A Series of Unfortunate Events

This is was not supposed to be my next post. Honestly I never expected to make this post or one like it. I certainly never expected to receive a bullet wound and I always assumed that if I did a firearm would be involved. But I am a man of unusual talents. Let me explain.

My every attempt to crimp 32.-20 cartridges has resulted in the shoulder collapsing, and if I don’t crimp them the bullet sometimes decides to wander off somewhere. My solution has been to run the reloaded cartridge into the sizing die after removing the primer-punch. Works a treat.

I noticed last evening that the bullets in some 9mm I reloaded some time back were not as secure as I would like them to be; apparently the seating-die had not been properly adjusted. The sensible thing to do would have been to adjust the seating die and run the cartridges through again. So of course I didn’t; I pulled the primer punch and ran them into the re-sizing die. Because .32-20.

9 x 19mm, you will note, is not a bottle-necked case like .32-20. Once there is a bullet in the case it does not want to go into the resizing die. Since I am the The Brute Squad I made it do so, with predictable results. Yep, the cartridge stuck. It was at this point I realized that I had !@#$ed up.

I have had empty cases stuck in a re-sizing die before (yes, I am looking at YOU. .44 Magnum.) Never mind that this was a cartridge, not an empty case; I did what I do. I clamped a set of vice-grips to the cartridge-head, put the die in the vice and tried to use the pliers to extract the primer. Nope. I tried harder. Uh-uh. I kept trying. Harder. No, this is not when the cartridge detonated.

Eventually the case-head was pretty mangled and the primer was crushed enough that I felt I could remove it with a small pick, and in fact I could. This was still not when the cartridge detonated. What I did not realize was that I might not have removed all of the insides of the primer. You know, the part where the bits that go bang are.

At this point I determined that the best course would be to cut the case-head off with the bandsaw, dump the powder and ream out the casing. I proceeded to do this, gripping the die firmly in my left had. THAT is when the cartridge detonated.

The view from the VA hospital Emergency Room.

As it turns out a carbide die makes a fair approximation of the chamber of the firearm. It propelled the brass out of the die forcefully, so I did I get the casing out. The bad news is the bullet came out the other end, with the results you can see above. The bullet passed neatly through the heel of my hand and vanished into the depths of the shop. Fortunately it wasn’t moving very fast and my hand slowed it down further, as there were no unaccounted-for holes in the walls or equipment.

I immediately and and succinctly exercised my command of colloquial English, and with significant dripping blood shut off the saw and exited the shop. Quickly wrapping my hand in a plastic bag to contain the blood, I locked up and went inside the house and informed Linda that I would require assistance. I have met me, so we have a trauma kit and I asked her to get it. This did not alarm her; she’s met me too. The fact that I was calm and not swearing scared the crap out of her, however.

I thoroughly washed my hands with anti-bacterial soap, then irrigated the wound for five minutes over the sink. This was especially fun as it had started to hurt, but having had migraines for decades I have an unrealistic appreciation of pain so no problem. After drying my hand we applied antibiotic cream and a fast-clotting dressing. Between Linda and I we got it taped up and I headed for the local VA Emergency room.

Fortunately 9 PM on a Monday night is not a busy time there, and a couple of not-very-pleasant hours later I drove home with a bag of medical supplies, a bottle of antibiotics and some Vicodin just in case the pain got really bad. I almost demurred at the pain-killer as I did not expect to need it, but I quite uncharacteristically opted to be sensible. Better to have and not need than to need and not have.

The good news is that the bullet didn’t hit anything important. Other than my !@#$%&*! hand, I mean. Didn’t damage the bone, nerves, tendons etc. The x-ray didn’t show any significant fragments, which I didn’t expect with a FMC bullet anyway. As for the pain this morning, I’m 59 years old and in my youth I was very much not kind to my body; the discomfort has faded into the background noise of my normal level of discomfort. Tylenol’s got my back.

So for a few days I am limited in what I can do for work. My fingers work just fine, but gripping or otherwise putting pressure on the heel of my hand is not a good idea. It seems like an excellent time to sit around and watch the CNC router inlet grips for me.

In summary-

*If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.

*Never trust a metal tube full of stuff that goes BANG.

*When in doubt don’t.

*Don’t be me.

Stay safe, and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 12 October, 2021

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