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Old September 18, 2014, 04:17 PM   #1
Frank D
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Revolver Shooting High at Seven Yards

Hi guys, I needs your thoughts.
I have a 1917 S&W, Modified to use .44 Special . It also has OLD style N frame rear sight and a relatively high front sight. With the rear sight bottomed-out, it still prints 2 to 2 1/2 inches high at seven yards. I prefer not to make the front sight any higher. Lowering the rear sight might jeopardize the frame
if more metal is removed. Reloads with 200 grain jacketed bullets shows an improvement over 240 grain bullets, but they still print high at 7 yards.
I have considered changing my sight picture (Front sight low in rear sight rather than flush with top of rear sight), but it sure does slow things down with all the extra concentration.
Any thoughts that don't require additional major modification?
Thanks in advance for taking the time to consider.
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Old September 18, 2014, 04:32 PM   #2
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Are you shooting a "reduced load"? In a revolver, a slower bullet gives more time for muzzle rise resulting in a higher POI at close ranges. That's why your 200 gr bullets are printing lower than the 240's. They are leaving the muzzle faster.

If you have enough load capacity left (without maxing out either the cartridge or your gun), you could try bumping up the load to see if it makes a difference.
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Old September 18, 2014, 05:10 PM   #3
Frank D
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My data shows that the load I used should result in about 760 fps with the 200 grain bullet. Do you think that is a "Light Load". I am using Unique powder and should have plenty of room in the case to bump it up a little if you think it might help.
I am of the impression that the weight of the bullet is the direct cause of muzzle climb, rather than the amount of powder. That's why I went to 200 gr. rather than 240 gr. . What do you think?
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Old September 18, 2014, 05:47 PM   #4
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What sight picture are you using, the six o'clock hold or the center of target hold?
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Old September 18, 2014, 06:06 PM   #5
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Barrel time, hence velocity, is the key to your problem. Spice it up a little at a time and you groups should lower. And 760 f.p.s. is on the pipsqueak side. A 200 gr. bullet at around 900 f.p.s. or better should get you on target.

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Old September 18, 2014, 08:34 PM   #6
Frank D
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G.W--At 7 Yards I use the center of a 3/4 inch sticker as an aiming point.
Bob W.--Is your thinking that getting out of the barrel sooner with 900 fps or so will result in less muzzle climb, and therefore a lower point of impact at seven yards?
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Old September 18, 2014, 08:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Is your thinking that getting out of the barrel sooner with 900 fps or so will result in less muzzle climb, and therefore a lower point of impact at seven yards?
Exactly, faster loads shoot lower at close ranges.
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Old September 19, 2014, 09:44 AM   #8
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Higher velocity will help. S&W used to sell different heights of rear sight blades for their adjustable sights, Ruger too. I had to change one out on a S&W and on a Ruger. Check on it.
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Old September 19, 2014, 12:05 PM   #9
g.willikers
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It sounds like your revolver, being old fashioned, might have sights for old fashioned style shooting, using the six o'clock hold.
I have one like that, too, and since I'm cheap and lazy, took the easy way - by using the sight picture it was designed for.
It's kind of a pain to remember to do that, especially when my other handguns purposely all shoot to the center of target.
But it's either that or the rear sight will probably have to be changed.
As you suggested, the front sight can be drooped down, relative to the rear notch.
But, from experience, it can get confusing when shooting something else.
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Old September 19, 2014, 12:17 PM   #10
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So the original 1917 was a fixed sight, 45ACP/45 Auto Rim. You have a modified 1917 that shoots 44 Special (SWEEEEET!!!!) with adjustable rear sight added?

I shoot a six o'clock hold anyway so I'd try that first.

If you think it's one of the old S&W adjustable sights, - does it have a removable blade like the new one? That would be my next try.

Would a newer adjustable sight change out with the older style? My next guess.

Do you have picture? I'd love to see it.
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Old September 19, 2014, 01:27 PM   #11
Bob Wright
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Quote:
Frank D asked: Bob W.--Is your thinking that getting out of the barrel sooner with 900 fps or so will result in less muzzle climb, and therefore a lower point of impact at seven yards?
No, it won't reduce muzzle climb, or jump, but it will get the bullet out of the barrel quicker before the muzzle climbs as high.

Visualize this: When your sights are aligned on target, the barrel is pointed at some angle below the target. The barrel, more or less, scribes an upward arc in recoil. The longer the bullet stays in the barrel, the higher it will impact the target. That is why lighter bullets strike lower with the same powder charge, they leave the barrel quicker.

I had two pet .44 Magnum loads, one a 240 gr. JHP @ 1410 f.p.s., the other a 180 gr. JHP @ 1715 f.p.s. I couldn't discern much difference in muzzle flip, but they sure printed differently, especially as the range increased.

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Old September 19, 2014, 04:47 PM   #12
Frank D
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I didn't mention it before, but I also have a 1917 S & w in the original caliber.
I have been shooting it recently with .45 Auto Rim cases with a plated 200 gr.
bullet using Bullseye powder in a load that should produce about 800 fps. It shoots directly to point of aim at seven yards so I feel that it is the revolver or the load that is in question rather than my technique. I previously lowered the top of the rear sight blade, but that was not a total cure. From your suggestions I think I should increase the velocity to at least 800 fps. and check the results. I have no facility for checking the actual velocity or pressure, so I have to depend on load data charts. I am overly protective of my revolver frames (and my body parts) so I must proceed slowly.
By the way the modification to .44 Special resulted in a 5 inch barrel (rather than 5 1/2 inch as the original). The cylinder was .44 Magnum from a Model 29
shortened to fit the 1917 frame. Hopefully that relieves some of my concerns regarding pressure but I remain cautious.
Thanks again for your input.
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Old September 19, 2014, 08:57 PM   #13
Bob Wright
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A .44 special loaded with a 200 gr. bullet can easily reach velocities of around 1100 ~ 1200 f.p.s. safely. You stated you are using Bullseye powder, you might want to consider a slower burning powder, Unique or SR-4756 can get to higher velocities where Bullseye sort of peaks out.

A favorite of mine in .44 Special has been HS-6 also.

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Old September 20, 2014, 05:37 AM   #14
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Quote:
A .44 special loaded with a 200 gr. bullet can easily reach velocities of around 1100 ~ 1200 f.p.s. safely.
I don't know that I'd push a 95 year old 1917 with a cylinder of unknown origin that hard, but I'll second the slower powder. Unique works wonders in 44 special.
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Old September 20, 2014, 07:01 AM   #15
Frank D
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My first reloads (1980's) were for a 1911 Series 70 Colt in .45ACP and I used Bullseye powder pretty effectively.
For the .44 Special I decided on Unique because of MY concerns for the pressure potential of the faster powders.
I've read a lot about Elmer Keith loading .44 Special to .44 Magnum levels, but I doubt that he was shooting those loads in a 1917 Smith designed to operate at around 17,000 pounds pressure, and even if he was, his would have been 70 odd years newer than mine.
Shooting .44 Specials in a modern .44 Magnum removes a lot of the concerns regarding pressures but most of my revolvers are older models (Like Me) and I prefer to remain cautious.
Currently I have Bullseye, Unique, and Winchester 231 Powders available and due to your suggestions I'm thinking of continuing with Unique with a slight increase in quantity. Several of my load manuals (New and Old) seem to agree that with a 200 gr. jacketed bullet 850fps is about a maximum load.
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Old September 20, 2014, 08:19 AM   #16
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You're right about about Keith. He was using a New Century and a M1926 .44 Special, designed for 15,500 psi ammunition. And how many .401 Specials were made on M1917 revolver frames? And "Pop" Eimer's hot handloads were built on the 1878 Rod Ejector Colt Double Action. Remember some of this early experimentation occurred during the 'Twenties. As the M1917 revolvers were produced into the 'Thirties, your gun might just be a little newer than those tested.

While I certainly appreciate your cautious approach, those old guns were far from delicate.

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Old September 20, 2014, 01:11 PM   #17
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Just out of curiosity, what range is the gun and load on target for?

The simplest answer is just "aim low".

Quote:
I am of the impression that the weight of the bullet is the direct cause of muzzle climb, rather than the amount of powder. That's why I went to 200 gr. rather than 240 gr. . What do you think?
What I think is that the direct cause of muzzle climb is the fact that the gun is held below the line of the bore. In a revolver, it is held a long way below the line of the bore.

Recoil begins the instant the bullet (any weight) begins moving. Because the line of the bore (and the recoil) is above the grip, the gun rotates around the grip, this is muzzle rise. The lower the speed of the bullet, the more recoil raises the muzzle before the bullet exits.

Going to a lighter weight bullet, say a 200gr vs a 240, and keeping the same powder charge increases the speed of the bullet, decreasing the amount of time it spends in the barrel, and so, the amount of muzzle rise, so it prints lower on the target than the heavier bullet.

There are other things that have an effect as well, but the main one is the velocity of the bullet.

7yrd shooting isn't usually bullseye competition, and I do agree that if speed is a factor, having to take a different sight picture than you usually do is a disadvantage. Every gun and ammo combination is only perfectly "on target" for one range with a given sight setting. Shooting longer or shorter means "holding off" the required amount, or changing the sights. There's simply no getting around that.

bumping your load up to the 900fps range might just cure your problem, and should be within the safe limits of your gun, Frankenstein, though it is. The 1917 frame was made for .45ACP service ammo, a 230gr bullet at nominal 830fps+/- from a 5" auto barrel, so I think 900ish fps with a .44 cal 200gr slug isn't going to give you undue stress on the frame.

The biggest issue with fast powders (Bullseye, etc.,) is that you reach peak pressure before you get maximum velocity, compared to slower burning powders. A quick check of some old loading manuals shows 200gr .44 special Bullseye loads maxing out in the 850fps range, while Unique reaches nearly 1000fps before max pressure is reached. (individual component and gun differences will give different velocity figures, so take this as an average, not what you will specifically get from yours)

The other issue with fast powders is the small amount in a big case, and the risk of a double charge not being easily spotted during loading. You can double charge a .44 case with Unique, but its much more obvious if it happens.
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Old September 21, 2014, 06:04 AM   #18
Frank D
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When I arrive at a load that I like for any revolver with adjustable sights, I set the sights to point of aim at 21 to 25 feet on an indoor range. Beyond that distance I use "Kentucky Windage" and adjust my sights in my head, using the point of impact to help judge the amount over/under I need to hold in order to achieve a center point of impact.
I have little or no need for long distance shooting, so I simply stick with what I can see readily. My methods are obviously my own, but seem to work for me. In past I have used the same approach and made five out of six hits on a steel ram using a 6 inch S&W 686 with .38 Special +P at 200 Meters.
With the .44 Special in question I lowered the rear sight to it's limit and was unable to get the point of impact low enough to suit me.
Now, after your suggestions, I plan to load more 200 gr. bullets to a slightly higher velocity to see how that alters the point of impact.
It's just that I prefer to not modify the revolver any further.
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Old September 23, 2014, 12:18 AM   #19
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If you like the load, just aim lower at close range
2" is no big deal if you're not shooting target competition
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Old September 25, 2014, 10:13 AM   #20
Frank D
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UPDATE:
As several of you suggested, I loaded some more 0f the 200 gr. bullets with a slightly heavier charge. Nosler data shows a recommended charge of Unique which results in a velocity of 818 fps with the bullet I am using. My previous load was 760 fps.
I tried some of each load yesterday and found that even though there was not much change in my reaction to the revolver, the point of impact was lower with the heavier charge to a degree that I was able to center on my target sticker at 7 yards. A friend tried a few of each load with similar results.
The increase in the charge of Unique was only .7 gr. , so I still have plenty of room for increase later if it seems necessary at different ranges. Still below what they consider maximum for the powder/bullet combination.
A 1934 publication (Sharpe) shows 847 fps for the same load of Unique using a 200 gr, lead bullet. Not much change in performance in 8o years.
Thanks again for your input.
RESULT: No need for change to revolver or my shooting technique.
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Old September 25, 2014, 01:06 PM   #21
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Old September 25, 2014, 02:34 PM   #22
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higher Velocity = lower hit

Higher velocity can be obtained by a heavier charge or a lighter bullet.

I agree with the others who said you are shooting a very light load. Maybe with the old gun, that is deliberate. You can step it up, or you can also drop to a 180gr bullet.

I've had a couple of fixed sight guns I had to sight in with the ammo, including the .38 snubby I carry.
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Old September 26, 2014, 11:52 AM   #23
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The only real solution to your problem is to have the front sight made a little taller. You shouldn't have to bottom your adjustable rear sight and jockey your loads to get the gun to hit where you want it to.

The load suggestions are good if you have a fixed sight revolver but with a properly set up gun you should have adjustment up or down in your rear sight so you can shoot different bullet weights.

As ar as that goes a different grip that keeps the gun from rolling up in your hand will lower the bullet impact.
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Old September 26, 2014, 04:49 PM   #24
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I agree.
To get a zero with a heavy low velocity bullet, you need a taller front sight.

Look at the recent S&W "Classic" revolvers with round barrels; their front sights are very tall, something disguised by the rib and ramp of the regular post WWII adjustable sight guns.
The post-war adjustable sight itself is taller than the pre-war sight, and both higher than the basic fixed "hog wallow" sight.
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Old September 26, 2014, 05:14 PM   #25
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The M1917 was built for the .45acp 230gr at about 850fps. Not sure whether it was set at 25yd or 50yd point of aim.

Wouldn't that make any M1917 high at 7yds? How high?

While there is a difference between 200gr at 790fps and 230gr at 850fps, is that enough to make a 6" difference as the OP indicates?

From my own experience with .45 caliber rounds a difference of about 100fps doesn't make that much difference at short range.
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