FACTORY LOADS FOR .44s

BY JOHN TAFFIN

            We have now traveled through more than 150 years of .44 firearms history beginning with the Walker Colt of 1847, through the rest of the .44 percussion revolvers, to the first .44 levergun, the 1860 Henry, and the first big bore cartridge firing sixgun, the .44 S&W American. Our last order of business is to look at current factory loads for .44 handguns and rifles. The .44 Henry and .44 S&W are long gone, obsolete, never to be seen again; but that's what we thought about the .44 Colt and .44 Russian and here they are alive and well in the 21st century. All the factory loads for these two cartridges are very mild cowboy shooting loads. The same is true of the .44-40 with several companies offering equally mild cowboy shooting loads plus one jacketed load from Winchester which is so mild it is a total waste of JHPs.

            That bring us to the 20th-century cartridges. I know of no available factory loads for the .445 SuperMag and the only .44 AutoMag loads I know of are from Wildey, the manufacturer of the only semi-auto now chambered for the .44 AutoMag. That leaves us with the .444 Marlin, the .44 Special, and the .44 Magnum. In the .444 Marlin I only have experience with factory loadings from Buffalo Bore and Cor-Bon. Both companies have two jacketed bullet loads and Buffalo Bore also offers one load with a hard cast 325 grain LBT bullet. These are serious, heavy-duty hunting loads designed for maximum penetration on big critters; the following were test-fired from the 18 1/2” Marlin Model 444 Outfitter equipped with a Lyman receiver sight. Groups are for three shots at 50 yards:

Load                                        MV                              Groups

Buffalo Bore 270 JFN              2210 fps                       1 1/2"

Buffalo Bore 300 JFN              2095 fps                       1 1/4"

Buffalo Bore 325 LFN 2009 fps                       1 3/4"

Cor-Bon 280 BC                     2248 fps                       1 3/4"

Cor-Bon 305 JFP                    2070 fps                       1 5/8"

 

            Now that the .44 Special is approaching its 100th birthday we finally have some serious loads available. For self-defense use both Cor-Bon and Buffalo Bore offer a 165 grain JHP with a muzzle velocity over 1150 fps, while Speer loads their 200 grain Gold Dot JHP at around 800 fps, and I have just received several boxes of Cor-Bon’s .44 Specials loaded with 200 grain DPX bullets at 950 fps.  Several companies also offer some very mild cowboy shooting loads, 200 grain bullets under 800 fps, that could easily be used for self-defense not only in the .44 Special but the .44 Magnum as well. Only Buffalo Bore offers anything close to heavy-duty hunting loads in the .44 Special using both the 255 Keith and the LBT 255 WFN (Wide Flat Nose). Groups are five shots at 20 yards.

.44 Special 255 WFN:

Sixgun                                                                          MV                              Groups

Colt New Frontier  2nd Generation 7 1/2"                      1035 fps                       1 1/8"

Colt New Frontier  3rd Generation 7 1/2"                      1006 fps                       1 1/8"

S&W Model 24 6 1/2"                                     1000 fps                       1 1/8"

S&W Model 624 6 1/2"                                               972 fps                        1 1/2"

Ruger OM Super Blackhawk 7 1/2"                             1035 fps                       1 1/8"

Ruger 6 1/2” 50th Anniversary Blackhawk                     1034 fps                       1 5/8”

Reeder #5 Improved 5 1/2”                                          997 fps                         1 1/4”

.44 Special 255 KT

Colt New Frontier 3rd Generation 7 ½”                         1112 fps                       1 ¾”

Colt New Frontier 3rd Generation 5 1/2”                       1062 fps                       1 ¾”

S&W Model 24 6 ½”                                                   1066 fps                       2”

S&W Model 624 4”                                                     1023 fps                       2 ¼”

TLA Improved #5 5 ½”                                                1096 fps                       1 ½”

TLA Flat-Top Target 7 ½”                                           1128 fps                       1 ½”

           

That brings us to the King of the Magnum Sixguns and Cartridges, the .44 Magnum. Until J.D. Jones designed his heavyweight cast bullets for reloading the .44 Magnum, there was nothing available commercially for hunting really big game. Most factory loads used light-jacketed bullets around 240 grains in weight when the situation called for a heavier and tougher bullet. Larry Kelly was almost killed by an African lion while using a 240 grain .44 and the search began for heavier and tougher bullets. If I recall correctly Norma did offer a full metal jacketed load for a while. Now we have many factory loads suitable for hunting really big game, which calls for heavyweight bullets that are either of the hard cast or jacketed flat nose persuasion. The following factory hunting loads were fired through an 8” Dan Wesson .44 Magnum at 25 yards with iron sights with some also fired at 50 yards with a 4X Burris scope in place. Groups are for five shots. The Black Hills 240 JHP is included not because it is a heavy-duty big game bullet but simply because it is so effective on deer-sized game. It has always performed for me taking two dozen whitetails and one cougar all with one shot each. The problem is if it ever fails me I know it will be because of poor bullet placement on my part and not the fault of the ammunition.

Load                                                    MV                  25 Yards          50 Yards

Black Hills 240 JHP                             1370 fps           1"                     1 3/8"

Black Hills 300 JSP                              1205 fps           1 1/8"               1 1/8"  

Black Hills 320 Hard Cast                    1250 fps           1 1/8"              

Cor-Bon 260 Bonded Core                  1497 fps           1 3/8"               2 1/2"

Cor-Bon 280 Bonded Core                  1344 fps           1 5/8"               2 1/4"

Cor-Bon 300 JSP                                1305 fps           1 1/8"  

Cor-Bon 305 Penetrator                       1270 fps             7/8"   

Cor-Bon 320 Hard Cast                       1250 fps           1 1/2"               1 3/4"

Federal 240 Hi-Shok                            1421 fps           1"                    

Federal 300 Hard Cast             1286 fps           1 1/8"               1 3/8"

Garrett 280 Keith SWC                       1431fps              3/4"                1 1/4"

Garrett 310 Keith SWC                       1335 fps           1 3/4"               1 1/8"

Remington 240 JHP                              1468 fps           1 3/4"               7/8"

Speer 270 Gold Dot                             1288 fps             3/4"                2 1/8"

Winchester 250 Partition Gold  1336 fps           1 1/2"  

RCBS 260 Keith/10.0 gr. Uniq 1166 fps           1"                     1"

I also fired the Garrett 310 load at 100 yards with Burris 4X LER scope in place with five shots going into the very satisfactory, and satisfying two-inch group. The new .44 loads from Garrett are known as the Hammerheads  featuring 310 grain and 330 grain LBT hard cast bullets rated at 1300 fps. The heavier bulleted load is designed to be used only in the Ruger Redhawk and Super Redhawk with their longer than normal cylinders. I was pleasantly surprised to find both loads would chamber in my Freedom Arms .44 Magnum. The former Garrett loads with Keith-style bullets would not work in this Freedom Arms .44 Magnum. Test firing the Garrett loads at 50 yards was accomplished with a Freedom Arms .44 with a 7 1/2" barrel and Leupold 2x LER scope, while the Redhawk, also with a 7 1/2" barrel wore a Leupold 4X LER scope.

            The 310 and 330 Hammerheads both came in at 1400 fps with 1 3/8" 50 yard groups in the Freedom Arms, and 1385 and 1355 with groups of 1 5/8" and 2 1/8" in the Redhawk, which had a horrendous trigger pull to its disadvantage. Garrett Cartridges now offers these .44 Magnum loads as their only handgun load and they are for serious handgun hunters who desire power and superior penetration.

A very popular hunting handgun is the Taurus .44 Magnum Raging Bull. The following hunting loads were test-fired through a 6” Raging Bull with iron sights used for

both the 25 and 50 yard five-shot groups:

 

Load                                                                MV                  25 Yards          50 Yards

Black Hills 240 JHP                                         1241 fps           1 1/2"

Black Hills 300 JSP                                          1186 fps           1 1/8"               2 1/2"

Black Hills 320 Hard Cast                                1183 fps           2 1/8"               2 5/8"

Cor-Bon 260 Bonded Core                              1413 fps           1 7/8"

Cor-Bon 280 Bonded Core                              1299 fps           1 7/8"

Cor-Bon 300 JSP                                            1298 fps           1 1/8"               3 3/4"

Cor-Bon 305 Penetrator                                   1217 fps           1 3/4"

Cor-Bon 320 Hard Cast                                   1132 fps           1 5/8"

Federal 240 Hi-Shok                                        1227 fps           1 3/4"

Federal 300 Hard Cast                         1260 fps           1"

Garrett 280 Keith SWC                                   1370 fps           1 3/8"

Garrett 310 Keith SWC                                   1255 fps           2"

Remington 240 JHP                                          1365 fps           2"

Speer 270 Gold Dot                                         1224 fps           2"

Winchester 250 Partition Gold              1359 fps           1 3/8"               3 1/8"

            Buffalo Bore has recently added three Heavy .44 Magnum loads to their extensive lineup of serious hunting loads. They are a 305 grain LBT WFN at 1325 fps; a 300 JFN, also at 1325 fps; and a 270 JFN at 1450 fps.

 

            Not everyone who hunts with a .44 Magnum uses a sixgun; some prefer a lightweight lever action carbine. The problem is not all loads feed through the action and/or chamber in every levergun. This quick reference chart should help when it comes to choosing .44 Magnum hunting loads for leverguns. Yes means they will work though these individual leverguns.

                                                Marlin                          Winchester   Browning  Rossi

Load                                        M336   M1894             M1894             M92                 M92

Black Hills 300 XTP                 Yes      Yes                  Yes                  Yes                  Yes

Black Hills 320 HC                  Yes      Yes                  Yes                  No                   No

Buffalo Bore 270 JFN              No       Yes                  Yes                  No                   Yes

Buffalo Bore 300 JFN              Yes      Yes                  Yes                  Yes                  Yes

Buffalo Bore 305 LBT  No       Yes                  Yes                  No                   No      

Cor-Bon 260 Bonded Core      Yes      Yes                  Yes                  No                   No

Cor-Bon 280 Bonded Core      Yes      Yes                  Yes                  Yes                  No

Cor-Bon 300 XTP                   No       Yes                  Yes                  No                   No

Cor-Bon 305 FP Penetrator     No       Yes                  Yes                  No                   No

Cor-Bon 320 Hard Cast           No       Yes                  Yes                  No                   No

Garrett 310 Keith                     No       Yes                  Yes                  No                   No

Garrett 310 Hammerhead         No       Yes                  No                   No                   No

Garrett 330  Hammerhead        No       No                   No                   No                   No      

Speer 270 Gold Dot                 Yes      Yes                  Yes                  Yes                  Yes     

Winchester 250 PG HP            Yes      Yes                  Yes                  Yes                  Yes                             

Now that a factory hunting load has been chosen for the .44 Magnum levergun what kind of velocities and accuracy can we expect?  Here are a few examples, first through the Marlin .44 Magnum Model 336 with an 18 1/2" barrel followed by the Marlin Trapper Model 1894 with all shots being fired using the factory iron sights:

 

Marlin Model 336 18 1/2”       

Load                                                                MV                  3 Shots/50 Yards

Black Hills 300 XTP                                         1386 fps           1 1/4"

Cor-Bon 260 Bonded Core                              1769 fps             7/8"

Cor-Bon 300 XTP                                           1507 fps             3/4"

Speer 270 Gold Dot                                         1558 fps           1 1/4"

Marlin 1894 Trapper 16 ½”

Load                                                                MV                  3 Shots at 50 Yds

Black Hills 320 Hard Cast                                1379 fps                       2 3/8”

Cor-Bon 260 Bonded Core                              1843 fps                       1”

Cor-Bon 300 JSP                                            1551 fps                       1 1/8”

Cor-Bon 300 XTP                                           1470 fps                       2”

Cor-Bon 320 Hard Cast                                   1497 fps                       2 ¾”

Garrett 310 KT                                                1476 fps                       2 7/8”

Hornady 300 XTP                                            1317 fps                       2 ½”

Speer 270 Gold Dot                                         1515 fps                       1 1/8”

Winchester 250 Partition Gold              1623 fps                       1 ½”

            When compared to such powerhouses as the .458 Winchester or even the .45-70 in long guns, the .44 Magnum may not look all that impressive. However, that is only on paper. In a hunting situation and in the right hands with the right loads, the .44 Magnum, be it sixgun or levergun, can handle anything that walks on four legs.

            This brings us to the end of MY Book of the .44; however a project such as this one is never finished, there just comes a time when we must stop. As I said in the introduction this is only the beginning of THE Book of the .44.

                                                FINIS

              There should be a better way to say it, but if there is I don’t know it.  So I will simply say as the many others have before me, “Where has all the time gone?”  It has been 55 years since I fired that first .44 Magnum.  Others’ experiments with the .44 Special led to the .44 Magnum; I fired the .44 Magnum before I ever saw a .44 Special.  For me the two cartridges and their great six guns have not run in chronological order but rather concurrently.

            It is a rare .44 caliber firearm I have not been privileged to shoot in the past half-century. My somewhat incomplete records show a minimum of 225 .44 caliber handguns and long guns have been fired personally. If I never fire another .44 Special nor .44 Magnum, if I never lever another .44-40 round in a chamber, if I never seat another .44 round ball over black powder, if I never hunt another whitetail, my life has been tremendously blessed and my cup surely runneth over. I do hope there are more .44s to discover in my lifetime, more cartridges to load, more sixguns and leverguns to shoot; and I hope 50 years from now the status of the .44 is such that there is another who appreciates the .44 as much as I do and adds chapters to The Book of the .44.

Good Shootin’ and God Bless,

John Taffin, Boise Idaho

44-1) Hornady’s XTP has proven to be a highly successful handgun hunting

bullet and is now offered in factory form with a choice of 180 JHP, 200 JHP,

240 JHP, and 300 JHP grain bullet weights. Sixgun shown is a Ruger Super

Blackhawk customized by Mag-Na-Port and outfitted with an Old Army grip

frame and Eagle’s UltraIvory grips.

 

 

 

44-2) Cor-Bon is now loading the Barnes DPX bullet in both a 200 grain .44

Special at 950 fps and a 225 grain .44 Magnum at 1350 fps. Sixgun is a

Smith & Wesson 6” Model 29 with ivory micarta stocks by BearHug

 

 

44-3) Cor-Bon’s latest .44s, both Special and Magnum, feature the all copper

Barnes Deep Penetrating X-bullet.

 

 

 

44-4) Taffin's most used hunting load is Black Hills 240 grain .44 Magnum

loaded with Hornady’s XTP-JHP.

 

 

 

44-5) Garrett Cartridges, long known for heavy-duty .44 Magnum loads, now

offers the 310 Defender with a 310 grain FP bullet rated at 1050 fps.

Sixguns shown from top left clockwise are a 4” S&W Model 29, a 4”

S&W Mountain Gun, a S&W 329PD, and a custom Ruger Super Blackhawk.

 

 

 

44-6) Garrett's 310 Defender, a 310 grain FP hard cast bullet at 1050 fps should

be just the ticket for deer-sized game; black bear and hogs as well.

 

 

 

44-7) Ruger's 50th Anniversary Model .44 Magnum handles the Cor-Bon 225

DPX and Black Hills 240 JHP easily and accurately.

 

 

 

44-8) For standard length .44 Magnum cylinders Garrett offers the 310 Hammerhead

load rated at 1325 fps.

 

 

 

44-9) With their longer cylinders and heavy-duty construction, the Dan Wesson

and Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnums will handle the Garrett 330 Hammerhead

rated at 1400 fps. These are serious loads!

 

 

 

44-10) Buffalo Bore offers the full line of heavy hunting loads including Heavy

.44 Magnum with a 305 LBT-LFN at 1325 fps, a 300 JFN at 1325 fps, and a

270 JFN at 1450 fps.

 

 

 

44-11) Cor-Bon’s .44 Magnum loads include a 180 JHP at 1700 fps;

260 Bonded Core, 1450 fps; 300 JSP, 1300 fps; and 305 Penetrator, 1300 fps

 

 

44-12) Speer’s Gold Dot lineup includes a 210 and 240 JHP, and a 270 FP.

 

 

 

44-13) Black Hills now offers the frontier cartridges, .44-40, .44 Colt, and

.44 Russian at standard levels, however they are not for use in old black

powder firearms.

 

 

 

44-14) Black Hills offers two excellent .44 Magnum hunting loads utilizing the

Hornady 240 and 300 grain XTP-JHP bullets.

 

Chapter 43