44 Spl Bulldog Load/Am I On Track?


Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 12:04 AM
My recent obsession with .44 mag and .45-70 has caused me to sell my .357 revolvers and buy a CA Bulldog .44 Spl. for my truck and kayak gun.

I have some 260 gr WFN cast bullets and my Lyman book has a load for a 255gr cast bullet with Unique starting at 5 gr and topping out at 6.5 gr.

I have loaded several of these to try tomorrow.

Then after the fact I did some internet searching and read that the CA Bulldog barrel twist is optimized for bullets in the 180-200 gr range and that Charter Arms recommends not using more than 200 gr bullets.

I did read of a few that were using 255 gr Keith style bullets and 6.5 gr of Unique and liked it.

I don't want to abuse the gun. It is to be a mild shooting SD gun not a magnum hunting pistol....I have 2 of those.

I just want a good shooting easy on the gun load with a heavy bullet.
I think as long as I keep it in the midrange I should be fine, but would love to see some comments before I load up a whole bunch of 44 Specialsl that I shouldn't use in the new gun.

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June 15, 2013, 12:25 AM
If I had a CA Bull Dog with a 2-3" barrel I would load 200gr ish bullets for it.
With a 260gr lead bullet you will be lucky to get 250 ft/lbs, with a lighter bullet you could maybe get 350 ft/lbs I'm just guessin.

June 15, 2013, 12:28 AM
I don't know about the rifling twist.

But a 255 grain .44 Spl bullet in a Charter will be a god awful handful if loaded to anywhere near you would want it to be.

Bullets pulling out of the cases due to recoil and tying up the cylinder for one thing.

And a stinging palm for another.

I load a 240 Keith with 7.5 Unique in a S&W 5" 1950 Target and it's a powerful enough load all right.
I think it would hurt in a Charter.


June 15, 2013, 01:07 AM
I own one,and wouldnt recommend over 200gr. They are cheaper for a reason,metal isnt as thick as say a ruger or S&W. But i still love carrying it,usually 190gr from Buffalobore.com they'd be the one to ask.

Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 03:56 AM
Just taking the comments above, which I appreciate, the Lyman 49th Ed data on Unique and a 205 gr and a 240 gr and a 255 gr bullet, and applying the formula for energy based on velocity (from Lyman) and bullet weight; here is what I see.

Comparing max load for Unique per Lyman:
205 gr 8.2 gr is 869fps = 340 ft/lb
255 gr 6.6 gr is 747fps = 316 ft/lb

RC's load for 240 gr vs max load for 240 gr per Lyman 49th
RC 7.5 gr is ????fps ????ft/lb
Lyman Max is 6.5 gr @ 816 fps = 354 ft/lb

RC's load may come from an older Lyman or other book. My 45th Ed shows 8.0 gr of Unique for a 245 gr cast bullet to be 1000fps, which calculates to 532 ft/lb (compared to the new book showing only 6.5 gr for a 240 gr bullet.) RC's load by the new book would be 15% over max powder charge) Lyman has cut way back.

So RC yours is a pretty stout load and I can see why you would say a max Unique load would be a real handful in the Bulldog, but your load appears to be somewhere around 1000fps which would be over 500 ft/lb, which is a 50% increase in energy over Lyman's currently published data.

I realize it is not probably a direct comparison, but I would think our best predictor of felt recoil would be the energy figure. In that case my 260 gr load will be 316 ft/lb, the 205 gr will be 340 ft/lb, and RC's will be over 500 ft/lbs.

My assumption from this is that I am not gaining much energy by using the heavier bullet, but I may not necessarily have more recoil that the lighter bullet at a faster speed.

As far as rifling twist affecting accuracy...its a 15 to 20 yard gun so it may not matter.

As far as pressure on the gun, all the loads appear to be in the acceptable range. (My old Lyman book which lists RC's load as OK was not publishing pressure....which could be why their newer books have backed the charges down by approximately 15%.)

Well I got up in the middle of the night with leg cramps and came to see if I had any responses. Thanks for the responses they have kept me busy long enough to get over my leg cramp and get sleepy again.

Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 04:01 AM
I guess I might as well finish what I started. I have the bullets loaded up already and the pressures look OK so I shouldn't hurt the gun, I'm a big boy so I will endure the recoil (if really bad), and I have a new chronograph to give me some real data.
I'll report back with the good, bad, or ugly....or maybe a pleasant surprise!

35 Whelen
June 15, 2013, 06:00 AM
My Dad has an old 3" Bulldog. I personally prefer heavier bullets as I feel the recoil is more manageable....hear me out.

In my experience handguns loaded with lighter, faster bullets recoil with more of a "snap". This is due to a higher recoil velocity. (Every action has an equal and opposite reaction) One of the most uncomfortable loads I've ever fired was a factory 125 gr. out of my Security Six .357 Magnum presumably because the bullet, though light in weight, is travelling so fast. On the other hand, heavier slow bullets tend to cause a recoil that's more of a roll upwards. To me personally, the "roll" is far easier to deal with than the "snap" and I think there'd be less wear on a pistol with the slower roll than the quicker snap, but that of course is just an opinion.

I load and shoot at least a couple hundred 260 gr. SWC's a month in my full size .44 Specials and love them. At some point I intend to borrow Dad's Bulldog and develop loads with the heavier SWC's just to see where/when recoil becomes unmanageable.

Just so you'll know kind of what to expect, I've loaded Unique and 250 to 260 gr. SWC's quite a bit and in my 4 3/4" Colt SA clone, velocities were as follows:

6.0 grs.- 765 fps
6.5 grs.- 806 fps
7.0 grs.- 845 fps

I really like Bullseye a bit better if for no other reason it takes less powder to achieve the same velocities:

5.5 grs. - 810 fps
5.7 grs. - 838 fps

Good luck,

Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 10:15 AM
35 Whelen that, although I didn't get into it in my post, is exactly the thinking I started with when I chose to use heavy slow bullets. I also had a Security Six, my first center fire pistol and the first gun for which I reloaded. The 125 jacketed bullet load I had was brutal. I read recently that the 125 load is also terrible on the forcing cones of all but the strongest 357 revolvers.
I love this forum for the great discussions that arise and the thoughtfulness and courtesy most everyone shows one another.
This morning I'll do my shooting and chronographing and let you know my results and opinions.

Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 01:32 PM
Final Report.

260 gr WFN-GC .432" (barrel and cylinder throats were slugged)
5.0 gr Unique, , very mild recoil, forgot to turn on Chrono
5.5 gr Unique, mild recoil, 628fps, calc energy 227 ft/lbs
6.0 gr Unique, firm but still mild recoil, 685fps, calc energy 270 ft/lbs
6.5 gr Unique, firmer but still mild recoil, 702 fps, calc energy 284 ft/lbs

(*5-6.6 gr was range listed in Lyman 49th Edition. Older versions allowed much more powder as in RC's load)

Point of aim and accuracy at 15 yds was acceptable. As velocity increased the point of impact began to drop below point of aim. For that reason I have decided to just load 6.0 gr of Unique. It is a nice feeling load, that groups as good as I can shoot a short barred revolver, and it should certainly be easy on the gun.

Based on some quick check of Lyman loads for 45 ACP 185 gr and 38 special 158 gr, my 44 special load will fall somewhere in between in energy. With the large meplat heavy lead bullet it should be an adequate self defense round in a very light easy to carry revolver and one that is much more fun to shoot than the 357 158 gr load I was carrying in a 2" 5 shot 357 mag.

It sure is nice finally having a chronograph to take some of the guessing out of load workup.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.......at least for now.

June 15, 2013, 01:44 PM
Sound's good.

BTW: The 240 Keith/7.5 Unique .44 Special load is the famous old Skeeter Skelton load made famous by his writings in Shooting Times in the 60's, 70's, and 80's.

Skeeter almost single handedly got Colt & S&W to revive the .44 Special chambered guns we enjoy today.

It is over pressure by current SAAMI standards.

But perfectly safe & sane in Colt SAA's and S&W N-Frames.


Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 03:02 PM
RC somewhere in my recent searching on the Bulldog 44 special I saw someone say that the new Bulldogs were OK up to 20,000 CUP, but I planned to stay tame with this gun regardless of what it MIGHT be capable of.

June 15, 2013, 03:11 PM
For a pleasant everyday load, I use 200 grain Round Nose Flat points and a moderate charge of Trail Boss. The Bulldog is a very light gun and can be quite punishing if loaded way up. Bullet creep is also a very real possibility with a gun so light. Actually the case recoils away from the bullet, which is why many recommend against very heavy bullets in the bulldog.

Billy Jack
June 15, 2013, 03:18 PM
I guess by standards I am now much more familiar with, my load has a HEAVY bullet, but is not a HEAVY load.
I will pay close attention to bullet creep. I failed to check that this morning.

June 15, 2013, 11:54 PM
I bought Hornady's 8th edition for $10 it uses a 3" CA bulldog as a test firearm.
If you have a 2" it will still be useful.
If you can find VV n340 it may be a good a powder to try. With 7.8gr of n340 and a 207gr cast tcpb I averaged 990 fps SD 15 from a S&W 696.

35 Whelen
June 16, 2013, 04:45 AM
Thanks for the follow-up report. I wouldn't get all wrapped up in energy figures. You're shooting a big, wide bullet that will do what it's intended to do.


June 17, 2013, 09:26 PM
My Charter Arms Bulldog is very lightly built, I dont have factory ammunition data through it, but I do have data with a 6.5 grains Unique load and 250 lead bullets.

My pistol was sighted in to point of impact with 240/250 grains bullets. As I recall recoil even with factory ammunition was quite severe. But, this is a 20 ounce pocket pistol, it is not an N frame S&W or Redhawk, so you cannot soup it up and expect this pistol to hold together.

I did a number of load tests in a Taurus M431. This pistol was sighted for 200 grain bullets. The Taurus has a stronger frame but I dont consider the cylinder any stronger than the Charter Arms as the wall thickness is about the same.

I think I settled in on a load of 6.0 grains Unique with a 200 L bullet because it leaded less than a 6.5 grain Unique load.

These pistols are niche pocket pistols. If more power is wanted there are better choices, but these are just fine as a small concealable self defense pistol.

Charter Arms Bulldog 3' Barrel

250 LSWC 6.6 gr Unique little dandy R13 lot UN 331 Fed
T ≈ 75 F 15-Aug-92

Ave Vel = 698
Std Dev =20
ES = 46
Low = 670
High = 716
N = 5

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Pistols%20various/DSCN1746CharterArmsBulldog.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Pistols%20various/DSCN1746CharterArmsBulldog.jpg.html)

Taurus M431 3" Barrel

240 LSWC 5.0 grs Red Dot thrown, Midway Brass CCI 500
T = 54 F 11-Dec-04

Ave Vel = 684.1
Std Dev =17.11
ES = 57.84
Low = 654.1
High = 712
N = 16

Shoots way high

205 LSWC 6.0 grs Unique thrown, Midway Brass WLP
T = 54 F 11-Dec-04
Ave Vel = 789.6
Std Dev =27.18
ES = 96.54
Low = 724.1
High = 820.6
N = 30

Accurate, shoots point of aim, light leading.

205 LSWC 6.5 Unique thrown, Midway Brass WLP
T = 54 F 25-Nov-04
Ave Vel = 866
Std Dev =16
ES = 52
Low = 839
High = 891
N = 11

Elevation good, but left; more leading

205 LSWC 7.0 grs Unique thrown, Midway Brass WLP
T = 57 F 25-Nov-04
Ave Vel = 906
Std Dev =16
ES = 56
Low = 876
High = 932
N = 15
elevation good but left: worst leading

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Pistols%20various/ReducedTarusM43144SplDSCN2708.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Pistols%20various/ReducedTarusM43144SplDSCN2708.jpg.html)

June 17, 2013, 10:01 PM
Thanks SlamFire1
I guess my guestimation was pretty dang close in post #2, in regards to your results.

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