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Most shooters who have been around a fair amount of time know that Elmer Keith's writings about the .44 Special from the late 1920s into the mid-1950s were directly responsible for the advent of the .44 Magnum. He did not invent the cartridge, per se. However, without his articles about taking big-game with big-bore sixguns -- especially when chambered in the .44 Special and using what is now known as the "Keith Load" of a 250-grain, hard-cast bullet of his design at 1,200 fps from a 7 1/2-inch sixgun -- we would in all probability have never seen the .44 Magnum. He not only spent 30 years paving the way, he also negotiated directly with Remington and Smith & Wesson Smith & Wesson

U.S. gun manufacturer. The company has its roots in an 1852 partnership between Horace Smith (1808–93) and Daniel B. Wesson (1825–1906), who designed and marketed a lever-action, repeating magazine handgun that held a self-contained cartridge.
 to bring about the ammunition and the sixgun to shoot it.

Keith was not an overnight sensation by any means. He started like most of us, from nowhere, knowing next to nothing. In fact, nearly 20 years after the .44 Special had been introduced by Smith & Wesson, he had yet to see one. Remember that in Keith's early years there were no gun magazines as such, and the closest thing to instant communication was a letter that took several weeks to travel across the country. He was simply a young, hard working cowboy in the 1920s who was enamored en·am·or  
tr.v. en·am·ored, en·am·or·ing, en·am·ors
To inspire with love; captivate: was enamored of the beautiful dancer; were enamored with the charming island.
 with sixguns, mostly the old Colt SAA (Systems Application Architecture) A set of interfaces designed to cross all IBM platforms from PC to mainframe. Introduced by IBM in 1987, SAA includes the Common User Access (CUA), the Common Programming Interface for Communications (CPI-C) and Common Communications  .45, which in his time and economic condition were probably black powder black powder
An explosive mixture of saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, formerly used in firearms.
 specimens that had seen better days.

Genesis Of The .44 Magnum

In the early 1920s, Keith had an experience that changed his life forever. He decided to celebrate the Fourth of July Fourth of July, Independence Day, or July Fourth, U.S. holiday, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Celebration of it began during the American Revolution.  by tiring his old black powder .45 Colt 5 1/2-inch SA. He went upstairs and onto the back porch of his little ranch house to make some noise.

"When the gun rose from the recoil recoil /re·coil/ (re´koil) a quick pulling back.

elastic recoil  the ability of a stretched object or organ, such as the bladder, to return to its resting position.
 of the first cartridge, I unconsciously hooked my thumb over the hammer spur and thus cocked the gun as it recovered from recoil. When I turned the next one loose, I was almost deafened by the report and saw a little flash of flame. My hand automatically cocked the gun and snapped again, but no report. I stopped then, knowing something was wrong. The upper half of three chambers was gone. Also one cartridge and half of another case. Also the top strap over the cylinder. My ears were ringing, otherwise I was all OK" (The American Rifleman, August 15, 1925).

This was described in a letter to the editor of The American Rifleman and would begin Elmer Keith's long, colorful and tremendously influential career as a gun writer. When the above "accident" was investigated, it was found that Keith had been using heavy .45 Colt loads in the SAA made up with 300-grain bullets with a diameter of .458 inch originally intended for use in the .45-90 lever-action Winchester. Not only that, it also appeared that he had aided the ignition process by crushing the black powder into a finer grain size.

His old Colt simply died that morning, and Elmer Keith Elmer Keith (March 8, 1899 – February 12, 1984) was an Idaho rancher, highly influential firearms enthusiast, and author. Keith was instrumental in the development of the first magnum revolver cartridge, the .357 Magnum, as well as the later .44 Magnum and .  switched to the .44 Special. By 1929 he had a full-blown article in The American Rifleman about his famous Number Five Single Action .44 Special that he built to be, as he called it, The Last Word.

When Keith got his .44 Magnum, he got even more than he had asked for. All he wanted was his .44 Special loading of a 250 grain, hard-cast bullet at 1,200 fps. He suggested new, longer brass so that this load would not chamber in older, weaker guns. Ammunition manufacturers were afraid that early .44 Special handguns could not handle the load. Instead of duplicating the Keith Load for the .44 Special, Remington came out with the .44 Remington Magnum with a 240-grain bullet at 1,400+ fps. Keith was ecstatic about the new load, and about the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum sixgun.

It is interesting to read the early reports. Keith downplayed the recoil of the new cartridge. Major Hatcher of The American Rifleman staff likened it to being hit in the palm with a baseball bat. For most of us, reality was somewhere in-between Keith and Hatcher, probably leaning in Hatcher's direction. The .44 Magnum kicked! It kicked hard!! Especially in the 4-inch Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum with the plain clothes stocks that Elmer preferred, and definitely in the Ruger Blackhawk with a grip frame that was identical to that found on the Colt Single Action Army The Colt Single Action Army handgun, also known as the Colt Peacemaker or Single Action Army, is a single action revolver. It utilizes a revolving chamber holding six rounds, and is also known to some as a six-shooter. . Over the years, I have learned to handle the recoil of the .44 Magnum by practice, by using hand-filling, custom stocks and, most assuredly, by welcoming new sixguns that added extra weight over the 3pound heft of the original .44 Magnums.

I also learned something else. Going back to Keith's original blow-up story, I noticed that he was using heavyweight bullets, not the 255-grain bullet standard for use in the .45 Colt at that time. Why? I would guess he was looking for greater power and deeper penetration for use on big-game animals. When he switched to the .44 Special, he also designed a heavyweight .44 bullet, which was produced by the old firm of Belding & Mull. However, remember that in the early stages of his sixgunnin' life he was still learning. His 280-grain .44 Special bullet had a very blunt, rounded nose, and he soon found that it was lacking in long-range accuracy. He went back to the drawing board and came up with the classic #429421 250 grain, semi-wadcutter bullet, which everyone knows today as the Keith Bullet. When the .44 Magnum arrived, he used the same bullet and simply increased the muzzle velocity Noun 1. muzzle velocity - the velocity of a projectile as it leaves the muzzle of a gun
speed, velocity - distance travelled per unit time

The velocity of a projectile with respect to the muzzle at the instant the projectile leaves the weapon.
 by 200 fps over his .44 Special loading. This was his standard load for every purpose until he suffered his terribly disabli ng stroke at the age of 81.

For at least 25 years the Keith Load was the standard load for the .44 Magnum, just as for 25 years earlier the .44 Special loading from Keith had been the standard. That is a half-century of tremendous influence on .44 shooters by one man! Once the .44 Magnum arrived, many sixgunners began to take a serious look at hunting with a handgun. They also found very quickly than if they did want to hunt, they would have to load their own ammunition because there was very little available on the shelves which was truly suitable. The Keith load has served us well.

Heavier Can Be Better

Then in the late 1970s, a new influence began to be felt. J.D. Jones founded SSK SSK Sosyal Sigortalar Kurumu
SSK Strahlenschutzkommission (German: radiation protection commission )
SSK Sociology of Scientific Knowledge
SSK Conventional Submarine (Conventional Attack Submarine) 
 Industries, which was dedicated to providing the best possible products for handgun hunters. Much of his early work was with wildcat wildcat, common name of two Old World cats, the European wildcat, Felis sylvestris, of Europe and W Asia, and the African wildcat, or kaffir cat, F. lybica, of Africa and Asia.  chamberings in the Thompson/Center Contender. One of those wildcats was the .430 JDJ JDJ Java Development Journal , which was simply the .444 Marlin trimmed back. There were few bullets available, so Jones designed his own as well as supplying bullet molds. One of these bullets was a 320-grain, flat-nose that he would soon discover worked superbly in .44 Magnum sixguns.

I acquired one of Jones' early molds for this bullet and used it extensively in a custom 10-inch Ruger Super Blackhawk over 23.5 grains of WW680 for 1,400 fps. Now we had the same velocity as the original factory loaded .44 Magnum but with 80 grains more bullet! A new era had dawned for the .44 Magnum. Today we are fortunate to have heavyweight bullets, both hard cast and jacketed, available from a number of suppliers, as well as excellent bullet molds for casting our own.

1. Accuracy: The longer a bullet is in relation to its diameter, the more accurate it normally is. It is a rare .44 Magnum sixgun that does not shoot 300- to 320-grain bullets more accurately than it does 240- to 250 grain bullets.

Why use heavyweight bullets in the .44 Magnum? There are two reasons:

2. Big Game Hunting: To be successful as a handgun hunter, you must understand the four Ps: Placement, Power, Performance, and Penetration. Placement refers to where the bullet hits the target; Power, the muzzle energy Muzzle energy is the kinetic energy of a bullet as it is expelled from the muzzle of a firearm. It is often used as a rough indication of the destructive potential of a given firearm or load. ; Performance, whether it expands or not; and Penetration, just how deeply into the animal we can expect the bullet to go. The latter is extremely important when hunting large or dangerous animals. And the simple fact is that heavy bullets penetrate more deeply.

Cast Heavyweights

Let us look at some of the heavyweight bullets used in the .44 Magnum, beginning with 10 cast-bullet loads. All were assembled using Starline's excellent and durable .44 Magnum brass, CCI CCI Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie (France)
CCI CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) Citation Index
CCI Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Western Australia) 
 #350 Magnum Large Pistol primers and Redding's equally excellent .44 Magnum carbide carbide, any one of a group of compounds that contain carbon and one other element that is either a metal, boron, or silicon. Generally, a carbide is prepared by heating a metal, metal oxide, or metal hydride with carbon or a carbon compound.  dies. Loads were chronographed over Oehler's Model 35P. Six powders normally used for heavy duty Magnum loads were pressed into service:Alliant's #2400, Accurate Arms' AA#9, Hodgdon's H110, the relatively new Lil' Gun, H4227 and Winchester's 296. There are also some loads included with Unique and BRP's 290-grain, Keith-style bullet simply because I shoot so many of these in older .44 Magnums. Other bullets are also shown with Unique loads for the simple reason that heavyweight bullet loads in the .44 Magnum need not always be shot at full power.

The 290-grain, gas-checked, Keith-style bullet is my most used heavyweight .44 bullet. I have the NEI NEI National Eye Institute (NIH)
NEI Nuclear Energy Institute
NEI National Emission Inventory
NEI Not Enough Information
NEI Netherlands East Indies
NEI Nuevos Estados Independientes
 double-cavity mold for this bullet. BRP BRP Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc.
BRP Blue Ribbon Panel
BRP Bioengineering Research Partnership
BRP Business Resumption Plan
BRP Business Recovery Plan
BRP Bathroom Privileges
BRP Bronx River Parkway (New York) 
 also supplies excellent ready-cast bullets of this design that actually weigh 290 grains. I have two favorite loads for this bullet: 21.5 gralns of H110 for 1,350 to 1,400 fps, and 10.0 grains of Unique for 1,100 tol, 150 fps. The former is used in currently manufactured heavy-duty .44 Magnums, while the latter mostly sees service in .44 Magnums built in the 1950s, namely the original Smith & Wesson M29 and Ruger .44 Blackhawk (flat-top).

Bull-X offers a Bill Wilson designed, 300-grain flat-point that weighs 305 grains in my alloy. This bullet has a long tapered nose with a full-caliber shoulder band and one wide grease groove. I order them unsized and unlubed so they may be tailored for each gun I intend to use them in.

Lyman offers bullet casters casters

the small rubber wheels on surgical trolleys, patient stretchers, mobile equipment.

conductive casters
the casters are impregnated with carbon to facilitate the dispersal of static electricity from equipment.
 two heavyweight .44s, #429650GC, a Keith-style with one large grease groove and a gas-check with a hard-cast weight of 306 grains. Bullet #429649GC is heavier at 331 grains. It basi cally offers the same case capacity as the Keith-style bullet with a much heavier nose of the RNFP RNFP Round Nose Flat Point (bullet)
RNFP Radar Not Functioning Properly
, or round-nosed, flat-point design. From RCBS RCBS Rathfarnham Concert Band Society (Ireland)
RCBS Rock Chucker Bullet Swage (ammunition reloading company) 
 comes another Keith-style heavyweight .44 bullet, #44-300SWC SWC Status of Women Canada (Federal Government)
SWC Simon Wiesenthal Center
SWC Strangers with Candy (TV series/movie)
SWC Star Wars Combine (Star Wars forum) 
 that weighs out at 298 grains with my hard alloy. It is very similar to the Lyman design with slightly more case capacity and a slightly longer nose.

From Oregon Trail Oregon Trail, overland emigrant route in the United States from the Missouri River to the Columbia River country (all of which was then called Oregon). The pioneers by wagon train did not, however, follow any single narrow route.  Bullet Co. we have a 300-grain TC (Truncated Cone) that weighs out at 299 grains. This bullet puts most of the weight in the body with a very short nose. This maybe the choice if one has a lever-action that is reluctant to feed the longer bullets.

Finally we come to the heavyweight bullets designed by J.D. Jones of SSK Industries. Bullet #285.429 FP weighs in at 281 grains with one very large grease groove and two crimping grooves for use in short or long cylindered revolvers. All loads assembled herein used the top groove for use in any cylinder length or lever-action rifle. Last, but certainly not least, is the bullet that started it all, SSK's #310.429, another flat-point that with my hard alloy weighs 302 grains. This bullet has a full caliber shoulder in front of the crimping grooves, a plain base, and three grease grooves. It has a great reputation for taking big game with a .44 Magnum.

A Wealth Of Jacketed Bullets

At least five companies now offer excellent jacketed, heavyweight bullets for the .44 Magnum: Hornady's 300-grain XTP-JHP; Northern Precision's 280,310 and 325 grain; Nosler's 300-grain JHP JHP Jacketed Hollow Point (bullet)
JHP Journal of Humanistic Psychology
JHP Journal of Health Psychology
JHP Jewish Heritage Program
; Sierra's 300-grain JHC JHC Jesus H Christ
JHC Journal of Higher Criticism
JHC Jubilee House Community (North Carolina)
JHC Joint Hull Committee
JHC Jacketed Hollow Cavity (type of bullet)
JHC John Henry Company
; and Speer's 300 JFP JFP Journal of Family Practice
JFP Journal of Family Psychology
JFP Joseph François Perrault (secondary school, Montreal, Canada)
JFP Jacketed Flat Point (bullet type)
JFP Japanese Feature Package
. You will note that of the four major manufacturers, three provide hollow point versions of their 300-grain bullets, while Speer goes with a flat-point. Northern Precision custom tailors their bullets for individual needs, and they can be ordered with different jacket thicknesses for the game that is going to be hunted.

Two sixguns and one levergun were used for chronographing these loads, an 8-inch Dan Wesson .44 Magnum, a Freedom Arms 10-inch .44 Magnum, and a Winchester Model 94 Trapper .44 Magnum with a 16-inch barrel.
        BULLET           MV-8"  MV-10"  MV-16 1/2"

      BRP 290 GC

      9.0 GR. UNIQUE     1058    1122      1240
     10.0 GR. UNIQUE     1109    1173      1279
     21.0 GR. H4227      1200    1301      1474
     18.5 GR. AA#9       1274    1345      1478
     19.5 GR. LIL' GUN   1232    1326      1527
     18.5 GR. #2400      1289    1367      1560
     21.5 GR. H110       1306    1372      1563
     21.5 GR. WW296      1313    1383      1576


     9.0 GR. UNIQUE      1025    1075      1143
    21.0 GR. H4227       1232    1292      1433
    18.5 GR. AA#9        1352    1421      1521
    19.5 GR. LIL'GUN     1259    1352      1534
    18.5 GR. #2400       1327    1382      1559
    21.5 GR. H110        1259    1420      1567
    21.5 GR. WW296       1337    1404      1576

     CO. 300LBT-GC

    21.0 GR. H4227       1252    1314      1478
    18.5 GR. AA#9        1296    1349      1523
    19.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1254    1346      1534
    18.5 GR. #2400       1308    1410      1549
    21.5 GR. H110        1363    1426      1584
    21.5 GR. WW296       1335    1401      1612


     9.0 GR. UNIQUE       938    1021      1111
    20.0 GR. H4227       1148    1195      1382
    17.5 GR. AA#9        1198    1256      1412
    18.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1155    1237      1453
    17.5 GR. #2400       1213    1285      1456
    20.5 GR. H110        1231    1301      1471
    20.5 GR. WW296       1249    1318      1521

    LYMAN #429650GC

     9.0 GR. UNIQUE      1060    1118      1225
    20.0 GR. H4227       1179    1263      1389
    17.5 GR. AA#9        1217    1297      1421
    18.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1189    1283      1490
    17.5 GR. #2400       1281    1332      1501
    20.5 GR. H110        1304    1367      1515
    20.5 GR. WW296       1307    1376      1553

    LYMAN #429649GC

     9.0 GR. UNIQUE       983    1033      1114
    20.0 GR. H4227       1191    1324      1409
    17.5 GR. AA#9        1187    1265      1390
    18.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1157    1247      1472
    17.5 GR. #2400       1235    1289      1466
    20.5 GR. H110        1255    1338      1499
    20.5 GR. WW296       1252    1370      1526

    RCBS #44-300GC

     9.0 GR. UNIQUE      1041    1127      1222
    21.0 GR. H4227       1234    1320      1460
    18.5 GR. AA#9        1291    1372      1507
    19.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1206    1300      1534
    18.5 GR. #2400       1307    1365      1552
    21.5 GR. H110        1302    1343      1561
    21.5 GR. WW296       1306    1369      1592


     9.0 GR. UNIQUE      1004    1078      1179
    20.0 GR. H4227       1228    1275      1428
    17.5 GR. AA#9        1269    1334      1428
    18.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1216    1306      1482
    17.5 GR. #2400       1288    1342      1513
    20.5 GR. H110        1307    1396      1540
    20.5 GR. W296        1343    1409      1582

    SSK #285.429FP

     9.0 GR. UNIQUE      1069    1153      1285
    22.0 GR. H4227       1244    1389      1563
    19.5 GR. AA#9        1368    1439      1602
    20.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1312    1351      1606
    19.5 GR. #2400       1355    1435      1632
    22.5 GR. H110        1375    1438      1657
    22.5 GR. WW296       1390    1490      1685

    SSK #310.429FP

    21.0 GR. H4227       1245    1331      1485
    18.5 GR. AA#9        1327    1372      1511
    19.5 GR. LIL' GUN    1252    1341      1574
    18.T GR. #2400       1298    1314      1567
    21.5 GR. H110        1332    1345      1587
    21.5 GR. WW296       1339    1359      1612

      BULLET/LOAD        MV-8"  MV- 10"  MV-16 1/2"

HORNADY 300 XTP-HP/18.0  1242     1277     1447
       GR. AA#9
HORNADY 300 XTP-HP/20.5  1207     1270     1438
       GR. H110
NORTHERN PRECISION 280/  1245     1301     1508
     19.0 GR. AA#9
NORTHERN PRECISION 280/  1227     1270     1495
     21.5 GR. H110
NORTHERN PRECISION 310/  1185     1257     1419
     18.0 GR. AA#9
NORTHERN PRECISION 310/  1175     1229     1434
     20.5 GR. H110
NORTHERN PRECISION 325/   --       --      1382
     18.0 GR. AA#9
NORTHERN PRECISION 325/   --       --      1428
     20.5 OR. H110
NOSLER 300 JHP/18.0 GR.  1229     1251     1461
NOSLER 300 JHP/20.5 GR.  1199     1241     1439
SIERRA 300 JFP/19.0 GR.  1233     1239     1481
SIERRA 300 JFP/21.5 GR.  1225     1240     1455
SPEER 300 JFP/18.5 GR.   1148     1145     1465
SPEER 300 JFP/21.5 GR.   1183     1237     1515

         LOAD           MV-10"


    19.0 GR. #2400       1420
    20.0 GR. #2400       1504
    22.5 GR. WW296       1483
    23.5 GR. WW296       1551

BULLET: SSK 310.429 FP

    19.0 GR. #2400       1458
    20.0 GR. #2400       1542
    22.5 GR. WW296       1519
COPYRIGHT 2001 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Previous Article:Ed Brown's M702.

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