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Old January 3, 2006, 10:59 AM   #1
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Help Needed .44 Mag Lead load

I’m having problems finding a nice lead load to shoot from my S&W 629 w/ 8” barrel. I’ve had good luck lately shooting 240gr Horady XTPs, 23.5 of H110, and CCI Magnum primers. I can hold that to about 6” @ 50 yds from the bench, which is surprisingly good for my pistol shooting skills!

My problem comes in finding a good load for my 240gr Lead SWC bullets. I’m not sure if it’s the loads, the bullets or what. I bought these bullets at a show in a bulk of 500 for $20 and have seen the same ones at other reloading stores. They have 2 groves in them with blue lube.

My Lee manual shows something like 10.7 – 11.8 of Unique. I loaded some up around 11gr w/CCI regular primers, and they recoil like a SOB (as bad as the H110 loads) and are not accurate at all (over 12” groups @ 50 yds and very inconsistent). I see a lot of guys recommending loads like 7gr of unique with 240 lead, but haven’t found any recommended charges like that. I loaded a few around there once, but a buddy w/ a lot more reloading experience said they might be unsafe and I ended up throwing them away. I just checked Alliant powder’s website and they recommend 11.7gr of Unique.

Can anyone give me a good accurate load for 240gr Lead in 44 Mag, and explain how light of a powder load I can make w/out being dangerous, or why loading too light is dangerous?
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Old January 3, 2006, 11:56 AM   #2
Jim Watson
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Some old guy named Elmer Keith recommended 8 grains of Unique and a 245 gr SWC for a moderate .44 Magnum load.
Lyman starts at 8.9 grains, Speer at 6.5 gr Unique because their lead bullets are swaged and they don't want to load them fast enough to cause severe leading.

The Lee book is kind of peculiar. The "never exceed" load it lists is the powder company's maximum. The "start" load is the next lighter load for which Lee makes a disc or dipper powder measure. It is not the traditional 10% reduced starting load that most sources give, it is not the lightest load that will give reliable powder ignition like Lyman does for non-magnums. It is just what you can load with Lee fixed powder measure and not get in trouble.
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Old January 3, 2006, 12:39 PM   #3
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Hornady manual sixth edition shows a starting load of 5.7 gr of Unique for a 240 gr swc at 800 fps. Sounds tame enough to me. 7.6 gr is max.
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Old January 3, 2006, 12:47 PM   #4
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OK, thanks guys. I will try them and have a feeling my accuracy and wrist will feel better! Also looks like I need to invest in a better reloading manual.

For my information, why is it dangerous to load a charge too lightly, besides obviously going too light and having the bullet lodge in the barrel?

As a side note... Having nearly double the powder others shoot with Unique (bout 6gr to my 11gr) could explain why the cases were sticking in the chamber after being shot! They weren't terrible, but you had to tap the extractor pretty hard, instead of lightly pushing it.

Yes, Unique is dirty too. My stainless gun almost looked like a blued gun by the time we left, but it cleaned up easily.

Last edited by 78kitty; January 3, 2006 at 01:20 PM.
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Old January 3, 2006, 01:04 PM   #5
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The Lee book is kind of peculiar. The "never exceed" load it lists is the powder company's maximum. The "start" load is the next lighter load for which Lee makes a disc or dipper powder measure. It is not the traditional 10% reduced starting load that most sources give, it is not the lightest load that will give reliable powder ignition like Lyman does for non-magnums. It is just what you can load with Lee fixed powder measure and not get in trouble.
Thank you!

I thought something was odd about the Lee data...

240gr LSWC on top of 9.5gr Titegroup feels pretty darn good in my Redhawk, but it is a lot heavier gun than your 629, most likely. Soaks the recoil a bit better. It is very accurate out of my gun. Off hand, I keep 3" groups at 50 feet. I'm not the best pistol shooter and that's about my limit whether it's a .44mag or a .22LR revolver. I use winchester large pistol primers. You can drop all the way down to about 4.7gr - 6.2gr of Titegroup if you wanna use cowboy data. The bullet just kinda "dribbles" out the end at about 800fps.

I really like the feel of the Win296 and H110 powders, though. KaBOOOM!!!

I have Unique, but dislike it's feel when shooting compared to Titegroup. I only use it for .45acp and .400corbon now, and only until I use up the last 1/2 pound I have left. Stopped using it for .357, .44mag. It's very dirty and I have found it to ignite inconsistently. I think it's because its exposed surface area can be different between two same bullets with identical charges. Unique is just shaped funny.

Loading too light can create over pressure just like loading too much.

This is because if the powder level is too far below the primer flash hole, the entire powder payload can ignite simultaneously and create too much pressure too quickly.

But, your light data published from a reputable source can be found here.
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Old January 3, 2006, 02:14 PM   #6
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For my lite 44 Mag loads, I use a Speer 240Gr Lead SWC over 8 gr of Unique. I shoot these out of 6" 629, and it is accurate enough for me!
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Old January 3, 2006, 02:22 PM   #7
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There are a very few pistol powders, most notably H-110 and WW 296, that can cause major problems with light loads. They are hard to ignite, and it is believed that it is possible for them to have slight hangfires. If the main charge fully ignites after the bullet is lodged solidly in the forcing cone, bits of pistol are likely to go flying everywhere.

This is not a concern with faster burning powders, say Unique and faster. It is much less of a concern with lead bullets since they cannot lodge as solidly as jacketed. I appreciate Jim's explanation of Lee's practice. I knew it was odd, but not why. The other data sources seem to use a good work up point as a starting load rather than a true minimum charge for the powder.

With cast bullets, you can use very light loads of the fast powders. Sticking a jacketed bullet is a serious matter, but cast push out readily. If you are working with very light loads, you check the bore every time you don't see a hole appear in your target, anyway.

In the .44 Mag case, I have been down as low as 2.5 grains of Bullseye with a .434 RB. Makes a nice backyard plinker in a carbine. One of these years, I'll take it squirrel hunting.
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Old January 3, 2006, 11:28 PM   #8
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240 Gr Lead Load

Consider trying some Hercules (Aliant) 2400 in the 20 to 22 grain range. You'll be in the neighborhood of 1200 to 1400 FPS. I don't know your particular bullet, but I've had pleasant results with the Lyman 429421 bullet in several 6" Mod 29s and my 7.5" Redhawk.
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Old January 4, 2006, 09:38 PM   #9
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You can run into some other problems when you shoot cast. First, clean the copper out of the bbl thoroughly before switching to cast. Next, measure your cylinders and bbl diameter. Two considerations: the cylinders shouldn't swage the bullets smaller than the bbl diameter. Next, the bullet diameter should be a thousandth over bore diameter. I have bought cast bullets and usually run into problems with them. Often, they are too hard and that can cause leading. The bullet lube is typically very hard and doesn't work well, at least for me. I've even melted it out and replaced it with a good lube. And again, check the bullet diameter. I've always had better control using my own cast bullets and accuracy, as I can match the bullet to my gun(s). It may sound like a lot more work but to me it really expands the area of reloading. Besides, I concluded years ago I didn't need JHPs to punch holes in paper targets.
And I consider Unique a good mid-power load powder.
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Old January 11, 2006, 03:55 PM   #10
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cast bullet loads

I have been shooting KCC Bullets for about year now and am getting very good results.They seem to lead less at higher velocities than most others I have used. The web site is Oh Ijust ordered 12,000 in varius calibers,havent picked em up.
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Old January 11, 2006, 09:20 PM   #11
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CaseXX, thanks, but the link didn't work.
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Old January 13, 2006, 05:07 PM   #12
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I just loaded 20 rounds as a test for my own curiosity. I don't have a chrono so I can't give you velocity, but 6.5 grains of unique under a 240 gr SWC with Winchester Large Pistol Primers gave me a 2 inch group at 50 yards (I'm not the best pistol shot either) out of my super blackhawk 7 1/2" with very mild recoil about 20 minutes ago, I actually think I'm going to load up 100 or so of this load, its pretty nice.
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Old January 13, 2006, 08:20 PM   #13
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I have used 7.0 of Unique and a cast swc for years. I find it accurate and pleasant to shoot.
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Old January 13, 2006, 10:51 PM   #14
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LaserCast 240 gr. with 7 grains Unique in my 7.5" Super Redhawk is good for about 900 fps. Sweeeeeeeeeet!!!
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Old January 14, 2006, 12:04 AM   #15
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To answer your question about reduced loads, the fast single-base powders really have no lower limit. You should be able to shoot Unique, Bullseye, 700X, Clays, Universal Clays, N310, etcetera, all without any concern about a minimum.

Two situations arise that can cause problems. The first is the warning not to underload either Winchester 296 or Hodgdon H110 below limits given in the factory loading manuals. A Hodgdon technician assured me these powders are the same, made in the same plant at the same time, and put in differently labeled drums. These limits are not exact, because the Winchester and Hodgdon manuals don’t agree precisely on what they should be. But they are close. The reason is described in a warning on the Hodgdon site. They want the case fairly full because poor initial ignition can occur if the powder falls forward in the case (or if you don’t crimp adequately). Though poorly ignited, it can still push a bullet onto the rifling. In a single shot gun pressure would still build and all would be well, but in a revolver this condition leaves the barrel-cylinder gap uncovered so the powder is now unable to build pressure and fizzles away its gas. No horrible matter until you try to fire the next round into that stuck bullet. Now it can blow up.

The more commonly known problem with underloading is detonation of small charges of slow powders in large cases. Normally powder burns by combustion, the process wherein the rate of energy release is determined by the speed of the flame front, both through the mass of grains and into the individual grains from the surface. Detonation is when the energy release rate is determined by the speed of a triggering shock wave traveling through the powder mass. This condition is dangerous because the shockwave is not only faster than a flame front, it moves through the middle of the powder as well as the surface, releasing all stored energy from the powder as it passes. This happens so fast the pressure doesn’t even have time to distribute evenly through the case, and the gun is burst by very high localized pressures.

I have heard different theories for why detonation occurs, and why it occurs only with small amounts of slow powders in large cases. It is not very repeatable, so it is difficult to study. One suggests the ignition temperature is so low in the slow powder in a space too large to build pressure fast that some of the nitrocellulose melts and drives of the nitroglycerine used as a retardant. The warm nitro condenses on a cool part of the case or the bullet base, and because it is at critical temperature, when the mass gets large enough it goes off spontaneously, acting like a micro blasting cap, creating the detonating shock wave for the rest of the powder mass. If that is correct, this problem would only arise in slow double-base powders. I don’t know that it is true, so I would avoid small charges of slow single-base powders, too.

In any event, don’t worry about the fast pistol powders. Load them as small as you please.


Click on the second image here to see what leaks from a .44 Mag barrel-cylinder gap!

Last edited by Unclenick; January 14, 2006 at 04:09 PM.
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Old January 20, 2006, 05:49 PM   #16
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44 lead load

8 brains of unique under a 240 wadcutter gives you about 1000 FPS and is pleasant to shoot.Be sure to use a cast bullet not swaged.
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Old January 22, 2006, 11:56 AM   #17
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but first

Clean the willy-snot outta your barrel, then try 7.0--8.0g Universal Clays / Unique.
"all my ammo is mostly retired factory ammo"
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Old January 22, 2006, 04:59 PM   #18
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My do everything 44 mag load is a CCI 350 primer, 17.0 grains of 2400, and a Laser Cast 240 grain Round Nose Flat Point, OAL of 1.575". This load gives 1200 FPS/roughly 750 ftlbs out of my 6.5" Taurus M44. This load is very accurate, easy to shoot, easy on the gun, and has plenty of buck for medium game...

The key to this load are the Laser Cast bullets. They are extremely accurate and guaranteed not to lead the barrel at jacketed load velocities. I can report that this is a fact...
To my great mortification, my father once told me; "you care nothing but for dogs, shooting, and rat catching, you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family"

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