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Old October 23, 2012, 06:28 PM   #1
Sam1957
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44 Special heavy loads

I have been loading 44 specials to use in my 44 magnum and wanted to ask what may be a stupid question before I proceed. I do most of my own research enjoying the detective work involved when trying to establish a working load; but I haven't been able to find a specific reference to my question.

When you load a 44 special casing and increasing the load beyond recommendations due to it being fired in a 44 magnum revolver; is there a threshold that will limit how far you can go with the load due to the size of the case? For instance, 5.2 grains of 231 is my typical target load, the case itself can hold much more; and a magnum load is 9 grains but in a bigger case. Will the confined area of the smaller case combined with the extra powder create more pressure than a standard magnum load and be a risk to the shooter and the gun?

Hope I was clear enough; thinking it in your head and getting it down coherently sometimes can be a challange.

Any insight would be gratefully appreciated.

Sam
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Old October 23, 2012, 06:48 PM   #2
FrankenMauser
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Putting a "magnum" level powder charge in a cartridge loaded to .44 Special OAL will increase pressures beyond "magnum" level pressures. It's definitely not a safe practice to jump to those powder charges, or anything close to them.

However, with certain bullets, you can load to .44 Mag OAL in .44 Special brass. So, you can also (generally) get away with working up to full "magnum" level powder charges.

You can also simply load hotter in .44 Special cases at .44 Special OAL. You're likely to see pressure signs before you reach powder charges close to those in .44 Mag cases, and need to keep a close eye on the loads.

The easiest solution is, or course, to just buy some .44 Mag brass.


I don't seem to be communicating very clearly today, so let me try a different way:
.44 Mag loads in .44 Special cases, at .44 Special OAL = Higher pressure, possible bad day.
.44 Mag loads in .44 Special cases, at .44 Mag OAL = Generally acceptable to work up to, normal pressures.
.44 Mag loads in .44 Mag cases = the better choice, and nothing out of the ordinary to worry about.
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:07 PM   #3
Sam1957
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That was very clear Frank, thank you. I assumed as much but I wasn't quite sure. Im going to play with OAL and lighter bullet weights and see what happenes with the fps readings. I will keep an eye on the spent brass for overpressure and work up to within 25% of magnum loads just to see what I get.

I need a life ....
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:11 PM   #4
valleyforge.1777
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I have the same question about loading 38 special brass to higher-than-38+P levels, to be fired exclusively in a 357/38 lever rifle. I know I can buy 357 Mag cases, but I've got way too many pounds and pounds of 38 Special cases in buckets down in the basement to just let them sit there forever waiting for the earth to come up and reclaim the metals through the basement floor. But, I want something more powerful than just 38 Special or 38+P to shoot out of my 357 lever rifle.

Actually, what I specifically want is to have the rifle scope sighted in at 100 yards with standard 357 Magnums, and not have to adjust the scope at all to have it sighted in at 50 yards with my "extra hot 38's". I was planning to start working upwards from the 38 upper end loads, work through the 38+P loads, and keep going upwards in powder charge towards magnum load levels as I check for pressure signs and point of impact at 50 yards. I can stop when I get the point of aim=point of impact at 50 with my hot 38's and still the scope is sighted point of aim=point of impact at 100 with the 357's. Bottom line is this: Are pressure signs reliable enough to tell me when I better stop? Anyway, if I can make this work, my next project will be to replicate this with 44 Specials, loaded hot to be point of aim=point of impact at 50 yards with a 44 Mag/44 Spcl lever rifle with the scope sighted in point of aim=point of impact at 100 yards with standard 44 Mag loads.

By the way, please spare me the diatribes about how awful it is to have a scope on a lever rifle. I know, I know, but I can't see the target without the scope, so leave me alone, kindly, about the scope...
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:12 PM   #5
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I have been reloading the 44 Mag as well as the 44 Special for 40 years. IMHO, you can use 44mag cases to develop a wide range of loads from the very mild to the very maximum, thus I would stick with the magnum cases.

On the other hand, If you happen to have a supply of 44 Spl cases on hand to fire out of your Magnum and no 44Spl handgun, then I fully concur with Franks last 3 lines.
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:14 PM   #6
GeauxTide
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Bad Idea

My loads, with the same 240gr RemSP, Rem Cases, CCI300, and 2400 powder:

44 Special - 17gr. in a Ruger 44 Special Bisley
44 Magnum - 21gr. in a Ruger 44 SBH

As FrankenM correctly stated, loading Special cases with magnum loads is asking for big trouble.
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:27 PM   #7
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IMHO, high pressure REloading the 38Spl is not a good idea. Yes, I have developed some hot loads in my younger years, but I fired them out of a 357. In owning a 357 and I wanted superior speed and energy transmission, I would load the revolver with 357 ammo and use the 38s for something else.

Also my experience with reloading 38 Spl +P has taught me 2 things:
Heavy crimping is paramount and case life is nil.
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Old October 23, 2012, 09:14 PM   #8
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It would seem to me that loading .44 Spl. cases with warm loads to shoot in a .44 Magnum has no apparent benefit over using .44 Magnum brass to begin with. Many of us have done so for years.
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Old October 23, 2012, 09:23 PM   #9
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I agree with post # 8.
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Old October 23, 2012, 09:43 PM   #10
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Take a look a the SAAMI drawings for .44 Magnum and .44 Special. The COL's are the same (well, 0.005" longer for the Special, but that doesn't amount to a hill of beans). Because the COL's are essentially the same, if you seat the same bullet to those same maximum COL's you get essentially the same powder space and pressure levels. The only issue with this is you need two differently placed crimp grooves or cannelures to let you seat to the same COL in both kinds of cases. Some bullets have these.

Note that there are also some revolvers with longer cylinders that let you seat the magnum bullets out further. I'm not counting that kind of .44 Mag load here.

Also, keep in mind that the .44 Magnum was developed by Elmer Keith overloading .44 Special cases in heavy frame revolvers. The reason the Magnum case was made longer than the Special case was not originally to increase powder capacity, but to prevent the higher pressure load from being chambered in a lighter frame .44 Special that can't take the pressure.
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Old October 24, 2012, 04:38 AM   #11
Mike / Tx
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Can either the 38 or 44 Spl be loaded hot, yes they can. But the better answer is to use 357 or 44 Mag brass and load them to lighter charges rather than the other way round.

If as mentioned I had pounds and pounds of one caliber brass and wanted to shoot the higher pressure loads I would swap out a few pounds of those cases for the proper ones to be loaded to higher pressure.

Also for the 44, I would look at purchasing a hundred new cases specifically for the higher pressure loads. Then there would be no doubt about it if on down the road years later you or someone you leave it all too, decides to drop a few into something which isn't up to the pressure level these might develop. At least if you have the "mag" loads in "mag" cases the mystery loads might not be such a surprise years down the road should some of them get mixed in with standard loads.

just sayin.
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Old October 24, 2012, 05:48 AM   #12
valleyforge.1777
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I am the guy who has many pounds of 38 Special cases. Where/how does one "swap" them out for 357 cases? I don't think that happens by magic or without cost. So, if I have all these 38 Special cases, and I'm going to be firing the rounds in a 357-chambered firearm, I am going to try to load the 38 cases hotter and go slowly, step by step increases in powder/pressure and see how it goes.

I am not leaving my ammo and supplies to anyone. They are for me to shoot in my lifetime. And, my reloaded ammo is carefully and descriptively labeled. If someone who can not read plainly written English gets ahold of my ammo and shoots it in firearms that can not handle the pressure, I can't help them or worry about that. I certainly would not let that be a fear that prevents ME from doing what I want to do for ME in my life. If it is dangerous for ME, that is different. But dangerous for some un-named, un-determined person down the road of decades or centuries who can not read English? Nah, I am not wasting a minute worrying about that person.
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Old October 24, 2012, 06:41 AM   #13
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Quote:
Actually, what I specifically want is to have the rifle scope sighted in at 100 yards with standard 357 Magnums, and not have to adjust the scope at all to have it sighted in at 50 yards with my "extra hot 38's". I was planning to start working upwards from the 38 upper end loads, work through the 38+P loads, and keep going upwards in powder charge towards magnum load levels as I check for pressure signs and point of impact at 50 yards. I can stop when I get the point of aim=point of impact at 50 with my hot 38's and still the scope is sighted point of aim=point of impact at 100 with the 357's.
Bullet drop is mostly dependent on velocity at short ranges. Your objective sounds reasonable (not having tried it myself), but you may want to use bullets at the light end of the spectrum for .38 special vs. the heavy end for .357. In other words, I wouldn't try this using 158 grain bullets for each, but you might be able to get comparable POIs using "slower" 158 grain .357s and inherently "faster" 110 or 125 grain .38 specials. Don't get too crazy with, a 1" drop difference isn't much to worry about at 50 yards, and all it takes to compensate is a simple scope adjustment, which should be fairly consistent.
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Old October 24, 2012, 07:57 AM   #14
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Using QuickLOAD

it is pretty easy to calculate a maximum load that will give the same pressure in a Special case that you would get in a Magnum case.

I would use that method instead of "pressure signs" to develop my maximum charge weights for the Special cases, because it is a lot safer.

To do the calcs for you, we would need:
1. the bullet that you intend to use, particularly its length as well as its weight.
2. the COL that you intend to use for the Special loads
3. the load data you are using, including:
a. the bullet, particularly its length
(weight should be the same as the bullet you are actually using)
b. the COL for the data
c. the powder name
d. the maximum charge weight

The powder name and charge weight are not really needed to get an approximate ratio of maximum powder charges for the same bullet in the two cases. But, it provides a way to check that the loads are reasonable.

As for using this information to load above Special levels, I do have some worries about those loads eventually finding their way into guns that can't handle the pressure. Although you may INTEND to shoot them before you die (or buy a weaker gun), none of us really knows the future. A car or other type accident can make you leave this world at any moment with a lot of unfinished business.

So, at least please MARK any loads that are over-pressure for their case headstamps as being unsafe to shoot in the guns indicated by the headstamp.

Also, I do understand why someone would want to use .38 Special cases when (s)he has a .357 Magnum revolver, because there are plenty of .38 Special cases available for free a most ranges, while .357 Magnum cases are much less easy to come-by as freebies. But, my experience has been that .44 Special cases are even rarer finds than .44 Magnum cases, so I wonder why one would want to use .44 Special cases for higher level loads.

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Old October 24, 2012, 08:21 AM   #15
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Skeeter Skelton mentioned that he had worked up a favorite load for his .357 revolvers using .38 special brass and crimping in the lower grease groove, though I don't remember the details of the load. I think he also cast his own bullets.

He likewise mentioned that he quit hot-loading the .44 special when the .44 magnum came out. But I have to admit having done so when I owned my two S&W model 624s. But a hot load in a .44 special, at least in an N-frame, is milder than a factory .44 magnum load in a .44 magnum model 29. I don't recall what the primers looked like. You may also remember Keith blowing up one or two revolvers but at the same time, I don't think he did anywhere as much shooting as some people here report doing.

Concerning case life, however, I must have been doing a lot of shooting in those days because the attrition rate of the .38 special cases was something on the order of about two or three percent, maybe more, meaning out of a hundred cases, I'd be throwing out two or three out because they had split. I don't recall that any other cases ever became unusable but it was probably more of a reflelction of what I was shooting the most.
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Old October 24, 2012, 09:24 AM   #16
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Quote:
The reason the Magnum case was made longer than the Special case was not originally to increase powder capacity, but to prevent the higher pressure load from being chambered in a lighter frame .44 Special that can't take the pressure.
This is a very good reason not do such. You may have control of the rounds, but if you should die and your wife give your stuff away, hot loaded(too hot for some .44 Spl. like a Taurus Bull dog), .44 Specials could find their way to a shooter who could wreck his gun/self. As long as there are Magnum cases readily available, there is not real good reason to hot load .44 Special cases to be fired in a .44 Magnum gun.
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Old October 24, 2012, 10:27 AM   #17
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I have used S. Skelton's .38 load for a lot of years. Currently I only use the original powder charge with 358156 HP, I drop down .5 grain with the solid version, and with Elmer's 358429 I cut it by a grain or a grain and a half. Interestingly that a .38+p load I have tried with the 358429 does not get close to the accuracy of my high octane loads. I have shot these loads in my model 28 smith, after calling S&W I have shot many thru my model 60 and even a few thru a mid fifties Colt Marshal. I've stopped abusing the Colt and the M-60 as well as my lower thumb knuckle.

My .44 spec. Keith load will only be carried when I'm fishing in bear country. I have a new model 21 Smith and a Ruger flat top and am much happier shooting casually in the 700 to 850 fps range. I loaded up a bunch of 180 grain commercial cast for my Mountain Lite Smith.

This is for iformantion only, I don't know that I have ever owned any .357 brass and haven't owned a .44 magnum since 1977. I still have the flinch.
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Old October 24, 2012, 11:35 AM   #18
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I don't hot load for any of my .44 Specials...Rugers or S&W's...that said, if you're inclined to "improve" on any of the factory offerings in .44 Special or any other caliber, for that matter, you might read up on Ken Water's method of load development; rifle or hand gun.

In a nut shell, he fired factory rounds in the gun that he was working on. Fired factory cases were then measured with an accurate micrometer, the measurement taken just above the case canelure, where the case wall begins to thin. Fired rounds nearly all show some expansion there and Mr. Waters noted the amount...numbering his brass as he did so, so that subsequent firings could be compared with the factory original readings. Meticulous work to be sure.

He applied an arbitrary add'l amount of expansion, to the original factory figure, and then worked up to that number with his loading. The amount of add'l expansion allowed was in part determined by the gun involved. For instance, he had separate numbers for the various generation Colt SAA's. (Black powder, Gen 2, and Gen 3)

Using this method, he compared various component combinations for accuracy and velocity potential, and had the original factory readings for comparison. It's important to note that individual brass cases (even from the same lot of cartridges), mad differ widely from the overall average. As a rule, he didn't go much beyond factory expansion plus 0.0005....that's 5/10,000 of an inch of add'l expansion...though there were some exceptions to that number...

Mr. Waters' book; "Pet Loads" is a wealth of information on a vast number of calibers and the guns that used them. His explanation for the "add'l expansion" method, as an indicator of comparative pressures, is worth reading...especially for those who feel the urge to improve on the ammunition companies' efforts.

Too, it's important to remember that many of the powders and primers that he used have changed over the years, as factories have changed hands. Powders like 2400, Unique, and Winchester 231 and HP38 come to mind. Over my chronograph, 2400 burns hotter now than it did 10+ years ago...read higher pressure and I've reduced some of my load accordingly. Unique too, seems hotter. Conversely, Winchester 231 and HP38 are slower now than when I first started using them. At any rate, it pays to be careful, and critical of any data you use...old or new!

I'd recommend "Pet Loads" to any aspiring reloader...Mr. Waters was a good writer, and a great read. He had no bone to pick nor urge to white wash a particular gun to satisfy a gun magazine editor. I've enjoyed reading him since the 70's.

I've no bone to pick with any poster who hot loads...just offering this bit of information for the use of all....Best Regards, Rod

BTW: dahermit's got some good thoughts in his post #16, several above this one...Good practice is to always mark any reloads with the important data: Mine all list the caliber, date loaded, bullet make, powder and charge, primer make, and seating depth. On some I also list the number of times the brass has been loaded...in the event of a case neck split, the entire box of empty brass is then discarded...flattened and discarded! Rod
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Old October 24, 2012, 01:45 PM   #19
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I just loaded some 44 spls 200 gr JHP a little warm, I call them +p. Will let you know how they work out.
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Old October 24, 2012, 07:11 PM   #20
Sam1957
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The wealth of knowledge is impressive and your input is valued and appreciated. I have read them all and have done some reflecting on what I want out of the load.

With that said I worked up several loads using 240g lswc and stepping 231 powder to 6, 6.5 and 7 grains. staying about 20% below mag loads for the powder. As soon as I get a moment I will head over to the range to get some accuracy and chrono readings. My objective was seeing if I could safely cross the 1000 fps barrier with a 240g bullet in a 44 special load using components on hand. I will post results when I get the range results.

Thanks rodpac for the suggestion on reading Ken Waters. I will find a copy and do that.
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Old October 24, 2012, 08:45 PM   #21
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Sam...since you mentioned your loads...I'll share that 6.5 gr of either Winchester 231 or HP38 (the same powder with a different label), will give me 1.25" gps in any of my .44's, (four Specials and two Magnums)...and my sons have a cpl more. It's a great load...with Missouri 430" 240 gr LSWC's, Starline brass and Winchester Lg Pistol Primers, my chrono shows an average of 950 fps for five shots, and 7.0 gr's gave me 996 fps but groups opened to a whopping 1.5" at 25 yds.

The above loads, all used .44 Spl brass by Starline with Winchester caps. Accuracy of the shorter Special cartridges in my Ruger and S&W .44 Magnums is as good as my loads tuned in .44 Mag. brass. Scrubbing out the powder, bullet lube, and slight lead flash from the longer chambers is a short exercise with a bronze brush and Hoppe's #9 or Ed's Red.

Winchester 231 or its equivalent, HP38, are good powders for most any revolver cartridge in my experience...try it in a .41 Magnum...same charge, 6.5 grains! And in .45 ACP, 5.3 gr's with a 200 gr LTWC is my standard load for all work except CCW, where I use factory JHP's. I use it in .38 Special and .357 Magnum for mid range loads with lead alloy or jacketed bullets.

BTW, Waters' "Pet Loads" is so good as a reloading manual, I'd recommend it as one of the two best I've ever used. NRA's "Handloading" is the other...both need to have a modern currently published manual as a back up for some of the older data.

As in all reloading data, these loads are safe in my guns...you should work up to them checking for pressure signs.

Here's a pic with my then new Ruger Flat Top in .44 Spl, target shot sitting at 25 yds...guess what load...yep...6.5 gr of Winchester 231 and one of my own cast bullets...Lyman's 429215 GC at 220 grs.

HTHs Rod

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Old October 25, 2012, 07:07 AM   #22
Sam1957
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Nice shooting Rod! Just found Pet Loads on Amazon and was able to order it using my Amex points! Interesting that you cast your own too. Always wanted to try that but barely have enough time to reload as it is. Maybe when I sell my business and retire ...
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Old October 25, 2012, 10:07 AM   #23
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Sounds like your question has been answered....

For me I load .44Spec with loads that most (not all) .44Specs can handle. If I load for .44Mag, I use the .44Mag case...
Now for .44Spec, The o' Skeeter load is my go to load ... 7.5g of Unique/Universal under 240g SWC (1033fps) . The Keith load (a 'hot' .44Spec load) is 17.0g of 2400 under 240g (1246fps) bullet which I've shot out of my .44Spec flattops, but not a steady diet of it.... That is as hot as I go with the .44Spec. Now, for the .44Mag my goto load is 10g of Unique under 240g SWC (1136fps). And 19g of 2400 under 240g SWC (1265fps) for my light magnum load. I prefer not to shoot 'real' magnum loads but that is just me! BTW, I have ran the W231 .44Spec loads (6.0g and 7.0g) mentioned above is a good ones too (obviously ) . Lots of choices really as I haven't found to many loads the .44Spec or .44Mag doesn't like.
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