Category Archives: Handloading

Favorite .38 Bullets

As handloaders here in the second decade of the 21st century, we are indeed blessed to have so many choices in .38/.357 bullet designs. When I’m going to shoot extensively, I normally turn to my home-cast bullets, however I have certainly used thousands of jacketed bullets as well as commercial cast bullets in .38 Special and .357 Magnum sixguns.

When it comes to jacketed bullets my most used version is the Hornady 125-gr. XTP-JHP. This bullet does double duty as it is my choice for use in either .38 Special or .357 Magnum brass in several small-frame pocket pistols. With standard loads in the .357 Magnum, you can’t go wrong choosing 158-gr. jacketed bullets from Hornady, Sierra or Speer. I have also used thousands of Oregon Trail 158-gr. hardcast SWCs.

Left to right: The Lyman #358311, 158-gr.; RCBS #38-150KT, 155-gr.;
Lyman/Keith #358429, 168-gr. and Lyman/Thompson #358156GC, 155-gr.

Keith Leads The Way

By the fall/winter of 1956/1957, I had pair of .357 Magnums, a Ruger 45/8″ Flat-Top Blackhawk and a Smith & Wesson 4″ Highway Patrolman. Brass was almost impossible to find in .357 Magnum, however since this was a time bull’s-eye shooting was king, .38 Special brass was readily available and cheap. My first bullets for use in the two guns were the Lyman roundnosed #358311 and the Lyman Keith #358429. These were cast in single-cavity molds and then lubed and sized by hand, which added to the slow process of reloading with the Lyman #310 hand tool. Today, four cavity molds and progressive presses make things much more efficient and pleasant.

The Keith bullet was designed by Elmer for use in the .38 Special S&W .38/44 Heavy Duty. Meanwhile, Col. Doug Wesson and Phil Sharpe were secretly working on the .357 Magnum. This was in the early ’30s. When the .357 Magnum arrived it was found seating the Keith bullet by crimping in the crimping groove in the new longer magnum brass resulted in a load whose overall length was too long for the cylinder of the S&W .357 Magnum.

This made .38 Special brass all the more attractive. Today I simply crimp over the front shoulder on the Keith bullet when using .357 Magnum brass in short-cylinder sixguns. The S&W Combat Magnum, the Model 19 now, was the first S&W double-action sixgun to have a cylinder long enough to use the Keith bullet properly crimped in magnum brass. Phil Sharpe had also designed a bullet with a shorter nose for use in the .357 Magnum cylinders, and this is basically duplicated today by RCBS with their excellent #38-150KT.

Left to right: The Lyman #358311 and loaded in .38 Long Colt, .38 Special and .357 Magnum.
The RCBS #38-150KT loaded in .38 Super, .38 Special and .357 Magnum.

Left to right: The Lyman/Thompson #358156GC loaded in .38 Special,
loaded in .38 Special using bottom crimp groove and loaded in .357 Magnum.
The Lyman/Keith #358429 loaded in .38 Special, crimped over front band
in .357 Magnum and using crimp groove in .357 Magnum.

A Better Idea

One of the real problems associated with early Magnum loads was leading. Jacketed bullets were unavailable and the cast bullets were often too soft. Bullet genius Ray Thompson came up with a solution — gas check bullets. The cast bullet accepts a copper cap on the specially designed base. Thompson’s #358156, which is still available from Lyman, not only incorporates the gas check but it also has two crimping grooves. For my use the top groove is used for .357 Magnum loads while the bottom groove is normally the choice when loading .38 Special brass. This is my most used .38 bullet in .357 loads, while the Keith #358429 handles most of my .38 Special and .38/44 chores.

For my use with the hard cast #358429 bullet in .357 Magnum brass, I use 14.0 to 15.0 grs. of #2400, however this is normally cut to 12.5 grs. for use in .38 Special brass and then shot only in .357 Magnum sixguns in excellent condition. This bullet has stood the test of time and for my use is second only to the Thompson bullet when it comes to number of rounds loaded and shot every year.

Switching to Thompson’s bullet in .357 Magnum cases I use the same charges, however in .38 Special brass I use the original Keith load with bullets crimped in the bottom crimping groove, which lowers velocity but also lowers pressure. Bullet #3 of choice is the above-mentioned RCBS #38-150KT. This plain-based bullet is now joined by a gas check version of same, which is the RCBS #38-158SWC.

When trying to develop .357 Magnum level loads for use in both sixgun and leverguns you can avoid a lot of grief by going straight to gas check bullets. The Thompson bullet has been an excellent performer in both sixguns and leverguns, while plain base bullets often give mediocre results in long guns. I would expect the latest RCBS gas check design to also work well in leverguns.
By John Taffin

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Low Recoil .45 ACP Loads Revisited

While this column is mainly concerned with providing reloading information for handgunners, from time to time we have featured what we call Handloads For Non-Handloaders. There are several reasons we handload. One is definitely economics. However, there’s another reason, perhaps even more important, which is to tailor loads to our particular handgun or situation. These are often loads, which are difficult or impossible to find on dealer shelves.

In the Nov/Dec 2012 issue, we looked into the possibility of low recoil .45 ACP loads at the urging of a reader who had attained the age which made using standard loads in his Commander painful to shoot. He was at the threshold where 200-grain loads at 825 fps were just barely tolerable. I spent some time at the reloading table to come up with low recoil .45 ACP loads and also contacted two ammunition companies (Buffalo Bore and DoubleTap) who both did some experimenting and came up with some prototype loads.

Most current factory loads for the .45 ACP tend to the higher muzzle velocities, with many being in the +P category. Personally, I don’t want to shoot 300 +P loads in one session. Even standard .45 ACP loads are heavier than many folks can handle in lightweight .45s. Loads with 185-grain bullets at more than 1,000 fps, 200-grain bullets well over 900 fps and 230-grain bullets in the 850 fps range can be tough to shoot. Would it be possible to tone these down — and still have reliable loads?

The new .45 ACP load makes lightweight autos (like this Colt Commander)
downright enjoyable to shoot, says John.

In the same spirit: .44 Special and .45 Colt loads using a 255-grain
LSWC at 1,000 fps, makes for good every day loads.

Factory Loads

Icame up with handloads, however — although the argument has yet to be settled — some folks don’t feel comfortable carrying handloads in self-defense situations. So these two companies came up with three prototypes, which worked perfectly. After the article appeared in Handgunner, the phone started ringing and Buffalo Bore said, “The interest generated by your article was pretty high.” In fact it was so high they went to work to move from the prototype stage to the standard factory ammunition level. Here is a portion of their press release for Buffalo Bore .45 ACP Low Recoil Standard Pressure loads:

“Buffalo Bore is now making a couple very good ‘Low Recoil’ .45 ACP loads. This particular load is traveling roughly the same speed as the original 230-grain hardball load used by our military for decades, but this bullet is 185 grains, which is 45 grains lighter and hence the free-recoil generated is substantially less. The dynamics of pushing lead-based jacketed bullets at speeds this low does not promote reliable expansion, and even if it did, expanding a bullet moving this slow, this light for caliber, greatly reduces penetration, perhaps to the point the bullet becomes non-lethal on large humans, wearing heavy clothing and shot at bad angles. So we are utilizing a non-expanding solid bullet with a flat nose to promote maximum terminal damage. Additionally, one of the beauties of the .45 ACP cartridge is the bullet is .45 caliber and does not require expansion to be very lethal on humans. Also, while roundnosed bullets tend to slip through tissue doing little damage, flatnosed bullets crush their way through tissue and do considerably more damage. Expect this bullet to penetrate roughly 20″ in living mammalian tissues. This is sufficient penetration for stopping very large men wearing heavy winter clothing, even if they are shot from bad angles.” It all seems to make good sense.

Buffalo Bore uses a 185-grain FMJ flatpoint in their low-recoil load.
A FMJ standard “ball” load is on the right.


The 185-grain FMJ FN is rated at 825-850 fps, and by the time this appears there will be a 160-grain Barnes TAC-XP load at 950 fps. Buffalo Bore recommends factory-rated recoil springs to ensure reliable cycling. This should be coupled with a solid grip. Limp-resting can cause cycling problems with this or any other ammunition in a semi-auto pistol. This new load is especially desired for lightweight .45 ACPs such as the Springfield Armory XD-S, Wesson Firearms EOS Officers Model-sized .45 and of course the Colt Commander Lightweight or the relatively new Colt 1911 Lightweight as well as my alloy-framed Kimber. All of these become very tolerable for those who have trouble with recoil, and when used in standard weight .45s the shooting becomes down right pleasant. These low-recoil rounds also work well in .45 ACP-chambered sixguns.

Muzzle velocity should run around 825-850 fps in a full-sized, 5″ 1911 and around 100 fps less in a 3″ OM, with the 41/4″ Commander falling somewhere in between. I personally test-fired this new load in the four semi-autos mentioned, as well as two full-sized, standard-weight 1911s with no problems whatsoever.
By John Taffin

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Real Magic Bullets

We often hear “There are no magic bullets.” I beg to differ. There are bullets seemingly magical in their performance; doing everything we could possibly want them to do. However they won’t compensate for poor shooting or faulty reloading practices. If we do our part behind the sixgun — and at the loading press — the performance of these bullets is absolutely magical.

When the .357 Magnum was introduced in the middle 1930s, bullets of the time were plain-based, and therein lies the problem with original .357 loads. Those relatively soft cast bullets, at a then unheard of muzzle velocity of 1,500+ fps, resulted in severe leading, often with the first cylinder full fired. This problem was to last for at least 20 years.

The large proliferation of jacketed bullets available to us today was unheard of in 1935 when the .357 came out. The only jacketed handgun bullets I ever saw in the mid-1950s were FMC hardball loads. So, people wondered if using gas-checked bullets would help with leading in the .357. Keith always claimed gas-checked bullets were worthless in a revolver, though. The gas-check design itself goes back prior to WWI for use on cast bullets in rifles. So what next?

It remained for Ray Thompson to come up with “Magic Bullets” for use in sixguns. He designed #431215 and #431244 for use in the .44 Special and #452490 for use in the .45 Auto Rim, however, his most magical of bullets is #358156. The 2-decade-long problem associated with loading for the .357 Magnum was over.

The #358156 designed for the .357 Magnum is my favorite .357 bullet and I have found it to be the best bullet available for full-power loads in .357 Magnum sixguns. And, its gas-checked feature is absolutely mandatory when using cast bullets in .357 leverguns. It simply does about everything I want a .357 Magnum bullet to do.
By John Taffin

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Bullet Sizing:

Fit To Barrel Or Cylinder?

When it comes to factory ammunition or reloading with jacketed bullets we really have very little choice when it comes to bullet diameter. However, if we cast our own, and consequently size and lubricate the bullets we have molded, we can tailor the diameter of the bullets to suit our particular sixgun.

For example, I have sizing dies for the .44 Special/.44 Magnum running in one-thousandth inch increments from .427″ to .432″ and for the .45 Colt from .450″ to .454″. When I first started making my own bullets one at a time from a single cavity mold and then tapping them through a sizing die using a wooden dowel, I simply used .358″ for .38 Special/.357 Magnum and .454″ for .45 Colt. I never bothered to measure anything on my Ruger and Colt single action sixguns and didn’t have the proper tools anyway.

As I acquired more experience, my operations became more sophisticated. Early on I learned about slugging barrels and barrel size differences in Elmer Keith’s book Sixgun Cartridges and Loads. I accepted what he said as gospel and I spent several years finding the groove diameter of my sixguns by tapping a soft lead slug through the bore and then measuring. That was Keith’s observations going all the way back to the 1930s.

A Waste Of Time?

However, after all these years I decided — why bother? After spending too many years slugging barrels I decided it was a waste of my time. I finally came to realize, after some careful thought, I was missing what Elmer Keith barely touched on. Namely, cylinder throat diameter. Keith was only concerned the throats were not smaller than the barrel diameter. Just like Elmer (and Duke, in his March/April 2012 article) I carefully measured to find barrel diameters, but now I find myself on the verge of sixgun heresy by disagreeing with not only my good friend Mike — but also the Old Master himself.

Mike and I both have decades of experience shooting sixguns, leverguns, black powder arms, and single-shot rifles. I would guess I shade him when it comes to sixguns, while he leaves me in the dust with single-shot rifles. We are good friends, we learn from each other, but we certainly don’t always agree with each other.

Here is my point. Suppose I carefully slug the barrel of my .45 Colt sixgun and find it to be .451″. I carefully cast, lube, and size my bullets to .451″ and then equally carefully tailor my cartridges. When I shoot these meticulously made .45s through my Colt results are mediocre at best. Why? I did everything right. Well, almost. I carefully measured the groove diameter, however I neglected the cylinder throats, which on further examination by carefully measuring with pin gauges of the proper diameter, I find are a uniform .454″. So what happens when my .451″ bullets hit the front of that chamber? What happens to a bullet when its base is hit with 15,000-20,000 pounds of pressure? It expands. And what does it expand to? The size of the cylinder throat. So the bullet I carefully sized to .451″ is actually much larger when it hits the forcing cone.

Since the bullet is going to be turned from .451″ to .454″ under pressure, wouldn’t it be much better if it was already that size when we hit the switch? If the bullet is undersized it may swell up perfectly or it may not. If it’s already tailor-made to fit the cylinder throat it will enter in perfect alignment with no distortion.
By John Taffin

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“Factory” Low Recoil .45 ACP Loads?

If we live long enough everything, and I do mean everything — changes. This was brought home to me dramatically with an e-mail we received from a reader. He related he was about to turn 67 and found he had lost a lot of muscle mass. Tell me about it! I’ve got 6 years on him. He also said 30 years ago he could handle his S&W and Ruger Flat-Top .44s as well as his Lightweight Commander. He wanted to still be able to carry his Commander, however he found himself barely able to handle 200-grain cast bullets at about 825 fps — with the emphasis on barely.

There was a time I was like the second baseman who plays every game. Now I’m more like the pitcher. He can only throw that hardball so many times and then he needs several days rest. I have no doubt the problem related by the reader is widespread. What can be done about it?

The question for us was could we come up with low recoil .45 ACP loads that would also be accurate and function perfectly. Most current factory loads for the .45 ACP tend to higher muzzle velocities, and I don’t want to shoot 300 +P loads in one session. Would it be possible to tone these down (even the “standard” loads) and still have reliable performance?

Looking For Loads

First I went to the loading bench with WW231 as my powder of choice. Trying 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 grains with 185-grain JHPs and a variety of 200-grain bullets I found 4.5 grains was the lower limit for perfect functioning and 5.0 grains yielded 720 to 800 fps. For my test guns, since the query was about comfortable loads in the Colt Lightweight Commander, I went with my 45-year-old Lightweight Commander and a 5″ Kimber Custom CDP II with an alloy frame. I found the 200-grain loads over 5.0 grains of WW231 quite comfortable, and felt like I could shoot as many rounds as I wanted to without having to spend several days resting my hands.

While I don’t want to get into the argument concerning carrying handloads in a self-defense pistol I felt factory loads should be an option. I carry handloads in the field but factory loads on pavement. Would it be possible to come up with factory low recoil .45 ACP loads, which would reliably function in a standard 1911 or Commander — without replacing the recoil spring?

To this end I contacted Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore and Mike McNett at DoubleTap. Both men agreed to see what they would come up with, although they were skeptical about the possible results. Both men also went the extra mile, and I thank them both for their willingness to work with us.
By John Taffin

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Three Old Reliables

Be Unique And Hit The Bullseye With 2400!

We are indeed fortunate today to not only have so many powders to choose from, but also have them easily accessible. We’ve always had lots of powders, but finding them was certainly not easy in the late 1950s. There were, however three standout powders which were seemingly always available and easy to find, Bullseye, Unique and #2400, all available from Hercules.

Bullseye goes all the way back to 1898 when it was developed by Laflin & Rand. In 1902 it was switched to the DuPont label and then in 1913 Hercules took over some of the DuPont powders, including Bullseye. Of course, today all former Hercules powders are produced under the Alliant label. Bullseye is double-based, with 40-percent nitroglycerin content. It takes up so little powder space care must be used to prevent double-charging the cartridge case. A loading block allowing you to look into each case before seating a bullet is good insurance, as well as a powder sensor on the loading press.

From day one Bullseye has been the powder for target shooters, at least when target shooting was king. Everyone who paid any attention at all knew the standard loads for target shooters were 2.7 grains of Bullseye under a 148-gr. wadcutter in the .38 Special, and 3.5 grains with a 200-gr. bullet in the .45 ACP. With charges such as these, 1 pound of powder resulted in just under 2,600 .38 Special rounds and 2,000 .45 ACP rounds. With 4.5 grains under a 246-gr. roundnose bullet, the standard factory .44 Special load can be duplicated. And 5.0 grains with a 250-gr. bullet in either the .44 Magnum or .45 Colt makes for an accurate and pleasant shooting midrange load.
By John Taffin

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Heavyweight Bullets In The .357 Magnum

One of the first manufacturers to offer suitable silhouetting sixguns was Dan Wesson, with their 8″ and 10″ heavy-barreled .357 Magnum. These were superbly accurate revolvers, however there were problems. An occasional pig, and not so occasional ram, would quiver and then settle back down without toppling, even when hit dead center with a full-house load with a 158-gr. jacketed .357 Magnum bullet. We soon learned the answer was a heavier bullet, however another problem surfaced, which was the lack of suitable bullets. It would take a while for manufacturers to offer 180- and 200-gr. full metal jacket .357 Magnum bullets, and even bullet casters found they had little to choose from. One bullet placed in the service was the RCBS #35-200FNGC (flatnosed gas check) designed for the .35 Remington lever-action rifle. It had the weight, but it was also overly long for the cylinder of the .357 Dan Wesson.

The solution was to seat it deeply in .38 Special brass. This, of course, did not leave much room for powder, however we were able to get muzzle velocities of around 900 fps. When shooting at 225 yards it seemed like it took forever for that bullet to reach the rams, but when it got there it did the job! That slow-moving, heavy bullet never failed me. It took down every pig and ram I hit. If I didn’t hit, it was not the fault of the bullet or the sixgun. That was the beginning, and we soon had heavyweight bullets available from a variety of makers.

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Loading The .38 Super

My experience with the .38 Super goes back more than 40 years. When the ’68 Gun Control Act was announced we really did not know what effect it would have on firearms production, so one of the handguns I bought to get in under the wire was a .38 Super Colt Commander. It turned out to be a disappointment. It simply would not shoot accurately. It’s not that either the cartridge or the Colt were at fault, it was simply the way it was chambered. Most semi-auto cartridges are referred to as rimless. Of course, they do have a rim, however it’s the same diameter as the body of the cartridge. Semi-autos headspace differently as seen by the rimless .45 ACP, which headspaces on the mouth of the cartridge.

The .38 Super is neither rimless nor rimmed but actually somewhere in between; call them semi-rimmed. The rim of the .38 Super is .022″ larger in diameter than the body of the case, resulting in only .011″ of rim on each side for headspacing. Quite often this would not be enough, and often the blow of the firing pin would move the case forward far enough to cause misfires. That was the problem with my old Commander.

I finally sent it off to Bill Wilson, who installed a new barrel, cut for headspacing on the mouth of the case and the problem was solved. Groups shrunk from 12″ at 25 yards to 2″, without even searching for the best load. If you have an older .38 Super with accuracy problems this could be the solution.


.38 Super — Special Selected Loads

Test-Fire: Wilson Combat 5″ .38 Super

.38 Super Load MV (fps) 5 Shots/20 Yards (Inches)
RCBS #38-150KT/5.0 gr. Unique 1,120 1-1/4
Oregon Trail158RN/5.0 gr. Unique 1,045 1
Oregon Trail 147FN/5.0 gr. Universal 1,127 1-3/8
Oregon Trail 125RN/5.0 gr. Universal 1,182 1
Speer 115 GDHP/8.0 gr. HS6 1,179 1
Sierra 115 FMJ/7.5 gr. Power Pistol 1,383 7/8
Speer 124 GDHP/7.0 gr. Power Pistol 1,260 1-3/8
Hornady 124 XTPJHP/7.0 gr. Power Pistol 1,256 1-1/8
Hornady 147 XTPJHP/6.0 gr. Power Pistol ,064 1-3/8

Test-Fire: Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 5″ .38 Super

Load MV (fps) 5 Shots/20 Yds (Inches)
Lyman #358156GC/5.7 gr. Unique 1,150 7/8
Oregon Trail158RN/5.0 gr. Unique 1,059 1-1/8
Hornady 115 XTPJHP/7.5 gr. Power Pistol 1,384 1-1/8
Speer 115 GDHP/8.0 gr. HS6 1,221 1-1/8
Sierra 115 FMJ/7.5 gr. Power Pistol 1,361 1-3/8

Test-Fire: Colt Custom Stainless 1911 5″ .38 Super

Load MV (fps) 5 Shots/20 Yards (Inches)
RCBS #38-150KT/5.0 gr. Unique 1,125 1-1/4
Oregon Trail 147FN/6.0 gr. Power Pistol 1,186 1-3/8
Sierra 115 FMJ/7.5 gr. Power Pistol 1,379 1-1/8

Test-Fire: Colt Commander 4-1/4″

Load MV (fps) 5 Shots/20 Yards (Inches)
Oregon Trail 147FN/5.0 gr. Universal 1,150 1-1/8
Oregon Trail 125RN/5.0 gr. Universal 1,179 1
Hornady 115 XTPJHP/7.5 gr. Power Pistol 1,385 1
Sierra 115 FMJ/7.5 gr. Power Pistol 1,372 1-3/8

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Black Powder Basics

Elmer Keith in 1936 writing in his book Sixgun Cartridges and Loads, recommended the novice reloader start out with black powder; he basically said just fill the case, crunch the bullet down and shoot. Yes, loads can be assembled the way he says, however if you’re looking for accuracy with black powder it’s necessary to add several steps and follow some basic guidelines. In fact, loading black powder successfully requires more time and knowledge than using smokeless powder.

When loading smokeless powder I can get excellent results with commercial machine cast bullets of hard alloy matched up with a very hard lube, loaded over a proper charge, crimped and then fired. Quite often, loads thus assembled will shoot as good if not better then loads carefully assembled with home-cast bullets of the “proper” alloy and matching soft lube. But black powder needs more attention.

Reloaders have long argued whether standard powder measures should be used with black powder. Lyman offers the #55 Black Powder Measure, and this powder dispenser is designed to prevent the possibility of a spark igniting the black powder in the hopper. Powder measures designed for smokeless use should never be used with black powder, due to the danger of electric sparking. This has not been proven under laboratory conditions — nor has it been disproved. Some manufacturers of BP substitutes now approve the use of a standard powder measure, so check with them individually.


Specially Selected Black Powder Loads
Cartridge Bullet Weight Charge Sixgun MV
.45 Colt 250 gr. 37.5 gr. FFg Colt SAA 7-1/2” 930 fps
.45 Colt 250 gr. 37.5 gr. Pyrodex Colt SAA 7-1/2” 990 fps
.45 Schofield 230 gr. 30.0 gr. FFg Colt SAA 7-1/2” 860 fps
.45 Schofield 230 gr. 30.0 gr. Pyrodex Colt SAA 7-1/2” 900 fps
.44-40 200 gr. 35.0 gr. FFg Colt SAA 7-1/2” 860 fps
.44-40 200 gr. 35.0 gr. Pyrodex Colt SAA 7-1/2” 1,000 fps
.44 Russian 250 gr. 20.0 gr. FFg Colt SAA 7-1/2” 695 fps
.44 Russian 250 gr. 20.0 gr. Pyrodex Colt SAA 7-1/2” 775 fps
.38-40 180 gr. 35.0 gr. FFg Colt SAA 7-1/2” 975 fps
38-40 180 gr. 35.0 gr. Pyrodex Colt SAA 7-1/2” 1,120 fps

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Mr. Murphy Visits

It is a well-known fact the Good Lord watches out for fools and drunks. Both groups are quite large, with the first one being almost uncountable as it takes in so much territory, with one of the subcategories being dumb re-loaders. My first attempt at reloading occurred in late 1956. I had one of the first of the brand new 2nd Generation Colt Single Actions; mine happened to be a 71/2″ .45. I had not yet started casting bullets and my reloading press consisted of the Lyman #310 Tong Tool. I found some 230-grain-cast .45 ACP bullets and purchased a Lyman Powder Measure. This particular measure had a scale on the bottom of the drum, as well as sliding-adjustment bars on top. It also came with a chart for setting certain charges.

At the time I was still a teenager and definitely in my stupid period, so instead of using the chart as a reference then checking my charge with a powder scale, I skipped the last step. Those 230-grain lead bullets were loaded over what I thought was a proper charge of DuPont’s #5066. When I fired the first round, the 71/2″ reared back and pointed straight up at the sky.

I was smart enough to know something was definitely wrong, but dumb enough to make the wrong option to correct it. Instead of pulling the other 49 rounds, I shot them all as fast as I could. I guess I thought shooting them fast would get rid of them quickly enough that nothing would happen. I was without a doubt watched over that day, as I did not hurt myself, or that brand new sixgun.

I continued to reload — after I bought a powder scale. Over the years I’ve loaded for virtually everything, and have an inventory of well over 300 bullet molds. For use with the .44 Special and everyday working loads in the .44 Magnum, Keith bullets are molded from wheel-weights and then lubed and sized. During the winter, I purchased a goodly supply of new brass, including 3,000 rounds of .44 Special. I decided to load these in groups of 500, using various Keith bullets in different sizes, and with my three standard .44 Special powders of Unique, Universal and Power Pistol. The priming punch on my progressive press was sticking and often had to be released by hand, making the first 500 an exercise in frustration.

After those first 500 rounds, I replaced the priming punch and everything was running so smoothly I got careless, lazy, negligent and stupid.

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