Review: SIG Sauer Big Bore Defense Loads — .44 Special and .45 Colt

Traditions revolver with a box or SIG Sauer V-Crown ammunition

Recently, SIG Sauer broadened its line of defensive ammunition with two big bore revolver loads. The .44 Special V-Crown and .45 Colt V-Crown offer good choices for personal defense. Before we look at the performance of each load we should look at the cartridges. The .45 Colt is the older cartridge, introduced in 1873. The .45 Colt has been loaded with different weight bullets but traditional performance is a 255-grain conical load at about 850 fps in most revolvers.

Traditions revolver with a box or SIG Sauer V-Crown ammunition
The author found SIG ammunition to be clean burning and accurate.

Modern Ruger revolvers may take loads considerably hotter. This is why handloading manuals have sections marked Ruger Only! A standard handload for good tight Colt SAA revolvers and Smith and Wesson double-action revolvers is a 255-grain SWC at 900 fps. The problem ammunition companies have is that they must load cartridges to a safe pressure level for older revolvers and the lowest common denominator. That is why most Cowboy Action loads are at the 750 fps level.

Just the same, even .45 Colt loads with modest velocity often demonstrate excellent penetration. The .45 Colt is a proven stopper and an accurate cartridge in a good tight revolver. I tested the newest offering from SIG Sauer in a Traditions SAA revolver. With a 4 ¾-inch barrel, this is a fast handling, easy-packing handgun I often carry in a Rocking K belt slide when hiking or simply picking for antiques in the rural areas.

The SIG Sauer V-Crown load features a nickel plated cartridge case for smooth chambering and extraction. The projectile weighs 230 grains inviting us to think this is very similar to the JHP used in the .45 ACP case. This bullet, however, features a crimping groove. I loaded the revolver and took aim at a 15-yard target and fired a five-shot group. Recoil was modest, and the five shots went into a 1.2-inch group. This is an accurate combination. Average velocity is 790 fps.

upset .45 Colt V Crown JHP bullet
After penetration several water jugs the .45 Colt V Crown JHP, perfectly expanded, case to a rest.

In testing the load by firing into water, the V-Crown hollow point penetrated 18 inches of water and expanded to .83 inch. That is service grade performance. Yet, recoil was mild. This is a reliable loading for personal defense. Those who own one of the many quality single-action revolvers chambered for this caliber, or the increasingly difficult to find Smith and Wesson .45 Colt double-action revolver, will find this a suitable home defense loading.

The .44 Special is by far the younger cartridge—introduced in 1908. The .44 Special was designed for double action revolvers and intended to carry on the excellent reputation for accuracy demonstrated by the .44 Smith and Wesson American and .44 Smith and Wesson Russian cartridges. Nominal ballistics are a 246-grain bullet at 750 fps. This superbly accurate and mild shooting big bore cartridge became very popular.

Eventually, it was hot rodded with heavy loads and this experimentation led to the .44 Magnum cartridge. Guns were wrecked and worn out along the way. But the .44 Special in its original form is a fine target cartridge and none too shabby for personal defense with the right combination. A fly in the ointment of heavy loads are lightweight revolvers such as the out of production Rossi five shooter and the Charter Arms Bulldog. They are not well suited to heavy loads.

2 upset V-Crown bullets
The blunt nose causes damage while the long shank ensures penetration—this is a good design.

While a modest upgrade in velocity is acceptable, wear on the small parts will eventually put these handguns out of business. Ruger has introduced a five-shot .44 Special on the GP100 frame that may be among the strongest revolvers ever built in this caliber. Handloaders and specialty ammunition makers will find the Ruger an excellent field gun and fertile ground for specialized loadings.

Meanwhile, those wishing to use the five-shot .44 Special for personal defense have a viable option in the V Crown JHP loading. From the Ruger GP100’s 3-inch barrel, this 200-grain loading breaks at 756 fps. Accuracy is good to excellent at 2.0 inches for a 15-yard group. This load penetrated 14 inches of water and expanded to .76 caliber. Control was excellent.

Each of these loads offers good accuracy and a clean powder burn. Muzzle flash is limited. Recoil is modest. For anyone owning a new revolver in these big bore calibers or those owning an older revolver they wish to press into service, these are good choices.

What experience have you had with SIG’s V-Crown ammunition? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. These 2 new loads sound as if they would work well for self defense in the older pistols such as Colt or Hawes or S&W revolvers. The new load in .44 Special and the Ruger GP100 now in .44 Special sound like a good pairing for woods walking where there are no bears. I am glad to see some company coming out with choices other than lead bullets for these old calibers.

  2. I have a Rossi .44spl that I bought New Years ago. I’ve never had any issue using any .44spl loads out of it, including hot hand loads going in excess of 900fps. It’s still as accurate as the day I bought it.

    1. A couple of corrections to your article: You state that
      “Modern Ruger revolvers may take loads considerably hotter”
      This is incorrect and possibly very unsafe information. New vaquero’s are built on a medium frame that is similar to the original colt SAA in size. They cannot handle a hot load. The older vaquero’s were built on the larger frame and are the ones that could be loaded hot.
      Secondly the reason cowboy loads are low power is that they only need to hit a steel target not go through it. More power in this sport causes a larger recoil and a longer amount of time to get the gun back on target. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT THE GUN IS CABABLE OF SHOOTING. By far the most common gun used in this sport is the ruger new vaquero.

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