Why they blew up was apparent as early as 1899Sporting Life
, Feb. 4, 1899
“Mistakes In Shell Loading Laid to The Powder – Gun Makers and Powder Manufacturers Suffer Through the Carelessness of Users – A Remarkable Case in Virginia – All Powders Not Alike”
Powder manufacturers surely have their own troubles and all because some men who handle the gun and profess to be sportsmen have never studied the action of smokeless powder. Every gunner knows that three drams of good old black powder is a perfectly safe load. Ignorant ones think the same amount of any smokeless powder should be likewise. They have never examined the relative merits or power of the different nitros now on the market, but just simply go along satisfied with anything that their gun dealer offers them. Some people still believe in the old saying: “A pint’s a pound the world around,” no matter whether lead or feathers are being weighed. All smokeless powder looks alike to them, and the printed directions on the can, giving instructions as to the amount to be safely used, is never read. They know all about it, or think they do. They load the shells carefully (?) and they fly away.
It’s surprising to find occasionally a man loading shells who knows as little about the real action of nitro powder as a school boy does about training a rattle snake. His customer calls for three and a half drams of powder and one and one eighth ounce of shot. He loads that amount of powder in any kind his customer orders. If his customer did not know this one powder is twice as dense as another he did not tell him. In the first place he never found it out for himself. It is experience that teaches wisdom and experiment that proves theory. Often when idiots overload a dangerous nitro powder which bursts the gun it becomes a question in their mind who to blackmail. The powder maker is liable to catch it, but the gun maker gets more or less of the blame. He should have made the barrels like those of a cannon instead of a firearm for sportsmen. If the gunner has an idea that the powder maker is to blame he proceeds to blackmail him. That is what it really amounts to. He will swear that he only used three drams of their stuff, but he forgets to send on any of the shells or powder for examination.
A case came up in Virginia recently which is interesting. A gentleman had two guns burst. They were made by one of the most prominent gun manufacturers in this country. He claimed that his load was but three drams of “E.C.” powder and one and one-eighth ounce of No. 8 shot. Some of the shells were sent to the gun makers, and upon investigation it was found that one shell contained sixty-one and one-half grains of Walsrode powder
, (The Walsrode Smokeless & Waterproof Gun Powder Co. was established in 1894. Walsrode Gray 33 grain = 3 Dram Eq.; Green 30 grain = 3 Dr. Eq.)
which is a nitro known as the dense compound. This powder has been used in this country for several years with much success, and is safe to use when properly loaded, the same as any other nitro. The load recognized by the manufacturers of Walsrode powder is thirty grains for a 12-bore gun. In this case the load was double. Now what would you think of a man who would load six or six and one-half drams of “E.C.”, “Schultze”, Hazard, Du Pont, King’s or Austin smokeless powder or a double charge of Laflin & Rand or “Gold Dust” powder? Such a load would be very liable to do some damage, even to the best-made gun. Yet it is settled that any of the above-named nitros are perfectly safe and reliable with the loads recommended by the makers and loaded by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, the Winchester Arms Company, the Peters Company and the Chamberlain Company.
Shells examined in this remark showed a very queer combination of powder. Some of the shells contained three drams of “E.C.” powder lightly wadded and poorly crimped. A scientific test showed a pressure below the normal. Another shell examined showed a small amount of “E.C.” powder and the balance of the load being made up of fine black rifle powder. On inquiring into the case it was discovered that the dealer who received the order for the shells placed it in the hands of a boy who was perfectly ignorant of the power of nitro powders as well as the difference between them. The boy used up all of the “E.C.” powder given him for the loading and then put into the remaining shells an equal amount in bulk of Walsrode powder, which is a dense compound and twice as heavy as the “E.C.” When he ran short of Walsrode the fine black rifle powder came in handy. The boy thought that one was as good as the other if it filled the same space. This dangerous combination and double charge of a violent explosive was sold as a safe and reliable load. It is a wonder the shooter was not killed outright. This is only another knock at the hand-loaded shell, which in most cases is nothing more than a poorly and imperfectly machine-loaded shell.
To be sure, there are hundreds of careful shell loaders who never have any trouble with the loads they put out, but these loaders are themselves shooters who have spent years in shooting, experimenting with the various nitro powders and thoroughly understand them. But let one shell be overloaded by some oversight and the powder makers receive the blame. If the gun is injured it is returned as being no good. The one really to blame seldom acknowledges it. The different factories loading shells in this country have the most accurate kind of machinery, and so arranged that an imperfect load or an overcharge of powder is quite impossible. For a factory-loaded shell to burst a gun is something exceedingly rare, but with hand-loaded shells it is a frequent occurrence.
WILL K. PARK (Editor) Sporting Life
Sept. 10, 1904
“Burst Gun Barrels”
The number of burst gun-barrels which, comes to the attention of the shooting public is remarkably small, considering the thousands of guns in use throughout the country. The main reason for the comparatively small number of guns burst is the great use of factory-loaded shells, or the hand-loaded of reliable dealers. The day of loading one’s own shells is pretty well passed, therefore, the over-loaded or double-charged cartridge is very seldom found. Very often a burst barrel is blamed on the gunmaker or the shell-maker, but more often on the manufacturer of the powder. Cases are known where a party blowing out a gun-barrel, using an extra heavy charge of dense powder, blamed it on a bulk powder. A suit for damages was quickly withdrawn after an examination of the gun had been made. Sporting Life
Ed Rike, the well known trap shooter of Dayton, O., suffered a serious accident to his left arm recently in the explosion of his gun, due to a double load of dense powder.
1907 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue No. 116 courtesy of Gary Rennles
“Nitro powder should only be used by people familiar with it; and dense nitro powder should be weighed by an apothecary’s scale and not measured.”
A 3 Dr. Eq. (Dram Equivalent) load of “E.C.” No. 1 or “Schultze” was 42 grains by weight. 3 Dr. Eq. of Dense Smokeless Ballistite was 24 grains; Infallible 22 grains. The pressure of a 3 Dram (82 grains by volume) load of Black Powder propelling 1 1/8 oz. of shot at 1200 fps is about 5000 psi. The pressure of 1 1/8 oz. 3 Dr. Eq. of BULK Smokeless was 6500 - 7500 psi; 3 Dr. Eq. of DENSE Smokeless was 9000 - 10,000 psi.
Substituting a Dense Smokeless powder for Black or Bulk Smokeless powder would double the charge. It has been estimated that 50 grains of Infallible or Unique could reach 30,000 psi.