Shooting Times Magazine

November 1984



The Presentation of the annual Outstanding American Handgunner Award (OAHA) was held at the 12th annual dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee last May 26. As has become customary, the award ceremony was held during the NRA's national convention.


Larry Kelly was the 12th recipient of the award. He is considered by many to be one of the most deserving Outstanding American Handgunners to have been so honored in the history of the event. Kelly, inventor of the Mag-na-port process and president of Mag-na-port International, is an avid handgun hunter, and worldwide trophies have fallen to his handguns. He is recognized as being amon the first to take Africa's dangerous "Big Five" with a handgun. Kelly served loyally and well for some years as chairman of the OAHA Foundation, and has otherwise given much support to the sport of the handgunning.


The other nominees were Jeanne Bray, William A. Carver, Ray Chapman, Allen B. Fulford, Alan M. Gottlieb, B.R. Hughes, Lt. Col. Robert Hunt, Michael J. Keys, M.D., and Ted Nugent.


The OAHA Foundation is being restructured for next year. Refer to Dick Metcalf's "Firing Point" column on page 22 for additional information.


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The OAHA affair was not the only celebration held that night. As it evolved, the evening belonged to Kelly in more ways than one since he had chosen this occasion to make the first annual Handgun Hunter of the Year Award under the sponsorship of the Handgun Hunters Hall of Fame. The HHHF was founded this year by Kelly, who has erected (at his own expense) a building in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, to contain the trophies, both current and future, of handgun hunters who bring to bag animals animals of outstanding excelence.


The first award was presented by Kelly to Bob Good, president of the American Sportsmen's Club of Denver, for having taken a 40-inch Dall sheep with a handgun. Good took his trophy sheep in the Alaska Range with guide Ken Fanning. The Dall was taken at 160 yards. Good was using a .375 JDJ wildcat. Thompson/Center Contender and Hornady 220-grain bullets.


The HHHF trophy is a large bronze of a mountain sheep designed by Tom Tischler of Kerrville, Texas. This is the inscription: "Dedicated to the sport of handgun hunting, its unique challenges, skills, and qualities of sportsmanship and in recognition of outstanding achievement among those who hunt with handgun."


Trophy measurements and applications for the 1985 Handgun Hunters Hall of Fame Trophy Award are due by January 1, 1985. Applicants will be judged according to the Safari Club International scoring system and by a committee's determination of the difficulty of the hunt and the relative quality of the trophy compared to entries of other species. Any hunter may enter his trophy, provided it is taken legally with a handgun and in fair chase. Send applications to: Mag-na-port International, 41302 Executive Dr., Mt. Clemens, MI 48045.


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Although the .44-40 Colt single action ranked second to the .45 Colt in numbers produced between 1873 an 1941, it wasn't always popular when tried by discriminating sixgun men back in the blackpowder days. I've read and heard numerous accounts about the .44-40 "freezing up" when fired, making cocking for the second shot almost impossible.


Jeff Milton, the great peace officer and man of guns, has recounted how, as a youthful Texas Ranger in 1880, he saw his first .44-40 Colt sixshooter in an Austin shop. It was "silver mounted" and looked beautiful to the young officer, who immediately bought it.


As quoted in Jeff Milton, A Good Man With A Gun, J. Evetts Haley's fine biography, Milton remarked, "I thought I was just the king bee, .44 pistol and .44 Winchester using the same shells. Some of the boys wanted to trade me out of it. I took it out to shoot, and at the first shot she hung tighter than Dick's hatband, and I had an awful time cocking it again. The next shot, the same way. The cap would come back and stop right against the firing pin and you could not revolve the cylinder."


Milton let all his friends know "so they wouldn't by any" and swapped the new .44 to "sort of an outlaw and gambler named Batty Carr." In exchange, he got Carr's fancied-up .45 Colt.


I've shot a good deal of .44-40 ammunition in a great many Colts, but I have never experienced the problem outlined by Jeff Milton and others of the old school. It occurred to me that modern ammunition loaded with smokeless powder and modern primers could somehow react differently than the old blackpowder loads.


I fired up the furnace and cast a mess of Lyman No. 42798 slugs, these being very close in shape and weight to the original Winchester bullets. It was my intention to load these over 40 grains of FFFg black, but my solidhead Winchester cases won't hold this much. I had to compromise on 35 grains, which  filled the case to within inch of its mouth. I could feel the crunch of the blackpowder compressing as I seated the bullets. At the time I did this experiment, I didn't own a Colt .44-40 single action, but I did have a .44 Special New Frontier to which I had fitted a prewar .44-40 Cylinder. Groove diameter of its barrel is .427 inch, correct for the .44-40.


Retiring to my backyard range, I loaded up the recylindered Colt and let fly at a 20-yard rapid-fire target. A belch of blue smoke mushroomed from the muzzle, and I felt the characteristic soft shove of the blackpowder recoil. The gun was sighted to hit the point of aim with a 250-grain cast bullet over 8.0 grains of Unique. I was more than a little astonished when the .44-40 load struck dead center in the 10 ring.


The CCI Large Pistol primer stayed put, and the gun cocked easily for the 40 rounds or so  that followed. The shooting was so troublefree that I forgot the reason for the experiment and concentrated on shooting a good score. The blackpowder .440-40 load proved as accurate as my pet .44 Special loads.


Although I enjoyed it, my little test really didn't prove anything. Headspacing and chambering were probably different on the early Colts, the material of the primers was different, and tolerances of primers and primer pockets were also different.


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In 1957, Colt introduced a new .25 ACP pocket pistol. Manufactured to Colt specifications by the Spanish firm of Astra (Unceta y Cia), it bore little resemblance to the multitudinous .25 Pocket Model of 1908, which had been dropped from in 1941. Called the Junior Colt, this new pistol was easily recognizable by its outside rowel-shped hammer. It was also made in .22 Short caliber, and .22 Short conversion units for the .25 could be purchased.


The importation of the Junior Colt was halted by the Gun Control Act of 1968, but Colt arranged for domestic production, and the pistol was again available from 1970 to 1973. Colt is now recalling these guns and has distributed the following announcement:


"It has come to our attention that some of the small pocket automatic pistols marketed by Colt in .25 ACP between 1957 and 1973 (these have serial numbers ending in CC or beginning with OD) are susceptible to accidental discharge if improperly carried with a round in the chamber and dropped or otherwise carelessly handled. This is because of the type of firing mechanism in these pistole. Some of these pistols were marked 'Junior Colt/Cal. 25', others "Made in Spain for Colt', and still others 'Colt Automatic/Cal. 25'.


"Colt will modify the firing mechanism of these pistols free of charge. This modification will substantially reduce the possibility of accidental discharge.


"If you own one of these pistols, please notify Colt . . . but do not return the pistol at this time. You will be given further details and instructions as to when and how to ship your firearm to Colt. We will replace the firing pin and the firing pin spring and return the gun as soon as possible.


"Please do not delay . . . Meanwhile, carry you pistol only with an empty chamber.


"Please send a postcard or note giving you name, address, and the serial number of your pistol to: Colt Industries Inc., Firearms Division, Box 1868, Dept. RC25, Hartford, CT 06101."



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