Blue Pill" test? Which is different then an barrel obstruction, of course,but still tests the limits of the gun's chamber pressure.I thought this was a "standard" procedure for American firearms concerning proof tests?
ps-It's all about liability;which failed the GUN, or the AMMO?

Ralph the Rifleman

To jq-
Concerning safety, check barrel for obstructions EVERYTIME before firing said weapon.

definitely real

There was a kid from Stanberry MO back in the 80's had the exact same thing happen with a 30-06. He had been carrying the gun around in his truck barrel down in the floorboard. It ended up getting mud in the end of the barrel. He shot it without checking. It split the barrel in half just like it is in this picture. I still have the newspaper article saved somewhere. He wasn't hurt other than a black and blue shoulder from massive recoil. Myth busters never tried this with a "high power" big bore rifle.


That rifle kinda looks like a Savage 110. Did some one say that it was a Sako? It sure looks like a 110 stock.

Mike Shickele

I find it odd that people doubt that this kind of stuff occurs. I've watched myth busters before, and often, in ignorance, they are not able to fully test a theory. A rifle and a shotgun are two totally different types of guns, with different thicknesses of barrels; results will not be the same.
As for what type of a gun it is; it doesn't matter. This could happen to any type of rifle if one isn't careful.


Ralph the Rifleman

Myth Busters tested the CO2 tank explosion theory from JAWS fame, and it didn't explode but flew around the container they were testing in. More importantly, before shooting the tank, they had doubts on whether the .30/06 bullet could penetrate the bottom of it.Well, it did of course, but this is an example Mike S. made about them not knowing much about fire arms...fortunately, they had reliable safety instructions from a firearms officer from the local state police concerning test containment.A rifle is a very powerful tool, so blowing up a barrel is very "do-a-ble"!!


Ralph The Rifleman could not have said it better "Check Everytime"! I'd like to believe that the fellow has gained a new sense of safety. Otherwise, he should sell his guns and take up archery.

Dave Petzal

To Ralph the Rifleman: All American-made guns are proof-tested by the manufacturer withblue-pill loads that produce much higher than normal chamber pressures. But a barrel is not nearly as strong at the muzzle as it is at the chamber, so off she goes. Also, even though blue pill loads produce lots of CUPS, they are still controlled as to how many. With a plugged barrel, the sky's the limit.

John Broussard

With more than thirty years of shooting behind me and many good friends in the gunsmithing business, I've seen dozens of barrels that have been blown apart in similar fashion to the one pictured.

As a manufacturing/engineering tech (I design and build water pumping systems) I'd suggest to the non-believers that the manner in which the barrel split is about what one could expect from explosive destruction. Uniform linear separation from the point of greatest pressure/lowest resistance. Had the barrel been low quality or defective, it would have let go at the defect or any point of irregularity. This one appears to have split evenly BECAUSE it was well made. Pot metal would have become a bomb and fragmented in multiple small particles in all directions. Just my opinion for what it's worth.

Ed J

to John B
AS a retired tool maker I question myth busters filling the barrel with dirt. I think that would act like 2000 grain bullet that would blow the case apart and the gas ports in the action would disperse the gas. Remington has has it built in on the model 870. There would be no air inthe barrel to compress and therby generating a shock wave and it would not blow the barrel.

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