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Practically Shooting

I Don't Have Any Sense


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Truthfully, all I had in mind (before) was getting it as a plaything. I have guns to cover any practical or sensible purpose, so thought what the heck, I'll get something for no good reason.

Then I looked at the one they had on the rack this morning, and to my surprise, I could actually shoulder it and it didn't feel awkward. Different, but not awkward, and one could probably get used to it. Even holding it out with both arms extended- one on the grip, one on the forend- it held steadier than any revolver to me. The sights were right there and lined up immediately.

I realized there might be some use for it after all.

I think it's an Indiana legal deer handgun (although I haven't checked because it never occurred to me before). It may not be the handiest handgun, but I think it's no worse than my Contender. Now that I see it can be used as a rifle, I look at it differently. It may be a big handgun, but it's a really handy rifle.

The one they had on the rack was a .357, which might have been OK, but they got a .44 Mag and .45 Colt off the UPS truck this morning while I was there. I load .44 Mag a lot for a Ruger rifle, and I cast a lot of different .44 bullets, so that caliber made more sense to me and I got the .44 Magnum.

I would have been the first to say it is just a fun toy until I stuck it to my shoulder and found it worked there. Everything I had read said you couldn't shoot it any way but arms' length because you can't hold it closer, or couldn't see the sights if you did. I guess it's a good thing I tried it.

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Pablo, I can get it shouldered and keep my hands in place to operate and shoot it. I wouldn't say it was natural or comfortable, but it sure wasn't "impossible" which is the word I kept reading and hearing. To go by some, it can't be done. Well, it looks to me like it can.

I can even run the lever with it shouldered. The bolt stops just short of touching my face, and sometimes does lightly brush against it- that's how close it comes to not working. But it does work.

I can see that some people might not be able to do it, and that others could do it easier than I can.

It might hurt with heavier loads (that's a small buttplate), and it might even be easier to operate when taken off the shoulder, but it can be done. I may find I gain nothing by shouldering it, but I doubt it. I keep getting the feeling there is some way to shoot it that works really well but without having to find out before, I don't know what it is.

More pictures:

They actually "clocked" the buttplate screws (lined them up):


I ordered a leather shirt/vest:

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Early shooting observations:

Shooting it like a handgun, it shoots about like a handgun. No easier, nor harder. Gets the hits about the same.

Recoil is very mild, but it does jump a bit up front. Something about the balance or shape I guess. The forend rises and leaves my hand usually. I didn't hold it very hard there either because I didn't expect I needed to. I didn't change my grip there because I was shooting for groups and didn't want to alter my hold and throw it all off.

It did feel a little funny to me because of the shooting hand's wrist angle. A slight curve to the grip would have made a big difference, I think.

I want to say it was somewhat forgiving. There were times when I know I threw a shot, but it didn't look so bad on paper. Some guns are like that.

Shooting like a rifle, it isn't real easy, but can be done. My accuracy increased enough to make it worth doing.

I was in the woods, so only had about 17 yards of clear distance between trees, so couldn't tell much, but could make one-hole groups standing up shooting it like a rifle. Even braced against a tree, it was more work to get even close to that when shooting handgun style. But rifle-style, it was just a matter of standing there and doing it.

The muzzle blast is awful close when shouldered though. The muzzle is maybe 18" from my face. That would cause flinching long before recoil would.

The little buttplate didn't beat me up, but I didn't shoot very heavy stuff that way either.

The big thing about shooting it rifle style: The lever whacked my knuckles pretty good a couple of times. I didn't grip it normally when shouldered, and used more of a "pinch" with my thumb and middle finger.

Will work on strong hand grip method for shooting from the shoulder if I pursue this. Perhaps gripping over the front/outside of the lever would work better. This is new ground here- I don't recall a chapter in Warren Page's "The Accurate Rifle" on the best way to shoot a Mare's Laig.

As I read elsewhere, it shoots high. Even with the rear sight elevator removed completely, it was still a little high, but manageable.

When fired from the shoulder, it was dead-on.

Front sight has brass bead that's a little big. It wasn't bad when shooting as a handgun (but was still bigger than the rear sight notch) but was harder to use rifle style when it's closer to the eye.

Rear sight is called a Buckhorn (it's really a semi-Buckhorn) which I never liked. Somehow, I can handle this one better than others, but I want it gone anyway.

Rear sight will probably get replaced with a plain flat-topped pistol-style. Although...that peep that's made to replace the stupid bolt safety might be nice.

About that stupid bolt safety:

I forgot it on the very first shot. Click.

It doesn't like SWCs in Magnum brass. Too long OAL. The 44 Specials are shorter and work OK.

Wadcutters are too short to function through it. Not that anyone but me would need to know that. They shoot nice though.

Everything else worked fine.

The loading gate stuck closed twice and had to be forced open. The first time was after shooting 300 grain XTPs and I thought recoil caused it (they were a little lively) but it happened once more with some more moderate ammo.

Ejection was typical Winchester 92- up and out, just a little to the right, and flings them far enough if the lever is snapped open properly.

No unusual case dents, dings, etc.

There were no cases of the lever popping open in recoil or anything like that, which I've heard people wonder about.

Naugahyde piece of decoration hanging from saddle ring has to go, because it got in the way a few times. It never stopped the lever from closing, but did get caught in my fingers or between my hand and the lever a few times.

Actually, that thing might be a safety hazard, because I saw it get in close to the trigger once. I don't know if it's possible for it to trip the trigger as the lever is closed (ala Chuck Connors) but wouldn't rule it out. I started to take it off when I unpacked the gun, but decided to leave it on so the saddle ring wouldn't beat the receiver's bluing up. I plan on taking it off and putting a short wrap of leather on the ring.

Gotta leave the ring. It's part of the Josh Randall holster rig I need to make. I'm only half joking.

Chrono speeds were as expected- Slower than my Ruger 77/44 carbine. I don't have a .44 Mag revolver, but the .44 Spls were faster by 100-200 fps over my 5.5" Ruger. The load I shoot most in the Ruger carbine was slightly faster in the Ranch Hand, oddly enough.

Will measure groups and record chrono speeds later.

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OK, here's the tale of the tape.

This was at 18 yards, holding it more or less like a pistol, while leaning against a tree. No bench out in the woods.

First thing tried was one of my regular .44 Special loads- 8.0 800X and a cast 250 SWC (Lyman 429421). This runs just under 1,000 fps from a 5.5" Ruger revolver.

It ran just a hair faster from the Ranch Hand, at 1031.7 fps. The Ranch Hand's group was freakishly identical to the first group of the same load fired from the Ruger revolver: 1-5/8".

Next was another favorite of mine in 44 Spl- The same 250 SWC bullet with 7.7 grains of Power Pistol. It runs 855 fps from the Ruger, but went 1027.2 from the Ranch Hand. Group size 1-1/2"- again, almost identical to what the Blackhawk does, just a hair larger.

Now some Magnums. I tried a standard load in each of the three jacketed bullet weights I had handy- 200, 240, and 300 grains.

It had been shooting to the left and really high, so I made a sight change first. I whacked the rear sight to the right a little to correct deflection. The rear sight elevator was in the second notch up, so I removed it completely to correct elevation. I got it close after that, and left it alone although it could use some more fine tuning.

The 200 grain load would be a good "show load" for a TV show because of the fire that belched forth. Lots of noise and a fine blast wave too. Holy cow, it made some noise. This was 28 grains of H110 and a 200 XTP.

According to the books, this should be good for somewhere in the upper 1700s in a revolver, and that's just what it did in the Ranch Hand. I had an average of 1771.6 fps. I yanked the second shot after the concussion from the first, making a 2-3/8" group, but the other four went into a tidy 1-1/4".

The 240 grain load was a pretty standard .44 Magnum load: 23.5 grains of H110 and a 240 Nosler JHP. This should go about 1400 fps in a 6" revolver. In my Ruger 77/44 carbine (18") it goes 1672 fps.

The Ranch Hand shot it at 1530.0 fps, so roughly in the middle. Group: 1-1/2"

The 300 grain powder charge might be a little on the mild side. I haven't loaded much with 300 jacketed since I usually go to cast by the time I get to bullets that heavy. It was 18 grains of H110 and a Hornady 300 XTP. In the Ruger 77/44, it runs 1292 fps.

Ranch Hand: 1206.8 fps and a 3-1/4" group. I can almost guarantee it would do better. I was a little jumpy on that one.

One more full power Magnum load. This is the one I use most in the Ruger 77/44. It's a cast wide flat nose (WFN) that weighs a sliver under 280 grains. I load it with 22 grains of H110, which runs right at 1500 fps in the 77/44.

Ranch Hand: 1523.4 fps, and a 2-1/4" group.

It actually went a little faster than the average in the 18" barreled 77/44.

I load this same bullet without a gas check for a "whisper" load in the 77/44. With 7.0 grains of Win 231, it goes just under 1,000 fps, shoots well, still hits plenty hard, and is quiet.

Ranch Hand: 992.7 fps I yanked one spoiling the group. Five made 2-3/4", but four went into 1-3/4".

I like that. Not as quiet as in the 77/44, but should be a good fun load.

Now a really light one I use in the .44 Spl revolver. This is a 113 wadcutter with 4.0 grains of Unique. In the revolver, it goes 570 fps and is like a .22 in recoil.

Ranch Hand: 574.6 fps and a 2" group. Quiet as a mouse. Too bad it won't cycle through the action.

Now two .44 Magnum loads in the moderate range.

These should run "just" 1200-1300 fps in a revolver. Both were loaded with 10.0 grains of Unique; one with a 240 grain TC/flat nose cast, and the other with a 250 SWC cast. The 250 SWC was too long to feed well, but the 240 TC worked slick. That TC bullet shape loads into lever action ports real smooth and easy too. I had hoped the 240 TC with a powder charge similar to this would be a decent moderate power play load and I think it will be.

The 240 TC went 1330 fps and made a 2-1/4" group

The 250 SWC went 1281.3 and also 2-1/4"

Just out of curiosity, I shot the same 240 cast TC load again standing, unsupported, holding it like a rifle with the buttplate pulled in against my shoulder.

Five rounds went into 1-1/2", with four in one 3/4" hole!.

Interesting. It was just one group, so statistically means little, but switching from shooting it handgun style and halfway rested to rifle style but standing unsupported cut the group by two thirds? That shows me its worth trying to work out a good rifle type hold.

Not owning a .44 Mag revolver, I can't really compare velocities. It sure was milder to shoot than any .44 Mag revolver I've shot, though. One of the reasons I don't own a .44 Mag revolver is because I can't stand shooting them much with full power loads, and I'll admit it. From what I can see today, I could shoot this Ranch Hand all day with the full power ammo I tried.

The light, fast, 200 grain load would get old quick, but it's from the noise and blast rather than recoil. I don't put much value on the "psychological effect" of a defensive gun or ammunition, but that load made it cross my mind. I can guarantee that if you light one of those off in a house, everybody there will pause for a second to figure out what just happened.

Comparing it to my Ruger 77/44 carbine, it did about what I expected I suppose. My regular load for the 77/44 being a little faster, even though by very little, did surprise me.

One last thought. It sure tore up the backstop.

I shoot into the dirt of a creek bank. There is a fallen tree along the creek bed, maybe six feet from my spot at the base of that bank. I leave my targets, staple gun, etc on this fallen tree so it's handy when I need it at the target stands. I use big sheets of brown Kraft paper for a target when I'm testing ammo, by hanging a large piece in front of a cardboard backer and putting aiming stickers all over it. When it's wet, mud will splatter from the backstop onto my stapler and gear, so out of habit, I lay my extra Kraft paper across these things whether it's wet or dry. When I got ready to go today, that paper was covered with globs of mud and dirt. A lot of it. It was about what I'd expect if it was pretty wet and muddy, but while moist out there now, I wouldn't call it muddy this time. The only time I've made that big a mess there was when testing 10MM or some of the faster 38 Super loads, but when it was muddy.

In other words, there was more dirt thrown around from the .44 Ranch Hand than from the .45s, 10mms, 9mms, 38 Supers, and .44 Spls I usually shoot there. Not that that means anything, but it was hard to miss.

When I read on the internet of someone buying a Ranch Hand, they start off with reasons to justify it. They talk about carrying it on their ATV, or how they have this little space in their truck where it would fit nicely.

OK. If you say so.

I admit it- I bought one for the heck of it. I bought it because when I saw some Wanted: Dead or Alive reruns when I was a kid, I thought it was a cool gun and wanted one then.

I bought it as a grownup's plaything.

I give it more legitimacy now. While I haven't thought of any for me, I can see that someone could have a reasonable use for one. Being able to shoot it from the shoulder makes a difference. There are probably some who won't be able to get it to their shoulder, so make sure you can if you that is your plan.

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  • 1 month later...

It continues to surprise.

I decided to get really silly, took it out in public to the gun club, and tried it at 50 yards, expecting ugliness.

I kept it hidden so nobody would see me with it. Once I felt nobody else was coming, I got ready to shoot it. First, I put up another target holder from what I was using, since I didn't know how big the group with be. One paper plate in the middle of a big blank sheet of paper. I picked a load, loaded it up, and tried to figure out a good way to shoot it from sandbags.

That is not a full size plate, BTW. It's a little under 5"

I couldn't believe it.

The gold bead front sight was almost invisible against the buff target paper for a 6:00 hold, but I fired one shot anyway. That's the high one at 12:00. I blacked the sight with the ever-handy Sharpie and shot the other four.

Holy cow.

Those four are the ones at 9:00. They measure 1-1/16".

The load was one my regular ones in the Ruger 77/44. Probably the one I use most. When the 77/44 cracks two inches with it, it's doing pretty well.

That was the first group I shot from the bench. It was also the last. I saw no need to tempt fate and continue, and went to offhand.

And about that...

I was messing around with it the other day trying out ways to hold this half breed. I keep thinking there is some method that will seem obvious once I trip over it. I thought I had it.

I found it was really steady if I simply held it as if it had a full stock. If I held it up in the same place it would be with a full stock and let the little piece of stock touch my cheek, it was really steady. With it held in both hands and the wood planted against my cheek for a third contact point,it was anchored well and kept it out far enough I could use the sights well, operate the lever normally, etc. It was a lot quicker, easier, and more natural feeling than scrunching up to get it to my shoulder or holding it out at arms' length. What could be wrong with that?

It freaking hurts, that's what!

You see, when you shoot a 3-lb .44 Magnum with 280 grain bullets loaded to over 1700 fps, it moves some. I knew that. I had seen how it moved.

What I did was change the direction it moved. I didn't expect that.

When held at arms' length, it didn't move rearward much under recoil. It mostly rotated upward instead.

But when you hold it so the stock touches your cheek but not your shoulder, it moves differently, which I might expect. I thought it might climb more, and maybe come back less. No, what it does is come back more, which I did not expect.

Not much more, but enough to take that thumb that's wrapped over the wrist of the stock...and slam it into the shooter's nose.

I didn't do it twice.

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