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.44 Special Loads for Blackhawks

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by 35 Whelen, Mar 11, 2013.

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  1. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    I just picked up a slightly used Ruger Flat Top Blackhawk in .44 Special for a knock around pistol that I can also use for deer, etc. Today after work I had time to do a bit of load testing and thought I'd post it here since it seems .44 Special +P type data is hard to find.
    I took these loads directly out of Handloader #236 which had an excellent article on the .44 Special including tons of data. The loads here were all safe in my Blackhawk and I had zero pressure signs. Even with the hottest load the case would drop right out of the (filthy) chambers after a little nudge from the ejector rod.

    All loads used Starline brass, CCI 300 primers, except the AL2400 loads which used a WLP. The bullet was a home-cast 260 gr. SWC with a BHN in the 11.5 range.

    6.5 gr. Unique- 868 fps
    7.5 gr. Unique- 957 fps (e.s.=20)
    8.0 gr. Unique- 1002 fps (e.s.=18)
    8.5 gr. Unique- 1051 fps (e.s.=24)

    The above loads left a little lead ahead of the forcing cone, so I cleaned the pistol after testing them then fired these:

    16.0 gr. AL2400- 1122 fps (e.s.-102)
    16.5 gr. AL2400- 1189 fps (e.s.- 69)
    17.0 gr. AL2400- 1218 fps (e.s.=29)

    The last three loads left NO leading near the forcing cone but a negligible amount near the muzzle.

    The pistol has been pretty darned accurate to the point that I never shoot it at 25 yds. with 50 and usually 100 being where most of the testing is done.

    The 6.5 gr. load is a very nice general use load that's really quite accurate:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The 7.5 gr. load I'm guessing would probably work nice for deer at shorter ranges and was quite accurate.

    The real surprise was the last load. It was .5 grs. shy of Elmer Keith's load of 17.5 grs. but nevertheless ran 1218 fps which is REAL close to the original .44 Magnum ballistics. The best part of that was it quite accurate:
    [​IMG]

    I really don't see much use for this load unless I decide to try the .44 on my next elk hunt.

    35W
     
  2. murf

    murf Member

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    are those shots taken off-hand, or bench rested? nice shooting, by the way.

    nice grips. would like a set like that for mine (it has the flat black plastic ones).

    i worked up a load for a lbt style 300 grain lead gas checked bullet. does just under 1000 fps through the chrony. accurate, too. shoots high, though. sights won't go down far enough to shoot poa at 25 yards. five inches high is the lowest that load will go.

    will stick with the 250 grain keith bullet at 875 fps.

    murf
     
  3. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    Thanks...Oh, they're benchrested. I like the grips too, they came with the pistol as did the plastic ones. I think tose wood grips can be found fairly easily on the auction sites.

    The article I mention in the OP has a load for a 300 gr. bullet. I'll check on it for you.

    Regarding the high point of impact, mine was doing the same thing. I took the rear sight off and removed .010" of metal from the under the very rear of the sight. This helped tons but still at its lowest setting it's high with some loads. I plan to remove another .010" soon.

    35W
     
  4. the Black Spot

    the Black Spot Member

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    I have run the 17 gr of 2400 load in mag cases in a super bh, quite accurate with 260 gr cast bullet of wheel weights.
    I have run some 315 gr cast bullets in a uberti cattleman 44 special using 9.5 gr of 2400, milder load within the 15,500 saami specs. Accurate as well.
     
  5. thomis

    thomis Member

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    Thanks for the great post on .44 special loads.
    I just ordered a ton of .44 special brass and have a bunch of cast bullets coming my way. I'll be trying your 2400 loads.
    I've shot the same loads with Unique powder with very similar results you had. Very accurate!
    Yes, those grips sure are pretty. My rosewood grips are nearly blackened with wear and age.
     
  6. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    MAybe we can keep this thread going as we work up more loads. Honestly, all I ever use is older powders and I'd like to see others results from powders such as Power Pistol, Tightgroup, etc.

    35W
     
  7. the Black Spot

    the Black Spot Member

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    Check the the thread float pilot started called "44 special pet loads???" Last entry was 3/8/13. About 5 pages of loads and verious powders used.
     
  8. MovedWest

    MovedWest Member

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    Careful with your loads Whelen. Not to sound preachy, but remember that's a 44spl, not a magnum. I have a hot 44spl load with 8.3gr of Unique under a 200gr XTP that is over pressure, but I only have magnum guns. I know 8.5gr of Unique with a 260gr is way beyond that.

    Ruger has a great reputation for strength, but that's only for the magnum revolvers AKAIK. Please be careful and make sure you note that some of your loads are over max pressure when you post.

    -MW
     
  9. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Uh...no. The original .44 Magnum firing the gas-checked 240 grain LSWC would have delivered close to 1450 fps from that 5.5-inch barrel.

    This...is sound advice. You're essentially touching off a controlled explosion 18 inches from the end of your nose.

    Although that Ruger is a good bit stronger than the 1873 SAA revolvers that Keith worked up his loads in...and a limited amount of that ammunition probably won't blow it up...it's still a medium-framed Blackhawk. A steady diet of it is very likely to bend it eventually. I'd use it on a "need only" basis.

    There is little that you can do with a 260-grain cast bullet at 1200 fps that you can't do with the same bullet at a thousand besides do it at a little longer range. Beyond a certain point, more velocity serves mainly to flatten trajectory. If you need more killing power at reasonable hunting ranges, what you need is more bullet rather than more speed.
     
  10. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    I thought I made that clear.

    The Ruger .357 Magnum and .44 Special share the same "mid-size" frame since 2005.

    You are absolutely correct. What I should have said was "...ran 1218 fps which is REAL close to current .44 Magnum ballistics." This would've been a more accurate statement because with the exception of specialty ammunition such as Core-Bon and Buffalo Bore, the final load I tested was well within 100 fps of practically all factory .44 Mag loads with their 240 - 250 gr. bullets.

    "Bend" it? How would 25K PSI class loads bend this revolver frame? That'd be the same frame on which the .357 Magnum, running roughly 40% more chamber pressure, is built.

    Again, you are correct, but evidently you missed the last sentence of my post.

    It also begs the question: With ballistics such as these, who really needs a .44 Magnum? ;)

    35W
     
  11. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    That was a paraphrased version of an old mechanic's warning about pushing an engine past reasonable limits.

    To wit:

    "Ya might not break it, but you can sure as hell bend it."

    Pressure isn't the only concern, though it's certainly something to be aware of.

    Recoil impulse and tensile stresses coming from the bullet's frictional forward drag on the barrel, with equal/opposite force driving the rear half of the gun backward against that drag that's the big, ugly fly in the ointment. It stretches revolver frames and is the main factor in creating endshake and excessive headspace.

    Back in the day when I was obsessed with those pesky 200 meter rams, after ruining two Smith Model 29s, I managed to stretch two Super Blackhawk frames to the point that Ruger couldn't repair one, and warned me to limit the other to moderate use with factory standard ammunition...or lower.

    Admittedly, I'd pushed the envelope with my handloads, but not to insane levels...and because the big Ruger had a reputation for brute strength...I figured it'd be okay.

    And it was for a while.

    While we're on the subject of overloading cartridges, call Ruger and ask them for their take on the "Ruger Only" data contained in most of the loading manuals. They'll tell you in a Tennessee heartbeat that they're not on board with that, and that you'll use it at your own risk and at the risk of your warranty.

    I imagine that they'd tell you the same thing in regards to your .44 Special.
     
  12. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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  13. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    Anyone with the ability to compare apples to apples might. You're comparing maxed out specials against mid level mags.
     
  14. BBQJOE

    BBQJOE Member

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    My favorite round to shoot .44 spl is 6.1 Unique +/- whatever the loader throws, with the 240 swc.
     
  15. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    I have the hard copy of that magazine RC, and it was the basis for my load development. If you'll look on page 41 he puts the Blackhawk in the 25K catagory.

    Not at all. I'm comparing pineapples to pomegranates.:D

    If you'll read my post again, you'll see I'm comparing my results with .44 Special handloads to .44 Magnum factory loads of similar bullet weights, excluding specialty loads, as they are very similar. Which to my way of thinking means if it can be done with one of these Magnum factory loads, then can likewise be done with a Special handload.

    35W
     
  16. James2

    James2 Member

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    No doubt in my mind that you can load the 44 spl brass right up to full magnum pressures.
    Not a smart thing to do though since the 44 spl guns were not made for that kind of pressure.
    Why do you need a Magnum? So you don't blow up your 44 Spl trying to make it a magnum!
     
  17. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    See Post #10. Specifically the response to the fourth quote, then re-read the OP and pay attention to the final statement of that post. Then have a look at the *.pdf article RC so kindly made available in Post #12 and note that my upper end loads are 25,000 psi loads...a FAR cry from .44 Magnum pressures.

    The intent of the thread was for folks who might be interested in loads for their .44 Special. If the content doesn't interest you or just plain frightens you, you don't have to read it.

    35W
     
  18. James2

    James2 Member

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    RC, thanks for the link. Nice read.

    The 44 Spl was my first big bore caliber. My gun was a Colt SAA purchased about 1958 I believe. I loaded in the category 2 range with 7.7 gr of Unique and a 250 gr cast bullet. These proved to be OK in the Colt and the gun fired many thousands of them. Even so, the loads could have been dangerous in an older, not quite so strong gun. (This may still be a valid concern when we load hot 44 spls)

    This is certainly a great caliber for a handgun and the Colt was my woods gun. It never failed to do whatever I asked it to do. The 250 gr slug at around 900 FPS is adequate for anything I ever came up against.

    Why do we play with guns any way? To punch paper? To hunt critters? For self defense? Just because we like them?

    Let me again say something I have said many times, "Getting something done with a gun depends more on the shooter than the gun." I have seen critters from a mouse to an elk dispatched with a 22LR out of a Ruger Single Six. The trick is to hit them in a vital spot. IOW learn to shoot. (That last comment is not directed at anyone in particular, but is wisdom learned over many years and applies to me first. It is a reminder to work on my own technique. Please don't be offended by it. )
     
  19. murf

    murf Member

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    35 whelen,

    i'm going to try and put a white line horizontally on the rear sight, sort of like the lines on a front sight for long distance shooting. that way i can "have it both ways" for my 300 and 250 grain loads.

    i'll let you know how it goes.

    oh, i have the handloader articles for loading reference. handy for that ruger 44spl. and it's capabilities.

    lipsey's just brought out another flattop in 45 long colt/45 acp. the frame is identical to the 44spl flattop except, of course, for the larger holes in the barrel and cylinder. the acp cylinder is rated at 23,000 psi (+p pressure) so, the 44spl cylinder, having smaller holes and more metal, should be able to "handle" the 8% increase in pressure.

    what i'm getting at is not to worry about stretching frames, end shake, whatever. the gun will handle it with ease, in my opinion.

    murf
     
  20. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    Yes, let me know how it goes with the rear sight.

    You might try taking some of the rear sight off as I described in another post. Midway sells those rear sights and they're pretty inexpensive and very easy to remove and reinstall.

    I don't worry in the least about trashing the pistol with these loads. I'll likely use the 6.5 gr. of Unique load for every day stuff and the 7.5 gr. load for hunting deer and hogs.

    I like to think of a handgun such as this .44 Special as an automobile. For example, I know that my pickup will do 110 mph because I tried it. That doesn't mean I'll drive it that fast even if I could. Likewise, I know that my .44 Special will easily drive a 260 gr. bullet over 1200 fps. Does that mean I'll shoot these loads on a day to day basis? Of course not, that'd be pointless, but knowing that capability is there if and when I need it is nice!

    35W
     
  21. 336A

    336A Member

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    No that is not right, Mr. Pearce specifically states in his article on the Ruger Flat Top .44 SPL that it's capable of digesting a steady diet of 25,000psi loads. http://www.goodrichfamilyassoc.org/44_Special_Articles/Ruger Lipsey 44 Special.pdf

    However that I think that the "Skeeter Load" is more useful for day to day chores and would save the Keith loads for special occasions.
     
  22. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    35 I'm well versed on the capabilities of both the 44 mag and special. Your load data has only been around for 50 or 60 years. Uncle Elmer was shooting those loads in Colts, But like Elmer did with the advent of the 44 mag I don't see any need to push my specials past the Skeeter (7.5 unique) load because 44 magnum chambered guns are avaliable.
    As for reading your posts maybe you should try. I only answered the question you begged us to. ;)
     
  23. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    Oh yes mav, I knew without a doubt you were a 44 Mag owner when I read your first post. When the subject turns to loading the Special to its full potnential, the Magnum owners are easy to spot because their heinies are always the reddest;)

    35W
     
  24. 4895

    4895 Member

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    I have both a .44 special and a .44 magnum.

    The .44 special is a Taurus 445 ultralight snub nose revolver. I use 5.7g Unique with a 240g SWC and find it a pleasure to shoot in the 5-shooter. I broke it in less than 1500 rounds and never left book specs while working up loads.

    The .44 mag is a Ruger Blackhawk 6.5" model that will hopefully last a lifetime. I have shot some hot W296 loads and some 10g Unique 240 swc loads as well. I do however have an indoor shooting range nearby that limits shooters to .44 special cartridges. I too loaded up 50 rounds of 240 swc with 17.5g 2400 in .44 special cases. I found the recoil to be more of a push that the muzzle flip accustomed to loadings with h110/w296.

    I wouldn't try Keith's load in any production .44 special for anything. I would probably be ok...but I don't like making statements like that..probably be ok...

    But heck, I'll shoot them all day in a .44 mag!
     
  25. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    Now now 35 don't shoot the messinger, I'm simply answering the question you begged to ask.
    "With ballistics such as these, who really needs a .44 Magnum?"
    Somebody who wants to shoot a run of the mill factory 240gr bullet at 1200fps or somebody that wants to push the limits of their gun a bit an shoot 300gr bullets at over 1300 fps or maybe somebody who wants to have a legal handgun to hunt deer in the state of Kansas.
    Either of these can be accomplished with a Mag and can not with a special.
    Personal attacks won't change these facts.;)
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
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