November 08, 2006
Why Rifle Makers Go Gray
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
Here’s another little jewel that came over the Internet, and it shows what happened when some hunyak neglected to remove his bore sighter before pulling the trigger. Neat split, huh?
A friend of mine who lacks my nearly limitless wisdom asked why, in such cases, the obstruction isn’t simply blown out of the bore. That’s because pressure builds so quickly that the barrel is at the limits of its strength and beyond before the pesky collimator can be blown clear.
I don’t know if the owner of the rifle was hurt or not. Maybe he just had the hell scared out of him. But I do know of one case, years ago, where the consequences of a plugged bore were dire. A range officer whom I knew got a surplus P-17 Enfield service rifle, a .30/06, and shot it for the first time with some handloads a friend gave him. The action came apart, and the ejector took out his right eye. In order to save the other eye, the doctors had to give him massive doses of cortisone, which destroyed the lining of both hip sockets. And so this poor man is now on crutches, with one eye.
No one knows precisely why the gun blew. The barrel may have been clogged with Cosmoline, or the handload may have been too hot, or both; it really doesn’t matter. The point is that if you are not careful, things can get out of hand in less than a heartbeat—and the results will be permanent.