January 2004

Practical Big-Bullet Revolvers: Steel and Titanium .44 Magnums

As powerful as they are versatile, Rugerís Redhawk and the Smith & Wesson 629-6 belong in your collection. S&Wís lightweight 329PD has advantages, if you can handle it.

Though larger rounds have eclipsed some of the .44 Magnum’s “Dirty Harry” magic, the cartridge remains near the top of the power curve, especially when day-to-day carry comes into play. The .454s and the .480s and the .475s are simply too much powder and metal to shoot on a daily basis, but .44 Magnum remains manageable, if still high-spirited.

Almost 50 years ago Elmer Keith lobbied manufacturers to produce a beefed-up version of the .44 Special, a round which he had handloaded in Smith & Wesson TripleLocks and Colt Single Actions, among others. His handloads, according to his book Sixguns, pushed 250-grain bullets to 1200 fps in long-barreled revolvers, including Model 1926s and Model 1950s.

It wasn’t until S&W and Remington teamed up in 1954 that the .44 Magnum came to life (the ammunition was 1/8-inch longer than the .44 Special so it would not chamber in .44 Special sixguns). Remington agreed to factory-load the rounds if Smith built guns for the cartridge, and toward that end, S&W rechambered four 1950 Target .44 Specials for the new round. In those guns, the new .44 Special Magnum ran at 1500 fps and higher.

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