Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.
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  1. #1
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    Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    I made my last trip to the range yesterday with the Safari Grade 444 (COL; 2.750). I had reached my velocity goal on previous outings, and this trip was just to get a general idea of how the gun would shoot...would it be accurate? It did very well, and came in at 2160 fps with the most accurate 405 grain bullet load. I fully expect minute of angle groups at 100 yards, when all is said and done. I think that is pretty good for a rifle that will be used for large game, and I dont think that true African hunting rifles chambered in the SG 444's ballistic equivalents ( the 450-400 NE, or 404 Jeffery calibers) could do any better.

    With the goal being set at 450-400 Nitro Express ballistics (a 400 at 2150 for 4000 ft lbs), I have not only succeeded in that ballistic goal, but, have a achieved a safety margin, that will allow the Marlin lever gun to safely shoot these loads without issue. Throughout the testing case stretch measurements remainded within the norm for typical top end "book" loads, cases showed no signs of seperation, or wall thinning outside of normal wear patterns, and primer pockets remained tight through the 20+ firings (actually, near 30, now) of the test cases at this performance level. Bolt thrust, bolt face, and bolt throw measurements remained the same, and no undue trauma of mating parts was visible. There was no chamber swelling. Extraction of fired cartridges required only light pressure on the lever, and the lever never unlocked or opened upon firing...a very sure sign of high pressure in a mechanically sound Marlin! All other pressure signs remained normal through the testing process.

    Through the course of all this, from the "Peashooter 444" project to the ultimate Safari Grade 444 modification (Stage II), I have realized three different modifications that would suit the three basic barrel lenghts/weights of Marlin 444's. Each of these in its own right allows for the maximum power to recoil factor that most shooters would want to tolerate. I have listed them below, with their ballistic numbers:

    The "Peashooter 444": COL 2.660; For a light short barreled Marlin this modification is ideal. It will deliver the velocities of longer barrels in a short barreled (16.5 to 18.5") Marlin. My "go to" load in my 6 pound, 16.5", 444 XLR is: 325 grain bullet at 2096 fps for 3171 ft lbs. This load develops a Thorniley of 185 and a Taylor of 42. The top load in this rifle is the 325 at 2263 fps for 3697 ft lbs...but, in all truthfullness this is just way too much recoil for fast, accurate, or "comfortable" shooting in such a light, short barreled rifle.

    The "Safari Grade 444 Stage I": COL: 2.700; This is a nice modification for medium length barrels in medium weight Marlins with barrel lenghts from 20" to 22". This modification allows for most commercially made bullets with a .500 nose to crimp length. Loadings with this modification allow for a 405 grain bullet at approximately 2000 fps for 3589 ft lbs, a Thorniley of 220, and a Taylor of 50, or, a 300 grain bullet at approximately 2300 fps with a Thorniley of 187 and a Taylor of 43.

    The "Safari Grade 444 Stage II": COL 2.750; This modification is suitable for heavy weight, long barreled Marlins, and develops world class power, that, with the right bullet can take anything that walks the earth. The 405 grain bullet at 2150 fps develops 4158 ft lbs, with a Thorniley of 236 and a Taylor of 54. The 300 grain bullet at 2500 fps and 4164 ft lbs, develops a Thorniley of 203 and a Taylor of 46. This modification will ideally require a .550 nose to crimp length bullet (although it will shoot others), and as I said in a previous posting, Marshall Stanton of Beartooth Bullets is working on that project now.

    These modifications represent three years of testing, data compilation, and extreme attention to all facets of the process. I have invested almost all of my free time, not to mention the thousands of dollars invested, to bring this modification to fruition. I want to tell you all now that it was worth every hour and dollar spent. To take what "some" consider to be a "marginal" cartridge in a "marginal" rifle to this level of performance....safely.....only proves that the "potential performance extreme" of the 444 Marlin...in my opinion... exceeds all other big bore factory lever gun cartridges, and, this modification requires no expensive wildcatting, rechambering, rethreading, new barrels, loading dies, or custom parts. It is a standard 444 case (using standard reloading equipment and components), in a Marlin rifle utilizing all the factory parts that originally came with the rifle....that is a lot of bang for the buck!!!

    All that is left for me to do now is get some .550 nose to crimp bullets from Marshall and work up my final accuracy/hunting loads for the SG 444 Stage II, and, after I "customize" the rifle to "look" and operate like a true African hunting rifle, I will close the door on this project....shortly thereafter I will post an article on this final stage of the project here on the MO. My seasonal job starts in a couple of weeks and as time permits I hope to finish up on this project this year, so stay tuned.

    I appreciate the support from everyone who showed interest in this project...and, there were times in the process that your comments were uplifting and kept me moving forward. Many of you had just as much to do with this success as I did. Thanks again! FT


    Brocky and Pop like this.
    "Overkill.............is WAY underrated."
    https://www.marlinowners.com/forum/new-sg35-sg444-home/

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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    I just found this thread a week or so ago and wish to thank you for the hours of back reading it has provided. Along the way I learned a great deal about the rifle and cartridge especially the mechanics of the action that is the Marlin. It was great to read along as the experiment progressed until finally arriving at this stage today.

    CONGRATULATION!!!!. I have just one more thing to say. Do it again! Don't know with what but with the great Marlin platform there must be something amazing and different to try.`

    Thanks again - Jim

    Marlin 336RC - 30-30
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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    FT,
    The 45-70 guys must be wincing at this project outcome! seriously though, excellent work! I can remember chating with you through email back before you ever started the Peashooter and now you have two projects that have come to fruition! I can imagine that Pete T must be very excited about this. I'm in line right after him!

    Thanks again for all your work and dedication to these projects. Now your gonna have to come out and shoot an elk with it!

    DaveD
    Ask Me about an AMSOIL Discount for MO.com members.

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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    Thanks Jim! It has been a learning process for both of us! This will wrap up any big bore work that I do with the Marlins. After a whole lot of research, the 444 is the only Marlin big bore that I could successfully perform this modification on within the limits and the goals that I set out to accomplish. It really makes for a very versatile medium to big game cartridge...and, as I have said before it would make the perfect "go to gun" for the one gun hunter....everything from deer to elephant! I still have the custom work to do, and I am working on an extended magazine tube project that will segregate the tube from the barrel, so as not to affect accuracy, so, my work with this 444 will continue. I also have a 35 Rem, 336 XLR that I have started playing with, and just like John Taylor talks about in his book "African Rifles and Cartridges", these two rifles will make up my "two gun battery".
    "Overkill.............is WAY underrated."
    https://www.marlinowners.com/forum/new-sg35-sg444-home/

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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    Hey Dave! Yup, this modification does put out some potent power!!!! For most folks, this kind of power would not be needed all the time, and lesser loads could be utilized (that is the nice thing about this modification...flexibility!), but, if the occasion would ever call for it, there is plenty of power to be had! It has been a while since this all started, and yes, you were there at the beginning of it all. I just recently talked to Pete, and he is in line to have me modify one of his 444's in the future..."excited" is an understatement! Shoot an Elk with it?......would probably have to load it down a bit for that! Good seeing you back on here, and thanks for all your help and support as this project took place!
    "Overkill.............is WAY underrated."
    https://www.marlinowners.com/forum/new-sg35-sg444-home/

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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    Flat Top,
    Man, you have accomplished a goal that is no less than amazing. Turn this project into a book and I'll be buying. I know there is way more to this than you can post on this site, but you might be able to make some of your investment back by selling the book 444 Safari Grade. Congratulations man.
    Oh...Give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and antelope play.

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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by mt_sourdough
    Flat Top,
    Man, you have accomplished a goal that is no less than amazing. Turn this project into a book and I'll be buying. I know there is way more to this than you can post on this site, but you might be able to make some of your investment back by selling the book 444 Safari Grade. Congratulations man.
    There you go! FT, at the very least, sell it to a gun rag!
    Ask Me about an AMSOIL Discount for MO.com members.

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  9. #8
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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    Flat Top, as I've mentioned previously, great work but you don't need any of us to tell you that. Most importantly you took a scientific/safe approach to this endeavor and I can only hope that you will someday publish that which I know you have fully documented. In the mean time, please share additional pictures if you feel you can.

    Again, great work.
    1895Gunner's Instagram Pictures / Videos
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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    As a 444 junkie, I'm impressed with your success in making your 444's into the rifle you need/want. The 444 in it's factory form is a very, great cartridge! I have been pushing the top limits on the "Factory" form for more years then I care to remember, and it was never a disappointment!

    Their are only two kinds of people, those who own a 444 and those who wish they owned one, and yes folks, denial is bliss!

    Not much has really changed in the world in 2000 years, Christians are still being thrown to the Lions! and Satan's tool of Deception is still working like a charm, from the time of Adam and Eve, to today!

    Charter Member #3 Team 444
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    Re: Safari Grade 444 Conclusion.

    I new you could do it, well done. I also new you new what you were talking about when you described how you tested your loads for preasure, and your rifle.
    Congrats on a fine thread throughout, I really enjoyed it, Now what am I going to look forward to in the mornings. Steve!!


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