September 2007

4-Inch .44 Magnum/Special Revolvers: Ruger Redhawk Wins

We thought the Redhawk was the best in this test by virtue of its accuracy and easy shooting. S&Wís 629 gets an ďFĒ for mechanical problems. The Taurus 444MULTI needed tweaking.

When new revolvers are introduced, they donít get the fanfare afforded the latest semi-auto. Thatís why you might have missed out on the latest crop of big-bore wheelguns.

In this test we will try to make up for it by pitting two steel-framed forty-fours against an ultra-lightweight revolver of the same caliber ó Taurusís 444MULTI, $666 ó that could make carrying a bigger gun more inviting. The stainless-steel guns are the $916 Smith & Wesson Model 629 No. 163603 and Rugerís $780 Redhawk KRH-444.

[IMGCAP(1)]If there is any comparison to be drawn between these revolvers and the world of semi-automatic pistols, it is perhaps the appeal of the big bullet. The small-bore high-capacity frenzy seems to have abated, and now it seems that every manufacturer is making a 45-caliber pistol. With the release of more .44s, revolver makers may also be saying when capacity is limited, why not chamber a larger caliber? But when that thinking includes .44 Magnum/.44 Special ammo, two important questions remain: Will the Magnum ammunition prove too punishing?, and will the .44 Specials be accurate enough?

To answer these questions we tested from a distance of 25 yards with two loads of .44 Remington Magnum and two loads of .44 S&W Special. They were 240-grain Federal Fusion .44 Magnum No. F44FS1, 240-grain American Eagle .44 Magnum jacketed hollow points No. AE44A, 200-grain Winchester .44 Special Silvertip HP No. X44STHPS2, and Winchesterís 246-grain lead roundnose ammunition No. X44SP.

Before testing each gun, we lubricated it with BreakFree CLP. Lubrication points on the revolvers were the barrel and chamber bores, the ratchet lugs, and the bushing in front of the cylinder. We also pulled back the hammer and placed a few drops of oil inside the frame. Whenever we transitioned from the Special to the Magnum loads, we scrubbed inside each chamber. This is because the shorter Special rounds can deposit debris at the hotspot where the tip of each case empties into the chambers. A buildup of debris can reduce the volume of the chamber and increase pressure. In extreme conditions, such as when it becomes necessary to push the longer magnum rounds into place, the extra pressure can be dangerous.

To collect accuracy data, all shots from the bench were fired single action only from a distance of 25 yards. Repeat fire was tested using the double-action trigger at shorter distances. We didnít expect to be able to shoot the magnum ammunition quickly, but we wondered about the .44 Special loads. Was there enough stopping power from each round to justify a shorter recovery time between each shot? Letís see how our six shooters measured up.

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