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Thread: .44 Mag Penetration Tests

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    .44 Mag Penetration Tests

    Well, I finally got it together!

    Stimulated by a desire to shoot heavy boolits but finding stabilization of long heavy boolits a problem in my Marlin 1894 with 1:38 twist I decided to test same design different weight boolits.

    So far my experiences with my gun, boolits and loads is in line with the Greenhills formula and I find boolits longer than about 0.75" do not stabilize well beyond 100 yards. In fact, anything much over 265 gr. groups poorly at 100 yards and many keyhole even if groups are good at 50 yards. I have tried lots of loads, different boolit designs and sizes to 0.435" and even "J" bullets - same result.

    So I decided I would try some penetration tests to see if the heavier boolits penetrate significantly better than say a 265/270 gr. If so then I figured I might get the gun rebarreled or just buy a new one with the 1:20 twist Ballard rifling.

    Anyway, after reading "Make Mine A .44" by Ashley Emmerson in Guns & AMMO last June I decided to do my own testing but from that article knew that the test media would be a problem. He was shooting through 38" of wet phone books!

    I wanted to test at least 3 weights of same design boolit (240, 265 and 300 gr.) and at least 2 different designs so I would need at least 12 x 5 gallon buckets of wet phone books or newspaper with 2 end to end for each test. That is a pile of phone books and then they have to be disposed of after.

    In the end to get things done and have a comparative test I decided I would use end grain birch to see what happened.

    Informal and not entirely scientific but fun and informative, and I think worthwhile.

    My conclusion from this so far is that I am happy with 265 gr. performance and will do some more testing.

    I wrote this up in Notepad and attached it as a file to keep things simple. Click on it to open and stretch to get the table right (all in view) or unselect "wordwrap" - it should show up fine.

    Longbow
    Attachment 2868

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    Last edited by longbow; 04-05-2009 at 12:01 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Ricochet's Avatar
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    Smile

    That's a lot of shooting and measuring!

    The old 429421 did right well against the bigger boolits.
    "A cheerful heart is good medicine."

  3. #3
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    Someone brought over a Ruger .44 semi auto that needed some work. After repairing it (If I remember it was to shorten the stock for a small shooter.) I decided to try some 320 gr LBT's out of it. I could not shoot my regular direction because the farmer was making hay so I shot the other direction. I had to single load the rounds because the Ruger magazine won't take large boolits. I shot a bunch at 50 yd's and had some great groups but didn't notice the tree behind the target. The tree was better then 18" in diameter and every boolit went through it. Thankfully, the tree is still alive and doing great.
    My 45-70 and .475 revolvers shoot through very large trees like butter. My boolits all have large meplats too.
    I remember shooting tracers from a 30-06 at oak trees and they would penetrate 2 feet of green oak. God knows what armor piercing or ball ammo would go through. A plus for the soldier instead of those tinker toy guns they now shoot.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    Ricochet:

    Penetration wise the 429421 did reasonably well and what really got me going on the heavy bullet/light(er) bullet thing was the Guns & AMMO article. Several heavy weight bullets were used (300+ gr.) some standard factory 240 gr. softpoint and a lowly lead semi wadcutter. What caught my attention was that the lead semi wad cutter penetrated nearly as far as the heavy bullets at equivalent velocity but was shot at the 300 gr. handgun velocity out of a rifle!?!

    Basically the article showcased the Belt Mountain solid brass (lead core in the base) bullets and was demonstrating that with a softpoint too much velocity can hurt penetration due to bullet upset. This SWC must have been hard cast because it kept right up with the big boys.

    Penetration depends on a lot of things like bullet weight (momentum), velocity, expansion, meplat size. The 429421 has a smaller meplat than many of the newer boolit designs like the Beartooth WFN and Ranch Dog's designs.

    That's why I wanted to compare different weight bullets of same design and against different design.

    As I said about the all the larger meplat boolits including the 429421 is that the nose cleared a path and the sides of the boolits look like they were recovered from water - no scrubbing. That was interesting.

    The 429421 yielded and collapsed in the large grease ring though and in the first test if you zoom in you can see it happened in the barrel as the rifling is clear right where grease ring should be.

    These were pretty hot loads all in all so pressures must have been high.

    What I found interesting was that the middle weight boolits not only penetrated well it was the middle weight boolits that showed some expansion which kind of implies that they are packing a little more punch - that includes the 429421.

    This was a pretty short and basic test in wood not tissue but I think it at least indicates that the 250 to 270 gr. boolits do a good job and the large meplat boolits penetrated very competitively and tracked straight.

    I now have a Ballistic Technology Bullet Test Tube and will be repeating a few of these tests into that medium - but I need an extension first as the hard cast will go right through one and maybe even two.

    Longbow

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    I find that a good hard cast boolit of any weight will penetrate much better then a jacketed that opens too fast. You have to compare apples to apples by shooting 240 and 300 gr jacketed. Then shoot 240 to 320 gr hard cast. This is where you will see a difference in penetration. You can't compare one against the other by mixing jacketed, soft cast, hollow points and hard cast.
    If every aspect of the boolit is exactly the same, the heavy one will out penetrate the light one even when started slower. You are mixing boolit aspects, doesn't work!
    It is like saying the 110 gr 30 caliber bullet will penetrate deeper then the 220 gr. We know that isn't true----BUT, what if the 110 gr was a solid and the 220 was a soft point, round nose? Do you see what I mean?
    You must keep testing in perspective for what the bullet, boolit was designed to do and what purpose it was made for.
    Shoot a pure lead 240 and then a hard cast 240, what results will you get? You then shoot a 320 hard cast and how can you compare with the soft 240 or the jacketed 240 that expands like gangbusters? Your parameters are too wide for a valid test.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Topper's Avatar
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    Nice write up Longbow.

  7. #7
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    It seems like maybe you're 429421 is too soft for a hot load
    of a fast powder like Blue Dot. A bit harder bullet and/or
    a bit slower powder (2400/ H110) may get better penetration
    and better condition from the 429421. Was the accy good on
    these loads?

    Do you have a hardness tester? Since I got my LBT hardness
    tester, I think I am learning a lot more from my tests.

    Lots of work, looks like.

    Thanks for the report.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    Like I said, not entirely scientific but I think still informative.

    I got thinking about how heavy is heavy enough and where is the "too heavy" point. If taken to the extreme there is not enough room for powder.

    At the weights I tested and have seen others shoot (up to 340 gr.) there is certainly enough room for powder but if the boolit weight gets too heavy for the powder charge, velocity will be too low at acceptable pressures to provide decent penetration or trajectory.

    Where is that point? I don't know yet.

    Does it matter? I don't know that either but I'm trying to find out.

    I am a believer in momentum and I think that for a given boolit design the boolit with the highest momentum wins in the penetration game. But again if velocity drops too low due to too much weight then a lighter boolit can have more momentum than a heavy one.

    Of course I am referring to hard cast that do not upset significantly.

    MtGun44:

    I agree that the alloy may be a little soft for the 429421. It seems to have collapsed at the grease groove so must have been stressed to the max. I haven't seen that before. Since the rifling is present this collapse happened in the barrel not during the sudden stop in the wood.

    No, I don't have a hardness tester yet but will be getting one. I know this alloy is a little soft as it is a mix of range scrap and wheelweights and was just water dropped not oven heat treated.

    All boolits were cast at the same time of the same alloy so basically the test compares the same design/different weight and a little between different designs for penetration characteristics.

    I plan to do some more testing using the Bullet Test Tube with max loads of the most suitable powder for a "light" boolit of about 250 gr. and a "heavy" boolit of 300 gr. or better to see how they compare (highest velocity for each weight). Again, same design and hard cast.

    It seems that the general concensus is that for hunting the Keith style 429421 meplat is a little on the small side (mine measure about 0.275") so I will probalby use WFN at about 0.340" in the two weights.

    Just curious and gotta shoot stuff!

    Longbow

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    MtGun44:

    Sorry, I got writing and my brain came out of gear. You asked about accuracy.

    The only boolit I have done any real accuracy testing on is the RNFP which shoots quite well at weights up to around 265 gr. I can't remember the exact length but it is close to the 0.72" max. predicted by the Greenhills formula.

    I have also shot paper patch in the truncated cone design and again they shoot well up to about 265/270 gr. These weren't part of this test.

    Also, since the photography is a little poor you may not be able to see them but there are "migrogrooves" in some of the boolits. They were not there for the test boolits. I made a push out mold with adjustable length to try out same design/different weight boolit but it is smooth sided - no grease grooves so I have to use a grease cookie lube system.

    I get a little leading so decided to try rolling small grooves sort of like tumble lube grooves. I made a little rolling device similar to the Corbin cannelure tool. It works pretty well and I wound up rolling grooves in all my smooth sided boolits.

    Now I have to test them for leading and accuracy.

    Longbow

  10. #10
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    Lonbow,

    Testing like that is what everyone should do with their cast before use on game. And I think the information gained is going to be valid and valuable later as you attempt to taylor a bullet for a certain toughness of an animal or certain shot angles. You will use the info for the rest of your life, even if you go away from 44 caliber. It will become your foundation for judging other calibers as well.

    My only recommendation here is that you document everything that you are doing so that when you do go after game, you can relate one experience to the other. It will take a few animals and thus a period of time, but it will translate so you can correlate the two experiences to arrive at a balance.

    Just remember that what you don't see, from paper, is shock. A wide meplat does little if it isn't driven fast enough to create it.

    You saw on the 429421 how the shoulder was never touched. If you shoot a heavy semi wadcutter, you will see shoulder damage because you won't have the same velocity level to make the nose do the work. Same in an animal when the velocity is high enough. Velocity does the work and by far, most of the damage. The shoulder simply becomes a meplat when the velocity falls farther than you expected or predicted.

    Think of it as a .... safety net if you guess wrong.
    Last edited by Bass Ackward; 01-23-2007 at 08:45 AM.

  11. #11
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    I know exactly what the point is! You are having fun and shooting more! So even if the test is kind of informal, keep it up.
    I agree with Bass on the velocity needed and a fast, heavy, flat nose is best. Same with arrows, the heavy ones driven as fast as possible out perform those little toothpicks at 300 fps. But you do reach a point of diminishing returns when the weight is so high that a decent velocity can't be shot.
    The heavy will still penetrate well but the animal will not die as fast unless a lot of blood vessels are cut. Just need a happy medium.

  12. #12
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    One thing that isn't often mentioned by the "Expansion is everything" crowd, is that pistol bullets like the .44 magnum give up penetration to get expansion. My preference, is to have a good bullet design (Elmer's is not bad) with a wide meplat. An example I'll give you is the Lee .430 - 310 RF. You can drive that at 1300 fps with allowable pressures in a .44 mag, it is sort of "Pre-Expanded" due to the wide meplat and it shoots better than anything that I have tried at up to 100 yards (the length of my Home Club's range). I don't much care how it works at 200 yards because I don't intend to shoot anything with a revolver past 100 yards.

    Frank Siefer and I designed this bullet as a custom proposition and Lee later put it into production. I shot the first head of "big game" with it (a ten point whitetail deer). I have shot nothing with it since, so my "base" of experience is limited, to say the least. I know it shoots EXTREMELY well, but I really cannot state for sure its terminal performance. We all know that one deer means little. My deer was shot in the neck so I can't even relate penetration on live animals.

    However, until I am shown differently, I will be confident in this bullet.

    All the same, I have a good bit of information on the 250 Keith, and it works well on deer sized game from any angle (Always total penetration regardless of angle).

    Dale53

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Dale, I have shot a bunch of deer with that boolit and I love it. It is very accurate too.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master 45r's Avatar
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    I like using a 280 grain lbt with a 73 percent metplat in my S&W 44 mag.It is very accurate and the kick isn't as bad as 300 grainers.I have shot the keith and the thompson 250 swc and like them a lot for milder loads but they are not quite as accurate.I like 70 percent metplat in 357 and 41, but use 73 in 44 and 75 percent metplat in 45.I like 185 lbt in 357,255 lbt in 41, and 300 grain lbt in 45 or 454 casull for hunting.I don't think you really need anything heavier in a cast bullet because they penatrate so well.I've gotten one and a half inch groups at 50 yards and 3 inch groups at 100 yards with the above bullets.Good enough for me since most the bucks I shoot are within that range and most of the time I hit them with a high shoulder shot and drop em in their tracks.I love the 45 for cast but 357,41,or 44 will work with any design swc or lbt if you practice enough to hit where your aiming.If I get too old or tired of recoil I will shoot the 255 lbt in 41 mag.But for now I don't have any problem with the 454 at 1650 fps and the 300 LBT.A 300 grain 45 will shoot through a log cabin at 700 yards so I dont see any reason for anything more powerfull.The 454 casull has taken every game animal out there and I don't ever feel undergunned with 300 lbt cast bullets at 1650 fps.I don't know why anyone would want to tolerate much more recoil either but I guess we all want something that is more powerfull but really don't need.I'll be happy if I can master the 454 casull and I'm having fun getting close.

  15. #15
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    44man and Dale53,
    I think that these Lee 310 grainers may be the dogs dangleys coming out of the Ruger 44 rifle. I have one of the old tube magazine Rugers - do you think it would work? I had an Uncle who swore I'd mess up the gas port if I fired lead thru it - but maybe if use a really hard alloy it'll be OK. Anyway, just wondering......
    "The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave."
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  16. #16
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    44MAG;
    I would like you to describe the typical results of the Lee 310 RF on big game. I would like to hear the velocity, typical ranges shot, and the terminal results. If you have accuracy data, that would be nice. I have lots of local accuracy results and they have been so good that I can't repeat it as I did not witness it. As I stated, I shot the first head of big game (10 point white tail deer) but I broke its neck at 25 yards. That doesn't tell much about terminal performance and is statistically meaningless. However, that was the shot presented.

    Jim4065;
    One of the reasons we used two crimp grooves on this bullet is so it COULD be used in the Ruger auto rifle. However, when the bullet is loaded short (using the crimp groove closest to the nose) you MUST reduce the powder charge by at least two grains. Deeper seating raises pressures a LOT. Using the revolvers we had access to, it was practical to load the bullet LONG. Loaded long gives the best velocity pressure ratio (of course).

    I believe that Frank has taken a couple of deer with a Ruger Auto Rifle with excellent results.

    Dale53

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    Dale, I dug around and found some of my targets. It's getting hard to do because I had such a huge pile of them that I had to get rid of a lot.
    I have shot many deer with this boolit out of my SBH and my grandson and I each shot one with the Marlin. I have never had a deer go over 30 to 50 yd's with any chest hit. The blood trail is huge but I don't have to track because most of the time I see the deer fall, any that run hit the ground hard but those that just jump and walk, get sleepy, shake their heads and either lay down or drop.
    The one I shot with the Marlin was 65 yd's and fell in it's tracks with a shoulder hit, the spine was NOT hit.
    My grandsons first deer was hit behind the shoulder, it spun around and he shot it again and the second boolit came out of the first boolit's entrance hole. He got so excited he climbed right down and chased it. That made the deer run a little over 100 yd's.
    I use 21.5 gr's of 296 with a Federal 150 primer, velocity is 1316 fps. The Marlin shoots great with the same load but appears to like 20.5 gr's a little better.
    My normal distance is from 20 to 50 yd's but I have killed some out a little beyond 100 yd's.
    Here are some targets; the two on the left are with the Marlin at 50 yd's, 5 shots each. For those that do not think the lube is important for accuracy, the top target is Felix lube and the lower one is LBT Blue, shot on the same day, one group after the other. Those that stay with one lube without testing them all are handicapping themselves.
    The two right targets are with my SBH, the top at 50 yd's. My fault on the fifth shot that hit low, I pushed the grip too tight into the bag. The lower target was shot at 100 yd's from Creedmore, no sandbags, and measures 1-1/4".
    I use red dot sights and the dot covers a lot of target but I love them for hunting.
    I also shoot the LBT 320 gr WLNGC and I made my own WLN at 330 gr's and all three boolits shoot the same for me but there will be a tiny difference in point of impact.
    Last edited by 44man; 04-20-2007 at 01:25 PM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    I forgot to mention that I shoot my boolits hard, they are Brinnel 20. I have never recovered one even after digging in the ground after shooting a deer.
    One deer I shot through the shoulders had massive damage but I lost the pictures after my hard drive failed.
    I don't believe in the energy dump theory by keeping the boolit in the deer. I want two holes. Deer I shot with the 240 XTP did not die quicker, bullets were recovered and I worried about hitting a bone with them or taking a quartering shot. Nice mushrooms but I seem to get more internal damage with the hard cast. The mushroomed bullet runs out of steam too early. I would not use less then the 300 gr XTP.
    Stepping on everyones toes, I do not use less then 300 gr's in any revolver, when I get to my .475 I use nothing less then 400 gr's. The Lee .475 boolit is a super one too.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check