Are Elmer Keith's loads still safe?


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February 6, 2012, 02:24 PM
I've been reading and re-reading a few articles written by Elmer Keith here Elmer Keith Memorial Website|Guns and Ammo Archives

After reading a couple of articles and taking note of his now famous loads, my mental juices statred to churn. In one of the articles EK states that he used 17.0gr of 2400 in his .44 SPL loads containing his 429421 bullet in modern solid head brass. This is pretty much common knowledge as solid head brass has less powder capacity than did the old balloon head brass. Now fast forward to the article that Brian Pearce wrote on the then new Ruger FT .44 SPL, one of the loads that he used was Elmer's load (except now with Alliant instead of Hercules 2400) with no problems what so ever.

So this is where I start thinking to myself. If Brian Pearce used the EK .44 SPL load (and I'm sure there more out there that have too) which posed no problems, are Elmers' other loads still safe? Loads such as 22gr of 2400 under the 429421 for the .44 mag, and 19-20gr of 2400 under the H&G 258 220gr bullet in the .41 mag. So what do you all think on this subject? Here is one of the articles that lead me to post this question
http://www.elmerkeithshoot.org/GA/19...orite_Load.pdf

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Sam1911
February 6, 2012, 02:41 PM
The loads he played with were certainly hot. Manufacturers (of guns and powder both) have better testing equipment now and understand better than some of our most intrepid experimenters and gunny forefathers did what really happens when the primer ignites. He and some others pushed the limits and (generally, mosly) got away with it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was good for the guns or really "safe."

Operating up in the "safety factor" zone is not a very good idea. These loads are SEVERAL FULL GRAINS over the currently published maximums. (That's not just a "hair" more, in a pistol case.)

What will these hot loads do for you (assuming your guns, fingers, and eyes survive) that the manufacturers' reccommended maximum loads WON'T do? What is the goal?

If the gun shoots the maximum load accurately, is there something out there that 3 more grains of powder would be required to kill more effectively?

rcmodel
February 6, 2012, 03:18 PM
There is also some speculation that todays Alliant 2400 is just a frog hair faster burning then the Old Hercules 2400 Elmer used.

Personally, I am of the belief that his loads are too hot with todays brass & 2400 powder.

And even back then, some folks like Skeeter used 21 grains in the .44 Mag, not Elmers 22 grains. He said Elmers load was too hot.

rc

Old Fuff
February 6, 2012, 04:03 PM
There are a lot of different model revolvers out there - both past and present. Most reloading manuals (and experienced handloaders) recommend that you cut a proposed load back by at least 10% and then work up while looking for signs of excessive pressure. Also don't exceed the maximum load listed in the manual.

Because of a number of reasons involving bore and chambers, a load that's still safe in one revolver may not be in another one - even if both are the same model and came from the same manufacturer.

The best load is not the one that stops just short of blowing up the gun, it's the one that puts all of the shots in one ragged hole. It possible that a load can accomplish both, but generally the most accurate one will be a grain or two below maximum.

RKRCPA
February 6, 2012, 04:06 PM
I've been using 19 grs. of 2400 in my 41 mag for a long time without any issues. I may bring my chronograph with me next range trip and see how the Alliant compares to the Hercules.

Steve C
February 6, 2012, 04:22 PM
Both Elmer and Skeeter blew up more than one gun testing loads by their own admission. They found the S&W "triple lock" .44 spl strong enough to take their loads without a KB but never indicated how long the gun lasted before needing repair from shooting such loads.

Current load data (Speer 13) shows between 21 and 24 grains of 2400 as maximum for bullets of 200 to 240 gr depending upon their weight so the loads haven't changed much even with modern pressure measurements and current powder.

joed
February 6, 2012, 04:38 PM
Theoretically EK's loads should be safe. Some say 2400 is a shade hotter today. I have a friend (chemist) that says this is not so as powders have burn rates, change the burn rate and it isn't 2400 anymore. There should be no difference other then lot to lot variation. I have to agree with him.

Elmer's loads are hot, yes. But I've shot 17.0 gr of 2400 in my model 24 and it is starting to get your attention, but it is nowhere as hot as a .44 mag. For my use I much prefer 15.0 gr of 2400 with the 429421. It's enough to do anything I need without causing unnecessary wear on the gun.

I've also had some old loading manuals that show 22 gr of 2400 as a .44 mag load with the 429421. One I believe has a top load of 23.x gr for the .44 mag with a 240 gr bullet.

I don't shoot these loads though, I don't have a use for them. But in a strong revolver I'd believe they are still safe.

Sam1911
February 6, 2012, 05:06 PM
Elmer's loads are hot, yes. But I've shot 17.0 gr of 2400 in my model 24 and it is starting to get your attention, but it is nowhere as hot as a .44 mag.

Wait ... "hot" isn't necessarily related to how much recoil you feel when you shoot them. You could make a .357 load that's "hotter" than a .44 mag load, and shoot them through identical N-frames but when you fire that .357 load (if the gun doesn't blow up) it will still feel less impressive than the .44 Mag. load pushing a much bigger bullet.

In the end, your Model 24 isn't designed to have to contain much more than the 14,000 CUP generated by a stout .44 Spc. load, while .44 Mag loads can hit 40,000 CUP.

Again...why is this a good idea?

CraigC
February 6, 2012, 05:26 PM
In a word, yes, they are. That is, as long as advice is heeded on which firearms to use which loads in. The vaunted Keith .44Spl load is well proven over 80yrs of actual, practical use. Most will say that it should only be used in post-WWII N-frames, Colt SAA's, USFA SAA's, custom mid-frame Blackhawks, the new factory .44Spl Blackhawks, etc. We know that this load generates 26,000psi of chamber pressure. It was 26,000psi back when Keith had it tested at H.P. White labs and it's 26,000psi now that Pearce has also had it tested at H.P. White labs. Decades apart. We know what guns can take it. I would ask, why not? .44Spl's tend to be smaller or at least lighter than their .44Mag counterparts. I would turn the question around and ask, if the .44Spl will do everything you need a sixgun to do, why carry around a significantly larger and heavier .44Mag?

Such as this lovely little custom Ruger, which is 6-8oz lighter than a comparable .44Mag. Much more svelte on the hip and in the hand.
http://photos.imageevent.com/newfrontier45/sixgunsiii/large/IMG_7120e.jpg

PapaG
February 6, 2012, 05:28 PM
I've settled on 20/2400 with the 429421 in Magnum guns as my personal max, (Elmer minus two grains) and use a much more sedate load (factory equivalent per Lyman) in my specials. I still like Skeeter's 38/357 load with 358156 taking one grain off his load in 38s and crimping in the bottom crimp groove and doing the same for 357 and using top groove.
All are quite accurate and have plenty of power for our little Illinois deer and coyotes.

joed
February 6, 2012, 05:29 PM
Wait ... "hot" isn't necessarily related to how much recoil you feel when you shoot them. You could make a .357 load that's "hotter" than a .44 mag load, and shoot them through identical N-frames but when you fire that .357 load (if the gun doesn't blow up) it will still feel less impressive than the .44 Mag. load pushing a much bigger bullet.

In the end, your Model 24 isn't designed to have to contain much more than the 14,000 CUP generated by a stout .44 Spc. load, while .44 Mag loads can hit 40,000 CUP.

Again...why is this a good idea?
There is logic that Elmer used to determine what pressure the gun could take. I probably don't remember it all but let me try.

That N frame used for the Spl is also used for a .45 acp. The .45 acp is I believe loaded to around 18,000 CUP. So saying that gun can only contain 14,000 CUP is not quite correct.

It's been a long time since I read Elmer's books so I may have part of that correct.

In one of my older manuals a Sierra they show loads for the .44 Spl, one is a 240 gr with a max of 16.3 gr of 2400 in a S&W model 24. To my knowledge that gun is still used by Sierra in load testing, only now they have a max of 12.x gr of 2400.

Also, if you look back to the .38/.44 which is the precursor to the .357 it was developed for use of .38 Spl loads that were as powerful as the .357 Mag. That will tell you how much pressure a S&W N frame can stand.

Would I shoot these loads in my guns? No, I have no reason to. But I have no doubt the guns will shoot these for awhile. Remember though, a light bulb that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.

Peter M. Eick
February 6, 2012, 06:15 PM
Are they safe? Probably not for the reasons specified above.

Could you shoot a few of them? Maybe, it depends on the factor of safety in the gun and your tolerance to blow one up.

Would I do it in my guns? No, but then again I worked up reasonably close to some of his loads with no gun destruction yet. I just "wimped out" earlier than he would have. I can safely say I have never exceeded his loads that I can think of but I have gotten close.

1911Tuner
February 6, 2012, 09:41 PM
They weren't safe when he developed them. In modern guns? Better, but they still exceed SAAMI standard by a good margin, just like the "Ruger Only" data in the manuals. Give Ruger a call and ask'em what their stance is on those loads.

But...

Pressure isn't the only concern. While grossly excessive pressures can and do smithereen guns with one round...the extra recoil forces take their toll, and the higher they are, the faster they take it.

And...

26,000 psi with 2400 doesn't place the same stresses on the gun as 26,000 psi with Unique. Like the difference between placing your fist against a man's jaw and pushing hard...and punching him with the same net force. Peak pressure may be the same, but the way it's delivered...ain't.

Proceed with all due caution. All things in moderation.

kelbro
February 6, 2012, 10:28 PM
I wouldn't beat up a Model 24 with super hot loads. Not because it wouldn't take it but because they are one of S&W's finest examples of a handgun and they are too few and far between.

gunlaw
February 6, 2012, 10:59 PM
I don't think they ever were safe.

bluetopper
February 7, 2012, 12:20 AM
I have a Lyman cast bullet manual from 1973 that lists for a 44 Mag 245gr cast bullet a charge of 22.5gr of 2400 compressed.

If it was pressure tested and safe back then why would it not be so now?

I suspect risk liability and attorney advice is the reason.......just to be on the safer side.

James2
February 7, 2012, 01:28 AM
I got my Colt SAA in 44 spl back in the day that Elmer was hot rodding the 44 Spl. Yes, I tried a lot of his loads. In looking at the data in my manual of that day and comparing to the manuals today, I will say the loads have been reduced. Will I still load the Elmer Keith loads? No! I reckon I abused that Colt enough already and got away with it. I stick with the modern loads in 44 Spl. If I want more power now I pack the Ruger Blackhawk 44 Mag. Seems a wise choice.

41 Mag
February 7, 2012, 06:49 AM
Speaking completely from my own experience, I have never owned one of the S&W's or Colt revolvers. I have only owned Ruger's in both the BH and RH flavors, and of the two now only own one BH in a 30 Carbine.

In my RH's I have used these loads in my 44, and have not seen an issue. This said, I DID work up to them using the bullet mentioned. My 2400 is of the Hercules make and I have not tried the loads using the newer Alliant brand. I DID however follow closely a post from a couple of folks who DID do comparisons of equal loads with both powders, which while they did show a difference it wasn't much more than would be expected from a different lot to lot variation. Nothing etched in stone as absolute but close enough that I still work up to any new loads with a new lot of powder.

As for pushing the limits of my revolvers, I usually do not, but I DO have a couple of loads that I use once in a while for hunting hogs that are on the upper end. When I initially purchased my 44, I worked up to and used the top end load listed in the Lyman 46th Edition for H-110 and the 180gr JHP. This was used for quite a few years and I could not begin to count how many of them passed through the cylinders, and the revolver is still fine. With the loads being discussed I NEVER felt they were in this class of pressure, especially using the lead bullets.

To be honest after looking back on it I have not approached the level of the 180gr load in quite a few years now. I do admit however that with the 4x Leupold mounted on top that load DID shoot many rested groups of right at, or just over 1" at 100yds. That said however, I DO NOT and WOULD NOT recommend it in particular. As for Elmer's loads, there is always the caveat, of read the manuals, use your own judgment, work up slowly, and load accordingly.

1911Tuner
February 7, 2012, 06:57 AM
If it was pressure tested and safe back then why would it not be so now?

Back then, the copper crusher method only measured peak pressure, and didn't provide any other information. The ballisticians have since learned that peak pressure is only one aspect of the overall picture. They've also probably started to give serious consideration to the long-term effects of the recoil forces generated by those levels of pressure, and very likely the way that pressure is delivered with different powder burn rates.

FWIW...I've been using two pistol powders almost exclusively for 30 years...2400 and Unique...and I've used a lot of it. I'm in agreement that 2400 is a bit "quicker" than it used to be based on using both Hercules and Alliant 2400 in many of the same guns.

CraigC
February 7, 2012, 09:11 AM
.45ACP is 21,000psi at present, +P is 23,000psi. Also bear in mind that even Italian Colt SAA replicas are available in .45ACP. So no, it is not much of a stretch to think that a .44Spl on the same platform, with its smaller chambers/more steel, can withstand another 3,000psi.

IMHO, to say that Keith's pet loads are unsafe is a disservice to all the work he did to come up with those loads. He did the experimentation and took the chances so we don't have to. It is also a disservice to the works of folks like Skeeter Skelton, John Taffin, Brian Pearce, etc.. It is certainly up to the individual to decide what loads to feed his/her pet sixgun. However, if you are going to claim the loads are unsafe, I will challenge you to prove it. Because 80yrs of proven use in appropriate sixguns is pretty compelling evidence. Sounds to me like a lot of unjustified fear.

I've heard a lot of folks claim that Keith blew up a lot of guns in his experiments. I have most of his books and have yet to hear of or read of any actual blow-ups other than the blackpowder surplus SAA that he loaded with a .45-70 bullet cut down to 300gr. If anybody knows of a .44Spl damaged or destroyed by the Keith load, I would love to hear about it.

I think this may be another one of those situations where John Taffin's favorite quote applies...."for those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible".

USSR
February 7, 2012, 11:40 AM
.45ACP is 21,000psi at present, +P is 23,000psi. Also bear in mind that even Italian Colt SAA replicas are available in .45ACP. So no, it is not much of a stretch to think that a .44Spl on the same platform, with its smaller chambers/more steel, can withstand another 3,000psi.

IMHO, to say that Keith's pet loads are unsafe is a disservice to all the work he did to come up with those loads. He did the experimentation and took the chances so we don't have to. It is also a disservice to the works of folks like Skeeter Skelton, John Taffin, Brian Pearce, etc.. It is certainly up to the individual to decide what loads to feed his/her pet sixgun. However, if you are going to claim the loads are unsafe, I will challenge you to prove it. Because 80yrs of proven use in appropriate sixguns is pretty compelling evidence. Sounds to me like a lot of unjustified fear.

+1. At some point, you've got to use deductive reasoning as stated above. For example, if the S&W Model 25-2 is chambered in .45ACP and is considered to be safe with 23k psi .45ACP +P loads, then the S&W Model 25-5 in .45 Colt is certainly safe with 23k psi loads in .45 Colt. Just as they don't use a different rifle receiver for a 60k psi .30-06 and a 65k psi .270 Winchester, they certainly use the same strength frame and cylinder for both .45ACP and .45 Colt, regardless of the 14k psi SAAMI pressure specs for the .45 Colt.

Don

joed
February 7, 2012, 01:16 PM
Craigc & ussr, thank you. Those loads were safe then and they should still work today. I have a hard time believing 2400 is hotter today, if it were it would not be called 2400.

I read Keith's books years ago and it made sense then. Maybe a few of the doubters
on here should read it too.

Sam1911
February 7, 2012, 02:04 PM
John Taffin's favorite quote applies...."for those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible".

That level of intellectual laziness and elitism would earn Mr. Taffin a short stay here at THR.

We exist to "share what you know, learn what you don't." If something cannot be explained, then that 'knowledge' deserves to be called onto the carpet and picked apart by the vultures.

CraigC
February 7, 2012, 02:24 PM
Sometimes, some folks just "don't get it" and no amount of explaining will ever make it so. Intangible things, like the appeal of the .44Spl, are difficult and sometimes even impossible to explain to someone who doesn't already understand. I remember that quote every time a discussion about the .44Spl comes up and somebody says, "just buy a .44Mag and shoot .44Spl's out of it". Same can be said for virtually anything. Preferring leverguns over boltguns. Preferring either over autos. Preferring revolvers over autos. Preferring Coke over Pepsi, brunettes over blondes, trucks over cars, 4x4's over lowriders, blue over red, cool weather over tropical, etc., etc.. I don't understand why in the world somebody would prefer Glocks over revolvers and I would not try to make them understand. Nor would I entertain the possibility of changing their mind. Some things some people will just never understand. If you can't understand why someone would love a good .44Spl and load it anywhere from 750-1200fps, depending up on application, then I can't explain it to you. If that sounds elitist, then nevermind.

Sam1911
February 7, 2012, 02:31 PM
Ah, as long as it relates to intangibles like aesthetics and personal preference, that's fine. It is a little nose-in-the-air snobbish, but that could be tone down in delivery.

If applied to strength of materials and methods of measuring peak and total pressure and similar hotly debated, but scientifically quantifiable and qualify-able aspects, then I find it inappropriate.

joed
February 7, 2012, 03:27 PM
Sam1911, no offense meant but what you need to do is pick up a copy of sixguns by Keith. Back then they were experimenters, but the logic is sound. If a gun is made to fire a cartridge with 23,000 psi another cartridge with similar characteristics would also work.

Sam1911
February 7, 2012, 03:37 PM
I need to pick up a copy? :D

I understand your point. I also understand some of the things that have become better understood since his day, and that the great experimenters were not immune from the negative results of their experiments. In the eternal race to have everything better, faster, bigger, more, the manufacturers will push the limits as far as they safely can -- but they understand the factors involved better now, and they choose not to risk damaging guns and hurting people.

And, again, what is it that 17 gr. of 2400 does -- in practical terms -- that 13 or 14 (or whatever the current load guides say) won't do?

SlamFire1
February 7, 2012, 04:03 PM
I would not use any of Elmer Keith's loads in vintage 44 Spls or 45 ACP's.

I tried one of his loads in a M1917 revolver, the recoil was horrible and I am certain a steady diet of the things would beat the thing to death.

Older, pre WWII revolvers, you find many that were never heat treated. Frames so soft you can easily bend them.

Do not use any Elmer Keith loads in Charter Arms Bulldogs. The first production year gunwriters were using Elmer Keith loads in these lightweight pistols. Check out the article by Major George Nonte in the 1975 Gun Digest. He actually loaded a 250 Keith Bullet with 17.5 grains 2400, thought that had too much recoil (duh!) :uhoh: then shot a bunch of 250’s with 7.5 to 8.0 grains Unique.


The first load is now considered 44 Magnum level, the second are hot in a N frame. Firing these mini nukes in a light frame Bulldog, I am personally amazed the top strap did not come off!.

I will bet a number of top straps came off Bulldogs from owners who copied Nonte's loads.


When you get into later model pistols, it all depends on the pistol. I have shot the 240 LSWC in a M624, found the recoil objectionable and shelved that idea. Shot in Ruger 44 Magnums and it was a powerful load but not horrible in those heavier pistols.

As much as we all like Elmer Keith, the guy did was not using instrumentation, just logic, in developing his loads. If the gun did not blow apart, he shot it.

I cannot fault his 240/250 grain 22.0 grains 2400 in the 44 Magnum. It is an outstanding load.

joed
February 7, 2012, 04:39 PM
Keith in his book says that the .44 spl is horribly underloaded and little more then a squib load. It is, in fact most reloading manuals warn about shooting jacketed bullets in the spl as sometimes the jacket stays in the barrel while the lead core exits. That's why Keith and others experimented with hotter loads. Had they not done this I don't know where the .44 mag and .357 would be.o

Old Fuff
February 7, 2012, 07:14 PM
And, again, what is it that 17 gr. of 2400 does -- in practical terms -- that 13 or 14 (or whatever the current load guides say) won't do?

The current recommended loads were worked up using current cases that have thicker heads and less powder capacity. So yes they come close to duplicating similar loads of yesterday with smaller powder charges. Also later developments in gun powder has made it possible to duplicate most if not all of the performance at safer pressure levels.

Case capacity vs. powder charge is important, and often overlooked. It should be noted that when solid-head .44 Special cases came into common usage, Elmer cut his load. Also when the .44 Magnum was introduced he found some Remington (who developed the cartridge) loads to be "too hot," and cut his own back.

But CraigC is correct in pointing out that Keith's .44 Special loads (with modifications over time) have a long history, and they have not left piles of blown-up revolvers - and that includes Charter Arms.

Disclaimer: Never, ever would I shoot a Keith .44 Special load in my personal .44 Charter, but that's because I couldn't control it. :eek:

joed
February 7, 2012, 07:41 PM
I tried the Keith loads in a .44 Spl N frame with no ill effects at all. But I worked up to it slowly looking for pressure signs. In the big N frame S&W's it's quite tolerable. In fact I'll admit that I liked it so much I use it in my .44 Mag guns with .5 gr extra in a mag case.

Because I now own guns in Spl and Mag I see no reason to shoot the Keith Spl loads in my guns for the .44 Spl. The hottest loads any of my Spls see is 7.5 gr of Unique with the 250 gr Lyman 429421, the old Skeeter load.

If any of you get the chance to read Sixguns by Keith it really is a good read. I read it about 10 years ago. It has a lot of information that is still useful even today.

Old Fuff is right about the Charter. I have a Taurus 445 which is pretty much a nice version of the Bulldog. It's the only .44 Spl that I own which I would not mess with hotter loads. Not that it would harm the gun but you can't control the gun as it's to small.

mcofboise
February 8, 2012, 02:35 AM
I was happy to see someone asked the question, "Were they ever safe?" :evil:
I'm in the camp that stops a little shy of Elmer's max and load 20 grains of 2400 in the .44 mag. I shoot it through a 7 1/2" Redhawk that soaks up the recoil nicely and the downrange ballistics are impressive enough. A couple years ago I through and throughed a broadside muley buck at 50 yards, proving perhaps that I need to lay off the gas-checked, pure linotype bullets. I back off to 18 grains for less snort and beller, and I have shot the 22 grain load, but settled at 20 because it just shot better groups and like I said, plenty of gumption. I hated this load in my old Super Blackhawk, and in a Colt Anaconda; it just flat hurt my hands in those guns. I sometimes think the Redhawk is so stout, I could load 22 grains of C-4 in it and it would yawn.
On the Bulldog topic, I used to own a 4" .357 mag CA "Target Bulldog." At 19 ounces, a pure pleasure to carry. It's favorite fodder was 125 grain JHP with 9 grains of Unique behind it. It would really get your attention when you torched one of those off, and it would put the cylinder full into 4 inches at 25 yards. Since that's what I carried in it, that's how every practice session ended, but I'm certain a steady diet of those would have reduced the gun to rubble. My memory ain't what it used to be and my memory ain't what it used to be, but I seem to recall that the cylinder timing was failing to punch in every morning when I traded it off.

mike

kelbro
February 8, 2012, 08:20 AM
Ruger has recently introduced a line of flat-top Blackhawks in 44 special. Steel gripframes and heavy topstraps. Strength-wise, how would these compare to 44 Mag Blackhawk or Super Blackhawk?

CraigC
February 8, 2012, 11:12 AM
Ah, as long as it relates to intangibles like aesthetics and personal preference, that's fine. It is a little nose-in-the-air snobbish, but that could be tone down in delivery.

If applied to strength of materials and methods of measuring peak and total pressure and similar hotly debated, but scientifically quantifiable and qualify-able aspects, then I find it inappropriate.
Not at all, the technical aspect of the relative strength of .44Spl sixguns and appropriate loads is what it is. Not really open for interpretation. Although some folks will never see enough evidence to change their perception about this whole thing. I was referring more to the viability, appeal and application of the .44Spl as a cartridge. Which is a little more abstract. I've had this discussion dozens of times and there are always those who just don't get it. Many see no reason for the cartridge to exist and believe the .44Mag should've rendered it obsolete. The fact that I understand and others do not does not make ME a snob. Though it makes some folks feel better to think about it that way.


And, again, what is it that 17 gr. of 2400 does -- in practical terms -- that 13 or 14 (or whatever the current load guides say) won't do?
Then what do we need the .44Mag for, or the .357 for that matter??? Because a 250gr cast bullet shoots flatter and hits harder than the same slug at 750fps. Extensive testing has indicated that pushing a good hardcast bullet much beyond 1200-1300fps doesn't do much good. It flattens trajectory but doesn't appreciably improve penetration or effectiveness. At least, not relative to the vast increases in recoil and blast. The Keith load runs right at 1200fps. Ole Elmer had it all figured out when he published his first book in 1936 but did not yet fully understand why.


As much as we all like Elmer Keith, the guy did was not using instrumentation, just logic, in developing his loads. If the gun did not blow apart, he shot it.
Yes but he did have his loads pressure-tested at H.P. White labs.


Regarding the guns. The .44Spl fits into smaller, tidier, handier and lighter platforms than the .44Mag. Such as the lovely 37oz mid-frame Blackhawk I posted the picture of. This sixgun is as much as a half pound lighter than a comparable Super Blackhawk. A half pound doesn't sound like much but that makes the .44Spl 80% the weight of the .44Mag. Not to mention that it handles much better and is quicker in and into action. It can survive all its life on the wonderful 950fps Skeeter load. Which is really a much more useful everyday load. It also does just fine with the 1200fps Keith load. Or the same charge under a 225gr Speer half jacketed SWC-HP. So if all you need can be handled by a .44Spl operating between 600fps and 1200fps, why carry a half pound heavier .44Mag capable of slinging a massive 355gr slug at 1200fps???

The difference is much less dramatic in N-frames. However, hold a bull barrel 6" model 29 in one hand and a tapered barrel 6½" model 24 in the other and you will definitely notice the difference. Not only do they look and handle better, they come with better sights. The full-tilt .44Mag has also proven to be a little too much for the N-frame. Those heavyweight cast bullet loads that a big Ruger thrives on would pound a S&W to dust before too long. They are best kept at 1200fps and under. Which is .44Spl territory. :)

Not that we hold anything against our beloved S&W .44Mag's.
http://photos.imageevent.com/newfrontier45/sixgunsiii/large/IMG_8791b.jpg

CraigC
February 8, 2012, 11:15 AM
Stergth-wise, how would these compare to 44 Mag Blackhawk or Super Blackhawk?
They are built on the new mid-sized frame and fully capable of digesting the 1200fps Keith load. Some view them as the strongest .44Spl's available but I'm not so sure. USFA will probably never release it but they have successfully chambered their standard sized SAA in .44Mag by simply rechambering .44Spl's. Brian Pearce wrote of it in Handloader. I believe this would put them ahead of the Ruger but until the guns are tested to destruction, it's just conjecture and speculation.

USSR
February 8, 2012, 12:29 PM
What CraigC is describing above, is exactly what I am doing with my S&W 25-5 in .45 Colt. Only, I am slinging 270gr SWC HP's at up to 1100fps. When you try to discuss this with some guys, you will invariably get the response "Just get a 44 Magnum". I simply smile because, they will just never understand.:)

Don

Walkalong
February 8, 2012, 12:39 PM
Safe? Depends on how you look at it.

There are guns I would be comfortable shooting his hot .44 Spl load in, and guns that I would not be comfortable with. And I do not believe there are any of my guns I would want to feed a steady diet of those loads too. That is precisely why they came up with the .44 Mag, and exactly what Elmer wanted, a .44 Mag.

The load is over the pressures the manufacturers have to make the gun handle, or hold up to over time. Granted, many .44 Spl revolvers can handle more than the SAMMI max pressures for that caliber.

If you load over the SAMMI max pressure for your revolver/s, you are on your own. I am not saying that is a bad thing, or should not be done, I am just saying there is not much data/testing to back you up in whatever gun/pressure combo you choose to use.

A new beefier flat top Ruger SA .44 Spl? I would be willing to bet it could handle quite a bit of over SAMMI pressure loads, but I have no proof whatsoever.

mavracer
February 8, 2012, 01:35 PM
I guess it depends if you think your gun will stand the pressure. I'm sure they're safe in my Ruger flattop but I wouldn't think of putting a Keith load in my CA Bulldog or my 696 for that matter. I put even hotter loads in my Redhawk while my old 29-2 sees no more than Keith's practice load of 10gr of Unique.

ranger335v
February 8, 2012, 01:48 PM
"I cannot fault his 240/250 grain 22.0 grains 2400 in the 44 Magnum. It is an outstanding load. "

Works in my original M-29/6" too, since 1967. And the accuracy is outstanding even with irons! I went hotter a few rounds but had to drive the cases out so I backed off.

RevGeo
February 8, 2012, 07:43 PM
When I was coming up, Elmer's load of 22gr of 2400 behind the #429421 was THE standard .44 Mag load. My first .44 Mag was a Ruger SB and the day I got it I loaded that recipe and went out and shot it. Great load, no pressure signs. But in a .44 Spec revolver, even an N frame Smith, I don't think so.
We gotta hand it to Elmer, Skeeter, Col. Whelen, Parker Ackley and the other guys of that generation (okay, maybe Skeeter was a little younger) for all the experimentation they did. They knew what they were doing and rolled the dice and took their chances. It was a less litiguous world then and I really doubt that Elmer would have sued Colt or S&W or Hercules or Lyman if he had touched off one of those rounds and blew his thumb off in the process.

Nowadays I always load a couple of grains below those loads. I can usually find a load that shoots quite accurately without it being a gun-rattling, wrist-twisting, ear drum-shattering handful. But it sure was fun reading the stuff those guys came up with and trying it out.
I remember when my dad got one of the first .41 Mag Model 57 Smiths and there was no ammo to be had. He made cases out of 30-30 brass with .410 shotgun slugs loaded in them. Crazy? Maybe, but they worked with medium loads until he could get .41 Mag brass and a bullet mould. He told me that as a kid they could get '73 Springfield 45-70 rifles for five bucks or so. If they had no 45-70 ammo they would wrap baling wire around the rim of a .45 Colt round so the extractor would grab it and fire those. It was a different time, I guess.
Elmer's loads are not dangerous per se, but they are hard on guns, ears and hands/wrists. I wish there were guys like Elmer, Skeeter and Parker around these days. They made the world an more interesting place.

XxBulletBendeRXx
February 8, 2012, 08:53 PM
mcofboise Said: "I sometimes think the Redhawk is so stout, I could load 22 grains of C-4 in it and it would yawn." still OTFLMAO!! Ahh .. Thats great... LOL....

I love this site.....!!

Rustyol45
February 9, 2012, 03:36 AM
Elmer Keith was very ambitious. I do believe it was necessary at the time though. In loading 44 Special and Magnum for my guns, I have never found it necessary to duplicate any of his loads.

EK was doing R&D and so had a purpose to his madness. I don't have a need to push the envelope that far. I have his famed 429421 bullet mold. I worked it up to 19.0 grains and stopped with no pressure signs. It shoots good and gets 1344 FPS out of my Ruger SBH. Going hotter would serve no sane purpose.

So I would have to say that EK's loads are not safe in general. I'm not saying his loads are impossible, just that time has passed and data is different now. Duplicating the performance of his loads without marrying the powder charges of yesteryear is easily possible and without having to ride the ragged edge of insanity as you would be doing with 22 or 22.5 gr of 2400.:D

Don't ask if you can load so much powder, ask if you can reach your target velocity with that bullet.

RandyP
February 9, 2012, 08:31 AM
If Elmer Keith jumped off a bridge to see what would happen to him, would you jump off a bridge just cuz Elmer did?.... lol

Some of the 'experimenters' were just that. Individuals pushing the envelope sometimes with no more test equipment that I have, namely how did that bad boy 'feel'? Nuthin' 'sploded? Lemme add more powder. Over the years some gained fame and fortune and survived their experiments.

I can't blame lawyers when folks who were in the 'hold my beer and watch this' class got 'blowed up sir' and then hired them to sue everyone on the planet who 'let' them be stoopid.

There are safe, published loads now that will NOT get me 'blowed up' and I see little reason to see if I feel lucky. I made it 63 years and counting so far by not trying too hard to become a statistic and don't feel inclined to change my MO in reloading.

I have ALWAYS wondered why if a person feels the need for more than max power out of a firearm they just don't buy a more powerful caliber?

CraigC
February 9, 2012, 08:50 AM
I've had this discussion dozens of times and there are always those who just don't get it.
See what I mean??? ;)

USSR
February 9, 2012, 11:47 AM
I am astonished that some people tend to portray EK as some kind of “country bumpkin”, who just added more powder and won fame by simply surviving their experiments. Elmer Keith was employed at one time by the U.S. at the government arsenal at Ogden, Utah, and was consulted later on by the heads of both Remington and Smith & Wesson, so this is hardly a man who simply won fame by surviving experiments. Just MHO.

Don

Old Fuff
February 9, 2012, 12:44 PM
... and was consulted later on by the heads of both Remington and Smith & Wesson, so this is hardly a man who simply won fame by surviving experiments.

And those consultations eventually led to the development of the .44 Magnum, and was partly influential in the arrival of the .41 Magnum. Bill Ruger went to Idaho for a discussion, and an opportunity to examine Keith's Croft-modified single actions while what was to become the first .357 Magnum Blackhawk was in the planning stage. One outcome was the incorporation of the Croft heavy topstrap.

He was also a writer/columnist for The American Rifleman, and other prominent publications of his day.

And again, I'll point out that there is no large pile of damaged and/or destroyed revolvers offered in evidence to support a claim that his loads were unsafe.

joed
February 9, 2012, 12:59 PM
I am astonished that some people tend to portray EK as some kind of “country bumpkin”, who just added more powder and won fame by simply surviving their experiments. Elmer Keith was employed at one time by the U.S. at the government arsenal at Ogden, Utah, and was consulted later on by the heads of both Remington and Smith & Wesson, so this is hardly a man who simply won fame by surviving experiments. Just MHO.

Don
I agree, he and others of the time gave us a lot to be thankful for. Without them we'd probably be shooting the .44 Spl at 550 fps and there would be no .44 magnum. It was not only EK as there was a whole group that experimented with velocities in the .44 Spl at the time. One of my gun books had a story about a few of the others and how they would all compare notes. Wish I still had the article.

CraigC
February 9, 2012, 02:42 PM
John Lachuk was another prominent experimenter of the time. He actually did a lot of his own work. He created solid head cases from scratch and rebuilt SAA's using rechambered .38Spl cylinders from Christies for his wildcat .44Lancer. Along with the group known as the ".44 Associates", of which Keith was a part of.

This is the list of names I have on record:
Gordon C. Boser (famous for his .401Spl wildcat)
George V. Chapman
Eric M. Farr
Elmer Keith
J.W. Landon
R.G. Mosgrove
F.C. Ness (have his book on .22's)
Lawrence I. Newton
Capt. Philip B. Sharpe (and his book on rifles)
J.A. Smith
George W. Spence
Ray C. Thompson (should be a familiar name)
Norman P. White
O.L. Yancey
Townsend Whelen (a very familiar name, have some of his books)
John Lachuk (wrote for G&A not too long ago)
Earl Naramore
P.O. Ackley (a very familiar name)
F.W. Mann (have his book on ballistics)
Julian Hatcher (have his notebook and pistol book)

Notable experimenter and author Phil Sharpe probably had more to do with the development of the .357Mag than anyone else.

joed
February 9, 2012, 04:56 PM
Thank you craigc, that's what I was trying to remember. Been to many years since I researched this info.

CraigC
February 12, 2012, 12:20 PM
For those who are interested, here is all the info that I believe is available on the .44 Associates. Including a scanned copy of their literature. This is a rare glimpse at a very scarce document. It is worthy of note the pressure data listed and the technical proficiency displayed by these men, often disregarded as wreckless experimenters.

A collection of articles and the .44 Associates pamphlet.
http://www.goodrichfamilyassoc.org/44_Special_Articles/

More helpful discussion and articles. Be sure to check all the links to scanned and copied articles.
http://smith-wessonforum.com/s-w-hand-ejectors-1896-1961/71827-44-associates-44-special-data.html

http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?t=138205

Zeke/PA
February 12, 2012, 03:13 PM
Elmer Keith had more to do than anyone in the development of today's .44 Magnum cartridge.
His book, "Sixguns" is a really good read.
HOWEVER, Elmer and my personal Guru, Jack O'conner disagreed on a few issues , maybe technical, maybe personal who knows?

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