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Thread: Musings on the writing of Elmer Keith...

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Musings on the writing of Elmer Keith...

    My son gave me a copy of the book “Sixguns” for my birthday recently. I first read the book by checking it out of the library in the mid-1960’s. I bought a copy of my own 10 or 15 years later. Still have it. So, obviously, it was time to re-read it. Elmer Keith was a smart guy.

    Somethings I noticed. There was nothing in the book about the .44 Magnum, just his hot loaded .44 Specials (and lesser calibers). I did not realize that since, at the time I first read it, he was writing a regular column (I think it was in “Guns & Ammo” magazine) and the .44 Magnum was about all he talked about in them. Of course, this was about 10 years after the book was published, but they were at the same time for me. So, he had moved on instead of being trapped in the past.

    I read the book carefully this time and noticed that he mentioned a 16:1 lead:tin mix for his .44 Specials. He mentioned 10:1 mix a few times while talking about semi-auto pistols, but there is no mention of using that mix in revolvers. I also did some re-reading of his Guns & Ammo columns and he mentions both 16:1 and 10:1 mixes in relation to the .44 Magnum. I don’t know from what I read if he started with 16:1 in the .44 Magnum and later went to the 10:1 mix. This is unclear from the writing, but I suspect so. I also read from him that he fully expected there to be some leading in the barrel. He thought it was easy enough to clean out. It was not a problem as long as it did not degrade accuracy during a normal shooting session. So, his lead:tin mixes did lead.

    I don’t know if he saw a major difference between the 16:1 and the 10:1 mix with the .44 Magnum from what I read. I also don’t know if he ever tried a bullet with a gas-check. I doubt that he would. He was very vocal about being anti-gas-check, but I think it would have been an interesting test. I am not sure what all this means, but it was interesting and worthwhile re-reading him and remembering again how well his writing and opinions have aged.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master dbosman's Avatar
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    If I'm recalling correctly, he started with 20/1 and later switched to 16/1.
    If you'd like to read his articles, Gun's magazine offers archives of every issue over fifty years old. Pretty decent PDF files.
    https://gunsmagazine.com/classic-gun...zine-editions/
    January 1955 through June 1968

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    Musings on the writing of Elmer Keith...

    Very interesting. I will read deeper into his writings.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    I think he liked 10:1 for the .45 Auto Rim as it has shallow rifling and benefits from harder bullets, also that he advocated 20:1 for slower hollow points. Despite many modern innovations (like the .44 Magnum), SIXGUNS is still the most valuable and true reference book on handguns.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Take this from someone who followed Keith for many years and STILL thinks he is the man. He worked up the Keith Load for the 44 Magnum using 1-16.
    It is in his Sixgun book as an addendum. Plus he had said it many times.

    Again I meant no harm in what I wrote on this subject. Please do not take it any other way than just as I wrote it. Just for informational purposes only. Not trolling or baiting or any other harmful thing.
    We Know Mass Cannot Be Weighed But It Has Newtonian Weight And That Is Derived From Kilograms And Kilograms Can Be Converted to Pounds. But, Still Mass Cannot Be Weighed. But How is the kilograms obtained? Can Kilograms Be Weighed? Evidentally Yes It Can. But, Still Mass Cannot Be Weighed So Kilograms Must Not Exist. Funny Isn't It.
    One good thing out of this the next time I'm at the doctors and they want to weigh me I'll tell them mass cannot be weighed.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I have that book and all the Gun Notes columns in book form and would like to know where he said he fully expected his barrels to lead. I don't recall reading that.
    Rule 303

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    Boolit Master Thumbcocker's Avatar
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    Unlike many today; Elmer wrote from actual experience.
    You'll go far providin' you ain't burnt alive or scalped."

    Will Geer as Bear Claw in "Jeramiah Johnson"

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    Quote Originally Posted by dbosman View Post
    If I'm recalling correctly, he started with 20/1 and later switched to 16/1.
    If you'd like to read his articles, Gun's magazine offers archives of every issue over fifty years old. Pretty decent PDF files.
    https://gunsmagazine.com/classic-gun...zine-editions/
    January 1955 through June 1968
    Thanks for that link & content.
    2nd Amend./U.S. Const. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "A man ought ta do what he thinks is best" - "Hondo" Lane.(John Wayne)

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    Enforce the Immigration laws & deport the illegal immigrants. Quit fooling around.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piedmont View Post
    I have that book and all the Gun Notes columns in book form and would like to know where he said he fully expected his barrels to lead. I don't recall reading that.
    Maybe I overstated that just a little bit. Read the last part of the chapter called "A Bullet Chapter". He goes through the usual suspects if leading occurs (too hot a powder, undersized bullet, etc), but adds the following: "some leading will occur at times in perfect and well polished barrels." I also remember him talking in one of the columns about tiny flecks of lead in the cleaning patches. He said that this was not a problem as long at it did not affect the accuracy while shooting. I always think of that when I see tiny flecks of lead on my cleaning patches. And I do see them frequently. He was certainly not talking about heavy leading.

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    Boolit Master
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    He certainly did have the experience,I cant imagine how many rounds he cast and shot. Must of had a heck of a good supply of lead. I miss that good old boy.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    With his loads using lots of tin he would get good expansion without much bullet fragmenting, the only negative these days is the cost and avail. of tin.

  12. #12
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    Good read. I've owned one for years and keep loaning them out never to be returned. Think my first was a hardbound first edition. Wish I had it back.
    I recall on his loading and shooting the .45 Colt. He stated that his dad bought plumber's lead in pigs to turn into .45 Colt bullets. I wondered at the time where in the world in Idaho in the sticks did he find anything to alloy that plumber's lead with. Maybe some "tired" lino from the newspaper office. I'm betting most was shot almost pure out of the .45 Colts.
    Too bad there is very little remaining of the stuff published in newsletters by the ".44 Associates". Occasionally, I'll run into something but not much remains.
    A grand old man and pioneer that gave a lot to the casting and shooting hobby in the way of .44 Special and .44 Magnum calibers. Some on the .357 Magnum but most of that work and the following came from Phil Sharpe and Skeeter Skelton and Charles Askins.
    Those of you who haven't need to read the book and the follow on, "Hell, I Was There"./beagle
    diplomacy is being able to say, "nice doggie" until you find a big rock.....

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by beagle View Post
    Good read.
    I recall on his loading and shooting the .45 Colt. He stated that his dad bought plumber's lead in pigs to turn into .45 Colt bullets. I wondered at the time where in the world in Idaho in the sticks did he find anything to alloy that plumber's lead with. Maybe some "tired" lino from the newspaper office. I'm betting most was shot almost pure out of the .45 Colts.
    /beagle
    I have wondered about that from time to time, myself. Of course, there was not much in the way of wheelweights back then (pre-WWII in Idaho). He does not mention them in the book. He does mention them in the magazine columns, and does not think much of wheelweights. My guess is because antimony is a poor substitute for tin. He does not mention solder in the book.

    All he mentions in the book was lead and tin. Lino might be used, but I am thinking he probably ordered straight lead pigs and straight tin sticks. Not cheap, but I doubt that he would stint on the most important part of the handload. He did point out a few ways to save and reuse practice bullets at his target range. Use the best, but conserve.

  14. #14
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    White Label Lubes wasn't available for Elmer.

    I had a few if his books, but someone borrowed them and I haven't seen
    them in many years.
    Tom
    μολὼν λαβέ

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    Elmers young years were spent 55 Miles N of me in Winston, and 15-20 miles East of Helena, MT. Besides Helena, being the State Capital with plenty of printing, East Helena had a couple of smelters, one of which was last operated by Asarco. http://www.asarco.com/about-us/company-history/
    This link says that they produced lead. Since E. Helena is very close to the Spokane hills of MT where the family ranch was it would be easy to buy lead, and probably alloyed lead. There would certainly be no restrictions about selling only to corporations or haz-mat certifications. I doubt that things fell off of the truck much but also know most managers would sell to a local for little more than cost.
    Last edited by MT Gianni; 07-02-2018 at 04:17 PM.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

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    I would surmise that Keith’s remark on well-polished barrels leading anyway was directed towards the .357 Magnum. It was loaded to the maximum velocity back then, for public relations purposes, and was a notorious leader. Some of the lead-bullet factory loadings featured gas checks. Elmer had a poor opinion of gas checks for revolver bullets, saying they prevented the base expansion in the throat and leade necessary for good revolver performance, but I remember him writing somewhere that in some calibers where leading was a routine issue, the gas check might be a necessary evil.

    His writings are so voluminous that I can’t recall where I saw that. Sixguns is a very large expansion on his little Samworth book Sixgun Cartridges and Loads, which I believe has been reprinted. It’s interesting reading, even if you have the big book already.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    Just remember that a lot of his and Jordan's and Askin's writing is now either politically incorrect or completely wrong by modern standards.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Keith lived in a era where being PC was not an issue. He also shot eagles too. Something frowned on by the conservatives.
    Elmer Keith "The Man".

    Again nothing I wrote was meant to harm, injure or to be mean to anyone. It was not to entice or to bait anyone into anything. It was just me making a statement without any intentions to be mean spirited.
    We Know Mass Cannot Be Weighed But It Has Newtonian Weight And That Is Derived From Kilograms And Kilograms Can Be Converted to Pounds. But, Still Mass Cannot Be Weighed. But How is the kilograms obtained? Can Kilograms Be Weighed? Evidentally Yes It Can. But, Still Mass Cannot Be Weighed So Kilograms Must Not Exist. Funny Isn't It.
    One good thing out of this the next time I'm at the doctors and they want to weigh me I'll tell them mass cannot be weighed.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    There is no doubt Elmer Keith made a very big impact on American shooting and reloading. He was a voluminous writer and did contradict himself from time to time. You can attribute that to anything you like.

    Ray Thompson developed his own 44 Magnum bullet soon after the introduction of the round to the American public. He shot his GC bullet over snow in winter and recovered the bullets. Like others of the time he used binary alloys (lead and tin). He found that a bullet had to had to be cast of 1-20 to prevent it from folding like an accordion under the pressure of the round.

    When it comes to hardness, there is not enough difference between 1-20 and 1-16 to make change on.

    There is allot to learn from reading Keith's works, but it is not holy writ.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    While Keith's writings are not holy writ there really isnt any writer that does produce holy writ.
    In Keiths time testing procedures were not as sophistcated as they are now. Even nobodys like me own a chrono. If someone on a higher tier than me wanted to they can get the Ohler Personal Ballistic Lab.
    Keith called CUP PSI. We now know it is CUP but not PSI. Ballisticians have much more sophisticated equipment than even just before Keith passed away.
    Bit still even with todays more sophistication I dont take any writing by anyone as holy writ and to do so is incorrect in my opinion.

    Again what I have just said in printed word was not meant to hurt, aggravate or to be mean to anyone. Please dont take it that way. It was just a statement of my opinion only.
    We Know Mass Cannot Be Weighed But It Has Newtonian Weight And That Is Derived From Kilograms And Kilograms Can Be Converted to Pounds. But, Still Mass Cannot Be Weighed. But How is the kilograms obtained? Can Kilograms Be Weighed? Evidentally Yes It Can. But, Still Mass Cannot Be Weighed So Kilograms Must Not Exist. Funny Isn't It.
    One good thing out of this the next time I'm at the doctors and they want to weigh me I'll tell them mass cannot be weighed.

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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