A hundred years ago, the .44 Special previously used black powder which had been modernized over time. It is imbibed with good handgun cartridges which made it easy for shooters to achieve their aimed target. The .44 Special would have been at its best if the SAAMI had approved its recommended higher velocity and had not stuck to their gun of a maximum of 15,500 p. s. i. Nevertheless, Elmer Keith had so far exhibited the greatest performance of the .44 Special. He loaded it well above pressure limit which sealed the .44 Special as the .44 Mag. Only Ruger and Charter Arms still make the old Special after it was nearly wiped off the market by the .44 Mag.
With deep roots in American shooting culture, the .44 Special is as old as the Smith & Wesson’s big N-frame Revolvers. Its resurgence came as a self-defense cartridge this time around with modifications. However, this had given manufacturers the much-needed green light with lots of releases featuring 200-grain JHP bullets. This serves as an alternative to the .38 Special and the .357 Mag.
Judging from the low recognition attributed to the .44 Special, one would think this rifle is just a random rifle, and this is a very wrong assertion. In 1907, there was a modification to the .44 Russian Cartridge by increasing the length of the case to contain more powder capacity. So, it moved from the original 246-grain round nose bullet over 26 grains of black powder. This delivered a muzzle velocity of 780 fps.
However, Elmer Keith’s writings and experiments changed the whole face of the .44 Special. He turned target cartridges into a whole new hunting cartridge and lobbied heavily on its use by hunters. Though opinion varied, and it got swept under the rug. Remington also modified the case further by increasing it with 125 inches. It became the .44 Remington Magnum as of 1955, all thanks to Elmer’s experiments and writings. That hammered the last nail to the .44 Special coffin.
Even with the fact that the .44 Special could be used in a .44 Rem Mag just like the .38 Special in a .357 Magnum, only a few handguns possess it. However, cowboy activities had recoiled the birth of the .44 Special as well as the people who still prefer it. It’s a little wonder why Ruger unveiled the .44 Special attached to their GP 100 Revolver.
The GP 100 is no doubt a rugged rifle. The .44 Special Model 1761 fits this revolver so well since it is suited for a multi-use handgun. With the .44 Special present, it’s the perfect self-defense rifle. The .44 Special carries a 3-inch barrel with a fiber front sight and adjustable, white outline rear sight. This gun can be used outdoors, it’s a perfect choice for hunters, fishermen or wilderness explorers.
No doubt the .44 Special is an old one but how about testing it with modern adjustments? Its defensive cartridge gives consumers exactly what they need, and this paves the way for an increase in the demand of the .44 Special ammo. Even with hollow point bullets and hand loads, I still maintain my stance on the factory ammo and hand loaded ammunition when it comes to personal needs.
Talking about bullets, they have been modernized and improved over the years. However, for self-defense, the bullet needs to penetrate the vital organs and cause severe damage. This is to have a harsh effect on the body system. Thus, some might stop in fat or muscles, and the one that penetrates too deep might end up going through and hit bystanders. The ideal penetration for defensive ammo is 12” and 18”.
Did I test its accuracy before making my assertion? Yeah! I tested its accuracy, penetration, and expansion. 25 yards away lies a sandbag used for the accuracy test. 10 feet from the muzzle, I took the velocity test. Smith and Wesson Model 629 with a 4” barrel was fired for five individual groups. The fresh Ruger GP 100 was used to test penetration and expansion with 10% of ballistics gel used. With two rounds fired, 10 feet away to check performance and three fired through layers of cotton materials, a layer of Polartec 200 fleece insulation and a layer of denim. This was carried out as the standard FBI procedure for hollow point efficacy.
From my test above, I realized that the .44 Special was quite over exaggerated as it failed to meet up with its expectations. It was unable to expand and over penetrate. Its load was quite underpowered. However, out of the tested Specials, the Speer Gold Dot proved to be the best choice with its accuracy, consistency, expansion and penetration, and explicit bullet weight.
Unlike the .38 Special whose almost perfect features paved way to the manufacturing of the slightly longer version – the. 357 Mag. This is because it will aid the hotter Magnum ammunition against lesser firearms majorly designed for the .38 Special. The .44 Special had been in vogue since the 20th century, and its accuracy was respected among equals. But, had been facing serious challenges with its modern counterparts especially with its +P SAAMI pressure standard.
In comparison, the .44 Special and the .45 Automatic didn’t have that much of a difference. Though, the .45 Automatic has Model 1911 Government Model which was also used for Colt and Smith and Wesson Model 1917 Revolvers. Even with the stiff competition from their 21,000 p.s.i counterparts, both rifles still maintained their reputation. Imagine the firepower the .44 Special will emit as a defensive or even hunting cartridge with 21,000 p.s.i.
Coincidentally, Ruger released its 3 inches GP 100 with a .44 Special cartridge and this gave a very stiff competition to its counterparts. The .44 Special starts falling out of favor and magnum revolvers took it place. This was said to have been created by hand loaders, with a large contribution from Elmer Keith. The case now became longer to contain more powder with the bullet going faster than the actual factory load. However, Magnum does the same thing but with a little longer case for more powder, thus, gaining reputation.
Benefits of Shooting .44 Special
Firstly, one might overlook its cartridge, but the truth remains, it’s more of a medium velocity big bore cartridge. In comparison, it has the same ballistics attribute with the .45 ACP with a muzzle velocity of 800 to 900 feet per second in many loadings and 300-foot pounds of energy. This shows the level at which a .44 Special is equivalent to the .45 ACP in this aspect.
Secondly, the .44 Special is cheaper compared to .44 Magnum. It also has less recoil, and this automatically makes shooting relatively inexpensive. The .44 Special can be shot for more extended periods than the .44 Magnum. Thirdly, the ability to chamber the .44 Special in .44 Magnum revolvers makes it preferable to shooters for practice.
Available .44 Special Revolver
There is a wide range of choices to be made when it comes to the .44 Special revolver.
The full size and compact models, the famous Charter Arms Bulldog, the Snub nose double action 5 shot compact. However, the Bulldog comes in different configurations.
And if you are looking for a rifle to connect you with the past era, the .44 Special is just perfect. Taking a shot with this rifle is heartwarming and fulfilling. It’s more like shaking hands with legendary Skeeter Skelton and Charles Askins. I hope the .44 Special is given its due refurbishment.