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Old July 13, 2022, 11:35 AM   #1
Shadow9mm
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lever gun, accuracy expectations?

So I know there are a number of factors involved. With that said, with modern steel, and modern manufacturing techniques, and a good hand load, what kind of accuracy should I expect? I have a newer production steel side gate Henry in 44mag/spl with a 20in barrel with a 1:20 twist (yes I checked it is 1:20)

I went into this with the expectation of being able to achieve 2moa with good loads.

My loads have been around 4moa with hornady XTP bullets. I am working with some cast bullets as well, but I am having some stability issues, which I think I have worked out, but I have not had a chance to test yet.

Is my expectation of 2moa realistic? If not what should I expect from a modern production lever gun?


I also managed to shoot one 3 shot group at right about 1moa at 50yds with a friend loads. I am chalking it up to a fluke right now, but I plan to duplicate his load and see if I can repeat the results.

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Old July 13, 2022, 12:56 PM   #2
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Lever rifle and MOA should never be allowed in the same sentence. Oops, I just did it.

Really, most people don't buy a lever rifle with target shooting in mind. Rimfire levers are great for plinking and most centerfire levers are bought for hunting or home defense. Still, accuracy is important in any such scenario and there's nothing wrong with trying to wring the best out of the rifle and shooter.
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Old July 13, 2022, 03:06 PM   #3
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Nothing wrong with what you’re doing. When it comes to lever guns as long as it piles up when I hit it I’m happy.

It would be interesting though to see if your rifle does well again when you test out your friends load. Maybe your particular rifle likes it.


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Old July 13, 2022, 03:24 PM   #4
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I've got that same rifle but in .45 Colt and with Skinner peep sights. I've never really measured group size but I can say that there are loads that shoot decent and loads that shoot really, really badly, nothing really in between.

Any idea what was different about your friend's loads from yours? Makes me kind of curious.
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Old July 13, 2022, 03:47 PM   #5
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Around 2-4 MOA is pretty typical for lever guns in pistol calibers. Those chambered in rifle cartridges will often shoot 1 MOA. But around 2 MOA is probably more common.
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Old July 13, 2022, 06:20 PM   #6
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Around 2-4 MOA is pretty typical for lever guns in pistol calibers
Agreed. Lever actions in general are about 3 MOA rifles, pistol alibers or bottleneck. That is partly due to the limitations of hanging everything on the barrel and harmonics changing as cartridges are removed from the magazine with each shot, partly due to the sights lever actions are supplied with, and in large part due to the quality of barrels used on entry-level rifles.
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Old July 13, 2022, 07:10 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by paknheat View Post
Nothing wrong with what you’re doing. When it comes to lever guns as long as it piles up when I hit it I’m happy.

It would be interesting though to see if your rifle does well again when you test out your friends load. Maybe your particular rifle likes it.


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There are a couple differences between his and mine. both loads are 44spl with 280g wide flat nose bullets.

First is powder, he is using H110 where I am using Power Pistol

Second is velocity, I was at about 1055, trying to stay subsonic. His loads are in the 1300fps range if I remember correctly.

Lastly is pressure. His loads are around 20k PSI per GRT, my loads, per GRT were in the 13k PSI range.

Both our rifles are Henrys, although his has a brass receiver and mine is steel.

I slugged my barrel and came up with .430, which is what we have been sizing out bullets to. I am suspicious that his extra pressure is causing the bullets to seal better and keeping them stable. I will be doing some duplication if his loads to test. As well as pushing my loads up a bit to the 20k pressure range to see if mine start shooting straight. I also ordered sizers in .431 and .432. going to see if going up in bullet size will fix my problem as well with the lower pressure loads. kind of just double checking my theory.
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Old July 13, 2022, 07:27 PM   #8
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I would use magnum cases, shorter jump to the lands. And H110, W296, or 4227 for powder, especially in a rifle where the slower burning powder is more efficient.
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Old July 13, 2022, 07:54 PM   #9
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I just sold my JM marlins straight case calibers. I had a late 60s 1894sr 44mg. At 50yds it would clover leaf all day. 240 XTP / 22.5 gr H-2400. It out shot Ruger #3 and original
Ruger 44 Carbine. I though it was best you could get until I sighted in a pair of Ruger 77/44s with Leupold 2x7 scopes and Win White Box 240gr JSP. They shot clover leafs a 100yds.
When shooting my Marlin 1894 for group I used K4 scope. I ran a Lyman 66 receiver sight for deer hunting.
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Old July 13, 2022, 08:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by 44caliberkid View Post
I would use magnum cases, shorter jump to the lands. And H110, W296, or 4227 for powder, especially in a rifle where the slower burning powder is more efficient.
Went with 44spl and power pistol for a couple reasons. the 284g bullets I am shooting were intended for 44spl cases. loaded they are as long as standard 44 mag and will not fit in the gun. The other bullets will fit in a 44mag case.

With that said I have about 1800 large pistol primers, and only about 250 large pistol magnums. So while I love H110, I only have a few primers for it and have not been able to find more at this point. and my power pistol loads have been exceptionally consistent.

CAUTION: The following post (or a page linked to) includes or discusses loading data not covered by currently published sources of tested data for this cartridge (QuickLOAD or Gordon's Reloading Tool data is not professionally tested). USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The Firing Line, nor the staff of TFL assumes any liability for any damage or injury resulting from the use of this information.

Data worked up using GRT and quick load

starline brass
CCI large pistol primers
284g home cast, NOE mold Wide flat nose, powder coated, gas checked
Power Pistol powder

6 shots each over the chrono at 15ft, 82F

7.4g, Avg 1032fps, SD 11.25, ES 33
7.5g, Avg, 1046fps, SD 4.46, ES 10
7.6g, Avg 1058fps, SD 7.76, ES 21

Based on my research and a touch of testing I can go up to around 12.0g of Power pistol with this bullet and stay under 35k psi. I did thrown 1 round over the chrono at 10.0g a while back and it was in the 1300fps range, similar to my friends loads. I calculated that 9.5g should give me about 21k psi, right around where his loads are at and shooting well. so I plan to test that and see if they shoot straight with the higher pressure without too much blast.
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Old July 14, 2022, 08:45 AM   #11
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Do you ever experience hangfires with low-density loads?
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Old July 14, 2022, 10:00 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by stagpanther View Post
Do you ever experience hangfires with low-density loads?
I have not as of yet.
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Old July 14, 2022, 11:22 AM   #13
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I've had a few with low-density loads in 44 mag.
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Old July 14, 2022, 11:51 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by stagpanther View Post
I've had a few with low-density loads in 44 mag.
The 44spl cases are reasonably full. everything has played nice so far.

in 44 mag casings, they have been full charges of h110. I did some testing with AA #7, got some low ish velocities 1500fps with a 240g at max, but good SD and ES and everything lit up just fine.
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Old July 15, 2022, 04:59 AM   #15
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In my limited experience, Henry BBS in .41 and .357, shooting off the bench with bags and iron sights I’m usually under 3” at 50yds and 5” at 100 yds shooting 10 rounds per target. I’m sure I could tighten that up with a scope but just want to retain an authentic look. Shooting off hand you can double those sizes. I feel this is pretty good and am happy with this performance.
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Old July 15, 2022, 07:56 AM   #16
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May be apples to oranges but I have a 336 in 35 REM that will do 1-1/4 at 100 yds. I had a 4x12 Nikon on it at the time shooting a home cast 200RNFP. I like traditional sights on a lever gun so the scope came off and accuracy dropped to 5 at 100. Nowhere does buckhorn sights fit in an accuracy equation.
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Old July 15, 2022, 08:05 AM   #17
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You might be able to get to 1 MOA with a lot of work, single loading and a good sighting system. Mine are all in the 2-4 MOA range with a little bit of work.
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Old July 15, 2022, 03:02 PM   #18
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I wouldn’t keep a rifle if it didn’t have practical accuracy. Any rifle I keep has to do a inch at 50yds with irons if I’ve got no scope option. Many of my older classic deer rifles are original and I won’t D&T them for scopes. With scope rifles better be in 1” class or they are just temporary boarders. I’m not one to put money in a gun to make it shoot. I do try to work up loads for individual rifles. That’s it, not bedding, floating, re this or that.
Some gun scribe once said the only accurate rifles are interesting, this is true. I can’t tell you how many rifles I’ve owned, into hundreds. The 1st new rifle I bought was a Rem 742 in about 1966. I had to have one because that’s what all the older guys had. My 1st purchase turned out to be one of worst rifles I ever bought. It was a 3” gun and nothing improved it.
You can’t expect levers, pumps and autos to be tack driving target guns but without practical
degree of accuracy they are worthless. Many say 6” at 100yds is a good hunting rifle. I say it’s a insult to call it a rifle.
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Old July 15, 2022, 09:49 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Shadow9mm View Post
There are a couple differences between his and mine. both loads are 44spl with 280g wide flat nose bullets.

First is powder, he is using H110 where I am using Power Pistol

Second is velocity, I was at about 1055, trying to stay subsonic. His loads are in the 1300fps range if I remember correctly.

Lastly is pressure. His loads are around 20k PSI per GRT, my loads, per GRT were in the 13k PSI range.

Both our rifles are Henrys, although his has a brass receiver and mine is steel.

I slugged my barrel and came up with .430, which is what we have been sizing out bullets to. I am suspicious that his extra pressure is causing the bullets to seal better and keeping them stable. I will be doing some duplication if his loads to test. As well as pushing my loads up a bit to the 20k pressure range to see if mine start shooting straight. I also ordered sizers in .431 and .432. going to see if going up in bullet size will fix my problem as well with the lower pressure loads. kind of just double checking my theory.
Would ask what specific bullets you and friend are using? In a shorter case it may not be the col that matters, but what the jump is from the bullets full diam to the rifling. Believe your choice of 44 special cases and lower pressure may be making the difference. Especially when considering the results of shooting your friends loads, which do not look like a fluke to me.
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Old July 16, 2022, 05:01 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by zeke View Post
Would ask what specific bullets you and friend are using? In a shorter case it may not be the col that matters, but what the jump is from the bullets full diam to the rifling. Believe your choice of 44 special cases and lower pressure may be making the difference. Especially when considering the results of shooting your friends loads, which do not look like a fluke to me.
We are using home cast bullets. We are both using a 284g wide flat nose from a noe mold that is 44spl specific. I also used a 200 round flat lee mold. His bullets are going straight, mine, both types, are yawing and tumbling. Same bullet alloy, and all sized to .430. He is using h110 where i am using power pistol. But based on the load data, his are around 20k psi, where mine are around 14k.

After buying a micrometer looks like our bullets are under sized by .0012. So i suspect his extra pressure is making the bullets bump up in size to seal the barrel, where mine probably has gas cutting. Making them unstable.

But this is just a guess. I loaded my loads up to match his 20k psi to see if that fixes it. I also ordered a .432 sizer and will be testing my lower power loads again to kind of cross check.

Im hoping to test mon/tues. Duplicated my friend load. And loaded mine at the higher pressure. Gonna shoot 25, 50, and 100yds. Make sure they are all shooting straight.
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Old July 16, 2022, 12:32 PM   #21
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I think you'll find the Henry is capable of great accuracy even with a pistol cartridge. My early production Henrys weren't that great--but they've become better over the recent years, and no matter what you can never gone wrong with their guarantee--nobody but nobody stands behind their rifles like Henry does.

Just for grins I loaded up a random load in my 45-70 just to get some lead into the wind--or more accurately some brass and copper. I chose VV 130 powder and Lehigh's 300 gr extreme penatrator--neither of which I've had any previous experience with in the 45-70. I think the stringing is mostly me.



I'm not an expert on Henry's but I've had a few of em. To me, they are kinda like BLR's--they have a narrow foreend and stock as well as a pretty stiff trigger pull (my BLRs' is 8 lbs). Put all that together and I believe the consistency of the hold is one of the biggest factors in repeatable consistency. I'm not much on lead cast though I do shoot a lot of it in 22's. My 22 rifles generally don't like a mix of both jacketed and all-lead bullets--and usually the lands and grooves will favor one or the other. I don't know what the Henry 44 mag chamber is like--but the free-bore on my 45-70 is quite long and the ejection port width limits me to COLs with a long jump for the bullet to engage the lands (unless you don't mind field stripping your lever and bolt).
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File Type: jpg random VV130300 ExPen.jpg (96.0 KB, 278 views)
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Old July 16, 2022, 01:15 PM   #22
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My Henry .38/.357 carbine with Skinner peep busts clay pigeons at 100 yards, and that's all I really need to call it a good time.
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Old July 17, 2022, 01:49 PM   #23
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Same combo at 209 yds this morning. What was surprising was the bullet drop between 100 and 200 yds wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, although I have no chrono data. I expected something between 12" to 20" for a 100 yd zero--I'd say it was closer to 6 to 8 inches.

I know I at least slightly pulled a couple of the shots and I suspect a Henry with a good trigger job and better hold technique could easily improve on this.

The only real drawback to this model IMO is the masochistic buttplate--I normally have no problem shooting big magnums but this 45-70 swings way out of its league in terms of shoulder pounding. My brain gets rattled pretty good too.

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Old August 5, 2022, 12:08 AM   #24
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I use factory ammunition for both of my lever action 3030’s. The results can clearly be viewed from the pictures below.





My Winchester 30-30 shoots tight groups with open sights at 50 yards. If you zoom in on the target you can see a 8 of the 12 shots are practically overlapping.



My Henry 30-30 side gate with a 4x power 7 shots @ 100 yards. I consider this to be more than adequate.



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Old August 5, 2022, 03:51 AM   #25
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Of the factory 30-30 ammo, winchester's always comes out on top in my 336, but then it's a battle between the 150 and 170 gr which are best, in mine I give the nod to the 170 gr bullets. They work so well I bought the winchester bullets as my bullet of choice for hand-loading.
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