.17 HMR bullets jammed in the barrel on CZ452 rifle with Remington ammo.

November 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Working my way through a batch of 250 Remington gold tip .17 V-Max 17 grain bullets, I’d experienced the occasional squib, when the bullet fired with a flat note and a certain kill resulted in a clear miss, or a rabbit tap dancing away from a bullet skimming along at it’s feet. Being used to the variation experienced with some .22 lr brands, I put this down to inaccurate factory loads and continued to shoot rabbits.

With most of my landowners complaining of growing numbers of rabbits this year, I’d embarked on a systematic culling operation, visiting two, or three farms close to each other in an afternoon, maybe three times in a week, then move on to another group the following week. At the heart of this was my CZ452 .17 HMR Varmint with it’s heavyweight 16 inch barrel. Shooting off a bi pod at ranges out to 140 yards, an average of ten rabbits a day were supplying the butcher’s shops of the area, while making a visible dent in the furry rodent population.

All was going well on one such visit. I’d shot two rabbits in a group from a raised area 120 yards away, placed my sights on another target, squeezed the trigger and there was a click, a delay, then Phatt, followed by smoke puffing out of the rifle breech. Another dud round. Not thinking, I chambered another round and fired again at the same rabbit. This time smoke and sparks flew out of the Swift moderator. The dud bullet had not left the barrel and my hasty next shot had slammed into it, causing fragments to exit through the moderator. I unscrewed the mod and there was a clear line of sight through it. Likewise the rifle bolt was removed and the barrel was clear from the breech end to the crown. I always try to pick up my spent cartridge cases, so I now checked these two and found that one was split from the opening to the neck. The culprit. My spent cartridge cases end up in my jacket pocket, until I have a pocket full, then dispose of them. I had 25 in there and 6 were split, which was a surprise, as I was unaware of 6 dud shots, each of these had accounted for a rabbit over the past week. I shot another rabbit, then missed an absolute sitter. Unscrewing the moderator, it rattled. Time to leave.

On stripping the moderator, the damage was clear. The first baffle on the right was badly deformed, while it’s supporting spacer had collapsed with the impact, testimony to the power of the HMR. Bullet damage reduced progressively to the final exit baffle at bottom centre. With a small home workshop, this was not a problem for me. A few new baffles were punched out and a new spacer turned up out of a piece of ali tube. A bit of deburring and a reassembly had the moderator sorted, while the rifle barrel had no evident damage, the boresnake passing through with no stoppages. Back in business.

My main worry was that the barrel had damage, where the bullets had collided, but thankfully accuracy was still spot on and a target placed at 120 yards had three of the five fired inside the 20 mm bull, while the other two were touching, just outside to the left, probably due to the shooter, not the rifle. A short session in the field supported this with more downed rabbits

My next outing involved a twenty mile drive and a half mile uphill hike to reach a warren lining the far hedge line. With little cover, I crawled to within  100 yards, a spot which allows a view each side to the field edges. Not having shot this field for six months, several big rabbits and a few juveniles were busily going about their eating routines. Well worth the trek. Selecting the nearest, I lined up on the brain, just behind the eye. Clack. The firing pin had struck the edge of the rimfire case, but apart from a light whisp of black smoke, nothing else. I waited a minute for safety, before opening the bolt, just in case there was a slow burn. The case ejected, leaving most of the grains intact, while the bullet was jammed two inches up the bore. The case was split. Nothing more to be done, but pack up and drive back home.

Back in the workshop, I found a length of 4mm brass rod, rounded off the end and wrapped tape at intervals along it’s length to protect the bore. Even with plenty of oil, the bullet was too tight to push out, electing to push from the rear the whole length of the barrel, rather than trying to push from the crown end the few inches that the bullet had travelled. A shorter length of rod was cut  and a nylon mallet used to start tapping the rod through. I was surprised how tight the bullet was in the bore, the boat tail of the bullet fortunately retaining it’s shape.

This did not seem to be a safe batch of Remingtons and as a precaution I viewed the remaining thirty bullets in the box under a magnifying glass, finding a further four with splits in the case neck, one just visible to the naked eye. On firing this would no doubt open up, while being carried in the field, moisture could also enter to dampen the charge.

Playing safe, the Remingtons have been marked as doubtful and a new box of blue tipped Hornady .17 V-max opened and checked for cracks. All looked good and thirty were fired without a hitch. A box of Hornady red tips has also proved faultless. One could say don’t use Remington HMR bullets, but as Hornady and Remington use the same CCI production plant to manufacture all their HMR rounds, it has to be down to a batch of hard brass used for the cases, while the factory inspection techniques may need tightening up, before someone suffers a nasty accident.