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Old October 13, 2014, 08:40 AM   #1
sawdustdad
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.44 Mag loads - high pressure?

Hoping some of you guys can help me assess these loads. I'm back into the sport after a 25 year hiatus, and trying to assess some range results. As I previously noticed with my 30-06 loads, current tables show max loads several grains less than the old tables (mid-80s) showed. This is the case with my .44 mag. The ammo I loaded 25 years ago (using W296 or Hercules (at the time) 2400 are about 2 grains over the max loads listed in current reloading manuals.

I've been firing some of the ammo in my Ruger Super Blackhawk (new model) Bisley. (I've had this gun for nearly 30 years.)

Knowing more now than I did then, I wonder about the possible indications of high pressure based on these pictures of the primers. Would be interested in your thoughts. I think these primers have been flattened some, but I'm not sure how much. What do you think?

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Last edited by sawdustdad; October 13, 2014 at 08:58 AM.
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Old October 13, 2014, 08:57 AM   #2
madmo44mag
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Been loading 44 mag way past published specs for years and shooting from a Ruger SBH and RH
They primers look ok IMHO.
I still load to the old published data for 2400
My old Speer book shows 22.1 grain max load with mag primer using a 240 JHP or JRN bullet.
The mag primer is a non issue.
I get just as good ignition with a std primer vs a mag.
That said be safe and watch any old 44 mag brass for pressure signs.
As the primer pocket wears max loads will start to pushing the primers back due to the wear in the primer pocket.
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Old October 13, 2014, 09:09 AM   #3
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I agree with above. I don't see any pressure signs. Those primers look about perfect to me.
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Old October 13, 2014, 09:09 AM   #4
buck460XVR
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Even tho those primer look fine, reading primers for a sign of over-pressure in straight-walled revolver ammo is an example of futility.
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Old October 13, 2014, 09:19 AM   #5
madmo44mag
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Quote:
Even tho those primer look fine, reading primers for a sign of over-pressure in straight-walled revolver ammo is an example of futility.
Not true.
It is harder to see pressure signs on revolver rounds but if a true over pressure occurs there are signs.
The edges of the primer will no longer be uniform and under magnification the pressure ridge can be seen.
If the psi is high enough this can be see with the naked eye and there will be a double pressure ridge.
One around the firing pin punch mark and one on the outer edge of the primer.
I've loaded 44mag so hot it pushed the primers out and locked the cyl up.
There will be signs.
The worst sign is the top strap is blown apart and the cyl blown out.
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Old October 13, 2014, 09:38 AM   #6
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Looks good to me. I too still load from 80's data, and compare it to today's. I have the same deer loads today as then. Why mess up a good thing? Actually back then I pushed 296 higher than published loads (26.5gr w/240gr) since I had a Redhawk, and saw no signs of overpressure. I think the 24.0gr load I eventually settled on is still above today's published levels. I honestly, I don't think its possible to overload 296 in Ruger. PMC factory loads were hotter than mine back then. They had extraction problems.
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Old October 13, 2014, 09:54 AM   #7
buck460XVR
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Blown primers are a sign of extreme overpressure. If reading primers was such an exact science, you should have never gotten that far. The cratered primers that appear before blown primers when working up a load should have given a hint. Reading primers in revolvers is futile because flattening is so gun and component specific. It also is so dependent on primer type and cup harness that for someone to look a a picture on a internet gun forum and claim a load is safe or not only by primer appearance is shear foolishness. Sticky extraction can also be a sign of overpressure, but like flattened primers, not a sure thing.
Without a pressure monitoring device, the best way to keep within safe load parameters is with a chronograph and following the recipes given in your published manuals. Recommending anything else is easy when it's someone else's gun and/or fingers.
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Old October 13, 2014, 10:02 AM   #8
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High pressure- 44 mag primers will start to flow into the firing pin hole. You may see a 2nd firing pin strike from hammer bounce. Brass will be hard to extract from the chambers. Your primers look OK to me.
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Old October 13, 2014, 10:45 AM   #9
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Thanks for the feedback. I'll keep shooting this ammo, but I guess I've gotten wiser or wimpier as I've gotten older. My next reloads will be less "energetic" than these.
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Old October 13, 2014, 11:45 AM   #10
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Quote:
Thanks for the feedback. I'll keep shooting this ammo, but I guess I've gotten wiser or wimpier as I've gotten older. My next reloads will be less "energetic" than these.
I hear ya there brother.
When I was young and crazy I loaded 44mag to the point of blowing a couple up. Just plain stupid and crazy in those days.
I even had a cyl that was honed so the brass could be ejected because it swelled so much.
I swear by Ruger revolvers now; none tougher!!!!
Now I shoot on the low end of the 44mag scale.
19.5 gr of 2400 with a 240gr JRN
But I also like to shoot hot 44 spl in a snub noise for fun.
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Old October 13, 2014, 11:56 AM   #11
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Those primers look normal to me. I see no signs of over pressure based on the primers.

Our stories are similar sawdustdad. Used to load/shoot a lot back in the mid-80's, then life got in the way of shooting a lot for a couple decades; and now I'm back in it.

For my 44 Mag, I used to load 24.7g W296 with a 240g JHP. 24.7g was the published max for Speer #10. The published max in Speer #14 is 24.0g. I don't know if W296 has changed, or their pressure testing techniques are more sensitive, or if their lawyers stepped in.

I suppose it doesn't matter because I've since reduced the recipe to 22.7g anyway. I'm not the recoil junkie I used to be. I've also decided to reduce wear n tear on my guns these days. I've backed down quite a few of my load recipes for this reason.
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Old October 13, 2014, 12:15 PM   #12
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I'm with Buck460 if I'm reading his main message as "reading primers is futile enough, reading them from pictures on the internet is approaching ludicrous." Obviously, not a direct quote, but it sums up my stance on it.

There are other relevant bits to add...

With regard to old published data:
Rules were the same for building those loads 30 years ago... which is to say, you didn't point to it in a manual and roll that sucker. You looked at that load (and you looked at OTHERS!) to get an idea of where it stood and then you took the maximum load and you reduced that load and you built some rounds and tested them toward your goal. If you did that back then with that old powder, those old bullets and the supply of old primers you had and you tested them in that same gun then you should be good to go.

What has changed in 30 years?
Well, the biggest thing that changed is most of the folks who produce published sources of load data have poured money and time in to their labs and equipment and they run a far more advanced operation today than they did in the past. That's not to say that the data they published 30 (or more) years ago was BAD data or unsafe data, but the truth is that today -- they know a lot more about what they are publishing. And while every swinging pea-shooter has a stinking macro key with the word LAWYER!!!! primed and ready, we really have no evidence that lawyers, liability and high-dollar lawsuits have anything to do with it. The simple answer is typically the correct one and they have used their equipment, skill and fantastic lab environment to form a simple risk/reward analysis and produce published load data that will serve folks well without making it any easier for morons to hurt themselves.

What else has changed in 30 years?
Well, the powder you're buying now is most likely different. A little, a lot? Can't tell you. But if you think it's the same stuff you have in that dusty metal can, think again. Your primers are different also. Depending on the slugs you've chosen... well, you get the idea. When you change things, different results follow. Here's another relevant bit: W296 and H110 were NOT the same powder when those loads were rolled, and today those two are the same exact powder. Now try and deny that something has changed?

To the topic...
Reading primers is futile and in many cases, it's irrationally futile and trying to come to solid conclusions from a visual on a fired primer is chasing a dead-end, unproductive road.
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Old October 13, 2014, 02:24 PM   #13
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The OP did not state what load he is using. I am using 22.7 grains of 296 with my own 240 grain hard cast and gas checked bullet from a Lee mold for deer hunting. I loaded this for my Ivar Johnson Cattleman with 18 inch barrel more then 20 years ago and it was fine but now I am seeing signs of over pressure. The primers look fine but I am splitting cases say one out of five but I have some cases that could be approaching 50 years old and who knows how many times they have been reloaded.

I too use a Speer volume 10 so I plan on using what I have and tossing the split cases and then purchasing some new brass to replace the split cases and I will be fine.
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Old October 13, 2014, 03:43 PM   #14
sawdustdad
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24g of 296, magnum primer, 240g JHP. That's the load for the casings I provided the picture of. The other load I have in my inventory is 22.7g of 2400, same primer and bullet. Probably have 300 rounds of the two loads in my 25 year old stockpile.

Those loads were (at the time) work ups from reduced loads and were the most accurate loads for that same gun. I was hoping to shoot pistol silhouette with that gun at the time. (never did competitively as it turns out)

I guess my original question was "second guessing" my decisions of 25 years ago to load those rounds, based on the latest load data, tempered by the fact that the two manuals I have from that time period, Hornady and Speer, both show the loads as max or below.

I get a lot of attention at the indoor range I belong to (Colonial Shooting Academy in Richmond VA--VERY nice range BTW) when firing the SBH.

Again, thanks for the comments. I understand the limitations of looking at the primers, but it's been so long since I shot this gun, I guess I was a little surprised at the recoil--it didn't seem as bad when I was 35 I guess...and the primers looked flattened to me.

Was just at the range at lunch time and put another 50 rounds downrange with it. A lot of commotion to punch holes in paper...

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Old October 13, 2014, 05:30 PM   #15
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I decided to take my 44 Mag (S&W 629 8-3/8" Safe Queen from 1984) out for a shoot today. Due in part, because of this thread; plus, I just get the itch every now and then.

Here's what my primers look like. The loading is 25.5g W296 under a Sierra 210g JHC (#8620); CCI 350. The recipe is in compliance with Sierra #5. Chronographs at 1503fps through my long barrel. I shot the last of the batch today (had a blister beginning after only 36 rounds; I'm getting old lol). Next batch will be at least a grain less powder.

[IMG][/IMG]
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Old October 13, 2014, 08:02 PM   #16
sawdustdad
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Nick, your primers look slightly flatter than mine. But not that different.

My Ruger super blackhawk's trigger guard tends to hit my right middle finger's knuckle during recoil. After 50 rounds, when I got back in the office, my right hand felt a little rubbery trying to write with a pen on a notepad. Settled out after a couple hours, but a funny feeling, no less.

I have to dig up my shooting glove--it has a pad for the palm. Haven't used it in over 25 years.

Carry on.
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Old October 13, 2014, 09:27 PM   #17
Nick_C_S
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Quote:
your primers look slightly flatter than mine.
And they look flatter in real life than they do the pic.

Quote:
trigger guard tends to hit my right middle finger's knuckle during recoil.
For me, it's the trigger finger itself - between the first n second knuckle.

I find it interesting how we seemed to have walked similar paths
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Old October 14, 2014, 07:28 AM   #18
sawdustdad
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Nick, like you said, life gets in the way. Probably the main reason I got less involved in shooting was the purchase of a large boat in 1992. Been spending most of my time and $$ on boats for the past 25 years. As you might guess from my "handle" my first love is woodworking, and I am still deep into that hobby--build reproductions of classic early American furniture. I still spend a lot of time down at the river with the boat. A couple years from retirement, so getting things lined up for that...just a tinkerer at heart I guess.
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Old October 15, 2014, 06:03 AM   #19
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You can tell from my posts that I do not like wimpy loads for any thing. When you grab your gun for SD thinking .......did I change out those plinking loads for my SD loads can get you into trouble fast. I have loaded soft loads but only for new shooters just starting and quickly I worked them up to full power loads so that they could be used to the normal recoil of your weapon.

As long as the loads are safe for you gun the answer is simply to shoot more so you are used to it not to reduce the load but then I also bear hunt with a handgun.....
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Old October 15, 2014, 12:27 PM   #20
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When you grab your gun for SD thinking .......did I change out those plinking loads for my SD loads can get you into trouble fast.
If I needed to grab my 44 for SD and it had my plinking 240g LSWC 44Spl rounds in it, given proper shot placement, I am confident they'd still stop the threat.
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Old October 18, 2014, 02:10 PM   #21
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Even tho those primer look fine, reading primers for a sign of over-pressure in straight-walled revolver ammo is an example of futility.
Correct. It's so futile there's really no reason to even have a discussion about it. Waste of time and energy to even try.
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Old October 18, 2014, 05:50 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevens
Here's another relevant bit: W296 and H110 were NOT the same powder when those loads were rolled, and today those two are the same exact powder. Now try and deny that something has changed?
When I spoke to Hodgdon about the history of this powder they said it had always been WC296, and that Hodgdon had actually introduced it to the marketplace first, as H110, and then Winchester followed with 296 a couple of years later. Back then their parent lots from St. Marks Powders were probably different, as they were distributing their labels independently at the time. Today, with Hodgdon distributing both brands, the containers are filled from the same parent lots. Additionally, Hodgdon instituted improved quality controls somewhere around 2000, after having had complaints about inconsistency in Varget, and these are now applied to all their powders. This has probably resulted in more consistent lot-to-lot burn rates from H110/296 than used to be the case, so old lots with wider burn rate swings could easily seem like they were a different formulation and could have resulted in different load data, even with accurate measurement.


Sawdustdad,

Different primers have different cup thickness and hardness. For that reason, reading pressure from what they look like pretty much only tells you how the pressure is affecting the primer, but not about whether the load is stiff. In the past I've tried both a Federal and a CCI primer with the same stiff load, and they didn't come out at all similarly flattened (though that was back in the 1980's, and I don't know how current production compares).

In straight wall revolver cartridges you may or may not get primer indications of high pressure. It depends. Elmer Keith's old method of working loads up until fired case ejection started to get sticky, then backing the load down 5%, makes the gun itself the gauge. The sticky extraction results from the cylinder wall having stretched enough to allow the less elastic brass it contains to expand beyond the brass elastic limit, so that the more elastic steel then clamps down on the expanded brass when it returns to shape. This often happens when primers still look fine, in which case the primers are good for more pressure than the gun is. So it all depends which gun and which primer you are using as to which says uncle first.
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Old October 18, 2014, 07:07 PM   #23
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Thanks, Unclenick, that's great info. For the rounds I have been firing, and the pictures I provided in my initial post, eject easily without any indication that they are sticking in the cylinder. I understand now how looking at primers is of limited value. Based on the collective advice provided in this thread, I'm confident that the ammo I have is safe to shoot.
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Old October 19, 2014, 07:12 PM   #24
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I'm confident that the ammo I have is safe to shoot.
So am I.
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Old October 20, 2014, 12:17 PM   #25
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Use the same brass

Noticed that you have 3 different labels, WW, FC, and RP. When you develop top loads, it should be in the same brass, i.e., FC and RP are a little softer than WW and each will show pressure differently.
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