Winchester 94 -- 44 Magnum

May 2010

I bought this rifle from the Junkmail, in 2006. The fellow wanted R 1200 for it and the money hit his bank account faster than... a speeding bullet.

Only problem is, the damn thing wouldn't shoot. This "group" at 25m, off a rest, and you can see some of the bullets are tumbling.

So I figured out what the problem is. You see, the 44 Magnum is one weird cartridge. Actually, it's the cartridge you get when you let marketing run the engineering shop. Because firstly it's nowhere near a 44, it's actually (supposedly) .429". Not enough bigger than the .41 Magnum to really make a difference except for the hype.

But worse. SAAMI (the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer's Institute, i.e. the guys that make the rules) in their wisdom (hah) decided that while a 44 Magnum revolver is fine at .429" groove / .417" bore, a 44 Magnum rifle should have a .431" groove / .424" bore.

What this means is that they are effectively two different cartridges. Pity the ammo manufacturers just make the one, which works in revolvers and maybe if you're lucky in your rifle.

So back to my rifle. After trying many different loads and at least ten different types of bullets, I decided to slug the barrel, and it slugged .432" -- one thou more than it should be.

This explains the tumbling, and also why at really low muzzle velocity things were sort of OK with some bullets, since the bullets sort of gripped the lands. At higher velocity the bullet goes straight down the middle, doesn't pick up any spin, and shoots like a muzzle loader.

So I asked a 'smith to lathe-turn some oversize bullets at .433". Here's a group at 25m. Much better.

Fortunately I found a group buy over at the Cast Boolits forum for a .434" mould. I bought one, as well as .431" and .433" sizing dies.

I then made the mistake of telling a fellow I wanted a lot of bullets... I ended up with... a lot of bullets.

I sorted the bullets in 2 grain lots, sized a bunch of them to .433", and loaded them using S265.

22gr S265CCI Large Pistol primer1617 fps, one punctured primer
21gr S265PMP Large Rifle Magnum primer1574 fps
21gr S265Winchester Large Pistol / Magnum primer1543 fps, best accuracy

The CCI primers gave erratic velocities, as did the PMP, which also stands a bit proud of the case, large rifle primers pockets being deeper than large pistol. Not a problem, except that the ammo won't stand up on the reloading bench. I'll stick to the Winchester primers if I can find them.

Much better! Five shots, 50m, open sights, just over an inch (27mm to be exact).

[Image] Hit Count