going below the starting loads?


February 14, 2008, 11:04 PM
I've got two loads for my .44 S&W right now, a practice load and a hunting load. Right now, my practice load is a 200 grain cast bullet that I buy at a local gun shop for around 4.5 cents per bullet. They are great for practice because they are cheap and shoot accurately enough for informal practice. The only problem is that the recommended starting load is around 19 grains of 2400 which puts it around 1000 fps. As a result I get a bit of leading in the barrel. I'd like to go lower, but am a bit hesitant to go below the starting load. Everyone knows that you have to be careful about going over max loads, but what about going below the starting load, is this considered a limit in the same way as the max load or is it just a good starting point for working up?

I know that if you go too low, you can have problems with the case not gripping the chamber wall and gas blow by, but would it be safe to work down a load from the starting load till you start seeing low pressure signs like lots of soot on the outside of the case? I know that I could always use .44 special brass for practice, but from what I hear, this makes a bit of a mess in the chamber, not to mention that I just bought 500 pieces of .44 mag brass.

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Jim Watson
February 14, 2008, 11:23 PM
I would get a can of faster burning powder, maybe Unique or even Bullseye (or equivalent powders of other brands), depending on how low you want to go. Greatly reduced loads of 2400 are not dangerous in the manner of reduced loads of slow burning magnum rifle powder, but they give poor shooting with erratic velocity and lots of unburnt powder.

There was a guy here who thought 2400 was the only powder to have and I can tell you that 13 grains in a .44 magnum does not make good ammo.

February 15, 2008, 01:23 AM
Actually, 19 gr of 2400 is fairly stiff, i.e. fast. You might look into some powders like Tite Group, Unique, Accurate #7, even Red Dot. I suggest that if you work up a load at about 900 fps, you'll find it very nice to practice with, and you definately can work up good (accurate) loads in the .44 at that speed. You need to be careful and not get too hard of a bullet or it won't obturate at the low preasure. For example, I like Oregon Trail bullets, but in .44 (which I no longer have) I could never get good light loads with their bullets because they are too hard and wouldn't obturate until they were quite a bit stiffer than I wanted for practice.

February 15, 2008, 02:37 AM
Yeah, what Jim and Moose said.

Been there, done that. I'll go one step further. 9.0gns of Win231 nets you right about 900fps with a 200gn lead semi wadcutter through a 5 1/2" barrel'd Ruger. I have loaded some there in the past. 9.1 gns was the cats meow in my gun. Some 80fps less than you can get consistant Unique loads to shoot accurately. Much cleaner burning too. I wouldn't rule out AA #7 as an alternative. Still, there's not much variance down that low. Slip just a little too low, and accuracy problems will surely result. The 44mag case is just too big for small quantities of slow powders, and a little finiky about light loads of faster powders. You've listed some of the low pressure signs, but the ultimate is a squib. I highly suggest paying close attention to your target when shooting/testing.

It's not a .38spl. It's a magnum. Personally, I don't light load the .44mag any more. Haven't for years. I have forced myself to practice with the same hot hunting loads that I'll be shooting during season. -And it's made me a better shooter.

To keep costs down, I practice more with lead offerings through my .45's or .38's.


February 15, 2008, 02:43 AM
Can U answer Q's re. Astra 357Mag Rev.?........(sigh)

February 15, 2008, 05:47 AM
Using faster powders and lead bullets you can drop to any load that'll push the projectile out of the barrel. My plinking load is 5.0 AA2 under a 240lswc. This produces 650fps out of a 3" barrel, negligible recoil, (for me) one-hole accuracy and no leading with Oregon Trail bullets. Same general concept as wadcutters and very light loads in 38spl. There's some soot on the cases, but that's what a tumbler is for. I personally despise heavy magnum loads. If a 240/250lswc at 1200fps won't kill it I'm not shooting at it, I'm running from it. 19gr of 2400 will get you in the 12-1300fps range, and is plenty for me.

February 15, 2008, 06:24 AM
I always thought you could use 44 Special data in the magnum case for lighter loads.

evan price
February 15, 2008, 07:02 AM
2400 does not like to be loaded down too much. If you start going light on it it won't ignite properly and it won't burn fully. There can be pressure spikes in low charged 2400 that are about as bad as too high a charge.

If you want some lightweight plinking ammo I would switch to a different powder like W231 or something (I like 9.7-10 gr of Titegroup with a 240-LSWC hard cast) that normally would be fast in a .44 but because of the low charge it will do fine as a reduced practice load.

February 15, 2008, 07:44 AM
700X for lead bullets in the .44 Spl or downloaded .44 Mag. Works great. Bulky, clean burning and accurate. Still my favorite, although Red Dot does well too.

Trail Boss is supposed to be the cats meow for downloading big cases with lead bullets. I don't know. I tried it with plated bullets with ho hum success.

evan price
February 15, 2008, 11:32 AM
Walkalong, I might consider using 800-X instead of 700-X because it would be more versatile in terms of being able to be loaded up to more full power rounds. It's also a doublebase and it would keep his bulk up in the casing.
But that's JMHO and I'm no expert.

February 15, 2008, 11:49 AM
I had the same needs... wanted a .44mag 'plinking' load that my teenage daughters could use. 2400, which I use for most of my .44 loads, doesn't burn well at low pressures. Not at all a good choice. I tried several powders, without finding anything that worked well for me. Of the 'normal' powders I tried, Win231 worked best, but load data is scarce for the lightweight lead bullets I wanted to use.

I ended up with trail boss, under a 180g LRN from Midwest Bullet Co. If you haven't used this powder, it smells a little weird, and throws more smoke than most 'smokeless' powders, not to mention what it looks like! It was made for cowboy action shooters, who need a light .45 colt load. If you can get past the look and smell, it throws consistent weights through my RCBS measure, and it's bulky enough that double charging isn't possible. With this powder, I can load up .44 loads that kick less in my 6" 29-2 than .38 wadcutters do in my 4" Colt Lawman, and still shoot very well, though not to the same aim point as heavier loads do.

February 15, 2008, 11:59 AM
Walkalong, I might consider using 800-X instead of 700-X
That is a good point. I just know my most accurate lead loads in .44 Spl was 700X.

800X probably would work well for downloaded .44 Mag, and like you say, could be loaded up pretty hot, although obviously not to W296 levels.

February 16, 2008, 07:07 AM
Everyone is recommending faster powder which is the right way to go just make sure the powder does not burn to hot like tightgroup. You will still get leading especially with tightgroup simply from the gases burning the lead and it being left behind even if the FPS is below 1000fps. With a 240gr lead bullet I have fell in love with HS-6 and Bluedot. With 14gr of Bluedot you get about 900FPS but it is a bit smokey with lead bullets. I switched to HS-6 and it is a lot cleaner burning and less smokey, I would surely give HS-6 a try. In my load book I keep a primary and secondary powder listed with my loads and HS-6 is now my primary and Bluedot my secondary for 44mag with lead.

February 16, 2008, 09:30 AM
I'm liking the sound of Trail Boss powder as I can get a good reduced load that minimizes leading while avoiding any possibility of a double charge.

February 16, 2008, 02:06 PM
I switched to HS-6 and it is a lot cleaner burning and less smokey,
Well for what it's worth HS-6 is my favorite powder for 158gr LSWC in a .357 mag. w/a 2.75" barrel. Many years ago I used HS-6 with 240 LSWC in a Taurus 431 w/a 2.5" barrel with very good results.

February 16, 2008, 02:13 PM
Trailboss may work in 44 I just have not tried it. It is strictly my 45acp powder though and love it for that but boy that ammonia smell I could only imagine it would be stronger with a heavier 44 charge. I felt bad at the range once guy told me dude what is that smell it is burning my nose and it was the trailboss powder. I stop shooting 45acp and went to 22 until he left.

February 17, 2008, 11:29 AM
In general, loading lighter velocity loads in a revolver won't get you into trouble. I find that my most accurate loads tend to be light loads that just get the bullet to the target...you generally pay for increased power with somewhat less accuracy.

However, in semi-autos there is a point where light loads wont operate the action. I reload to a half-grain above that point to make sure I'll get consistant functioning.

The light loads are probably not the cause of your leading problem. Possibly your bullets are too soft, or the bullet lube may be too hard. And, I have an old Ruger .357 stainless-steel Blackhawk that won't shoot any lead bullets, regardless of hardness or velocity, without severe leading:cuss:...it's strictly a jacketed bullet gun!

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