My wife and I recently encountered another large copperhead snake near our woods cabin. We don’t really see many snakes out there, and largely leave them alone if they aren’t venomous (yes, I know even that kind have their place in the environment, but just outside my back door is NOT that place!). When my wife urged me to shoot it, I tried to explain the difficulty of hitting a moving snake’s head with a .44 magnum revolver, but instead ended up demonstrating it by merely speeding the snake’s exit from our immediate area!
Once back at home, I decided that .44 caliber “snake shot” would be a handy thing to keep around, but soon discovered that all the online retailers were sold out of this item. Plan “B” was to load my own, using Speer .44 shot shell capsules. Long ago I had some factory loaded .44 shot shell capsules that I used in a Thompson Contender, but they were probably too long to use in a revolver cylinder. With the Speer capsules, the user can set the over all cartridge length he needs, and also choose the size shot to be loaded. I “chose” #7 1/2 shot, because I had a bunch of 20 gauge ammo in that size I don’t use much. Many prefer a smaller shot size, to get more pellets in the capsule, and thus a pattern that covers the target more completely.
For my purposes, I did not consider the “loaded” capsule’s weight to be critical, but they seemed to run 125 gr or so. They come with a cap to hold the shot in, which goes on the bottom when loaded. I found that even a light charge of Titegroup power held the capsules at just about the perfect OAL for my Ruger revolvers, without either compressing the powder or leaving a space between powder and capsule. I used the Factory Crimp Die with my Lee press to produce a light crip, just to hold the capsule in place – and I could hear a slight “pop” when it happened.
When I test fired a couple of these rounds from snake killing ranges of 10 and 15 feet, I got what I think was an acceptable blend of good coverage of a target area that would hit a snakes head, with a shot size that would offer good penetration when it did hit.
My first shot at 10 feet seemed to “throw” a bit low – but that could have been operator error. It still would have done the job, I think, Even the plastic shot capsule penetrated the light cardboard box holding the target – with most of the shot also hitting the box below the target.
My second shot – at 15 feet – produced a much better pattern, and would have without a doubt ended a threat.
While I won’t be dove hunting with these loads, I do feel they would be better for squirrels or rabbits than a 300 gr hard cast bullet from a .44. I will be loading some up in .44 Special cases, also, and might try to find the capsules for .45 Colt. These loads would be VERY handy to have when woods walking, either in a pocket or in the first position in the revolver cylinder, where simply cocking and letting the hammer down, then cocking again would rotate a more potent round under the hammer if something larger than a snake or small varmint was to be the “target of opportunity”.
Once again, the .44 magnum is one of the most useful cartridges ever produced!