Thursday, December 16, 2010

.44 very Special.


I have a soft spot for the .44 Special cartridge. Oh, the .44 Magnum is fine and dandy, but it's a bit much for a casual day at the range; it's quite frankly overkill for most non-big-game-hunting applications. On the other hand, there's no denying the popularity of the .38 Special, but the holes it leaves in the target are smaller and harder for me to see past fifteen yards.

The .44 Special lofts a pretty good-sized chunk of lead, makes a respectable hole, and does so without heavy recoil... at least in the great big guns for which it was intended.

I also have a soft spot for medium-frame short-barreled revolvers with five .44 caliber charge holes instead of six .38s. These guns do not recoil gently. Even the heavier steel-framed ones are pretty zippy, and the alloy-and-titanium ones are borderline vicious.

I've owned a Charco Bulldog Pug in the past. It was beaten to death in only about 300 rounds of 240gr PMC ammunition: By the end of that time, the frame had stretched enough that there was distressing endshake, and the nickel was flaking off the topstrap and forcing cone, giving the gun a leprous appearance. I traded it away.

Later, I had a Rossi 720 "Covert", a fixed-sight 3-inch gun with a spurless hammer. It was ugly in a way that only a Brazilian revolver with faux-stag grips can be, yet actually had a fine DAO trigger, despite once being used as a hammer to put together some particle board bookcases. Sure enough, though, it would lock up during range outings with jacketed 240gr PMC ammo, which was about all I could afford to feed it at the time. It wound up as trade fodder, too.

I had a Smith & Wesson 696 for a while, but never really used it much. The five shot .44 snubbie I've owned the longest is the 296 that has been a constant companion since some time in 2001. Its superlight construction won't let it fire bullets heavier than 200gr without turning into a kinetic bullet puller: This is where the gun recoils briskly enough to the rear that the bullets in the unfired cartridges take a fraction to catch up with it, hanging in space for a moment like Wile E. Coyote after he's stepped off the cliff. They can creep far enough forward in their cases to actually prevent the cylinder from turning.

It made me happy to see friend Matt find hisself a big-bore snubbie. I would counsel using lighter bullets.

23 comments:

perlhaqr said...

I like the .44 Spl and .44 Mag because, in a fit of complete numbers obsessed nerd-tastic geekery, the precise caliber (.429") reminds me of one of my favorite engines from Cadillac, the '65 - '67 429 ci V8.

Yeah, I know, there's really no logical reason for it, I'm just a dork. :)

Jay G said...

Tam,

I'm on a personal quest to bag a 242ti for my collection. There's a gentleman in western MA who has one that he's graciously holding for me until I can generate the funds sufficient for it.

Nice to see its big brother in captivity...

Boat Guy said...

As noted in a previous comment I've still got my Rossi, albeit without fauz stag grips; this one's got Hogue black rubber. All I've ever shot through it is SilverTips which run very well.

Frank W. James said...

Man, that 296 brings back memories. I was there whereever it was when S&W introduced that one. Thought it was ugly, but liked the idea until I got one of the first ones for test.

It went back.

After a quick test session.

But, it is neat IF you have a BIG pocket and an affinity for pain...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Jeff the Baptist said...

I guess I've never understood why to go with .44 special instead of .45 colt. Their performance is practically identical.

Tam said...

Mostly for the better selection of bullets in .429" than there is in .452".

ZK said...

I don't understand why everyone says .44 Magnum is overkill for two-legged animals.

A hot .44 Magnum load still has considerably less energy than the AR15 in my closet, and the zippy hollowpoint magnum loads aren't that much heavier than the .308 right next to it (and much, much, slower). Nobody ever argues that the 5.56 round or the .308 round are too much to stop an attack, and the .44 Magnum isn't even in their league.

I totally agree it's a little impractical due to recoil, but I don't think it's really over-powered. It might be slightly less underpowered than other handgun calibers.

Rob Reed said...

Nice collection. I'm envious. No .44's for me yet though since I missed out on a nice 4" 29 a friend was selling cheap a couple years back. Called him one day too late on that one.

Btw, that "Turd Sucker" special really does stand out in a crowd, doesn't it?

Rob (Trebor)

Anonymous said...

ZK, I once ran my Mountain Gun at an IDPA match. I was able to shoot a couple of stages twice - once with 900 FPS 240 gr LSWCs and again with factory 240 gr JSPs. Significant additional time with the full house factory loads. I like the .44 Special 200 gr Gold Dots for carry. Very acceptable bullets, easy to control recoil.

Ideally, I'd like a 200 grain bullet at 1100 fps, but outside of reloading, the market is too small for a defensive load to those specs.

For those of us with round butt N frames, the X frame grips from S&W also fit the N frame RB (+ K & L frame RBs). These really (!) make the hotter loads much more pleasant to shoot.

Al T.

TBeck said...

Al, it's your lucky day! Speer sells a .44 Magnum load designed for lightweight and short-barreled handguns. It pushes a 200-grain bullet at 1,050 fps. I've used it in my 329PD and the recoil is snappy but by no means uncontrollable. I, too recommend the Hogue X-frame grip for a harsh-recoiling N-frame.

Tam said...

ZK,

"I totally agree it's a little impractical due to recoil, but I don't think it's really over-powered."

The largest part of it is the loadings. Either you get "light zippy hollowpoints" with the sectional density of a dime, or you have heavier bullets (weighing some 4 times the aforementioned 5.56) traveling at speeds that make for serious issues with flash, noise, and follow-up shots.

So, the best SD .44 Magnum load from where I'm sitting would be to keep the heavier bullets, but cut the velocity back to minimize the above problems. In which case you'd have a .44 Special... ;)

Anonymous said...

I have two loads for my 44mag, a 240gr SWC at 1000fps and a hunting load using a 300grWFNGC at 1300fps. Both have the same POI out to 25yds and are close enough out to 100yds for plinking and such (gun is sighted in for the 300s).

I like the 44special, but the only one I own is a 696. It mainly pulls duty as a backwoods CCW and range toy.

Chris

D.W. Drang said...

I really want one of the x96s.

theirritablearchitect said...

"...I've owned a Charco Bulldog Pug in the past. It was beaten to death in only about 300 rounds of 240gr PMC ammunition: By the end of that time, the frame had stretched enough that there was distressing endshake..."

Having the same issue, I think, with your favorite Brazilian manufacturer of Smithy-type wheelguns.

I'm afraid it's going to become little more than a fancy paperweight.

Anonymous said...

The mayor of Springfield, IL shot himself a couple of days ago. He got in his car, in the garage, opened the door halfway, did a hang up call to 911 and shot himself in the heart. No mess and they can still have an open casket. I'm sure his family really appreciated his consideration.

Rivrdog said...

Meh, get a .44 Magnum, and shoot reduced loads or .44 Specials in it at the range. I'll stack up my colt Anaconda 4" against any of Smith's offerings any day, and with the shortie barrel, it's not that much heavier, BUT IT CAN TAKE HOT LOADS!

Matt G said...

Rivrdog, Anacondas are great. Love them. But they're not a daily carry gun.

Tam said...

Anonymouse 12:34,

What that has to do with the topic of this post, I'm not sure.

Would you have preferred he have taken some hostages and ruined some cop's Christmas instead? Or maybe a bit of a murder/suicide in a public place would be more to your taste, you ghoul?

Anonymous said...

Tam:

I'm betting the comment was intended for your "Miss Manners" post but put here in error.

SADShooter

Sigivald said...

Later, I had a Rossi 720 "Covert", a fixed-sight 3-inch gun with a spurless hammer. It was ugly in a way that only a Brazilian revolver with faux-stag grips can be, yet actually had a fine DAO trigger, despite once being used as a hammer to put together some particle board bookcases.

I can only imagine the fake stag was awful, since I have a Rossi 971, and it's perfectly ordinary in terms of wheelgun aesthetics; neither beautiful nor repellent.

(I share the appreciation of the Rossi trigger, though mine isn't DAO.)

Tam said...

Sigivald,

It had fake stag stocks on it because the original bulky fake finger-groove Pachmayrs conflicted with its purpose as a compact carry piece.

Measurements of the frame indicated that square-butt J-frame stocks would fit with minimal modification, but the J-square is not common and of all the gun shops in Knoxville at the time, there were only two sets of J-square stocks. One was an awful Mother-Of-Toilet-Seat and the other was a slightly less awful fake stag.

I hold a grudge against Rossi 971s, since one was responsible for the scar under my left eye...

Gewehr98 said...

Love my 696 No-Dash. Had I known Tam's 696 was up for sale to a fellow forum moderator, I might've intercepted it. I'm glad it went to a good person, though.

Cybrludite said...

Speaking of Brazilian .44 Specials, I've got a Taurus model 445 with the matte finish, which usually serves as my glove-box gun for nightly commuting. I have to leave it in the glovebox when I'm at work, so I take the ammo with me. Without bullets, it doesn't even make a good club. I load it with Remington 180 grain JHPs over 7.8 grains of Accurate #5 or 13.5 grains of Blue Dot. Plenty of oomph, without excessive wear on the gun.