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I recently picked up an old (Stratford, CT) Charter Arms Bulldog. I have tested a pretty wide range of factory ammo in it, and the results have been across the board: Speer 200gr GD shot the best, tight group to POA, Winchester 200gr Silvertips shot just about as well as the Speer GD, Hndy 160gr Crit Def shot well, same in 180gr grouped well but low, with Magtech 240 gr LRN cowboy loads and Blazer 200gr GDHP shooting by far the worst.

NOTE: The absolute best and worst shooters use the exact same projectile.

Anyway...at this point I am shooting mostly to free up some brass with which to reload. Soo....

The Goal
I am looking for suggestions for this little pistol for an all around load. I am not too fussed about velocity or expansion/deformation, and want to keep pressures low, as it is an old Charter, not an Alaskan of 629 (both of which may be on the short list). Looking for a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none load. Nothing fancy, and nothing that will punish old girl. Accuracy, as is always the case with me, takes 1st priority.

Available Powders
Unique, Trailboss, and Clays are the powders I am most interested in using. I have some Titegroup, 2400, and H110, but I, again, am looking for a mild load, so am not really looking at these as contenders. I expect Unique to be the front runner.

Projectiles
As for projectiles, I have several hundred OT Lasercast 240 SWC's, a few hundred Nosler 240gr JHP's, a few Dardas that our Bubbajon so graciously gave me to try out (240gr RNFP I believe, need to dig them out), and probably a few XTP's kicking around somewhere.

Right now I'm leaning towards a cast load in the 750-850 range...but am all ears if anyone else has experience loading this cartridge, especially so if they have done so for this gun. I used to load and shoot a lot of 44Mag, and loaded everything between bear loads to low pressure powder puffs...but those were in much larger and stronger revolvers.

Now, that said...
I'm all ears.
 

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I don't have my '70s notes here, but had a Bulldog back in the late 70s. I used 240 grain lead bullets and Unique, but got really, really tired of the recoil pain on my right middle finger lower knuckle, so I went to 180 grain lead full wadcutters and Unique with a slightly higher charge. I still got the knuckle pain, just not as much, and the 180 grainers shot better as well.

Better grips might have helped.
 

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Since it's a short barrel, I use Bullseye when loading for my wife's CA Bulldog to get complete burn and hold down on the muzzle flash. She likes a load with 240-gr Hornady swaged LSWC with 4.4 gr of Bullseye, goes around 680 fps. This sounds anemic, but she can empty the gun shooting DA in just about 5 sec with these loads into 4" groups at 15 yards, she's comfortable and confident. You can run this load up to 4.7 gr of BE for about 720 fps.

She is nearly done with a box of 250 of these bullets. Once complete, we'll graduate to a slightly hotter load with 200-gr Gold Dots moving about 850 fps (similar recoil to the loads she is shooting now), still using BE.
 

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Try a 240 gr. LSWC and 5 grains of Unique.
 

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i still have mine, and it didnt take long to find some milder loads. kind of a fun gun to play with and i think it would get a booger of the front porch. had some fun playing around with some 3 ball loads, 15 45 cal balls in 4 or 5 seconds will work
 
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njcioffi
seems like i was using red dot and unique your clays is in the same ballpark, i will see if i can find notes, all my shooting was with cast, the 240s at first, then i bought the lee 210 gr mold (much better)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
njcioffi
seems like i was using red dot and unique your clays is in the same ballpark, i will see if i can find notes, all my shooting was with cast, the 240s at first, then i bought the lee 210 gr mold (much better)
10-4. From what I've read on the interwebs, the twist should favor a lighter bullet...but these things IME are often more of an art than a science. I am not opposed to using lighter bullets, I just don't have any at the moment.

Dr. Mike, as for anemic loads, it ain't no nevermind, as they say. Only bears around here are down on 4th st, and they don't bother anyone. As for anything else, I figure a .44 at anything higher than slingshot velocity is prolly plenty.

Reload, the 5gr Unique/240 lswc is probably going to be the first out of the gates, as I have everything I need for it on hand.

Biku, the fwc are something I would like to try. I noticed that Buffalo Bore's only .44spl defense load that is recommended for a Bulldog is a 200 gr fwc. I have none on hand, but they seem to be fairly affordable online.

Speaking of full wadcutters....I understand that a semiwadcutter was designed to extend the range of the wadcutter by improving the aerodynamics. What does a button nose wad cutter offer? Same, but less so?
 
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i think the button nose just allows you to tell end from the other at a glance while loading, the ones i have seen were not a hollow base
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Actually, I went looking and found this site:

From Ingot to Target: A Cast Bullet Guide For Handgunners, Table of Contents - Fryxell/Applegate

It's a pretty cool site, and I've been reading the 'middle chapters' for the last hour or so. According to this author the button nose was designed to begin a slip stream around the shoulder at low velocities. Dunno how well that works, but check out the site. It's got a lot of interesting information about the evolution of cast bullet designs in the early 20th century.
 

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My favorite .44 Special load is the "Skeeter Load"...that is a 250 gr Keith SWC over 7.5 grains of Unique. I have shot this load sparingly in my modern Bulldog but recoil is substantial. However 5.0 gr of Unique behind that 240gr SWC will result in a load slightly below original factory velocities. I would suspect pressures well below 15,000 psi and blackened cases. I think you may be better served with a load consisting of 6.0 gr of Unique or Universal Clays. Bullseye, Red Dot, and W231 would also work well for this application.

Brian Pierce wrote an informative article on handloading the .44 Special in the August/September 2005 Handloader Magazine #236 which is still available from www.handloadermagazine.com. In that article, he places the CA Bulldog in "category two", able to handle loads up to 22,000 psi, but recommends limited use to avoid accelerated wear. That 7.5gr Unique/250gr SWC load falls into this category.

I haven't tried lighter than 250 gr cast bullets in my Bulldog, but it definitely preferred the heavier cast bullets to mild to midrange loads with 180 or 200 gr jacketed....although I've read they have the same lighter bullet preferences as you have.

As to that last question...Fryxel discusses that type of wadcutter here...The Himmelwright Wadcutters

Roe
 

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I had a very used Lyman mould block set that dropped 180 grain full wadcutters. I crimped them in the last driving band just because I wasn't good at crimping them over the nose as you would 38 wadcutters.

They sure put a clean, 44 caliber hole in everything I hit.
 

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I have tested the the Nosler, Hornady and Speer JHP in several calibers. The Nosler is a soft bullet compared to XTP and more prone to expansion at low speeds. For a jacketed bullet, would favor the the Speer gold dot 200gr designed for the 44 Special, if balanced expansion and penetration was the goal, .
 
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Nick, if you decide to pursue more experimentation with cast wadcutters, Western Bullet Co. offers the Saeco #944, a 200 gr full (button nose) wadcutter...Saeco #944 200 gr.. It may just be the ticket for close range work with the Bulldog. They also offer that same Lyman 180 that Biku used...http://westernbullet.com/ly4gr4.html

I used what I had on hand to wring out my Bulldog. Looking at my notes, I had good accuracy with the Beartooth 250gr WFN at moderate velocities, but being a rather expensive gas check design, it's more bullet than needed for this application. What didn't work well for me was the common 240gr commercially cast SWC, those with the short nose and bevel base. Poor accurcy and leading issues, even at moderate velocities, caused me to abandon these in the Bulldog...not an uncommon occurance with bevel based cast bullets.

A bullet I thought would have great possibilities in the .44 Special, in both the Bulldog and my other Specials, is the LBT 220gr, an "ogival" wadcutter, that was offered by Montana Bullet Works. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to order any before that company's untimely demise. I have yet, in limited searching, to find another company that casts them. I'm loath to add bullet casting to my already crowded schedule, but the way availability and cost is going, it may be inevitable.

Roe
 
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