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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
 

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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
 

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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
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Jim! It has been a learning process for both of us! ;D 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".
 

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Discussion Starter #5
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! ;D Good seeing you back on here, and thanks for all your help and support as this project took place!
 

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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.
 

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mt_sourdough said:
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!
 

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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.
 

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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!
 

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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!! ;D
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Dave; I would rather "give" it away to interested 444 owners. The whole process as you know is/was very involved, and, I dont know if most shooters would be as interested in the process as they are in its outcome. The outcome is a "short story", and the process is a long novel. Most of what has been done here requires expertise and equipment that most folks dont have, so, this is really not a "how to" project. I would hate for someone to mess up a perfectly good rifle trying to perform this modification from a "how to" manual or a sticky....and, I sure would not want to be responsible for that!
 

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1895 Gunner; Yes! Safety First!!! Each time I went to the range, my shooting partner had to accompany me....just getting our schedules to coincide was a PITA! It was necessary in my mind (and in his...and especially in my wifey's mind...she has been through this before!!!!) that somebody be there if a problem arouse. Regardless of how much research goes into a project, and no matter what precautions are taken, I feel it necessary to have a back up on hand just in case something bad happens. Murphy's Law applies, whether your just working up loads in a factory rifle or going for broke with something like this. As I worked with this modification I maintained a safety margin that I refused to exceed. There were times during the process that I brought more ammuntion back home with me (to be pulled) than I shot. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin a fine rifle...or hurt me!!! As far as photos...I am not much of a photographer, but, I did post some photos of the "event" (when the 405 went through the chrono at 2150+). To avoid confusion, or an accident, I have (and will continue to) refrain from posting any pertenant information such as load data, or the specifics of the modification on any forum. I think that this coincides with my "Safety First" attitude, and I would not want anyone to get hurt or damage a rifle because of a misunderstanding of something that I wrote.
 

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Starrbow; "You"...a 444 junkie?!?!? Why, I find that hard to believe!!! ;D

I remember many years ago, when you were posting on some of the forums, and folks were telling you what you were doing could not be done..........but, you were doing it!!!! As I pursued this modification, you and a few others (who led the way) were always on my mind, because I was also told a number of years ago when this all started that what I was trying to accomplish could not be done! My daddy used to tell me when I was a kid that "cant, never got nothin' done".....I have always pursued life with that attitude, and its good to know that some folks out there, like you, had the same mindset. The 444 has really become a top notch performer because of it. Yes, the 444 in its factory form can be a real "hammer" on game, and all my modification does it take it to the "world class" level that would leave no doubt whatsoever in anyones mind that it is so!
 

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Nail; Thanks! In the mornings you can look forward to hot coffee, flap jacks, and a copy of your local paper.........sorry, thats all I can offer at this time! ;D There will be more coming in the future, so stay tuned. I work a seasonal job...it starts in about two weeks....and I am on the road through much of the year. During my down time between events I hope to continue doing more work with this modification, and I will report here as time permits.
 

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Flat Top...

You are an inspiration and I have really enjoyed your posts. Shot my first deer with my Dads 1965 Marlin 444. Still have that rifle and am starting a personal quest of shooting every big game animal in Colorado with a 444 if possible (Bighorn & Goat tags may be a problem @ 57). Just added a 444P to the arsenal too.

Make sure you keep us in the loop on the 35 Rem. as that is another cartridge you can entertain me wit too!

Stoutstuff out.
 

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stoutstuff; Thanks! Hey, thats great....pursuing all the big game in your state!!! Here in Missouri we have bear, but cant shoot em'....cougar, but cant shoot em'.....elk, but cant shoot em', so that leaves deer and the occasion pig...when you can find them! This SG 444 is way over powered for anything that I would ever need to shoot here, but, I have some folks that may be willing to use this rifle on large game, so, hopefully in the future there may be some reports on this modification and its performance on big game...but, I have no doubt that the SG 444 can handle anything that steps in front of it. The 35 Rem XLR is more of a "test" rifle for some forend modifications that I have been working on, and so far, with those modifications, it shows an ability to be extremely accurate....more on that later. Well bud, take care and good luck taking Colorado's big boys!
 

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I like to think in simple terms, since the 44Mag has taken everything on gods green Earth ;), Why would anyone need more power? :eek: I think the 444Marlin is not needed :eek:, unless! T-Rex shows his ugly head again ;D

So If theres no game on this planet for using a factory stock 444Marlin on, then I assume your SG444, my need
Extraterrestrials to show themselfs ::) All I can say is, bring on ET 8)
 
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