Saturday, August 14, 2010

S&W 396 Nightguard .44 Special tries out six different loads for POA

I finally redeemed the S&W 396 Night Guard .44 Special from the layaway safe at the gun store on Friday. Today after the N.C. Concealed Carry Handgun Class I taught at the shop I got a chance to shoot her.

We do the qualification firing part of the course at the N.C. National Guard Armory indoor range in Wadesboro, which is really great here in the summer. Today it was only 92 but with a heat index of 100. In the AC of the indoor range, it was great.

And the shooting was pretty good, too. Targets at right were all fired single-action at 5 yards standing two-handed.

I tried six different .44 Special loads. From top left, Hornady JHPs of unknown weight, an unmarked lot I got at the gun shop. Top right was PMC 180-grain JHPs, middle row left was Georgia Arms 200-grain Gold-Dot JHPs, right was Winchester Silvertips 200-grain. Bottom left is Speer Gold Dot 200-grain JHPs and bottom right is Magtech 240-grain Cowboy Loads.

And the winner is ... Speer Gold Dots, the same load that shot closest to point of aim for my Charter Bulldog .44 Special. I just grabbed two more boxes of Speer Gold Dots that came in to the gun shop, so I'm ready for carry next week at the shop.

The second-best group I shot was with Georgia Arms, but they were a lot hotter than the Speer Gold Dots, which is typical. GA calls their new ammo "Canned Heat" and it is hot. They use Speer Gold Dots for projectiles, but load them hotter than Speer factory ammo. And while manageable, it was definitely a lot louder and hotter than any load I shot with the possible exception of the unknown-weight Hornady JHPs. It wouldn't take much shooting with either of those loads to put me into flinching territory.

Speer Gold Dot 200-grain JHPs are rated at 875 fps with 340 ft./lbs. of energy, which is quite hot enough for me. It's hotter and delivers more energy than most .45 ACP loads.

Gold Dot Personal Protection - 44 Special

Part Number Cartridge Bullet Wt. Bullet Type Box Count Bullet Coefficient
23980 44 Special 200 GDHP 20 0.145

Velocity(in feet per second) Energy (in foot pounds)
Muzzle 50 yards 100 yards Muzzle 50 yards 100 yards
875 832 794 340 308 280

Trajectory if sighted at 25 yards Test Barrel Length in inches Usage
25 yards 50 yards 75 yards 100 yards
0.0 -2.1 -7.3 -15.8 6 1
I'm not 100% set on carry, but it likely will be my Sig P220 Compact SAO .45 ACP on my left hip and the S&W 396NG in my Galco right-hand small-of-back holster. A .45 with a .44 for a New York Reload suits me just fine. I can deploy either one with either hand, whichever comes to hand most readily if and when the brown stuff hits the fan.

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