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  #1  
Old 10-10-2009, 10:54 AM
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Question Just how strong is the 696 .44 Special?

I have a 99% Smith 696 .44 Special. It is a beaut.

My question is: What is the reasonable, practical max pressure in cup for this gun? And the approx max “safe” velocity expected, always using 240-260 gr hard-cast SWC or Keith-type bullets.

I realize the "ole cowboy gun" issue and the liability issue for ammo manufacturers.

Let's do a comparison:
My .44 Special is a 35.5 oz stainless 696 no-dash; made in 1996. I also have a 25 oz Smith .357 Mag 640-1 in stainless; made in 1996. The .357 Mag is SAAMI-spec'd at 35,000 cup, whereas the .44 Special is spec'd at 15,500 cup.

When I measure, with my Starrett dial and hand-mikes and compare the two guns, the .44 has more steel all-around than the .357.
Cylinder notches in both guns are offset from the chamber for better strength.

Steel between adjacent chambers:
.357 mag: 0.126"
.44 Spec 0.158"

From chamber to cylinder outside:
.357 mag: 0.061"
.44 Spec 0.067"

Top strap thickness:
.357 mag 0.180":
.44 Spec 0.205"

Forcing Cone wall thickness @ 0.2 inches into barrel:
.357 mag: 0.105"
.44 Spec 0.106" (essentailly identical)

It looks like the .44 Special is a stronger gun all the way around, and likely the same stainless as used in the 640-1. Will the 696 safely handle a 240 hard-cast @ 1100 fps without stressing the gun? Probably Unique, H4227 or 2400 powder, or other suitable powder.

Right now, Tim Sundles @ Buffalo Bore makes a 255 SWC @ 1000 fps that he says is safe for all .44 Special made guns other than the Charter Arms Bulldog. So I know we're good to go at least to 1000 fps with a proper powder.

I do have a model 29 and I’m not trying to make a magnum out of the 696.

I am familiar with high pressure indications such as hard extraction, blown or flattened primers, sloppy primer pockets, extruded primers, etc. But I want to be able to use a reasonably-maximum load for those times when I may be in the woods. And I’d like your opinion on the relative strength of my 696 versus the Smith 640-1. Are these two guns basically similar in strength?

I have ordered Brian Pearce's article (June Handloader, issue #260) which deals with higher-pressure .44 Special loads (around 25,000 cup)

Thanks for your reply in advance,
Sonny
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  #2  
Old 10-10-2009, 11:21 AM
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Sounds like you know your math! I dont have an answer for you but your question is interesting. Do you think a 44spl is more powerful than a 45 Colt?
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Old 10-10-2009, 11:24 AM
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That Brian Pearce article you ordered is a good one. In it you'll find that Mr. Pearce considers the 696 (and the 396 Mountain Lite as well) as fully capable of handling his 25,000 psi loads. I don't know if I'd want to be hanging on to one when it lit off a 25,000 psi round, but it's good to know the gun can handle the pressure.
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Old 10-10-2009, 11:29 AM
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I used to have a Charter Arms Bulldog. I fired it with the old Skeeter Skelton load-7.5 grains of Unique under a 245 grain Keith SWC. The gun held up fine; my hand, not so well, even with Goodyear grips.
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Old 10-10-2009, 12:33 PM
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What Muley said.
My C/A Bulldog would regularly get 13.0 of 2400, or the Skeeter load behind a Rem JHP. The only ill effect was the trigger pivot pin walking outwards? BTW, I run the B/B load Sonny mentioned for my night stand gun (no dash 696). And for practice, reloads that duplicate them. I'm not sure I'd want to go as high grunt as 1100 FPS with one? But that's due to me becoming sissified in my dotage! There was a time in my life where war emergency power was the only setting my default switch had? I feel perfectly safe at a thousand with that bullet.
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Old 10-10-2009, 01:24 PM
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Not sure but IIRC, I've heard of forcing cone problems on the L-frame .44's.
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Old 10-10-2009, 01:45 PM
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Sonny,

That's the kind of question I like: packed with information.

I also have a 696 ND and have never thought about shooting anything other than commercial ammo in it. I have a 629 for more threatening situations, or situations in which more amusement follows from more noise and more wrist abuse.

It never occurred to me to worry about bending the top strap or blowing out a cylinder wall in the 696; I always understood the Achilles heel of this model was the forcing cone. I was surprised by some of your measurements, so I hauled out my gun and a micrometer. The thickness of the forcing cone at the breech end of the barrel on my gun is .0650-.07, a number that may be slightly exaggerated because I had to approach the measurement at an angle. That is just slightly smaller than the cylinder wall measurement at the front of each chamber: I miked my walls at .07-.071.

So on the numbers, it seems to me the forcing cone remains the point of concern. At its thinnest, it is just slightly thinner than the cylinder walls. I guess I would conclude that a higher-pressure load that does not damage the cylinder might still be enough to crack the forcing cone.

I have a 649 but have not yet measured the critical dimensions to see how a small "safe" .357 would compare to a .44 special. I imagine I would get similar measurements to what you report.
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Old 10-10-2009, 02:32 PM
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One thing you didn't measure is the length of the cartridge. The 357 has an .100 longer cartridge body that will help spread the forces over a wider area of the cylinder.
Another point is the weight of the bullet. A 158 grain bullet will strike the forcing cone lighter than a 240 grain bullet under the same velocity.

Will it stand up to near magnum power levels?

I'd think it will, after all S&W has proof tested the guns to have at least a 50% safe margin before the top strap flies off.

Personally, I'd test it out on a -2 gun just to make sure. I'd hate to ruin a collector piece.
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Old 10-10-2009, 04:23 PM
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I think 500 Mag has it right, with the prices I've seen on these guns in collectible shape it doesn't make sense to test the limits.

There are an awful lot of 44 Mags out there in "shooter" shape for reasonable prices.
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  #10  
Old 10-10-2009, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobie View Post
I was thinking the Skelton load of 7.5 gr. Unique under the 250 gr. Keith bullet was all that was needed. I'm still waiting on my 696 to arrive but that's what I'm going to do. If you want a .44 Magnum, get one.
Very good advice, Hobie. Even Elmer Keith launched a few 44 special parts into orbit while trying to turn it into a 44 magnum. I think if sonny uses the above measurements to calculate the total force per sq. in. he will find the forcing cone, being of equal thickness but subjected to a much larger total force because of the larger bore diameter, will come up as the weak link in the 357 to 44 comparison....Roughly 20% higher total force in the 44 over the 357 with both at equal pressures. The extra .006 in. cylinder wall thickness doesn't make one feel too warm and fuzzy about moving on to higher pressures, either. My 696 likes the Winchester Silvertips I feed it and the wear and tear stays at a minimum.
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Old 10-10-2009, 05:13 PM
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"Even Elmer Keith launched a few 44 special parts into orbit while trying to turn it into a 44 magnum."

IIRC, the only revolver that Elmer Keith ever damaged was a Colt SAA .45 that he shot with a 300 grain .45-70 or .45-90 bullet load. Can't remember offhand if it was a smokeless or black powder loading.
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Old 10-10-2009, 07:14 PM
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>>>Can't remember offhand if it was a smokeless or black powder loading.<<<

It was black powder...

Dale53
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Old 10-10-2009, 08:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobie View Post
I was thinking the Skelton load of 7.5 gr. Unique under the 250 gr. Keith bullet was all that was needed. I'm still waiting on my 696 to arrive but that's what I'm going to do. If you want a .44 Magnum, get one.
I think that's right. There are plenty of the various series of 629 Mountain Guns around, which aren't much bigger or heavier than a 696.

A lnib 696 just cleared a dealer here for $995. I don't think that's rational, market pricing, but prices on these are not going down.
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Old 10-10-2009, 08:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RidgwayCO View Post
That Brian Pearce article you ordered is a good one. In it you'll find that Mr. Pearce considers the 696 (and the 396 Mountain Lite as well) as fully capable of handling his 25,000 psi loads. I don't know if I'd want to be hanging on to one when it lit off a 25,000 psi round, but it's good to know the gun can handle the pressure.
I can imagine those in a 696, though I'm not going to do it. Touching those off more than one or two of those in an 18 ounce 396 would probably result in a need for some kind of medical attention?
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Old 10-10-2009, 10:28 PM
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Gosh, I had a long "reply" with various calculations (something I like to do) which supported some posts, refuted others, and I lost it. Just as well. It's funny.
All I really wanted to say is that I am trying to find out the real safe operating pressure of the 696. And I guess that Brian Pearce has the answers that I want.
I thank all of you for your posts.
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Old 10-11-2009, 05:22 AM
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I have a 696 and a 396, I use the Buffalo Bore load in both of them. Not a lot of it because I use these guns as defense weapons and I only fire them twice a year, with the BB ammo. In the 396 it does get my attention, but nothing like it will for the guy on the receiving end. I regard the BB load as sufficient for Black Bear, which is the biggest critter I am going to run into where I now hang around. In the 696 the recoil is about like full house .357 mag out of a K frame. No problem. I figure I am getting between 18,000-19,000 pounds pressure with that particular load, well within what the guns will take.
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Old 10-11-2009, 07:15 AM
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Why hotrod a .44 Special? Seriously, it is potentially very dangerous. If you need more oomph, get a .44 Magnum. Look below to see what an additional six ounces gets you:



Seriously - you can buy a new 4" 629, SKU #163603, for less than many folks will sell you a used 696. You'll get a real fc, another chamber in the cylinder, an inch more barrel, larger hammer and trigger, and the ability to launch real Magnums, when needed. There are a few 3" special runs, too. Save two ounces - find a 629MG. My 4" 629 is my favorite .44 Special.

Oh yeah, I bought the 696-1 new ($439) along with a closeout priced new 296 ($349!) on the same day - nearly seven years ago - and got another $10 off for buying the pair at the same time. The 296 gets some CCW use - the 696 is pure fun - often with 240gr LRNFP/LSWC over 3.5gr Titegroup in .44 Russian cases for 693 fps - a poof load that makes 'major' power factor. The 696 is for .44 S&W Special SAAMI-spec'd loads. I am sure the heat treatment is different from that of a 29/629 - maybe even a 686!

Of course, the 696 you overload is yours - do with it what you will.

Stainz

PS In the line of 'If it fits....', take the cylinder out of a 625 MG chambered for .45 Colt... try a Hornady .454 Casull round. Hmmm, it fits... instant grenade - and, similarly, is insane to shoot in anything with a S&W logo on it other than a .460 Magnum. Let's be safe out there!
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Old 10-11-2009, 10:19 AM
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[QUOTE=Stainz;1129893 The 696 is for .44 S&W Special SAAMI-spec'd loads. [/QUOTE]

I don't know that; it's precisely what I'm trying to find out.
I suspect Brian Pearce would disagree.
No offense intended.
Sonny
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Old 10-11-2009, 10:22 AM
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Hi folks,
My original question was: What is the reasonable, practical max pressure in cup for this gun? And the approx max “safe” velocity expected, always using 240-260 gr hard-cast SWC or Keith-type bullets.

And below is a typical reply.

Why hotrod a .44 Special? If you need more oomph, get a .44 Magnum.

In the bigger stuff, I already have a 3" 29-4, a Ruger .45Colt Redhawk, a custom Freedom Arms .45Colt, a custom Bowen 5-shot .45Colt (by Hamilton) and a custom .500 Linebaugh (made by John) so I don't feel any need to hotrod anything.
I know that my car's redline is @ 7000 rpm, but I drive it @ 2300 rpm.

My questions were serious and intended to get beyond the "cowboy gun" liability defense in order to get some real data. Brian Pearce has apparently stated, in Handloader issue #260 (I've already ordered it), that the 696 is perfectly safe @ 25,000 cup and has published his recommended loads. This is what I was after. My thanks to RidgewayCO for the hint.
I would think that many 696 owners/aficionados would search out and enjoy this same information. I may be incorrect.
All posts were appreciated. Some of us may disagree; that's fine.
Sonny
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Old 10-11-2009, 11:03 AM
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I guess I don't understand the concept of taking a caliber never intended for hotrodding and doing so. If power is your desire, get a .44 Mag or bigger and blast away, otherwise why not keep the .44 Special running with more moderate loads?

I think the reverse is much more reasonable, get something rugged and download it if you want. Each to his/her own. Don
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Old 10-11-2009, 11:51 AM
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Hi Don,
If I don't know the top, I don't know what constitutes a reasonable and moderate download. It's that simple.

I shoot moderate range-loads with my .38 Specials, my .357's, my model 29 and .45 Colt single-actions all the time; mostly around 750-800 fps, measured with my PACT Chrony. I often shoot .38 Specials in my .357. For all of these calibers, I know the top and I know what moderate is. The 696 top has heretofore been an unknown.

If my son will, one day, carry this in the Rockies, and if it is perfectly safe and reasonable to load a 240gr cast @ 1100 fps instead of 1000 fps, then I hope that he will do so. There's no reason not to.
Sonny
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Old 10-11-2009, 12:23 PM
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Excuse me Don, this is not a criticism of your post but I think the quest for a more powerful load in .44 special now days, at least for me, is to get it in a lighter package than a .44 mag.

I have a 629 Mtn Gun in .44 mag which I don't carry while deer hunting any more, I use a mod 66 instead which is considerably lighter, I also use a Marlin 336SC in 30-30 instead of a 9 lb bolt action, scoped, 30-06
Mauser.

That said I'm 65 and sure that you younger guys aren't concerned
with weight.
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Old 10-11-2009, 01:26 PM
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the quest for a more powerful load in .44 special now days, at least for me, is to get it in a lighter package than a .44 mag.

Hi Bob D:
You are "right on" in your comment to DonD about the firearm weight. Smith N-frames are great guns, but they are bulky and they are heavy. I'm pushing 71 real hard.
The 696 is a pretty solid gun and weighs 35.5 ounces. I guess I could carry some lighter gun like my .45 ACP N-frame 325PD, but the recoil of a good 230gr in that gun is really nasty.
I really like the Mt guns, but don't have one. I reload a lot for .45 Colt and enjoy .44 and .45 calibers. I'm not much of a fan of .45 ACP except for 1911 CCW, in which case it's hard to beat.
I like my Browning .358 BLR carbine for its quality and easy carry. I don't scope it as I'd hate to ruin its looks.

Sonny
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Old 10-11-2009, 02:33 PM
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With a 5-shot cylinder , the weak spot , the bolt cut , is not on the thin part of the chamber so it should hold up to somewhat more powerful loads than factory Colt SAA level loads. Still , it's a relatively small , light gun and the hurt factor would be the key.

Selling mine is one of my biggest 'gun-related' regrets!
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Old 10-11-2009, 04:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonny View Post
Hi Don,
If I don't know the top, I don't know what constitutes a reasonable and moderate download. It's that simple.Sonny
Hope I wasn't offensive, I didn't intend to be and I should have read more before I posted. I suspect that you will evaluate the situation and come up with a reasonable approach to a good load. Don
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Old 10-11-2009, 04:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob D View Post
Excuse me Don, this is not a criticism of your post but I think the quest for a more powerful load in .44 special now days, at least for me, is to get it in a lighter package than a .44 mag
Certainly no offense taken, this forum is usually one of the most polite of the firearms sites.

I'm not enough younger to quibble, Bob, I just turned 62. My cop son has been to a number of sniper schools like Blackwater and McMillan and professes that he likes 14# sniper guns. I work out at the gym regularly but I want a 14# gun like a hole in the head. What a load!! Don
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Old 10-11-2009, 09:10 PM
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The 696 has an inherant weakness which is the forcing cone being pretty thin. I have no faith in the gun lasting very long under heavy loads. I've seen quite a few posts from people that have killed their 696 by trying to hot rod it.

Funny when you think that the L frame was brought out to take care of the same problem that becomes apparent with the 696.
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Old 10-12-2009, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonny View Post
Hi folks,
My original question was: What is the reasonable, practical max pressure in cup for this gun? And the approx max “safe” velocity expected, always using 240-260 gr hard-cast SWC or Keith-type bullets.
The only way you're going to get anything more than conjecture and theory is to do destructive testing on guns with loads of known pressures.

Remember, too, that even loads that don't blow up the gun can seriously accelerate timing slop and other wear issues.
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Old 10-25-2009, 11:50 PM
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I have a friend in Alaska, that is a Registered Bear Guide, that is also a knowledgeable rifle and handgun reloader.

When I visited him a while back he showed me his 5 Shot 44 Special 696.

He was loading it with 300 gr "Bear Busters, that were the equal to ANYTHING coming out of a 44 MAG...

He had measured the cylinder, frame, etc. and felt the gun would handle the "load".

He had done the required test firing...

I said "WOW" and cautioned him to tone it down a "little".

He really liked the size and weight of the "little" 5 shot 44 "Special" over the 44 Mag Mountain Gun...
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Old 10-26-2009, 02:00 AM
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A 240/250 grain semi wadcutter, pushed at 750 to 800 feet per second. What would you want to do to need any more than that? The 696 is a relatively compact revolver with a relatively short barrel, designed for those who desire and trust a large bore handgun for self defense. It is not a long range weapon, a hunting gun, or a competition piece. Therefore, why would anyone desire to shoot anything hotter than a proven (pardon the redundance) 240/250 grain semi wadcutter, pushed at 750 to 800 feet per second?

Please correct me if I am wrong. The above described load would in my estimation equate to perhaps 15,000 pounds pressure, easily under the range of 'hot', and rendering any forcing cone issue moot.

In summary, keep the load at a reliable, accurate, deadly velocity, and the 696 will function as designed indefinately. JMHO
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Old 10-26-2009, 02:24 AM
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Well Jimmy,
Some people call me nuts for running a 255 LSWCGC @ 950-1000 FPS as my S/D load. So, to each their own? That velocity is plenty high for what I'll ever want or need from it. No one well hit with it will be offering many critiques, of that I'm almost certain.
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Old 10-26-2009, 08:59 AM
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Not meaning to sound abrasive here either. The issue of 'knowing the top of the 38/357 loads' doesn't logically follow 'not knowing the top of the 696 loads'.

There is no accounting for differences of opinion and I'm all for personal exploration of the edges of the known universe.

Recoil-accuracy-safety etc all play into what I find enjoyable. The factory notion of 'what is safe' in their products has replaced my own adventurous spirit in the ballistic realm.

I luxuriate in the 41 mag specs, and am exploring loads in such as the M57 Mountain Gun to a scoped Super Blackhawk Rooger.

So many guns, so little time.

Good luck in your quest.
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Old 10-26-2009, 01:11 PM
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I suspect that nearly all of the same issues would be in play on a 696, that were in play on the 13/19/65/66 getting pounded with 125 .357's? And what I think about the cause of their issues would be the same as well. Slightly off timing, jacketed bullets, a powder charge that needed to be stomped on to get it all into the case, and perhaps a forcing cone that's a bit rough. Get all of them together in one place at one time? Poof, broken gun!
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Old 10-26-2009, 01:51 PM
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I have a 696-0...bought it new just after they first came out, and it is complete (box, paperwork etc). It is in pristine condition and has spent most of its life in the dresser drawer, and has never seen a holster. About what would it be worth today....I think I paid around 300.00 for it new.
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Old 08-26-2010, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshall 357 View Post
Do you think a 44spl is more powerful than a 45 Colt?
No. The .45 Colt can be loaded to exceed the .44 Mag.
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Old 08-26-2010, 04:09 PM
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I have a 696 no-dash which I aquired new, when they were first produced. Does anyone have information of forcing cone issues with factory ammo?
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Old 08-26-2010, 04:38 PM
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There is another factor involved called hoop stress.

What it boils down to is the larger diameter the chamber is, the more metal it takes to hold the pressure.

Look at it this way.....the chamber walls at the thinest point are about as thick as the walls of a 55 gallon steel drum, but you can be well assured that a 55 gallon steel drum won't hild 1/10 the pressure of a 44 Special load.

It is wise to keep the loads in a 696 at 25K or less. If you do that, it will hold up about as well as the L frame .357 Mg. at 35K.
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:57 PM
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Here is a tired comparison, my 4" 629, SKU 163603, weight 41.5 oz vs my 696-1 - weight 35.5 oz:



Of course, if the 6 extra ounces are too much, you can always get a 629MG - it's only 4 ounces heavier. I had one - prefer the production 629 - it has a larger hammer & trigger, OR front & w/o rear sight - vs blk/blk on the MG, and the added 2 oz is partially out front in a non-tapered barrel.

Still - what a bargain - a new production 4" 629 will take Herr Keith's most nightmarish .44 Special loads - and even Magnums. It has a real forcing cone - an additional hole in the cylinder - and - an extra inch of barrel. It probably will run you less new than a used 696, too.

I have shot the stew out of my 696 - with my mild .44 Specials - and downright wimpy Russians. I have two 629's (4" & 6"), should I want to make more noise - or further damage my wrists (I shot a 7.5" .454 SRH for years!). Today at the range, I shot mediocre .44 Specials - and poof load Russians - from that 4" 629. The 240gr LSWC probably barely broke 700 fps - literally, a poof load. Of course, it makes major power factor - and drops the steel plates very nicely. I can clean those chambers - and install my Hogue .500 Magnum monogrips in place of the Ahrends wood shown - and instant .44 Magnum. Spend your bucks on a 3" or 4" 629 - and thank me later.

Stainz

PS It's been nearly eight years since I bought my regular price 696 ($439) and closeout price 296 ($359 - got $10 more off for buying it with the 696!), both new. I think I could recover my investment...
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Old 08-26-2010, 10:18 PM
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I'm just wondering what will a 250gr bullet at 1100 fps do that a 250gr bullet at 1000 fps can't?
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Old 08-26-2010, 11:00 PM
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My no dash was ordered when they were announced. All I feed it is 250 gr. cast SWC pushed by 7.5 grs. of Unique. If I need more power I'll get a bigger gun.
BTW The new Ruger .44 flat top will probably handle any .44 spl. load you concoct and its lighter and more compact than a 24/624.
Good advise has been given here, However its your gun and if you want to grenade it go ahead.
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Old 08-27-2010, 11:04 AM
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This is a little off the OP but it's been brought up a couple times in this thread. If there is a forcing cone issue with the 696, how on earth did the CA Bulldog survive its first cylinder full? By comparison to the 696 the Bulldog doesn't even have a forcing cone.

In a phone conversation with S&W (a number of years ago) they claimed they could not build a 44 Special on the K-frame because of this same issue (forcing cone). When I asked how Charter Arms manages they guy on the phone hung up. Guess he didn't have an answer.

Dave
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Old 08-27-2010, 11:20 AM
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If I were S&W and wanted to build a 44 Sp on a K frame, I would make it with a longer cylinder.

That way the forcing cone would be supported by the frame and would not be an issue.

Of course, you want the cylinder to be a LITTLE shorter than the opening in the frame, but .030" would probably be suffiecnt for clearance and the forcing cone sticking through .025" or so would make it quite rugged.
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Old 08-27-2010, 02:05 PM
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"In a phone conversation with S&W (a number of years ago) they claimed they could not build a 44 Special on the K-frame because of this same issue (forcing cone). When I asked how Charter Arms manages they guy on the phone hung up. Guess he didn't have an answer."

It is not a mystery. The center of the bore and the chambers of the cylinder is further from the cylinder centerline in the Bulldog than in a K frame S&W. Look at a .357 K frame's forcing cone. As it is, the bottom outside of the barrel on a K frame is machined away to give clearance to the yoke. If you screwed a .44 caliber-bored barrel with the external dimensions to fit a K frame, that section would be a lot thinner. Folks think it is too thin, and thus weak, for some .357 Mag ammo as it is.

An easy way to visualize this is that the speedloaders that fit the Bulldog also fit the 5 shot L frame .44 Special S&W's.

There was a custom gunsmith in Spokane, WA (Spokandguns?) that made 5 shot .44 Special K frame cylinders and bored out .357 barrels. They didn't do this for long because the barrels were not suited to ammo warmer than the original, anemic 246 grain lead bullet loading, according to the press of the time.

So, yes it could be done but the guns would be short-lived with most ammo.

Someone who has posted on this site has one. I wish he would havetaken and posted photos of the forcing cone area.
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Old 08-28-2010, 01:21 PM
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Just wasted half an hour trying to find some 10 yr old digitals of a 696 with a split forcing cone. The gun was at a Shop to be sent in to Smith for repair/replacement. The Gunsmith told me the owner was a handloader and had gotten a little overboard with his loads..no other info available.

So cracking the forcing cone does appear to be a valid concern.

I have a pair of 696-1's that are fed 6.5 grains of Unique, and a 245 gr SWC as a practice load, and one of them is carried occasionally with 7.5 of Unique and a Keith style #429421 slug if I'm in bear country.

I'm a big believer in Brian Pearce. If he feels the 696 can take 25K pressure so be it.

FN in MT
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Old 08-28-2010, 03:54 PM
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My 686 to 696 conversion has been fed a diet of 260 grain hardcast GC Blue Dot loads at 1000 fps for about well over 500 rounds.
No problems at all. It is still as tight now as when I built it.
Forcing cone cracking is more a function of the gun being out of time than anything else. A properly cut cone will support the bullet impact inside the frame an not on the thin edge.
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobie View Post
I was thinking the Skelton load of 7.5 gr. Unique under the 250 gr. Keith bullet was all that was needed. I'm still waiting on my 696 to arrive but that's what I'm going to do. If you want a .44 Magnum, get one.
Absolutely correct. Once again.......the gun is a 44 special. Skeeter's load made an outstanding inprovement over the lethargic factory stuff loaded light due to all the old 44 special from the early 20th century still floating around out there. An 800/900 fps load of a 250 grain Keith type in any 44 special is more than capable of performing the duties function well in the model 696. It is a smaller, lighter, SS, adjustable sighted carry revolver. It is not a hunting gun, a target gun, or a plinker. It is and was designed as a carry piece......smaller and somewhat lighter than the N framed 44's. As such, it need not be loaded to anywhere near Keith specials. Keep it as such, enjoy the quality, easy packing, large bore attributes of the gun and it will last forever. If you need more, carry more. Get a Backpacker, or similar 629 three inch and load the **** out of it if you find you need to.

Last edited by Jimmymac46; 08-29-2010 at 12:22 AM.
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:44 PM
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Even the first time I read that article by Brian Pearce, my eyebrows raised when he said that the 696 could handle the 25,000psi loads, but part of that article, which I've not read being quoted here yet, is that S&W tested the 696 and S&W knows that it can handle at least 25,000psi loads (and clearly implied that it could handle a little higher). He then added a little later in the article that the Freedom Arms 97 could handle a fourth category, well over the 25,000psi, but the 696 was conspicuously (in my opinion) not included in that statement. By implication, I got the impression that while the 696 could easily handle 25k, you wouldn't want to go very far beyond that. Now, where that point is, I do NOT know, but I'm guessing somewhere above 25k and below 30k.

Also unmentioned thus far, is that S&W will use different heat treatments for different models. This was a major factor in why the early 29s had no trouble containing the pressure of early 44 Magnum loads, while similar loads in a 1950 Target (which was a 44 Spl. N-Frame made concurrently as the earliest Model 29s) could not. Something similar could be happening here, which is a major factor why you can't just throw calipers on the thickness of steel, and say you've got a valid comparison.

Myself, there are some 25k-level loads that I think are all I need in a field-gun load, and I wouldn't mind shooting them once in awhile in a 696, but primarily I'd shoot light loads most of the time. This is recommended by Pearce if you read the whole article (and something else I don't see quoted here in this thread so far). I would look at the 696 like how Bill Jordan suggested we use the Model 19: Shoot specials most of the time, and just use the hot loads (in the Mod.19, 357 Mags, but in the 696, we'd be talking the 25k-level handloads) only occassionally. In other words - avoid a constant / steady diet of the heavy loads in the light guns. They can handle them, but should only be subjected to them on occassion.
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Old 08-29-2010, 07:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BUFF View Post
An easy way to visualize this is that the speedloaders that fit the Bulldog also fit the 5 shot L frame .44 Special S&W's.
I've owned a couple of both (Bulldogs and 696s) and my experience is different than yours. The Bulldog speed loader from HKS did not fit well at all in either of my 696s. The cartridges had to be forced outward, binding them in the speed loader and making turning the knob difficult.

I've always heard the CA Bulldog was the same size as a D-frame Colt (Det Spl) and so a bit smaller than the K-frame. My recollection is the Bulldog forcing cone was a damn skimpy piece of business. At the trailing edge there was almost nothing to it. It depended on the frame to support it. Just find it hard to believe a K-frame Smith couldn't do the job as well as the chintzy Charter Arms but maybe you're right, Buff.

Dave
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Old 08-30-2010, 11:35 AM
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"I've owned a couple of both (Bulldogs and 696s) and my experience is different than yours. The Bulldog speed loader from HKS did not fit well at all in either of my 696s. The cartridges had to be forced outward, binding them in the speed loader and making turning the knob difficult."

Dave:

I just retrieved my 696 from the safe and tried it. With the only 5 shot .44 Spl. HKS loader I have, with W-W round nose lead ammo, it worked in my gun. The speed loader would drop the cartridges into the chambers until the little metal piece in the center of the loader contacted the rear end of the ejector rod assembly, and they release okay. There is a little resistance when you first get the bullets into the chambers because they sort of sag towards the center of the loader when it is held verticle, and they have to "straighten out" until they get what looks like parallel with each other before the loader will go in all the way. I guess if might be a fiddly deal with SWC bullets, but they should work, too.

My loader is of the old, original HKS design, which lets the bullets wobble around some. They are not held in place tightly like the later, improved loaders do (like the 10-A). Yours may well be different.

I have shot up a couple of Charter Arms Bulldogs. The first one took a pound of Unique, 7.5 grains at a time, to ruin it. The forcing cone never broke but the frame stretched considerably, the cylinder migrated forward until it rubbed on the forcing cone and the frame was cratered on the bolt face around the firing pin hole. At the end, the primers flowed into the crater and made the cylinder about impossible to rotate with the trigger; I switched to thicker cupped large rifle primers to shoot it. It was stupid of me but it was the first handgun I handloaded for and I learned from my mistake. The second gun was never fired with anything but factory ammo or handloaded equivalent and it is still fine. They were strong enough for what they were intended for, the newer guns may be stronger. I bought these 2 in 1976. They were $89.50 out the door then on sale. I wanted a S&W .44 Special badly but in those days, unless you were really lucky, connected or rich, you had to make your own from something else!

Last edited by BUFF; 08-30-2010 at 11:38 AM.
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