Gilbert Arizona Reloading Accident Torches House

A house fire in Gilbert, Arizona appears to be a rare case of an unfortunate reloading accident. The reloader suffered burns to his face and upper body. That’s likely why the fire got out of hand. It wouldn’t have taken much to get the three vehicles out of the garage. Their loss was a substantial percentage of the total loss of the house, which looks to be in the $200,000 range. I hope that smoking was not involved . . .

Smoking while reloading is, as you’d expect, incredibly dangerous. Fighting fires where ammunition is involved isn’t. From

“As the ammo was kicking off, one actually hit me right in the face mask,” Gilbert firefighter Mase Mattingly said. “It bounced up and landed right in my hand.”

Fire officials said the ammunition did not have enough velocity to penetrate their protective gear.

Even so, the fire truck Mattingly rode in to the fire had several bullet strikes in the paint.

Notice that the bullets didn’t have enough force to penetrate the fireman’s protective gear, or do more than chip paint on the fire trucks. Firefighters have known for years that burning small arms ammunition produces a very low level of danger. This is from the SAAMI paper Facts About Sporting Ammunition Fires:

 Ammunition fired in the open, not enclosed in a gun’s chamber, discharges with such inefficiency that the projectile will not even penetrate an ordinary fiberboard shipping container panel at very close range.

When not strongly and tightly confined, smokeless propellant powders burn relatively slowly and do not explode as we know they do when fired in a gun.

Pressure within a cartridge case must build up to several thousand pounds per square inch to cause the cartridge to discharge as it does in a gun.

Unless it is tightly confined, as in a gun chamber, no ammunition shell case will withstand the growing pressure of gases generated by burning propellant powder without bursting before the bullet or shot is expelled with violence or velocity.

Worst case scenario: casings propelled by this type of action would impact exposed eyes. Notice what appears to be a 12 gauge metal base and a 9 mm bullet lying together in the street. Of course, the photographer might have put them together for dramatic effect.

Gunpowder is somewhat less flammable than gasoline, and we don’t worry about people storing gasoline in their garage. Ten gallons of gasoline is equivalent to 70 pounds of gun powder, which is enough for 100,000 rounds of 9mm or .45 ammunition.
It’s sad that all that ammunition went to waste, not to mention the damage to vehicles and the house. But when you consider the millions of reloaders in the United States, this sort of accident is extremely rare. This is the first one I have heard of in 50 years. Yes, I have been reloading that long.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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