.44 Mag mouse fart loads

Discussion in 'Reloading/Ammunition' started by Doc1, May 15, 2018.

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  1. Doc1

    Doc1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    I recently started shooting cowboy with a local club and had to buy the right firearms. This can be expensive, as they require two single-action revolvers, a pistol caliber rifle and a period-correct shotgun. There's no way I was going to max out the CCs and buy all this stuff new, but fortunately I already owned two single-action .44 Magnum revolvers. I had previously used these as pig hunting guns.

    It seems that most of the hot shooters are using single-action .357s loaded with mouse fart .38 Spl. loads. The minimum power factor requirement is only 60, so I wanted to develop a mouse fart load for my .44s. I've been trying various light bullets, but wasn't completely happy with the results. I have an old Speer reloading manual (No. 11 from 1987) that actually had loads for a 120 grain round ball. They suggested a starting load of 2.9 grains of Bullseye. I bought a .433" Lee 120 grain roundball mold and proceeded to cast a jar full of 'em with wheel weights and scrap lead.

    The Speer data worked fine and was accurate, but the low pressures kept causing the primers to back out and jam the cylinders. The most accurate load in my SBH was 3.5 grains, but the primers were still backing out. I kept gradually working up the load (and paid special attention to a tight crimp) and got the primer problem to stop at 5 grains. Not wanting to keep the rounds on the edge of possible failure, I upped the load to 5.5 grains. This seems reasonably accurate, still has very low recoil and the primers are well-behaved. I do notice a little more unburnt powder, but this is a small price to pay for reliability. Needless to say, such a light load doesn't seal the cases well so I also notice more carbon on the exterior of the brass. I can live with that.

    I suspect that I could lower the charge successfully if I used .44 Special cases, but I don't have any on hand. A buddy in Texas is going to send me 200 of them. I'll keep you guys posted if there's any interest.

    Best regards
    Doc
     
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  2. SubGunFan

    SubGunFan Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    I suggest this LEE 44cal bullet. Mold number 429-200-RF.

    With my alloy (fairly hard) the bullets weigh about 210gr. They are a RNFP which is the "Cowboy profile". I suggest a load of 5.0gr of Win 231.

    If you would like to try some of these LEE bullets, PM me with your US Mail address and I will send you some. All I ask is you send me a check for $7 to cover postage.

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  3. patchz

    patchz Court Jester

    That is basically the same bullet and charge I used for qualifying, except I used Bullseye. It was accurate and in my 6.5" model 29 recoiled less than standard 38 wadcutters in the morel 66 the department issued.
     
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  4. Doc1

    Doc1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    SubGunFan, thank you for your very kind offer but I don't need it. I already have a lot of 210 gr. RNFP loaded similarly to what you posted. I'm not recoil shy and usually shoot USPSA major power factor. I'm just trying this little exercise an an interesting experiment. Like I said, a lot of the guys seem to be shooting mouse fart loads to include things like 130 gr. .38 Spl. over less than 3 grains of fast pistol powder or very lightly loaded 32-20. Light bullets don't always work for me. My old 1894 Marlin wants a Lee 240 gr. RNL - period. It's not the weight, but the length. The rifle won't reliably cycle shorter lead bullets. I usually load these with 4.5 grains of BE or 5 grains of 452AA. Interestingly, the Marlin will reliably cycle shorter jacketed bullets. Go figure!

    As far as the primers backing out on my roundball loads, I suspect that this is due to the lead balls having very little bearing surface on the barrel. This may be preventing a good pressure spike to seal the primers at the moment of ignition. Increasing my crimp has helped a little. You'd think there'd be no reason that such a light projectile should require 5 grains of BE to seal the primer. I may attempt to seat the balls all the way down into the case 'til it touches the powder to improve the primer seal, but I think I'll wait 'til my friend sends me those .44 Special cases to try that. As you probably know, when shooting black powder the projectile should be seated up against the powder with no air space. Maybe in the case of these roundballs that approach will work with smokeless. I'll do this initially with a wooden dowel. If it works I may turn a special seating die on my lathe.

    Thanks for the input!

    Best regards
    Doc
     
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  5. Doc1

    Doc1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    A little update: Today I found a (very) few .44 Special cases in my reloading room. The smaller case volume, as I suspected, worked to reduce the primer back-out problem when using the same weight of powder. I also experimented with seating the roundballs all the way down to the powder and this worked even better. It turns out that seating any projectile entirely below the case mouth violates SASS rules, so this approach won't work for cowboy matches. Apparently, the projectile can be seated deeply, but part of it must extend above the case mouth. With all of this in mind, I ordered a small(ish) quantity of Starline .44 Russian cases. These, which will work fine in .44 Mag chambers/barrels, are even shorter than .44 Special and have less volume. I may even experiment with turning the cases down on the lathe to reduce their length. I don't think there's anything illegal in the SASS rules about that. By the time I'm finished, I might wind up with something that resembles an over-sized .22 CB Cap! LOL

    Best regards
    Doc
     
  6. SubGunFan

    SubGunFan Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    So basically you are going to load 2 different 44cal ammo? One for the pistols and another for the rifle? Is this common in Cowboy Action Shooting?

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  7. Doc1

    Doc1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    Yes. Two different loadings. It's not that uncommon from what I've seen. Some guys have pet loads that shoot better in their rifles than their pistols and vice-versa. Also, some shooters have different caliber rifles and pistols. I can and have shot my 240 grain RNL rifle loads in my revolvers and it's not a big deal. I just think this "mouse fart" load experiment is a cool thing to do.

    Best regards
    Doc
     
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  8. Doc1

    Doc1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    Another update: My .44 Russian cases arrived today, so I started more experimentation. The good news is that at 4.5 grains of Red Dot (as opposed to the slightly slower Bullseye I'd used earlier) the primer set back problem was 100% eliminated. The bad news is that my Lee .44 Magnum / .44 Special dies are too long for the Russian cases. The sizing die works fine, but the flaring die and seating-crimp dies aren't quite short enough to work. In fairness to Lee, these dies were not advertised as being suitable for .44 Russian. The flaring die will provide a slight flare, but not enough before the bottom of the die his the case rim and shellholder. The seating die will seat the balls, but the die body will not apply a crimp.

    My options are to chuck the dies into my lathe and shave off a couple of millimeters from the bottom or buy another set of dies dedicated to the purpose. I don't believe that shortening my dies slightly will have a negative impact on their use or .44 Mag or .44 Special, but I'll think on this a little more before making a decision.

    The flaring die didn't open up the brass quite enough, resulting in a lead ring being shave off of the balls when I seated them. Also, I want to be able to apply a strong roll crimp just above the middle of the ball and my die is too long to apply any crimp to the case whatsoever. With a good crimp I think I might be able to reduce the powder charge a bit more.

    As to where we're at now, the 4.5 grain charge of Red Dot is providing great accuracy and shot placement very close to the full-power 240 grain bullet point of impact where the sights are regulated. The report and recoil are negligible and are much less than standard LSWC .38 Special loads fired out of a 5" barreled S&W Model 10 revolver.

    Best regards
    Doc
     
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  9. 22lrfan

    22lrfan Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    I've got a set of Lee .44 Russian dies if you would like to try them.
     
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  10. SubGunFan

    SubGunFan Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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    I had a LEE 45-70 crimp die turned down so I could load Hornady brass. Works great. I don't think you will have any problems loading 44Mag/Spl with shorter dies.

    ETA: I think I had 1/8" taken off.

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