.44 Magnum Mishap - blown up revolver


A .44 Magnum Mishap
The following was sent to me by a friend.

A guy came into the police department the other day (Not Tulsa) to ask a
favor. He had a S&W 629 (.44 Mag) that he wanted to dispose of after a
mishap at the range.
He said there was a loud bang when he tested his new ammo (Chinese made)
and the gun smacked him in the forehead, leaving a nice gash.
When the “tweety birds” cleared from around his head, the following
pictures show what he saw.

Question: Is this possible?



I think those pics have made the rounds before. Yes, that is possible and I don’t doubt the pictures are real. But before I would blame the Chinese, I would inquire of the person who actually loaded the ammunition in question if they are understanding of the difference between Bullseye and H-110…



Thanks, here is the previous post


I was present when a friend had something similar happen with a Ruger 44 Mag Blackhawk, many years ago. It blew out two firing ports, split the hand grips and broke the back strap at the rear and up several inches. Turned out to be a double maximum charge in the reloads. Very minor injuries to the shooter and bystanders.

What didn’t happen then, and I don’t understand how it happened to the firearm pictured, is the multi-ignition of the other rounds?!?



After looking closely at the picture again… maybe there was not a multi-ignition, but that the “explosion” of the firing ports “ripped” the brass case of the other cartridge?


Multiple Ignition or Sympathetic detonation?

I had a similar forensic case with a “Colt” .45 SA many years ago…Misloaded ammo ( one cartridge) in a sequence of shots caused the top strap and three chambers to selfdestruct, along with the next round after the fired one ( the other was a normal fired case). Never could determine if it was a Double charge (most Likely) or whether wrong weight projectile also involved.

Anyway, the second detonated case was a “sympathetic” detonation ( shock wave in metal causes primer to ignite and fire round with half the cylinder on the way to heaven.) hence ripped open case, with stuck bullet.

THis .44 Magnum has probably exploded on the first shot, causing both adjoining cartridges also to detonate “sympathetically”, with the portion of cylinder wall already in disintegration, allowing the shell cases to rip open, allowing the extra force to really demolish the sides of the three chambers.

Wrong Powder charge or Wrong Powder type + Wrong charge are the most likely suspects. Have any other rounds survived for analysis? ( charge and Powder type?).

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Forensic Services
Brisbane Australia.


This story has been doing the rounds for a while as you say. Revolver blow ups are not that uncommon I have seen several.
What is more interesting is that it always seems to carry the “Chinese Ammunition” part of the story with it. As of now I don’t think anybody has been able to identify any .44 mag ammunition coming from China. The bullets in the picture look more like Sierra than Shanghai.

The internet is a powerful means of shaping opinion. Years from now, assuming there are still guns and ammunition for sale, people will still be saying “Chinese ammo? You don’t want to buy that! It will blow your gun up!”

Its quite possible given the way things are going with all manner of consumer goods that we could soon be flooded with cheap (and probably very good) ammunition from China. To the detriment of the home manufacturers.

Something similar is already happening with Eastern European (Privi) ammunition which must be hurting the big boys.

Is this a bit of pre- emptive muck spreading?


I believe I would classify that as a catastrophic failure! Inappropriate use of propelling charge resulting in major case rupture and collateral damage. An inertia bullet puller may have been a better way to disassemble this cartridge.



We won’t be subject to a flow of cheap ammo from China in the USA. Under Clinton, most imports of Chinese ammunition was banned. That ban is still in force, and not likely to be removed in the foreseeable future. Russian and Serbian ammunition is coming in though. Also Czech, but it runs hot and cold to price, it seems. Sometimes a very good buy; sometimes not.

I am personally surprised that we have not seen more ammunition here from Albania, Bulgaria and Romania since their products don’t seem to be banned here. Some small shipments have come in from each, but very, bery little in the overall scheme of things. We also have not seen any from Lugansk, in Ukraine, which is odd to me since they have a high-quality factory there, and have had reps at the SHOT Show off and on. Of course, maybe their price is too high and they can’t find importers. I just don’t know, no longer being privy to an “insider’s” view of the gun industry.


Hi John
We have Privi here taking the world by storm. Both in price and quality. I buy nothing else now in .303 and .308. I also buy their .357 Mag but still reload as well.
UK forums for shooters (hunters)are very pro the Privi ammunition. Traditionally over here Norma was top dog but losing ground rapidly. 3X the price of Privi.

The only Chinese ammo we get over here is Norinco .308. Very very milspec but actually better than you might imagine. Good enough and a lot better than some I have seen over the years.

For me its not worth reloading rifle calibres. cost wise I can buy Privi for the same. What I do though is save all the cases and mail them bulk to my friend in Wales. For him the “face to face” ammo purchase laws are having a devestating effect. He has an all day round trip to buy ammunition. And when he gets there the dealer’s stock is zilch.
Dealers are not stocking ammunition because they sell only to their immediate catchment and thats not enough to justify the cost of filling their shelves. You of all people can probably relate to that predicament.

A deer shooter who buys one box a year or a foxer ( our version of a varminter) who buys two or three boxes a year does not generate enough business to cover the bank charges and pay the rent on the shop.



That was a major failure. Not just an overload. To blow a gun up like that requires a charge of fast burning powder of massive proportions. We often say a double charge but the charges of slow burning powders like 24** used in .44 mag won’t take a double charge in the case.

They had to have mistakenly used a wrong powder like Bullls*** . I have seen cracked cylinders. I have seen top straps bowed but to blow up a revolver that badly requires something truely major. The Mod 29 which I think that is (or similar) is a strong gun and it would take a lot to wreck it.

In any revolver, even with an overload, the path to air down the barrel means that the pressure finds an easy and safe escape route. Not so with rifles with their long narrow barrels.


We had a similar mishap at our range a couple of years ago.

The gun was a S&W 686 with faulty .357 Magnum reloads. The shooter was rewarded with a small gash in his forehead, where a piece of torn off cartridge case brass embedded itself.

I pulled a couple of surviving rounds from the cylinder and pulled the pullets. One of the rounds had a normal looking powder charge, the other round contained mostly very fine powder. I think the reloader was quite careless and managed to load a couple of rounds with powder residue rather than actual powder. The cartridge cases looked like he rammed the bullets in with a sledge hammer.

We also needed about an hour to mop the blood off the range floor…


The mention of ‘very fine powder’ makes me wonder if the cases involved hadn’t been tumbled whilst loaded. This breaks down the powder, increasing its surface area and hence it’s rate of combustion. With a revolver the gap between the cylinder and the forcing cone allows excess pressure to dissipate itself safely so for this amount of damage to have been caused the pressure must have been immense.

All guns of any quality will have been subjected to being proofed where a cartridge giving an increased pressure to that normally found will be fired. The gun should survive this test without ill effect. The point at which a pressure component will burst should be greatly in excess of the normal pressure expected from the cartridge for which the gun is chambered. For a cylinder to fracture so catastrophically and for adjacent cartridges to be ignited by sympathetic detonation indicates something far in excess of a simple overload of powder.

Does anyone know if any of the surviving cases were pulled and the components examined?

May your pressure indicators be normal.



The gap between the cylinder and the barrel can be excessive in drawing off the pressure. Have you ever seen the sectioned .455 revolver with six bullets stuck in the barrel. It used to be downstairs in a display cabinet in the front office at Bisley. It has now been moved upstairs to the museum.
The key point is that this revolver never blew up. the pressure found a way out.

With S&W revolvers there is a weak spot where the cutout for the cylinder lockup removes metal from the vicinity of the chamber. From there in the event of over pressure there usually occours a crack backwards towards the breech end. I have seen several but the main pressure still blows outwards along with the bullet rendering the process reasonably fail safe.

To take a revolver apart in the manner shown in the picture requires something massive in terms of a pressure peak. Its hard to imagine how it could be created accidently.

There used to be two blown up revolvers in the front window of Fultons (the gun shop) at Bisley but neither were this bad.

The point I made before which I will make again is that to blame it on “chinese ammunition” is clearly wrong and may be deliberately misleading.

These pictures have appeared on UK forums with the caption “Danger warning Chinese Ammunition” but we have no Chinese ammunition only Norinco .308.


There could have just been an internal metallurgy flaw or hairline fracture in the cylinder that became exacerbated over time, and finally let loose with an overpressure load, or even a normal load if any kind of temperature extreme (or temperature shift) was involved. I wonder when the gun was shot and where? If you take a gun like this out a garage or unheated location where it might be below zero, and then load & shoot it, bad things can happen more often than not possibly?


I would still say, not that badly. to rip the top strap off completely and tear the cylinders apart like that requires massive overpressure. Huge in fact.10X or more.

Not a run of the mill overload. The Mod 29 is a strong gun .


I was present for a basically identical spontaneous self-disassembly of a friend’s 6" stainless Colt Anaconda in .44M, around 1997 I think.

The ammo was Federal American Eagle 240gr JSP. Neither Colt nor Federal claimed any responsibility. I had a chat with a rather rude Colt rep, who simply stated over and over that the gun ‘performed as designed’.

The friend, who had purchased the sixgun in anticipation of Br’er Bear during hikes in WI, got a Glock 20 instead.

I’ve seen several catastrphic failures of various firearms…I’d say of the ones I’ve been present for or examined, the split was about 70/30 (70% ammo related; 30% firearm related). Plenty of those were with ammunition of reputable domestic manufacture.