Alliant’s Red Dot and .44 Sixguns

Dial it down for fun
17

Milder Red Dot Loads work well in .44 Russian and .44
Colt in the Cimarron Cartridge Conversion.

Everything about sixgun power changed when the .44 Magnum arrived in late 1955. After graduating from high school in 1956 I started my journey down the path marked “Serious Sixgunnin’.” My first never-to-be-forgotten encounter with the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum occurred later that summer. The recoil, to those of us used to nothing heavier than .45 Colt, .45 ACP and .357 Magnum sixguns was indescribable. After firing the first round I would have quit if I was by myself. However, I could not do that in front of my friends so I fired the rest of them and was very glad it was only a six-shooter and I only had five more rounds to fire.

That first encounter with the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum was shooting a 4″ sixgun rented out by the local gun shop. The brief time had such an effect on me I waited six years before I purchased my first Smith .44. That was my first Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. However, three years later after graduating from college and getting ready to head to Idaho, I purchased a 4″ S&W .44 Magnum. Over the past 50+ years several more, both blue and nickel-plated, as well as the later-arriving stainless steel versions and in barrel lengths of 4″, 5″, 6-1/2″, 7-1/2″ and 8-3/8″ have been added to my accumulation of sixguns.

John uses Red Dot for comfortable-shooting loads in .44 Russian,
.44 Colt, .44 Special, .44-40 and .44 Magnum.

John uses reloading dies from Lyman, Redding and RCBS for loading these
five .44 cartridges — .44 Russian, .44 Colt, .44 Special, .44-40 and .44 Magnum.

In The Beginning

For many years, actually decades, my loads were full-house .44 Magnum loads mostly such as Keith’s choice of his 250-grain hard-cast bullet over 22.0 grains of #2400. About 10 years ago, I was faced with coming up with loads that would allow me to shoot 250 to 300 rounds in a session without my hands paying for it several days thereafter and my loads were dropped down to a muzzle velocity of around 1,100 fps.

Now I find myself at another threshold, a much lower threshold if I am going to be able to continue to shoot big-bore sixguns. Everything changes as we grow older and my hands and wrists will no longer take the full-house loads, or even the drop-down load, on a regular basis.

I have used several powders, however, for this installment we look at Alliant Red Dot for use in .44 sixguns. This includes chamberings of not only .44 Magnum, but .44 Special, .44 Colt, .44 Russian and .44-40. For most of my loadings I use Oregon Trail’s 240-, 225- or 200-grain RNFP (Round Nosed Flat Point) cast bullets.

In the .44 Magnum, I go with 5.0 grains of Red Dot and the 240-grain bullet. This load in a Ruger Super Blackhawk cut back to 4-3/4″ clocks out at 785 fps and puts five shots in well under 1″ at 20 yards. Switching to the 44 Special with the 225-grain bullet, I drop down to 4.5 grains of Red Dot. In a 7-1/2″ Texas Longhorn Arms West Texas Flat-Top Target model, this is an 800 fps load and groups in 1″. The same load under a 200-grain bullet results in 770 fps and the same accuracy. Both are very pleasant shooting. Going up to 5.0 grains with this bullet in the .44 Special gives me 870 fps in a 5-1/2″ Colt New Frontier with the same accuracy.

Red Dot .44 Magnum loads in Ruger Bisley and Super Blackhawk.

Accurate and easy-shooting .44 Magnum loads with Red Dot
in the 5" Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum.

The Family Tree

The .44 Colt actually predates the .45 Colt by a couple of years and was first chambered in Colt Cartridge Conversions and the 1871-72 Open-Top, all of which are now available from Cimarron in replica form. Starline offers brand-new brass, which is basically a shortened .44 Special case with a smaller diameter rim. Since this is a shorter .44 Special, I drop my powder charge down to 4.0 grains of Red Dot under the 200-grain Oregon Trail bullet. In a 7-1/2″ Colt New Service Target Model, the results are groups just over 1″ with a very pleasant shooting load at 680 fps. Going up to the 225-grain bullet over 4.5 grains of Red Dot raises the muzzle velocity by 100 fps with the same excellent accuracy.

The .44 Russian arrived around 1870 in the Smith & Wesson Model #3 single action sixgun. It quickly gained a reputation for accuracy and then in 1907, was lengthened to become the .44 Special. My most-used load for this cartridge is 3.5 grains of Red Dot under either a 200- or 225-grain Oregon Trail Bullet. In the previously mentioned TLA West Texas Target, both of these loads clock out just over 700 fps with groups well under 1″.

This leaves the .44-40 Winchester with the same two Oregon Trail Bullets and a charge of 5.5 grains Red Dot muzzle. Velocities are in the 750-790 fps range with groups just over 1″ in the Texas Longhorn Arms sixgun. I use this particular sixgun for much testing since it has four cylinders chambered in .44 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Russian and .44-40.

Here in my twilight years I expect to last a lot longer shooting .44 loads at these levels using Red Dot. The sixguns will also last a lot longer.

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