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What should I feed to my .44 special Vaquero?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Tallinar, Aug 24, 2011.

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  1. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    I've just ordered one of the Lipsey Ruger (New) Vaquero's in .44 special with 3.75" barrel. I'm pretty excited about it. This will serve as the little brother to my .45 Colt 7.5" New Vaquero for cowboy shooting, as well as a sometimes-carry piece.

    I've reloaded .44 magnum in the past, but this will be the first gun I've had that is chambered exclusively for .44 special. Does anyone know if the New Vaquero frame should be safe for the warmer .44 special handloadings?

    For my particular application, the warmest I would probably want is something in the neighborhood of a 240gr SWC at 850 FPS (somewhat emulating .45 ACP), but I've also read some reports of folks using 250gr Keith bullets around 1000 FPS, and am curious what my threshold would be without fear of wearing out the gun - if I were ever inclined to load that hot.

    If I understand correctly, the New Vaquero frame/cylinder dimensions are very near the dimensions to the original .357 Blackhawk frame - which I believe folks used to re-bore and re-chamber for .44 special back in the day prior to the recent run of .44 special Flattop New Model Blackhawks produced. With this in mind, it seems that it should be theoretically safe to use hot .44 specials in this gun.

    I notice a lot of the factory ammo these days appears to be some pretty light stuff. I get the vibe from some of my internet reading that a partial reason for this could be so that manufacturers arrive at ammo that will be friendly for the light-framed 5-shooters like the Charter Bulldog. In any event, I'm just not feeling that factory .44 special ammo specs is giving me a solid benchmark for what the cartridge is (safely) capable of.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Lonerider357

    Lonerider357 Member

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    The New Vaquero isn't as beefy as the Old Model. I wouldn't load really heavy!
     
  3. CraigC
    • Contributing Member

    CraigC Member

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    Yes, the New Vaquero .44Spl is plenty strong for anything up to and including the 1200fps Keith load. Although the 950fps Skeeter load is the most practical.


    This is exactly why "Old Model" should not be used in relation to the Vaquero. All Vaqueros are "New Model" single actions utilizing the post-1973 New Model action. There is simply the Vaquero, which was built on the large frame and the New Vaquero, which is built on a smaller Colt-sized frame. Which is, indeed, the same size and strength of the "Old Model" .357 Blackhawks.
     
  4. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    I wouldn't hesitate to shoot any published and SAAMI approved load through it. Ruger wouldn't make a revolver chambered for a particular cartridge that is incapable of handling any SAAMI approved hand load, or factory load.
    Most reputable firearm manufacturer's, which Ruger is certainly one of, test their firearms to KB which is at least double the SAAMI limits for that cartridge. So unless you deliberately load well above SAAMI approved published 44 special pressure limits, the firearm will never know the difference.
    If only I had a nickel for every time I've been told my full house magnum H110/296 loads are going to blow my gun up, I would be wealthy.
     
  5. RKRCPA

    RKRCPA Member

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    SAAMI spec's for 44 Spl are pretty anemic. Skeeter's load does everything I could ask my 44spl's to do. I have a magnum revolver for when I need magnum performance.
     
  6. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    I'm not saying you are wrong, but what do you have to support that statement?
     
  7. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    What type of bullets do you intend to load, cast or jacketed?

    Are you set up to cast your own?
     
  8. treetop_66

    treetop_66 Member

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    I agree with CraigC. the .44 special Blackhawk and Vaquero is strong enough for the Elmer Keith load, which is a 150 grain SWC at 1200 fps.

    He developed that load in Colt SAA's and S&W hand ejectors, the Ruger guns are stronger that either of those.

    Also, in Handloader Magazine #236 and #260 Brian Pearce has articles on the .44 Special, he too feels this load is acceptable in the Ruger's. The article in #260 is specifically about the Ruger Blackhawk .44 special (same frame as Vaquero) and he has many loads at that level for the Rugers.
     
  9. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    An old target load, suggested to me was 5.0 grains Red Dot with a 240 L, it was accurate. Five grains of Bullseye also produced excellent accuracy. However you cannot push bullets much faster with these powders and that is a limitation.

    Unique is without a doubt the most versatile powder I have used in the 44 Special. Shoots well with 180’s, 200 L, 240 lead and jacketed.

    7.5 grains Unique is a very powerful load, only appropriate for N frame revolvers and the Ruger Blackhawk. Much too powerful for a Charter Arms Bulldog.

    I do not know if I would try 7.5 grains Unique in your pistol.

    Unique gives excellent accuracy from 6 ¼ grains all the way up. When I get tired of recoil I download to 6 ¼ to 6.5 grains. Shoots well.

    Try 6.5 grains Unique with a 240 .

    I shoot outside and am not bothered by powder residue in the air. I shot Unique once in an inside range, in a 45 LC, under bright lights I could see lots of residue.

    I have posted similar data for two different pistols, one with a 4” barrel the other a 5.5” barrel.


    Code:
    [SIZE="3"]4" M624   
    			
    240 LSWC   5.0 grs Red Dot  thrown,  Mixed Brass CCI300	
    T = 64 °F	3-Mar-07		 		
    					
    Ave Vel =	714.8				
    Std Dev =	24.35		 		
    ES =	95.28		 		
    Hign	778.4				
    Low = 	683.1				
    N =	19				
    Accurate				
    						
    240 LSWC   5.0 grs Bullseye  Lot 6/20/05 Mixed Brass WLP	
    T = 64 °F	3-Mar-07				
    					
    Ave Vel =	763.9				
    Std Dev =	16.18		 		
    ES =	60.94		 		
    High = 	794.7				
    Low = 	733.7				
    N =	28				
    very accurate, little powder residue			
    					
    240 LSWC   6.25 grs Unique  thrown,  lot UN387(6-21-1993) Mixed Brass WLP
    T = 62 °F	25-Feb-07	 			
    Ave Vel =	795.1				
    Std Dev =	23.13		 		
    ES =	65.05		 		
    Low = 	821				
    High = 	756.5				
    N =	12			
    Accurate	
    					
    240 LSWC    6.6 grs Unique thrown,  lot UN364 3/9/92 Mixed cases, Brass WLP
    T = 70 °F	4-Apr-09		 		
    		 			
    Ave Vel =	859.6				
    Std Dev =	21.7				
    ES =	77.85				
    High = 	878.4				
    Low=	800				
    N =	10				
    					
    240 LSWC   7.0 grains Unique,   Midway cases, WLP (brass) 	
    T= 45-50 °F	15 Dec 2002				
    					
    Ave Vel =			902.8		 
    Std Dev =			21.49		 
    ES =			81.76		 
    Low = 			859.8		 
    High = 			941.6		 
    N  = 			33		
    					
    240 LSWC    7.5 grs Unique thrown,  lot UN364 3/9/92 Mixed cases, Brass WLP
    T = 70 °F	4-Apr-09		 		
    		 			
    Ave Vel =	965.8				
    Std Dev =	23.15				
    ES =	65.28				
    High = 	986.3				
    Low=	921				
    N =	12				
    					
    					
    240 JHP  6.5 grs Unique thrown,  Midway Brass WLP		
    T = 64 °F	25-Feb-07		 		
    		 			
    Ave Vel =	791.4				
    Std Dev =	34.78		 		
    ES =	114.5		 		
    Low = 	845.6				
    High = 	731.1				
    N =	9				
    Accurate[/SIZE]

    [​IMG]




    Code:
    [SIZE="3"][B]44 Spl Ruger Blackhawk 5.5" [/B]	
    					
    240 LSWC    6.25 grs Unique thrown, lot 6/21/-98/92 Midway cases, Brass WLP
    T ≈  60-65 ° F	19-Apr-09		 		
    		 			
    Ave Vel =	835.4				
    Std Dev =	26.83				
    ES =	74.52				
    High = 	877.5				
    Low=	803				
    N =	24				
    				
    240 LSWC    6.6 grs Unique thrown, lot UN364 3/9/92 Midway cases, Brass WLP
    T ≈  60-65 ° F	19-Apr-09		 		
    		 			
    Ave Vel =	875.4				
    Std Dev =	25.94				
    ES =	109.6				
    High = 	914.8				
    Low=	805.2				
    N =	25				
    					
    	
    	
    240 LSWC    7.5 grs Unique thrown,  lot UN364 3/9/92 Midway cases, Brass WLP
    T ≈  60-65 ° F	19-Apr-09		 		
    		 			
    Ave Vel =	1001				
    Std Dev =	17.32				
    ES =	64.32				
    High = 	1027				
    Low=	963				
    N =	27	[/SIZE]


    [​IMG]
     
  10. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    Thanks for your input so far folks, and thanks for posting that data, SlamFire. Unique is the powder I was intending to start out with anyway. I've had good experience with it for moderate target loads in both .44 magnum and .45 Colt.

    I will be shooting exclusively cast bullets, but I am not tooled to cast my own. The only time I'd consider jacketed rounds for this would be if I decide to carry any factory SD cartridges. I plan to continue to business with Missouri Bullet Company. I've ordered a few thousand bullets from them in the past for my .44's and .45's and have been extremely pleased with their price and quality.

    I wonder if I could get by using a Brinnell 18 240gr bullet at 900fps with Unique without experiencing leading.
     
  11. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    My standard practice load for the .44 Special is 6.0 grains of Unique with a 240 grain bullet. Then again I own several Charter Arms Bulldogs and don't want to beat them up. You should be able to use at least 7 grains in your ruger with no problems.

    You really should get into bullet casting.
     
  12. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    About 80yrs of actual, collective experience. About 40yrs of folks converting Old Model Blackhawks to .44Spl. About 10yrs of shooting one myself.
     
  13. unspellable

    unspellable Member

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    Messing around with the 44 Special will lead to insanity. For example, I run a 240 grain cast semi-wadcutter at 1000 fps from a 44 magnum case in my 6.5 inch S&W 29 because it's delicate and needs to be babied, while I run the same bullet at 1200 fps from a 44 Special case in my 6.5 inch S&W 624 because Elmer proved it could be done.

    Of late I have picked up a couple of midsized frame Taurus revolvers. Being on a more or less K sized frame, I don't plan to run anything hotter than commercial loads through them.

    Which leads to the question, how do we keep level I 44 Special and 45 Colt loads segregated from the hotter loads? Paint the primers?
     
  14. SPW1

    SPW1 Member

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    I have two of the 44 special vaqueros, one blued the other stainless. For a fairly warm load that is still comfortably below crazy level I run a 250gr cast semi-wadcutter over 15grs of 2400 with starline brass and standard primers. My guns handle that fine and I don't see any reason to go beyond that. For a light load I run 200 gr bullets over a mostly full case of trail boss for around 800fps or so. Works for me.
     
  15. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    Use nickled brass for your hot loads. Not because its better, it's just easy to tell them apart.
     
  16. Taildragger-J3

    Taildragger-J3 Member

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    I too use 6-7 gr of unique with 240 cast bullets without any trouble in my Taurus 44 spl. 6 gr is a very comfortable load.
     
  17. DPris

    DPris Member

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    The working load I developed for mine is 250 at 1060 with 2400.
    I could go hotter, but if I want more energy in a .44 I'll just use the .44 Mag Flattop.
    Denis
     
  18. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    Good enough for me. I just like to get people to consider that not all internet advice is backed up by experience or fact.

    Fortunately for me I'm a recoil wimp, so a Skeeter load is all I need. Elmer loads are not on my agenda.
     
  19. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    That's definitely true and I would urge anybody reading anything on the internet to take everything they hear with a grain of salt. Including anything I post.
     
  20. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    The New Vaquero/Lipsey Blackhawk .44 Special will handle the Skeeter load, but 6.5 grains of Unique is milder, and easier on the gun for hard use...and it's accurate with a good cast bullet.

    As far as the Keith/2400 load...approach it carefully, and shoot it sparingly...when full power is needed. The New Vaquero is much stronger than the guns that Uncle Elmer developed it in. It is a fairly rambunctious load, though. Best advice is to delegate it to need-based use.

    I tend to err on the side of caution when developing heavy handloads in guns that are chambered for mild calibers...and there's really no sense in beatin' up the gun anyway.
     
  21. jimniowa

    jimniowa Member

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    .44sp

    Ruger cut down my SBH to 4.5" at my request. I shoot .44sp loads for carry in the field. I load it with 240g swc a little under 1000 fps and its great. I also shoot the same load in a 2" ported ccw gun. Got to luv the .44sp
    Jim
     
  22. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    Thanks for the input folks.

    I'll probably be staying within the realm of 6.0 to 7.5 grains of Unique with 240gr SWC to suit my purposes.

    I also have some 700X leftover that I used to develop some light, clean-burning magnum-cased target loads for my old SBH. I'll see if I can get a similar load to shoot as clean in .44 special cases.
     
  23. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    A quick follow-up to this. My new gun arrived on Saturday and I took it to the range today.

    I had cooked up 3 loads to tinker with using some old 240gr Lasercast SWC's I had around.

    4.5 gr of Trail Boss
    4.3 gr of 700-X
    6.0 gr of Unique

    Honestly, I feel like all of these rounds were quite acceptable for use as light target loads. I was able to shoot 1 inch groups with each at 7 yards standing off-hand.

    The Trail Boss loads shot a bit high for me (shooting a 4 inch bull with a 6 oclock picture, standing off-hand, they were impacting at about the top of the black). But they burned the cleanest. I plan to tinker with raising/lowering the powder charge by a few tenths of a grain and see if I can get them to shoot closer to where I want them. I've been a huge fan of Trail Boss, and this will be no exception.

    The 700X rounds recoiled about the same as the Trail Boss loads, and shot a little bit lower than the Trail Boss rounds - but still slightly higher than where I wanted it (bear in mind, this is at 7 yards, and I didn't get to test further ranges today). They burned slightly dirtier than the Trail Boss loads, but are well within what I would consider "clean enough." I decided to load 50 more of these when I got home to use for the next cowboy shoot.

    The Unique rounds were dead center to the bull! These shot the best groups for me of the three I tried today. They burned pretty dirty, however, and ended up with a fair amount of unburnt powder in the case afterwards. The recoil on this round was more stout than the other two rounds (though completely comfortable), so it will probably not be my go-to round for cowboy shooting. I plan to raise this load to 6.5 grains in the near future and see if I can get a more complete powder burn.

    I experienced a decent amount of leading after firing 100 rounds today. I attribute this to the fact that I was using the Lasercast bullets (which are on the harder side of the Brinell chart) with low pressure/velocity rounds, thus not arriving at complete obturation. I was expecting this though, so no biggy. In the future, I will be using softer 240 gr bullets for this application - leaving the harder bullets for the .44 magnum.

    Anyway, it was an excellent day at the range with a new toy. I am very pleased with this new gun, as well as with all the rounds I tried today.

    I've also ordered a sourdough pancake holster from Simply Rugged for this gun. I'll be sure to share pictures when the time comes!
     
  24. GCBurner

    GCBurner Member

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    I'm starting to appreciate Trail Boss powder in the .44s and .45s. It's pretty much impossible to overload a case with the bulky "cheerios", and it seems to give cast lead bullets a steady shove down the barrel that doesn't result in a lot of leading. The slower burn rate does seem to make the revolvers shoot higher, though. I haven't noticed any difference in point of impact at comparable velocities in my .45 Colt rifle, which is heavy enough to soak up most of the recoil.
     
  25. batmann

    batmann Member

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    I don't reload, but I have shot Buffalo Bore's 255 gr SWC and it is about 1000fps or so in my .44 Spl Flattop. There are some hotter loads out there, but that is good enough for me. I need more, I step up to the Mag.
     
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