Here comes an ashtray at 1,420 FEET PER SECOND! This train needs no tunnel—it makes them. This week I am going to make my hero, Dirty Harry, so proud of me. However Mr. Harry, one correction, it was not the gun, but the cartridge that made this the most powerful handgun ever made, the .44 Remington Magnum. In 1955, a joint effort between Smith & Wesson and Remington resulted in the creation of this beast. The gun would become the iconic Smith & Wesson Model 29 in the new N frame. The N stands for big bad gun, with a heavy frame. The frame had to be heavy as this cartridge would be the most powerful cartridge for a handgun in mass production to date.
The brainchild of the legendary Elmer Keith is this cartridge, a symbol of the old school ways in this hobby of ours. He was a big proponent of the so-called hand-cannon. With numerous tweaks and several years of hard work, he and some of his close associates arrived at this staple cartridge. It is a .44 Special on steroids.
Range, power, and accuracy were the goals of these wildcat designers, and they nailed it! While most recognize it as the choice caliber of Dirty Harry, the cartridge became more of a staple round in the handgun-hunting arena. The cartridge is usually too much for urban law enforcement. When fired from the gun, the bullet tends to go through things like people, cars, and brick walls. Bullets like this have a nasty habit of penetration, creating a domino affect. The remaining energy is a kinetic energy nightmare that makes lawyers salivate.
Yes, I fully understand that it will crack an engine block, but in 16 years of law enforcement, an engine block never attacked me or anyone else. When cars usually attacked, I got out of the way. The .357 magnum was capable of what the .44 Magnum could do when it comes to car doors. Currently, the .40 S&W is more than capable of going through the metal of car doors.
As previously stated above, the true value of this cartridge still exists in the hunting arena. With velocities that can reach up to 1,700 fps, this cartridge can have the same energy as a 30-30 rifle. Thus, almost all North American game is easily within the energy range for this handgun cartridge. Yes, there are rifles that chamber this round, but why? It is a handgun cartridge and there are better rifle rounds if you are going with the long gun. The challenge is in the handgun and I believe Mr. Keith would agree with me.
Let’s talk numbers on this big boy. The energy for today’s most popular cartridges are around 250, 330, 375, and 490 foot-pounds. This is for the .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, and the .40 S&W respectively. The .44 Remington Magnum comes in at a whopping 950 foot-pounds of energy. Even the mighty 10mm falls way short at around 575 foot-pounds.
Still in production today, almost every major manufacturer of ammunition makes the .44 Magnum. It has seen some competitors like the .454 Casull and the .500 S&W Magnum, but they have yet to knock this king off the throne.