Trying out the New .44 Sharps Bullet

Black powder Projectile impresses in Shooter’s initial test and now it’s on to Long-Range Trials.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

After using my heavy .44-77 at the 1,000-yard match down by Bend, Oregon, with bullets weighing about 405 grains and not doing quite as well as I had hoped, a new heavier bullet was seriously contemplated.

Actually, such a bullet had been on my mind for several months, but it was that 1,000-yard match (American Shooting Journal, November 2019) that told me I had better do more than just think about it. My thoughts included how a heavier bullet, heavier than the 405-grain original Postell style, should be more consistent at the longer ranges. But at the same time, I didn’t want to go really heavy.

A bullet with a weight of 470 grains or just a little more would be fine. Part of the bullet’s nose would be bore-riding, just a very tiny bit smaller in diameter than the bore diameter of the .44’s barrel. And the bullet was to have four lube grooves with no crimp groove so it would carry the needed amount of lube for shooting without wiping between shots. Finally, it was to get a double radius nose so it might look more like a bullet cast in a nose-pour Sharps mold. Authenticity in appearance means a lot to me and I do like my Sharps ammo to have the “flavor” of traditional Sharps cartridges.
Just a few hours after letting Tom Ellis at Accurate Molds know about these desires, he sent me a note saying the mold had been added to the catalog as the No. 44-470N. My order for a double cavity with aluminum blocks was placed just a minute after that.

Allen Cunniff with his favorite .45-70 Sharps.


The new mold was received a short time later and casting with it began almost right away, using a 30-to-1 alloy. A quick weight check showed 480 grains for the new bullets. That was just fine with me, and a small number of them were sized to .446 inch, lubed with BPC, and loaded in .44-77 cases over 70 grains of Olde Eynsford 1F powder.

THOSE BULLETS WERE ready to shoot, but there wasn’t time to try them on paper because a special .50-70 match was close at hand. The .44-77 wasn’t to be used in the .50-70 match, but it was taken along with those new loads to be used in the 10-shot gong/silhouette match that followed.

The gongs were a 16-inch octagon at 200 yards, which was fired at from the sitting position over X-sticks, and the scaled-down “Quigley bucket,” which was posted at 100 yards for offhand shots. We started at 200 yards and I used a sight setting that was in my book from use with another weight bullet, adding one minute of elevation.

All five of my bullets hit the gong, with most of them hitting inside the white spot. Then came the offhand shots and I was using “Hefty Hannah,” my 15-plus-pound .44-77. My first shot at the bucket was a miss, but my other four shots at the bucket were all hits, giving me nine hits for the 10 shots, plus winning the small pot that goes with that match.

Those were my very first 10 shots with the new bullet and my hits on the 200-yard gong, which is simply a scaled-down version of the 48-inch octagon that is out at 600 yards at Quigley, suggested that this bullet was one to be used in further competition. So, trying these new bullets on paper became a priority to be completed as soon as the weather was clear enough. In fact, two loads were tried; the loads with the 70-grain charge of 1F Olde Eynsford was tried again, along with another 10 rounds loaded with 72.5 grains of the same powder. The loads with the 70-grain charges grouped the best and heavier charges were not tried again. At least, not yet. The loads with the 70-grain powder charge were fired for a good group at 100 yards, shooting from the bench. I was getting groups and target scores that pleased me, but I had hoped to get a better group to show here in a photo. To get that good group, I asked Allen Cunniff to do the shooting. Allen is my partner for most of my black powder cartridge shooting, especially long-range shooting, and he is simply a better shooter than I am, which is almost always reflected in our match scores.
DEAD FOOT ARMS

On the day we did our shooting I had about 40 rounds of the .44-77 ammo ready with these new bullets, all loaded over 70 grains of Olde Eynsford 1F powder. Two targets were posted at 100 yards and I opened the proceedings by pouring five shots into the first target. Then Allen shot five more at the second target. Both of those targets showed rather good groups, but both were to the right. Two more targets were posted and the rifle’s sight was moved about one minute to the left. Then I shot five more, sending those bullets all into the 10-ring, with two X’s. Allen watched that group being made through his scope and he commented, “You’ll be pleased.” That was followed by five more shots with Allen doing the shooting. Allen’s group was simply outstanding, scoring a 50-4X! Some shots were taken with this bullet loaded in the .44-90 Sharps, using a 90-grain powder charge of Olde Eynsford 1F. The shooting with the .44-90 wasn’t bad, but it was not as good as with the .44-77. That just means there is more work to be done with the .44-90 and I do intend to find a good load for the longer case. For now, however, the good shooting with the .44-77 has captured my attention.

RECENTLY OUR CLUB had an Old West Centerfires match, which uses paper targets at 100 and 200 yards (the longest distance we can shoot at our range) and the .44-77 was used again. Our targets are standard bull’s-eyes with the military target used at 200 yards. All shooting is done from the sitting position over X-sticks and I started, like most of our shooters, at 100 yards.
My 10 shots at 100 yards were good, but I had hoped to do better. Moving out to 200 yards, after raising the rear sight to the same setting I had used for the octagon gong, provided some good hits. This was my very first paper target at 200 yards and I was hopeful for some consistent grouping. And I wasn’t disappointed at all. My 10 shots at 200 yards gave me a score of 96-X and all of the shots hitting the 9-ring were to the right. Perhaps a slight windage adjustment should have been made.
My scores at both 100 and 200 yards were good enough to put me in third place for this match, allowing me to win a nice long summer sausage. As you might guess, Allen POWDERplaced higher, just two points ahead of me. And after the paper match we had another 10-shot gong shoot using a “buffalo” at 200 yards and the offhand “bucket” at 100 yards, which I was lucky enough to win again.

This new .44 Sharps bullet has done everything I’ve asked it to do so far. Yes, I still must “put it to the test” of long-range shooting, which is the reason I got the bullet. That will come, perhaps rather soon, and more than likely a follow-up report will be made on the results. I’m looking forward to doing the shooting.  Editor’s note: For more info on Accurate Molds, visit accuratemolds.com, where you will find easy-to-follow instructions on ordering your next bullet mold.
.44 Sharps