The September 2021 and January 2022 issues saw our testers comparing seasoned 44 Magnum revolvers with modern counterparts in the same chambering. Here, we look at three very modern 44 Magnum revolvers designed with the handgun hunter in mind.
Our first test piece was the Ruger Super Redhawk with the 7.5-inch barrel (No. 5501, $1370) followed by the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 also with a 7.5-inch barrel (No. 170318, $1418). The third entrant is a new Colt Anaconda (Anaconda-SP8RTS, $1499), which sports an 8-inch tube.
To assess their viability for use in the hunting fields, we mounted optics on all three pistols. The Super Redhawk wore a Burris Extended Eye Relief scope in a fixed 2.75-power magnification. The Colt Anaconda also held an official Burris Pistol Scope (2-7×20, No. 200291, $419), which we kept set at 2.75x to make it fair to the other Burris. Our Smith & Wesson M629 Performance Center Hunter includes the UTG SCP-RD40RGW-A, which is a 1×30 red- or green-dot optic that mounted directly to the Picatinny rail on the barrel of the S&W.
Loads tested used bullets from MidwayUSA.com, including the 240-grain hard-cast Keith-style semi-wadcutter from Hunter’s Supply (267313, $53/250), along with the 240-grain Speer Gold Dot jacketed soft point (166262, $25/100). Wanting to include something for the hunters who really need penetration, we also experimented with some Cast Performance Bullet Company 320-grain hard-cast wide-nose gas checks (141652, $45/100). Loads were assembled using a mix of brass, Winchester large pistol primers, VihtaVuori N110 or Alliant 2400 powder, and recipes from the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. Our test results showed the VihtaVuori N110 to be a good bit more accurate for the combinations we tried. Here are the results and our opinions of the handguns:
Gun Tests Grade: A (OUR PICK)
Once a stalwart of the American firearms industry, Colt Manufacturing has had issues in recent decades, to the point where we sometimes doubted its survival as a viable business. One of the company’s problems, we felt, was that it seemed to lose its focus on the civilian market. The year of 2016 saw Colt start to rectify that situation with the reintroduction of the Cobra in 38 Special. The King Cobra 357 Magnum revolver came out in 2019, both to great reviews. We were able to shoot the new Python at the 2020 SHOT Show and were impressed.
|Action Type||Revolver, double action or single action|
|Overall Length||13.6 in.|
|Overall Height||6.4 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.74 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||3.7 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded||4.0 lbs.|
|Receiver||Semi-bright stainless steel|
|Front Strap Height||2.5 in.|
|Back Strap Height||4.5 in.|
|Barrel Length||8.0 in.|
|Grip Thickness (Maximum)||1.3 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.2 in.|
|Cylinder Capacity||6 rounds|
|Rear Sight||Adjustable, w/locking screw|
|Front Sight||Fixed ramp with red insert|
|Sight Radius||10.2 in.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Double Action||6.5 lbs.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Single Action||3.9 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||3.5 in.|
|Warranty||1 year limited|
|Telephone||(800) 962-COLT (2658)|
|Made In||Connecticut, USA|
One of the primary features of the earlier Colt revolvers was the feel and quality achieved through hand-fitting of parts. That was great in the day when manual labor was cheap and machine time was expensive, but that is no longer the case. As a result, Colt products had almost priced themselves out of the market. All of these new models have been re-engineered to allow modern production methods that utilize the incredible tolerances possible from computer-controlled machines. The latest addition to the Colt product line is a redesigned version of the Anaconda in 44 Mag. Originally sold from 1990 to 2003, the Anaconda has also been redesigned and strengthened, and some new features added.
The original Anaconda was available only in stainless steel and that is what Colt used for the new version as well. The older style was more of a brushed stainless finish, and the current is what Colt marketers call “semi-bright.” Not quite the polished look, but smoother and brighter than before. We see the same vented rib strengthening the barrel and adding weight out front. We still have the full underlug adding even more weight to counteract recoil. The cylinder is still opened by pulling the latch to the rear, and the cylinder still rotates counter-clockwise.
Then we begin to see some changes. The frame is a bit heavier than before, with a thicker top strap. This provides a strong base for any optics mount and some additional insurance against flame cutting. This revolver comes with a good adjustable rear sight installed. It is also drilled and tapped for three screws that did a great job of holding a Picatinny rail nice and tight. The rear sight must first be removed, but that was easy. To do this, always check to make sure your firearm is unloaded, then remove the elevation screw and access the mounting screw underneath. Remove it and the two plug screws in the top strap and you are ready to go. The Picatinny rail available for this model has a great recoil lug that mounts into the notch normally occupied by the rear sight blade, making for a very secure installation. The front sight, which was pinned on previous models, is now held in place by a set screw accessible from just above the muzzle. The barrel is larger in diameter and features a well-recessed crown. The cam grooves on the cylinder are deeper than before. The chamber mouths are chamfered and the front of the cylinder is beveled. We loved the polish job on the ejector rod. Just a little bit of effort could keep the cylinder spinning for quite some time.
The internal parts have also been upgraded. Very noticeable is the trigger pull brought about, in part, by the adoption of the company’s “Linear Leaf Spring.” We’ve seen reports of the first-edition Anacondas pushing a 13-pound trigger pull. Our Lyman digital trigger gauge measured 10 double-action pulls at an average of 6.2 pounds, with a standard deviation of 7.5 ounces. Single-action pulls averaged 3.9 pounds. Colt was trying to eliminate the “stacking” of the trigger pull that was present on the early versions and, to a large part, they did just that. We could feel just a bit in the last 1⁄8 inch of the trigger stroke, but that is getting picky. Overall, this is one of the best factory-produced double-action triggers we’ve tested. The trigger is wide, and though serrated, is still smooth to operate through the double-action stroke. The hammer has horizontal serrations on it and was easy to manipulate. As we noted above, the grips were made by Hogue.
The Burris 2-7×20 long-eye-relief scope we used on the Colt was very bright and very clear. We limited magnification to just under 3x to keep things equal with the other Burris optic. We thought the low-end magnification was perfect for close-in shots, while the 7-power magnification at the other end of the scope’s range would help a good handgun reach out quite a bit farther. While you are checking out the Burris line of pistol scopes, don’t forget to check out their rings. We liked the fact that their mounting screws were solid, extending all the way through the groove in the Picatinny rail instead of merely securing with the clamp. The bushings provided with the rings did a great job of protecting the scope while securing it tightly. Both the scope and the rings get an “A” grade.
Our Team Said: All that weight out front dampened the recoil a good bit. We won’t call it pleasant, but it was very manageable. The Anaconda averaged group sizes of 0.82 inches across three different kinds of ammunition, showing it also preferred the 320-grain hard-cast lead bullets. The smallest group was a mere 0.46 inches, with an average of 0.61 inches. The longer barrel on the Anaconda also resulted in higher muzzle velocities and energy figures, at least 10% to 12% more than the others.
44 Magnum Range Data
Testing was done at American Shooting Centers in west Houston. Muzzle velocities were determined via a LabRadar chronograph, $559. All shots for group were done from a well-sandbagged Caldwell Pistol Rest from MidwayUSA and aided by a mini-DRC Fortune Cookie bag from Wiebad.com. The handloads for this test were assembled using data from the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. LSWC = lead semi-wadcutter. JSP = jacketed soft point. WNGC = wide nose gas check.
|Hunter’s Supply 240-grain LSWC||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1282 fps||1271 fps||1367 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||883 ft.-lbs.||869 ft.-lbs.||1004 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||1.19 in.||0.86 in.||0.99 in.|
|Best Group||1.05 in.||0.54 in.||0.65 in.|
|Speer Gold Dot 240-grain JSP||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1351 fps||1287 fps||1421 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||973 ft.-lbs.||882 ft.-lbs.||1076 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||1.05 in.||0.98 in.||0.86 in.|
|Best Group||0.49 in.||0.85 in.||0.77 in.|
|Cast Performance Bullet 320-grain WNGC||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1048 fps||1030 fps||1118 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||781 ft.-lbs.||754 ft.-lbs.||888 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||0.86 in.||1.08 in.||0.61 in.|
|Best Group||0.71 in.||0.93 in.||0.46 in.|
Value Guide Powerful Revolver Rankings
|Smith & Wesson Model 29-2 44 Magnum, $1250||Sep. 2021||B+||This Very Good used specimen had a trigger that was a joy to shoot and a beautiful old-school blued finish.|
|Taurus Model 44 2-440049 44 Magnum, $661||Sep. 2021||B||If you want a field gun subject to inclement weather, the Taurus is an easy pick over the M29.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP4WTS 357 Magnum, $1300||Jan. 2021||A||Pricey, but the new Python is a winner, even if it isn’t an exact clone of the original Python.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP6WTS 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A||We really liked the trigger and found the revolver to be quite accurate.|
|Colt Python (1980) 357 Magnum, ~$2500||Jan. 2021||A||The trigger is superb and the royal-blue finish is brilliant. The aftermarket Hogue grip reduces felt recoil.|
|Colt Python (1964) 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A-||It provided good performance and accuracy. This is a shooter and perhaps is a candidate for restoration.|
|Colt King Cobra KCOBRA-SB3BB 357 Magnum, $838||May. 2020||A||Offers good performance with the 3-inch barrel and is well made. Carrying it takes a bit of effort.|
|Rock Island Armory AL3.0 357 Magnum, $504||May. 2020||A-||There was a lot to like, price, accuracy, shooting comfort. Not a beautiful revolver for sure.|
|Rossi Model 971 VRC 357 Magnum, $295||May. 2020||B||A great trigger, and the porting helped keep us on target. But the accuracy was less than stellar.|
|Taurus Raging Hunter Model 2-440085RH 44 Magnum, $683||Dec. 2019||A||The Raging Hunter comes optic ready and offers the versatility of the 44 Mag cartridge.|
|Smith & Wesson PC M460XVR 170262 460 S&W Mag., $1369||Dec. 2019||A||The 460XVR is very versatile, with the ability to shoot a variety of calibers. It comes optics ready.|
|Smith & Wesson S&W 500 163500 500 S&W Mag., $1082||Dec. 2019||A-||Cartridge choice is limited. We found this revolver to be accurate and offer plenty of punch both ways.|
|Taurus Model 66 2-660041 357 Magnum, $371||Oct. 2019||A||Well suited to personal defense and home defense. Good field gun for protection against animals.|
|Taurus 608 Matte Stainless 2-608049 357 Magnum, $548||Oct. 2019||A-||It is a big gun. Just the same, the size and eight-shot capacity made it ideal for home defense.|
|Smith & Wesson M27 Classic 150339 357 Magnum, $909||Oct. 2019||B-||The grips are not the best design for handling magnum loads. Trigger action was very heavy.|
|Ruger GP100 KGP-141 357 Magnum, $500||Sep. 2018||A||The stainless-steel GP100 performs in all categories: accuracy, smoothness, control, and velocity.|
|S&W M66 Combat Magnum 357 Magnum, $420||Sep. 2018||B+||Stainless steel, smooth action, and a round-butt configuration seldom seen on the Combat Magnum.|
|Ruger GP100 GP-141 357 Magnum, $480||Sep. 2018||B+||The blued GP100 doesn’t perform on par with the stainless, and the stainless is easier to maintain.|
|S&W M19 Combat Magnum 357 Magnum, $800||Sep. 2018||B||Came with a display case and a knife with matching serial number — pretty neat, but also pricey.|
|Taurus Model 66 357 Magnum, $325||Sep. 2018||B-||The barrel length of 6 inches did not generate greater velocity. Current-production version is 2-660069.|
|Taurus Tracker 44TRACKER4SS 2-440049TKR 44 Mag., $449||Jan. 2018||A||Best Buy. A formidable revolver. Proved reliable and should be useful as a home-defense revolver.|