This page dedicated to

Elmer Keith 1899-1984


(click for larger image)
Elmer Keith Feb 1978, a 338x74 rifle and his ever present sixgun.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Halstead
Revolvers are my favorite handguns. I know that the average shooter can shoot autos faster, and that they hold more bullets and reload faster, but if you need more than 6 shots you better have a HK-MP5 or a shotgun for backup. With practice a revolver can be shot extremely fast, faster and more accurately than most non revolver shooters would believe. If you doubt me check out the Second Chance pistol match some time.

There are strengths and weaknesses of both types of firearms, and this page is not here to change your mind one way or the other. This site is in memory of one of the pioneers of handgun shooting and handloading, Elmer Keith. If you love shooting I strongly recommend you get a copy (or two) of Sixguns by Elmer Keith. This book is more than just a handgun reference, it contains some great stories you may find you can't put it down.

"Long range shooting is the real test of any revolver or pistol."
Elmer Keith said this over 40 years ago, and it is still true, with one minor modification. It is also the real test of the shooter. Hitting a target at one or two hundred yards is easy with a rifle compared to a pistol, but with practice and a good gun/load combo you should be able to hit just about any reasonable target at this range. The most important thing to do is practice. Know your gun and load, practice range estimation and you will be surprised how easy it becomes. The trick is to learn how much of the front site to hold high. When you are shooting a hundred yards or more you will often run out of rear site travel, so learning how to hold the front site is easier than adjusting the rear site. Obviously if you are shooting in a silhouette match you will need more precise method of determining where the bullet will go, but that is not the subject of this page.

"Make haste slowly."
This bit of advice really applies to revolver shooting. Start slowly, striving for the best accuracy possible first speed will come later. Dry fire as much as possible. Dry firing will help you learn your trigger and build the muscles in your arms for fast double action shooting. The best live fire practice I have found is done using bowling pins for targets. Place five pins 25 feet away and shoot them down. A good shooter can do this is five seconds. A really outstanding shooter will clear them in three. This may sound easy, but a bowling pin is a pretty small target when you are trying for speed. Doing it under the pressure of a match is even harder, but if you can hit a bowling pin at twenty-five feet hitting an attacker at this range or closer should be easy. Hopefully you will never need to test this skill.

Keith 250gr LSWC in a 44 Special "Shoot Keith bullets for serious work."
Most semi-wad cutter bullets today are called "Keith" bullets, but the design is not correct. A true Keith bullet has a long nose with a large meplat. But more importantly these bullets have a wide square cornered driving band, a deep crimp grove, and a wide deep lubrication groove. These grooves will all have sharp square corners, with the driving band, body band, lube groove and base all the same width. Bullets of this design will typically be longer than modern commercial semi wadcutters with more of the bullet outside the case.



Handloads
Here are some of my favorite handloads. The 38 special and hot 44 special loads are straight from Sixguns by Elmer Keith. The 44 magnum load was obtained from John Taffin, who has inspired me to bigger guns and loads than Keith dreamed of. The 45 Long Colt load is my personal load and shoots like a laser from my S&W 25-7. All of these could be used as hunting or woods defense loads. The semi-wadcutter bullet at these velocities will penetrate through just about anything in North America. If you hike in big bear country you may want to consider getting a Blackhawk or Casull and using this 45 Colt load.

Favorite Handloads

Caliber Bullet type Weight Powder Weight Velocity
38 Special +P+ *LSWC158 grains 240013.5 grains 1325 FPS
44 Special LSWC250 grains Unique7.5 grains 1000 FPS
44 Special +P+LSWC250 grains 240017.5 grains 1200 FPS
44 Magnum LSWC300 grains H11021.5 grains 1300 FPS
45 Long Colt LSWC260 grains Blue Dot13.5 grains 1100 FPS
45 Long Colt +P LTC340 grains H11022.0 grains 1225 FPS
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Just a short word of caution: These are all MAXIMUM loads! If you choose to load any of these start low and work up gradually. We do not need to give the anti-gunners any ammunition by blowing ourselves up. Since I have no control over your loading practices I take no responsibility for your safety. These loads were assembled with Winchester primers and brass and hard cast bullets.

*This 38 special load should be consider a top end 357 Magnum load and should never be fired in anything other than a 357 magnum. The load was assembled using 38 special brass, and was safe in my Ruger GP-100, but as always work up slowly. Todays 2400 powder is faster burning than it was in the 1930's when Elmer Keith worked up this load. Many people feel that this should be reduced to 12.0 gr with modern 2400 powder.

The 44 Special was Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton's working gun. The first load was Skeeter Skeltons development, and is a very good everyday shooting load. This should be safe in the modern small frame 44's, but it might not be fun to shoot them. The second 44 Special load was Keith's daily carry load and what eventually lead to the development of the 44 Magnum. The Keith load is safe in large frame 44 specials, like the S&W M24, but not in the modern small frame specials. This load, while powerful, is not by any means punishing and shoots great in most magnums and M24 Smiths.

I first learned of this 44 Magnum load from the writings of John Taffin. This load is very powerful, and provides more penetration than most North American hunters will ever need. This load also shoots 5"+ 100 yard groups from a sandbag rest using a 8" Taurus 44 Magnum but this particular revolver has not proven to be ultra accurate, this load should shoot under 4".

The Blue Dot 45 Colt load is to date the most accurate load for my 25-7. This load clocks out at 1000 FPS from my 5" M25-7, 1100 from the 7.5" Blackhawk, and shoots 3.5" groups at 100 yards. If you want to hunt deer with a 45 Colt this is an excellent load. Please do not shoot this load in any Colt Single Action Army or replica revolvers; the cylinders and frames on these guns just are not built for heavy loads.

The final load listed here I got from John Linbaugh, and for him this is a small load! This load should only be fired in Ruger Blackhawk, Dan Wesson or Freedom Arms 45 Colt revolvers. We are looking at near magnum pressures with this load, it may not blow up a Smith but it sure might bend it! No way I'll shoot it in my S&W.


I hope you have enjoyed this page, if you have any questions or comments please let me know. Also be sure to visit Handloads.com for more articles, loading data, visitor polls and discussion forums.

If you're looking for a good source of top notch hard cast true Keith LSWC bullets you owe it to yourself to take a look at Dry Creek Bullets they make some of the best bullets money can buy of true Keith design, not the typical cast bullet you see in shops today.


Keith 250gr LSWC in a 44 Special
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