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Observations of Power Pistol in the 44 Remington Magnum.

Recently I found myself with a lot of Power Pistol sitting around and nothing in particular to do with it. So I started wonder: what if we tried something a bit unusual with it? I've used to for 45 ACP and 38 Special loads, but what about 44 Remington Magnum?

I did find published data in an older Alliant manual which gave me a starting point. As I dug around in various forums and web pages, it became clear that some people like Power Pistol quite well in their 44 Magnum handguns, but I wasn't able to come up with any actual recipes. So, I started with the Alliant data and did the usual thing--backed off quite a bit and worked my way up from there.

And here are the results. This data shows what happened with a range of Power Pistol loads and with two different primers. Revolver data follows; for rifle data, scroll down.

Revolver data

I assembled thirty cartridges in all. All these cartridges were loaded with Hornady XTP/JHP 180 grain bullets. I used a variety of brass, all range brass of unknown vintage and various headstamps--in other words, what I happened to have around.

All the cartridges were fired at 25 yards from a Ruger Blackhawk with a 7.5" barrel. Velocities were measured at ten feet from the muzzle, using a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph. I recorded the data on-the-fly from the chronograph to a laptop using the Competition Electronics PC Remote software, saving the data in good old CSV format--remember, back from the days of Lotus 1-2-3 under DOS 3.2? Hey, it ain't fancy but it still works. I then moved the data into Excel to draw up the chart below. Click on the chart for a larger version.


Pistol data - Ruger Blackhawk, 7.5" barrel, range brass, Power Pistol as given, CCI 300 large pistol (1, 2, 3) or Winchester WLP primers (4, 5, 6,) Hornady XTP 180 gr, 1.2600" OAL, velocities at 10 feet.

At the bottom end, I started with 13.0 grains. I loaded three cartridges with the CCI  primers, then three with the Winchester WLP primers. Then I repeated the process at 13.5 grains, 14 grains, and so forth in half-grain increments up to 15 grains.

For comparison, as you study the chart above, consider that the Hornady Custom 44 magnum load with the 180 grain JHP/XTP delivers about 1700 feet/second from this Ruger Blackhawk revolver.

One quite interesting observation is the difference the primer makes as the charge increases. In the chart above, for each powder charge, the first three data points (the left three) are from the CCI primer, and the last three data points (the right three) are from the WLP primer. At 13, 13.5, and 14 grains, the two primers deliver similar results. At 14.5 and 15 grains, however, the WLP primer delivers remarkably uneven results. I think that combination is getting into overpressure territory. I also saw primer flattening starting to happen in the WLP primers before the CCI primers showed any sign of it.

The following two pictures allow comparison of the degree of primer flattening shown by the 13 grain load and the 15 grain load. In these images, the case heads are red because I color-code my cases according to type. Red is for all range brass. The worn state of the coloring means nothing; I use Sharpies to color them and the ink can be rubbed off by almost anything at all abrasive. For example, when I want to take the color off, I use Scotchbrite.


Case heads and primers from the 13 grain loads. The silver primers are CCI; the gold primers are Winchester WLP.

The 13 grain load shows no flattening. The firing pin impacts are nicely cup-shaped and the rounded edges of the primer are still rounded.


Case heads and primers from the 15 grain loads. The silver primers are CCI; the gold primers are Winchester WLP.

The 15 grain load shows some flattening. The firing pin impacts have pretty sharp edges, and the primers show some flattening. However, I don't seem much effect on the case heads; the lettering hasn't been flattened. I've seen this degree of flattening from loads that I did not think excessive.

The experience of shooting these loads is typical of 44 Magnum shooting. They were loud and the recoil was strong. I didn't notice any more muzzle flash than is usual for 44 Magnum factory ammunition, such as the Hornady load mentioned above. As I got into the 14.5 and 15 grain loads, there was a definite increase in loudness and recoil, and in the 15 grain load with the WLP primers, the report change from a "boom" to a "crack."

As far as accuracy is concerned, at 25 yards it wasn't hard to keep all 30 shots well within a 5 inch circle. I think if you did the classic test of 5 groups of 5 shots, you could see some nice tight groups out of this load. However, the 44 Magnum is generally a pretty accurate cartridge in a good gun. While this level of accuracy would be satisfactory for handgun hunting, the velocities I'm seeing don't encourage me to load with Power Pistol as a routine choice, especially since the pressures might be getting up there by the time you're getting close to 1500 feet per second.

I conclude that the Power Pistol load is feasible but not optimal for the 44 Magnum handgun.

The velocity data follows. Again, all these values are at ten feet from the muzzle.

13.0 grains   Date 10/4/2008
1 1313 Maximum 1350
2 1341 Minimum 1313
3 1350 Average 1337
4 1340 Deviation 13
5 1337 Median 1341
6 1341    
13.5 grains      
1 1366 Maximum 1407
2 1384 Minimum 1366
3 1407 Average 1386
4 1390 Deviation 14
5 1380 Median 1387
6 1390    
14.0 grains      
1 1413 Maximum 1427
2 1421 Minimum 1413
3 1422 Average 1420
4 1427 Deviation 5
5 1418 Median 1420
6 1416    
14.5 grains      
1 1481 Maximum 1481
2 1454 Minimum 1391
3 1455 Average 1437
4 1391 Deviation 32
5 1422 Median 1438
6 1418    
15.0 grains      
1 1489 Maximum 1520
2 1479 Minimum 1400
3 1520 Average 1475
4 1400 Deviation 42
5 1461 Median 1484
6 1501    

Rifle data

Having seen these results from the revolver, my thoughts next turned to the rifle. The 44 Rem Mag is often used in lever-actions, and so indeed I have a Winchester Model 94 Legacy in 44 Mag. What would the results of these loads be in the lever gun?

Here's the chart. I get a kick out of how neatly this scales up from the revolver data. The revolver topped out at about 1500 feet per second; the rifle picks up right where the revolver left off and goes on up to about 1900 feet per second.


Rifle data - Winchester 94 Legacy, 24" barrel, range brass, Power Pistol as given, CCI 300 large pistol (1, 2, 3) or Winchester WLP primers (4, 5, 6,) Hornady XTP 180 gr, 1.2600" OAL, velocities at 10 feet.

The results were very similar in all respects--recoil, noise, accuracy, primer flattening. Of course, the velocities jumped up about 400 feet per second. I'm not providing pictures of the rifle cartridge primers since they look just about exactly like the pistol primers, showing some flattening at the higher end of the load range.

The gun liked the middle loadings best. The shots taken in the 1800 feet per second range grouped very nicely. The lower speeds pulled to the left, which may well have been my fault; the higher speeds spread out.

For whatever reason, the primer doesn't make much difference in the rifle. I suspect that the much longer barrel--more than 3 times longer--means that the difference between primers is masked by the charge having much longer to work on the bullet. Perhaps the hotter primer ignites the powder more quickly, but by the time the bullet leaves the barrell that difference in timing doesn't produce much difference in muzzle velocity.

Again, the bottom line is, what advantage do you get from this loading? In this gun, the same Hornady factory load mentioned above produces 2230-240 feet per second. The old Federal C44B cartridge produced about 2140-2150 feet per second. This load tops out at 1900. At the lower speeds, it does make a nice soft-shooting load that would be good for working one's way into handling the 44 Mag guns. However, other powders can do that just as well. Given that we have powders like H110 and Vihtavuori N105 that provide pressure curves much better matched to 44 Mag guns, I see no real reason to go out in left field to Power Pistol for the rifle any more than for the pistol.

And, last but not least, here are the actual velocities from the rifle. All values are at 10 feet from the muzzle.

13.0 grains   Date 12/31/2010
1 1658 Maximum 1681
2 1681 Minimum 1658
3 1677 Average 1672
4 1662 Deviation 10
5 1672 Median 1670
6 1681    
13.5 grains      
1 1745 Maximum 1754
2 1736 Minimum 1720
3 1720 Average 1739
4 1754 Deviation 12
5 1731 Median 1737
6 1745    
14.0 grains      
1 1787 Maximum 1804
2 1789 Minimum 1787
3 1796 Average 1795
4 1804 Deviation 6
5 1796 Median 1800
6 1799    
14.5 grains      
1 1857 Maximum 1857
2 1841 Minimum 1826
3 1857 Average 1847
4 1849 Deviation 12
5 1826 Median 1853
6 1849    
15.0 grains      
1 1891 Maximum 1899
2 1880 Minimum 1877
3 1899 Average 1887
4 1877 Deviation 10
5 1877 Median 1888
6 1896    

Robert W. Bethune

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