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>> Hitting At 200 Yards With A Handgun :: By Dan Keisey and Bill McConnell on 2001-11-24
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Hi to all,

This Tech Notes is all about shooting and hitting at 200 yards with a handgun.  Many thanks to Dan Kiesey for contributing his years of knowledge and skill to the article.  I also want to thank,  Marshall Stanton for allowing us to share our findings with you readers.   Let’s start with Dan’s findings first. 

From Dan Keisey:

 Two summers ago, I shot every weekday for three months to develop the best load for my .44mag S&W Master Hunter revolver. Since this revolver is not designed for iron sight usage, the revolver was topped with a 2.5X8 Leopold scope.  All testing was done via bench rest.  Several thousand rounds and over 176 load combinations were tested and the most accurate and consistent load was:

Hornady 240gr. XTP

Starline Brass (new and trimmed to 1.274”)

CCI 350 (magnum) primer

Blue Dot 15.7grs.

This load allowed me to consistently shoot 2” 5-shot groups at 100yds. from bench rest.

All loads were prepared on a Dillon 550B press, with beginning and ending powder loads verified via a Dillon digital scale. The Blue Dot was slightly more accurate than the second place powder 2400, and more consistent that either H110 and W296. Additional powders tested were IMR4227 and AA #9. Using each powder manufacturer’s starting and max. recommendations, I started at the beginning load and shot three 5-shot groups at 25, 50, and 100yds. And then increased each load .5grs. until powder manufacturer’s max. load was reached. I then took the best load for each powder and changed the load up and down by .2gr. to find the optimum load. The various bullets tested were Speer, Sierra and Hornady (not knowledgeable about potential of lead at that time). All bullets were 240gr., primers were Winchester, CCI, and Federal and brass was Winchester and Starline.  

Because all testing was limited to the 25, 50 and 100yd. ranges, your offer to joint a 200yd experiment brought back the interest in this load.  I loaded 50 of the above load and hit the range this morning. No wind, bright sunshine and 82 degrees at 8:00.  A minor problem being the target was still in the shadow at that time of day, but florescent orange target stood out anyway. The results are as follows:

3 shot groups:

50yds = 1.23” (center to center)

75yds = 1.48”

100yds = 1.97”

5 shot groups:

150yds = 3.62”

200yds = 5.25”

Since I left the revolver sighted on at 100yds, the 150yd group was 15” low and the 200yd group was 31” low. This made for a rather strange looking target set-up that got some strange looks—like “Hey, stupid, what do you think you’re doing?”

 By Dan Keisey

From Bill McConnell;

My shooting was quite a bit different than Dan’s.  It would be fair to say that Dan was a lot more systematic than I was and is a better shot to boot.  My story is about how I was able to use two iron sighted handguns and manage 8” groups @ 200 yards.  I think that I now understand how to get as good as 6” groups with a couple of changes and lots of practice.

  I had not shot @ 200 yards with anything in almost 15 years when I got the bug to “see what was possible”,  doing things the hard way.  I choose Iron sights on 2 Ruger, Redhawk’s 44 Magnum revolvers.  One has a 5 ½” Mag na Ported barrel and the other a 7 ½” barrel.  Both are firelapped and both have very good triggers.  The 7 ½ has totally stock sights while the 5 ½ “ has a stock rear sight and a Bowen extra tall front sight. Both handguns started out with very clean and were in no way cleaned during the testing.  My reloading technology is remarkably un remarkable with a single stage RCBS press, RCBS scale, RCBS powder thrower (all loads were thrown) and Redding dies.

The components were equally non-exotic but reliable.  I started the project with 60 new pieces of Starline 44 Magnum brass that was simply sized, trimmed and chamfered.  Those were reloaded over and over for all testing.  No trimming was even remotely necessary.  All powder burnt was H-110.  All Primers were Federal Large Pistol Magnum primers.  All bullets are of Beartooth origin and of LBT design. The lone exception to this is the 265 gr load.  It uses WW brass, WW Large Pistol (reg or mag) primers and AA-9 powder. 

I never could shoot worth a hoot off a bench so all non offhand shooting was done sitting on the ground, knees drawn up and leaning with my back against the bench.  The weather was generally in the high 70’s as the shooting sessions were conducted around the first of September with little or no wind.

Here are the loads I tested.  All bullets are .432

LBT 330gr LFNDCGC seated out for a .500 nose. Velocity is 1300fps (5 ½”) and 1400 fps (7 1/2:”)

LBT 325gr LCMNGC .  Velocity is 1300 fps (5 ½”) and 1400 fps (7 ½”)

LBT 300gr LNNDCGC seated in for a .400 nose.  Velocity is 1250 fps (5 ½”) and 1300 fps (7 ½”)

LBt 265GR WFNGC.  Velocity is 1350 fps (5 ½”) and 1400 fps (7 ½”)

Here is what I found for each gun. 

7 ½ Ruger Redhawk….

The 330 gr load shot to point of aim at 200 yards with the rear sight up 6 clicks from a 100 yard zero.  Windage did not vary measurably in this or any load when going from 100 to 200 yards.  I was surprised that the 325 gr load with the same velocity and its very slick ballistic shape actually landed on the paper a full foot lower than the 330 gr load.  I do not understand it but it was demonstrated in every load.  The 300 gr load was sending that fine bullet out 100 fps slower and it showed on the paper.  That load landed a full 2 feet lower than the 330 gr bullet.  Finally I shot Marshall’s new 265 gr bullet.  It’s a great bullet yet a real “board in the wind”.  It landed with great accuracy but about  3 feet below the 330gr bullets.   On my last shooting session I regressed back to 100 yards (it seemed so close!).  The 330 gr load was shooting about 1 foot high.  The 300 gr load shot pretty much on target.  These were the only bullets I shot at 100 yards.  In all honesty, it was only during my fourth 200 yard session that I was getting predictably good at putting most of the bullets where they were supposed to go.  I had a lot to learn.  When I really got settled and the light was right, my groups fell inside of 8” save but for the odd flyer.  I started this test with the pre conceived thought that the 330 grain bullet and load would be the most accurate.  Every load bullet and load tested demonstrated the ability to out shoot me at 200 yards.  One of them must be the best but they all were more accurate that I could shoot.

5 ½” Ruger Redhawk…

In each session I would switch off for which gun to start with.  They have the same grips and identical triggers so the testing would be as consistent as possible.   My first groups were about 3” larger than with the 7 ½” barrel.  With practice though the group fell into roughly the same size as with the longer barrel.  One interesting note was that the 330gr load and the 325gr load shot to virtually the same point of impact in the 5 ½” Mag na ported barrel vs the full foot difference with the 7 ½” barreled Redhawk.  Overall bullet drop was about the same as the 7 ½” save but for the just noted exception.  When I went back to 100 yards the groups were closer together than the 7 ½” barrel offered.  The 330gr load shot about 1 foot high (4 clicks up on the rear sight still) while the 300gr load shot about 6” high @ 100 yards.  The best 100 yard group was shot with the 330gr load.  6 shots came in @ 3 ½”.  Offhand groups came in around 8” @ 100 yards.  Offhand groups came in @ 18” @ 200 yards.  The 200 yard offhand group could be cut to about 12” with some work.

What I learned….

The first thing I learned was to calm down and take my time shooting.  It takes a lot of concentration to hit so far away with iron sights.  I learned that my groups shrank when I kept my shooting arm straight with a locked elbow (offhand or reclining).  As a fan of the Weaver stance, I have always bent the shooting elbow.  Near as I can figure, locking the elbow makes for a greater shot to shot consistency in handguns with a lot of recoil.  I noticed the same thing last hunting season when practicing with a scope sighted handgun. 

The second thing I learned was that iron sights are just like car tires.  Under perfect conditions there is little difference between $40.00 tires and $140.00 tires.  As conditions get more challenging and difficult, the quality shows itself off.  I found the same with iron sights.  Actually, as a long time student of Elmer Keith, it should have come as no surprise.  I always wondered, just a bit, why old Elmer would take seemingly ordinary handguns and put such elaborate sights on them.  It wasn’t so he could hit at 25 yards!  I learned that under poor light, an orange front sight works fine for the amount of light available.  Under bright light, that orange (especially if its fluorescent) bleeds out beyond the sight and makes it very hard to keep the front sight centered.  In fact, I had the same problem with using fluorescent targets in bright light.  I painted the orange front sight to black and that helped.  What really helped was the Bowen front sight.  It gives a perfect and very dark image so centering the front sight is very easy by comparison.  In poor to moderate light, both guns shot about the same.  In bright light, the shorter barrel with the Bowen front sight shot consistently the best.  By the time I was done with this series of shoots I was wishing I also had the Bowen rear sight for a Redhawk.  I believe that with the Bowen front are rear sights I could get my 200 yard groups down to 6”.  In the process I was also wishing I had the Keith gold bars on my Bowen front sight for ranging. 

Hitting at 200 yards is possible.  I think it’s too far for hunting of course but it sure is a lot of fun.  The other advantage is that 200 yard proficient  shooting makes 100 yard shooting/hunting seem very easy. 

So if you get the chance, give 200 yard shooting a try.  The guys & gals that shoot the rams & pigs from “way out” shouldn’t be the only ones to have all the fun.

God bless……………..  Bill McConnell

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