Look, it’s not you. It’s…okay, it’s you. But it’s me, too.

Regular readers know that a few years ago I switched from the beater 1911 I carried for many years to a beater .44 Special revolver. 100_4346And from that time, the revolver and I have had a roller coaster relationship.

Look, it’s not all the gun’s fault, okay? It comes from a broken home. It was used hard and put up filthy. And then becoming joined at the hip with the likes of me … well, there were bound to be issues. I’m not a revolver guy. I think back with a bitter chuckle on my naive misconceptions about “simplicity” and “reliability” and “no ammo sensitivity.” It didn’t occur to me that a piece-of-crap auto will at least let you get one shot off before it jams, while a piece-of-crap revolver must function perfectly before it will ever fire at all. It took a comically long time for me to notice that a revolver must be cleaned in places an auto doesn’t have places, and that clearly nobody had ever cleaned this one. And did I do anything remotely resembling due diligence on whether anybody even sells .44 Special ammo around here? I did not.

So no, it’s not all about the Taurus’s failings. But still, the differences in balance and handling between an auto and a big revolver are far more extreme than I remember from my Hunter Pistol Silhouette days. Felt like I was practically having to learn to shoot all over again, and that was at the same time when it was slowly becoming apparent that I was actually going blind. So I didn’t need the additional drama. There was the mainspring thing, where the Taurus wouldn’t do more than dimple primers in double action. There was that ludicrous little wooden grip, what was with that? Then the cleaning issue.

Finally – Finally! – we got all that worked out, and I figured out where the Taurus likes to put bullets (It shoots high, but Oh! So! Consistently! high compared to my ‘roughly in that direction’ beater 1911.) I’ll never stop being nostalgic about that moment when I removed a chicken’s head with it in a moment of pique. It was finally starting to feel like love.

And then it started locking up again.
unhappyI actually considered professional therapy. I asked Ian if he would consider taking the Taurus to a gunsmith next time he goes to the city. If there’s anything remotely resembling a professional gunsmith around here, I haven’t found it in eight years.

Some weeks ago a generous reader sent me some factory ammo. I tend to hoard that and practice only with reloads. Because the only .44 I ever reloaded for was Magnum, and that was many years ago, my reloads up till now have been a little extreme. This past weekend I went out to the pistol range with Ian and Landlady, and dug out that Baggie of factory rounds. I noticed two things different about this practice session – First, these loads were quite a bit milder than what I normally shoot. Second, the Taurus functioned perfectly. Over and over. I couldn’t get it to do its trick.


I thought about that for a few days. Maybe I was just beating the old guy up for no reason. I do live in an environment where sometimes I have to shoot things. That’s why I wanted the bigger cartridge and the ‘flying ashtray’ hollowpoints my 1911 wouldn’t chamber. But most of what I need to shoot is pretty small. On the order of a coyote, say. There was just that one bear, and I didn’t actually get a shot at it. Maybe the problem isn’t the gun but the reloads. Wouldn’t be the first time.

So I dug around in my ammo drawer, and took lots of everything out to the pistol target in my yard. And – not to my surprise by now – the problem wasn’t with the gun but with the ammo. There was one single lot of reloads that locked up the cylinder after a couple of shots, and it wasn’t difficult to see why. I’d messed up the sizing on several cases, and the case heads were backing out and locking between the cylinder and the frame. The pistol itself is fine.

So – end of long, wordy story – I’m going back to the reloading shack. And then the Taurus and I will work on our relationship.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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13 Responses to Look, it’s not you. It’s…okay, it’s you. But it’s me, too.

  1. UnReconstructed says:

    I *always* put a pretty fair crimp in the round for that very reason. And always make sure I’m shooting bullets with a crimp groove.

    Hate to stress the brass more than I need to, though.

    I’ve gotten 20 reloads on remington cases, and one batch with 30 is still going strong.

  2. MamaLiberty says:

    I’m really lucky that, so far, I’ve just not had any ammo worries with my Ruger .357 or the XD 9mm. Several friends here reload, and I’ve used a lot of reload stuff since the price of factory rounds went ballistic. But none of my “boys” messes with hot loads or other off book stuff… or at least they don’t palm it off on Mama if they do. 🙂 I’d smack them… and worse, quit feeding them!! LOL

  3. UnReconstructed says:

    my main load isn’t ‘hot’ by 44 mag standards…..20.5 gr Vihta Vouri N110 (roughly equiv to 2400) behind a keith style 240 gr Lead Semiwadcutter.

    Accurate if I do my part…….but even that load will back out under recoil. it’ll tie up the cyl after 3 shots unless I put a substantial crimp in them.

  4. Barlow says:

    Caption for that photo:

    “I’ve fallen and I can’t get it up”

  5. abnormalist says:

    I have a tracker 44 mag, sort of a smaller, but meaner and uglier brother to that 44… (kinda like Flint, compared to Detroit)

    I’ve found a happy load for that is a really light loaded 44 mag 9.5gr win 231 under a 240gr HC SWC with CCI large pistol primers.

    Very nice at 25 yards with a 4″ barrel, plenty warm enough for social work, but not so warm to punish the shooter.

    Well at least compared to the 300gr xtps ontop of 18gr 2400… I really HATE shooting those, but if I were to be in big bear country, that’s what I would have in it.

    For what its worth, I think 231 is a very underrated powder for the bigger bore guns like this, burns well in a shorter barrel, and gives good load options.

  6. M J R says:

    I have always used and up until I retire next year I will be using factory loads in my .357 S&W 19 and Winchester 94 trapper but then I plan on doing reloads for the cost savings at the range. I can see that I am going to have to be more careful that I thought. :^)

  7. Kentucky says:

    Appropriate charges of Unique or Green Dot under a 240-grain lead bullet have worked quite nicely in my 3″ Taurus 431 for years.

  8. Joel says:

    What do you consider appropriate?

  9. In looking at my own history, I have noticed that the days of my reloading for redline performance seem to be conspicuously behind me, as are a few mentally related practices that I’m happy to see no further. In my case (I make no implication for anyone else) I think what happened is that somewhere along the way I grew conspicuously more competent at making hits rather than shooting, and as I truly, rather than theoretically, grew to see the gun as a tool rather than as an avocation, my attitude changed to fit that. What I didn’t realize until much later is just how much better off things were after that change.

    A great example is the humble chamber-checker. For some years I actually owned one of these otherwise unremarkable hunks of metal (in this case for .308), but never used it properly. All along that time, too, I noticed this weird phenomenon wherein cases fired out of .308 rifles other than my Steyr, would not chamber in the Steyr when reloaded. I rationalized this as that the premium rifle must have a tight, premium chamber or something, and diligently segregated my brass as “Scout and other-than-Scout”…but even then it could be touchy, as the Scout brass was still conspicuously tight, but it would at least chamber…usually.

    Long-time reloaders, I suspect, can already see where I’m going with this.

    I went on for quite some time this way, and then came a major lifestyle / financial change that kept me away from shooting and reloading for several years. When the time (finally) came that things loosened up a little bit and I started to grind the reloader back toward operational status, I found that I had been away long enough that I felt it smart to re-learn a few things. And so, when the time came to adjust my sizing die, I used the chamber-checker as a tool both to check for over-length cases, and to set the full-length resize adjustment properly.

    Jeez. Would you believe those stinkin’ things work?

    At some point, there was a click in my idiot-brain, and I ran me a structured test to see if the humble chamber-checker could have solved my “Scout brass” problem years ago. (One guess only, and I’ll spot you the hint that it’s not “no”.) Sure enough, I had been out of adjustment for true full-length resizing without realizing it, and the shoulder would advance on fireforming, producing a problem that could easily be seen by using the proper tool. Not only have I not had any troubles with chambering in any rifle since, but–imagine this–live rounds just fall out of the chambers without any power assist at all, just like factory ammo. (Sheesh.)

    Joel, I wish you well in coming to peace with your working sidearm, however you may come about it. Your example of considering the revolver as having to cycle properly before the first shot has been duly imprinted on my brain. That seems as important a consideration as the one which finally made me give up the single-shot as a “serious” rifle: the problem with the one-gun isn’t the speed of reloading (I can run a Ruger One from a butt-cuff faster than most people run boltguns); it’s the observation that the single-shot is either fully loaded or fully unloaded. For a hunting rifle, that’s a minor consideration, but up here one cannot take the field at all without needing to be wary of large and potentially dangerous critters, and it just seems prudent to have at least two shots onboard and ready to go at all times.

  10. Kentucky says:

    My powder choices . . .

    I have found that five grains of Green Dot or six grains of Unique work nicely under a 240-grain lead SWC. Firm but not ridiculous crimp.

    Understand that I am of course NOT recommending that YOU should try this . . . oh, no, heaven forbid. I am not an expert, nor do I play one on the ‘net. Close cover before striking. Your mileage may vary. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

  11. tamslick says:

    Having owned medium-frame five-shot .44 Special snubs from Charter, Rossi, and Smith, I’ve noticed that none of them liked warmly loaded 240gr ammo. Factory PMC would tie the Rossi right up.

    200gr loads like the Federal LSWC-HP or Winchester’s Silvertips? All day long.

    Speer’s Blazers with the 200gr Gold Dots, BTW, are a bargain for defensive ammo.

  12. Kentucky says:

    Amen on the “no hot stuff”. These are not magnum-rated guns we’re talking about.

    My 431 likes the Silvertips just fine, thanks. Have to give the Blazers a try . . . if I can find some.

  13. Joel says:

    I’ve shot quite a few Blazers in the Taurus. I object to paying $1 a round for ammo I can’t even reload, but was forced to for a while until I obtained enough cases for reloading in sufficient quantity to even pretend to practice. They work great, though. The one Coyote I shot with the .44 was with a Blazer round. The coyote got away, but I really don’t think she got far.

To the stake with the heretic!