Never Assume Anything
By John Taffin
“Reloaders do not need a chronograph.”
I reloaded for more than 20 years before I ever had a chronograph. I was definitely fat, dumb and happy and stayed with the Keith loads when it came to .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt. It was only when I bought my first chronograph (an Oehler Model 11) I really began experimenting. Over the years I’ve used at least a dozen chronographs and these have opened the door for me for thousands of loads with hundreds of variations. Anyone doing any type of experimenting with their reloading definitely needs a chronograph.
“Cast bullets need to be sized to fit the barrel.”
In his book Sixgun Cartridges and Loads, 1936, Elmer Keith took pains to explain how to measure the “… exact groove diameter of that particular barrel, which is what we are interested in.” Ever since that time, reloaders have been using this as support for sizing bullets to the groove diameter of the barrel. What is forgotten is the fact the bullet — even if sized to exact groove diameter — is going to be the size of the chamber mouths when it arrives at the barrel. If bullets are sized to fit the cylinder they will go through a lot less distortion making the trip to the barrel. The ideal of course is to have cylinders and barrels very close together. For many years Smith & Wesson and Colt both supplied overly large cylinders which gave terrible accuracy unless one sized the bullets to fit the cylinder.
The commercial cast bullet, center, shoots
just as well as the home cast bullet on the left.
High Velocity Best?
“Big bore sixguns have to be loaded pedal-to-the-metal for best results.” I doubt very much if we need much over 1,200 fps in big bore sixguns to reliably take game at any distance we should be shooting. I have taken two very large feral pigs, one over 500 pounds and the other close to 700 pounds, with a 71/2″ .44 Special using a 235-gr. cast hollowpoint bullet at 1,200 fps. I’ve also taken 24 whitetails using the .44 Magnum and the Hornady 240 XTP-JHP at just over 1,300 fps. My very large bison bull fell to a 320-gr. .480 Ruger bullet at just over 1,100 fps. All were 1-shot kills and couldn’t have been any more dramatic by increasing the muzzle velocities. Bullet placement will trump maximum loads every time.
“Super heavy bullets are the most effective.” A year or so ago I did one of these columns on Big Bullet Baloney, which is exactly what super heavy bullets are. Some are even offering bullets weighing over 700 grs. for use in the Smith & Wesson .500. There are also 400-gr. bullets for use in the .45 Colt and .454 Casull. All these heavier-than-common-sense-demands bullets do is decrease accuracy, increase sixgun wear and punish the shooter. For my use I rarely go much above 300-gr. bullets for the two mentioned .45’s and have not only used these for taking game but shooting out to a full 700 yards with excellent accuracy. I can’t see going much over 400 grs. for the .475 Linebaugh and the big .500’s. Life is much more pleasant when reason prevails.
Notice the results when sizing
cast bullets to different diameters.
A chronograph opens new vistas for reloaders and ends walking in the dark.
This well-used ProChrono Digital is in almost daily use by His Editorship,
and was only around $100.
“Home cast bullets are more accurate than commercial cast versions.” This was a hard one for me to let fall. For years I carefully mixed my alloy, cast my own bullets, then sized and lubricated them just so. I looked upon commercial cast bullets as utility grade. They couldn’t be as good as mine for several reasons. They were too hard, the lube was too hard, and they had bevel bases. I was literally shocked when I actually loaded some of these bullets using my standard powder charges in .44 Special, .45 Colt and .45 ACP and found these loads not only shot well with commercial bullets they often outshot my carefully, tailored bullets. I recently ran some tests on target loads for the .44 Magnum using only commercial cast bullets and the results were excellent. Many of my standard .44 and .45 sixgun loads are now loaded with Oregon Trail Laser Cast 240- and 255-gr. SWC bullets, while a great deal of 200 SWC Laser Cast bullets find their way into my 45 ACP loads.
“It’s perfectly okay to load the needed ammunition the night before a match or hunting trip.” Just about everyone has been guilty of this at one time or another and I shouldn’t have to mention it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Careful planning will prevent this.
Got any myths you’d like to see busted? Drop Editor Roy a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do.