Elmer Keith's 600 yard shot


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smartshot
October 12, 2010, 06:30 AM
People always talk about effective ranges for handguns and the max distances are always, 7 yards, 50 yards, 200 yards etc...How come Elmer Keith killed a mule deer from across a canyon at 600 paces with a 44 magnum revolver with open sights??? Anyone else think that people who write all these articles have no practical experiences to show actual limitations? So my question to you all....how far would you shoot, lets say a mule deer, with a 44 mag "Keith Load?"

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Husker_Fan
October 12, 2010, 08:47 AM
I guess it depends on how steep and deep the canyon is. I've hunted in some places where a 100 yard shot might be 400 yards by foot.

Drail
October 12, 2010, 08:53 AM
Keith only took that shot because his client had wounded the animal with some badly placed rifle shooting and Keith did not want it to get away. Keith could hit a bowling ball at 400 to 500 yards consistently with a handgun. He spent his entire life shooting. He admitted that the 600 yard shot was probably partly due to luck but he didn't lie or exagerate anything about his accomplishments. He has been called a liar ever since he printed that story. I have done a little silhouette shooting at 200 and 300 yards with a 7.5 in. Bisley and I believe it is quite possible, but I would not take such a shot without a very good reason though.

MrBorland
October 12, 2010, 10:01 AM
Keith only took that shot because his client had wounded the animal with some badly placed rifle shooting and Keith did not want it to get away.


+1.

And Keith's own description of the event isn't pretty, and is worth a read: He missed on the first shot, hit him at 600 yard with the 2nd, but the bullet hit the deer in the jaw and exited the nose. Keith's 3rd shot knocked the animal off a ridge, out of sight, but very much alive. After 2 more shots from the client's rifle, the animal was still alive, "walking along all humped up very slowly", and it took a final (by my counting) 7th shot (again, by my counting, 6 of which hit the animal) to finally drop the animal.

In the end, I wouldn't consider this episode as evidence for this kind of effective range.

http://www.handloads.com/articles/default.asp?id=34

Guillermo
October 12, 2010, 11:47 AM
EK made it VERY clear that he was trying to put down a suffering animal.



Could I do it? No.

Could Elmer Keith, yes.

While I never had the pleasure to meet the man, nothing that I have never read would lead me to believe that he would not be forthright about it.

rcmodel
October 12, 2010, 04:06 PM
Same here.
I think if Elmer said he did it, he did it.

I don't doubt it a bit.

Consider the man lived his life in prime game country with a six-gun on his hip every waking day.

He had more opportunity to practice long range shots on jack rabbits, hawks, rocks, etc in a year then most any of us will live to see in a lifetime. And it has been my experience that the more long range hand-gunning you do, the "Luckier" you get!

There was a time when I was a teenager on a farm that I was burning several hundred rounds a month out of a Ruger Flat-Top.

A lot of them were at an old Model A Ford truck cab in a ditch about 400 yards from the cow barn. I'm here to tell you the door on that truck cab had so many holes through it it looked like Swiss cheese.

I can also tell you that a coyote would have been in great danger had he ventured by that old truck cab, because I already knew the exact hold-over to hit him.

rc

Rusty Shackleford
October 12, 2010, 04:49 PM
If the round is physically able to travel that far (and .44 definitely is) then there is someone in the world, somewhere, who can make hits with it at that distance in the right conditions. Why wouldn't it be Elmer Keith?

Also, like Husker Fan said, if it is 600 yards distance, but the animal is waaaay below you elevation wise, you don't really have 600 yards worth of hold over. The only distance that matters when accounting for elevation adjustment is the HORIZONTAL distance only. Vertical distance has no effect on the trajectory. People shooting bows from a deer stand are always keeping this in mind.

otcconan
October 12, 2010, 05:02 PM
We ARE talking about Elmer Keith, here. Not you or me.

John Parker
October 12, 2010, 05:14 PM
EK made it VERY clear that he was trying to put down a suffering animal.


I've always wondered why he didn't use the client's rifle to kill the animal. I know that zero varies from person to person, maybe that was why? Anyone have an answer?

MrBorland
October 12, 2010, 05:31 PM
I think if Elmer said he did it, he did it.

I don't doubt it a bit.


I don't doubt Elmer's account either. And I believe it's likely if anyone could hit something with an iron-sighted revolver at 600 yards, it would've been Keith.

The thing is, the short internet versions I keep reading seem to be sanitized versions of Keith's own: By his own account, Keith didn't kill the mule deer; the guy who originally wounded the deer eventually did. Though trying to put down a suffering animal, his 2 long hits succeeded in wounding the animal more. I'm not trying to take anything away from Keith's marksmanship or capability as a hunter (it was a less-than-ideal solution - but likely the best one - to a crummy problem, and he did what needed to be done, and was likely the best man for the job). Instead, my take is simply that since even an Elmer Keith couldn't pull off the shot that would've been the ideal solution, maybe Keith's famous shot ought not be used to define the effective range of a .44mag revolver.

Guillermo
October 12, 2010, 06:00 PM
maybe Keith's famous shot ought not be used to define the effective range of a .44mag revolver.

I think of it as "what a master can do it he has to"

rcmodel
October 12, 2010, 06:07 PM
Here is the story as told by Elmer Keith:

Paul Kriley and I hunted up Clear Creek on the right side where it is partly open bunch grass meadows and partly patches of timber. We hunted all day, and although we saw several does at 80-90 yards, one at 60, that I could have killed. We passed them up, as I wanted a buck. Toward evening we topped out on a ridge. There was a swale between us and another small ridge on the side of the mountain slope about 300-400 yards away. Beyond that, out on the open sidehill, no doubt on account of the cougar, were about 20 mule deer, feeding. Two big bucks were in the band, and some lesser ones, the rest were does and long fawns. As it was getting late and the last day of the season, I wanted one of those bucks for meat. Being a half-mile away, I told Paul, “Take the .300 Magnum and duck back through this swale to that next ridge and that should put you within about 500 yards of them. I’ll stay here (the deer had seen us), let them watch me for a decoy.” Paul said, “You take the rifle.”
“I said, how is it sighted?”
He said, “one inch high at a hundred yards.” I told him to go ahead because I wouldn’t know where to hold it. I always sighted a .300 Magnum 3 inches high at a hundred and I wouldn’t know where to hold it at 500.
I said, “You go ahead and kill the biggest buck in the bunch for me.” Paul took off, went across the swale and climbed the ridge, laid down and crawled up to the top. He shot. The lower of the two bucks, which he later said was the biggest one, dropped and rolled down the mountain. I then took off across the swale to join him. Just before I climbed up the ridge to where he was lying, he started shooting again.

When I came up on top, the band of deer was pretty well long gone. They’d gone out to the next ridge top, turned up it slightly and went over. But the old buck was up following their trail, one front leg a-swinging. Paul had hit it. I asked Paul, “Is there any harm in me getting into this show?” He said, “No, go ahead.”

I had to lay down prone, because if I crawled over the hill to assume my old backside positioning, then the blast of his gun would be right in my ear. Shooting prone with a .44 Magnum is something I don’t like at all. The concussion is terrific. It will just about bust your ear drums every time. At any rate Paul shot and missed. I held all of the front sight up, or practically all of it, and perched the running deer on top of the front sight and squeezed one off. Paul said, “I saw it through my scope. It hit in the mud and snow right below him.” There was possibly six inches of wet snow, with muddy ground underneath. I told him “I won’t be low the next shot.” Paul shot again and missed with his .300 Magnum. The next time I held all of the front sight up and a bit of the ramp, just perched the deer on top. After the shot the gun came down out of recoil and the bullet had evidently landed. The buck made a high buck-jump, swapped ends, and came back toward us, shaking his head. I told Paul I must have hit a horn. I asked him to let the buck come back until he was right on us if he would, let him come as close as he would and I’d jump up and kill him. When he came back to where Paul had first rolled him, out about 500 yards, Paul said, “I could hit him now, I think.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t like to see a deer run on three legs. Go ahead.” He shot again and missed. The buck swapped ends and turned around and went back right over the same trail. Paul said, “I’m out of ammunition. Empty.” I told him to reload, duck back out of sight, go on around the hill and head the old buck off, and I’d chase him on around. Paul took off on a run to go around this bunch-grass hill and get up above the buck and on top. He was young, husky, and could run like a deer himself. I got on the old buck again with all of the front sight and a trifle of the ramp up. Just as I was going to squeeze it off when he got to the ridge, he turned up it just as the band of deer had done. So I moved the sight picture in front of him and shot. After an interval he went down and out of sight. I didn’t think anything of it, thought he had just tipped over the ridge. It took me about half an hour to get across. When I got over there to the ridge, I saw where he’d rolled down the hill about fifty yards, bleeding badly, and then he’d gotten up and walked from the tracks to the ridge in front of us. There were a few pine trees down below, so I cut across to intercept his tracks. I could see he was bleeding out both sides.

Just before I got to the top of the ridge, I heard a shot up above me and then another shot, and I yelled and asked if it was Paul. He answered. I asked, “Did you get him?” He said, “Yes, he’s down there by that big pine tree below you. Climb a little higher and you can see him.” Paul came down and we went down to the buck. Paul said the buck was walking along all humped up very slowly. He held back of the shoulders as he was quartering away. The first shot went between his forelegs and threw up snow. Then he said the buck turned a little more away from him and he held higher and dropped him. Finally we parted the hair in the right flank and found where the 180-grain needle-pointed Remington spitzer had gone in. Later I determined it blew up and lodged in the left shoulder. At any rate I looked his horns over, trying to see where I’d hit a horn. No sign of it. Finally I found a bullet hole back of the right jaw and it came out of the top of his nose. That was the shot I’d hit him with out at 600 yards. Then Paul said, “Who shot him through the lungs broadside? I didn’t, never had that kind of shot at all.” There was an entrance hole fairly high on the right side of the rib cage just under the spine and an exit just about three or four inches lower on the other side. The deer had been approximately the same elevation as I was when I fired that last shot at him. We dressed him, drug him down the trail on Clear Creek, hung him up, and went on down to the ranch. The next day a man named Posy and I came back with a pack horse, loaded him and took him in. I took a few pictures of him hanging in the woodshed along with the Smith & Wesson .44 Mag.

I took him home and hung him up in the garage. About ten days later my son Ted came home from college and I told him, “Ted, go out and skin that big buck and get us some chops. They should be well-ripened and about right for dinner tonight.” After awhile Ted came in and he laid the part jacket of a Remington bullet on the table beside me and he said, “Dad, I found this right beside the exit hole on the left side of that buck’s ribs.” Then I knew that I had hit him at that long range two out of four times. I believe I missed the first shot, we didn’t see it at all, and it was on the second that Paul said he saw snow and mud fly up at his heels. I wrote it up and I’ve been called a liar ever since, but Paul Kriley is still alive and able to vouch for the facts.

Elmer Keith

MrBorland
October 12, 2010, 06:16 PM
Here is the story as told by Elmer Keith:

Yep - that's the account I linked to in my initial reply. ;)

Marshall
October 12, 2010, 06:16 PM
So my question to you all....how far would you shoot, lets say a mule deer, with a 44 mag "Keith Load?"

I wouldn't take much more than a 100 "normal yard" shot.

Rexster
October 12, 2010, 08:06 PM
John Parker: "I've always wondered why he didn't use the client's rifle to kill the animal. I know that zero varies from person to person, maybe that was why? Anyone have an answer?"

I think you got it right when you said that zero varies from person to person. At 600 yards, I would not expect one man's zero to be anywhere near another man's zero.

My opinion is that Elmer Keith was honest in writing the article. He did not claim to have nailed the animal on the first shot, and clearly related that he was trying to stop an animal wounded by another person. There are folks who still gather each year to commemorate Elmer Keith, and long-range handgunning is part of it. I would have to search for it; I think the link I had saved was on another computer that has now bitten the dust.

Rexster
October 12, 2010, 08:09 PM
Every now and then gunwriter John Taffin writes articles on the famous 600-yard shot. That is another thing to search for online. I think Mas Ayoob, Craig Boddington, and at least a couple of others have addressed this in print, too.

I know I won't stand in the open and let anyone lob shots from a sixgun at me from 600 yards!

smartshot
October 12, 2010, 09:20 PM
thanks for your responses, I read that article every now and then....it seems to get better with age

Guillermo
October 12, 2010, 09:37 PM
I know I won't stand in the open and let anyone lob shots from a sixgun at me from 600 yards!

With most people at the trigger you would be relatively safe. Some guys here, (David E, Old Fuff come to mind) might get you on the first shot.
:what:

Old Fuff
October 12, 2010, 11:03 PM
Some guys here, (David E, Old Fuff come to mind) might get you on the first shot.

Not me!! I rang a gong at 600 meters once, but it was an accident, and by no means - the first shot. :D

Now 200 yards... Maybe... ;)

David E
October 12, 2010, 11:14 PM
With most people at the trigger you would be relatively safe. Some guys here, (David E, Old Fuff come to mind) might get you on the first shot.

By happy coincidence, I went to the range today. After I was done with the primary practice, I went over to the 100, 200 and 300 yd bays (all from the same firing line) to fire a few rounds.

I had my S&W M&P Pro 9mm and handloaded 147 FMJ's @ 950 fps. (not exactly a dead-on laser at distance) At the 100 yd berm there was a steel IPSC "amoeba" target. I rested on the bench and actually connected on the first shot. :)

Skipping the 200 yd berm, I tried my hand at the 300 on the same type of target. I hit it on the first shot, too...................if you don't count all those "sighter" shots......;)

It's fun to shoot long range with a handgun and it's not as hard (or impossible) as many folks seem to think. It helps tremendously to be able to spot your misses so you can adjust your sights accordingly.

Next time the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it.

22-rimfire
October 12, 2010, 11:15 PM
Keith was known for his long range handgun shooting. He must have been an incredible shot. As I recall, he also shot a carbou at a substantial distance with a 41 mag. He tended to walk his shots to the game which is what most of us would do from a practical point of view.

Guillermo
October 12, 2010, 11:31 PM
Now 200 yards... Maybe.

with a J frame snub :eek:

I tried my hand at the 300 on the same type of target

I am not standing around downrange at any distance :what:

MikePGS
October 12, 2010, 11:35 PM
I don't doubt for a minute that Elmer Keith hit that shot.
It's funny, people also doubted that Carlos Hathcock shot a soviet sniper through the scope. They even went so far as to say it was "busted" on Mythbusters (a show I don't like to begin with). So many people complained that they retested it and this time said it was plausible, or whatever rating it is they give something that could be true.

It never occurred to me that someone like EK or Carlos Hatchcock would make something up in order to impress people. If you're EK or Hathcock just being yourself is impressive enough.

Old Fuff
October 12, 2010, 11:36 PM
with a J frame snub

Colt, dear boy, a Colt... :cool:

David E
October 12, 2010, 11:43 PM
with a J frame snub

I had one with me (and a Colt, too!) but I'd shot up all the .38 ammo I'd brought before heading over to the long bay.

Next time........

788Ham
October 13, 2010, 01:35 AM
MikePGS,

I remember a show on the History Channel about snipers. They showed a mock-up of Hathcock and his spotter, then taking the shot. After that segment, there was another sniper, I believe he was retired, who tried and tried to re-do what Hathcock had done, he never did it! This other sniper shot I don't remember how many scopes, just wasted ammo and scopes trying to prove a point..... he never out did Carlos either, that's why they are legends!

natman
October 13, 2010, 04:20 AM
People always talk about effective ranges for handguns and the max distances are always, 7 yards, 50 yards, 200 yards etc...How come Elmer Keith killed a mule deer from across a canyon at 600 paces with a 44 magnum revolver with open sights???

There is a big difference between what's possible and what's effective. Sure a 44 mag can inflict a fatal wound at 600 yards - if you can hit with it that far away. Just because Elmer Keith mixed luck and skill and did it once doesn't make it a good idea.

Anyone else think that people who write all these articles have no practical experiences to show actual limitations?

I think the people who write all these articles based their limitations on practical experience. At least they understand the ethical difference between hunting and shooting at wounded game that's getting away and the difference between what's possible and what's practical.

So my question to you all....how far would you shoot, lets say a mule deer, with a 44 mag "Keith Load?"

About 100 yards with a 44 rifle. Considerably less with a pistol.

Guillermo
October 13, 2010, 09:39 AM
Colt, dear boy, a Colt

what do you have against Smiths?

Old Fuff
October 13, 2010, 10:12 AM
what do you have against Smiths?

Understand that I was being specific about J-frame models.

To shoot snubbies at longer ranges then (give or take) 50 yards you have to be able to raise the front sight in the rear notch to compensate for trajectory. The older Colt Detective Specials had round "pencil barrels," with a high front sight. The very first S&W Chief Special's (pre-model 36) were the same, but they quickly changed to a ribbed barrel with a low front sight - which is still used today. For normal snubbie distances they work, but not when shooting at longer ranges. Also the Colt's have a handle that's large enough to hold onto with all three lower fingers. The shorter one on J-frames is for most people only good for two. If these little revolvers are not firmly supported in the hand when fired they can shift, and at long ranges will throw shots where you don't want them to go. :(

In fairness to Smith & Wesson, I will admit that snubbie versions of the Military & Police model made before the war, and a short time thereafter, that had pencil barrels and high front sights; were equal to the Detective Special, but as a practical matter they are seldom seen. The same can be said about model 15's with two-inch barrels, but again you don't see many, and they are heavier and more bulky when it comes to concealed carry.

When it comes to longer range snubbie shooting in a size/weight package that's practical to carry, The Detective Special is the best way to go.

NMGonzo
October 13, 2010, 07:06 PM
Not me!! I rang a gong at 600 meters once, but it was an accident, and by no means - the first shot. :D

Now 200 yards... Maybe... ;)

Clear day, no wind, 12 inch gong, sitting with a good support for my hand ... yes.

Tequila Mockingbird
October 14, 2010, 01:21 AM
Interesting thread...

I've read Sixguns by Keith, and I consider it an interesting read, but I've always withheld judgment on whether Keith really was able to make the shots he claims to have made. The main reason for this is that the only point of reference I have is myself, and I can't even come close to some of the shots he describes, although I consider myself reasonably proficient with a handgun. Off a rest, with open sights, I can generally place all my shots in the black on the standard SR-1 target, but I can't do it offhand with any consistency. At 25 yards offhand, I might occasionally get a one inch group, but usually I get one or two fliers that spoil the group.

It seems to me that getting consistently good groups is really tough, but almost everyone can recount their truly amazing one-time shot, when everything lined up just right and it all came together for some spectacular result.

That's one of the reasons I soured on gun magazines a long time ago. All the guys writing the articles were superb shots who never failed to get a great group or knock down an elk at 400 yards with rain pouring down and a howling cross wind blowing. It's just too easy to be a great shot when you're sitting in front of a computer screen. So I just take all that with a grain of salt...

piece of meat
October 14, 2010, 04:13 AM
just a question: when these guys are out there wandering in the field or just on the farm/ranch/land shooting rifles and magnum revolvers, do they use hearing protection? if not how do they not lose their hearing?

CajunBass
October 14, 2010, 06:28 AM
just a question: when these guys are out there wandering in the field or just on the farm/ranch/land shooting rifles and magnum revolvers, do they use hearing protection? if not how do they not lose their hearing?

Probably not. Back in the day, almost nobody used hearing protection. Earplugs? What are earplugs?

Did they lose their hearing? Well...Yes...they did. That's how we gradually learned to use earplugs.

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