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Old September 19, 1999, 11:15 AM   #1
Hal
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9.5 gr Unique ( max is around 11 gr)
240 gr hard cast SWC
Once fired .44 Mag brass, American Eagle and PMC
CCI Standard large pistol primers
Winchester 94 Trapper (1 in 32 twist)

It seems to be a pleasant plinking load, but I am having problems with keyholeing. At first I suspected the lead slug as the problem, but I ran some factory 240 Lead through it and it delivered very good (2 3/4") results at 25 yards. Factory 240 JHP do about the same or better, so I believe the problem is with my reloading technique. The cases do not seem to be expanded much, and I wonder if I am going too light on my load, or if the problem is with the dies. I am using a Lee with carbide dies, purchased new in 1981. The dies have been stored since 1982, and to be honest, they are not in pristine shape. I am thinking that I should try:
1.)A jacketed round, to eliminate any possibility of the lead slug being the problem.
2.) A jacketed round and a heavier load, 2400 for the powder, and magnum primers instead of standard.
3.) New unfired brass, to try to pinpoint the area I am not doing right.(ie:resize or crimp stage).
4.) Replace the dies. It may be the march of time and a lot of neglect has messed them up.
5.) Replace the whole setup with a Dillon. (Not preferred, but I am willing to if need be. I hate to waste my investment, but if I have to I have to.)

TIA for any suggestions. I am not at the point of giving up, far from it, this is one reason I wanted to get back into reloading in fact. I enjoy the experiment/problrm solve aspect, and frustating as it may be,there is a satisfaction in solving it.

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Old September 19, 1999, 12:44 PM   #2
Mal H
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Hal, I think this will be an easy problem to fix. I believe the problem lies in your choice of powder and has nothing to do with your technique or equipment. If you stick with Unique, you need to use more of it. In short you need more velocity. With the load you described, you are getting roughly 27000 rpms out of the bullets you are using in the 1:32 Trapper. This is well below the spin required to stabilize the bullet. I personally would try a slower powder like 2400 or H110. You'll get several hundred more fps and therefore more spin and better stabilization. (BTW, be sure to use a good loading manual for the H110 loads if you use it and don't reduce the stated loads below 3%.)
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Old September 19, 1999, 06:07 PM   #3
Hal
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Thanks Mal,
I was thinking of using 2400,maybe 18 grains,behind either a 240 or 233 grain lead SWC. Do you think that is sufficient? I have a pound of 2400 on hand, and have used the above load with success in bot my Smith model 29 and my Virgina Dragoon.

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Old September 19, 1999, 06:29 PM   #4
Mal H
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Yes, I think 18 gr of 2400 will be a good starting point if you are looking for a light load. And it will give you around 200 fps additional velocity. You can work up to a max of 20 gr of 2400 with a 240 gr lead SWC. These should be good in your Trapper and the model 29, but I would think twice (or more) about trying them in the Dragoon. So, in other words, mark your box of reloads well so you don't use them accidently in the wrong gun. If your Dragoon is one of the Hammerli models, it is probably safe, but I don't know enough about the robustness of those revolvers to give you any advice on the ammo to use for them.
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Old September 19, 1999, 06:36 PM   #5
Hal
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Thanks again Mal,
The Dragoon is circa 1975, one of the models imported by Interarms. It is a very robust piece, a bit larger than the Ruger Super Blackhawk. The Smith is pretty much retired, I reserve it for just a few hundred rounds a year. The Trapper however was purchased for a plinking/camping/house gun. I just enjoy shooting it, and wanted a little milder everyday load.
Love them big old holes
Like a 9422, only twice as nice

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Old September 20, 1999, 12:45 AM   #6
Paul B.
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Hal. One thing I noticed is that you did not mention slugging your barrel. If your lead bullet is exactly groove diameter, or maybe a thousandth or two undersize, then you may well experience problems, usually leading. Say you slug your bore, and it comes out to .429 inch. You measure the bullet and it is also .429 inch. This could be a problem. I much prefer a bullet at least 2 thousandth over bore diameter, or in this case, .431 inch, which is what I size my bullets to.
Another thing to look at is bullet hardness. A too soft alloy can give problems too. Have you checked your barrel for leading?
I kind of feel it is bullet size, but it could be a combination of all the above. Just something to look into.
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Old September 21, 1999, 04:45 AM   #7
Hal
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Paul,
I did check for leading and found that there was none. There was however quite a bit of unburned(?) powder. I question the unburned because I can't tell if is just normal Unique crud, or unburned powder. I tried both .429 and .430 cast bullets with the same results. The .429's actully hit close(if you can call a 3 foot diameter closer ) to point of aim than the larger slug. Although I didn't slug the barrel, I did try pushing one of the .429 slugs down the front to see if it would fit. It does have a tight fit, but not as tight as the Dragoon. My first thought was that Winchester had messed up somehow and put the wrong barrel, possibly a 44/40 on the Trapper. I know it is a real , real , real long shot that it could happen, but ya never know. I think the problem is more related to my technique, and less a problem of the gun itself. Factory ammo, which is published as .429, gives excellent results. .44 Specials, which are loaded to a much lower MV also give excellent results, which is a puzzle also with respect to the velocity part.

Using the Dragoon as kind of a control, I fired 3 each of the different loads made with the 9.5 gr unique. One load used a .429 233 gr, and the other a .430 240 gr. I first fired 4 factory 240 gr LSWC for a reference. The 240 factory out of the Dragoon printed 4 inches across at 25 yards, and 8 inches high and to the left. The problem is not the gun/load, but the fact that I haven't shot the Dragoon for a number of years. (The Dragoon is my most accurate handgun, capable of less than an inch at 100 yards, with any ammo. It has done this a number of times in the past.) Anywho, the Dragoon put all 6 of the handloads into a pattern about 3 feet across, but there was no sign of keyholeing.

This leads me to believe that I am not getting a good crimp, the residue and the lack of expansion on the fired case, are clues here. Time permitting this week, which I doubt, I will cook up a batch of 240 gr jacketed loads. The oglive(sp) in the jacketed loads seem to give a more positive crimp in the Lee dies than the lead slugs do.

Interesting situation. Jeeze I love this! I had forgotten how much fun reloading was. Heck of a lot better than 'puter stuff or TV.

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Old September 21, 1999, 11:07 AM   #8
Paul B.
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Hal. I believe the proper bore diameter for 44-40 is .427 inch, but I'm not sure. It's too bad we are not in the same area so I could look things over. I really think you should slug your bore and find out exactly what the size is. If it is in tolerence, then we will have to look at other things. I once had a .243 Winchester that would keyhole at 25 feet regardless of whatever bullet I shot in it. It had a Micro-groove type of rifling, and I never did figure it out. I have a standard length carbine (Model 94) in .45 LC and it shoots lead bullets beautifully.
BTW. Unique does leave a lot of ash in the bore. It can be a pain.
I just re-read your post. I wonder why Winchester put a 1 in 32 inch twist for a rifling rate????? I think the reason factory lead ammo shot OK, is the higher velocity. With a barrel twist that slow, I don't think the bullet will stabilize at a lower velocity. Try working up your load in .5 grain increments and see if a bit higher bullet speed takes care of the problem.
I have a .223 the will put 10 55 gr. bullets into a group the size of a dime, but 60 gr. bullets keyhole regardless of the velocity. it has a 1 in 12 inch twist.
Anyway, try that and see if that does it for you. let me know how it works out.
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Old September 21, 1999, 05:11 PM   #9
Hal
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Paul,
I wondered about the rate of twist myself. When I bought the Trapper last Christmas, I didn't chek the tag until I had it home. I went to a couple of other stores, plus a couple of gun shows afterwards and looked at the .44 Mag Winchesters. Seems that all the .44 Magnum's have the same slow twist. With a lot of Cowboy shooters using the Winchester along with the slow Cowboy loads, it would seem that a lot of them would complain about it. There is nothing but praise for the Winchester in .44 Magnum from that group though.

Plan B. C, D or Z may call for using a .430 round ball and the light charge of Unique, or Accurate #5 in a light charge. A round ball may shoot better out of such a lazy twist than a bullet. Prob woudn't feed though, but the shorter 233 gr don't either, so that isn't a problem.


*Added:
http://www.winchester-guns.com/prodi...d/94trlend.htm It looks like the rate of twist is 1 in 38, even slower that I posted in error. interesting the 44/40 and the .45LC also have a very slow twist.
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[This message has been edited by Hal (edited September 21, 1999).]
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Old September 22, 1999, 02:46 AM   #10
Rod WMG
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Somewhere (Handloader?) I read an article that I think the author mentioned never having seen a really accurate .44 mag rifle/carbine from a certain manufacturer and I think he specifically mentioned Winchester, due to the slow twist. However, whoever it was, Ken Waters? Al Miller?--I just can't remember, didn't get nearly as bad results as are being described here.

I'm no expert, but I'm baffled by such large groups and the tumbling. I am, after having followed this thread for the last several days, beginning to suspect a combination of factors is somehow working together to produce this strange phenom.

I sure hope you get it figured and and tell us about it.
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