If you shoot often enough, you will have misfires. They’re most common in .22 rimfire. The priming process for .22 sometimes results in a missed spot on the rim of the .22 cartridge. When that happens to be the spot the firing pin hits, the priming compound isn’t set off. No bang. Most of these will fire if they’re rotated and struck again in a different spot. Some .22 firing pins are designed to hit two spots at once, making these misfires much less likely.
The next most common misfires are from reloaded cartridges, especially those produced on progressive loading set-ups. It’s easy to produce cartridges at a good rate, and to miss that the powder reservoir needs refilling. Then the question then becomes “when did I run out of powder?” Sometimes carefully weighing the cartridges can prevent the necessity of pulling the bullets and inspecting them. I’ve had a number of misfires where there was no powder in the case, and the primer barely moved the bullet a short way down the barrel.
Problems with malfunctioning primers are next on the list. Primers can be seated backwards (most are caught during inspection), not seated completely, or contaminated with petroleum products. It doesn’t take much oil to “kill” a primer.
Water is far less a problem if the primer is dried completely should it become wet. I had a couple thousand primers become thoroughly soaked in a flood. The compound in the primers was the consistency of wet plaster. I didn’t want to throw them away, though, so I carefully dried them outside. As you may have heard, the Arizona summer is a dry heat. Temperatures reached over 110.
A close friend and I used those primers in .38 wadcutter reloads and I don’t recall having a single misfire.
The least common are blooper rounds and hangfires. A blooper round is one where there is a significant reduction of sound, yet the bullet or shot manages to clear the barrel. Shooters should be alert to situations where the shot sounds or acts differently. When it happens, inspect the bore. Placing another shot after a projectile is lodged in the bore will ruin a good barrel and could have much worse results.
If you have never experienced a hang fire, it’s…interesting. That’s when there’s a delay between click and bang. It’s usually very noticeable, somewhere between a tenth and a quarter of a second.
Recently I decided to check the sights on a Glock 23 that was new in the box. I had obtained it in a trade. It fits my holsters. I decided to make sure it shot where the sights pointed.
I took it to the Ranch and fired three rounds off-hand at 50 feet. A couple of the rounds were in the right place, but one was off a bit. I moved back to 100 feet, with a similar result. One of the rounds was decidedly low. I decided to be a bit more careful. I went back to the bench for the full 60 yards of the pistol range, used a rest, and was surprised to see the bullet hit the dirt half-way to the target.
The rounds I was using were of unknown provenance. They looked like factory Winchester jacketed hollow points. All the headstamps were Winchester. I don’t remember exactly where they came from. Of the 40 rounds, half seemed to give full power performance. Another 14 or 15 produced shots that were definitely less powerful, but which worked the action. Six were decided bloopers where the fired case stayed in the chamber, but the bullet cleared the barrel. Three of them were hangfires. I had never seen that happen before with what appeared to be relatively fresh ammunition in good condition.
Without a case lot number, there was not much that could be done. I fired off the remainder of the bag so that I wouldn’t rely on it in the future. They might have been reloads, but I could not be certain.
I have two theories. Either the primers were partially contaminated with oil or this might have been an early lot of ammunition with lead-free primers. The early lead-free primers had a shelf life of about three years, then they started to deteriorate. The performance of the .40 ammo that I fired would be consistent with that.
Again, if you shoot enough, you will have misfires, bloopers, and/or hangfires. Keep the muzzle pointed down range, and be sure to check your bore if there is any doubt.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.