Improvisation of available tools and resources is a skill that the Survivalist should be well versed in. Having the right tool for the job is great, but if you are in a “non-Permissive” environment, many times you don’t necessarily have the tools specifically designed for the task at hand.
There are many different types of ammo out there. Many types of ammo are designed to better the performance of a particular caliber, in that it gives the given caliber better performance for a specific task that it was designed for. A case in point would be the Remington “Accelerator” loading for several thirty caliber, big game cartridges.
This loading kicked a 55 grain, .224 caliber bullet out of the muzzle of the 30-30 Winchester at 3400FPS or the .308 Winchester at 3770FPS, making it far faster than all but a few of the more popular varmint cartridges in existence at the time the “Accelerator” first came out. Although it is not still manufactured, you can still by the plastic sabots needed to load your own version for your .30 caliber firearm.
Thirty couple years ago, I bought my first .44 Magnum pistol. The first model of that caliber I ever owned, was a Ruger Redhawk with a 7.5” barrel. Although it was a very accurate pistol out to 75 yards, but it was only effective with the CCI “Snakeshot” load within 10 feet, and past that, it spread too much for a reliable hit on a snake.
A few years later, I bought a 6.5” S&W M29, and although it did better than the 7.5” Ruger, it was only by a small margin. The longest barreled M29 I own now is 4”. I have a concealed carry 2.75” M69 (the five shot S&W .44Mag), and always keep some CCI “Snakeshot” loads around for those two pistols.
For a number of years, I carried an AMT Backup 45 (.45ACP) as an “Off Duty” gun, and had found that it not only did well with the CCI “Snakeshot” load, it also would cycle the rounds reliably (some will not). In my mind, this capability put it in the category of “Survival Gun” for sure, if it could effectively take small game out to 10 yards.
I had tried the “Snakeshot” load out of my 1911, around the same time as the AMT, but although it would cycle the rounds, it’s shot patterns were very…..loose. “Loose” is fine for snakes within “Bite” range, but not for effectively taking small game.
The pistols used in this experiment are chambered in either .45ACP or .44 Magnum. The .45ACP pistols used are a Springfield Armory XDs45 with a 3.3” barrel, and a Glock 21 with a 5” aftermarket barrel. The .44 Magnums used were the aforementioned S&W M29 with a 4” barrel and an M69 with a 2.75” barrel.
Why only the .44Mag and the .45ACP? This answer is simple. First, they have a 1/3rd to two times as must shot as the 40S&W or 9mm, and second, they are the two cartridges I usually will use.
I figured I’d get “Scientific” about the testing I was about to do, so, for “groups”, I fired one cartridge in each barrel length, and in both calibers, at 7 and 10 yards. As an exception, I fired the 4” .44Mag at 15 yards on the second shot, because I wanted to give the reader an idea of why I only would use any of them out to 10 yards.
The .44Mag “Snakeshot” load uses a 140-grain payload of #9 shot and has a 1,000fps velocity out of a 6” barrel. I have not used the CCI #4 shot load available for the .44Mag because its payload is 20% lighter at 110 grains.
The .45ACP load is 120 grains of #9 shot, with a velocity of 1100fps out of a 5” barrel. CCI doesn’t have a #4 shot loading available for the .45ACP. Although the payload of the cartridge is important, as you’ll see, the performance does not necessarily reflect the amount of shot in the cartridge.
.44 MAGNUM PERFORMANCE
First up is the 4” M29 .44 Magnum. Although at 7 yards, the blue plastic wad hit the target near the center, the overall performance of one shot from the 4” .44Mag was disappointing. Only five pieces of shot (and the wad) hit within 2” of the center hold point.
Next up is the 4” .44Mag at 15 yards. I want to show this cartridges performance at this distance, since it has the higher shot payload. Only one piece of shot hit the target at 15 yards, so it obviously isn’t good for much at that distance but scaring animals, or “winging” people.
In the shorter 2.75” .44 Magnum at 7 yards, it had a nice grouping of shot about 3” high and left, but along with the plastic shot cup wad, that load only had one #9 pellet within 2” of the center.
Once again, along with the plastic wad, there were only three #9 pellets within 2” of the center of the target at 10 yards out of the short barreled M69.
The performance of the .44 Magnum “Snakeshot” load, as an improvised small game getter is somewhat depressing, considering its overall shot count is one of the highest in the CCI lineup. (45 Colt is 150 grains). Still unless you’re going to fire multiple shots, I’d suggest you figure on using another firearm for small game beyond 10 feet. Keep in mind, however, that you will not have any reliability issues with cycling from the revolvers this cartridge is fired from.
If I was going to choose any pistol as my all-around “Go To” Combat/Field handgun, it would be the Glock G21. Thirteen to fifteen rounds of .45ACP, no matter the bullet type, is no joke, and although it is a large pistol, for me, it’s perfect. That said, I am not a fan of Glock’s “Not Cast Bullet Friendly” rifling, so I have always put aftermarket threaded barrels on the Glocks I own.
Having not really used “Snakeshot” out of my G21 before, I was curious how it would do at both the 7- and 10-yard ranges. I was not disappointed. At 7 yards, one shot of the “Snakeload” left 12 holes within 2” of the target center.
Moving out to 10 yards, the 5” .45ACP still put six pieces of #9 shot within 2” of the target center. Having killed a squirrel by only hitting it in the head with two #6 shot at forty yards (first squirrel I shot as a kid), I believe this would still do the job on most small game.
The big standout in this testing was definitely the performance of the XDs45. At 7 yards, the XDs45 fired nineteen #9 pellets within 2” of the target center. This would definitely anchor a squirrel for dinner if needed.
As for the 10-yard pattern, the XDs45 did not disappoint. There are fifteen, #9 pellets within 2” of the target center, and once again, this should solidly secure a rabbit, grouse or squirrel you hit in the vitals.
Although I understand there are many factors that affect the cartridge’s performance, the three that I think affect it the most are, velocity, the rifled barrel length and the revolver’s cylinder gap. Physics dictate that the longer the shot cartridge is spinning and gaining velocity, the quicker it will spread out when separated from the plastic shot cup after muzzle exit. Also, the quicker it gets to it’s intended target, the quicker it won’t spread any more.
The revolver’s cylinder gap can also disrupt the shot cup as it transitions from the cylinder through the forcing cone and into the barrel. I believe this is why you see such a marked difference between firearms with similar barrel lengths but different operating system to accomplish the same action.
No one wants to have to improvise a “tool”, when it’s so much easier to use one that is made and intended for a given task. I also don’t want to have to think about being in the middle of a full on Civil or World war within the next year, but reality has already given its last “fornication”, concerning our wishes and optimal conditions.
Learning to improvise, whether it’s reloading a .45ACP from a used .308 cartridge, using hand sanitizer as a quick fire starter with a ferrocium rod, or using your big bore defense pistol for small game with “Snakeshot” is just common sense in an uncommon time.
“Parata Vivere”- Live Prepared.