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SIXGUNS by Keith

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Harve Curry, Jul 30, 2006.

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  1. Harve Curry

    Harve Curry Member

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    Warren asked me to start a topic on long range revolver shooting and the book SIXGUNS by Elmer Keith.
    The Library of Congress number is 55-11694 .
    That is a big subject and I'm an average shooter that just tries to shoot long range, just a student of it.

    All I can say is watch your sight picture , all the little details of it, the air gap on both sides of the blade in the notch, then the target, front sight, all the while finger on the trigger and ready to press it a little more when it looks right.
    After that the main thing is to get a good load that works at 25 yards, then do it at 50 yards and keep going.
    If you need it use a large card board box way out there to see exactly where it hits. It's the same to me as for rifles.

    Hopefully Old Fluff will throw in here.
     
  2. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    I don't have much luck holding more elevation than a front blade can carry. When you have to use the ramp base or barrel as an index I believe you are mortar rounding it.
    Every one knows the 1911 has a little bitty front sight. But after a few thousand rounds trying, I was able to hit a 55 gallon drum at 400 yards about 50% by the angle in my hand and paying attention to the windage sight picture.
    Of course this is a revolver forum. I used to shoot my 8 3/8" model 29 S&W on a ranch I was foreman on 30 years ago, while finishing college. I reloaded and cast and had no TV or other distractions. I hit a coyote once , well over 300 yards and uphill, when it stopped to look. The sight picture was the entire blade raised right to the bottom where it joined the ramp. The gun was sighted in for the Keith-Thompson 250 grainer with 21 grains of 2400 dead on a 50 yards. The hit thru the lungs downed the critter and it had quit thrashing when I got to it a few minutes later.I astounded the old boys watching me! I fooled around with that load in that gun until it got loose after 7000 rounds or so and got S&W to overhaul it. I still have it today, but it is semi retired. Using the red ramp insert as a reference I am (was:eek: )able to reliably connect on things to 250 yards or so-rested. I shot a few deer at 125 yards or less with it.Yes, I had read and studied most all Keiths books and wrote him and was answered , a few times.:)
     
  3. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    The Old Fuff was lucky enough to get some tips from both Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton... :)

    From their perspective you needed a high-quality revolver with a tall blade on the front sight. Today too many new guns come with sight blades that are much too low for long range work.

    Shooters should remember that a target that's say 200 yards away looks very small. But when the bullet get's there the target is is big as it would be if it was two or three feet in front of you.

    Trigger control and follow through after the shot is very important.

    You must know the trajectory of the cartridge/bullet/load that you are using. Both Keith and Skeeter stuck to proven loads that they knew would deliver - .357 Magnum for Skeeter and .44 Special (later .44 Magnum) for Keith.

    When you know the trajectory of a particular revolver/cartridge/load combination you can hold the front sight up in the rear sight notch with the target sitting on top of the post. How high to hold the front sight up come with practice. Or you can use the type of front sight with the gold lines that Harve Curry ordered. In that case you align one of the gold lines along the top of the rear sight blade, and put the target on top of the front sight.

    If you have mastered the above it is no harder to hit at 200 yards then it is to do the same at 50 - if you can't the problem is between your ears... :D
     
  4. Warren

    Warren Member

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    Thank you.

    I've became fascinated with long range handgun shooting after I read John Ross' book where his main character would shoot his revolvers at long range. Up to that point I had no idea that handguns could do that.

    So I need two things to start out a good gun and somewhere to shoot.

    I doubt you can help me with the latter but as to the former what would be a good gun/caliber to start with?
     
  5. jacobtowne

    jacobtowne Member

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    Ruger Blackhawk is a good choice, since it has an adjustable rear sight.
    The longer the barrel, the longer the sight radius, and thus the better for long range shooting.
    JT
     
  6. Harve Curry

    Harve Curry Member

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    I 2nd the Ruger. The new Ruger 50th anniversary flat top 44 magnum is good choice. Lots of ammo choices for it, and a sixgunners/reloaders dream.
     
  7. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    The Ruger has some possibilities, but the hammer fall (locktime) is long and the hammer is heavy. Also the rear face of the front sight is slanted, which isn't the best choice for long range work. Add to that they tend to roll up in the hand because of the "plowhandle" grip when used with heavy loads. If one is interested in a Ruger single action I would suggest that they look at a Bisley version. Also one might consider the double-action GP-100 and Redhawk series with interchangable front sights.

    I think that perhaps the untimate long-range revolver being made today is produced by Freedom Arms. Very expensive, but highly accurate.
     
  8. Essex County

    Essex County Member

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    Not a coment on elmer's long range shooting but I purchased "Sixguns by Keith" about 30 some years ago and I've read it at least a dozen times. It's a good read annd I don't doubt his abilities a bit. I followed his colums for many a year and we had a mutual friend. ( deceased for many a year ) Elmer was very predjuiced and had an ego as big as all of Montana and Idaho put togeather. With the advent of advances in amunitons and handguns I find a lot of his work no longer cogent..........Essex
     
  9. Deanimator

    Deanimator Member

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    Last year some friends and I shot two K-38s and a 6" Model 10 at 100 and 200 yards, trying to duplicate the results of the pre-WWI shooting club in Louisville, KY described in an article in "Gun Digest". The two K-38s were about equal at the 100 yard line, but I pulled away at the 200 yard line. Rather than mess with the sights, I just picked an appropriate aiming point above and to the right of the target (a man target).

    The guy with the Model 10 didn't do as well, but he got some hits too.
     
  10. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Member

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    I think either a Smith Model 29 (44) or Model 57 (41) 8 3/8" would be a solid choice. The Freedom Arms revolvers are excellent if you prefer a single action. I did some longer range shooting with the 41 mag and it is a lot of fun. It was not in a controlled environment, but the shots were 100-150 yds+ and you can hit things the size of a paint can.

    There are of course the 500, 460, and 480 calibers that would be good choices. I shoot a 480 SRH with a scope and it might do the trick. All of these calibers are proported to be 100 yd+ guns.

    Like another in this thread suggested. Start at 25 yds and start working up. If the place you're shooting is not a range, use a range finder and set up 5 gallon cans to shoot at beyond 100 yds.
     
  11. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Many years ago, there was a kid who was fascinated by Elmer Keith's articles on long-range handgun shooting. Now, this kid did not have a .44 Magnum, or a Hand Ejector .44 Special, or anything like that. Nor did he have any prospect of getting one.

    But he did have a Ruger Standard Model .22 automatic that he got used. So he set up a gallon can on the bank of a stock pond, and shot at that -- from a hundred yards away or more. He can still remember the Bang-Klak! of the shot and a hit.

    One day, he was out after the milk cow, and there was a canada goose in the pond. He was right in front of that galllon can.

    Of course, it wasn't me that shot the goose -- just a kid who looked like me.:p
     
  12. Nhsport

    Nhsport Member

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    I know that the 250gr bullet and 21gr of 2400 "was" the standard 44mag load talked about 30+ years ago but I think someone here has to add a bit of caution in this thread.
    The loads I use are kind of on the hot side and I am only useing a 240gr bullet and I am no where near 21gr of 2400.
    My shooting buddy and I spent some time a few years back messing around with loads,we agreed that 2400 was the right powder but we stopped when we got to 1200fps. Our conclusion was that any wild boar (we were going on a hunt)would not know the difference between 1200 and 1250fps.
    Alliant claims that 2400 has been "reformulated" and loads in old load books should not be used,many folks claim the folks who print the books are just more cautious. I think it might be some of both.
    I use win large pistol primers and find that as I come up on the powder charge (starting well below max in a modern manual) my accuracy gets real good at about 1150fps .This is with a full sized 629 with a full sized barrel. This load also works well in my 3" 629 and shines in my marlin cowboy lever gun.

    A good stout load is all well and good for long range shooting but care must be taken to not develope a flinch when shooting. Good hearing protection,possibly shooting gloves and mix up your shooting with a lighter caliber.
    Lots of practise will always help your shooting,I can not imaginine getting the needed practise with the really big caliber. the 44mag is doable for me but is about my limit.
    If you can arrange your shooting somewhere with sand or bare dirt as a backstop it will help your shooting to see the bullet strikes.
     
  13. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    You are correct in saying that powers have been reformulated and one should always go by current loading data.

    Few know it, but Elmer Keith downloaded his .44 Magnum loads for everyday use. His proposal in the first place was that the .44 Magnum-to-be should duplicate his .44 Special loads. The ammunition factories wouldn't do this in a .44 Special loading because they were worried about blowing up some older guns. Elmer said, "fine- then keep my load in a longer (Magnum) case and beef up the gun." They made the gun, but increased the load beyond what he expected.

    You do not need an extra powerful load for long range shooting, and they may work to your disadvantage. What you must know is the trajectory of whatever load that you are using. On occasion I have had excellent results out to 200 meters using the old .45 Colt/250 grain bullet @ 870 FPS load. One day I plinked with success at an old car muffler at 100 yards using a 6" Colt Official Police loaded with 148 grain mid-range .38 Special wadcuttlers. And just for grins (and a bet) I put 5 out of 7 .32 ACP bullets into the black of a 200 yd. rifle target at 200 yards shooting prone with a 1903 Pocket Model Colt, after I used up one magazine getting the aiming point that would work. (Have to know the trajectory) :D

    You do not need a special gun, (although that's desireable) or extra powerful ammunition to shoot at long range (100 yards or more). You just have to find a palce to practice and then do it.
     
  14. John C

    John C Member

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    Old Fuff;

    If I may ask, what were Keith's old hot .44 spl loadings? I always thought he used a 240 gr. cast bullet at 1450 fps. I guess I was wrong? (I'm by no means an expert on Keith, I've just read a bit of his stuff)

    -John
     
  15. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    Not old Fuff , BUT I cast up and loaded about 15,000+ Lyman 429421 "Keith" 250 grain (approx) bullets. About 10000 of these were with 21 grains of 2400,which was 1 grain LESS than Keith's reccomended load, almost 6000 of which finally loosened up a 29-2 S&W 8 3/8 " (7000+ total rounds- I had to get the brass!) to where I sent it back to S&W for a rebuild. Then I shot 3000+ more and it is still fine to this day, although not fired much! I also had a 4" M 29 which digested about 5000 "Keith" loads and was traded in on a 629 Mountain revolver(pre mountain gun) that I shoot 320 grain LBT loads at 950 fps these days.I backed off the Keith 22 grain load in those wheel weight + tin heat treated 429421's loads by 1 grain just to speed up the process in the Lyman 55 measure that were NOT individually weighed.
    Didn't anybody tell you kids a non gas checked lead bullet can take more powder to get the same pressure thus giving higher velocities than jacketed slugs? I don't know how much more but I'd say AT LEAST 10% factor. I have an Oehler Strain Guage Lab set up , and in a TC contender .44mag barrel 21 grains of 1990's 2400 under that 429421 is well under 40,000psi and a little UNDER SOME factory mag loads.
    Keith's .44spl load was same bullet under 17.5 grains of 2400. That is one blue pill whistler and about 2 grains too hot for me in any .44spl ! I think Elmer regularly shot 19 grains of 2400 in magnum cases in a 4"M29 as a "light" load with the same bullet. I don't use 2400 anymore, although I still have 4 or 5 pounds -and will use it. I like Win 296 (now dated too!) or Lil'Gun for my heavy loads as I get the same velocities with substantially less pressure and fouling.:)
     
  16. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Prior to the .44 Magnum, Elmer’s favorite cartridge was the .44 Special. He designed a 250 grain bullet for Lyman (#429421) around 1928. Eventually he matched this with a load consisting of 18.5 grains of #2400 powder. This gave a muzzle velocity of around 1,200 FPS with 20,000 PSI chamber pressure. Note that at the time he was using balloon-head cases. When solid-head cases came along he cut the load to 17.5 grains, and still had 1,200 FPS with estimated pressure around 25,000 PSI.

    Since new powders have been introduced, and old ones reformulated, don’t use this data. Instead look in late edition reloading manuals for loads using the Lyman #429421 hard cast lead bullet, and giving a muzzle velocity of 1,200 FPS.
     
  17. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    What length of barrel is mounted on the TC Contender?
     
  18. Scooter72

    Scooter72 Member

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    I think I could read Old Fuff and Gordon posts all day! :D
     
  19. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Gordon had another good point. These loads are well up toward the high end, so don't switch components such as jacketed or soft lead bullets. If you do so, cut the load by at least 10% and then work your way up to the listed load, and don't try to exceed it. If you load top-end .44 Special loads in a .44 Magnum case you will get lower pressures and velocities if everything else is equal. This is because of the Magnum's larger capacity. I often load lighter charges in .357 and .44 Magnum cases to duplicate .38 and .44 Special performance, simply so I don't have to keep scrubbing out the front of the chambers.:cool:
     
  20. s&w 24

    s&w 24 Member

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    when I lived near an outdoor range many moons ago I shot alot of rounds thru my virginian dragoon 7 1/2" 357. back then I shot a couple times a week
    and I got better than fair at 100 and 200 yard shooting. Just like in the book,lean back,take your time and walk em' in. Good times !

    We also figured out that you can hit 95% of the time with an m-1 carbine out at 300 yds
    enough tracers and time and we got it down.
     
  21. Harve Curry

    Harve Curry Member

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    Old Fuff,
    If you were going to work up a warm 44 special load (if you haven't already), what would the components be? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2006
  22. Warren

    Warren Member

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    I'm not looking to hot-rod any loads. I want to keep 'em low pressure and safe and easy on my joints.
     
  23. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    Old Fuff: That's a 10" bull barrel T/C with the strain guage epoxied to it. I really don't use that barrel . I was interested in working up heavy bullet loads where there was no reloading data at the time.
     
  24. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I understand. The reason for the question is that when using slow-burning powders such as #2400 or Win. 296 a long barrel will give you higher velocities and pressures because more of the powder burns inside - rather then outside - the barrel. By the time Elmer got to using solid-head .44 Special cases most of his shooting was being done with barrel lengths of 6 1/2" and shorter. As you are probably aware, he tended to go to just short of blowing up the gun, and a couple of times he went over the line. :eek:

    One time I was experimenting with a 10" Contender barrel chambered in .38 Super. I soon discovered that suposedly safe loads in the Colt automatic would show signs of high pressure and even pierce primers in the Contender. I mentally debated cutting the barrel to 5 inches but decided not too - .38 Super Contender barrels aren't easy to find and the cost/value was going up.

    The moral of all of this is if you have a revolver with a barrel over 6 inches it's a good idea to cut any maxium or near-maxium load at least 10% and then carefully work your way up - or maybe stop where you are.
     
  25. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    Elmer Keith was a remarkable old man. I understand that he insisted on visiting the NRA each time he was in Washington, which created all sorts of problems for the organization. First, he smoked that damn cigar everywhere he went. He also carried his magnum in the city, which in the later years was a huge no-no. And worse, a product of his times, he used the "N" word openly and frequently in complaining about the city and in just general conversation -- often in front of blacks, including cab drivers and whoever else was around. He didn't see anything wrong with it, but the NRA folks I knew said they always breathed a lot easier once he was on the plane going back.

    Like many other revolver shooters, he was hard of hearing and, as a result, spoke more loudly than he should have. He was bombastic and just a little bit opinionated. But geesh, he, like Douglas MacArthur, had a foot in two radically different worlds. No one who knew him ever accused him of lying about that 600-yard handgun shot, but I think even he knew it was one datgum lucky shot.

    He had no tolerance for other revolver cartridges, either, from what I've heard. And looking at the .41 Magnum (so-called), I'm still wondering how that caliber came about. The .357 was a better manstopper, I think, (with the 125-gr. JHP) and the .44 Magnum was a slightly superior big game caliber.

    After all these years, I still think the man and his gun are pretty remarkable.


    [​IMG]

    Yes he was.
     
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