.40 S&W !kB Report by Dean Speir

What exactly is a "kB!"? It's shorthand for kaBOOM!, which is the written representation of what happens when one has a catastrophic explosive event in one's firearm, typically, a Glock pistol chambered in .40 S&W, .45 ACP and, occasionally, 10mm. And typically, where the ammunition used is of the reloaded or commercially remanufactured variety. [editor: For more information about the kB! phenomenon, see The kB! FAQ]

An April 1999 Catastrophic Failure of a Model 23 Glock
with new Federal .40 S&W Ammunition on Long Island, NY

Photos and Report 1999 by Dean Speir

Sometimes, however, a kB! will actually occur with a factory new round from a manufacturer of known quality control.

The event documented by the accompanying photographs is one such  happenstance. The pistol was a new (very low round count) Model 23   Glock (.40 S&W) with an alpha-prefix of "AYR," the ammunition was Federal's popular Hydra-Shok cartridge, with a projectile weight of 155-grains. The unfortunate shooter, a long-time shooting chum of the author's, was spared even more extensive injury because his Model 23 was wearing a commercial "Glock Sock" (rubberized slip-on grip) which cushioned some of the force of the catastropic failure.

It can be seen in Photo #1, the kB! fractured the right side of  the Model 23's receiver, from the trigger opening down and out the trigger guard, laterally through the rear of the magazine release,   upward across the upper grip frame, right to and through the rear  of the frame rail. Atypically, no damage was done to the slide, the barrel or, and, unique in the author's extensive investigations of  almost seven dozen Glock kB!s dating to 1991, the tip of the trigger itself which invariably is missing, appearing as if it has been excised by a pair of tip snips. This trigger remained intact. Photo #1
The causality in this instance appears to have been the Federal nickel-plated cartridge case, and is not an unknowm happenstance with this particular manufacturer. It was prevalent enough that in late 1995, the Anoka, Minnesota-based ammunition company quietly undertook a redesign of their .40 S&W cartridge case to strengthen internally the area of the case web. While no one at Federal has been willing to address this for the record, it has been suggested that   this move was dictated by the popularilty of the .40 S&W Glocks  (with their unsupported chambers), and the munitions giant's attempt to hedge against a kB! with any of their ammunition.
As was learned during the preparation of the Glock kB! FAQ, Federal
.40 S&W rounds which may contain suspect casings may be identified as follows:
  • Lot number consists of 10 characters (mostly numbers).
  • In the 7th position, there may be a number or a letter.
  • If there is a number in that position, the ammo was manufactured with the old style (possibly defective) brass.
  • If it contains the letter Y (1995) or R (1996), the ammo has the new designed casing and should be okay.
  • If the letter H appears, then check the next three [3] digits (the last three in the lot number).
  • Ammo lot numbers H244 or below have the old style casings.
  • Lots H245 and above have the new style casings.

(This information was provided by Federal Cartridge Company in September 1996.)

It can be seen in Photo #2 that the Lot Number, 113241H106, meets
the conditions for ammunition manufactured prior to the re-design.

Photo #2

The author's conjecture is that the primary problem resided in the Federal case, although the unsupported Glock chamber was almost certainly contributory.
  • This was not an over-charged round... had it been, the damage to the Model 23 would have been far more extensive.
  • It was "factory new" so fired and re-sized brass is not a contributing factor.
  • The author has several reports of similar kB!s   involving Models 22 and 23 Glock pistols and Federal .40 S&W rounds, most involving 155-grain and 165-grain Hydra-Shoks, but at least one where the ammunition was non-nickel-plated brass housing a 155-grain "HiVelocity" JHP.
Photo #3 clearly depicts the nature of the notorious lack of support
over the feed ramp in the .40 caliber and greater Glock pistols.

Photo #3

When Glock says "Don't use non-standard ammunition" in their pistols,the really mean it even though the language in the Glock manuals seems to be nothing more than "boilerplate legalese." Remember, this particular event occurred with factory new ammo, so "stuff happens!" Why risk damage and injury by flouting basic cautions?

The shooter in this particular event suffered no permanent neural damage, but is still undergoing a physical therapy protocol at this writing. Happily for Federal (and Glock), he is not the litigious type.

 

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