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Thread: Using Unique in .44 special

  1. #1
    Boolit Bub Leadlum's Avatar
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    Using Unique in .44 special

    Why do people suggest using 7.5grs of Unique with the .44 special under a 250 gr cast bullet when my Manuals say 6.9 is MAX.? I know there is some guns that can handle that load; but what if they shoot those cartridges in other guns?.
    3rd Inf 2/15th 78-81

  2. #2
    Cast Boolits Owner

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    Some people push the limits, some load ammo that they feel is safe in their guns and some load 44 SP to use in guns designed for 44 MAG. The problem starts when these loads are used in the light weight revolvers or are left over when the estate is distributed and someone unknowingly uses them in the wrong gun.
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    Boolit Master Rocky Raab's Avatar
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    Because that was the load favored by Saint Skeeter, and anything ever written by him or Saint Elmer is considered dogma verging on commandments.

    In truth, while most guns can handle such loads, they probably also edge past what are now considered safe pressures for any and all guns in that chambering. In a Ruger Blackhawk, it's a fine and safe load. In something else -- no guarantees.

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    I might add that that 6.9gr load is below 15,000 psi which would be condsidered safe in all .44 Special pistols, and thus would be listed in this manner to keep people out of trouble.

    7.5 gr of Unique with Lyman 429421 is indeed Skeeter Skeltons favorite .44 Special load, and yeilds about <1000 fps from a 7.5" barreled gun. It is considered safe in most newer manufactured guns such as Rugers, Freedom Arms, and S&W revolvers.

    I would highly recommend a copy of Handloader Mag #236 Aug 2005 which has the definative article by Brian Pearce on loading the .44 Special from plinking to nearly magnum loadings. This article has everything you need to know about this cartridge, and reading it a few times will increase your knowledge of the cartridge immensely. This guy actually knows what he is talking about, and you can depend on his advise..

    Randy
    "It's not how well you do what you know how to do,,,It's how well you do what you DON'T know how to do!"
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    All true, but remember the reloading info is only a guied. YOUR GUN will tell you when to stop. I have shot starting loads that were too hot. As they corectly say start low and work up slow.
    You are right to question hot data. And just because the gun doesnt blow up , doesnt mean dammage cant still be done.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Outside of a few turn of the century Smiths and some imported junk (some of which probably shouldn't be fired at all), I can't think of many guns so chambered that couldn't handle that load.
    N-Frame Smith's were chambered in .44 Magnum. Colt SAA's were chambered in .45 ACP (higher pressure and thinner walls!).
    If anybody else can think of some particular examples that are unsafe, please chime in.
    I don't shoot that load because my 624 hates it for some reason.
    So I continue to risk life and limb with 7.0 grains of H-Universal.

  7. #7
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    If you want to baby your 44 Special revolver, or just want a decent plinking load, then 6.5 grains of unique or 4.7 grains of Red Dot is fine. But don't be misled. The sole reason for the low pressure limit on the 44 Special was the existence of those wonderful Spanish copies of N-frame S&W's. Unsafe at any speed, I'd hesitate to shoot them with black powder, but thousands were imported and sold in this country. Likewise, I'd be ill disposed at launching a warm load out of a 19 ounce Charter Arms Bulldog, though more for reasons of comfort than fear of exploding gun parts. But any modern (as in post-WWI) 44 Special Revolver will easily safely handle a 38 Special equivalent pressure Load (>18,000 cup, IIRC). In WWI, Colt and S&W made over 300,000 similar weapons chambered for the 45 ACP. That one runs at 17000 CUP. Why 3000 less for the thicker walled cylinders of the 44 Special? Now I will say that I draw the line at that pressure range. 7.2 grains of Unique works well for me, as does 5.5 grains of RedDot both yielding about 900 fps. Over the Book? well, not when I started using them.
    Those 25,000psi loads (17.5 grains 2400 and the like) are best served out of a 44 magnum. I won't even load them for that purpose, having plenty of 44 Magnum Brass.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Rocky Raab's Avatar
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    I think you are perzackly right, rintinglen.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    My old NRA Handloading Guide lists their #17 load (.44 Special) of 7.5 gr Unique under a cast 250 SWC @928 fps with a measured pressure of 11,250 CUP. Typically, the NRA used H.P. White Laboratory in Bel Air, MD for all its pressure measurements. Even with changes in Unique formulations over the years, I find it hard to believe that the new formulations exceed 14,000 CUP. I could be wrong, but with the new Unique powders I've never had any hard extractions or blown primers when using this load behind WQWW 429421 bullets.

    Best regards,

    CJR

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    Boolit Master

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    I have an old Speer manual at home (#3? From 1965?) that lists 9.0 Unique as the maximum load with a 250 cast SWC. Life was simpler back then, I guess. I wish SAAMI would set a standard for ".44 Special +P" loads so we could change this question to "Is my xxxxx safe to use with +P loads?"

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    With winchester cases, my 44 Ruger Flattop likes 7.4 grains better. I did the load in 1/10th grain increments until it was the most accurate using a 200 grain RNFP. It doesn't shoot hard, my 12 year old nephew shot more than 50 rounds of them this weekend.
    In all, the .41 Magnum would be one of my top choices for an all-around handgun if I were allowed to have only one. - Bart Skelton

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    canyon-ghost

    Do you have any chrony data for that 7.4 Unique and 200 gr. RNFP load.
    Nothing is impossible for the person that does not have to do it.

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    Tag for reference!
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by Leadlum View Post
    Why do people suggest using 7.5grs of Unique with the .44 special under a 250 gr cast bullet when my Manuals say 6.9 is MAX.? I know there is some guns that can handle that load; but what if they shoot those cartridges in other guns?.
    Because Manuals these days adhere to SAAMI pressure specifications. The SAAMI MAP for the 44 SP is 15,500 psi (not CUP) in deference to the older revolvers. I have pressure tested 7.5 gr Unique under several different cast bullets from 240 - 255 gr. The psi runs 22,000 +/- depending on the bullet and alloy used. Modern made revolvers can handle that level of psi especially if the same revolver is chambered in 45 ACP. The SAAMI MAP for the 45ACP is 21,000 psi and 45 ACP +P is 23,000 psi.

    Larry Gibson

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    Boolit Master Thumbcocker's Avatar
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    Just use 8 grains of power pistol and get the same velocity within SAAMI specs.
    You'll go far providin' you ain't burnt alive or scalped."

    Will Geer as Bear Claw in "Jeramiah Johnson"

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    My Little Dandy rotor threw 6 grs of Unique, I used a 240 TLswc Lee, and found happiness in my third model hand ejector S&W.44 Special. Accurate and thumpy as a .45 ACP.
    Best, Thomas.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    The loading manuals cover it as best they can but there are a lot of unknowns that must be read into it. Seating depth, case capacity, hardness of projectile, etc. Too much to list. Thye list low because of this.

    I think it's like your car or truck, anything mechanical, you can run it at it's designed standard performance limits, or average, and with regular maintenance get a lot of miles from it. If you were to run your vehicle in second gear on the highway you will get there but with increased wear and tear on it. Eventually reaching it's life expectancy sooner than later.

    I think a lot of older firearms in particular are around as there were no heavy or +P loads for them and they received regular cleaning and lubrication.

  18. #18
    Boolit Man kidmma's Avatar
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    7.5 grs of Unique out of my Blackhawk with a 250 gr Keith is a handful. Not magnum level but you notice it. And that 250 casts at 268 gr for me so it's considerably heavier than the nominal designation. The gun and an individual's tolerance may make the decision on what to use.
    Scott

    The East-Left Coast

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I must agree. Recoil may be a subjective thing, but 7.5 grs. Unique and #429241 is a stout kicker out of any .44 handgun, Special or Magnum.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Very true!

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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
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GC Gas Check