Gun Digest

Video: .50-Caliber Rifle Blowup!

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A gun blowup on the YouTube channel Kentucky Ballistics provides a stark reminder to always know what ammo you're loading into your gun.

The above video was produced by the YouTube channel Kentucky Ballistics, which has some pretty interesting shooting content. Particularly if you enjoy large-caliber firearms and general mayhem. Though it’s doubtful the host of the channel, Scott Allen DeShields Jr., ever dreamed he’d film this level of chaos.

In short, he was at the receiving end of a .50-caliber blowup. Not fun.

A more detailed rundown, his Serbu RN-150 blew up when a Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP) round caused a dangerous pressure spike–one the rifle's manufacture's estimates exceeded 85,000 PSI. Slow-motion footage of the malfunction is shown, and while the damage to the rifle is catastrophic it’s nowhere near the injury DeShields suffered due to the blowup.

In many respects, the online gun guy is lucky to have escaped with his life. The locking cap that closes the breech stripped its threads and hit the host's face, breaking his right orbital bone in three places and his nose, as well as causing him to go temporally blind. Recoil on the chassis severely broke his hand. And most alarmingly, two ears on the lower sheared off—one grazing his head, the other going through his neck lacerating his jugular vein and puncturing his lung.

As the recap shows, DeShields made it through the potentially deadly mishap, but only after undergoing surgery. Though he doesn’t blame the gun or any obstruction. Instead, he has his suspicions about the surplus SLAP round being the root of the ordeal. His wager, the ammo was loaded hot. But there’s the potential with what happened it could have been the other way around– underloaded.

Unbeknownst to many, underloaded or reduced loads are potentially more dangerous due to a phenomenon known as Secondary Explosion Effect (SEE) or plain old detonation. Both P.O. Ackley and Noma’s Nils Kvale independently confirmed the occurrence. In his authoritative book, Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders, Ackley summed what he believed caused the event thusly:

What causes these unpredictable pressure and occasional blow-ups is the use of heavily coated slow burning powders in reduced charges that leave a lot of air space in the case. When this is coupled with under-ignition from a weak or faulty primer, the whole charge does not start burning at once. Instead, gas is apparently formed. This ignites, causes a violent wave. More powder ignites, and all hell breaks loose.

There are other theories as to rare event's causes, but all revolve around underloading.

Hot or reduced load, the video provides a good reminder you should always know exactly what you're feeding your guns. That, and also always wear your safety specs. How much worse would the carnage have been if DeShields didn’t have safety glasses on when the cap hit his face?

By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about SEE and P.O. Ackley’s other pioneering firearms research, be sure to check out P.O. Ackley: America’s Gunsmith, available exclusively at the

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