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Thread: How much is too much headspace?

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    Default How much is too much headspace?

    I have been working through a misfire problem with my Ruger Hawkeye in 35 whelen. It started not firing about every 5 or 6 shots. I started looking at my reloading first off and found the two misfired bullets I kept were .15 and .18 inches shorter (measured at the neck) than brass once fired and not reloaded yet. All my other brass is about .05 inches shorter that once fired brass after reloading. I assume .15 inches is quite a lot and could be a likely culprit for the misfires.

    All the other components look good. Primers seated well. They are from the same box that I use with a couple other guns and those guns have never misfired, so I am no too worried about the primer. I have not disassembled the bolt yet to clean and inspect, but will likely do so just because.

    So is .15 too much headspace?

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daved View Post
    So is .15 too much headspace?
    Yes. Are you sure you're measuring correctly?
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    I have chased similar issues, during that troubleshooting I measured many factory rounds and found many to run on the short side, shorter than you stated. My issue was a factory installed spring that was too short. Weak or dirty spring, bad primers, primers not seated all the way, too much headspace. All will give you fits.
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    I would start with a new firing pin and go from there, if there were no previous problems.


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    Daved; I would take a look at the "Impact-Strike-Depth" of the Firing-Pin, on those "Primers" that did not miss-fire, and "Compare" what you see there, too the "Ones" that did Miss-fire, and you may have your answer, and "Yes" from my Experience, your .15 is pushing it.
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    I doubt that the problem is headspace.

    I suspect the primers on the failed rounds were not seated all the way.

    Barring that, the firing pin strike could be out of spec., not strong enough, or binding in some way.

    The answer to such a problem can be elusive, sometimes.

    I suggest advice from ***9**gunbugs.

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    Many Whelen chambers are prone to misfire with new ammo due to the slight cartridge shoulder making the proper headspace more critical. Seems Remington ammo is the biggest offender as it is tailored to fit their auto loaders and pumps. If your chamber is a little roomy and the ammo minimum SAAMI spec. or less, the firing pin can drive the cartridge forward and not fully connect with the primer. This condition will cease to exist the next time around with the same cases (fired) in the same chamber as long as you don't set the case headspace back too far. Neck size, or bump shoulder back only .002 with FL die.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daved View Post
    I assume .15 inches is quite a lot and could be a likely culprit for the misfires.

    All the other components look good. Primers seated well.

    I'm with you that head space is your culprit, but I can't scratch my head hard enough to make me think it has a thing to do with the firing pin.

    My first guess without the gun and rounds in my hand is to lay blame on your sizing die. It's not adjusted quite right.

    Especially with the Whelen, but with any round having minimum shoulder as well as magnum rounds, I'm very careful to "set" the shoulder on first firing if new brass, or on second firing if once-fired factory.

    In either case I load and adjust a dummy round to establish the bullet seating depth that will just engage the rifling. Then I load all my rounds with bullets seated at that depth and a charge around 10% below max. Doesn't matter whether or not they'll fit the magazine- single load them if you have to.

    Firing those forces the case head back against the bolt face and holds it in place while the shoulder is formed on firing. This little "extra" step in adjusting a sizing die beats any headspace issues, sets magnum rifles to headspace on the shoulder rather than the belt, and generally adds many extra miles to the life of cases while working against misfires due to headspace.

    For the next loading I make up another pair of dummy rounds- one with the sizing die adjusted so it just kisses the shoulder. Then I take another of those cases and assemble another dummy with the bullet seated at my preferred depth.

    Both dummies go right in the box with my loading dies. If I have more than one rifle in the same caliber (I have three 257 Roberts and three 7x57's for example), they go into a labeled ziploc, along with a ziploc of dummy rounds for each of the other rifles. Pretty handy if you need to readjust your sizing and seating dies for specific rifles.

    BTW- I learned that stunt over 40 years ago firsthand from the guys at RCBS when I went by their shop to pick up the rifle they'd built for me. Both the loading technique and the rifle are still working just fine all these years later.
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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I'm going to go with firing pin spring or pin protrusion being the problem. I had a 35 whelen ackley which has almost no shoulder when fire forming and I never had a failure to fire. It was built on a 98 mauser which has a firing pin that slams into the primer with authority.

    The proper way to measure headspace is with a no-go gauge. If you can close the bolt without forcing it on a no-go gauge, then you have excessive headspace.

    If you're concerned that your brass has the shoulder in the wrong space, then this is what you need to measure it https://www.midwayusa.com/product/47...auge-35-whelen

    I'm of the opinion that the 35 whelen has plenty of shoulder to headspace on. The reason for the reputation for headspace issues IMHO is that it's one of the oldest wildcats and likely some custom guns were built with excessive headspace due to the limitations of metrology and the knowledge of gunsmiths in the early 20th century.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    Yes. Are you sure you're measuring correctly?
    Good catch.

    .015 off. Not .15

    The brass I used was Remington new. I measured all the rest of the bag of brass and the they were all really close to the headspace of my gun. The two misfires were drastically different, being shorter than all the rest. Pretty conspicuous that the misfires were so different.

    The gun is pretty new to me. I don't have 100 rounds through it. I was using some pretty beat up brass from an long gone 35 whelen without misfires. Upon reflection, I switched over to new brass and then my problems started.

    So, my question should have been.... is .015 too far off?

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    I missed the fact, the cartridge was 35 Whelen. I've heard about the critical Headspacing on that cartridge, before.

    Now, I lean in that direction.

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    I have doubts on headspace being the issue. I have the same rifle. That Mauser style claw extractor holds the case pretty firmly to the bolt regardless of headspace. I betcha a .308 WIN cartridge would fire in it all else being equal.
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  13. #13

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    All the time I was homesteading, I used a .35 Whelen, built up on a 98 action. I had a couple of misfires on my first reloaded ammo, so I began neck sizing only, although I normally full length size hunting ammo. The misfires never occurred again.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daved View Post
    Good catch.

    .015 off. Not .15

    The brass I used was Remington new. I measured all the rest of the bag of brass and the they were all really close to the headspace of my gun. The two misfires were drastically different, being shorter than all the rest. Pretty conspicuous that the misfires were so different.

    The gun is pretty new to me. I don't have 100 rounds through it. I was using some pretty beat up brass from an long gone 35 whelen without misfires. Upon reflection, I switched over to new brass and then my problems started.

    So, my question should have been.... is .015 too far off?
    Could still be a coincidence, or could be a combination of small things. I'd make sure the firing pin workings are all clean and proper before spending much energy worrying about other stuff. Thereafter, my preference is to neck size only, tho opinions will vary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mauserboy View Post
    All the time I was homesteading, I used a .35 Whelen, built up on a 98 action. I had a couple of misfires on my first reloaded ammo, so I began neck sizing only, although I normally full length size hunting ammo. The misfires never occurred again.
    That sounds like a solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    I'm going to go with firing pin spring or pin protrusion being the problem. I had a 35 whelen ackley which has almost no shoulder when fire forming and I never had a failure to fire. It was built on a 98 mauser which has a firing pin that slams into the primer with authority.

    The proper way to measure headspace is with a no-go gauge. If you can close the bolt without forcing it on a no-go gauge, then you have excessive headspace.

    If you're concerned that your brass has the shoulder in the wrong space, then this is what you need to measure it https://www.midwayusa.com/product/47...auge-35-whelen

    I'm of the opinion that the 35 whelen has plenty of shoulder to headspace on. The reason for the reputation for headspace issues IMHO is that it's one of the oldest wildcats and likely some custom guns were built with excessive headspace due to the limitations of metrology and the knowledge of gunsmiths in the early 20th century.
    I've no doubt that the 35 Whelen versions shoulders are adequate, but I think it is more critical than with other cartridges simply because of the shoulder, not withstanding the things you mention.

    It is possible to create headspace just by slamming the bolt closed. The firing pin can, also. (This according to Hatcher's Notes.)

    I would think that a slight shoulder would push back easier than a larger one. ???

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  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    I would think that a slight shoulder would push back easier than a larger one. ???
    Works for me.

    Wanna have some fun with narrow shoulders and head space issues, work with a 375 Whelen. If the shoulder's not engaging as it should in the chamber, the first sign of problems is FTF due to the round shifting forward under the strike of the firing pin. No amount of pin changing, spring cleaning or arm waving will improve firing until you establish law and order with a skinny shoulder.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    I'm with you that head space is your culprit, but I can't scratch my head hard enough to make me think it has a thing to do with the firing pin.

    My first guess without the gun and rounds in my hand is to lay blame on your sizing die. It's not adjusted quite right.

    Especially with the Whelen, but with any round having minimum shoulder as well as magnum rounds, I'm very careful to "set" the shoulder on first firing if new brass, or on second firing if once-fired factory.

    In either case I load and adjust a dummy round to establish the bullet seating depth that will just engage the rifling. Then I load all my rounds with bullets seated at that depth and a charge around 10% below max. Doesn't matter whether or not they'll fit the magazine- single load them if you have to.

    Firing those forces the case head back against the bolt face and holds it in place while the shoulder is formed on firing. This little "extra" step in adjusting a sizing die beats any headspace issues, sets magnum rifles to headspace on the shoulder rather than the belt, and generally adds many extra miles to the life of cases while working against misfires due to headspace.

    For the next loading I make up another pair of dummy rounds- one with the sizing die adjusted so it just kisses the shoulder. Then I take another of those cases and assemble another dummy with the bullet seated at my preferred depth.

    Both dummies go right in the box with my loading dies. If I have more than one rifle in the same caliber (I have three 257 Roberts and three 7x57's for example), they go into a labeled ziploc, along with a ziploc of dummy rounds for each of the other rifles. Pretty handy if you need to readjust your sizing and seating dies for specific rifles.

    BTW- I learned that stunt over 40 years ago firsthand from the guys at RCBS when I went by their shop to pick up the rifle they'd built for me. Both the loading technique and the rifle are still working just fine all these years later.
    BB:
    Thanks for that method. And the explanation.
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    When she blows out...that's too much.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    When she blows out...that's too much.
    I usually read your post knowing that I might learn something. This one made be blow a snot bubble! Ha!

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