Ballistics by the inch

You want me to stick it *where*??

The beginning of this month, I posted an entry about my initial experiment altering one of those heavy Buffalo Bore 340gr +P+ rounds for .44 magnum. I intended to revisit that experiment in short order, and then write up further thoughts on the matter.

But then my month got rather unexpectedly complicated, with my wife needing an emergency appendectomy, a lengthy hospital stay, and then a fair amount of additional care and treatment. She’s doing grand now, but most of the past month was a bit of a blur.

So I’m just now getting back to the experiment. Fortunately, someone over on Facebook made a suggestion which proved to be just about perfect:  use a pencil sharpener. Specifically, one designed for the larger style of carpenter’s pencils.

The first one I found here at home didn’t work. But my wife remembered an older (and cheaper) one she had and dug it out for me. I gave it a try, and here’s the result:


The cartridge on the left is the one I initially altered using a rasp and then sandpaper. The one on the right is the one I used the pencil sharpener on. The sharpener itself is there — just one of those cheap plastic ones for schoolkids. If you look close you can see that the blades in it have a bit of rust on them. And the pile of shavings is what I took off the right cartridge.

It took just a little playing around to figure out the best way to shave off the shoulders on the bullet, and just how much I needed to take off, but soon I got the hang of it. Here’s a pic with that initial one, one unaltered cartridge, and three finished cartridges:


I’ve since done a full box of cartridges. When you get the hang of it, it only takes a couple minutes each. And the results are *very* satisfactory. They’re consistent. Smooth. Uniform. And I have carefully measured the shavings from each cartridge, and they all fall between 8 and 10 grains of lead removed.  Most importantly, they all feed perfectly reliably in my Winchester 94 lever-action.

So if you’ve encountered this problem, you might want to give this a try. You may need to experiment with a couple different sharpeners, and it’s possible that a different design one would work better for you (either an electric one or one that grinds off material rather than cutting it directly). But it’s worth a shot.

Jim Downey

August 24, 2013 - Posted by | .44 Magnum, Anecdotes, Discussion. | , ,


  1. […] That cartridge feeds fine in my levergun. No problems. So the trick will be to experiment with seeing how little lead I can remove while still getting reliable feeding, and getting good at doing so uniformly so as to not really screw up how the bullet behaves aerodynamically. That should be a manageable matter. (Edited to add: see my solution here.) […]

    Pingback by There’s more than one way to skin a cartridge. « Ballistics by the inch | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  2. […] 50% more traffic than any previous day. Why? Well, thanks to a link from The Firearm Blog about my experiments to alter the Buffalo Bore 340gr .44mag loads I’ve written about recently. So I wanted to say thanks to […]

    Pingback by Just take a little off the sides, leave the top alone. « Ballistics by the inch | August 29, 2013 | Reply

  3. And what sort of accuracy do you get? Accuracy is partly a function of every bullet being identical. So what are the chances you can shave off lead with a pencil sharpener and still have the bullets weigh very near the same?


    Comment by lwk2431 | August 30, 2013 | Reply

  4. “Then yesterday I went out to the range to test and compare.”

    Can’t argue with results. 🙂


    Comment by lwk2431 | August 30, 2013 | Reply

    • I don’t doubt that there is *some* effect on accuracy – it’s just that I’m a poor enough shot that the effect is lost in the ‘noise’. 😉

      Comment by James Downey | August 30, 2013 | Reply

      • I have a Marlin 336 in 35 Remington with iron sights and with my eyes today it would be a lot worse than that! Although do better with an M1A (aperture open sights and enough distance to the front sight that I can actually get some focus on it).

        You might be able to get some good results with handloading too (don’t remember if you mentioned if you do that or not). Years ago – not now – I cast lead bulletsf or 45 Long Colt and handloaded them. It can be fun for people like us (gun nuts). 🙂


        Comment by lwk2431 | August 30, 2013

      • Yeah, in fact my first strategy was to go with .44sp cases, since being shorter I figured I could hand load the heavier bullet and still have it feed in my Winchester. That blog post is here:

        Now that I know that just changing the shape of the bullet a bit was all that is needed, I can probably go ahead and just load some overpressure rounds with the 330gr hardcast I mention in that blog post into .44mag cases, and call it good.

        Comment by James Downey | August 30, 2013

  5. […] Rowland conversion up and running. And I found some really fun .44Mag +P+ loads, then figured out a simple hack so that they would feed reliably in my lever gun. Like I said, a busy […]

    Pingback by Wait … it’s 2014?? How did THAT happen? « Ballistics by the inch | January 1, 2014 | Reply

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