Cartridge of the Week, the .44 Remington Magnum

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.

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.

Smith&Wesson Model 29 .44 Remington Magnum

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.

Elmer Keith – Serving it up old school

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.

.45 A.C.P. (left) .44 Remington Magnum (Right)

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.

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Comments (17)

  1. I hate to state the obvious but gun dealers/ammo mfgs will rejoice! I suspect you may know a gun dealer that voted for Oboma! FYI-On FOX network they stated 1/3(don’t know if this is true?) of NRA members are from Penn. which which went totally Oboma???
    If you follow the gun biz MONEY it’s all for Oboma! Like it or not….

  2. In all fairness, some states like my home state of Indiana, don’t allow rifles for deer hunting unless they’re chambered in magnum handgun cartridges like .357, .44 mag, .45 long Colt, etc.

  3. My 629 is a dream and by far the most accurate of all of my hand guns. My dad and I both have .44’s (he has a Desert Eagle) and some of our best times together are in the garege, havin a beer, watching a game on TV and loading up a bunch of new .44 rounds. My mag will be with me and my family for a long long time.

  4. Yeah Big John, mine was a 7 1/2″ blued Super Blackhawk w/ Pachmeyr rubber and a PolyChoke ventrib at the same time you had your RedHawk, and my then best friend had a stainless like yours. I could hit whatever I aimed that gun at with one hand, even while carrying a rifle, shotgun, and day pack while hiking, just like it was a .22. I even shot it better than the .38 Specials, and the .357 Hawes I frequently shot back then as. A young, healthy man. I also shot an old model 6 1/2″ .357 blackhawk, and a 4 5/8″ Super Single Six w/ Staghorn grips and the extra magnum cyl. Back then, I really enjoyed my single action revolvers. Today, I don’t have a single one of those guns, but as much as I miss them all, in retrospect I really should have kept the .44. I hand loaded for them, and of course the versatility that offers combined with being able to control the gun so well……….. Well, let’s just say I humbley regret giving up that one. I had intended to scope it, and always wanted to hunt big hogs from the ground with it. Always wanted to take a Mountain Goat wwith a 25.06 too, but that never seemed to happen either. Reading this post makes me long for another one. Nowadays, I’d probably be happy just working up loads, and lobbing them at steel targets at long, long ranges.

  5. a quibble, the “n” frame was not all that new, just cosmetic changes, the shrouded ejector rod, longer barrel, adjustable rear and ramped front sights, and grips with a filler behind the trigger guard, but the same basic frame as the old m1917 smith .45 acp i once owned. but yes, both the model 29 and my m1917 were good solid guns.

  6. I own a Ruger Alaskan and S&W 629 Hunter. I have a T/C Super 14 Contender that I had rebored, it’s 44 Mag, plus I can shoot 444 Marlin round in it.

  7. My first centerfire firearm was a handgun, a 7.5″ Ruger Redhawk, 1987. Learned to shoot with it and everything else was a squirtgut at the time. For the heavier calibers available today the same principles apply–hold steady and squeeze. The bullet will be clear of the barrel before you realize you are under recoil if you follow that format regardless of cartridge.

  8. I’ve owned several versions of the 629. Now I have a Ruger Alaskan. The .44 mag is a pussycat to shoot. Mine is strictly for bear and cougar protection. I shoot it well and fast and that’s all I need to be able to do.

  9. Overkill for most everything except hunting which I don’t partake in. I’ll stick with the 583f/p of full power .357mag, thank you very much.

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