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The .44 Remington Magnum, or simply .44 Magnum, is a large-bore cartridge originally designed for revolvers. After introduction, it was quickly adopted for carbines and rifles. Despite the ".44" designation, all guns chambered for the .44 Magnum case, and its parent case, the .44 Special, use bullets of approximately 0.429 in (10.9 mm) diameter.

The .44 Magnum is based on a lengthened .44 Special case, loaded to higher pressures for greater velocity (and thus, energy). The .44 Magnum has since been eclipsed in power by the .454 Casull, among others; nevertheless, it has remained one of the most popular commercial large-bore magnum cartridges. When loaded to its maximum and with heavy, deeply penetrating bullets, the .44 Magnum cartridge is suitable for short-range hunting of all North American game—though at the cost of much recoil and muzzle flash when fired in handguns. In carbines and rifles, these are non-issues.

Magnum 44
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Origin

The .44 Magnum cartridge was the end result of years of tuned hand loading of the .44 Special.[7] The .44 Special, and other large-bore handgun cartridges, were being loaded with heavy bullets, pushed at higher than normal velocities for better hunting performance. One of these hand loaders was Elmer Keith, a writer and outdoors man of the 20th Century.

The .44 Magnum revolver photographed with a high-speed air-gap flash clearly showing the bullet. Elmer Keith settled on the .44 Special cartridge as the basis for his experimentation, rather than the larger .45 Colt. At the time, the selection of .44 caliber projectiles for handloaders was more varied, and .44 special brass was thicker and stronger than the dated .45 Colt case. Also, the .44 Special case was smaller in diameter than the .45 Colt case. In revolvers of the same cylinder size, this meant the .44 caliber revolvers had thicker, and thus stronger, cylinder walls than the .45. This allowed higher pressures to be used with less risk of a burst cylinder.

Keith encouraged Smith & Wesson and Remington to produce a commercial version of this new high pressure loading, and revolvers chambered for it. Smith & Wesson's first .44 Magnum revolver, the Model 29, was built on December 15, 1955 and the gun was announced to the public on January 19, 1956 for a price of $140. Julian Hatcher, (technical editor of American Rifleman) and Elmer Keith received two of the first production models. Hatcher's review of the new Smith & Wesson revolver and the .44 Magnum cartridge appeared in the March, 1956 issue of the magazine. Smith & Wesson produced 3,100 of these revolvers in 1956.

By the summer of 1956, Sturm, Ruger became aware of this project and began work on a single action Blackhawk revolver for the new .44 Magnum cartridge. Popular rumor says a Ruger employee found a cartridge case marked ".44 Remington Magnum" and took it to Bill Ruger, while another says a Remington employee provided Ruger with early samples of the ammunition. Ruger began shipping their new revolver in late November, 1956.

The .44 Magnum case is slightly longer than the .44 Special case, not because of the need for more room for propellant, but to prevent the far higher pressure cartridge from being chambered in older, weaker .44 Special firearms, thus preventing injuries and possible deaths.

The .44 Magnum was an immediate success, and the direct descendants of the S&W Model 29 and the .44 Magnum Ruger Blackhawks are still in production, and have been joined by numerous other makes and models of .44 Magnum revolvers and even a handful of semi-automatic models, the first being the .44 Automag, produced in the 1960s.[11] The debut of the Clint Eastwood star-vehicle film Dirty Harry (1971) prominently featuring the S&W M29 contributed to that model's popularity (as well as the cartridge itself).

Ruger introduced its first long gun, a semi-automatic carbine chambered for .44 Magnum, in 1959, and Marlin followed soon after with a lever action model 1894 in .44 Magnum. Having a carbine and a handgun chambered in the same caliber is an old tradition; the .44-40 Winchester was introduced by Winchester in a lever action in 1873, and Colt followed in 1878 with a revolver chambered in the same caliber. The .38-40 Winchester and .32-20 Winchester were also available chambered in both carbines and revolvers, allowing the shooter to use one type of ammunition for both firearms.

Although improved modern alloys and manufacturing techniques have allowed even stronger cylinders, leading to larger and more powerful cartridges such as the .454 Casull and .480 Ruger in revolvers the same size as a .44 Magnum, the .44 Magnum is still considered a top choice today. In 2006, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the .44 Magnum, Ruger introduced a special 50th anniversary Blackhawk revolver, in the "Flattop" style.

Tips

Because the Magnum 44 is a pistol, it comes with some specific caveats. While it's more mobile and easier to wield than larger weapons, it has a low mag capacity, and a lower average damage than heavier weapons such as the assault rifle. Pistols should be used in close quarters, and typically as second to more heavy primary weapons.

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