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Thread: Keith 44 Magnum Load, What Do We Really Know/Understand

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Keith 44 Magnum Load, What Do We Really Know/Understand

    I have deleted my posts for reason/reasons given below.


    Due to my inability, or lack of specific knowledge, to clearly state my intentions with this thread I am deleting the posts I have made.

    My intention was to give some thought as to what we believe the Keith load for the 44 Mag to be. Not whether 22.0 grains of H2400/A2400 is/was safe, but that it was a velocity with a certain bullet, based on test barrel length of 6.5 inches , and what that load would have produced in say a 4 inch revolver. Since a 4 inch S&W has a combined cylinder and barrel length of 5.875 inches with production dimensions and a flash gap.

    Due to the fact I am incapable of communicating in an efficient way, either due to my ignorance, or my assuming that people would/could understand my written babble, my thread would have gone downhill as it was starting to do.

    I guess Mr. Gibsons signature line says it all about me.

    Thanks to those that posted. But, nothing was to be gained by letting it continue.


    Sorry for the confusion. I was not trying to hurt, harm, cause anguish or confusion by this thread I started. I was not trying to bait, troll, call out anyone with this thread. Again I am sorry for this train wreck waiting to happen.
    Last edited by 44MAG#1; 09-14-2018 at 05:50 AM.
    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.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    In the past I tested the so-called "Keith Load" in both 6" solid SAAMI test barrels, as well as in the later 4" "vented" test barrel which simulates revolver conditions. Both tests were conducted using the radial copper system and calibrated to then industry standards (mid-1980s) using SAAMI reference ammunition. While I must rely mostly on memory, which can be problematic, given the passage of time, I think your "guestimate" of 1250 fps is realistic for a 4" revolver, such as an S&W Model 29.

    A significant factor affecting velocities in revolvers which many people don't consider is the affect of cylinder gap. When I worked at Ruger the Mean Assembly Tolerance for barrel-cylinder gap on a .357 or .44 Magnum revolver was 0.005" before proofing. After proofing all six charge holes and targeting with six standard service rounds, it is normal for the barrel-cylinder gap to open a bit, usually about 0.0005-0.0007, but sometimes as much as 0.001".

    The maximum cylinder gap then allowed on a new gun was 0.008", and for Customer Service repairs 0.009". If upon inspection the gap measured larger, with both front and rear gages in place, the usual "fix" was to install a "Long" cylinder which was +0.005" greater than min standard. If cylinder gap was too tight, being less than "Pass 0.003/Hold 0.004" with the rear gage in place, the condition would be corrected by fitting a "Short" cylinder -0.005" which would usually bring it to 0.007-0.008".

    In the last few years I have personally measured new S&W revolvers with cylinder gaps larger than 0.008," several as large as 0.010" and have inspected wartime S&W Victory Models as large as 0.012"
    When owners attempted to return their guns to the factory for repair, if a replacement cylinder was not available the gun might be returned with a tag stating "Obsolete parts not available, not repairable - OFG."

    "OFG" is a factory term meaning "Open Front Gage," is what they call a loose cylinder gap. The common gunsmith repair method is to set the barrel back one thread, stretch the crane arbor to remove any cylinder end-shake, and then to face off the barrel slightly as needed to establish correct cylinder gap. The S&W factory these days seems to be more interested in selling new guns than fixing older ones, and doesn't consider such "custom work" cost-effective. If they can't repair it by replacing worn parts with new factory parts which are in stock, then sorry for your bad luck.

    It was well documented in .38 Special testing law enforcement orders (again, this was 1980s) that the expected velocity change was about 10 f.p.s. for each 0.001" change in cylinder gap from Mean Assembly Tolerance, velocity being higher for a tight gap and lower for a loose gap. A similar Delta is expected for each inch change in barrel length firing standard pressure lead-bullet ammunition in .38 Special. Depending upon the piezometric efficiency of the specific powder loading in shorter barrels, you might expect a larger Delta-V firing +P service or Magnum ammunition.

    Therefore I don't think a 150 fps difference between a 6" solid industrial test barrel of minimum bore and groove dimensions and a typical 4" revolver is unreasonable. But that figure is not absolute. The observed velocity difference will be greater with slower-burning powders which are less efficient in short barrels. Following is an example firing .44 Magnum handloads in various revolver barrel lengths and in a rifle. The velocity gain comparing results with Bullseye to #2400 and RL7 are noteworthy:

    Side-by-Side comparisons fired same day with .44 Magnum “Medium Velocity” loads
    fired in two Vaqueros using the same .44 Magnum cylinder, 20" Marlin 1894S for comparison:

    Ammunition all assembled in Remington New Factory Primed brass with Remington 2-1/2 primers.

    Load Description_________Ruger 5-1/2"______Ruger 7-1/2"____Marlin 20”__Remarks

    ----------------------------------Cyl.Gap 0.008"-------Cyl.Gap 0.008"------Solid barrel

    43-230G 1:30Sn/Pb 7.2BE___978, 18Sd________1044, 21Sd_____1178, 7Sd___1.59” OAL crimped top groove

    43-230G 1:30Sn/Pb 24.5RL7_1022, 18Sd_______1151, 21Sd_____1432, 26Sd__1.59”OAL

    Saeco#441-WW 16#2400__1137, 40Sd________1243, 20Sd_____1363, 24Sd__1.66” OAL 265-gr. Keith style

    ColMeanV (gain) FPS--------1046-(REF)-----1146 (+100 over 5-1/2")-1324 ( +178 over 7-1/2”)
    Last edited by Outpost75; 09-13-2018 at 01:00 PM.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master mattw's Avatar
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    One should always work up to a load! Especially if you have not used it before or are starting a new lot number of powder. That being said, I really feel that going for a give velocity with a given bullet is a good effort, even better if it works with another powder. I have had good luck with bench rifles this way when changing powders and staying with the same bullet. One must be aware of burn rates and consistent seating and crimping or it all goes out the window. As both affect the pressure build up of the loaded round when fired.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Back when Keith was doing his work, not many hand loaders had access to a chronograph. Indeed, writers like Keith didn't until the late 1960s and those were primitive and expensive by today's standards, so writers of the day presumed that a certain charge would approximate the desired velocity, and they took it on faith.

    Today's recommended "best practice" would be to benchmark the velocity of full-charge factory loads in your revolver, and perhaps to keep a box or two of the same "lot" number to use as calibration checks, using it as your own "reference" ammo. Once you have accumulated repeated and consistent history of a known handload you have confidence in, and you can work from one set of uniform components over time, then you could use that.

    I keep a .22 rifle around and a reference quantity of Eley Tenex or other good match grade ammo to use as an instrument check each time I set up the chronograph. I know that my lot of Eley gives 1050+/-30 fps mean velocity over the long haul from my Ruger M77/.22 with sample standard deviations in the single-digits. If it does not, I start checking things.

    I know from experience that my benchmark .44 Magnum "medium velocity" load with Accurate 43-230G with 7.2 grains of Bullseye gives me the same 1050+/- 30 fps sample average from my 7-1/2" Ruger revolver. Although the .44 is less uniform than the .22, typical sample velocity standard deviations about 2% of the mean are entirely acceptable and normal, so knowing that my check load is performing as it should, I can then experiment and have a basis for validating the results of experiments.

    But I ALWAYS work up loads first by shooting groups of at least ten shots on paper. Firing less than ten shots only tells you where a load might hit in relation to the sights, nothing more. Less than ten shots is inadequate to assess accuracy or ballistic uniformity.

    I fire two cylinder loads off sandbags onto the same target from a revolver and look for "circular-normal" round groups with dense centers. If there are "fliers" I do not disregard them, but instead double the sample size to determine if the flier was a random variation of chance or a characteristic of the load. There are no "lucky" ten-shot groups.

    Chasing velocity only without assessing accuracy first is a distraction.

    Only after I find the most accurate load do I then test velocity. And then do so only to know where the "sweet" spot is, in case I change powder or primer lots, or receive a batch of brass which is heavier or lighter than the last ones. I then adjust charge weight with the new component set to produce results within my target "window."

    This is exactly what they do at the ammunition factories when initially setting up the loading machine, repeating a test sample whenever a powder, primer, case or bullet batch must be changed during a production run, and several times each shift while the line is running. These days the sampling and testing is automated with rounds being diverted according to a pre-determined protocol.

    When you can repeatedly and predictably produce the desired result on demand, you have a load.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Outpost75; 09-13-2018 at 01:06 PM.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Hercules 2400 (the powder Keith used) is different from Alliant 2400 powder (the powder available to us now). Further, speed depends on the gun you use. I have many 44 Rem Mag revolvers, and using the same bullet and charge of Alliant 2400, all loaded at the same time, speeds run from 1200 fps to 1400 fps. Even revolvers with the same barrel length show considerable variation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 44MAG#1 View Post
    Outpost75.

    That was informative.
    Now to the "meat" of the question. If we assume that he got that with 22gr. of 2400, do we assume the "Keith Load" is a powder charge or a velocity? If a powder charge do we just load 22gr 2400 or do we start low and work up till we get "around" 1250 FPS in our gun and take the powder charge of 2400 with that particular "lot" we arrive at and call it good?

    Again I mean no harm, hurt, anguish or aggravation to anyone on here. I am not trolling, baiting, calling out or trying to harm anyone with my post. It is just based on my knowledge/experience and/or belief. Nothing more
    By definition, a load is a powder charge/bullet and primer, not a velocity. In the days of Elmers writing of this a personal chronograph was out of the economic reach of individuals.
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    Elmer thinks that you are making too much of this!

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    Hercules 2400 (the powder Keith used) is different from Alliant 2400 powder (the powder available to us now).
    Larry Gibson did pressure and velocity tests between Hercules and Alliant 2400 and determined there was essentially no difference between the two including pressure and velocity. I was gifted with some 50's,60's and 70's Hercules 2400 and had some newer Alliant on hand at the time. I have no means for pressure testing but do have an Oehler 35 chronograph. I saw no more than lot to lot differences when I did my own test.

    Ps. In my silhouette days I used 296 with the 429421 as it was more accurate for me than 2400.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
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    Boolit Buddy JoeJames's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fecmech View Post
    Larry Gibson did pressure and velocity tests between Hercules and Alliant 2400 and determined there was essentially no difference between the two including pressure and velocity. I was gifted with some 50's,60's and 70's Hercules 2400 and had some newer Alliant on hand at the time. I have no means for pressure testing but do have an Oehler 35 chronograph. I saw no more than lot to lot differences when I did my own test.

    Ps. In my silhouette days I used 296 with the 429421 as it was more accurate for me than 2400.
    I recently opened a can of Hercules 2400 that I must have bought in the mid to late 80's, and in chronographing loads with it, it certainly seems comparable to Alliant 2400 loads.

  10. #10
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    Alliant has publically stated they have not changed the formula of 2400. They still use the same formula as Hercules used.

    As fecmech mentions, in 2010 I did and extensive side by side velocity/pressure comparison test between Keith's load of 22 gr 2400 with both Hercules and Alliant 2400 under a RCBS 44-250-K (254 gr fully dressed cast of COWW + 2% tin). In measuring the psi and pressure (M43 Oehler and Contender 44 magnum test barrel) I found any difference between the two to fall well within the accepted lot to lot variation. Neither the Hercules or Alliant load of 22gr 2400 under that Keith bullet produced pressures over to the SAAMI MAP. Subsequent testing of both Hercules and Alliant 2400 powder in other cartridges (bottle neck rifle and handgun in both chronographing and pressure testing) have further demonstrated that there is/was no practical measureable difference between the two 2400s other than lot to lot variation.

    The load of 22 gr Alliant 2400 is a safe, under SAMMI MAP, load when used with 240 - 255 gr cast Keith bullets.

    I have, in the last few years, chronographed both the RCBS and the Lyman 429421 (255 gr) in two 4" M29s and a Colt Anaconda 4" with the RCBS bullet and 22 gr Alliant 2400. The velocity at 15' was 1190 - 1215 fps. Out of 2 different 6 and 6 1/2" revolvers the same ran 1390 fps out of the 6" revolver and 1444 fps out of the 6 1/2" revolver. The same "Keith" load using Laser Cast 240 SWCs and 240 gr 42960s gives 50 - 75 fps higher velocity out of each revolver.
    Larry Gibson

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    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Did you fire any other ammo as a calibration check?

    Did you check battery voltage in your chronograph before start?

    Did you change brand of battery? Perform a load test to measure voltage drop on chronograph battery?

    Was ambient temperature on the range different?

    Was bore condition of test firearm different, clean or fouled? Wet, dry?
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    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tatume View Post
    Hercules 2400 (the powder Keith used) is different from Alliant 2400 powder (the powder available to us now).
    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Gibson View Post
    Alliant has publically stated they have not changed the formula of 2400. They still use the same formula as Hercules used.
    Perhaps I was misled by an ignorant magazine writer. They are not the most reliable sources.

    The publication (for which I do not have a citation) claimed that modern 2400 is somewhat faster, and charges should be reduced.

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    I have shot the 429-421 over both Alliant AND Hercules 2400 at 22gr. Vintage didn't matter to me. It was a handful from the 7.5 SBH. I think I settled on 18gr.
    You can miss fast & you can miss a lot, but only hits count.

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    44Mag#1

    You've got me at a loss, I'm not sure what you are trying to say?

    Your first test was with 22 gr 2400. Your second test was with 20 gr 2400. You got less velocity with 20 gr than with 22 gr 2400.......so what is the question?

    Question for you; what is the effective length of the cylinder/barrel of the Redhawk as measured from the breach face to front of the barrel (not just the barrel length)?

    My Contender test barrel is 8.4". The Keith load of 22 gr Alliant 2400 under the RCBS 44-250-K in WW cases with Fed 150 primers ran 1509 fps at the muzzle (Oehler m43). Same load out of my 6 1/2" barreled Ruger FTBH ran 1462 fps at the muzzle. I could test the exact same load tomorrow and get a higher average velocity or I could get a lower average velocity.....sometimes more +/- than we might think. I can shoot 3 test strings of the exact same load back to back and get 3 different velocities........
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tatume View Post
    Perhaps I was misled by an ignorant magazine writer. They are not the most reliable sources.

    The publication (for which I do not have a citation) claimed that modern 2400 is somewhat faster, and charges should be reduced.
    I recall probably the same publication. I wondered why Alliant would have changed 2400 given it's success. As I recall the writer was loading 240 gr jacketed bullets instead of cast and made his "assessment" based on the 21 gr max load for 240 gr jacketed bullets as his reason that Alliant 2400 was a "hotter" load. His was an assessment/assumption based on an apples to oranges comparison.
    Larry Gibson

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    Boolit Mold kingrj's Avatar
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    About a week ago I just got around to chronographing a .44 mag load I have been using for many years... 21 grains of 2400 and a cast 250 grain Keith type SWC from an RCBS mould. From my Ruger Blackhawk with 4 5/8" barrel it averaged 1330 fps. Which surprised me with that short barrel. I have never tried Elmer's load of 22 grains because the 21 grain load is very hot! The velocity will tell you that! Accuracy with my 21 grain load is very good and I have no need to go faster...This is just a data point...

  17. #17
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    I have never tried Elmer's load of 22 grains because the 21 grain load is very hot!

    kingri

    You might want to check that powder weight and make sure it is 21 gr. That is really not a "hot" load under a 250 gr cast.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  18. #18
    Boolit Mold kingrj's Avatar
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    Valid point Larry...I have been using the same Redding powder scale for the last 40 years so it is my only reference point...
    Last edited by kingrj; 09-14-2018 at 11:36 AM.

  19. #19
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    About how long I've been using my Redding scale. It started acting uup a while back. Gave the fulcrum aarms a good cleaning and the V recesses. Works like new now. Also the way the eyes are these days I double ccheck the setting.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  20. #20
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    I once stuck a bolt due to a new scale and being a fool. Scale check weights found it weighed light by 2 grains @ 45 grains.
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