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As you can see from the picture this bullet follows the standard Keith design with a long nose, flat base, wide driving band and single lube groove of the same width as the bands above and blow it. This bullet has such a long nose on it that in 357 Magnum cases it can be difficult to load and fit into the short cylinder M27. Even the GP100, which has a very long throat has some trouble with this bullet and it's wide front driving band. However with the OAL set to 1.62" this bullet works in magnum cases in both of these revolvers. In revolvers with a longer cylinder and shorter throats, like the Smith 686 or M19, Redhawk, or Blackhawk to name a few, you have more room to experiment and get a good crimp.
This bullet while heavier than typical commercial 158gr bevel base LSWC designs you'll find in most gunshops doesn't use any more case capacity. The distance from the crimp groove to the base matchs that of the 158gr bullets. This means you can use the same data for 158gr bullets with this heaver 170 gr. Another benifit of this design is the perfectly flat base. In the same gun, with the same load, fired on the same morning I consistantly saw the 170 gr loads shooting 50 fps faster than typical commercial bevel base 158gr loads. That flat base seals the bore better which reduces leading and increases velocity.
The morning I was out shooting the heavy Lil'Gun loads turned out to be 25 deg, icy and damp (only in Washington, eh?). As a result I didn't do any formal accuracy testing, only plinking at targets on the berm down range. With the 19.0gr of Lil'Gun load I had litte problem hitting pop cans, and pop can sized targets out to 25-30 yards shooting offhand. I have no doubt shooting from the bench for the record they would do very well indeed. I also expect to see higher velocities with this load when summer finally returns. The H110 and 2400 loads were fired last fall and summer.
On to the bigger calibers and heavy bullets...
Dry Creek Bullet Works, Specializing in Keith Bullets and fired Brass Catering to the Shootist and the Sixgun Hunter, in West Virginia makes the bullet I've been searching for. Lynn Halstead has been casting bullets for 30 years and these bullets reflect those years of experience.
The two bullets on the right in this picture are from Dry Creek Bullet Works, the left is a common bevel base machine cast 240gr LSWC. The middle bullet is Dry Creek's 250gr Keith, the far right their 310gr Keith - one that has fast become my favorite heavy 44 caliber bullet and is exactly like the one I saw so many years ago. It's difficult to tell from this photo but these bullets have sharp edges and very clean lines where the halves of the bullet mold met, obviously high quality castings. These are sized at .430", just as a hard cast bullet for 44 Specials or 44 Magnums should be. As far as consistancy goes these are some of the most consistant, and in the case of the 250gr the most consistant, bullets I have ever put on a scale. The Dry Creek 250gr Keith LSWC weighs 250grains. I sampled 5 at random from the box, their weight didn't vary by more than .7 grains, from 250-250.7 with a standard deviation of .25 - that's as close to perfect as you're ever going to find. The 310's ranged from 308 to 311 with a standard deviation of 1.1, extremely consistant bullet weights which should make them good shooters.
If you're thinking that these bullets look long, they are 310gr afterall, you're right. OAL of a loaded 44 Magnum round in new Starline brass using these bullets is 1.756". That puts them right to the end of the cylinder in my M29-2. It also means that these rounds will require a tight resize and a very good crimp to avoid bullet jump under recoil.
The real proof of course is in the shooting. If a bullet is inaccurate, leads up the barrel or any other way mucks things up it doesn't matter how pretty it is.
To test these bullets I used three different loads. The first is Skeeters 44 Special load of 7.5gr of Unique. This load has been used for many years and is something of a benchmark by which other 44 Special loads are measured. The second load is is Keiths 17.0gr of 2400 under the 250gr LSWC - one can hardly test Keith bullets, especially 44's without using this load! The third is a full bore hunting 44 Magnum load of 21.5gr of H110 under the 310gr bullet. Again this load has proven very accurate for many years in a range of guns making it a good test load.
As you can see in the table these bullets are capable of some very good shooting, able to shoot to the potential of the gun and the shooter.
Groups are the best 3 of 5 shots using open sites, the purpose of this is to measure the accuracy of the gun and load not my shooting. I'm sure there is room for improvement in these groups, after aproximately 30 rounds of the 310gr load the rubber grips on the M29 tore open a blister on my gun hand making extremely precise shooting difficult.