The Shell Casing Just Broke, What Now?

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all the time. It will, however, happen eventually, especially if you shoot as much as we do. If you find yourself throwing some lead downrange and your AR makes a funny noise, then you notice part of your empty shell casing leave your rifle, but not all of it. This means that you just had an episode of case head separation. Case head separation occurs when the rim of your cartridge rips away from the rest of the case body after firing, while the firearm cycles to eject the spent case. It will leave the half-torn casing stuck in your chamber, and turns your rifle into a thousand-dollar boar ore. This could occur because of a number of possibilities. Usually overworked or out of spec brass is the culprit, but even with new brass, case head separation is still possible. The only way to remove the remainder of the casing is to use a broken shell extractor. To use the extractor:

  1. Insert the narrow end of the BSE into the chamber with the casing stuck inside.
  2. Make sure that the inner pin is unscrewed so that the end is not flared.
  3. Once you properly install the BSE into the chamber, send the bolt home.

At this point, you can pull the bolt back. By doing so, it will pull the BSE back, and the end will flare, grabbing the case opening where the projectile used to be and pull it out like a regular loaded round. Your thousand-dollar boat ore is once again a cutting edge, finely tuned, state-of-the-art tool of mayhem. We recommend you keep one with your shooting gear, in your gunsmithing kit, or gun case. This is a handy, must-have item for shooters and hunters.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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