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Old February 10, 2011, 08:02 AM   #1
Magnum Wheel Man
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444 HL ( handload ) for Contender... bullets... balls... shot...

My Contender is ready for test firing... ( I bought a 10" 44 Mag hot shot barrel, & had the chamber reamed for 444 Marlin... the barrel has shallow rifling, & a screw in straight rifled choke tube ) the barrel was then fitted with an under barrel Weaver base, for a tactical light, as well as a custom rear sight base & see thru laser mount, as well as a set of Williams fiber optic sights... the barrel also came ported, & we made a thread protector that allows a small chamber to make the ports more efficient... pictured here...



main purpose of this gun once done, is as my main truck gun... we have alot of skunks & other varmints I don't like seeing in my yard, in my neighborhood, ( I live on a farm ) & seems I always see them heading up my driveway ( 1/4 mile long ) at night, when I'm coming home after dark, lighting them up with the headlights... I've been looking for something best to shoot them with... I had been thinking about a .410 / 45 Colt barrel in 10"... which I do have one in 16" & I like that, but I got a smokin deal on this 44 Mag hot shot barrel... that & buying .410 shells is expensive, & I had been talking about building something to load shot shells in 444 Marlin cases, with my local builder...

the 444 Marlin is a bit too hot for the Contenders, at the hotter loadings, but safe for it at starting loads ( which will still be a handfull out of the 10" barrel ) BTW... we stamped the barrel as "444 HL" to keep any future owner from just stuffing factory 444 Marlin ammo in the gun without questioning it

so here are my 1st 2 loadings that I'm trying ( I don't have any .375 round balls yet... which I'm hoping I can load 3 in a case for a ball load )

my shot load has the 444 Marlin head stamp removed off of Remington brass cases I used Remington 9.5 primers, 13 grains of Hodgdon Lil Gun powder, 2 Balistic Products 1/8" Nitro Cards pressed tightly down to the powder ( used a black powder rifle ram rod to tightly seat the cards ) #5 lead shot, enough to fill the case, just slightly over the case mouth ( aproximately 275 grains of lead shot ) I have a custom flat bullet seater made for my seater die ( Lee ) & I compress the shot enough that a Balistic Products .030" over shot card will sit on the top of the shot, then seat & crimp the overshot card into the case... ( I've never loaded shot shells before, & my 1st 2-3 are shootable... er well maybe )... but I now have everything adjusted where the shells look pretty good... the over shot card stays in well enough with just the crimp, & no glue, that I can invert them in my plastic cartridge boxes ( so far ) with no issues... once all the pieces get here, I'll begin annealing the case mouths to get a little more life out of the cases during reloads, by rotating them in a drill & using a propane torch

tried to get a pic of the knurled case head...



... & of the over shot card...



the bullet loads...

use a Remington Nickel case, Remington 9.5 primer, Hodgdon H322 at 50 grains ( just because I had it handy from loading hotter 45-70 loads ) & a Sierra power jacket 240 grain hollow point ( I'm actually getting some Speer 240 grain deep curl flat points to try as well )
I have not knurled the case heads off the nickel cases... at least yet

basic 444 HL nickel case



it's supposed to be warmer this weekend, so I'll try to sight in the gun, & hope to pattern this shot load...I may try just using one Nitro Card, & adding a couple more shot... as mentioned, this is my 1st attempt at loading a "brass shot shell" so any suggestions or comments are welcome...
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Old February 10, 2011, 10:37 AM   #2
Brian Pfleuger
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Just be ready to see that picture in threads about tacticool guns!
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Old February 10, 2011, 10:40 AM   #3
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it has everything but a Swiss army knife... but should work ideally for shooting skunks in the dark... it is so not my style
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Old February 10, 2011, 10:48 AM   #4
Brian Pfleuger
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I will be interested to hear how "shot" through a rifled barrel works out.
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Old February 10, 2011, 10:58 AM   #5
Magnum Wheel Man
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I have a 16" vent rib 45 Colt / .410 barrel & it patterns nicely with regular 2.5 or 3" .410 shells ( that also has the straight rifling screw in choke tube ) though internal on the .410 barrel that barrel is one of my favorite bunny control tools... the one for the 444 barrel is external ( pictured just below the gun, the thread protector is screwed in, in the picture ) the barrel actually measures just over 8" without the choke tube, & 10" with it screwed in

This 44 hotshot barrel has very shallow rifling compared to my other 44 Mag barrel, coupled with the straight rifled choke tube, I expect normal patterns... but will see what I get from the shorter than normal barrel

BTW... my 1st load of shot equals somewhere between 2.5 & 3" of normal shot charge

BTW #2... the .375" round balls fit precisely in the choke tube, so they should shoot a pretty tight pattern for a short as the barrel actually is
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Old February 10, 2011, 11:04 AM   #6
Brian Pfleuger
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Interesting. I would expect a donut shape.
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Old February 10, 2011, 11:31 AM   #7
Magnum Wheel Man
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that's the purpose of the straightening ( non twist ) rifled choke tubes, they stop the shot from spinning... the .410 / 45 Colt barrel has deeper twist rifling than my 444 yet throws normal smooth bore patterns with the straight ( non twist ) rifled choke tube installed... I never have tried firing that gun without the tube... was always worried I'd bung up the threads, & I never shoot that gun with 45 Colt... perhaps I should have a thread protector made for that barrel, just to shoot a couple patterns with & without the straightening choke tube, to show the difference in the pattern... but I could do the same thing with this 444 barrel, since I already have the thread protector made...
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Old February 10, 2011, 11:42 AM   #8
Brian Pfleuger
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Oh! I saw the "screw in straight rifled choke tube" but I wasn't familiar with the meaning... I read it as "screw in straight, rifled choke tube" rather than "screw-in, straight-rifled choke tube".

Couldn't figured why you'd want one that screwed in crooked anyway!
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Old February 10, 2011, 12:15 PM   #9
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Extremely interesting project. We expect nothing less from you though!

Just out of curiosity though, how did you conclude that the pistol wouldn't be able to handle a factory 444 Marlin round?
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Old February 10, 2011, 12:19 PM   #10
Magnum Wheel Man
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generally accepted pressure data... from the Contender "guys" & my local builders opinion...

starting loads in the manuals should be fine, but the hotter loads would be too hot

( notice Thompson Center doesn't make a 444 Marlin "
Contender" barrel ) but they are available from a couple of aftermarket barrel makers, from what I understand, for lighter handloads only...
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Old February 10, 2011, 03:39 PM   #11
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Makes sense. Besides, I wouldn't relish touching off a full-power .444 in a fairly light handgun.
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Old February 10, 2011, 03:54 PM   #12
Brian Pfleuger
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That's an interesting bit about the pressure... is the Contender generally accepted to be less able to handle hot loads than is the Encore? I'm curious because a full load in .444Marlin is only 51,000psi and about 2,400 ft/lbs.... not much different than my 15" Encore Pro Hunter 7mm-08, which is about 2,000ft/lbs and 60,000psi.
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Old February 10, 2011, 04:02 PM   #13
Magnum Wheel Man
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yes, the Contender is substancially weaker than the encore... I'm not totally up on the pressures etc. but I think the 375 Winchester is the highest pressure cartridge that TC ever made a barrel for ( of course we are also dealing with breach pressure, & the case head diameter has something to do with that as well )
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Old February 10, 2011, 04:24 PM   #14
Brian Pfleuger
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Well, that's my something new I learned today... that, and the bit about a straight rifled choke.
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Old February 10, 2011, 09:44 PM   #15
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would like to know how it went i have an encore 44 that was reamed to 444 but its a rifle and it shoots vary good drives nails at 100 yards

as far as the contender i think i would be fine with the full loads but like was said i wouldent want to be hanging onto it when it was shoot first
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Old February 11, 2011, 12:20 AM   #16
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You might try a 410 plastic wad ,shot cup, with a cardboard wad on top.Works even through a rifled barrel at about 15 yds.
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Old February 11, 2011, 08:09 AM   #17
Magnum Wheel Man
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thanks for the comments guys I'll be taking home some really big cardboard sheets this weekend, & hope to pattern my 1st loads ( as well as get it sighted in for the 444 bullet loads )... could possibly post pattern pics by Monday... I could shoot the gun both with, & without the straight rifled choke tube, since I have the thread protector made for this gun... I know I'm curious how much difference it makes

I'm actually wondering how far off the sights would be between the shot shells ( which will most likely recoil substancially less ) & the 444 loads...

I suppose I could dial in the fiber optic sights for the 444 & the laser ( since that is most likely my skunk sights ) for the shot shells... if I'm close enough, I might have enough overlap between the 2 sighting systems, that I can still get hits with the shot shells using the fiber optics, for the occasional daylight use ???? ( though, because I work during the day time, & early I most often see this type of varmints heading down the driveway at 5:00 in the morning ( still often dark ) or at night...

BTW... got my .375" round ball molds yesterday... so the 000 buck loads are a couple weeks out... ( I'm hoping there is room for 3 of them in the 444 case )
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Old February 13, 2011, 12:31 PM   #18
Magnum Wheel Man
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The secret is in that straight rifled choke tube...

so I shot the gun this weekend, we finally had some warmer weather...

I had 6-7 nice tight consistant shot shells loaded with my 1st reciepe... just for giggles, I fired the 1st round with the thread protector in, instead of the choke tube... from 25 ft, the pattern measured 33" ... no doughnut pattern, but definately a "loose" pattern...

then added the choke tube, & cut the pattern size down to 12" or less at the same 25ft... ( I'm impressed )

I had one earlier in the process, loaded shell that only had one nitro card & a bit more shot, & that one opened to 14" with still a nice tight pattern... I'll load up another 10 with the single nitro card & as compact as my last shells were, & make sure those are consistant, but I was shooting at about a 48" box made from a big sheet of corrigated, & the #5 shot was shooting through the back side, so I think I'm happy with the velocity, though yet unknown, with 13 grains of Lil Gun

... as mentioned, the barrel had more shallow rifling than my other 44 mag barrel, that may help prevent or reduce the "dough nut" effect, but if the Judges shoot such a loose patter at 25 ft as this barrel does with only the thread protector, I'm glad I decided to go this route instead...

the pattern from 25'...

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Old September 3, 2012, 08:52 PM   #19
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This is indeed a very interesting concept! I will try with my 444. I wonder if the shot cup does any better?
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Old September 4, 2012, 12:36 AM   #20
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Quote:
This is indeed a very interesting concept! I will try with my 444. I wonder if the shot cup does any better?
Even with Micro-groove rifling, a plastic shot cup will make things worse. It will turn the 'donut' pattern into an 'inner tube' pattern.

You're better off with nitro cards, fiber wads, and over-shot cards. But, it still isn't good for much beyond about 15-20 feet. The velocity is just too high, and the shot has too much time to rotate while traveling down a rifle barrel.
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Old September 4, 2012, 12:52 AM   #21
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I don't like shooting my 10 inch contender in 44 mag at all. With anything hotter than a 44 Special and it blows the front handguard off. .

It has the screw in choke also but I took it off to shoot hand gun loads.

I watched a man shoot a 45-70 in a Contender. He asked if I wanted to shoot it. NO THANKS.

BTW: I am not a little guy.
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