Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The importance of RTFM...

Back when I was still slinging guns across the glass for a living, one of our wholesalers had a deal on some overrun Smith & Wesson 325 AirLites. For those of you not familiar with the arcane language of Smith revolver designators, that's the great big N-frame in .45ACP with, in this case, a titanium cylinder and a scandium frame*.

So we had several of these snub-nosed beasties in stock (I bought one, of course) and a problem immediately cropped up: Customers who bought them would come off the range complaining that their gun had locked up.

Seems like most plain ol' range 230gr FMJ isn't crimped very enthusiastically and only two or three shots in these flyweight big bores would cause the heavy .45 bullets in the cylinder to remain at rest while their cartridge cases recoiled along with the rest of the gun. When the bullet came all the way out of the unfired case, it would bind up against the forcing cone, tying up the gun. (At the time, our range .45 ammo was Speer Lawman.)

Anyhow, fast forward a half-dozen years and I've got a T&E Boberg XR9-S pistol on the range. Now, the Boberg is an unusual gun that gets maximum barrel length in a minimum package so as to get maximum velocity from modern 9mm JHP loads, theoretically making proper expansion more likely. It does so by extracting the round rearward out of the magazine and then loading it forward into the chamber. The chamber is actually over the magazine, making a sort of "bullpup pocket pistol", if you will.

Relax: You don't suck and Boberg doesn't hate you.
The picture above is the loaded Boberg magazine and not, as one might suppose, an outtake from an H&K catalog photo shoot.

Anyhow, I took the Boberg down to Coal Creek Armory (now Tactical Advantage Corporation) Tennessee for its baptism of fire. I trooped out onto the range with Shannon and Gunsmith Bob and my ammo can of 9mm FMJ ammo and started thumbing rounds into magazines. We each fired one magazine, and one round on each of the three magazines exhibited the rather exotic malfunction you see below:

It's a pistol! It's a bullet puller! It's two tools in one!
It was pretty obvious what was happening: The slide was yanking the round rearward from the magazine briskly enough to disassemble the cartridge.

Each of the three rounds was... you guessed it: Speer Lawman.

I went on to fire hundreds more rounds of ammunition, mostly PMC and Federal FMJ but also a few magazines of a half-dozen different premium JHP rounds, and never experienced this malfunction again. Of course, looking at the owner's maual, it clearly states on page 4:
Due to the Boberg XR9’s unique feed mechanism, aluminum-cased ammunition is not recommended (See back cover for color example). This type of ammunition has no crimp, and usually no adhesive, and could allow the bullet and case to become separated while being drawn from the magazine. While this is not considered a safety hazard, it can result in a mis-feed or jam. Please note that there may be styles of brass-cased ammunition that have no crimp that may cause feeding problems. Information on crimp-less styles of ammunition can be found at
Going to the list at the website, I see that Speer Lawman is right there.

That's what I get for not RTFM.


Anonymous said...

I got called into teach a class to a Canadian Army unit on a piece of gear. They all pulled out their manuals and had either circled or hi-lighted things that were wrong or they did not understand.

Best damn class I ever had the pleasure to instruct.


Boat Guy said...

Gotta admit I'm a trifle surprised at you not RTFM, since you're not burdened with that pesky Y-chromosome that makes many of the rest of us impervious to manuals and asking directions.
Been interested in the Boberg concept and am awaiting your complete assessment.

Bob said...

Boberg snatches you bald-headed!

Joel said...

I got a chance to shoot a T&E Boberg, and we had the same issue big time. And yes, it always worked fine with ammo on the recommended list. But traditionally a pistol that's that picky about its ammo is a pistol in need of a gunsmith or a warranty return; it's not supposed to be a feature.

Seems like a high price to pay for a slightly longer barrel.

Erich505 said...

Neat malf!

Firehand said...

"...and usually no adhesive,"
I may be way out of the loop, but what brands use adhesive?

Tam said...


"Seems like a high price to pay for a slightly longer barrel.Seems like a high price to pay for a slightly longer barrel."

Some people think a few MPG is a good tradeoff for driving diesel. It's all what's important to the owner, I guess. (...and the internet is here to cluck tongues and tell them they're wrong. ;) )

Tam said...

Boat Guy,

"Gotta admit I'm a trifle surprised at you not RTFM, since you're not burdened with that pesky Y-chromosome that makes many of the rest of us impervious to manuals and asking directions.
Been interested in the Boberg concept and am awaiting your complete assessment.

I had just skimmed through the first few pages; all I glanced at on Page 4 was "no +P+" and "no aluminum cases". I didn't actually read for content. :o

My assessment is that I'd have no problems buying one for a pocket carry BUG, and intend to as soon as I can afford it. I'd prefer it over the Rohrbaugh or any of the similar-sized .380s.

(The Rohrbaugh is a fine gun, but violent to shoot, whereas the Boberg is so soft-shooting, I could imagine running it through a two- or three-day pistol class.)

Tam said...


As an afterthought, what about the revolvers that jumped crimp? ;)

Scott J said...

M could = message as well as manual.

Early in my IT career I was code slinger on some custom applications used in a 24/7 doc scan and data entry shop.

The software did some fairly advanced OCR for the mid-90's but sometimes it just couldn't deal with the image and the operator would have to manually key some missing data.

Having the data missing was causing issues downstream in the process so we finally arrived at the solution that I'd have the app display a message box informing the operator they needed to fix the data or problems would happen later. Making the downstream process more robust wasn't an option. The manager of the operators balked at having the process stop until the operator fixed things.

The message was checked by multiple folks for clarity and I even used the little I in a bubble icon so the instructional message wouldn't get mistaken for an error.

Right after it went live bad data got downstream and the receiving system choked yet again.

We traced the offending transaction back to a given operator and asked if she saw the message.

Her response? "Oh, you mean the error? I just cleared that and it let me go on."

She never even read it.

I think I went and pounded my head on my desk for an hour.

Scott J said...

Halfway off topic: what are your thoughts on the KelTec P-11?

Someone I know locally is looking to sell one for $200.

I already have pocket guns in .22, .380, .38/.357 and .45 (if you have big pockets).

The possibility of adding 9mm to that mix and the price makes it tempt me.

mustanger said...

Now, thinking of revolver cartridges, I always put a good roll crimp on my handloads. I've generally observed a decent crimp on factory-loaded revolver cartridges. I've observed a very few squibs binding a revolver, but I've not observed a bullet jumping crimp. How common is this problem?

As for the Boberg system, I'll reserve judgement but to say it looks odd.

Joel said...

As an afterthought, what about the revolvers that jumped crimp? ;)

"Shut up," he explained.

Paul said...

Had to look at that magazine a couple of times to figure out the strip method. For the most part, I am not 100% behind weird guns. Course at one point in history Moses Browning's 1911 was one of those weird new guns.

Bruce H. said...

Does the asterisk after "scandium frame" indicate that you meant to add a footnote?

billf said...

Slightly off topic,(but you started it),I reload for all my revolver calibers,and I don't usually crimp any .38 or .357 practice rounds,cause it wears out(weakens) the case mouth too soon.I do crimp my .44 and .50AE,because those will jump and bind the cylinder every time.It's embarrasing to have to disassemble your handgun in front of everybody after the first shot.

Gewehr98 said...

You can have your Speer Lawman and carry it, too.

A few minutes with crimp die and hand press would make the ammo suitable for the Boberg and alloy-frame wheelguns, and still not be considered a handload for post-defensive-shooting court reasons.

Mike_C said...

The picture above is ... not... an outtake from an H&K catalog photo shoot.

Looks pretty good though, speaking of which, did you ever buy that macro lens?

Tam said...


I expect my factory-manufactured ammo to come already manufactured and not "Some Assembly Required". ;)

Tam said...


Not yet... Soon, though!

Archer said...

I've been looking at the Boberg pistols. Can we get a full AAR about it, please? Pretty, pretty please?

As for the feeding mechanism, would I be (mostly) correct in describing it as "similar to the way a shotgun feeds"? I mean, it ejects the spent round, pulls the next round from the magazine backwards, has an elevator mechanism to lift it inline with the chamber, at which point it gets fed into same. Seems a good analogy on the surface, but I'm not a gunsmith, so....

Firehand said...

Yeah, there's a definite problem with "Before you carry this in your sidearm, use a press and crimp die to-"

eriko said...

I did the same thing with the same ammo. Then I bought some dies and crimped the the other 990 rounds of speer by hand because I am a cheap bastard.

Ed said...

The "Feed Me, Seymour!" section has a link to this product:

Cycling back through, there is this link:

Are they trying to tell us something?

Gewehr98 said...

Yeah, factory ammo *should* come from the manufacturer ready to rock & roll, I agree wholeheartedly.

However, if you absolutely insist on having that ammo for carry in the Boberg or Spacetanium wheelgun, it really isn't that much work to zip 50 or so rounds through a crimp die and Lee hand press. No lubing, no grunt work, just a quick and easy pass for a nice taper crimp that will prevent you from trying to defend yourself with a single-shot handgun...

Tam said...


Oh, I grok what you're saying, but this is plinkin' ball we're talking about. If I'd bought a case of it sight unseen to run through a Boberg, I guess I'd stick my taper crimp die in my Lee hand press and go to town like you suggested.

Fortunately every brand of CCW-type premium JHP I tried worked just fine.

Oleg Volk said...

Since my post here disappeared and I don't feel like re-typing: Lots of info about the gun: I've been playing with them for more than two years now.

Tam said...

Thanks, Oleg!

Ian said...

And here's some video of one I played with as well:

Including the malfunctions Joel mentioned (he's the one who filmed it).