PAYETTE COUNTY — A 23-year-old woman from Davenport, Iowa was taken to the hospital for a minor injury on Oct. 8, when a lever-action rifle being shot by someone nearby failed to operate as it should have. The injury was not a gunshot wound, according to Payette County Sheriff Andy Creech. Rather, it was “a wound from shrapnel due to a catastrophic failure of the firearm,” he stated in an email on Monday night.
The sheriff said that family and friends had been target shooting with the firearm. When one person shot the rifle it resulted in wounding the woman who was standing to the right and behind the person who was shooting, according to Creech.
“During one shot, the ammunition ruptured or exploded, causing the extractor of the firearm to expel to the right and rear and likely striking the patient causing minor injury,” he wrote.
The Sheriff’s Office responded to a call about the accident at about 4:23 p.m. Oct. 8 in the 8000 block of Little Willow Road. The call initially came across as an accidental shooting.
The firearm was a Henry lever action rifle chambered in .44 magnum, according to Creech in an email update on Oct. 7.
Creech stated then that the person shooting the gun reloads his own bullets, and that it was unknown at the time whether the shooter was using a reloaded bullet in the rifle at the time of the firearm failure.
However, it is now known that it was a reloaded cartridge, as was discovered during the investigation.
“There was a deformed cartridge in the breach of the firearm that appeared to have ruptured around the rim of the case,” Creech said. “The extractor of the firearm was also missing.”
Reloads have the potential to be problematic
“Cartridge failures of reloaded ammunition can occur after it has been reloaded several times or when an incorrect amount of gun powder is placed in the cartridge,” said Creech, who also has experience loading his own rounds for personal use.
There are many factors to consider and to be watchful for when reloading ammunition, according to Creech and a host of experts.
Shooting Times and Daily Shooting state that this includes checking casings for cracks, dents, bulges and length, as well as ensuring there is not too much powder, the latter of which is said to be the most dangerous mistake with the potential for serious damage and injury.
Other common mistakes to avoid when reloading, include damaged or protruding primers; bullets that are too far out, and crimping mistakes — either too much or too little.
Experts say that with many of these issues, there is no way of knowing whether the improper rounds will cause problems the first time they are used or after repeated uses, making using them even riskier.
The Oct. 8 incident in Payette County was labeled as a catastrophic failure, which typically means that a gun is beyond repair. Creech said a gunsmith would be able to determine if the damage went beyond the casing extractor into the barrel and whether it was able to be repaired. However, even if it could be repaired, some people might opt not to shoot a weapon again that has failed in the past.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, firearm injuries are a serious public health problem and more people suffer nonfatal firearm-related injuries than die every year.
Seven out of 10 medically treated injuries are due to assault, while two out of 10 are unintentional.
Firearm injury deaths are among the five leading causes for death for people age 1-64 in the United States.
Additionally, the CDC states that men account for a higher rate of firearm death (86%) and injury (87%) when compared to other groups.
The CDC states that in 2019, there were 39,707 firearm-related deaths in the U.S.
Experts urge people to lower the number of accidents by keeping safety in mind.
This includes always treating a gun as if it’s loaded, taking a training course, using the right kind of ammunition, not relying on safety mechanisms and keeping guns locked up.