Difficult extraction in .357 Blackhawk - the load, or the gun?


January 19, 2011, 09:08 AM
I have a stainless 6 1/2" new model Blackhawk in .357. I've been using 16.6 gr. of H110, SPM primers, 158 gr. XTPs. 16.6 is the max load for this setup, according to Hornady and other sources. It works fine.

Problem is, most of the spent cases are difficult to extract. There's usually at least one per cylinder where I have to grip the barrel with both hands and press with both thumbs on the extractor to get it out.

Question: is this a problem with the cylinder, or with the max load? I've heard both. I could use a reduced load, but my powder measure, sights, etc. are all set up for my current load, and I'd like to avoid changing everything for no reason.

If it is the load, how much should I reduce it to eliminate the problem? Would going down to, say, 16.2 do it? I want to stay as near a max load as possible.

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January 19, 2011, 09:19 AM
35 years exp reloading. Maybe i can help !!!
1. Remove cylinder
2. Clean each chamber with brush & patches
3. Visually inspect each chamber with strong light & exam for any deep scratches or other visible machine marks.
4. Polish chambers with a dab of flitz / maas metal polish

cases: Make sure outside of cases are clean---rough case walls can make extraction difficult.

January 19, 2011, 09:23 AM
GURU1911: I have already done everything on your list. And it's brand new brass, nice and clean.

January 19, 2011, 09:52 AM
The only time I have had sticky extraction was because of to much pressure.Try backing off 1gr and work your way up.Speed doesn't always mean accurate.

January 19, 2011, 10:15 AM
Interesting variations in the published max loads. Hodgon says 16.7. Winchester, 16.6. Sierra, 16.3. Hornady, 15.6! I'm going to carefully load some at 15.8 and 16.0 and see what happens.

January 19, 2011, 10:21 AM
The only time I have had sticky extraction was because of to much pressure.

that is my experience as well

January 19, 2011, 10:33 AM
If the .357 TXP bullets are like the .44 XTPs there is more of the bullet in the case than some other brands. This means higher pressure for the same weight bullet if you're crimping on the cannelure.
That may be why Hornady's max load recommendation is a full grain lower than others.

January 19, 2011, 11:15 AM
How do your chambers look?

Pressure signs in a straight walled pistol cartridge are meaningless. Something else is going on. Particularly in a large frame .357 Blackhawk. You simply are not going to produce enough pressure to cause the chambers to flex. It's probably because your chambers are rough or your cases are too long.

The Bushmaster
January 19, 2011, 11:23 AM
Back off on them loads. By at least 1 grain and work up. As far as your sights and the "problem" of lowering the powder charge. It would seem that having to buy a new gun or replace an eye with a glass one, not to mention a few fingers. You could find it within yourself to make the changes...Just my thoughts.

January 19, 2011, 11:34 AM
Blackhawks (some) are notorious for having very roughly finished chamber walls. I'm talking so rough that Flitz ain't gonna cut it. I have had several that needed to have the chambers finish reamed and polished (just the chamber walls, NOT the throats). After I did this cases would fall out under their own weight. A smith should be able to do this for you if you don't wish to buy the tools. Or you could call Ruger and voice your dissatisfaction and they will make it right.

January 19, 2011, 11:58 AM
ruark, the hornady manual lists 15.8 grains of h110 for a max load using the 158gn xtp. you are way over max load here. suggest you reduce to 15.0 grains and work up. also, suggest you run loads over a cronograph and make sure they don't exceed published data.

h110 is pretty good about letting you know if pressures are too high. the case will start to stick. been there, done that!


January 19, 2011, 01:08 PM
It ain't pressures. You could stuff the case full of H110 and not see any pressure signs, as long as everything else is right. You can't get enough slow burning powder in the .357 case to hurt the large frame Blackhawk. Something else is going on. Either the chambers are rough (likely) or the case mouth is expanding into the step at the chamber mouth.

Old Fuff
January 19, 2011, 02:46 PM
I'm with murf:

Drop the load and see if that makes any difference. If that solves the problem you're good to go. If not, then worry about the chambers.

If extraction issues continue mark the chamber with a felt-tip pen to see if it's only one or two chambers, and not the others at random.

Rather then polish the chambers yourself, return the gun to Ruger, and then let them fix it - it's possible they might replace the cylinder on they're dime.

January 19, 2011, 04:58 PM
Thanks for all the replies. Later this evening I am going to load some lighter rounds to see what happens. Then I will post back here with the results.

ALL the chambers are usually difficult to extract; I'm not sure if it's a specific chamber that's sticking badly; that's a good question. Incidentally, that really tough extraction, the one where you need both thumbs on the extractor rod, occurs maybe every 3rd or 4th cylinder full, not every one.

It may also be notable that on all cylinders, the "sticky" part is when the case has come out about 1/4". Before and after that, they practically fall out.

Brass is Federal, brand new, never been shot.

One negative: if it turns out to be the 16.6 load, I'm sitting here with about 200 rounds freshly loaded at 16.6.... (groan)

Stay tuned, will get back later this evening on the load-reduction results.

January 19, 2011, 05:18 PM
I had to pull apart 300 rounds of 44 mag one time early on in reloading. It was a pain but taught me an important lesson.

But I'd back off to 15 gains and see if that does anything. It's certainly the easiest thing to change. I don't know what your loading setup is, but you could always dispense your powder like normal and then remove the case from the press, get out your scale and hand weigh out a few charges.

wild willy
January 19, 2011, 05:33 PM
I had the exact same thing with a security six it was like the chamber was larger toward the front. Move the empties about 1/4 inch then they would get tight. When you put the fired ones back in the chamber they would go real hard then easy when almost in.My gunsmith polished the first 1/4 inch of the chambers haven't had any trouble since.Yours might be worse than mine if its that hard to extract one at a time in a single action

January 19, 2011, 05:43 PM
Interesting thread. Here we have all the signs of significant excess pressure - all chambers equally involved. Getting revolver cases to stick from pressure puts you way out on the end of the board. Way out. Bless the "overbuilt" Rugers and reduce that load before a case fails. Be safe.

January 19, 2011, 07:11 PM
I'll default to John Linebaugh on pressure signs in revolvers. In a word (or three), don't trust them. You can be way over pressure with no signs or you can have signs at safe levels. Trust your data and use a chronograph. Early .357 loads were way over what we use today. If the early N-frames had no issues at those levels, then your 16.6gr load is not overpressure. Like I said before, you cannot get enough slow burning powder into a .357 case to hurt a Blackhawk.

Thoroughly clean your chambers and look at them. Or better yet, post a good picture. I'll just about bet the farm they are rough.

January 19, 2011, 07:55 PM
Well, I couldn't find my powder dribbler, so I didn't mess with 16.0. I made half a dozen at 15.6 and shot them. 4 of the cases came out easy. The 5th required a firm push on the extractor, and the 6th was the same as before, requiring both thumbs on the extractor to force it out.

I did really clean the chambers well (brass brush, bore cleaner, etc.) beforehand, but it had absolutely no effect.

By the way, I misspoke. The brass is Winchester, not Federal.

With those results, there's no point in trying 16.0. So I'm taking it to a 'smith to get the chambers polished. Then I'll try again and post the results.

Old Fuff
January 19, 2011, 08:18 PM
Polishing may not be the answer, or only part of it.

When chambering reamers are new they cut chambers on the high side of allowable tolerances. Then as they are used the chambers get smaller as the reamers are sharpened. At some point the chambers being cut become undersized, and the reamers are replaced.

So the first thing that should be done is to go into each chamber with an in-tolerance finishing reamer and see if it picks up any chips. If it does you know part of the answer. It will also insure the chamber is straight and not tapered. Then and only then take up the question of polishing.

Brownells (at www.brownells,com) have special chamber hones for specific chamber sizes. Without question they are the best tool for the job if polishing is required (or just desired).

The gunsmith you have in mind may or may not have the required reamer, but unquestionably Ruger does, and they are unlikely to charge you for the work. If for some reason the present chamber(s) were ruined by a faulty reamer they will replace the cylinder at no charge.

January 19, 2011, 09:15 PM
sticking cases, or not, i'd still run them over a cronograph to make sure they are not over-pressure. who knows, they may be under-pressure and you wouldn't have to pull all those bullets!


January 19, 2011, 11:30 PM
Not to steal this thread:

greyling22, I know of what you speak, as far as UNloading .44's! I've got one hundred rounds dwnstrs awaiting this procedure! I loaded some 300 gr. Hornady's for my 629-1, but S&W recommends I not shoot them, my 629 doesn't have the Endurance Package in it, so.......... my inertia puller awaits!

Jesse Heywood
January 20, 2011, 12:05 AM
So I'm taking it to a 'smith to get the chambers polished.

First give Ruger a call. I would bet they will fix it at no cost to you.

January 20, 2011, 04:59 AM
As said above, Hodgdon lists a Max charge of H110 at 16.7gr using a 158gr Hornady XTP bullet.

BE CAREFUL when downloading H110 because that can be dangerous. Hodgdon warns not to download more than 3% with H110/W296 so just be careful how low you go!! Usually excessive pressure causes hard extraction but I don't think that's the case here.

January 20, 2011, 11:10 AM
I had an issue with sticky extraction with a 41 mag Blackhawk. I used a .410 bore mop and some JB bore cleaning compound chucked in the drill press to get the chambers really clean and the problem went away. It's not aggresive enough to cause damage but it will smooth things up a bit. may be worth a try.

January 20, 2011, 01:08 PM
I would shoot some factory loads through it. If they don't stick, the problem is with your handloads. If those stick, the guys at Ruger might be more likely to listen to a problem involving factory ammo.

January 20, 2011, 04:21 PM
It may also be notable that on all cylinders, the "sticky" part is when the case has come out about 1/4". Before and after that, they practically fall out.

So the initial movement is easy, then it jams and then it's easy again? This description is interesting as it suggests that your chambers are more open at some point in the middle than they are at the rear and up near the transition so the fire formed fatter mid section of the brass is sticking as it tries to come out past the smaller rear mouth.

Take some of your empties that stuck hard and mic the case diameter at the rear just up from the rim and at a few spots along the case. Then remove the cylinder and see how far the fire formed "fat" case drops into a chamber. Mark the depth and mic the diameter of the case at that point.

I'm suspecting from your description that your chambers are not fully cylindrical but have a wider spot just ahead of the rear opening. Now is that wider spot due to a poor reamer, excessive honing in the middle area (if any was done for whatever reason) or is it from some stretching due to the stout nature of the loads you like shooting? Since it's a Blackhawk that has a rep for being a really solid gun and this is the "smaller" .357 round cylinder which will have really thick walls I tend to think that it is a case of fat in the middle chambers from some sort of finish honeing gone bad. So the only question is are the smaller sections of the chambers at spec already or is there meat that could be cut away with a fresh chamber reamer to make this cylinder right.

All in all I'd say it's time for the gun to visit its birth place for some work. And probably include a nice description along with some of the empty sticky brass for them to ponder.

January 20, 2011, 11:29 PM
I just had the same problem with my Blackhawk. I had been shooting lead 38spl and had left a ridge of lead in the cylinder. The extracted 357 brass had a ring around it where it contacted the ridge. I will not shoot 38spl in a 357 again. It took me several hours to get the lead out.

January 21, 2011, 02:13 PM
"I just had the same problem with my Blackhawk. I had been shooting lead 38spl and had left a ridge of lead in the cylinder. The extracted 357 brass had a ring around it where it contacted the ridge. I will not shoot 38spl in a 357 again. It took me several hours to get the lead out."

I thought about that, too. But even factory .38 spl has the sticking problem, although not quite as severe. And there is definitely one particular chamber which is much worse than the others. On 4 chambers the cases almost fall out, in 1 of them the case needs an extra shove. Then in the other one, the case sticks so tight you have to put both thumbs on the extractor.

I'm going to carefully polish the chamber portion (not the throat) out with a little rouge and see if that fixes it.

January 21, 2011, 05:19 PM
I think BCRider nailed it. :)

Vern Humphrey
January 21, 2011, 05:46 PM
I've been using 16.6 gr. of H110, SPM primers, 158 gr. XTPs.
Hodgedon, who makes H110, recommends a max of 14.5 grains of H110 behind a 158 grain bullet, and lists that load at 35,400 CUP. I expect your load is generating a lot more pressure than that.

January 21, 2011, 08:03 PM
I don't know where all this conflicting data is coming from. The Hodgdon site lists 16.7gr as maximum with H110.

Bullet Weight (Gr.) Manufacturer Powder Bullet Diam. C.O.L. Grs. Vel. (ft/s) Pressure Grs. Vel. (ft/s) Pressure
158 GR. HDY XTP Hodgdon H110 .357" 1.580" 15.0 1418 28,600 CUP 16.7 1591 40,700 CUP

Ruger GP100 fan
January 22, 2011, 12:17 AM
My Spears manual (# 14) calls for a min of 13.9gr and max of 15.5gr of H110 seated to 1.570 for 3 different 158gr bullets and one bullet which is seated to 1.575. AND,it calls for a minimum load of 13.2gr of Win 296 and a max of 14.7gr with the same list of bullets. Same powder...different data. Winchester recommends a MINIMUM powder load of 15gr,seated to 1.580. I'd be afraid to shoot with a powder load of 13.2gr or 13.9gr. Am I not understanding something here?

Old Fuff
January 22, 2011, 10:27 AM
Am I not understanding something here?

No, you're "spot on." The data is collected using different test barrels or revolvers, which can give varied results. Maximum loads should always be worked up for a particular gun, with the book loads being used for general information only.

As an example, I once had a Thompson-Center, 10" barrel that was chambered in .38 Colt Super. I soon found that loads that were more then safe out of a 5" Government Model ran excessive pressure levels in the longer TC barrel when using certain slower burning powers.

In the present instance the extraction problem could be caused by a number of things (or a combination thereof); but before jumping to any conclusion some different ammunition and load-levels should be tried.

If bad chamber(s) are behind it, Ruger should replace the cylinder. Then, and only then, consider polishing. Generally speaking, a correct chamber that still has reamer marks will not affect extraction.

In some semi-automatic firearms the chamber is actually threaded to delay extraction, but never the less does not prevent it. Ruger's revolver chambers don't come remotely close to this.

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