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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)


Could it be ...




This??



I blew up my beloved Elite this evening :eek: :frown:

My fault, and that is what I will tell HK when I contact them tomorrow.


The culprit:




My reload, my fault. Double charge or separation of a .45 Auto case reloaded one too many times? I can't say until I investigate more. I would have thought the latter is more likely, but the flow around the primer indent suggests overpressure. The load was *supposed* to be 5.0 gr of Bullseye under a 230 gr. JRN, and I would have expected a double charge to have filled the case (and thus have been noted as I was placing the bullet on the case for seating).

In any event, I now have a huge task: to go back and check every [email protected] .45 Auto and 9MM case I have, even if that requires pulling every loaded round. In the meantime, I have 500 pieces of virgin primed .45 Auto brass that will be the only brass loaded until I sort this out.


As far as the damage, it appears the magazine and grip took the brunt of it, saving my hands. I knew instantly what had happened from the odd noise and the hard "slap" both palms took. No injury; the frame performed perfectly as far as protecting the shooter.

The frame separated at the rear of the magazine well:



and cracked at the front of the well, with some melting at the top, directly under the rear of the chamber:



Remarkably, it appears that every part in the frame except the polymer is undamaged, e.g., the trigger bar is not bent, the safety levers are still straight, the trigger/TRS and slide stop are ok, and the entire fire control group behind the mag well appears untouched and still functions smoothly. Of course, this is all before seeing what a detailed inspection reveals.

As for the slide side, it appears to be completely unaffected, except for one potential barrel feed ramp issue and a couple exterior cosmetic issues caused by the gun dropping to the floor -- immediately after the kaboom, I set the pistol onto the bench/shelf in my booth, but as I was operating with only gross motor skills at that movement, it went over the edge of the bench.

The slide, breach face and ejector appear to be unharmed:



Same for the recoil assembly. As to the barrel, I believe there *might* be a tiny amount of outward flaring at the upper left edge of the feed ramp -- HK will have to decide whether I'm seeing things and whether the barrel is serviceable:




The cosmetic issues are scratches at the front left corner of the slide:



and an impact point at the left corner of the rear sight blade from the drop, which also drifted the sight to the right:




Finally, at least it was one of the California 10-rd magazines that was in the gun, not a good 12-rd one. The base plate was broken off, with either the gas pressure or the impact on the ground breaking off the anti-modification baseplate's retaining tabs. Interestingly, the lower spring seat stayed in the magazine. An initial glance at the body didn't reveal any obvious metal shell distortion:



Yeah, I recognize that luck was on my side (it was almost the last crappy thing to happen in a generally crappy day, but those days happen to all of us -- I'm generally an "up" sort of guy).

I also give more credit to HK than to luck -- the robust USP design is part of why I own USPs, and this was yet another "test" passed with flying colors.


Next step: Call HK Customer Service tomorrow and arrange for shipment and inspection. I expect this will be painfully expensive, but as I said at the start, it's my fault so I won't B&M about whatever they say. The big question in my mind is whether the answer is an entirely new frame (with match trigger, etc.) or just a new polymer portion and re-use of the undamaged frame mechanical parts (oh, and the barrel condition is up in the air, too). It will be interesting to see what they say.

Thanks for letting me share -- cathartic and all that.
 

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HK should be able to replace the grip and use your SN. You should not be out the new price on an Elite. But that must of felt crazy, when that happened.
That really stinks.
 

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When I saw the second picture my first thought was "Oh my god, I hope his hand is okay!" Glad it was. As someone who has been reloading for a couple months now, stories like this are always sobering. I'm going to start triple checking my brass now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
When I saw the second picture my first thought was "Oh my god, I hope his hand is okay!" Glad it was. As someone who has been reloading for a couple months now, stories like this are always sobering. I'm going to start triple checking my brass now.
Since my post, I went back and did an experiment. This wasn't a brass separation issue.

My powder measure is currently set to drop 5.4 gr. of Bullseye. I expected a double charge to completely fill, and possibly overflow, the case. I ran a case twice through the press. I was wrong -- 10.8 gr. was 1/4" or so below the rim, low enough to be missed and a bullet seated to form a compressed charge.

I also inspected the case under a magnifying glass and bright light. I'll post pictures later, but in short there is zero evidence of a thinned section from too many uses, and every sign of over-pressure in the way the case deformed prior to rupture (I was an engineer in a previous life, and have more than a passing acquaintance with materials and dynamic material behavior).

Everything at this stage is pointing to a double charge -- one thing I thought I was being careful to avoid. The round that blew was one of my earlier .45 reloads, not long after I picked up reloading after several years off. I suspect I didn't have my workflow/rhythm in place yet. That said, I'm still going back and checking *every* load I have.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When I saw the second picture my first thought was "Oh my god, I hope his hand is okay!" Glad it was.
Thanks. Both hands were red and a bit sore, like if you slammed your open-palm hands hard against a concrete wall a couple times. The soreness faded after an hour or so. Part luck and part good design that there are no new scars that would require new creative stories to explain. ;)
 

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Well it looks like the important part survived in decent shape. If HK can't do something for you, you can put that slide on a cheap used USP 45...
 

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My guess is double charge, if the bullet left the barrel there shouldn't have been enough pressure left to do that much damage with a normal load. I had one years ago in a 1911 thus ending my use of a progressive loader. 1911 was 30 years old with over 80K thru it bowed the slide under the ejection port, blew the hand guards out, next 3 rounds in the mag had the bullets pushed back into the case. Kind of like grabbing an electric fence, tingly.
 

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Holy ****. You always hear instructors tell horror stories and maybe even have some props from such things but it's something else to hear a recent first hand account. But it is comforting to know that gun exploding != automatic dismemberment as was my previous mental model. Though this does make me wary of starting to reload.
 

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I wonder if the way that Receiver failed is by design? In other words did HK plan it that way? It would not surprise me the way Germans are so meticulous in their engineering.
 

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Glad youre okay! Sorry the Elite is not so well!

Let us know what HK Customer Service says & how much to replace the frame. Suppose they will want to inspect the entire gun.
 
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