One of the main causes of firearm related accidents annually is detonations. These occur for many reasons but chiefly from using incorrect or improperly loaded ammunition. And while that seems like a no-brainer, it’s an easy mistake to make at a glance.

Some years back there was an email floating around wherein a shooter with two identical rifles, one in .25-06 and the second in .308, experienced a detonation while shooting targets from a bench rest. The accompanying photos made it look as though he had tried to rob Holly Holm in a back alley somewhere; they were graphic to say the least. Near as anyone could tell he had loaded a .308 cartridge into the .25-06 chamber and kaboom! He’s lucky his head was still attached to his body. Obviously carelessness was purely to blame in that instance. Another common whoopsie, if you will, happens with shotguns and is known as the 12/20 burst.

It doesn’t help that some firearms will safely utilize multiple cartridges, for example a .22 Long Rifle will accept and fire .22 Short, .22 Long or .22 Long Rifle ammunition. It will not, however, chamber nor fire .22 WRF and .22 WMR. A .357 Magnum handgun will handle .38 Colt, .38 S&W Long or .38 Special but won’t shoot .38-40, .38 Super, .357 Sig or .357 Maximum. If you’re confused, don’t feel bad. By failing to investigate before taking uncertain ammunition to the range, you will have plenty of time to feel really bad when you blow up your gun. A little bit of care and research goes a long way. Best practice is to always take note of what caliber you have and shoot the proper corresponding ammunition.

Further precautions should include only having the proper caliber of ammunition on the bench rest while shooting that particular gun. This is especially important when shooting multiple guns of different calibers. Our e-friend mentioned above obviously failed to remove the .308 rifle and ammo from his bench before bringing the .25-06 rifle and proper ammo to his shooting area. When taking new or inexperienced shooters to the range, I insist on being the only party allowed to load the guns, therefore costly mistakes are avoided.

Know your guns, be educated about what calibers and styles of ammo they require. Right now, if you were to go into a hardware store and say you wanted a box of .300 magnums, that could apply to over 10 different cartridges! And no matter what Grandpa says, never put a .410 shot shell in your .45-70 rifle.

If something doesn’t look right, double check it. Whenever a round is discharged, you are dealing with a controlled explosion mere inches from your face. A little extra care is a small price to pay. Your guns and appendages that maintain their molecular assembly will thank you.

What are some safety precautions you take to prevent detonations? Write to us at!

Dale Valade is a local country gent with a love for the outdoors, handloading, hunting and shooting.

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