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Discussion Starter #1
If you have seen my previous posts you know that I have been working loads up slowly in my modified 444. First time out, I took the 405 grain bullet to 1800 fps (about the standard top end load for an unmodified 444 with the 405 grain bullet)...The next trip out, the 405 grain bullet topped 1900 fps, and, this time out we put the 405's through the chrono at 2020 fps....so, we have 130 fps to go. This week I will check everything against my baselines, and if everything looks good and safe, the next time out, I hope to make my goal...the 405 grain bullet @ 2150 fps (4100+ ft lbs)...the ballistic equivilant of the 450-400 Nitro Express. So far, everything is going according to plan....I will keep you all posted.
 

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After you try these trial loads in your safari grade rifle, what areas of the rifle or brass are you looking at to check for signs of excessive pressures?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
mt_sourdough.........everything!!!!! ;D

I have "baseline" cartridges....that I fired in this chamber, at a normal top end (book) load that is within safe SAAMI pressures. I measure case stretch: length, and width at three predetermined spots on each cartridge and compare those measurements to my baseline cartridge measurements. I also give each of my test cases a good going over under magnification. I check primer ident.....each firearm idents a primer in a different way, and I compare the idents of the baseline cartridge primers to the test cartridge primers. I check to insure that each spent primer is tight in its pocket, and is still at the proper seating depth. I have baseline measurements on the rifle as well....I measure the distance of the bolt face from the chamber to lock up (bolt thrust), and, I disassemble the rifle and give the bolt and block a good visual (magnified) going over. Then I compare the measurements that I first took on the block and bolt when the gun was new...check the receiver recess where the block rides...take measurements there, and compare as well. I give the threaded area of the barrel and reciever a real good going over under magnification, check the stocks for any signs of cracking , etc. I like to be as thorough as possible, and although "none of the above" can guarantee that a problem will not arise, I feel its worth the time spent....rather than just loading up and hoping for the best. These are the same procedures that I used when developing wildcats years ago, and I never had any issues. I just followed the guidance of the old timers that were my mentors. "Nothing" is worth hurting a good rifle, or hurting me, so I take every precaution necessary when I pursue this kind of thing. One thing to keep in mind: as the COL increases and we move the bullet out of the case, pressures are reduced. A top end load in an unmodified 444 is actually a much reduced or starting (for test purposes) load in my 444. The capacity of my case has been increased and the pressure decreased. This allows for more powder and increased velocities, yet the pressure does not increase proportionately with the increase in powder charge. This 2.700 COL does have a limit, and this has been worked out mathematically, but, again that does not guarantee against a mishap! So, I take everything into consideration "before" I pull the trigger, up to and including the hand weighing of cases, bullets, and powder charges....to keep everything as uniform as possible for the tests. My end goal is to have a "safe operating parameter" around that 405 grain/2150 fps load. If I cannot accomplish that, then I will put this effort to bed. I used to think this was nothing but fun, but now that I am older and wiser...its one heck of a lot of work!!!
 

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I think I'll keep my 444 just the way it is. ;D As you increase the capacity of the case and increase the velocity, do you go to slower burning powders than the standard fair?
 

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FT, once you complete your testing with the 405gr cast load, will you be testing factory loads in the Safari Grade 444 to note any loss of velocity and/or accuracy?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hey Dave; No, I have no use for factory ammo, but, in my Peashooter with the 2.660 COL, standard length cartridges (handloaded) performed very well as far as feeding and accuracy are concerned. The Safari Grade is a step up from that modification, and throating is required for the 2.700 COL modification. I know that standard COL cartridges will feed very well in that gun, but, I will have to test my standard COL ammo to see if accuracy is affected. When I designed this modification, it was intended to use .500 nose to crimp length bullets. Beartooth alone makes 5 bullets of this nose to crimp lenght... 300, 325, 330, 355, 405. I felt that for all practical purposes, loaded heavy or light, that range of weights would be ideal for anything from deer to elephant. This 2.700 COL negates the use of lighter bullets at max velocity for 444 shooters who are looking for a flat trajectory. My 2.700 COL modification can drive a 300 grain bullet at an estimated 2650+ fps (I have some of these made up to verify through the chrono when the weather breaks and I can get to the range again). A 300 grain bullet at that velocity is a "375 H&H Magnum" flat shooter, and I just dont think that anything better than that could be had for medium to large game at distance. Lighter bullets (to a certain degree) could be fired from the SG 444, but this would necessitate the use of a Lee Factory Crimp Die, and not crimping in the "as cast" crimp grooves on "suitable" lighter bullets, (to maximize the 2.700 COL, throating, etc). This would also present a case neck tension issue with the shorter bullets of lighter weight. Anyway, as the testing goes on I will give some of my standard COL reloads a workout and we shall see what happens. Good question Dave, and thanks for your input!
 

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That combo at 2050 fps represents an outstanding terminal performer. You already have designed and built quite a unique 444. Good luck on the run to 2150.

Your Peashooter has me challenged to consider a rebuild for my 444. I would like the capability to shoot heavy bullets at around 1600 fps. My MG is a fine shooter but won't handle the heavyweights.

Your safety procedures are a proper example to us all.
 

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What are you calling heavy bullets?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Canuck Bob; Yes, a 405 at 2050 IS a good performer for game, but, my goal was to come up with a 444 that would take ALL game, world wide. The 450-400 Nitro Express (a 400 at 2150, 4100 ft lbs, or the bolt gun variation, the 404 Jefferey, with about the same ballistics ), is still considered by affectionados of large African game hunting (and, some PH's that I have had conversations with) to be the "standard" for large African game in heavy cover. It also had the reputation as being equally suited for the lesser plains game at the longer distances, and this is what made that cartridge so suitable as an "all round" rifle for the "one gun hunter" in Africa. With my modification, the 444 with the right bullet, and load, would be the perfect "go to" gun for anything that a hunter may want to set his sights on...from deer to elephant. Combine what I have done, with the fast handling and cycling speed of a Marlin lever gun, and I believe you have one very unbeatable combination, for large dangerous game, or any other game. I chose the 444 cartridge for this modification, because I considered it to be the most "ballistically flexible" of all the big bore lever gun cartridges, and this modification improves on the high end performance of this great cartridge. For close work on the big ones the 405 at 2150 would be ideal. Chamber a 300/325 at 2650 for those longer shots, or a 290/300 at 1850 for that close in deer stand shot....I guess the combinations can only be left up to the shooters imagination.

The 6 pound, 16 1/2" barreled Peashooter, with the 325 grain bullet at 2263 fps (3600+ ft lbs), is a brutal rifle to shoot. My standard load, a 325 at 2096 fps (3100+ ft lbs), is much more sedate, but, it does let you know that it means business. Heavier bullets at max charge in a rifle of that weight and length are not for the timid....if you have the shoulder for such a thing, I would say, go for it! ;D

Starrbow has done a lot of work with the heavier bullets in the MG. I would consult with him on what is possible in that respect.

I appreciate your interest in my modification...stay tuned for further reports.
 

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Sorry Starbow, I'm in the oilpatch busy season and on the road full time. I've wanted to shoot heavy 400 grain bullets at 1600 fps range. It is more just a research plan at this time.
 

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Bob,
Getting the 405gr to stabilize at 1600fps from a 1-38MG is a problem, I really can't see what a 405gr bullet can offer over a 350gr bullet? 405gr at 1600fps or 350gr at 2000fps, I bet they both would work about equal.

Once upon a time when I was working with the 405gr, I found that it was just to much of a hassle for the returns you get in the 1-38MG.

I look back at all the wasted time, and money testing every bullet style I could find that was over 325grs in the 444 with 1-38MG, it's mind boggling. Then theres today, with Ranch Dogs 350gr bullet molds you have the holly grail of 350gr bullets in a 1-38MG, it don't get better! If I would have had this bullet 15years ago, it would have saved me lots of money and time!
 
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