Big Steel — The Taurus M44 .44 Magnum

By Bob Campbell published on in Guest Posts, Handguns, Hunting, Revolvers

The .44 Magnum is something of a wonder cartridge. It is all that most of us are willing to handle in a sidearm. There is no sugarcoating the recoil of the big magnum—it can be brutal. Yet the .44 Magnum is among the most accurate handgun cartridges. It is as deadly as a high power .30 caliber rifle against game at moderate range—perhaps more so.

Taurus revolver with black grip and silver barrel pointed to the left on a white background.

The Taurus revolver is a brute of a handgun, but friendly to the skilled user.

It is a challenge to master the type, but once mastered, no hunting handgun will serve you better. Some people like the .44 for personal defense. If you favor the reliability of the revolver, there is a lot to be said for the big .44. Today there are more powerful handguns than the .44 Magnum. However, unless you have thoroughly mastered the .44 Magnum, you have little business with the .454 Casull or .480 Ruger. My hat is off to the big burly types who deploy these heavy revolvers.

For most of us who really need a big bore, or are simply interested in the challenge of mastering the big Magnum, a quality four-inch barrel .44 Magnum is ideal. Among the most practical modern .44 Magnum handguns is the Taurus M44 in stainless steel. This revolver is not one of the new breed of ultra lightweight revolvers.

The Taurus Magnum is a Heavy Duty Accurate Revolver

I am not up to handling a revolver that feels whippy in the hand and kicks brutally when firing Magnum charges. No, at 45 ounces, the heavy-barrel Taurus is the ideal handgun for all around use with this powerful and accurate cartridge. And what use might the .44 Magnum be suited? For those who trust the revolver over the automatic, the Taurus is as modern as today’s headlines.

For hikers who may be confronted by an angry bear, or one of the big cats, the M44 is ideal. It is a common thread in animal attacks that the revolver is pressed against the skin of the animal, at which time it is fired repeatedly after the animal bowls a human over during an attack. As a practical matter, no automatic can compare in this regard.

44 Magnum on left side, barrel pointed to the right, with black grip against orange and yellow shapes. There is a .357 Magnum on the right with a black grip, barrel pointed upward.

The .44 Magnum (left) isn’t that much larger than a .357 Magnum (right) but gets the business done.

If you need long-range accuracy, few handguns are as accurate as a target-sighted .44 Magnum revolver. The four-inch barrel revolver is relatively fast from leather and capable of good accuracy.

At any rate, it is controllable with the proper loads—and practice. While the M44SS4 is heavier than some handguns, you will appreciate the weight when touching off full-power Magnum loads.

You may also appreciate the conservative, effective, barrel ports. Located in rows of four on each side of the front sight post, these ports affect velocity—but little. More importantly, they curtail muzzle flip to a noticeable degree.

The front sight sports a red insert and is approximately 1/8-inch thick. The rear sight sports a white outline and is fully adjustable. I think it is noteworthy that the rear sight is of a new design and far more robust than previous revolver adjustable sights. A single screw secures the long leaf holding the sight to the revolver. I like this improvement very much.

Another thing I like about the Taurus revolver is its appearance. The stainless finish is nicely polished. The lines are traditional, even with the incorporation of the heavy underlug barrel and barrel ports, and the balance is good.

When examining the revolver for lockup, there was little-to-no play in the action with a cocked hammer. The Taurus is as solid as an anvil and the grips are worth discussing. The Taurus Tracker line uses ribber grips which are quite popular. The M44SS4 uses a more conventional rubber grip with a pebble groove surface. The first thing you notice is this grip is smaller than the heavy, wooden-checkered grips common to many large revolvers.

These grips are probably the smallest useful grips for use with the .44 Magnum cartridge. They are ideal for most hand sizes in single action fire and remain controllable in double-action fire. Practice and accommodation with the firing grip  often delivers good results with this grip size. It is important to note the hand is shielded from metal at all times when firing this revolver. There is no need for aftermarket grips.

The transfer bar firing system is thoroughly modern and deserves some attention. When the hammer is at rest, the hammer cannot touch the frame-mounted firing pin. The transfer bar only rises when your press the trigger completely to the rear—breaking the hammer from the sear. At this point the transfer bar rises and the hammer smacks the transfer bar impacting the firing pin and firing the revolver.

Taurus .44 Magnum, barrel pointed to the right, with a black grip on a dark-to-light gray background centered on a bright red shape.

The author finds the Taurus M44SS4 nice looking and nice shooting handgun.

When the hammer rebounds, the transfer bar is once against in the safe position. There is also personal evidence that the transfer bar system, coupled with the frame mounted firing pin, is more resistant to higher pressure—causing a primer to flow back into the firing pin channel and lock the revolver up.

In short, there are design features evident in the M44SS4 that make it a good choice for Magnum cartridges.

The action is smooth. Like most modern actions, the Taurus has smoothed with use. I estimate the double-action trigger at about 13 pounds—optimum for good double-action control. The key to double-action trigger control is to press the trigger smoothly, and take time for trigger reset with each press of the trigger. The single-action trigger is smooth and crisp at 5.25 pounds. While the revolver handled well enough, the proof of any handgun is in the firing.

Firing the Taurus M44 .44 Magnum

For this Shooter’s Log evaluation, I began with light practice loads. The .44 Magnum revolver handles the .44 Special cartridge and the .44 Russian as well. The gentle push of the .44 Special makes firing the heavy-barrel Taurus a joy. Make no mistake; this isn’t a powder-puff cartridge. A 246-grain RNL bullet at 780 fps has been known to suffice. The Winchester loading uses a hollow base bullet and this combination leads to gilt-edged accuracy.

From a solid bench rest at a long 25 yards, several five-shot groups of 1.5 to 2 inches were delivered on demand. That would be match-grade accuracy in a good self loader, although simply average for the .44 Magnum revolver. Moving to a heavier defense load, the Federal 200-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow point breaks just over 800 fps. Double-action pairs were also delivered with good results on man-sized targets at seven and 10 yards.

This is a good controllable load for personal or home defense. The longevity of both the handgun, and you as the shooter, are aided by use of a light load like this. From the bench rest, the Federal loading turned in groups averaging 2 to 2.5 inches. This is certainly well beyond any reasonable expectations.

Red and Black Box of American Eagle pistol cartridges with some cartridges in the open box and some scattered below the box on a mottled light gray background.

Federal’s 240-grain JSP American Eagle loading is clean burning, accurate and reliable.

If you handload—and you should—powerful combinations may be worked up that are powerful amd controllable. As an example, among my all-time favorite, all around, go anywhere, do anything loads is a combination of Unique powder and the Hornady 180-grain XTP for 1100 fps. This is a hot .44 Special, loaded in the Special case and gilt-edged accurate. The XTP may be light, and definitely breaks the rules. The 180-grain load penetrates and expands well at this velocity. From the 25-yard test, a singular group of 1.0-inch was managed, although the average was 1.5 inches.

For deer-sized game, and wild hogs, the full power .44 Magnum is useful. I fired a few from the bench; the full power loads were almost startling. When you are bracing on the bench rest there is less give. I began with the affordable American Eagle .44 Magnum 240-grain JSP. This is a load with a clean burn and good accuracy. The best group for five shots at 25 yards was 2.5 inches.

The Hornady 240-grain XTP in the full power Magnum load settled into 2.2 inches. I also fired 20 of the powerful Hornady 300-grain XTP loads. I have to admit, perhaps a heavier handgun may be better suited to this sledgehammer load but just the same, I managed a 2.0-inch 25-yard group with this hammerhead load. Then, I rubbed my wrists for a time.

A Taurus .44 Magnum being held in both hands of a person, barrel pointed left with dirt in the foreground and trees in the background.

The Taurus .44 Magnum is intelligently designed and fits most hands well.

What is the Best Use of the Taurus Magnum?

This dog will run and the accuracy demonstrated by the M44SS4 is clearly adequate for hunting thin-skinned game well past 75 yards. I would hesitate to take an animal in the sights at 100 yards with any iron-sighted handgun, and the Taurus is definitely an accurate handgun. It is well suited to rough and tumble pursuits such as boar hunting.

If the revolver is your gun, the Taurus would make a fine, home defense weapon—with a thoughtful choice in .44 Special ammunition. For defense against animals, it is the one to beat. In the end, I found a reliable, accurate handgun with enough accuracy for any likely chore. If you have a need for a powerful revolver, that will do the business at a fair price, the Taurus M44SS4 is among the best choices in modern revolvers.

Do you use a Magnum? Have you tried the Taurus? Let us know in the comment section.

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (9)

  • Bill from Boomhower, Texas

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    Nice write up Bob, I no longer own a .44, but was always a revolver man, and really miss the 7 1/2″ Super Blackhawk I once had, and could shoot so well. Hindsight, you know. I have recently read how accurate the .44 Special is also, and it wouls seem to be a perfect match for everyday shooting with this gun. I totally aggree with your statement about profficiancy with larger than .44 Mag calibers. I’ve never owned any kind of Tarus, but awhile back read that they have become as viable an option, as choosing a S&W, Ruger, or Colt for any shooting task.
    Like I said, I never owned or fired one, and really haven’t researched them, but if that is the consensus, Tarus is amoung good company. The photo in the article shows what looks to be a good, serviceable, reliable handgun, one which would be a good choice for being in bear/cat country, and the stainless would be appealing, as well as the smaller, rounded grip. The pebble finish sounds like a comfortable plus, and the beefy looking ejector rod housing etc, makes it appear rather nose heavy, which would be a good thing also. Looks like it’d be a great gun scoped too, maybe with a nice shoulder rig. Of course, handloading for this gun would be simple compared to an auto, and fun and interesting too. Thanks for the aricle.

    Reply

  • jon

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    i pretty much disagree with the whole article of mr cambells. first, it is not suited for home defense. it will blow a hole through anything it hits inside your house, go through the siding and play hell with the next house up the street or kill an innocent kid that is just [playing outside. secondly it may be accurate with a light load and a light grain bullet out of the taurus 4 inch bbl. the whole gun is a misconcieved arm. why would you buy a gun that is a 44 magnum, then put a compensater on it.that may help you to aim but it also takes away from the power of the bullet. i think this is called foot pounds of energy??? then use it indoors as a home defense weapon??? it makes no sense. and another point, if you are going to man up and buy a 44 magnum from taurus, just buy the real taurus…the raging bull 44 magmun with all those features plus it has a 6 inch plus bbl. on it. . i have owned a ruger super redhawk for almost 20 years and i have shot a lot of ammo through it. it has a 10 and a half inch bbl on it. i read stories of one famous individual that killed a deer at 200 yards with this gun. with open sights and a 300 grain bullet. after all of the different loads i have shot through it, the federal premium 300 grain bullet was so accurate, that i went out and put a leupold 2 to 7 power scope on mine. . i say dont be misled, the taurus raging bull with the long bbl is perfectly well suited just like the ruger and just as accurate according to articles i have read, and also, just as heavy to haul around. so hunt with it!! does anybody out there really want to blow all the windows out of their house, wreck their hearing, and take the chance of killing a nearby neighbor???? i dont think so. i own a 9 mm for home defense….it may be a little too big for close encounters. but it wont go through the person i will shoot with it and endanger everybody else in the neighborhood!

    Reply

    • Frank

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      Jon, if you read the first part of this the writer is talking about a 246 grain@ 780 fps and 200@800fps under firing the 44. These loads are no
      hotter than a 45 what are you talking about punching holes into neighbors house with these rounds? As for the compensator it will give a
      slight loss of fps but its not that drastic of change and makes follow up shots easyier.
      This is a great gun to own I have one for multi purpose as a carry and for the woods. Of course I’m not going loaded with 300 grain hard cast for personal defense. I use 44 special loads and what is nice if you hand load you can make them a little hotter with out over penatration. Which I think makes this a very versitile gun who is going to carry around a 6” revolver or longer in any cal? It limits its function to just a woods gun. I don’t think the writter is suggesting using hot 44 magnum loads for home or ccp use tho if you live out in the country like I do and your closest neighbor is 1/4 mile away with woods between its not a big deal to use magnum rounds in home defense. The most dangerous round is the one that misses not over penatrates. IMHO.

      Reply

  • Bill from Boomhower, Texas

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    Ok, perhaps I am wrong in my assesment as presented. It appears there are only a couple of sentences in the whole article purtaining to defense, and they dealt with particular factory loadings, I believe.
    In reading the article, I guess I saw the gun as being very well suited for use in country where man is not neccessarily at the top of the food chain, as a second sidearm when hunting, fishing, or just camping in open remote country. I never even considered it for home defense, I already own, and can think of much better choices. Since I’m not familiar with Tarus products, I wasn’t aware of the Raging Bull you soke of jon, but figured the company probably offered some such 6″ iteration, which would definately be my choice, if I prefeered Taurus revolver, and wanted a scoped shoulder rig for a primary weapon. While not suited for every purpose and everybody, this probably wouldn’t be a bad choice, I’d think.
    When you get a chance Bob, give us some articles featuring Contenders, please.

    Reply

  • Denny Bonwell

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    I like what you said about 44 mags. it is my favorite cal. I got suprised when I got aholed of 18″ barrled taurus “revolver” rifle, it has turned into my favorite for many things, at top of list is boar hunting, and I back it up with a 5.5″ barrled ruger blackhawk 44 mag. You only carry one round that works for both, and feel very well armed for ANYTHING.

    Reply

  • Elijah

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    I have a Taurus Raging Bull (whatta corny name). They are pretty much the same gun aside from barrel length (and the added weight that come with this). It fires really well, very accurate, and almost out to the same ranges as my old carbine. It really is fun to fire. The only problem I have so far is that the cylinder gap between the barrel and cylinder allows too much venting in my opinion. I am not sure if there is some design reason for this, but it makes it a bit of a chore to clean. Other than that, I haven’t experienced any problems.
    I have heard people complain about the metal being a zinc alloy instead of “American steel,” but I really haven’t noticed any defects or denting, even with my rough treatment.
    Hopefully I will still feel as good about it a couple thousand rounds down the road.

    Reply

  • mike j

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    I have a 44 special Taurus snub nose highly polished stainless with wooden grips, must be at least 16 years old, in great condition. seems a little heavy, but it fires smooth. very little recoil. My 357 Ruger will knock your socks off compared to the Taurus, and I feel that the Taurus has much more power behind it cause of it being a 44. easier to fire and better at the range with it.

    Reply

    • Frank

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      Mike, yes the 44 special is a great round that has sort of been forgotten about makes a big hole and no over penatration unless using round nose ammo. In my reply to Jon I mentioned I have the 44 magnum which gives you more options for rounds and the added weight absorbs recoil. The 357 is a great round too and with that gun you can also use 38′s in it. I bet that 44 special is nice.

      Reply

  • Joe

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    Bob, I have a Taurus Tracker Magnum 44 and I wonder if the grip on TSM44SS4 will fit on the Tracker… If so, where can I buy that kind of grip?

    Reply

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