The story about the mule deer is in "Six Guns", a book by Keith. Seems a guy had wounded the deer, but had his rifle jam. Keith's M29 was the only available firearm available to finish it off. Keith "walked" his shots in, watching the bullet strikes as he shot. As I recall he hit the deer with his last shot at something over 800 yards, although its been a 'couple' of years since I last read the tale. Keith had three witnesses to his shot.....dispite this, some don't believe.
I have shot (and hit!) big rocks at 200-300 yards with a .44. It doesn't take as much holdover as you'd expect at that range.... but at 500 seems like we had nearly the entire front sight out of the groove. We were shooting down into a canyon and had measured the distances with a laser rangefinder. With a little practice you'd be amazed what you can hit with a handgun, especially if you can walk your shots in (there was some water in the creek where we were shooting and that helps a great deal to spot your misses).
This was with a 7.5" barrel. As I recall Keith favored slightly shorter barrels so with the shorter barrel, you don't need quite as much front sight showing.
It's still one heck of a long way to hit something at 500 yards, even with a scoped rifle on a rest. Some of it is skill, some is luck, and some is just slinging a lot of lead.
I've never had the opportunity to shoot the .44mag beyond 200 yds. but can tell you that my 1350 fps load, sighted dead on at 100 yds. dropped 31" at 200 yds.
My RCBS software gives me the following calculations for a 240gr. JHP at 1350 fps sighted dead on at 100yds:
200yd = 27"
300yd = 91"
400yd = 210"
500yd = 370", at which time it's traveling at 736 fps
600yd = 600", at which time it's traveling at 683 fps
So as you can see, it shoots pretty flat until you go from 500yds to 600yds! The good news is that you still have a cowboy load at 500yds.
I think MikeG's exclamation mark after his "A Lot" is very appropriate
My calculations said 32 ft. of holdover. I was unaware that he had "walked it in". That still requires a considerable amount of luck. Time of flight on a 600 yard shot would be considerable. Enough that a deer could walk out from under the shot easily. I wonder if the "legends" had any idea of the problems they would cause with their exploits?
There you go again, talking in that foreign language.
But yeah, I figured on the back of my hand that the deer had about 2 seconds to move out of the way.
Along the same line: The fastest compound bows on the market shoot at about 300 fps. If a deer is alert, over thiry yards away, and reacts to the sound of the shot, you can't hit him. He's gone before the arrow arrives.
I seem to recall that Elmer had extra-tall front sights with calibrated gold bars on some of his handguns. He could dial in extra elevation by adding more front sight to his aim. That doesn't make it easy by any means, but there are some tricks the experts use.
"Elmer had extra-tall front sights with calibrated gold bars on some of his handguns"
I've always understood the same thing, but never could figure out how he could see what he was shooting at unless he's shooting at an air craft carrier. My front sight covers the target, so my problem isn't just elevation, but even seeing the target?
You put the target on top of the front sight just like normal. the bullet should strike just over the front sight. The difference is that the front sight is way above the top of the rear sight.
With the 4in barrel, you do not need as much front sight above the rear sight as you need with a 6in or 8in.
When I first read this post, I couldn't waite to dig into my Elmer books for some data for my response. Elmer started writing about shooting long range w/ handguns as early as 1926 for American Rifleman. This drew the curiosity of Harold Croft, a gunwriter from back east(Philidelphia). Croft wired Keith and stated he wanted to witness some of these unbelievable feats. Elmer invited him out for a months stay. Croft sent a large trunk of assorted ammo(.44 special, .45 colt, .44 wcf, and some .38-40). When Croft arrived at the Keith ranch, he had a large trunk of handguns in tow. After a brief introduction Keith stated "No time like the present" to display his long range shooting ability. Keith gathered some boards and nailed a 4 ft X 4 ft target, and then drove it in the old ford a measured 700 yds away. When asked if this was far enough, Croft replied he couldn't hit it with a howitzer. Ol' Elmer got his trusty saddle and used it for a head rest, and propped his hands between his knees, and let fire. Elmer walked his shots into the target with all guns brought by Croft. Most were done within 1 cylinder full. However, Keith does admitt that a 2" slip gun required 11 shots to walk on target. Croft went on to write about Keith's endeavors, forever the now believer.
I, myself have often wondered about such feats. I have only shot pistols at 50 yds. prior to last fall. Using a range finder, I was able to hit, with consistency, a rock 18" around, at a measured 232 yds. with a Ruger .45 bisley loaded with 325 gr LBT LFNGC over 22.0 grs H110 for just under 1300 fps. As mentioned earlier by someone, holdover was not as much as expected. And yes, the target of choice was perched on top of the front sight. You just have to raise the front sight up from the rear sight top for your elevation. It opened my eyes wide, besides being a blast. If someone like myself can hit something 232 yds away, I truly believe Elmer could hit something 600 yds away. Ross Seyfried has witnessed Elmer shoot, and described him as beyond super human . Makes for good conversation ! If I were a betting man, my money would be on Elmer.
Excerpt from “Elmer Keith, The Other Side Of A Western Legend”, Accurate Rifle magazine, June 2002.
Gripping the world’s most powerful factory production handgun the old man seriously concentrated on something that was a great distance away. He looked neither to the right nor left across the dusty, open desert country of middle Idaho.
After some thought, he, without a word, slowly lowered himself down to rest his back against a lone jack pine tree. On this day it would be a tree. On others he used a well worn pack horse saddle or simply stretched out on his side.
Behind him out of the line of fire a small crowd of admirers and the inevitable skeptics were milling around. The latter, some smoking or taking a quick nip from pint bottles, grinned and winked at each other. They seemed confident that this was going to be an easy money day.
This varied group of bystanders had come to witness what many considered to be an impossible feat with a pistol.
Tipping his large, gray cowboy hat down a bit for shade from the bright summer sun, Elmer Keith then rested both elbows against his knees. The legendary gunman took a deep breath.
A few of the onlookers jumped nervously when a first shot blasted off. It sent a resounding echo through canyons and draws in the nearby foothills. Shading their eyes, some with binoculars and some without, they could see dust fly about 475 yards from where the learned old shooter had taken aim.
One man’s face fell in a sign of remorse. Possibly a sign of repentance for having bet so much that what he was seeing in front of him couldn’t be done. He was a city man who cared little for the quiet grin a cowboy in work clothes gave him.
Another loud crack firmly erupted from the Smith and Wesson revolver. It was a blue steel heavy frame affair. A Model 29. After a lifetime of handling and shooting thousands of pistols it was the old legend’s unabashed favorite. He had helped to develop this weapon and all this expectations had been met.
This second bullet was being “walked up” to the 500 yards away target which was wired onto an old long abandoned rubber automobile tire. One of many that lay scattered across remote areas of the rural west.
His third and fourth hand-loaded 250-grain slugs tore round holes in a lower portion of the paper on plywood bull-eye target that was so far away. The fifth bullet hit a bottom ring.
Emptying the pistol cylinder with a sixth, slow squeeze trigger pull, Elmer Keith surveyed his work from a position on the rough ground. His point had been proven. A near bulls-eye. Anyone who knew Keith well could almost hear him thinking…”Is that good enough for you boys?”
The author goes on to tell the story of the time he and another friend took Keith with them when they traveled by car from Idaho to a prominent gun show in California. Elmer told the story of the time he shot flying fish, in the air, while on a fishing boat at the challenge of other passengers. Both the author and friend did not believe Keith for a moment and were broken hearted to find that the legend they admired apparently told some big ones.
When the reached the California gun show, one of the first people they saw was a very well know gun writer that greeted Elmer by saying, “Elmer, you old son-of-a-gun, do you remember the time you shot those flying fish when everyone said it couldn’t be done?”
I respectfully suggest there have been too many such instances of witnessed “impossible shots” to doubt what Elmer says he did.
You know, the thing that I find most amazing is that the people who claim the loudest that something "can't be done!" are invariably those who have not even tried. Not tried and failed, but just those who have not even lifted a finger and tried.
Having witnessed a lot of IHMSA shooting a number of years ago, I didn't doubt that it could be done. I just doubted that I could do it! Then one afternoon of shooting rocks in a creek 200-300 yards away, proved that it can be done by anyone who sets their mind to it. Heck, my buddy even hit a few with his GLOCK! Wonder what Elmer would have thought of that....
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