Hornady Steel Match Might Not Be So Good After All…

Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) I ran a couple ammunition consistency testing articles. One of those articles was comparing two flavors of “match” ammo, one of which was Hornady Steel Match. Throughout the first 20 rounds of the ammo (the box holds fifty) I had no problems. Zero malfunctions. No issues. But when I went to go shoot round number 21, disaster . . .

Well, comparative disaster. I checked that the chamber had a round in it. I pulled the trigger. I heard the hammer drop And yet, no bang.

There are two possible reasons for a round not going bang. Well, three, but we’re assuming that live and properly manufactured ammo is being used. Either (A) the primer failed to ignite for some reason or (B) the primer lit, but didn’t immediately touch off the main charge. Either way, you now have an extremely dangerous situation on your hands — a round that could possibly go off at any minute.

Black powder shooters are uniquely aware of how terrifying a “hang fire” (as this type of malfunction is called) can be. Even though it may look like the gun isn’t going to fire, in reality that round can pop off at any time. Black powder shooters often experience this when they have an insufficient priming charge to immediately set off the main charge — the gun may not fire immediately, but some of the smoldering embers can find their way inside and touch off the powder at any minute.

So there I was, on the range with a live round in the chamber that refuses to go bang despite a nice love tap from the firing pin. A round that can blow at any second, as many an unfortunate soul has discovered in the past.

Luckily I was only on a practice range, and wasn’t in the middle of a competition. I know that in the heat of the moment I’d TAP-RACK-BANG that sucker out of there and keep rolling, but that leaves a possible mini pipe bomb behind waiting for some unsuspecting spectator to step on it and lose a foot. In short, it sucks.

In the end, it turned out to be a simple bad primer. One strike didn’t do the job, but the second tap finally set it off. And while that may not have been an issue if it happened only once, the problem was that it happened again. And again. And again.

My AR-15 is well maintained — pristine condition, even. Heck, its firing pin currently is practically brand new. And it has never, in hundreds of thousands of rounds, had a problem applying sufficient force to a primer. Never. And yet, with Hornady’s Steel Match ammo it did it five times in a box of fifty.

Even so, I wanted to rule out my gun as the culprit. So I bought a box of Hornady Steel Match in .308 for the McMillan CS5, and the second round out of the box had the exact same issue. It simply refused to go off. We’re talking about a brand new gun, one that set off my handloads and the McMillan-supplied .308 without a problem. And yet Hornady’s Steel Match refused to work the first time every time.

I’m seriously considering taking it off the board due to this issue. Heck, even Wolf doesn’t have that kind of a failure rate.