Tuesday, November 01, 2005

There has long been a "controversy" or, perhaps discussion, regarding RN bullets and use in tubular magazines with certain cartridges such as the .38 Special is oft revisited. Yesterday, while at the range and just after having seen my copy of the DGW Annual article on the Whitney-Kennedy rifles I had an epiphany as to the source of this old saw. That article on the Kennedy rifles had that little tidbit about the problems they had with mag tube explosions and UMC ammo. It suddenly struck me that we've touched on just about everything but that they were using black powder. BP explodes whereas the smokeless will not. Well not in the same way, the burn rates being different. Suddenly, years of hoary lore was made clear.

When the tube mag guns came out the firearms industry was in a state of rapid development of new arms and ammunition. Early centerfire ammo used a wide variation of primer sizes. Some were rather large by our current standards. Also, black powder was THE gun powder. As we all know, black powder is a different class of explosive than modern smokeless propellants and can cause the type of tube damage we now fear from such an event. Smokeless doesn't. So, at the time, a combination of lack of experience with bullet shapes and use of RN in tube mags, larger diameter CF primers, blackpowder (in significant quantities), and heavy recoiling cartridges caused the tube magazine explosions we talk about (still) but seldom if ever experience.

Also, I was shooting "Round Nose" UMC .38 Special ammo. I noticed that the "RN" isn't as it has a flat tip. So, for those who use or want to use the cheap .38 Special ammo in their Marlin and Rossi leverguns, I think it is probably a very low risk activity.

Funny thing is that I've read all this info before but am apparently too slow to put it together. Now, this might not be the end all of the argument but I do think it is a big part of the legend of the tube mag explosion.

I just don't see as we have a problem at all, everything considered. Just don't use a hard, pointy bullet in a tube magazine. Then you'll have zero problems.

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