There was a horrendous incident a few months ago at my club. Every Tuesday evening is ‘public’ night where the club makes its 100m range available, for a fee, to non members. A non member attended and took his place in bay 4 with one of the two Ruger Mini 14 rifles had brought along to shoot. Unbeknown to the range officers the shooter encountered a stoppage whereby the first rifle would not cycle. He informed no one and reached for the second Mini 14 he had. On the second round the rifle blew up in his face sending shards of metal in all directions, the barrel 15 feet forward of the firing bay and the bolt into his forehead.
Fortunately the shooter and all others survived the incident. What was established during the club investigation later was as follows:
1) The shooter, not surprisingly, was using handloads.
2) The handloads were loaded with varying amounts of Winchester W540 powder. The club range convenor pulled the ammo down and found the charges varied wildly from 9gr to 20gr or more.
3) The shooter had bought w540 mid/slow burning pistol powder thinking it was Vihtavouri N540 rifle powder that has a burn rate close to H4350.
4) The first Mini 14 failed to cycle as the bolt had split lengthwise.
5) The second Mini 14 suffered a catastrophic failure of the receiver shattering the mid section into small pieces, breaking the stock in two places and ejecting the barrel out the front of the firing position.
6) The threads in the receiver and on the barrel were intact indicating the receiver had stretched sufficiently that the barrel was able to slip out with the threads engaging.
7) The shooter successfully destroyed not one but TWO Ruger Mini 14 rifles in the space of about 2 minutes.
The shooter received first aid and was taken to emergency services and discharged. It is the understanding of the club that the individual not longer holds a firearms licence due to additional factors. In discussions after the event the shooter was adamant that .223 ammunition was only every loaded with pistol powders though given the likely state of shock he would have been in this could be discounted.
After the event the shooter took what pieces he retained of the two rifles to local gunsmithing shops with the desire to build one ‘good’ rifle from the ruins of the ill fated pair. He was not successful.
Keep your powder dry and CORRECT.