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Thread: Loading for Big Bore revolvers

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    Default Loading for Big Bore revolvers

    Someone inquired about the new(er) 500 Wyoming Express the other day comparing to the 475 Linebaugh. One might think a comparison of the three big 500 caliber revolver cartridges would be more in order and I thought I'd try to a quick shootout here with these three along with the 480 Ruger and the 475 LB.

    I just very recently got the opportunity to load for a Freedom Arms 50 WE or WyEx as someone called it and then dug out my own John Linebaugh Custom 500 along with a Custom shop 500 S&W.

    First things first and as that goes the 500 LB was first. It is also bored more in the standard bore size which is .510" Taking .511" hard cast bullets. The 500 S&W and the 500 WyEx both are bored .500" and generaally take bullets of .501" diameter.

    In my opinion a fifty bore handgun should shoot bullets of about 400 grains and up.....up to as much as 700 grains!!

    My 500 LB has done excellent work with the 400 to 475 grains, the S&W can handle larger bullets and many used the big 700 grainers. Most however find the 500 grain bullet weight to be enough gun. The WyEx seems to be at home with 350 to 450 grain bullets, possibly because it is the smallest of the three in physical size though it shares peak pressure rating closer to the S&W with a top of 50,000 psi. Similar to the 480/475 cartridges. The S&W I believe is actually spec'd at 52,000 psi. I've set up pressure equipment with the limit of 48,000 psi for the 480 R, 475 LB and the 500 S&W for an ammo maker. That seems to be the industry limit for all the big high pressure commercial cartridges including the 454 Casull. The big 475 LB is loaded to this pressure level right along with the rest of them. (Note: the Linebaugh cartridges are not considered commercial and lack SAAMI endorsement)

    All loads here are pressure tested and are maximum. With the exception of the 500 LB, the limit for all was 48,000 psi. And, except for some 500 S&W loads which were in excess of 50,000 psi. The 500 LB is limited to a very mild pressure spec of 36,000 psi.

    Comparing the 500's and the 47's we find these differences.

    480 Ruger ............. Max case length 1.285" Overall loaded length max. 1.650" Ballistic niche, 400 grs/1200fps 48,000 psi limit
    475 Linebaugh .........Max case length 1.400" Overall loaded length max. 1.800" Ballistic niche, 400 grs/1400fps 48,000 psi limit
    500 Wyoming Exp.... Max case length 1.360" Overall loaded length max. 1.765" Ballistic niche, 400 grs/1500 fps 48,000 psi limit
    500 Linebaugh,.........Max case length 1.400" Overall loaded length max 1.800" Ballistic niche, 450 grs/1400 fps 36,000 psi limit
    500 Smith& Wesson ..Max case length 1.625" Overall loaded length max 2.040" Ballistic niche, 500 grs/1400 fps 50,000 psi limit

    Using the .501" 400 grain Cast Performance bullet (LFNGC) and Lil'Gun powder we got these results.
    Keeping bullet weight equal even though bore size was .511" the 410 grain WFNGC from a custom mold gave the results for the 500 LB, using Lil'Gun powder.

    Note: the 500 LB uses large pistol magnum primers and CCI-350 primers were used.
    The 500 S&W and the WyEX both use large Rifle primers and Federal 210 primers were used in both.

    The 480 Ruger and the 475 LB cases both use large pistol primers and CCI-350 primers were used. Bullets were sized to .476".

    Both the 475 LB and the 500 S&W can be found with primer pockets that differ from these cases we used in this testing. Both large and small rifle primer pockets as well as large pistol primer pockets may be found.

    All loads were worked up in new Starline Brass.

    480 Ruger. 7.5" barrel.
    350 gr. Bear Tooth WLNGC, 26.0 grs Lil'Gun, CCI-350, Velocity 1488 fps
    400 gr. Hornady XTP, 20.0 grs Lil'Gun, CCI-350, Velocity 1190 fps

    475 Linebaugh. 7.5" barrel
    370 grain Cast Performance WFNGC, 28.0 grsLil'Gun, CCI-350, Velocity 1486 fps
    405 grain Cast Performance LFNGC, 25.0 grs Lil'Gun, CCI-350, Velocity 1365 fps

    500 Wy Ex 7.5" barrel
    400 grain Cast Performance WFNGC, 31.0 grs Lil'Gun, Fed. 210, Velocity 1465 fps
    440 grain Cast Performance WFNGC, 28.0 grs Lil'Gun, Fed. 210, Velocity 1360 fps

    500 Linebaugh 7.5" barrel Bullets sized to .511"
    410 grain Custom WFNGC, 32.0 grs Lil'Gun, CCI-350, Velocity 1410 fps
    450 grain Custom WFNGC, 29.0 grs Lil'Gun, CCI-350, Velocity 1301 fps

    500 S&W 8.375" barrel
    440 grain Cast Performance WFNGC, 35.0 grs Lil'Gun, Fed. 210, Velocity 1525 fps
    (Same load 5" barrel, Ross performance center revolver, Velocity 1490 fps)
    500 grain Hornady XTP, 33.0 grs Lil'Gun, Fed 210, Velocity 1398 fps


    The 480 Ruger was shot from a Ruger Super Redhawk with 7.5" barrel. Not too bad for recoil. It was also tested from the 475 Linebaugh cylinder and results were very similar both in velocity and accuracy.
    The most accurate gun was the older FA model in the 475 LB. With irons, 4" at 100.

    The most fun and least painful to shoot was the Linebaugh Custom 500 LB. Saaaweeet!! And big enough.

    I dislike the S&W frame shape for guns of this level recoil. It smarts!! I needed to use the comp but accuracy suffered with it installed.

    The 500 WyEx was a new gun and we fired the first rounds through it. We also scoped it and shot it at 200 yards. I sucked sea water at that but the owner could keep the 400 grains in a six inch group from sand bagged wrists.

    Your mileage may vary.

    Check your local loading date and compare for possible errors before using this data.
    Last edited by Murphy; 01-28-2012 at 15:09. Reason: Forgot the Brass
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    Murphy, do you have any insight into why S&W departed from the standard 50 caliber bore size of .510"? Was it maybe because they wanted to keep cylinder diameter down with the higher pressure cartridge (smaller bullet leaves more steel in the cylinder walls)?

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    Thanks for sharing the information.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drow View Post
    Murphy, do you have any insight into why S&W departed from the standard 50 caliber bore size of .510"? Was it maybe because they wanted to keep cylinder diameter down with the higher pressure cartridge (smaller bullet leaves more steel in the cylinder walls)?
    I watched an interview with the design team years ago, on Gun’s & Ammo TV I think. Anyway they went .500” because they feared it being labeled a distractive device had they gone .510” due to the wording “over 50 caliber” of the law. Their leangle team said there was no legal president defining if .501” or .600” is over 50 caliber. So knowing they are deep pockets and a huge target for litigation played it safe and went .500” rather than risk setting case law that .501” is over 50 caliber and screwing everyone. So, they were picking their fights is why it’s .500.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    I watched an interview with the design team years ago, on Gun’s & Ammo TV I think. Anyway they went .500” because they feared it being labeled a distractive device had they gone .510” due to the wording “over 50 caliber” of the law. Their leangle team said there was no legal president defining if .501” or .600” is over 50 caliber. So knowing they are deep pockets and a huge target for litigation played it safe and went .500” rather than risk setting case law that .501” is over 50 caliber and screwing everyone. So, they were picking their fights is why it’s .500.
    I think I've heard the same thing....dunno if it's valid but sounds about right.
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    Thanks for the 411 there Jim. I've got the itch for a fifty as I'm calling it and am in the process of learning, asking, reading, etc. I've been intrigued by the 500we and 500L. Ever since you put one of your FA's in my hand I've wanted one. But, I'm looking real hard at a Bisley 500L. Lower pressure seems like a good thing. Aside from Linebaugh. Who would you recommend for a conversion?
    A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don’t have one, you’ll probably never need one again

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snyd View Post
    Thanks for the 411 there Jim. I've got the itch for a fifty as I'm calling it and am in the process of learning, asking, reading, etc. I've been intrigued by the 500we and 500L. Ever since you put one of your FA's in my hand I've wanted one. But, I'm looking real hard at a Bisley 500L. Lower pressure seems like a good thing. Aside from Linebaugh. Who would you recommend for a conversion?
    I think Hamilton Bowen does them on Ruger frames. Be worth a try. He does good work.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    I think Hamilton Bowen does them on Ruger frames. Be worth a try. He does good work.
    Yes I do believe he does. Gary at Artic Gunworks here has a couple of Bowens 4" Redhawks. A 475 and a 500 ae. The only ones I've had the pleasure to see and touch.
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    I like these kinds of comparisons and would really like to see it taken one step further. An educated guess has me thinking that the 480 will be so close to the others if not out perform them in a penetration test with a same weight hard cast bullet.

    In my experience 12-1300 fps seems to be the magical velocity for penetration with hard cast bullets.....or am I nuts?

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    ADfields, thanks for the info/insight . . . makes a lot of sense.

    I can't seem to find it now, but about a year ago I stumbled across a website that showed tests of hard cast bullets, and they concluded that 1250 fps was about optimum striking velocity for penetration. Of course, it's not often that you shoot things off the muzzle, so a little leeway is nice-- say 1300-1350 fps at the muzzle. That should give you that 1200-1300 striking velocity out to about 50 yds.

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    My question is WHY LIL'GUN? For low pressure with the most velocity? The powder burns so hot it can damage the forcing cone and rifling. I am talking HEAT, not pressure.
    The difference between the calibers is only the brass needed and how calibers work in revolvers. I would never get the AE in a revolver, it is a pistol cartridge. The WE has special brass.
    The best will always be the .475 Linebaugh and .500 JRH in large calibers. No need for belts or taper crimps.

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    Snyd,
    Those Bowen's at Arctic are BEAUTIFUL works of art. There is no way i can rationalize the money right now, but he almost had to have me removed from the shop when I saw them. lol

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    Ya, Gary said that shooting that 475 is brutal. I know that 355ers at 1300 in my 4" 454 Redhawk sure get your attention, I bet that 4" 475 would be a real handfull.
    A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don’t have one, you’ll probably never need one again

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snyd View Post
    Ya, Gary said that shooting that 475 is brutal. I know that 355ers at 1300 in my 4" 454 Redhawk sure get your attention, I bet that 4" 475 would be a real handfull.
    That does bring up a thought... Is there one of the big bores that will do it all and even more than needed, as a carry gun? I mean in the reality of a revolver. There are a couple of things at play here, at least to my body. I've shot the 4" .50 s&w - and it HURT. I would much rather shoot my .45colt and carry it... And I wouldn't want to carry that S&W either. In looking, that .475 SEEMED doable in the carry department, and I figure I could load it to a point heavier than my .45, but still controllable. My guess is, that for me, the .45 / .454 conversion you did would be just about the perfect size/recoil balance for what I want to handle. Again, that's in a gun that I will shoot quite a bit to be proficient with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bfrshooter View Post
    My question is WHY LIL'GUN? For low pressure with the most velocity? The powder burns so hot it can damage the forcing cone and rifling. I am talking HEAT, not pressure.
    The difference between the calibers is only the brass needed and how calibers work in revolvers. I would never get the AE in a revolver, it is a pistol cartridge. The WE has special brass.
    The best will always be the .475 Linebaugh and .500 JRH in large calibers. No need for belts or taper crimps.
    No particular reason....just had a bunch on hand and a few of us got together for show and tell with the big bores and we started loading. I wasn't trying to prove anything or disprove anything just loaded it just like in the labs and shot it up. I don't have an opinion about Lil'Gun in regard to its higher flame temp or more likely to flame cut/gas cut or erode throats and forcing cones. I will say it will take a lot of it but of course these higher pressure cartridges will wear sooner than the lower pressure ones. The 454, 475LB, 500 WyEx, 500 S&W are way up there with factory pressures. I would normally down load them anyway. My 500 LB has been shot lots with H110, almost all cast bullets. It shows no sign of erosion just lead blasted in the the top strap above the barrel extension and around the gap. Lil'Gun is still fairly new and I guess I just wanted to develop some of my own data for these big bores with it. It was also my first run with the 500 WyEx.
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    The 500 S&W actually has a maximum "working" pressure of 60,000psi....Ramshot lists data that goes as high as 57,000!! NO THANKS...lol
    http://www.ramshot.com/wp-content/up...dgun_rifle.pdf

    I just bought some "DoubleTap" 440cast 500S&W's that list the velocity at 1806fps from the 8 3/8. I shot some of them through my chrono and they were still going 1485fps out of my 4"... These sure aren't much fun. I prefur to run the 450's at 1000-1100fps out of my 4"..this load is real easy to shoot..I can't believe how much the recoil climbs just by adding a couple hundred fps.

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