.44 Special round ball load - silly idea?


January 5, 2004, 10:22 PM
I was finishing depriming and resizing a batch of .44 Special brass for my stainless S&W 696, when I noticed I had put a new box of Speer .433" lead round ball projectiles not too far from the box of .429" 200gr JSP's I had intended to load tonight.


Looks like they'll swage down somewhat in the crimp die after being seated in a flared case. And the ball almost completely drops into by the 696's forcing cone, even without being swaged.

So, doing a little more digging online, I find a few smokeless loads for this fun combination, using the ever-popular Unique, 231, and Bullseye.

But I wanna go one step further. I have a new, unopened pound of Goex FFFg. I have a ton of .44-.45 caliber Ox Yoke Wonder Wads. Anybody see where I'm going? Yup, duplicating the old .44 cap-and-ball loads, albeit in a .44 Special stainless L-Frame.

Darn, no load data exists for the blackpowder version. Do I use a cap-and-ball charge in the .44 Special case, with a Wonder Wad under the ball to control bore fouling and keep the powder column compressed, or use even more FFFg and seat the ball directly on top of the powder column to compress it?

So I am at an impasse. I doubt there's enough black powder pressure in a .44 Special case to really hurt the L-Frame, but I'm also reasonably sure another handloader here on THR has probably done or at least attempted the same thing. In the meantime, I'll defer to others who have tread before me and hold off pending a sanity check. ;)

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Johnny Guest
January 6, 2004, 02:57 PM
My best idea would be to trickle in as much FFFg as the case would hold and still allow seating a Wonder Wad plus the round ball, to barely deeper than half it's diameter. I believe this would be just about optimum load density for this combination. You could then either weigh this amount of powder, or construct a dipper to duplicate that volume. I'd be interested to know just what weight of powder this would be. My best guess would be around 27 grains.

I base my thinking on some experimentation I did with FFFg loads in a Colt .45 Sngle Action Army. A modern .45C case will not hold enough black powder under a 255 gr. bullet to harm the revolver. I think 30 gr was about the most I could get in without use of a LONG drop tube. Incidentally, the 30 gr. with a 230 LRN .45 ACP bullet was gun and very pleasant to shoot.

Let us know what you end up loading, and the results, huh?


January 6, 2004, 06:38 PM
Round ball loads ae tons of fun! Never did any with BP as I clean up after enough BP as it is. I second JG and will add that when I messed around with ball loads, I got the best accuracy using cases that had not been resized allowing the ball to retain it's full diameter.

Good luck!


January 6, 2004, 07:46 PM
I ended up stopping at 25 grains FFFg. The Wonder Wad took up the remainder of the room, leaving just over 2/10" for the bottom half of the round ball to seat into and compress things slightly. I crimped the case mouth just enough to allow easy chambering in my 696's cylinder.

I made an even dozen of the loads, and now I'm setting up to do a dozen more, but this time, with 5.0 grains of WW231 instead of the Wonder Wad and FFFg.

I marked the primers on the blackpowder loads with a black Sharpie felt-tip marker. We'll see how they all work out maybe this weekend. ;)

January 7, 2004, 11:53 AM
Gewehr98, please let me know how it works out. I have been thinking of working up some .44 black powder loads myself.

January 7, 2004, 01:05 PM
FYI, I found 44 special blackpowder data in Lymans Blackpowder Handbook. 23.5 FFG behind a 240g lead bullet for 829 fps. I'll look it up later to be sure if anyone's interested... Thats correct after I edited it. It shows only 22.5 FFg for Lymans 245g Keith bullet though. No round ball data for 44 in there.

January 7, 2004, 03:20 PM
I loaded up some lead balls for my 44 mag. using the .433 120 gr. lead balls you are talking about....they are a lot of fun....I use 7 1/2 grs. of unique for the 2 ball load, and 4 grs. of Unique for the 1 ball load...at 25 yards the 2 balls hit about an inch apart....you use a wooden dowel to shove the first ball down so you can start the 2nd ball

January 17, 2004, 11:59 PM
Okay, folks, sorry for the delayed response. It took a goodly amount of time to clean all the blackpowder crud out of the stainless L-Frame 696. I ended up taking the crane and cylinder out of the gun, the stuff was everywhere! Several old cotton socks and a few Q-Tips worth of Pol metal polish, and she was all shiny again. Neat thing was, as grungy as the gun became, it fired double and single-action through all the blackpowder ammo with nary a hiccup. As the cylinder turned, you could tell it was using the forcing cone to scrape excess fouling off the front of the cylinder as it dragged through to the next round. Messy, but the darned thing worked!

The 25gr FFFg blackpowder roundball loads were impressive, both with the flash and bang, and the smoke that filled up the small indoor range. (Reminding myself not to do that again, the clientel preferred to see their own targets clearly) Accuracy wasn't too bad offhand at 21 feet, they grouped slightly low and left of my point of aim, which was the center of an NRA 50-foot pistol target. One of the holes was created by the Ox Yoke Wonder Wad, it's there near 6 'O-clock on the edge between the black and white of the bullseye.

The 5.0gr roundball loads were somewhat mundane, in that their recoil was less, the flash was non-existent, and the balls just grouped in the black of the same 21-foot target, ho-hum. Leading from either load was confined mainly to the forward portion of the forcing cone where the rifling began. I didn't even bother to wire brush them out, I just ran a couple dozen 240gr jacketed rounds through the gun immediately afterwards, and the lead was cleaned out just fine.

Summary? It was fun. The .433" round lead balls do shoot reasonably well, but with blackpowder you're gonna make a mess of the gun, and really should fire them outdoors if you don't want an indoor range owner asking you what you're doing.

The same projectiles in a smokeless loading could conceivably be a nice, light, plinking load, or even a training load for somebody recoil sensitive (my 5'1" wife comes to mind). Here's the target, I was too cheap to change the targets between both groups. Blackpowder low and left of the bullseye, smokeless inside the black, left of center:


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