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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
took the 405 grain BTB to 2100 fps today at the range..........only 50 fps more to reach my goal.......so near, yet so far away!!!!:D

Also started working with 300 grain bullet...2325 fps. Not a bad start!

More to come as things progress.
 

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OK, I'll bite. Define Safari Grade 444.
A 405 grain slug out the barrel at 2,100 fps has got to be equally deadly at both ends.
I'm amazed that you can get accurate loads at that level, two or three shots would give me terminal flinch.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I am trying to duplicate the ballistics of the old 450-400 Nitro Express. It would shoot a 400 grain bullet at 2150 fps for 4100+ ft lbs. It was used to take everything from small African plains game up to elephant. It was John Taylors favorite caliber, and is capable of taking anything that walks the planet. In my 8+ pound 444 with a 24" barrel, the recoil is not really that bad.
 

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Have any idea what Taylor's longest shots with it were? Would be interesting to have some impact velocity data. Like, how far out is that load going 1030 fps? Stuff like that.....

Grizz
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
LOL!!!! I am wondering why you are asking that question? LOL!!!!

According to Taylor (and others), shots at game in Africa are normally a close range affair. Large game like buff, elephant and the like are taken in feet to 40 or 50 yards maybe...kind of like hunting deer where I live...close stuff. They also say that shots at plains game down there are usually 200 yards max...again for what out west hunters here usually experience...200 yards is still close range. I think that is why most of the old African rifles and cartridges like the 450 Black Powder Express (1700 fps) like Selous used were so deadly on large game.....its hard for any animal to fight off a "point blank" bullet at a moderate velocity. Getting close in was probably more important to them than the caliber they were shooting.

To answer your question, the 405 at 2100 (where I am at right now), would deliver 1042 fps at 600 yards (976 ft lbs) . 1007 fps at 650 yards (912 ft lbs).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Jim; No it would not....for a host of reasons. Read Mic MacPhersons articles on modifying the 45/70 Marlin platform. It pretty well says it all. The issues he has discovered and corrected to allow the 45-70 Marlin to be hot rodded are pretty extensive, and require a lot of custom gunsmithing. He can get more power than I seek after he has done his modifications, but at the expense of money invested, recoil, and added weight....and, really, how much power do you need? The 450-400 Nitro Express ballistics (400 grain bullet at 2150 fps for 4100+ ft lbs) which I seek for the Marlin 444, does not require the extensive modifications, as would be required by the 45-70 platform and keeps gun weight (about 8 pounds) reasonable, and recoil tolerable, yet, will produce enough power to take any game animal on earth...which the 450-400 NE has been doing for 120+ years. My goal was not to have the most powerful, but the most usable big bore lever action Marlin, that could be had. If this becomes a reality, it will be a very nicely balanced package of power and portability. It allows the use of standard 444 cases, dies, and loading components, utilizes all OEM parts, and if need be can use factory ammo in a pinch.......and, the cost of the conversion would be reasonable for the amount of power to be had.
 

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FT
I guess I've been spoiled, since my first 45-70 was a Siamese Mauser converted to 45-70. I could load that up to levels that really hurt the shooter, so I changed powders that gave me the accuracy and percieved power level I thought I wanted with my accurate bullet, a 445 grain gas checked. IMR 3031 really hurt with full charges, with IMR 4320, it hurt less but was still profound. I finally settled on IMR 4064.
My second 45-70 is a Winchester 1886. This rifle has a cresent butt plate, so I use a 350 gas checked with a healthy dose of IMR4064. With a reciever sight it not hard to bang the gongs out at 300 yards. If I can hit a 12 inch square gong at 300 yards I'm happy, off hand and an 8 inch square off the bench, I'm happy. Yes, the gongs were spray painted with dayglo orange so I could see it
Back when I was developing loads for the Siamese Mauser chronographs were not available for us common folks, so I never had a real idea what the load was moving along at.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Jim; now thats cool...a 45-70 bolt gun...I will bet you could really get some get up and go out of that one!!! When I originally was looking for a cartridge to work with on with this modified Marlin, the 45-70 was under consideration, as was the 450 Marlin. All things considered, the 444 allowed me to get the power with the least amount of trouble. This modification is still a lot of work, but nothing like it would have been with the other two cartridges. I even considered a Winny Black Shadow in 444, but, that rifle doesnt lend itself easily to this modification. So, I took the the 444 Marlin route, and when all works itself out, I will have a "poor mans" African lever gun. I will tell you, anyone that reloads should have a chrono, and at todays prices (under 100.00) they are well worth having. When I was working up loads with this modified 444, I sent a round through the chrono and saw a sharp drop in my average fps increase per half grain. I knew right then and there that I had reached a pressure threshold. When I gently unlatched the lever, and slowly moved it down, I could feel just a faint resistance from the cartridge as I extracted it. I knew right then and there it was time to stop. The chrono probably saved my gun and me from certain harm. Yup, they are worth having for sure!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Dan...I appreciate your interest!!!
 

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My poor man's African rifle is a Winchester 1895, 405. I had Mountain molds make me 350 grain gas checked mold and went to work. This bullet design has killed elk/moose in Denmark, maybe Finland and one or two African countries. There's nothing special about it other then it's very blunt. I picked up the extra 50 grains of lead in the nose leaving enough space in the case for extra powder.
There's some heavy duty expermenters over at Accurate Reloading's lever action forum. I found that IMR 3031 was the powder to work with in this caliber in most all bullet weights. Again there's a steel butt plate to take into consideration, so once I got the load I do all of my shooting off hand.
Should the economy get turned around I'd like to go on an African plains game hunt with my Winchester 1886 and my 1895. I'd like to use my bullets with my loads.
Something to try while you are tinkering
I always polish down the case neck expander on all of my cast bullet rifles. Once the bullet is seated I can see where to base stops within the case neck. There's a very tight grip on the bullet. The crimp is light.
I've experimented with putting a loaded round in the magazine, then firing several magazines full without firing the bottom round. The bullet of tail end Charly did not get pushed down into the case.
Forgot to add all of my neck expanding is done with a Lyman M die. This applies to all rifles, even those shooting jacketed bullets
 

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Jim; now thats cool...a 45-70 bolt gun...I will bet you could really get some get up and go out of that one!!! When I originally was looking for a cartridge to work with on with this modified Marlin, the 45-70 was under consideration, as was the 450 Marlin. All things considered, the 444 allowed me to get the power with the least amount of trouble. This modification is still a lot of work, but nothing like it would have been with the other two cartridges. I even considered a Winny Black Shadow in 444, but, that rifle doesnt lend itself easily to this modification. So, I took the the 444 Marlin route, and when all works itself out, I will have a "poor mans" African lever gun. I will tell you, anyone that reloads should have a chrono, and at todays prices (under 100.00) they are well worth having. When I was working up loads with this modified 444, I sent a round through the chrono and saw a sharp drop in my average fps increase per half grain. I knew right then and there that I had reached a pressure threshold. When I gently unlatched the lever, and slowly moved it down, I could feel just a faint resistance from the cartridge as I extracted it. I knew right then and there it was time to stop. The chrono probably saved my gun and me from certain harm. Yup, they are worth having for sure!
I've very much enjoyed reading your progress reports both here and at M.O. forums too. I am curious though... Did you ever consider the BLR/.450 combination as a strong contender? Seems with the stack magazine allowing any type bullet plus the much stronger action, a beast could be developed there. Or, are you simply a fan of traditional levers over the Browning version?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Arkypete; Yes, I turn my expander plgs down for a tight bullet fit, and also use a Lee Factory Crimp Die. Even in the Marlin tube mag under heavy recoil the bullets stay put. One thing you have to look out for is the case neck compression sizing a cast bullet down. I use Marshalls bullets exclusively and they are hard enough (Brinnell 21-22) that I can fit them tight, and they do not lose diameter after seating. I have tried a number of powders with this modification, and 3031 is another that I am going to try out as well....................Africa...I wish!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Tnhunter; Thanks! No, I never did consider the BLR, but, I am sure something could be made of that as well...especially with a strong cartridge like the 450 Marlin. What is the lenght of that magazine...how long of a COL could you get to fit and feed from it? I am not really a fan of any type of lever gun over the other...I just chose Marlin because of the 444 and the work that had been done like this in the past...I just wanted to pursue this work to the extreme limits of the cartridge in a lever gun, and the Marlin seemed to be the simplest in its design for modification, and most cost effective way to go.
 

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Tnhunter; Thanks! No, I never did consider the BLR, but, I am sure something could be made of that as well...especially with a strong cartridge like the 450 Marlin. What is the lenght of that magazine...how long of a COL could you get to fit and feed from it? I am not really a fan of any type of lever gun over the other...I just chose Marlin because of the 444 and the work that had been done like this in the past...I just wanted to pursue this work to the extreme limits of the cartridge in a lever gun, and the Marlin seemed to be the simplest in its design for modification, and most cost effective way to go.
Thanks for your reply! I've just always felt that the BLR action, giving 65,000 PSI +/- might be a good one to explore the ultimate max for a big bore lever gun. Again, I have totally enjoyed what you have taught us all so far. It's my FIRM opinion that hunters that say all calibers that hit game in the proper place, also kill the same, have simply never shot a medium or big bore rifle...... :D:D:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Tnhunter; I dont know if all calibers kill the same when they hit the same spot, but, I would imagine that they would all kill...to one degree or another. On the BLR....I would have to do some investigating. Most rifles are limited to a COL, and that would determine the suitability for hot rodding the BLR.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hey Greg; Here is a photo of the Safari Grade 444 (middle) as it stands now. After load development, I will still have more to do to finish it up, but, I need to get the ballistics out of the way first.
 

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