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The Bullpup's Reloading Pages

Personal experiences with assembling ammunition

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A case of overpressure due to a double-charge in a 38 Special cartridge.

This picture is a graphic example of what certain signs of overpressure look like. You can click on the image to see it full-size.

The 38 Special case on the left was loaded and fired normally. The load was 3.9 grains of Alliant Bullseye behind a 158 grain Hornady HP/XTP, CCI #500 Small Pistol primer, Magtech brass.

The 38 Special case on the right was accidentally double-charged with 7.8 grains of Bullseye instead of 3.9 grain. You'll notice the clear signs of overpressure when you compare the two. The primer on the right is seriously flattened compared to the normal primer. The case head on the right is also flattened and smoothed in comparison to the case on the left. Oddly enough, the overcharged case did not show any signs of head separation.

These loads were fired in a Smith & Wesson K38 with a 4 inch barrel. As luck would have it, I happened to be firing across a chronograph at the time. The median velocity at 10 feet for 30 cartridges like the one on the left was 653 feet per second. The one on the right clocked 1212 feet per second.

While I'm glad I happened to experience this, I would like to emphasize that this is not the sort of thing one should be doing deliberately. Double-charging this case was a stupid mistake I don't intend to repeat. Serendipity allows us occasionally to commit interesting stupid mistakes rather than the usual boring stupid mistakes!

Robert W. Bethune


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This page and related pages are devoted to hand assembly of small arms ammuntion. All information presented here is based purely on my personal experience and does not constitute any recommendation to others nor any assurance that any action based on any information here is safe. Reloading ammunition is inherently hazardous and should not be attempted by anyone who does not know what they are doing and should only be done in accordance with data published by the component manufacturers. Failure to exercise proper care when hand assembling ammunition can result in serious injury, property damage, and death to the person doing the reloading or to others. I take no responsibility for any use made by others of any information presented on these pages because I have no control over the use others may make of it. I present this information purely for the interest it may have for others who share my interest in reloading.

For further information, please contact me.