American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2013 Digital Edition - Page 42

WINNINGEDGE . solid advice to keep you ahead of the competition dave anderson Buffalo Bore’s full-wadcutter load for the .44 special (L) is rated at around 1,050 fps or so, They also load it for the .44 Magnum (R). 44 Special loadS Factory options Keep it Versatile ome handgunners don’t handload and have no interest in doing so. The great competitive shooter Tommy Campbell shot factory ammunition exclusively. World speedshooting champ Mike Plaxco once told me a story of Campbell’s handloading experience. They were shooting on Plaxco’s private range, preparing for a world championship match. While they were looking over Plaxco’s reloading setup, Mike had Tommy pull the handle of the Dillon progressive machine, kicking out a loaded round. Apparently it was the only round Campbell ever reloaded. Cost aside, handloaders have the luxury of loading to different power levels for different needs. In recent years I’ve noticed an interest in compact and lightweight .44 Magnum revolvers. While it’s nice to have the option of full-power loads, most handgunners would practice more and shoot better with lighter loads. Heck, even Dirty Harry said he used “light .44 Specials” in his Model 29. Fortunately even non-handloaders have factory options available. S Nickel-plated s&W Model 29 with 3" barrel was borrowed from a friend. The diamond-pattern grips are lovely to look at, not quite as much fun to shoot. Above it is my blued 6 ½” model 24-3. o ddly it was an S&W K22 revolver which led to acquiring a .44 Special. I like big-bore revolvers, and own several in .41 and .44 Magnum, a couple of Colt .44-40 single actions, a .45 Colt and a Freedom Arms .454. But a .44 Special stayed on my “to do” list. Then a friend introduced me to an acquaintance who wanted to sell a few firearms. One was an absolutely gorgeous 1951-era K22 Masterpiece. I wanted it in the worst way. The owner also wanted to sell his .S&W .44 Spe- davE GETS a .44 SpEcIal cial and offered a discount to take both. It was a 24-3 model, made in 1983, and appeared to be in like-new, unfired condition. The more I handled and dry-fired the .44 the more I liked it. It appeared to be very well fitted and finished, the action was oily smooth, the trigger pull exceptional both single and double action. I bought the both. I wanted two load levels for it; something along the lines of a 200-gr. bullet at 750 fps for plinking, informal target shooting and small game and a 240- to The grips on the Model 29 are pretty but don’t fit my hand very well. With full-power loads I got bitten by the thumb latch. 250-gr. load at 1,100 fps for hunting. I can’t think of the .44 Special without thinking of John Taffin. I sent John an email telling him of my purchase, a bit embarrassed to admit I’d never owned one before. John was much too kind to point out my shortcoming though. He suggested some loads using Unique and 2400 powders, ending with, “Welcome to the wonderful world of .44 Specials! I got my first one in 1959 and am now up to 113 of them. Good Shootin’ And God Bless, John.” Yes, JT is as much a gentleman in real life as he comes across in his writing. he factory .44 Special loads I tried included the light “cowboy action” rounds from Black Hills Ammunition, and full-power loads from Buffalo Bore. All the loads were assembled in high-quality Starline brass. All gave good accuracy with groups in the 2" range at 25 yards. A deputy sheriff friend had recently bought a S&W 29 with 3" barrel and generously allowed me to borrow it. I chronographed velocities in both the 6½" barrel of my 24 and in the 3" barrel of the 29. For my needs two loads stood out. The cowboy loads from Black Hills are a joy to shoot, accurate and with mild recoil. For informal target shooting, small game and plinking, these loads are perfect. For hunting, or defense against predatory animals, the Buffalo Bore load with 255-gr. Keith bullet at nearly 1,100 fps would be my choice. It is one serious load. For personal defense any of the full-power loads would suffice. My favorite is the 190-gr. HP. It chronographed at around 1,050 fps in the 3" barrel and reached nearly 1,200 fps in the 6½" barrel. In freeze-framing video, it gave 42 opTions T a bit less muzzle rise than the other loads. Subjectively I felt it gave a bit faster recoil recovery, though the margin was slim. If hollowpoints aren’t allowed where you live (yes, New Jersey, I’m looking at you) the 200-gr. full wadcutter would be my choice. Of the Buffalo Bore loads tested, it’s also the only one approved by Buffalo Bore for use in Charter Arms revolvers. If you have a .44 Magnum, especially one of the lighter, compact versions, these loads make your good gun even more versatile. The cowboy loads from Black Hills are ideal for practice and plinking, and the Buffalo Bore loads provide all the power needed for personal defense, along with better controllability than full-power magnum loads. As for me I’m have a ball shooting my Model 24. John, thanks for the welcome to the club. This is my first .44 Special but I promise it won’t be the last! I understand now. * Check out Dave’s video on his testing at: watch?v=2u6k3FatTJA. For more info: www.americanhandgunner. com/product-index and click on the company name. WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JANUARY/FEBRUARY2013

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