What's the best load for a 44 Mag for elk?

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What's the best load for a 44 Mag for elk?

Postby Mike Brooks » Mon Dec 08, 2008 10:05 am

I have heard of several loads just wondering what you guys think?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not into your own understanding, Proverbs 3:5
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Postby PJGunner » Wed Dec 10, 2008 5:36 pm

Good question. Personally, I shoot only cast bullets in my .44 magnums and heavy frame Ruger .45's. RCBS does make an Elmer Keith style semiwadcutter in 300 gr. weight that uses a gas check. I've shot them over 20.0 gr. of W-296 and they are accurate. The only drawback is you need a much higher front sight. I shot the load in two Ruger Redhawks, one with 5.5" barrel and the other with 7.5" barrel. I would shoot it in any Ruger Super Blackhawk as well but I think the load would be hard of any S&W M29 or 629.
I think the mold number is 44-300-SWC but I'm not sure.
The other bulelt I would consider is the RCBS #44-250-SWC, a 250 gr. bullet that is just about a clone of Elmer's Lyman #429421. Over 24.0 gr. of W-296, it has proved to be a potent load in any .44 mag. I've shot it in.
Lee has a 255 gr. semiwadcutter that has quite a wide nose and should work quite well. I have two of those molds but have not gotten around to casting any bullets from them.
The old Elmer Keith load of 22.0 gr. of Hercules #2400 was a potent load, but now that Alliant is making the powder, 20.0 gr. is considered the max load. When I run out of W-296, I'll probably go back to using #2400 and there is quite a bit kless muzzle flash and the report is not quite as loud.
Any of those loads should be capable of taking an elk out to about 50 yards. The old Keith load will shoot through both shoulders of a big Nevada Mule Deer and for all I know it may still be going.
FWIW, I size my .44 caliber bullets to .431" as that size seems to work best in all my .44's.
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Postby Mike Brooks » Wed Dec 10, 2008 5:54 pm

Paul, do you know what the bullet rentention is on the 44 Mag, Barnes bullets makes some big claims for their products, I was just wondering what you thought, thanks!
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Postby Ironknees » Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:45 pm

Mike, don't intend to hijack your post and would never put myself ahead of Paul for knowledge in these areas... Paul has been a member of my forums for YEARS... I've done a good deal of testing and product review articles for Barnes, and I can tell you from first hand experience that the weight retention claims they make are very true... It's very close to 100%... Oh, you may shed a little bit of one petal (the unique shape of the expanded bullet) but if you can recover the bullet, I.E. if it did not exit, you will get essential all of it...

On other bullets, whether jacketed, cast lead etc., the retention will be less depending on many factors... However, on elk, I would personally have no problem with any of the bullets Paul mentions or any of the various jacketed bullets available... Further, if you want me to cast some using a Lee mold, let me know... I will discuss the particulars with you over the phone or via email... Dave
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Postby PJGunner » Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:13 pm

Mike. I'll have to defer to Dave on the Barnes bullets. I've only shot two of their bullets, a 100 gr. .25 caliber and a 225 gr. .35 caliber and those only on paper. I will state unequivically that they are some of the most accurate bullets I have ever shot.
I might have a few of the RCBS 300 gr. cast bullets left but they'd have to be lubed and sized if you want to try them.
Right now I'm doing a run of the Elmer Keith 250 gr. bullet for my .44's. I figure I've got to run about 1,500 more to load up all my brass. :shock: That's what happens when you get so far behind you think you're in first place. :oops:
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Postby Mike Brooks » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:43 pm

Paul, sounds like you and Dave are the edxperts here, and any advice is welcome. I love the Barnes bullets, worked well on my elk, came from the .338 I used.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not into your own understanding, Proverbs 3:5
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Postby PJGunner » Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:22 pm

Mike, my alloy is 10 pounds of wheel weight metal, one pound of linotype, 1/3 cup of #7 1/2 chilled or magnum bird shot and a 3 foot piece of 95/5 percent lead free solder. Bullts as cast run about 12 BHN fresh from the pot and will age harden to about 14 BHN in about one to two weeks. Using a toaster oven that I calibrated, I can oven treat the bullet at 425 degrees F for one hour and quickly quench them in cold water. They'll be about 19 BHN at that point and will in about two weel harden to 30 to 31 BHN. That makes them harder than a loan shark's heart. :shock: :cool:
Some people feel it's too much work, but I size my bullets without lube prior to the heat treatment. Then I lube them using a sizing die larger than what I sized the bullets too. As an example, I size my .44 caliber bullets to .431", heat treat and lube with a .432" die. A heat treated bullet at 250 gr. from a .44 Mag. should shoot clean through an elk on a broadside shot and as hard as they are, they don't seem to shatter like a bullet from straight linotype will, especially if they hit bone. I shot one deer with an untreated .44 bullet in my alloy (250 gr. Keith) and it penetrated a 150 pound Mule Deer doe from nock to noodle and AFAIK, it's still moving out. I think an untreated bullet at 14 to 15 BHN should work just fine. According to Brian Pierce, I get the impression his bullets may not be quite as hard as mine, but I could be wrong on that point.
I'm thinking about working up a 255 gr. Keith style SWC in my 5.5" Ruger Bisley. I have pressure tested data to almost 1500 FPS and that should be a humdinger. :cool:
FWIW, plain wheel weights may heat treat well as is, but if you add some of the chilled or magnum shot, that will add a touch of arsenic which doe a fantastic job in enhancing the hardness. Use the smaller size shot like 7 1/2 or 8s as they have more arsenic than the larger shot sizes.
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